Modern schools of ninjutsu

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Modern schools of ninjutsu are schools which offer instruction in martial arts. To a larger or smaller degree, the curriculum is derived from the practice of ninjutsu, the arts of the ninja; covert agents or assassins of feudal Japan.

One of the earliest modern schools to be established was the Bujinkan Organization in 1978 by martial artist Masaaki Hatsumi. The organization teaches nine different martial arts styles, three of which are named after and claim to be descended from historical ninjutsu styles.[1] Stephen K. Hayes, an early student of Shoto Tanemura and later Hatsumi, took what he learned to the United States in the 1970s, starting his own group of organizations called Quest Centers and his own martial arts style, To-Shin Do. Several other schools of ninjutsu also were created during the 1970s, including the Dux Ryu Ninjutsu school in 1975 and the Nindo Ryu Bujutsu Kai federation in 1979.

During the 1980s, several other schools of ninjutsu also began to be developed across the world, with the Genbukan being founded in 1984 in Japan by Shoto Tanemura, a former friend and student of Hatsumi, and the AKBAN school being developed in Israel in 1986 by Doron Navon's student, Yossi Sherriff, as an offshoot of the Bujinkan Organization. The Banke Shinobinoden school, which claims a long history, began teaching Koga and Iga ninjutsu more popularly with the opening of the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum by Jinichi Kawakami, and the Kuroryukan school, founded in 2004 by Nuno Santos, teaching Iga and Koga Ryu Ninjutsu.

Some of the historical claims of these modern schools have been questioned in regards to whether they truly qualify as Koryū.[2]



Main article: Bujinkan

In 1978, Masaaki Hatsumi founded the Bujinkan organization. It uses the concepts of Ninjutsu in three of its nine schools[3] though they have sinced steered away from the "Ninjutsu" moniker to avoid stereotypes and since the art, which contains 9 ryūha (or schools), only has 3 based on the ninja while the other 6 are based on samurai tactics.[4]

Shadows of Iga Society[edit]

Stephen K. Hayes founded the "Shadows of Iga Society" to promote ninjutsu studies in North America. He studied with Shoto Tanemura and then with Masaaki Hatsumi. Hayes introduced the concepts of ninjutsu to North America. He founded a ninjutsu dojo in the mid-1970s, in Atlanta, Georgia. In about 1980, Hayes moved to Dayton, Ohio where he continued to teach.

Nindo Ryu Bujutsu Kai[edit]

The "Nindo Ryu Bujutsu Kai" is a martial arts federation founded in 1979. It has a gendai ninjutsu division under the direction of Carlos R. Febres. Febres was a former student of Shoto Tanemura and T. Higushi and studies with of Ron Duncan and Bo Munthe. "Nindo Ryu Gendai Ninjutsu" uses modern application and interpretation of the takamatsuden, koga (koka) & eclectic schools of ninjutsu.


During the 1980s, several schools of ninjutsu were developed both in and outside Japan.

Genbukan organization[edit]

"Genbukan" (玄武館?) was founded in 1984 by Soke Tanemura.[5][6] Tanemura initially studied under Masaaki Hatsumi and then sought out all the remaining students of Takamatsu (Kimura Masaji, Sato Kinbei, Fukumoto Yoshio) as well as their successors (Kobayashi, Ueno Takashi's personal student), (Akimoto Koki) and others. He was also the Vice President of the Bujinkan Shidoshi Association. (Tanemura left Hatsumi's tutelage after a disagreement).[7][8] The Genbukan organization includes over 100 dojos in approximately 30 countries and 20 states in the USA.[5] The organization, Genbukan Ninpo Bugei (玄武館忍法武芸) has 36 divisions called "ninja sanjurokkei".[9] The schools teach taijutsu, bikenjutsu and keishinteki kyoyo as well as bō jutsu, yumi, naginata, yari, jutte, kusari-gama, and shuriken. The Kokusai Jujutsu Renmei (international organization) also teaches traditional Japanese Jujutsu techniques.[5] and self-defense techniques such as goshinjutsu, 'koryu karate' and 'chugoku kenpo'.[5]


In 1986, in Israel, Yossi Sheriff founded Akban. The school's curriculum is based on that which was taught to Doron Navon (Sheriff's teacher). Navon was the first foreign Bujinkan shihan. He studied with Tanemura and then with Hatsumi.[10]


Nuno Santos Shihan started the project in 2004. Its main influence is the main learned from a master, Ruy San Mendoza (Bujinkan Shihan), and studying with masters Sergio Cives (Nindo) and Alejandro Ramirez (Tenshi Ryu Ninpo Kai Nishi).

Banke Shinobinoden[edit]

The Banke Shinobinoden school began teaching koga and iga ninjutsu when these martial arts became more popular after the opening of the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum.[11]

1990 to present[edit]

Quest Centers[edit]

In the 1997 Stephen K. Hayes retired the Shadows of Iga society, and founded the "Quest Centers". Hayes developed To-Shin Do, a western system of Ninjutsu distinct from Bujinkan.[12]

Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan[edit]

This school was founded by Fumio "Unsui" Manaka in 1996. Manaka was a student of Masaaki Hatsumi and achieved menkyo kaiden in several styles of Bujinkan including togakure-ryu ninjutsu.[13]

Kage No Michi Ninjutsu[edit]

Kage No Michi Ninjutsu, which translates into The Way of the Shadow Ninjutsu, is a modern derivative of traditional ninjutsu. This style was founded by Tafan Hong in 2005 who holds rank in the traditional Bujinkan Ninjutsu System.[14] This modernized style is based on the principles of traditional ninjutsu, but are executed in a more modern style.

Controversy and opposition[edit]

Concerns about modern schools of ninjutsu relate to the schools' claims to authenticity (direct lines of tutelage from the ancient schools) and secondly, to claims of notability by those who operate them. For example, some ask whether modern schools of ninjutsu qualify as "Koryū".[2]

The concerns about authenticity are voiced by historians of koryu arts and by representatives of the Iga Ninja Museum of Japan. Some have suggested there are no longer any true ninjutsu schools.[2][15]

Controversial figures in modern ninjutsu[edit]

Masaaki Hatsumi[edit]

In August 1960, Masaaki Hatsumi said he had studied under Takashi Ueno from when he was 24 to 29 years of age.[16] He said he sometimes wrote letters to Ueno's teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu.[16] However, the certificate which Takamatsu gave to Hatsumi, that named Hatsumi the 34th head of "Togakure ryu" is dated March, 1958.[17] Furthermore, there is no documentation of the previous 33 holders of this title.[18] There are films of Hatsumi and Takamatsu training together over a long period of several years.[17] Furthermore, Takamatsu confirmed that Hatsumi had been training with him since 1958.[19] In November 1963, Hatsumi said he was training with Takamatsu once every three months, on weekends.[20] Kiyoshi Watatani (editor of the Bugeicyo magazine in 1963), suggested Hatsumi's lineage was Hatsumi's notion alone and that Hatsumi had no proof of it.[20] Sources of the history of ninjutsu are the Kakutogi No Rekishi (which lists Bujinkan Ryuha - Hatsumi's organization) and the close personal friend of Hatsumi, Yumio Nawa. In 1972, Nawa confirmed the historic status of the 12th century tradition, the togakure ryu.[21] In 1978, the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten said of the Takamatsu togakure-ryu,

" the 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.".[22] (The 1963 and 1969 versions of the Bugei include similar wording).[clarification needed]

In Shinobi no sengokushi (August, 2004) Hatsumi said he trained under Toshitsugu Takamatsu's tutelage for 15 years and became master of 9 systems at age 27.[23] He has elected not to pass the system on to an heir.[24]

Jinichi Kawakami[edit]

The founder of Banke Shinobinoden school, Jinichi Kawakami, studied with Masazo Ishida. Thomas Dillon wrote,

"No one knows anything about Ishida. How very ninja-like."[25][26]

Kawakami is the 21st head of the "Koga Ban" clan and the honorary director of the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum. Kawakami operates a dojo in Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture, but no longer accepts new students.[27][28][29] Kawakami's student, Yasushi Kiyomoto, is also a teacher of this school.[11]

Frank Dux[edit]

The validity of Dux's claims which have been disputed include his martial arts credentials; his fighting in the "Kumite"; and his prior military service.[30] In 1998, in the Los Angeles superior court, Dux and Jean-Claude Van Damme were opposing litigants.[31][32][clarification needed] In 2004, Ralph Keyes (writer for the LA Times) wrote,

"Like Wayland Clifton, Dux even forged a press account of his exploits. Research on these 'exploits' conducted by Los Angeles Times reporter, John Johnson, and phony-veteran unmasker, B.G. 'Jug' Burkett, revealed that Dux had been in the military for only a few months, didn't serve in Southeast Asia, and won no medals. His service record indicates that Dux had been referred for psychiatric evaluation due to 'flights of ideas and exaggerations."[33]

Radford Davis, a.k.a. Ashida Kim[edit]

No evidence is available recording where Ashida Kim's training took place, or who trained him. Ashida Kim is the author of a number of books about Ninjitsu including Secrets of the Ninja.[34] Demonstrating his martial arts knowledge in a video interview released on YouTube, Kim says that the first five forms learned in Goju Ryu, Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Isshin Ryu, and "hard Korean martial arts" are all identical.[35][clarification needed] In 2003, Kim stated in an interview with The Believer magazine, that he has been associated with the Black Dragon Fighting Society (BDFS) since meeting its head, Count Dante, in 1968. In the same article he indicates that the BDFS is descended from a 6,000-year-old Chinese school called the "Polestar school" which has been preserving knowledge since the fall of Atlantis.[36]


  1. ^ Phelan, Stephen. "Lethal weapon: Hanging with the world's last living ninja". Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Skoss, Diane (ed.); Beaubien, Ron; Friday, Karl (1999). "Ninjutsu: is it koryu bujutsu?". Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  3. ^ "Bujinkan Dojo-Soke Masaaki Hatsumi". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  4. ^ "Black Belt Times". Black Belt. August 2000. p. 10. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Genbukan / KJJR International Headquarters". Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "The Battle for Ninja Supremacy", Adams, Andy. Black Belt Magazine, May, 1986.
  7. ^ "The Battle for Ninja Supremacy", p.20, Black Belt Magazine, DEC 1985, Vol. 23, No12
  8. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
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  10. ^ "Akban - Budo Ninjutsu: The Largest Martial Arts Database". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  11. ^ a b "ƔEVBC". Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Toller, Dennis. "Once the West's Most Celebrated Ninja, Stephen K. Hayes Moves Beyond the Assassin Image." Black Belt Magazine. October 1998. P. 32.
  13. ^ "Manaka Unsui". Jissen Kobuto Jinenkan. Jinenkan LLC. 2012-02-17. Retrieved 1 February 2016. Fumio Manaka Sensei, who also goes by the martial name "Unsui", has over 50 years of experience in the Japanese arts of kobudo, having started training at the age of 14 as the first student of Masaaki Hatsumi Sensei. Unsui Sensei holds certificates of mastery (menkyo kaiden) in several martial schools and has formal training in many others. In 1996, Unsui Sensei founded the Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan. 
  14. ^ "Ninjutsu official rankings". 
  15. ^ "FAQ|Ninja Iga-ryu - Iga-ryu Ninja Museum". Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Rekishi Dokuhon (history magazine) August, 1960.
  17. ^ a b "Saigo no Ninja, Toshitsugu Takamatsu" ISBN 4-87389-706-8
  18. ^ "Ninjutsu and Koryu Bujutsu" | Martial Arts Database. (19 May 1999). Retrieved on 2012-03-25.
  19. ^ "Shinsetsu Nihon Ninja Retsuden", Koyama Ryutaro, 1964, Arechi Shuppansha (publisher).
  20. ^ a b Bugeicyo magazine, November, 1963.
  21. ^ Ninjutsu no kenku, 1972, Ninchibo Shuppansha
  22. ^ Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi (1978). "Bugei Ryuha Daijiten". Various. pp. 626–627. 
  23. ^ Shinobino Sengokushi Heisei August, 2004.
  24. ^ "BBC News - Japan's ninjas heading for extinction". BBC News. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "Learning/Circle - Ninja Experience - Ninja Museum of Igaryu". Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  26. ^ A story of life, fate, and finding the lost art of koga ninjutsu in Japan, DiMarzio, Daniel, ISBN 978-1-4357-1208-9
  27. ^ "Banke Shinobinoden Kensyujyo". Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  28. ^ "The Japan Times - News on Japan, Business News, Opinion, Sports, Entertainment and More". The Japan Times. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  29. ^ "Koga Ryu Wada Ha" style taught by the late Fujita Seiko, Fujita Seiko by Phillip Hevener ISBN 1-4363-0176-9
  30. ^ Johnson, John (1 May 1988). "Ninja: hero or master fake? Others kick holes in fabled past of Woodland Hills martial arts teacher". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  31. ^ "Full Mental Jacket" (August 1996) and "Stolen Valor: Profiles of a Phony-Hunter" (November 1998), Soldier of Fortune
  32. ^ Frank Dux v. Jean-Claude Van Damme, U.S., SC 046395 (LA Superior Court 1998).
  33. ^ Keyes (2004), p. 73.
  34. ^ "How Kim Met Hayes". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  35. ^ Interview with Ashida Kim,, p. 1:40, retrieved 31 December 2014 
  36. ^ "The Believer - Interview with Ashida Kim". The Believer. Retrieved 1 January 2015.