Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu – Ninjutsu

Contrary to the popular media depiction of the “ultimate assassin,” the origin of the ninja lies not in the ending of life, but in the preservation of it. The kanji (Japanese characters) used to denote the word ninja literally mean “one who endures,” and consist of a person with a sword over a heart. The original ninja were mountain-dwelling peoples in the regions of Iga and Koga in Japan which eventually developed into mercenary clans, and developed their martial prowess from the everyday skills and tools they used for basic survival. Many of the ninja weapons come from peasant tools which could be easily and innocuously hidden in one’s home. As such, they were considered rather low-class in comparison with the samurai, but were just as effective, if not more so, than the warrior elite in warfare.

At a time when battles and the martial world were laden with ideals on how to kill people “properly,” the ninja clans were perhaps the most effective military force in the islands of Japan because of their philosophy which prized perseverance above all else. Everyday training (Keiko) is emphasized to develop the mind, body, and spirit to the extent that one can develop fudoshin, the immovable heart which stopped for nothing. The samurai were circumscribed by codes of conduct and standards of honor which proscribed certain types of warfare. This was the advantage of the ninja, and whoever hired the clans, who were limited by no such arbitrary ideals, and used spying, arson, confusion, sabotage, assassination, and any other number of tactics to accomplish their goals. They were not the first or only spies and assassins used in Japan, nor the last, but the isolation of their villages allowed them to develop their skills and tactics in secret, leading to a substantial advantage in their ability to surprise their targets and execute their missions in secret. To be a ninja was to think outside the box, and use whatever tools at ones disposal to outsmart ones opponent. A ninja was never trapped, never hesitated, and never gave up.

The school of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu is made up of nine different lineages which span the great length and breadth of the skills which the ninjas had at their disposal, which consisted of everything from direct hand-to-hand combat and weapons work to bomb-making, costumes, geography and meterorology. The three schools which focus primarily upon the varied skills of ninjutsu, or “hidden arts,” are Togakure Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu, and Kumogakure Ryu. Gikan Ryo and Koto Ryu are schools which center around koppojutusu which manipulates bones and dislocates joints. Gyokko Ryu is a kosshijutsu lineage which effects the structure, or muscles, of an opponent. Many of the strikes in Bujinkan derive from Shinden Fudo Ryu, which is a dakentaijustu art with roots in Chinese boxing. Takagi Yoshin Ryu is a jutaijutsu lineage which centers around throwing one’s opponent. The last school, Kukishinden Ryu, is a school of happo bikenjutsu which teaches various hidden weapons arts and martial tactics.

This collection of traditions stretches back to at least the 12th century, and was presented to the modern world in its current form by Hatsumi Masaaki-Soke, the grandmaster and founder of the Bujinkan Organization. Hastumi-Soke, born in 1931, studied martial arts from an early age, but soon became skeptical of the styles in which he’d trained due to the fact that practitioners with more muscle could defeat opponents with more skill. Searching for a tradition which would truly place skill above all other considerations, Hatsumi-Soke eventually found Toshitsugu Takamatsu and trained religiously underneath him.

Takamatsu Sensei was the inheritor of nine different schools of martial arts which would collectively come to be known as Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, and had traveled across China, clashing with other martial artists in to test his combat skills. When Hatsumi-Soke inherited the nine schools from Takamatsu Sensei after his passing in 1972, ninjutsu as a martial art was almost entirely unknown, especially in the Western world. Hatsumi-Soke built the Bujinkan organization from the very bedrock upwards, and now presides over a school of a quarter million people. He still teaches regularly at the age of 79 at the headquarters dojo in the city of Noda, in the Chiba prefecture of Japan, about 30 miles from Tokyo.

Much of this information is available on the Wikipedia page for Bujinkan:

Great site which gives a breakdown and history of each of the nine schools: http://bujinkangreece.com/ryuha/togakure.html
Bujinkan guidelines and expectations: http://www.bujinkan.com/guidelines.htm