history of ninjutsu is clouded by the very nature of the art itself. There
is little documented history, and much of what is known was handed down
as part of an oral tradition and documented by later generations. This
has led to a lot of debate regarding the authenticity of the lineages claimed
by the art's instructors.
records state that certain individuals/families from the Iga/Koga (modern
Mie/Omi) region were noted for possessing specific skills and were employed
(by samurai) to apply those and other skills. These records, which were
kept by people both within the region and outside of the region, refer
to the individuals/families as "Iga/Koga no Mono" (Men of Iga/Koga) and
"Iga/Koga no Bushi" (Warriors of Iga/Koga). Due to this region's terrain,
it was largely unexplored, and the people living within lived a relatively
isolated existence. This enabled them to develop perspectives, which differed
from the "mainstream" society of the time, which was under the direct influence
of the upper ruling classes. When necessary, they successfully used the
superstitions of the masses as a tool/weapon and became feared and slightly
mythologized because of this.
the mid/late 1500's their difference in perspective led to conflict with
the upper ruling classes and the eventual invasion/destruction of the villages
and communities within the Iga/Koga region. The term "ninja" was not in
use at this time, but was later introduced in the dramatic literature of
the Tokugawa period (1605-1867). During this period, ancestral fears became
contempt and the stereotypical image ("clans of assassins and mercenaries
who used stealth, assassination, disguises, and other tricks to do their
work") was formed which, to this day, is still very much the majority opinion.
70 different "ninjutsu ryu" have been catalogued/identified, however, the
majority of them have died out. Most were developed around a series of
specific skills and techniques, and when the skills of a particular ryu
were no longer in demand, the ryu would (usually) fade from existence.
The three remaining ninjutsu ryu (Togakure ryu, Gyokushin ryu, and Kumogakure
ryu) are encompassed in Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi's Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu system.
These ryu, along with six other "bujutsu ryu" (Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Takagi
Yoshin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Gikan Ryu and Kukishinden Ryu), are taught
as a collective body of knowledge (see Sub-Styles for other info).
the "Ninja-boom" of the 80's, instructors of "Ninjutsu" were popping out
of the woodwork - it was fashionable to wear black. Now that the boom is
over there are not as many people trying cash in on the popularity of this
art. However, as with all martial arts, it would be wise to be very careful
about people claiming to be "masters personally taught by the Grandmaster
do you verify the authenticity of an instructor? In the case of a Bujinkan
Budo Taijutsu instructor there a few points which one can use.
all recognized "instructors" of the Bujinkan Dojo will, in addition to
their Dan grade (black belt), have either a Shidoshi-ho (assistant teacher
- first to fourth Dan) or Shidoshi (teacher - fifth to ninth Dan) certificate/
license from Dr Hatsumi. Only people with these certificates are considered
to be qualified to teach his system (a Dan grade alone DOES NOT make one
in addition to these certificates/licenses, all recognized "instructors"
of the Bujinkan Dojo will possess a valid Bujinkan Hombu Dojo Shidoshi-kai
(Bujinkan Headquarters Dojo Teachers Association) for the current year.
These cards are issued each year from Dr Hatsumi to those recognized as
points will help you if you are looking at training with someone from the
Bujinkan Dojo. Beyond that, it's a case of "buyer beware".
like 'soft/hard', 'internal/external', and 'linear/circular' have been
used to describe ninjutsu by many people. Depending upon the perspective
of the person, it could appear to be any one, all, or even none of the
above. It is important to remember that the term "ninjutsu" does not refer
to a specific style, but more to a group of arts, each with a different
point of view expressed by the different ryu. The physical dynamics from
one ryu to another varies - one ryu may focus on redirection and avoidance
while another may charge in and overwhelm.
provide some kind of brief description, ninjutsu includes the study of
both unarmed and armed combative techniques, strategy, philosophy, and
history. In many Dojos the area of study is quite comprehensive. The idea
being to become adept at many things, rather than specializing in only
main principles in combat are posture, distance, rhythm and flow. The practitioner
responds to attacks in such a way that they place themselves in an advantageous
position from which an effective response can be employed. They are taught
to use their entire body for every movement/technique, to provide the most
power and leverage. They will use the openings created by the opponent's
movement to implement techniques, often causing the opponent to "run in/on
to" body weapons.
was noted above, the areas of study in ninjutsu are diverse. However, the
new student is not taught everything at once.
progresses through skills in Taihenjutsu (Body changing skills), which
include falling, rolling, leaping, posture, and avoidance; Dakentaijutsu
(Striking weapons body techniques) using the entire body as a striking
tool/weapon - how to apply and how to receive; and Jutaijutsu (Supple body
techniques) locks, throws, chokes, holds - how to apply and how to escape.
the early stages, weapons training is usually limited to practicing how
to avoid attacks - overcoming any fear of the object and understanding
the dynamics of its use from the perspective of "defending against" (while
unarmed). In the mid and later stages, once a grounding in Taijutsu body
dynamics is in place, practitioners begin studying from the perspective
of 'defending with' the various tools/weapons.
the early stages of training, kata are provided as examples of 'what can
be done here' and 'how to move the body to achieve this result'. However,
as the practitioner progresses, they are encouraged to explore the openings
which naturally appear in people's movements and apply spontaneous techniques
based upon the principles contained within the kata. This free flowing
style is one of the most important aspects of ninjutsu training. Adaptability
is one of the main lessons of all of these ryu.
to the combative nature of the techniques studied, there are no tournaments
or competitions in Ninjutsu. As tournament fighting has set rules which
compel the competitor to study the techniques allowed within that framework,
this limits not only the kinds of techniques that they study, but also
the way in which they will apply those techniques. The way that you train
is the way that you fight. Ninjutsu requires that its practitioners be
open to any situation, and to be able to adapt their technique to ensure
are a number of people claiming to teach "ninjutsu".
Masaaki Hatsumi has been the recipient of numerous cultural awards in recognition
of his extra-ordinary knowledge of Japanese martial culture. He is considered
by many to be the only source for authentic "ninjutsu". However, as was
noted above, the teachings of the three ninjutsu ryu which are part of
his Bujinkan system, are not taught individually. Rather, they are taught
as part of the collective body of knowledge which forms the foundation
of his Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu system.
Tanemura, formerly of the Bujinkan Dojo, formed his own organization (Genbukan
Dojo) and claimed to be the Grandmaster of/teaching both Iga and Koga Ryu
Ninjutsu. He has since formed a number of other organizations and is becoming
more widely known for his "Samurai Jujutsu" tapes (Panther Productions).
list of names of people claiming to teach "Koga Ryu Nijutsu" is quite long.
The last person to be recognized as part of the Koga Ryu lineage in Japan
was Seiko Fujita. His knowledge of "ninjutsu" died with him - he left no