Born in Noda City Japan, Masaaki Hatsumi spent his youth training in a number of martial arts amongst which he was highly accomplished in judo, karate, aikido, traditional budo and western boxing.
During this early period he was assigned to teach judo at an American air force base near Tokyo. It was here that he came upon the truth that the larger and more athletic Americans could achieve in a very short time what would take the smaller Japanese years of study. He thought, "What good is a fighting system where victory is decided mostly on size and strength" and gave it all up to search for the true budo of ancient Japan. It was during this search that he heard of a great martial artist from Nara in the West of Japan known as Toshitsugu Takamatsu.
Takamatsu was born in 1888 and from the age of nine was schooled daily in the martial arts that he would inherit as grandmaster. At a very young age he became renowned throughout his hometown of Kobe and was known as Kotengu (young demon) taking on and defeating challenges from fighters more than twice his age. A headline of a Kobe Newspaper even read "13 year old Judo expert defeats 60 gangsters" although Takamatsu later claimed the headline as exaggerated; he had only beaten six or seven and got away.
After becoming soke of the nine styles he travelled to China, which was under Japanese occupation, and was involved in many battles and incidents that had him fighting for his life. It was during this period of fighting and undercover work that he received the nickname Moko no Tora (Mongolian Tiger) for which he was known for the rest of his life.
When Hatsumi first met his future teacher he said he feel awe stuck by the presence of this powerful man and that for the first time he felt himself "looking into the face of budo and found it glaring back". Through this encounter Hatsumi would take the night train of Saturday evening to arrive Sunday morning every week for his apprenticeship in the nine lineages he would later inherit as soke.
Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu
Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu
Kukishinden Ryu Happo Hikenjutsu
Gyokushin Ryu Ninjutsu
Shindenfudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu
Koto Ryu Koppojustu
Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu
Kumogakure Ryu Ninjutsu
Combining the essence of these teachings Hatsumi established the Bujinkan (Divine Warrior) Dojo.
It was in the early sixties that this obscure martial artist was thrown into the spotlight with the "ninja boom" that swept Japan with a flood of movies, TV shows and comic books on this ancient art. Hatsumi found his time taken up with television appearances, assistance to moviemakers and writers and a flood of interest from the martial arts community as the only living practitioner of the arts of the ninja.
During this period he worked as technical advisor for such hit movies as "Shinobi no Mono" and the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice". This "Ninja Boom" later took off worldwide during the eighties and the Bujinkan became the focus for the world's fascination with the ninja. The Bujinkan quickly grew from twenty or thirty members to over a hundred thousand worldwide.
Even though the Bujinkan is known for teaching ninjutsu this only represents three of the nine schools. In 1995 Hatsumi named the collective knowledge of these nine traditions "Budo Taijutsu" to represent the total nature of our training.
Soke Hatsumi's unique training and teaching style of never repeating the same technique twice, is based on the principle of "one technique in response to varying situations will produce innumerable variations". It's this training philosophy of moving away from the 'form' of the technique, to developing one's response in accordance to the situation at hand that brings forth a heightened awareness and a more dynamic budo.
Hatsumi is the author of several books in both English and Japanese and has produced a series of videos demonstrating this true Budo. He regularly travels the world, including visiting Australia twice, conducting seminars and giving instruction to special forces such as the FBI and British SAS. Due to his work in spreading the true Budo of Japan around the world he has been given many awards including being the first martial artist to receive the International Culture Award from the emperor of Japan.
In Hatsumi's own words...
The Essence of Ninjutsu
I believe that Ninpo, the highest order of Ninjutsu, should be offered to the world as a guiding influence for all martial artist. The physical and spiritual survival methods eventually immortalized by Japan's ninja were in fact one of the sources of Japanese martial arts. Without complete and total training in all aspects of the combative arts, today's martial artist cannot hope to progress any further than mere proficiency in the limited set of muscular skills that make up his or her training system. Personal enlightenment can only come about through total immersion in the martial tradition as a way of living. By experiencing the confrontation of danger, the transcendence of fear of injury or death, and a working knowledge of individual personal powers and limitations, the practitioner of Ninjutsu can gain the strength and invincibility that permit enjoyment of the flowers moving in the wind, appreciation of the love of others, and contentment with the presence of peace in society.
The attainment of this enlightenment is characterized by the development of the jihi no kokoro, or "benevolent heart." Stronger than love itself, the benevolent heart is capable of encompassing all that constitutes universal justice and all that finds expression in the unfolding of the universal scheme. Born of the insight attained from repeated exposure to the very brink between life and death, the benevolent heart of Ninpo is the key to finding harmony and understanding in the realms of the spiritual and natural material worlds.
After so many generations of obscurity in the shadowy recesses of history, the life philosophy of the ninja is now once again emerging, because once again, it is the time in human destiny in which Ninpo is needed. May peace prevail so mankind may continue to grow and evolve into the next great plateau.