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The origin of ninjutsu

Between the VIII and the XI century a great number of immigrants, as well as defeated Japanese bushi (warriors) that were left without a land or lord after the defeat of their army began to form autonomous groups sheltered in mountains in order to hide far away from urban centers.  The provinces of Iga and Kôga, because of their hard to access localisation represented the ideal location for these cultural groups and their search for fighting techniques that would be at the origin of ninjutsu and several other Japanese martial art traditions. 

Even though several legends talk about a distant past going back to imaginary gods, it is between the X and the XIV century that ninjutsu has most probably developed.  It is the result of the interaction of religious and military sources that produced a purely Japanese approach to the use of nature, cosmic laws (meteorology, astronomy), human psychology and permanent historical changes in order to obtain means of surviving physically and psychologically.  This bundle of knowledge has been considered as a means of dealing with situations of everyday. *

Wrongly considered as criminals by the military dictators of feudal Japan, the ninja families actually rebelled against the Government that oppressed them. That is why they have developed specialized techniques and have used espionage to counter the plans of the leaders.


Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi is the 34th Grand Master of nine ryuha (traditional schools) of ninjutsu.  He offers his teachings via the Bujinkan Dojo, an organisation that he founded in honour of this teacher, the famous Takamatsu Toshitsugu.  The lineage that relates Dr. Hatsumi to his predecessors is unbroken since the foundation of the ryuhas. 

Among many things, Dr. Hatsumi is the author of multiple books pertaining to martial arts and has realized many videos on the subject, and contributed to several films. Dr. Hatsumi is also a renowned painter in Japan. He also received the international culture award from the Japanese Government.

The nine ryu

Togakure Ryu Ninpo Happo Hiken
Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu Happo Hiken
Koto Ryu Koppojutsu Happo Hiken
Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakken Taijutsu Happo Hiken
Kukishinden Ryu Taijutsu Happo Hiken
Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu Happo Hiken
Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo Happo Hiken
Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo Happo Hiken
Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu Happo Hiken

The Teachings

Taijutsu, the unarmed combat techniques, are grouped in several categories:

Koshijutsu : a method that allows to attack tendons, ligaments and the nervous and muscular systems using the extremities of the bones.

Koppojutsu : a method that allows to use the bone structure.

Dakentaijutsu : a combat method that originates from koppojutsu and koshijutsu and includes the same teachings in the context of close combat and strikes.

Jutaijutsu : a combat method that originates from koppojutsu and koshijutsu and includes grappling, techniques of control and dislocation, throws, strangulation, ground work, counters and evasions against different techniques.

Taihenjutsu : a method of active positioning that comprises movement of the body, reaction to attacks without getting hurt, controlled falls, rolls and jumps.

Heiho : the art of war or combat strategy

Mokuso : a method that allows to become aware of the mind and body.

* From Kacem Zoughari's book : "L'ombre de la lumière"

Copyright Budo Montreal 2013

Design : Eric Charest | Illustration : Dave Hawey