Bujinkan - Soke
Soke Masaaki Hatsumi
The founder and head instructor of the Bujinkan Dojo martial arts teaching organization, to whom nine lineages of Japanese martial arts have been passed by his master, Toshitsugu Takamatsu.
Soke Hatsumi Masaaki was born Yoshiaki Hatsumi on December 2, 1931, in Noda City, Chiba prefecture, northern Japan. Yoshiaki changed his name to Masaaki. Hatsumi began his martial arts training when he was a child. His father began training him Kendo when he was seven years old, and he went on to learn Judo and Karate later.
He was a gymnast, football team captain, and boxer in high school. During the post-World War II ban on coaching martial arts in Japan, he studied boxing before moving on to earlier types of martial arts (Kobudō).
He also learned a variety of social dances, which he claims helped him improve his Taijutsu body movements. He earned his doctorate after studying medical osteopathy and dramatic arts at Meiji University in Tokyo. He was asked to train U.S. soldiers at Yokata Military Base throughout his studies.
Soke Hatusmi Masaaki’s statement:
‘I was in judo for the fourth day, I suppose, over 20, I went to the US military base camp to teach judo. That’s when I came to a startling realization. I was defeated by an unexpected waza(technique) one day while training them. As soldiers, they were familiar with a variety of combat techniques, which they could combine and employ with all their strength. When I realized this, I realized that Japanese budo could not endure as a sport. I knew that if we kept practicing this style of budo, we’d never be able to apply it in an actual combat. After that, I did everything I could. I studied every ancient budo and anything considered a budo in Japan, not just in terms of body but also in terms of mind.‘
‘I was wondering how good martial arts truly are when a big, heavy person could easily beat you?‘
Hatsumi is starting to look for the authentic martial arts tradition.
Hatsumi learned about Toshitsugu Takamatsu, the ‘Mongolian tiger’ from the city of Kashiwabara in the Iga region of Japan, while training kobudo (‘ancient weapon’) with a renowned instructor. As his last hope, he found an instructor who could impart the essence of a living warrior culture, not just a recreational sport, or a dead art form.
Hatsumi traveled across Honshu Island to look for the teacher he had been looking for his entire life.
From Hatsumi’s house to Takamatsu’s house, the train ride took more than half a day. Hatsumi felt a strange aura emanate from Takamatsu during their first encounter in 1957, who was in his 60s. Hatsumi was only 26 years old at the time.Hatsumi, full of confidence, had a training fight with Takamatsu, his future teacher, and it was there that he first felt the pain of being a true master of martial arts techniques.
‘The pain of his technique was unlike any other pain I’d ever experienced. When I was exposed to scorching, blistering pain with Sensei, I just felt cool, fleeting suffering. It felt like something was going to explode, that my blood was being drained out and I was going to die right away. I used four or five Gyaku instead of simply one. That was exactly what I was looking for, and I realized it straight away. I approached him and asked to be his disciple.‘
Takamatsu was not accepting new students at the moment, but he consented to teach this young man because he saw something exceptional in him. The meeting felt more like a reunion for Takamatsu than a first meeting.
Takamatsu wrote to Hatsumi in a poem:
‘In the days of the Tenei era, there was the great master of Kopp. He was calm and peaceful like spring flowers. Yet he was so brave that not even 10,000 enemies could make him show fear. He could even bring down a wild animal with just one blow.‘
Dr. Hatsumi traveled extensively around Japan in the 1950s and 1960s to study with Toshitsugu Takamatsu. Dr. Hatsumi later inherited from his teacher Menkyo Kaiden, and the status of Soke in the following Japanese warrior schools (which Takamatsu inherited from his teachers):
- soke Togakure ryu ninjutsua, originally founded by Daisuke Togakure
- soke Gyokko ryu koshijutsua, originally founded by Hakkunsai Tozawa
- soke Kukishin ryu happo hikenjutsu, originally founded by Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru
- soke Shinden fudo ryu dakentaijutsu, originally founded by Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru
- soke Gyokushin ryu ninjutsua, originally founded by Sasaki Gorozaemon
- soke Koto ryu koppojutsua, originally founded by Sandayu Momochi
- soke Gikan ryu koppojutsua, originally founded by Sonyu Hangan Gikanbo, gospodar Kawachija
- soke Takagi yoshin ryu jutaijutsu, originally founded by Oriuemon Shigenobu Takagi
- soke Kumogakure ryu ninpo, originally founded by Heinaizaemon Ienaga Iga, who took the name Kumogakure Hoshi
Hatsumi Sensei trained under Takamatsu’s supervision for more than fifteen years, and when his teacher passed away in 1972, Hatsumi Sensei became the heir to the last and oldest ninja tradition.
Takamatsu Sensei, my teacher, taught me the following:
‘It never seems to be enough, no matter how much you study.‘
Soke Hatsumi is the author of over a dozen books and over a hundred films about Ninjutsu. He has been featured in almost every journal in Japan, as well as around the world, that deals with this topic. He has written numerous pieces for magazines and newspapers regarding Ninjutsu and living a prosperous life. He wrote, directed, and acted in 50 episodes of the television series ‘Jiraya,’ which was Japan’s most popular children’s program. He now acts as a consultant for numerous plays and films as a martial arts historian, ensuring that what is depicted is accurate and based on true history.
Hatsumi held the position of president of the Japan Writers Association in the past. He is in high demand as a speaker and television personality in Japan. He is a talented guitarist and singer who also plays the ukulele. He was a vocalist and musician in a Hawaiian band that performed in nightclubs for several years. He is also a well-known painter, Nihonga (日本 画, ‘Japanese style painting’), whose works have been shown in important exhibitions all over the world. They are produced in accordance with traditional Japanese art standards, techniques, and materials, and are based on a more than a thousand-year-old tradition.
Dr. Hatsumi has held a series of seminars and trainings for the FBI, CIA, Mossad, and police forces in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. His 3-story brick house is adorned with an intricate collection of signed portraits of presidents and leaders from around the world, as well as awards, certificates, and honorary diplomas from some of the world’s most prestigious organizations.
-Thank you letters from the Pentagon, the Director of the National Security Agency, and the FBI Academy, USA
-Thank you letters and birthday cards from US presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton
-Texas Rangers and Arizona Rangers honorary member
(the only person who is an honorary member of both)
-His Holiness Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Blessing, 2001
-World Cultural Grand Prize: Department of Martial Arts, World Federation for Peace and Culture, 2000
-2001 Lifetime Achievement Award, USMA International Hall of Fame
-2003 – Award for the Promotion of Culture, Japan Council
-Society and Culture Contribution Award, Japan Association for the Promotion of Culture, 1999
-Nakazawa Toshi, President of Zen Nippon Todo Renmei (All-Japan Sword Federation), in 1995 called him ‘Todo Hanshi’ (master sword path teacher)
-President of the International Department, Japan Club of Literary Artists, 1990-1994
-Blackbelt Magazine Instructor of the Year, 1986
-Medals for the Cross and the Sun, by King Juan Carlos I (Spain)
-Professor ‘Amatsu Ryoho no Budo’ at Trinity College (USA)
-Honorary doctorates from Manchester School of Osteopathy and Euro Technical University
-The German National Association for Historical Culture declared him a ‘knight’
-Spanish Secretary of State Awards for Intelligence Agency, London Metropolitan Police Headquarters
-Noda City Committee on Education and Culture Award in recognition of Bujinkan’s contribution to international relations between Noda City and many other countries around the world
-Acknowledgments from Prince Charles’s Secretary, Prime Minister John Major, Secretary of State for National Heritage, Secretary of State for the Environment, Secretary of the Japanese Ambassador, Mayor of London and the City of Belfast (All UK)
-Thank you letter from the Prime Minister of South Australia, John Bannon
-Thank you letter from President Mitterrand, France
-Acknowledgment from the Secretary of State of Catalonia (Spain)
-Acknowledgments from the governors of Texas, Georgia, Maryland, California, New Jersey and Tennessee, and many U.S. senators and congressmen
-Honorary Member of EVA 21 Air Base, Canary Islands (Spain) and Canary Japan Association for Cultural Exchange
-Honorary citizen of the states of Texas and New Mexico and the cities of Los Angeles, Atlanta, Gatlinburg, USA; Dublin, Ireland; Jordan Valley, Israel and many others …
In the late 1970s, Hatsumi’s students began to appear in martial arts magazines, bringing him to the attention of the Western world. The skills demonstrated in these magazines were called ‘Ninja Techniques’ at the time. Westerners interested in learning about these ancient self-defense techniques sought for their master, and Soke Hatsumi was introduced to them. Hatsumi arrived in the United States in 1983 and has since traveled and taught all around Europe. Hatsumi Sensei began teaching the nine schools he had learned from Takamatsu Sensei under the banner of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu in the 1990s. These studies have evolved into what is today known as Bujinkan Ninpo Taijutsu.
Bujinkan is the Dojo of Hatsumi Masaaki, the thirty-fourth Soke, the leader of the 900-year-old Togakure school of ninpo, the martial art of the ninja.
Hatsumi teaches his students techniques from ninjutsu and other ancient warrior arts that date back hundreds of years in Japan’s past, building on the roots of Togakure ninpo.
He married his lovely wife Mariko, a well-known Japanese dance teacher and bearer of the Bujinkan’s 10th day, when he was 30 years old.
Kunoichi 女 – Mariko Hatsumi, wife of Soke Hatsumi, passed away on August 23, 2020.
Soke Hatsumi is best recognized for “discovering” Ninjutsu outside of Japan and “opening the door” to it. Soke Hatsumi travelled the world for more than 20 years as the founder of the Bujinkan Dojo, teaching on the principles of Budo Ninpo Taijutsu passed down to him by his teacher, Soke Toshitsugu Takamatsu.