To-Shin Do

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To-Shin Do
Date founded1997
Country of originUnited States USA
FounderStephen K. Hayes
Ancestor schoolsTogakure-ryū
Official website

To-Shin Do is a martial art founded by Black Belt Hall of Fame instructor Stephen K. Hayes in 1997.[1][2] It is a modernized version of ninjutsu, and differs from the traditional form taught by Masaaki Hatsumi’s Bujinkan organization.[3] Instruction focuses on threats found in contemporary western society.[4] In addition to hand-to-hand combat skills, students are exposed to: methods for survival in hostile environments, security protection for dignitaries, how to instruct classes and run a school, classical Japanese weapons, meditation mind science, and health restoration yoga.[5] The headquarters school (hombu) is located in Dayton, Ohio, USA.


In 1975, Hayes traveled to Japan to seek out authentic Ninja masters.[6] He met Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th grandmaster of the Togakure-ryū (戸隠流) ("School of the Hidden Door") lineage and became the first American to be accepted into the Ninja tradition.[7]

Hayes returned to the U.S. in 1981, with a black belt in the Bujinkan organization under his teacher, Masaaki Hatsumi, who is the 34th Grandmaster of Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu.[8] He founded the Shadows of Iga Society to serve as an organization for ninjutsu enthusiasts. During the 1980s Hayes gave seminars around the country, maintained a training group in Ohio, and often visited Japan for training with Hatsumi.

Retiring the Shadows of Iga Society, Hayes founded the Kasumi-An system of warrior training in 1989 on the first day of the Japanese Heisei (平成) Imperial era.[9][10] Kasumi translates to English as "mist," which is supposed to evoke images of the misty Iga mountain home of the Ninja, as well as being a heterograph of the founder's name. An means hermitage or mountain retreat.[11] The name reflects more permanency in Hayes' U.S. teachings, which were until this point limited to seminars and a small training group in the Dayton area.

In 1997, the first Quest Center was opened in Dayton, OH.


There is intended symbolism behind the To-Shin name.[12] When written, To-Shin Do is formed of three kanji:

  • to – Truth
  • shin – heart
  • – way, path

The literal Japanese to English translation of To-Shin Do is “Sword Spirit Path”.[13] Practitioners of the art use a more developed translation where To = sword, Shin = the focused spirit of intention, and Do = the path to mastery.[14]

The kanji for to and the kanji for shin combine within the kanji symbol nin , pronounced shinobi,[15] which is the symbol for the ninja, although the top half of 忍 is actually ha/yaiba not .[16]


According to the To-Shin Do training workbook, Enlightened Self-Protection,[17] color belts focus on the following five areas:[18]

  • grappling: throwing, choking, and joint-locking
  • striking: kicking, and punching
  • weapons: stick, blade, cord, and projectile
  • application: handling multiple assailants and surprise attacks
  • preservation: overcoming psychological intimidation or bullying[19][20]

Students practice striking against pads, targets, and instructors clad in protective armor.[21] However, there is no sparring as seen in many other combat systems. And as in ninjutsu, To-Shin Do does not include tournament competition in its training curriculum.[22]

Once a student attains the rank of black belt, the following optional advanced courses are offered:

  • first-response emergency medical treatment
  • methods for survival in hostile environments
  • security protection for dignitaries
  • law enforcement specialties
  • intelligence gathering systems
  • how to instruct classes and run a school
  • classical Japanese weapons[23][24]

Relationship to Bujinkan[edit]

To-Shin Do is not a part of Hatsumi's Bujinkan organization. Consequently, speculation on various martial arts web discussion boards and blogs have theorized To-Shin Do represents a split between Hayes and Hatsumi.[25][26] However published interviews do not support these rumors.

In interviews, Hatsumi explained that he did not feel it was appropriate to modify traditional techniques to apply to contemporary society or locales. Instead, he charged his trainees to make these adaptations. Black Belt magazine notes that as early as 1979, Hatsumi told his senior black belts that "it is the duty of every senior instructor to create a unique teaching vehicle from the historical material."[27][28] Hatsumi reiterated when interviewed for Tales from a Grand Master, and that traditional weapons (e.g. tekagi, kusari gama, or toami) are still part of the core Bujinkan training.

Conversely, Hayes expressed a desire to apply ancient ninja tactics to modern Western society. In his 2008 book The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World author Chris Crudelli quotes Hayes as saying founding "To-Shin Do is the greatest tribute he can pay to Hatsumi."[29] Clearly, it can be said that the two men disagreed on the topic of contemporary application of the art. But this disagreement did not sever the men's relationship. For Hayes' sixtieth birthday (in 2009), Hatsumi sent a rare hand-written card and painting to congratulate his American student.[30]

School locations[edit]

To-Shin Do has established presences on five continents.[31] Because the style is licensed from SKH Incorporated, three are different levels of participation: Affiliate Instructors, Affiliate Schools, and Training Clubs.

Affiliate Instructors operate as independently owned businesses authorized to train the To-Shin Do martial arts curriculum under license agreement with SKH Inc.

Affiliate Schools are professionally run academies, with full-time facilities dedicated for To-Shin Do instruction, and are authorized to award To-Shin Do belt rank.

Training Clubs are groups of up to 35 members training together in the To-Shin Do martial arts curriculum under direction of either the Dayton Hombu Dojo, or a licensed Affiliate Instructor. Training Clubs are not professional schools, and often use shared facilities not exclusively dedicated for To-Shin Do instruction. Most clubs do not award belt ranks however, some have done so through their sponsoring teachers.[32]

Long Distance Learning allows students to purchase courses for color belts from white leading to black. Students test for promotion by travelling to a licensed school or by submitting a video test to the hombu dojo. Black belt tests must be conducted in person.[33]

According to the Organization's web site, locations include:

  • North America: US (20 schools), Canada
  • Europe: Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom
  • Africa: South Africa
  • Australia: Australia
  • Asia: Iran ([])

Warrior scholar priests[edit]

Throughout To-Shin Do literature (in print, interview, or on the web) is an identification with ancient warrior-scholar-priests.[34] Although other martial arts styles have ascribed to monastic or religious roots (e.g. Shaolin Kung Fu or Kalarippayattu), this concept manifests in senior To-Shin Do practitioners in two ways.

First, Black Belts promoted to 3rd Degree and higher become members of the Order of To-Shi (刀士), which means "sword" – "warrior, knight, gentleman" or succinctly, "Knight of the Sword." It is tradition that upon promotion, the candidate is given a 'warrior' name (Bugō), uniquely chosen by the Co-Founders.

Second, senior black belts have also taken the 'scholar' title literally, with several publishing books or articles in either martial arts or advanced psychological studies. Specific authors among the black belts include:

  • Casey, Kevin Keitoshi. The Ninja Mind: Harnessing the Mental Strength and Physical Abilities of the Ninjutsu Masters. Tuttle Publishing. 2013. ISBN 978-4805312735.
  • Isler, Hakim. Modern Hand To Hand Combat: Ancient Samurai Techniques on the Battlefield and in the Street. Tuttle Press. 2010. ISBN 978-0-8048-4127-6.
  • Sears, R. W. "Integrating Spirituality Into Clinical Practice." Innovations in Clinical Practice: A 21st Century Sourcebook, Vol. 2. E.M. Wolf, J.B. Allen, and L. Van de Creek, eds. Professional Resource Press. 2010. ISBN 978-1-56887-130-1.
  • Denton, R.B., and R.W. Sears. "Use of Mindfulness in Clinical Practice." Innovations in Clinical Practice: A 21st Century Sourcebook, Vol 1. J.B. Allen and E.M. Wolf, eds. Professional Resource Press. 2008.
  • Eldridge, Tori Myotoshi. Empowered Living. Publish America. 2005. ISBN 978-1-4137-8499-2.
  • Russo, Mark Sentoshi. The Crap in my Cap. TQ Publishing. 2001. ISBN 1-59712-040-5.

Belt ranking[edit]

Below black belt, there are 15-levels of color belt rankings. Ranks are based on the go-dai elemental system, historically used as a counting system in Japan.

To-Shin Do Belt Classifications[35]

Graphic Color Element Traditional Title
BeltWhite White Earth (Chi) jugokyu 15th class student
BeltYellow Yellow Earth (Chi) juyonkyu 14th class student
BeltYellowBlack Yellow / Black Earth (Chi) jusankyu 13th class student
BeltBlueWhite Blue / White Water (Sui) junikyu 12th class student
BeltBlue Blue Water (Sui) juikkyu 11th class student
BeltBlueBlack Blue / Back Water (Sui) jukyu 10th class student
BeltRedWhite Red / White Fire (Ka) kyukyu 9th class student
BeltRed Red Fire (Ka) hachikyu 8th class student
BeltRedBlack Red / Black Fire (Ka) nanakyu 7th class student
BeltGreenWhite Green / White Wind (Fu) rokkyu 6th class student
BeltGreen Green Wind (Fu) gokyu 5th class student
BeltGreenBlack Green / Black Wind (Fu) yonkyu 4th class student
BeltBrownWhite Brown / White Void (Ku) sankyu 3rd class student
BeltBrown Brown Void (Ku) nikyu 2nd class student
BeltBrownBlack Brown / Black Void (Ku) ikkyu 1st class student
BeltBlack Black Void (Ku) shodan 1st degree
BeltBlack2 Black Void (Ku) nidan 2nd degree
BeltBlackBronze Black Void (Ku) sandan 3rd degree
BeltBlackBronze Black Void (Ku) yondan 4th
BeltBlackSilver Black Void (Ku) godan 5th degree
BeltBlackSilver Black Void (Ku) rokudan 6th
BeltBlackGold Black Void (Ku) nanadan 7th degree
BeltBlackGold Black Void (Ku) hachidan 8th degree
BeltBlackGold Black Void (Ku) kudan 9th
BeltBlackGold Black Void (Ku) judan 10th
BeltSilver Silver Void (Ku) Councilor to An-shu
BeltGold Gold Void (Ku) Anshu – Hermitage Founder


  1. ^ St. Petersburg Times (Florida) September 19, 1997. p 4. Snow Smith, Katherine. "Nothing like the movies." "It wasn't Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris who first inspired Stephen Hayes to devote his life to the martial arts and ultimately become a Black Belt Hall of Fame member and widely recognized teacher of the Japanese art of ninjutsu."
  2. ^ Staff. USA Dojo. "STEPHEN K. HAYES." "In 1997, exactly 30 years after beginning his formal training in the martial arts, Stephen K. Hayes founded the martial art of To-Shin Do." 2012. September 4, 2013. Archived from the original on February 1, 2016 on the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Crudelli, Chris. "The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World." DK ADULT. 2008. p.329 ISBN 978-0-7566-6862-4 "To shin do was founded by the legendary US ninja Stephen K. Hayes. The system is a departure from ninjustu (see pp. 208–9) as taught by the Bujinkan Organization in Japan…"
  4. ^ reference to Stephen Hayes, not To-Shin Do: Toller, Dennis. "Once the West's Most Celebrated Ninja, Stephen K. Hayes Moves Beyond the Assassin Image." Black Belt Magazine. October 1998. P. 32.
  5. ^ Crudelli. p. 329 "Advanced students are offered optional courses on the use of classical Japanese weapons, meditation and yoga, as well as courses aimed at the security and protection industries."
  6. ^ primary source: Hayes, Stephen K. The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art. Tuttle Publishing. 1984. ISBN 0-8048-1656-5
  7. ^ The Dayton Daily News. "DREAM BIG, AMERICAN NINJA SAYS (Bellbrook resident, author of 18 books, encourages students)" p. 24. Treadway, Marcia J. "By realizing his dream, Hayes may have been the first Togakure ninja guinea pig as well as the first American ninja."
  8. ^ Sporting News "The Bible of Baseball": McCoy, Bob "The American Ninja." June 5, 1989, P. 8 "Hayes, a 40-year-old Ohioan and a graduate of Miami University, is the only Westerner ever granted all nine levels of teaching credentials in ninjutsu, a 900-year-old martial art practiced by the Ninjas."
  9. ^ "Stephen Hayes". Archived from the original on February 1, 2016. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  10. ^ Tex Texin. "Calendars: Japanese Emperor Date". Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  11. ^ primary source: Hayes. p. 4.
  12. ^ reference to Stephen Hayes, not To-Shin Do: Toller. p. 35.
  13. ^ kanji translation web site: "Japanese Kanji Dictionary". Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  14. ^ primary source: Hayes, Stephen K. Enlightened Self-Protection. SKH Quest Center Publishing. 1992. p. 3. ISBN 0963247395
  15. ^ reference to entomology of shinobi: Lung, Haha, Black Science : Ancient and Modern Techniques of Ninja Mind Manipulation. Paladin Press. p. 18. ISBN 1-58160-262-6.
  16. ^ reference to Stephen Hayes, not To-Shin Do: Toller. P. 36.
  17. ^ Hayes, Stephen (2008). Enlightened self-protection : To-Shin Do martial arts tradition. Dayton, OH: Stephen K. Hayes Quest Center. ISBN 978-0963247391.
  18. ^ Staff Writer. Thousand Oaks Acorn. Martial Arts Studio Owner Writes Ninja Book. August 8, 2013. Business Section. "…martial arts training system that includes instruction in techniques and strategies for dealing with grappling, throwing, choking, joint-locking, striking, kicking, punching, as well as stick, blade, cord and projectile weapons… the personal protection system of To-Shin Do."
  19. ^ Hayes, Enlightened Self Protection, p. 4.
  20. ^ reference to Stephen Hayes, not To-Shin Do: Toller. P 36
  21. ^ primary source: Hayes. Enlightened Self Protection.
  22. ^ Kessler. Sandra E. "Ninja of the 20th Century: Modern-Day Ninja are Doctors, Lawyers and Teachers, Not Assassins." Black Belt Magazine. November 1994. P. 42.
  23. ^ primary source: Hayes. p. 4
  24. ^ reference to Stephen Hayes, not To-Shin Do: Toller p. 36
  25. ^ "Stephen K. Hayes' To-Shin Do [Archive] – MartialTalk.Com – Friendly Martial Arts Forum Community". MartialTalk.Com. 2004-11-12. Archived from the original on February 26, 2013. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  26. ^ Roley, Don. "Japanese Customs". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  27. ^ reference to Stephen Hayes, not To-Shin Do: Toller. P. 183.
  28. ^ Toller, Dennis (October 1998). "Once the West's Most Celebrated Ninja, Stephen K. Hayes Has Moved Beyond the Assassin Image". Black Belt. p. 183 – via Google Books.
  29. ^ Crudelli. p 329
  30. ^ 60th Birthday Celebration. Posted September 8, 2009. Quote: "Last week my martial arts teacher Masaaki Hatsumi mailed me birthday greetings for my 60th. In his letter, he enclosed a photo of himself at his own 60th birthday bash in 1991. In his kanreki red suit – a western tuxedo no less – he salutes his past and future." "Hayes-san, I hear this year is your Kanreki birthday. A Kabuku actor considers 60 years old as the beginning for mastery of their art. Zeami, famous Noh actor, says that you will return to the beginning at age 80. Becoming old is wonderful. You may lose your eyesight but your eyes will see the truth and authenticity. I wish you health and long life. A couple is like having eyes together. Rumiko-san, enjoy the journey with Hayes-san, together. Congratulation on your Kanreki birthday. Heisei 21st Year September 9th. Masaaki Hatsumi"
  31. ^ "Affiliated Instructors | Stephen K. Hayes". Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  32. ^ "Stephen K. Hayes Quest Affiliate Network – Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  33. ^ To-Shin Do Home Study Black Belt Course. "Home Study | Stephen K. Hayes". Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  34. ^ Hayes, Stephen K. Enlightened Self-Protection. SKH Quest Center Publishing. 1992. p. 10. ISBN 0963247395
  35. ^ [1] Archived July 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]