Masaaki Hatsumi

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Masaaki Hatsumi
Born (1931-12-02) December 2, 1931 (age 90)
ResidenceNoda, Chiba, Japan
Teacher(s)Toshitsugu Takamatsu

Masaaki Hatsumi (初見 良昭, Hatsumi Masaaki, born December 2, 1931), formerly Yoshiaki Hatsumi, is the founder of the Bujinkan Organization and is the former Togakure-ryū Soke (Grandmaster).[2] He currently resides but no longer teaches in Noda, Chiba, Japan.[3]


Hatsumi was born in Noda, Chiba on December 2, 1931. During his school years, he heavily participated in sports, along with martial arts and theater, and became "captain of the football team". While attending the Meiji University,[citation needed] he continued learning judo and eventually rose to Yudansha or Dan rank. He also began teaching Judo during his time at the university to American soldiers at the nearby Yokota Air Base. After graduating, Hatsumi began to search for a teacher to further his study of martial arts. He began his Kobudo training under Ueno Chosui. When he was 26 he met Ueno's teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, known as "the Tiger of Mongolia". Hatsumi was accepted as Takamatsu's student and spent fifteen years on Honshu Island learning various ninjutsu styles from Takamatsu and other members of the Takamatsu family, also he continued to learn judo, Shito Ryu karate, aikido, and kobudo.[4]

Takamatsu died in Nara, Japan in 1972 after advancing Hatsumi from student to Soke and bestowing on him "all the art of the nine schools", and of course the grandmaster's scrolls, three of which he indicated were ancient ninja schools and six samurai jujutsu schools of martial arts. Hatsumi went on to found the Bujinkan Dojo in Noda, Japan to teach the nine schools to other students.[4][5] His first trip to the United States was in 1982 and he has since continued to participate in yearly ninjutsu Tai Kai (gathering) around the world.[6]

Hatsumi also worked as a Seikotsu-in (整骨院) bonesetter after his graduation and was chairman of the Writers Guild of Japan at one point in time.[7] He was the writer of a martial arts magazine Tetsuzan, which was "distributed in 18 countries."[6]


Masaaki Hatsumi inherited the position of sōke (headmaster) of nine ryū (schools of martial arts):[8][9]

  • Togakure-ryū (戸隠流)
  • Gyokko-ryū (玉虎流)
  • Kuki Shinden Happō Biken jutsu (九鬼神伝流八法秘剣術)
  • Kotō-ryū (虎倒流)
  • Shinden Fudō-ryū Dakentai jutsu (神伝不動流打拳体術)
  • Takagi Yōshin-ryū Jūtai jutsu (高木揚心流柔体術)
  • Gikan-ryū Koppō jutsu (義鑑流骨法術)
  • Gyokushin-ryū Ninpō (玉心流忍法)
  • Kumogakure-ryū Ninpō (雲隠流忍法)


Masaaki Hatsumi focused the training of the Bujinkan on the "feeling" of technique or what he termed the feeling of real situations. Hatsumi had a non-standoffish teaching approach, leading Black Belt magazine to call him "wild, funny, unpredictable, and a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Obi-Wan Kenobi."[10]

Hatsumi focused on teaching taijutsu to his students, as the other ninja arts have no need to be practiced in modern times, besides for "historical study".[11]


He has also served as a martial arts advisor to various films and television productions, including the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice,[12] and in the first film from the highly popular Japanese series Shinobi no Mono. He also appeared in and was the stunt co-ordinator for the Japanese tokusatsu television series Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya as the titular hero's mentor and father figure, Tetsuzan Yamaji.[13]

Ninjutsu lineage[edit]

Hatsumi claims that ninjutsu was developed by Japanese mountain clans, using "esoteric skills and philosophies" brought to Japan by Tang Dynasty exiles.[14]

The Iga-ryū Ninja Museum of Japan lists the only legitimate inheritor of authentic Ninjutsu as Jinichi Kawakami.[15] This may be a biased opinion as Jinichi Kawakami is also the honorary director of the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum, a commercial enterprise and tourist attraction.[15]

The 1978 edition of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten includes the full sōke lists for Masaaki Hatsumi's ryūha.[9]

According to Donn Draeger: "The late Fujita Seiko was the last of the living ninja, having served in assignments for the Imperial Government during the Taisho and Showa eras. No ninja exist today. Modern authorities such as T. Hatsumi are responsible for most research being done on ninjutsu."[16]

Criticism of historical claims[edit]

Modern Togakure-ryu and various historical claims were taught by Masaaki Hatsumi (Takamatsu's successor) and the Bujinkan organization. Criticism regarding the historical accuracy of the Bujinkan's claims of lineage have arisen from several issues of the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten:

  • The 1978 version of the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten states that Takamatsu's Togakure-ryu "genealogy includes embellishments by referring to data and kuden about persons whose existence is based on written materials and traditions in order to appear older than it actually is."[17]
  • The 1969 version of the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten states that Takamatsu's Togakure-ryu "is a genealogy newly put together by Takamatsu Toshitsugu, who made use of (took advantage of) the popularity of written materials on ninjutsu after the Taishō era" and that "there are many points where it has added embellishments, it has made people whose real existence is based on written records older than is actually the case, and so it is a product of very considerable labor".[18]
  • The 1963 version of the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten states of Takamatsu's Togakure-ryu "this genealogy refers to various written records and oral transmissions and there are many points/places where embellishments have been added and people appearing in the genealogy are also made older than they actually are".[19]



  • Masaaki Hatsumi, The Complete Ninja: The Secret World Revealed (2014), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-1568365473
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, The Essence of Budo, The Secret Teachings of the Grandmaster (2011), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-3107-5
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, Unarmed Fighting Techniques of the Samurai (2008), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-3059-7
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, Japanese Sword Fighting (2006), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-2198-4
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, Advanced Stick Fighting (2005), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-2996-6
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, The Way of the Ninja (2004), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-2805-1
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, Ninpo: Wisdom for Life. 1999, Kihon Press, ISBN 978-1-58776-206-2
  • Masaaki Hatsumi, Essence of Ninjutsu. The Nine Traditions 1988, Contemporary Books, ISBN 0-8092-4724-0
  • Masaaki Hatsumi and Quintin Chambers, Stick Fighting (1981), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-0-87011-475-5


  1. ^ Welzenbach, Michael (April 30, 1988). "Japan's Hatsumi Will Highlight Burbank Martial-Arts Event". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2010.
  2. ^ Phelan, Stephen (October 12, 2011). "Lethal weapon: Hanging with the world's last living ninja". CNN. Archived from the original on January 15, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  3. ^ "Bujinkan Hombu Dojo Contact Information". Honbu Dojo. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Staff writer (May 5, 2006). "Masaaki Hatsumi, el culto al último maestro ninja". El Mercurio. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  5. ^ Green, Thomas A. (2001). Martial arts of the world: an encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 732. ISBN 9781576071502. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Sandra E. Kessler (November 1994). "Ninja in the 20th Century/The Man Behind the Ninja Mask". Black Belt. Vol. 32, no. 11. Active Interest Media. pp. 38–43. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d Staff writer (August 2000). "Top Ninja Honored In Japan". Black Belt. Vol. 38, no. 8. Active Interest Media. p. 10. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  8. ^ Hino, Akira. "Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi". Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi (1978). Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. Various. Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  10. ^ Groak, William (August 1986). "Black Belt Times: Ninja Leader Hatsumi Returns to U.S.". Black Belt Magazine. p. 16.
  11. ^ Ollhoff, Jim (2008). Ninja. ABDO. pp. 28–29. Retrieved July 9, 2012. Masaaki Hatsumi.
  12. ^ Masaaki Hatsumi at IMDb
  13. ^ Sekai ninja sen Jiraiya at IMDb
  14. ^ Phelan, Stephen (October 12, 2011). "Lethal weapon: Hanging with the world's last living ninja". CNN.
  15. ^ a b "FAQ". Iga-ryū Ninja Museum. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  16. ^ Draeger, Donn F.; Smith, Robert W. (1969). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International Ltd. pp. 130–131.
  17. ^ Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi (1978). Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. Various. pp. 626–627. Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  18. ^ Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi (1969). Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. Various. p. 537. Archived from the original on March 11, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  19. ^ Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi (1963). Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. Various. p. 293. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  20. ^ Staff interviewer (July 1994). "Ask Ninja About Ninja Things!!". B-Club. Vol. 104. Bandai. Retrieved July 4, 2012. {{cite magazine}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  21. ^ "Dr Masaaki Hatsumi Ph.D., Soke Bujinkan 34th Grandmaster Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu". Ninpo Properties cc. Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  22. ^ "USMA International Hall of Fame: 2001 Inductees". United States Martial Arts Association. 2008. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  23. ^ "Internationaal Budo Hall of Fame Register" (in Dutch). Comité Behoud Martiaal Erfgoed. Retrieved August 6, 2016.

External links[edit]