Modern Schools of Ninjutsu

Modern Schools of Ninjutsu

There are several modern martial arts schools that claim to teach martial arts derived from Ninjutsu, the historical arts of the Ninja covert agents or assassins of feudal Japan.

Some of these modern schools claim a background as historical schools of Japanese martial arts(koryu) that is questioned.[1] Many in the martial arts community deny the existence of any true ninja today, such as Donn F. Draeger.[2]

At least part of this modern ninjutsu revival began with Masaaki Hatsumi in ca. 1970. Hatsumi's ninjutsu was studied by Stephen K. Hayes who brought his variation into the USA in 1975. In the West, the role of ninjutsu was greatly exaggerated due to the movie-based "ninja-boom," and the field of modern ninjutsu diversified in the late 1970s and 1980s, sometimes steeped in controversy on fraud surrounding colourful characters such as those of Ashida Kim and Frank Dux.




The Bujinkan Organization, founded by Masaaki Hatsumi in 1978, is one of the many organizations claiming to teach ninjutsu as three of the nine martial art schools of Bujinkan are said to be ninjutsu schools.[3] These claims are opposed by historians of koryu arts, as well as by the iga ninja museam of Japan.[4][1]

In Rekishi dokuhon[5] Masaaki Hatsumi said he was Takashi Ueno's student at age 24, and until age 29 only sometimes wrote letters to Toshitsugu Takamatsu who was then Ueno Takashi's teacher;[5] though the certificate Takamatsu gave Hatsumi naming him 34th head of Togakure ryu is dated March 1958.[6] There is no documentation of the previous 33 holders of this title[7]. There are films of them training together over a long period of several years[6] and in interviews with Ryutaro Koyama, Takamatsu confirmed that Hatsumi had been training with him since 1958.[8] Following this, in the Bugeicho (11/1963) Hatsumi states he only trains with Takamatsu once every three months on weekends.[9]

The Bugeicho (11/1963) editor Kiyoshi Watatani states that Hatsumi's ideas and lineage are only his ideas and have no proof to support them.[10] The Kakutogi No Rekishi lists several of the Bujinkan Ryuha and martial arts authority Yumio Nawa also examined and confirmed the Togakure ryu's historical status in his 1972 book Ninjutsu no kenkyu[11] (Ninchibo Shuppansha). Watatani, editor of the Bugeicho who had said that there was no proof to Hatsumi's claims in 1963 then reverses himself and in his work the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten 1978 from then on treats the Togakure ryu as a historical art.

In the more recent Shinobi no sengokushi (08/2004) Hatsumi states he trained with Toshitsugu Takamatsu for 15 years and became master of 9 systems at age 27.[12] Toshitsugu Takamatsu died in 1972, so this would make the year Hatsumi started training with Takamatsu 1957 or 1958. This statement claims the training with Takamatsu having been two or three years longer than can be concluded from Hatsumi's statements from the Rekishi dokuhon 08/1960"[5] and the Bugeicho 11/1963. However, the statement in Shinobi no sengokushi (08/2004) is consistent with Takamatsu's statements to Koyama and the certificate he wrote. In 1983 Shinji Souya wrote that the historical book Genpeisuiseki supported the Togakure ryu history.[13]

In the 3rd edition of the Bugei ryuha daijiten, Watatani (who was a friend of Takamatsu) states that Takamatsu's ninjutsu was made up from childhood ninja games.[14] This was retracted in the 4th edition.

Quest Centers

The Quest Centers headed by Stephen K. Hayes who studied under Shoto Tanemura until the latter's falling out with Hatsumi. Hayes then continued under Masaaki Hatsumi and is (claimed to be) the person who first brought ninjutsu to North America, founding a ninjutsu dojo in the Western Hemisphere in Atlanta, Georgia, in the mid-70s. Hayes relocated to Dayton, Ohio around 1980, where he continued to teach the art for a number of years. He now teaches his own Westernized system separated from bujinkan, To-Shin Do .

Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū

According to Donn F. Draeger (1973), the school of Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū claimed to have been the first to incorporate ninjutsu into its curriculum.[15]

Nindo Ryu Bujutsu Kai

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, (former student of Shoto Tanemura, T. Higushi and current student of both Ronald Duncan & Bo Munthe). Nindo Ryu Gendai Ninjutsu works around modern applications & modern interpretation of Takamatsuden, Koga (Koka) & Eclectic schools.

Dux Ryu

Frank Dux established his school of "Dux Ryu Ninjutsu" in 1975. Dux opened his first school in North Hollywood in 1980 while subsequent schools have been owned and operated by his students.[16] The validity of many of his personal claims have been disputed. His claims concerning his martial arts background, fighting in the "Kumite", and prior military service have been alleged as unsubstantiated by the Los Angeles Times,[17] Soldier of Fortune,[18] and various former associates.[19][20]



Genbukan (玄武館?)was founded in 1984 by Shoto Tanemura.[21][22][23] It is an international organization with over a hundred dojos in circa thirty countries and twenty US states.[24] Shoto Tanemura stopped training with Masaki Hatsumi in 1984 after a falling out with him. Tanemura is also the head and founder of three organizations that operate under the Genbukan headquarters (Honbu) in Japan:[25]

The Genbukan Ninpo Bugei (玄武館忍法武芸) is divided in 36 categories called the "Ninja Sanjurokkei[26] focusing on tai jutsu, biken jutsu and Seishinteki Kyoyo. Other topics of study may include bō jutsu, yumi, naginata, yari, jutte, kusari-gama, shuriken etc.


AKBAN (founded 1986 in Israel) uses the Bujinkan curriculum the way it was used when Doron Navon, the first foreign Bujinkan shihan, studied under Tanemura and then under Hatsumi when Tanemura left the Bujinkan.[27]

Banke Shinobinoden

The Banke Shinobinoden group claim to teach Koga and Iga ninjutsu in Japan.[28] Jinichi Kawakami claims to have been taught by Masazo Ishida, who he says was one of the last remaining ninjutsu practitioners alive.[29]

He says he is the 21st head of the Koga Ban family (Iga and Koga Ninjutsu) and is the honorary director of the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum.[30] Kawakami's top student, Yasushi Kiyomoto, is the only one teaching from the Banke Shinobinoden group.[31] Kiyomoto operates a dojo in Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture, but he no longer takes on new students.[32] There are also no branches, contact points and instructors overseas.[31]

However, As Thomas Dillon writes,[33] "No one knows anything about Ishida. How very ninja-like." Also, Kawakami claims to teach not only Iga style ninjutsu, but Koka (Koga) ryu ninjutsu[34]

Ashida Kim

A number of books purporting to teach ninjutsu have been published by "Ashida Kim", the pseudonym of Radford Davis[35] beginning in the 1980s.[36] However, no evidence has been advanced to suggest that Davis has studied or trained in ninjutsu.

In a 2003 interview with The Believer magazine, Davis claims to be associated with the Black Dragon Fighting Society (BDFS) after meeting its head Count Dante in 1968.[37]

1990 to present

  • Fumio Manaka, the founder of Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan, is the former senior student of Masaaki Hatsumi. Manaka achieved Menkyo kaiden in several schools of Bujinkan including Togakure-ryu ninjutsu and founded the Jinenkan organisation in 1996.[citation needed].
  • The Bansenshukai Ninjutsu organization[38] was founded in 2006[39] by E. Scott Damron and Daniel Buckley who share backgrounds in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, To-Shin Do, and American Jujitsu.
  • Ninja SA teach a hybrid Ninjutsu style based on experiences on the streets of South Africa. The style has evolved from what was first taught in South Africa as Koga Ryu ninjutsu. The group was founded by David Field in 2006 and now has dojos in South Africa and Wales, United Kingdom.[40]
  • Ninja Senshi Ryu (Ninja Warrior School)[41] was founded in 2005 by Kaylan Soto, which combines 2 styles of Ninjutsu. It is located in in Western Sydney, NSW, Australia.
  • In 2011 Brandon Anderson, who has a background in Bujinkan Ninjutsu and To Shin Do, developed Jissen Ninpo Budo Taijutsu and founded the National Ninjutsu Academy or NNA for short.[42]
  • In 2011, lifelong martial artist Jonathan Kingsley established The Martial University, which teaches many martial arts styles with Ninjutsu being the focus among them. The curriculum features training in aspects of stealth, disguise, technique, weapons and philosophy, along with modernized versions of the techniques for use in real-life situations. The school is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.


  1. ^ a b Skoss, Diane (ed.); Beaubien, Ron; Friday, Karl (1999). "Ninjutsu: is it koryu bujutsu?". Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  2. ^
    The late Fujita Seiko was the last of the living ninja ... No ninja exist today
    —Donn Draeger, Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts, p 130, 1969
  3. ^ "Bujinkan Dojo - Soke Masaaki Hatsumi". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Rekishi Dokuhon (History Magazine) 08/1960
  6. ^ a b Saigo no Ninja, Toshitsugu Takamatsu ISBN 4-87389-706-8
  7. ^
  8. ^ Shinsetsu Nihon Ninja Retsuden, Koyama Ryutaro 1964 Arechi Shuppansha publisher.
  9. ^ Bugeicyo 11/1963
  10. ^ Bugeicyo 11/1963
  11. ^ ISBN 0021-17207-6135
  12. ^ Shinobino Sengokushi Heisei 08/2004
  13. ^ Hanbojutsu, Juttejutsu, Tessenjutsu ISBN4-8069-0239-x
  14. ^
  15. ^ Draeger, Donn F. (1973, 2007). Classical Bujutsu: The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan. Boston, Massachusetts: Weatherhill. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-8348-0233-9. 
  16. ^ Chia, Juan, "Reto Final", Artes Marciales: 14–19 
  17. ^ Johnson, John (May 1, 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. 
  18. ^ "Full Mental Jacket" (August 1996) and "Stolen Valor: Profiles of a Phony-Hunter" (November 1998) Soldier of Fortune
  19. ^ Frank Dux v. Jean Claude Van Damme, U.S., SC 046395 (LA Superior Court 1998).
  20. ^ "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.'" Keyes (2004), p. 73.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "AKBAN - Budo Ninjutsu: The Largest Martial Arts Database". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  28. ^ (Japanese)
  29. ^ A Story of Life, Fate, and Finding the Lost Art of Koka Ninjutsu in Japan by Daniel DiMarzio (ISBN 978-1-4357-1208-9)
  30. ^ Study/Circles|Ninja Iga-ryu - Iga-ryu Ninja Museum
  31. ^ a b (Japanese) 伴家忍之傳研修所
  32. ^ Banke Shinobinoden Kensyujyo
  33. ^ The last of the ninja | The Japan Times Online
  34. ^ not to be confused with Koga Ryu Wada Ha Style taught by the late Fujita Seiko. Fujita Seiko by Phillip Hevener ISBN 1436301769
  35. ^ "Massachusetts District Court, October 15, 2007, MOTION to Dismiss F.R.C.P. 65(a) (1) Radford Davis by Ashida Kim a/k/a Radford Davis(Boyce, Kathy)". 
  36. ^ Secrets of the Ninja, Citadel Press (1981); NINJA Secrets of Invisibility, Citadel Press (1983);
  37. ^ Horowitz, Eli. Ashida Kim. The Believer, May 2003.
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Bansenshukai Ninjutsu - The Evolution of Ninjutsu". Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^

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