Articles, Essays & Writings
Ninjutsu is not something that should be used for personal desires. It is something that should be used when no other choice is available, for the sake of one’s country, for the sake of one’s lord, or to escape personal danger. If one deliberately uses it for the sake of personal desires, the techniques will indeed fail totally.
Signed: Momochi Sandayu
Soke Iga Ryu Karate, Koto Ryu Koppojutsu
"The way to experience happiness is to let go of all worries and regrets and know that being happy is the most satisfying of life's feelings. Reflect back on all the progress in your life and allow the positive, creative, and joyous thoughts to outshine and overwhelm any sorrow or grief.
Happiness is waiting there in front of you. Only you can decide whether or not you choose to experience it. Take this to heart!"
33rd Soke Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu
Article Published: Sunday 21 December, 2003
The UK “Sunday Times Magazine"
Masaaki Hatsumi, 73, is the 34th grandmaster of the Togakure School of ninja, a training centre for Japanese warriors. He lives in Noda, north of Tokyo.
I get up when I wake up, although I'm not much of an early riser, as I tend to work through the night. I don't know what time I'll go to bed or wake up on any day because, as a ninja, I make a habit of never having any sort of routine. It's bad to have a pattern to your life, because the three easiest times to kill a man are when he's on the toilet, when he's in bed or when he's eating. Nobody will catch me asleep or drowsy, as I have trained all my life to be alert. To let your guard down is tantamount to suicide.
But I always start the day with the same meal, mixing brown rice, tofu, red beans and mushrooms together. I'll also have a Japanese tea, blended specially for me. After breakfast I will do whatever I want to but not what I did yesterday. Perhaps I will write for a magazine or work on one of my paintings. My oil paintings have been displayed in Manchester and Washington, DC. Or I might take a walk for two or three hours with my five borzoi dogs, the only exercise I do now.
I've been doing martial arts since I was a boy, although it is much deeper than the sort of physical training most people would understand. It's the way you live your life. I don't do push-ups now that I'm 73 though I don't have the body of a 73-year-old. It's not about technique, it's about living. Anyone can take photographs, but only a few can be described as "art". And just as the world needs sculptors and artists, martial arts are equally important.
I never "became" a ninja. I was always it and it was always me. I had a tough childhood: my father used to drink and was violent, so I had to protect my family. I grew up in post-war Japan, when it was forbidden to practice any martial art other than judo, karate or kendo.
I became an instructor and in the 1960s I began teaching at US military bases. I quickly learnt that those disciplines don't work very well if your opponent is much bigger and stronger than you, so I began to study the ancient martial arts and became a student of Toshitsugu Takamatsu, the 33rd grand master of the Togakure school of ninja. When he died in 1972, I became the grandmaster.
I teach three times a week when I am in Japan, and I'm often invited to instruct or give lectures abroad. I've taught in 50 countries and have letters of thanks from five US presidents, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela. I have shared my skills with the SAS and SBS, as well as police and Special Forces around the world. Some people at my school will refuse to tell you their jobs if you ask them. One has just returned from six-month tours of Afghanistan and Iraq.
We train in the use of weapons: rope, swords, spears, chains everything is a weapon. A piece of paper… anything that is nothing. I'm a walking arsenal but being a ninja is more than just the physical. It's teaching awareness, the spiritual. You have to develop a real killing feeling, but with the ability not to kill. You have to have guts to kill, but also the physical and spiritual ability and strength not to kill, to give your opponent an out, an excuse to back off. In truth, I don't teach them anything. I show them how to lead their lives. It's up to them whether they grasp it or not.
What is a ninja? What is time? You are asking me to define something that by its very nature is not understood. Ninjutsu is based on deception, but it's a lot more than that. It's the use of weapons and the art of concealment, but there's a great deal more to it than throwing stars, and stealth.
One test for the higher level students is for me to bring a sword down on the backs of their necks and they have to sense when to roll out of the way. I try to take them to the level when they act without knowing why, to transcend understanding.
There are many misconceptions surrounding ninja. Most started in the 14th century and we were put in the same category as samurai, the salary men of the middle ages. A samurai was willing to die for his lord. But ninja were always independent of the government, and we had a philosophy that we had to live for the sake of our families. We believe we lead a blessed existence, but when it comes to our skills, it never hurts to have a bad reputation. It's part of our power, part of our mysticism.
At the end of the day, I'll open the fridge and grab whatever food is handy. Maybe I'll have a drink, but I'm not a big beer or sake drinker. Sometimes we have some of my students round for dinner, but I only give them short notice. I'll probably take the dogs for a walk again, but who knows if it will be at 5pm or 5am? I try to do some writing in the evenings, and I'm quite an accomplished dancer, or so they say. I like traditional Japanese dancing as well as ballroom dancing, as I'm pretty light on my feet.
When I feel it is time to go to bed, I will roll out my futon and go to sleep quickly, but I often dream of my master, Takamatsu, and the dreams are usually on the scary side, like he's attacking me in my sleep. On the first day I became his apprentice, I slept in his house. In the morning he asked me how many times he'd come into my room in the night and how many times I thought he could have killed me. For the next five years I never had a good night's sleep, as I was waiting for the slightest noise. In the end I had to ask him. He said he hadn't come in at all, but that I'd learnt a good lesson.
Life and death are connected. Like In-Yo (Yin & Yang). This is my teaching theme for the year. Like a magnet and metal, life and death are attracted to each other, always getting closer. If you are born and given a life, death is inevitable. When death comes do not be surprised or shaken. Get on the rhythm of life. Get in balance with it. This is the theme of the year. That is why I tell my students it does not matter how skilled one becomes in martial arts or even Ninjutsu for that matter, if one can not attain this balance or rhythm. This is the basis for the Kihon Happo! Not the forms!
If you keep practicing the form it does not produce any real results. Always doing the forms is a childish way to practice. There are even times when the form can be what gets you killed. Often I hear my students argue over topics like "the correctness of this form" or "this posture should be this way" and such. True battle or real fights are never correct, in form or spirit! It is not about that. If you think the opponent is strong you will naturally go and get something such as a rifle and "boom"!!! Right? Very simple isn't it? This type of common sense or "obvious ways" are important. This is why I teach my students:
Jiyu ni, atarimae ni, Jibun de narai, jibun de ikiro!
Freely, with common sensibility, learn on your own, live on your own!
Even though I have many students, I do not need them, but they still come to see me right? This is because I teach them how to teach themselves. This is why they come to me. But this is very different from just making up a Ryuha and such. This is the real path I teach. All around me I have many strong friends from many countries. Most of them are people who had to survive wars in their own homelands. They are all the real thing, real warriors. We understand each other on a certain level. My training with Takamatsu Sensei has made me aware of these types of people. It is like we are our own species. Even you Sean, you had to fight for your own survival on several occasions, right? You even got stabbed from behind. You had courage and a keen mind to help you survive. But your poor opponent! Ha ha ha!!!! Bad guys are always planning something devious. They are "big idea" people, always coming up with some kind of con. But it is important to develop the mind to withstand these types of people, learn to perceive them. My way is to never think about anything at all. You know me, I am usually not really thinking about any one thing in particular. It is just a matter of "keep going".
This is the best way to guide your students. This is the way it is when you train with me. When my senior Japanese students make mistakes and go astray I get on them and scold them. It is the same with all my students all over the world. I have no borders. I do not hold anything back from the non-Japanese. I do everything on a man to man basis. This is the way it has always been. If I do not teach this way my students may be killed when the time comes. It would be very sad for me. This is why I do not teach in a strange and unnatural manner. I teach people to teach themselves… freely!
“There are five things that you have to leave to the side for practicing the martial arts and also in life in general. This is what Takamatsu Sensei told me as well. First, put aside anger and fury. Secondly, guard against your heart becoming to soft and allowing laziness to enter into your heart. Third, put aside ambition and avarice. If you allow yourself to get to fixed on one particular thing you loose sight of reality in general. Fourth, another thing you must leave to the side is thinking that you are better then you are and that there is nothing more for you to learn. Fifth, also leave to the side suspicions and doubts and recognize where these suspicions and doubts come from so you can be able to not be influenced from them."
"These five points have their origins in Buddhism and that you really do have to understand these in order to practice fully the martial arts or life in general. Ask yourself how do you practice the martial arts correctly?"
Hatsumi Sensei gave a number of answers:
"Be confident and have security that the martial arts that we practice are real and have confidence in the people that are around you. Be very studiace and train a lot. Ask yourself continuously which of the practices or which of the techniques are real? While you practice avoid those five points that were mentioned earlier because they poison your mind. Be neither trapped by consciousness or unconsciousness. Each one of us is different but you should guard against your difference being wrong. Stay away from neglectent people if you are looking for happiness. Practicing with someone who is not intelligent or serious is worse than practicing with an enemy."
"The Bujinkan should bring with it very elevated feelings. The Bujinkan is equal to life on the planet. Lastly, allow your own light to shine through the practice. Shine like a star. Very simply put, learn and continue to practice!"