Masaaki Hatsumi: A Biography

Compiled By Joe Maurantonio

Masaaki Hatsumi was born in December 1931 in Noda city, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. He grew up with an avid love of the martial arts and in his youth studied many martial art styles. Hatsumi began practicing when he was seven years old and found his fathers Bokuto ("wooden sword"). From that point on he began studying many popular Japanese martial arts and earned ranking in Karate, Aikido and Judo. After he attained a 4th degree Black Belt in Judo he was asked to teach at a United States Army base. He was in his early 20s and found that the big Americans seemed to have size and natural ability and Hatsumi found that they were learning in months what took the typical Japanese years. He began to question his training... What good is a martial art if a bigger or stronger person could easily defeat you? Hatsumi began searching for a true warrior tradition.

While studying kobudo ("ancient weapons") with a renowned instructor Hatsumi learned about a teacher named Toshitsugu Takamatsu, of Kashiwabara City which is to the west of the Iga region of Japan. As a last hope of finding a teacher who could impart the essence of a living warrior tradition and not just some recreational sport or lifeless art form, Hatsumi traveled across Honsho island to seek out the teacher he had searched for his whole life.

The train ride took over half a day to get from Hatsumi's home to that of Takamatsu. In 1957, upon meeting Takamatsu, Hatsumi felt a strange aura emanate from him. Takamatsu was well into his 60's when the two met. Hatsumi was only 26 years old . Full of confidence, Hatsumi had a match with the veteran battler and learned the true meaning of training. In Hatsumi's own words:

The pain of his technique was different from any pain I had ever suffered before. I had only felt a cold, momentary pain, while with Sensei I was exposed to a hot, burning pain. It was as if something would explode, if my blood would be sucked up and I would die right away. He didn'tjust apply one GYAKU but four or five. I immediately knew this is what I was looking for. I asked to be his student. At that time, Takamatsu did not accept any new students, and yet, seeing something special in this young man he agreed to teach him. For Takamatsu the meeting was more like a reunion than a first meeting. In a poem to Hatsumi, Takamatsu wrote:

"In the days of the Tenei era there was great master of Koppo. He was calm and peaceful like the flowers of springtime. Yet he was so brave that not even 10,000 enemies could make him show fear. He could even strike down a wild animal with but a single blow."

For over fifteen years Hatsumi trained under the supervision of Takamatsu and in 1972, with the death of his teacher, Hatsumi Sensei became the heir to the last and oldest ninja tradition existing.

Hatsumi is a Nihonga (Japanese-style) painter and has had exhibitions in Noda, Ginza (Nagai Gallery), etc. During his many years of training he has also supplied martial arts guidance for numerous film, (Ninja Nights) TV (Jiraiya, Ninja-boy-Fujimaru) & theater events.


Showa 5 (1921)
Masaaki Hatsumi was born in December 1931 in Noda city

Showa 31 (1957)
When he was 26 years old he met Takamatsu Toshitsugu in Kashiwabara City west of the Iga region in Japan. He travelled across Honshu island every weekend for fifteen years to study with his teacher. The train ride took him over a half day from his home in Noda to Takamatsu's home in Kashiwabara.

Showa 35 (1961)
November 3 he held a lecture to the Japanese Tenno (crown prince) about Ninpo.

Showa 36 (1962)
The film "Shinobi no mono" a film about Ishikawa Goemon and Momochi Sandayu was released this year, he acted as the advisor to the film company.

Showa 38 (1964) - Year of Tatsu-Kinoe (Dragon-Wood)
He performed frequently in the childrens program "Suteki-na-Mama!"

Showa 47 (1972)
After 15 years of studying, Takamatsu Toshitsugu died 83 years old in his home in Nara (just East of Osaka) April 2, 1972. A few years earlier Takamatsu had already decided that Hatsumi would be the next sole inheritor and "Soke" (grandmaster) of:

Showa ?? (19??)
Names organization "Bujinkan Dojo" (Divine Warrior Training Hall) in honor of his teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu.

Showa 57 (1982)
He first travels to West (to Dayton, Ohio, USA) to teach Budo.

Showa 58 (1983)
The first International Gasshaku is held Japan.

Showa 61 (1986)
Received the "Best Instructor Award" from the Black Belt Magazine (as voted by the readers). First Bujinkan related video released. First foreign Taikai: USA.

Showa 62 (1987)
First travel to Europe (London, UK) to teach Budo. Taikai in: United Kingdom and USA

Showa 63 (1988)
Acted in Jiraya, a 50 episodes children's adventure series made by Asahi Television. Played the part of "Yamaji Tetsuzan" (Jiraya's father and teacher). Taikai in: USA, UK, and Sweden

Heisei 1 (1989)
Taikai in: USA, UK, Sweden, and Israel

Heisei 2 (1990)
He was the "Chairman of the International Division, Japan Literary Artist's Club" 1990-94. Taikai in: USA, UK, Sweden, and Spain

Heisei 3 (1991)
Received a letter of appreciation from US President George Bush on his 60th birthday. Honorary Member of Texas Rangers. Taikai in: USA, UK, Sweden, Spain, and Germany.

Heisei 4 (1992)
Honorary degree of Ph.D. Natural Science from a U.S. University. Received the Cross Medal and Sun Medal from Juan Carlos, King of Spain. Accepted the position as the Director of the Japan Literary Club, International Section. Taikai in: USA, UK, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Australia, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Israel.

Heisei 5 (1993)
Main Theme this year was Rokushaku Bojutsu & Taijutsu. Taikai in: USA, Spain, Australia, France, and Argentina.

Heisei 6 (1994)
Main Theme this year was Sojutsu (Yari) & Kodachi. Became "Knight" at Frankfurt. Taikai in: UK, Germany, and USA

Heisei 7 (1995)
Main Theme this year was Naginatajutsu & Daisho Sabaki Gata & Taijutsu. Renamed ninjutsu to budo taijutsu to reflect the growth of training available to students. Was awarded the title Todo Hanshi (Master teacher of the way of the sword) by Nakazawa Toshi, President of Zen Nippon Todo Renmei (Sword Federation). Honorary Member of Arizona Rangers. Received Letters of thanks from FBI. Taikai in UK, New Zealand, Spain, and USA

Heisei 8 (1996)
Main Theme this year was Bikenjutsu & Taijutsu. Opened the Bujinden (honbu dojo) September 9th. Taikai in: Holland, Spain, and USA

Heisei 9 (1997)
Main Theme this year was Jojutsu, Tachi and Taijutsu. Taikai in: Spain and USA

Heisei 10 (1998)
Main Theme this year was Shindenfudo-ryu Dakentaijutsu Happo Biken. Taikai in: Italy, Sweden, and USA.

Heisei 11 (1999)
Main Theme this year was Kukishin-ryu Taijutsu Happo Biken. Recieved the Grand Prize from International Cultural Promoting Association, signed by the Japanese Emperor. Taikai in: Germany, UK, and USA.

Heisei 12 (2000) - Year of Tatsu-Kanoe (Dragon-Metal)
Main Theme this year was Koppojutsu. In November, Hatsumi Sensei receives "Cultural Award". Taikai in: Holland and USA.

Heisei 13 (2001)
Main Theme this year was Kosshijutsu. In May, receives Papal recognition. Taikai in: Spain and USA.

Heisei 14 (2002)
Main Theme this year is Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu and the "formal" wear of the year is Hakama. Taikai in: Norway and USA.

Heisei 15 (2003)
Main Theme this year is Juppou-sesshou, Kunai, Ninja-tou, Tessen, Kyoketsushoge. Taikai in England and USA. Officially, this is the final year that Hatsumi Sensei will do Taikai overseas.

Heisei 16 (2004)
Main Theme this year is Roppo Kuji no Biken Budo no Kiso. Special Taikai held in Japan. Emphasis placed on Ygen no Sekai (world of the unmanifested)

Heisei 17 (2005)
Main Theme this year is Gyokko-ryu Happo Biken, Bo and Ken with an emphasis on Kasumi no Ho (encompassing mist).

Heisei 18 (2006)
Main Theme this year is Shinden Fudo Ryu with an emphasis on --.

Heisei 19 (2007)
Main Theme this year is Kukishin Ryu with an emphasis on Kuki Taisho (nine smiling demons).

Heisei 20 (2008)
Main Theme this year is Togakure-ryu Ninpo Taijutsu with an emphasis on Kieru no Kankaku (feeling of disappearing).

Heisei 21 (2009)
Main Theme this year is Mu (no theme) but later emerged a focus of Sainou (ability), Tamashii (spirit) and Utsuwa (capacity) [which can alternately be pronounced Sainou-Kon-Ki]. Emphasis was placed on nawa no kankaku (the feeling of rope).

Heisei 22 (2010)
Main Theme this year is Rokkon Shoujou (influencing the spirit through laughter) with an emphasis on the Tachi.

Heisei 23 (2011)
Main Theme this year is Kihon Happo.

Heisei 24 (2012)
Main Theme this year is Jin Ryo Yo Go (Kaname). Emphasis was on sword and long staff.

Heisei 25 (2013)
Main Theme this year is Ken Engetsu no Kagami ("mirror of the fullmoon sword")/ Tachi Hken ("divine treasure sword"). Emphasis was on the Ken, Tachi and Katana. A Kunoichi Tai Kai was held in Tokyo, Japan/

Heisei 26 (2014)
Main Theme this year is Shin (deity/mind/soul), In (elegance), Bu (warrior/Chivalry) and Dou (leading/guiding).

Heisei 27 (2015)
Main Theme this year is Nagamaki.

Heisei 28 (2016)
Main Theme this year is Katana.

Heisei 29 (2017)
Main Theme this year is a Kannin Doshi (Perseverance of mutual respect) and Muto Dori. Hatsumi-Sensei ends Shidoshi Kai meetings and encourages instructors (shidoshi) to build connect with senior instructors (Shihan).

Heisei 30 (2018)
Main Theme this year is Koto Ryu Koppo and Muto Dori.

Heisei 31 (2019)
Main Theme this year is Muto Dori (continues).

Reiwa (2019)
Main Theme continues and Hatsumi-sensei awards soke-menkyo to six Japanese Shihan.

Reiwa 2 (2020)
Main Theme soon...