West Los Angeles Dojo

Classical Japanese Martial Arts

Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi

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 (classical Japanese martial arts) 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't just 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.

After 15 years of studying, Takamatsu Toshitsugu passed away at the age of 83 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" (Headmaster) of:

    • Togakure ryu Ninjutsu, 34th Soke
    • Gyokko ryu Kosshijutsu, 28th Soke
    • Kukishinden Daken Happo Bikenjutsu, 28th Soke
    • Shindenfudo ryu Dakentaijutsu, 26th Soke
    • Gyokushin ryu Ninjutsu, 21th Soke
    • Koto ryu Koppojutsu, 18th Soke
    • Takagiyoshin ryu Jutaijutsu, 17th Soke
    • Gikan ryu Koppojutsu, 15th Soke
    • Kumogakure ryu Ninjutsu, 14th Soke


Toshitsugu Takamatsu

Toshitsugu Takamatsu “The Mongolian Tiger”

Takamatsu Toshitsugu was born on March 10, 1887 in Akashi City, Japan. Named Hisatsugu by his parents, He later changed his name to Toshitsugu (using the same wrriten Kanji but pronouncing them different). He is now kept in memory as the Bujin (divine warrior) of the Bujinkan, named in his honor by hatsumi Sensei.

When Takamatsu was 9 years old, his father enrolled him in the school of Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu, a master of martial arts from Iga who had been a sword instructor at the government military school and now ran a dojo and bone clinic in Kobe. Every day after school he would go to the Dojo for personal instruction by Toda Sensei. Initially, Takamatsu Sensei was taught no technique, but was simply thrown around the Dojo by Toda Sensei until blood dripped from his elbows and knees.

Takamatsu Sensei later said that each day on his way to the Dojo was like a lamb being led to the slaughter house. After a full year of this repetitive throwning, Takamatsu Sensei began to learn actual techniques. From Toda Sensei , he learned the techniques of:

  • Shinden Fudo Ryu Jutaijutsu
  • Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu
  • Shinden Koto Ryu Karatejutsu / Koto Ryu Koppojutsu
  • Gyokushin Ryu Ninjutsu Kumogakure Ryu Ninjutsu Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu

Around the age 13, whike studying in English school in Kobe, Takamatsu Sensei entered the Dojo of Mizuta Yoshitaro Tadafusa and began studying Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu. At 17 years of age, Takamatsu began to study under Ishitani Matsutaro Takekage, from whom he learned the teachings of :

  • Kukishin Ryu
  • Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu
  • Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu

In 1919 Takamatsu Sensei married 23 year old Uno Tane. They adopted a girl, who they named Yoshiko. He later became involved in Tendai Budahism and, though he was eventually ordanied as a priest, affirmed that he was not an overly religious man. In his early 30’s, Takamatsu went to china and spent a total of 10 years there, being employed by many warlords in manchuria and Northern China. During this time, Takamatsu Sensei’s reputation as a warrior grew, and he fought 12 fights to the death as a result of a personal challenges. While he was in China, the Kuki family keepers of the Kukishin Ryu scrolls lost touch with him and doubting his return to Japan, granted Iwami Nangaku Menkyo Kaiden. Thus when Takamatsu Sensei returned, his position has been filled.

Later the Kuki family scrolls were destroyed by the fire resulting the allies bombing in WW2, however Takamatsu Sensei was able to reconstruct the scrolls from his notes and memory and presented them to the Kuki family 3 years later. For this service he was given permission to create a subschool called Kukishinden Ryu containing what he thought to be the best and most appropriate of the Kukishin Ryu teachings. His teacher Toda, Mizuta, and Ishitani had all passed away by this time, and Takamatsu started training a small group of students in a dojo he named Sakushin (“cultivating spirit”). 

During the early 60’s Takamatsu received a visit from Masaaki Hatsumi.

Hatsumi Sensei entered Takamatsu's Dojo and after 15 years of studying with him received a Menkyo Kaiden and Sokeship in the majority of Takamatsu Sensei's traditions. Takamatsu Sensei never lost his fighting spirit. When he was in his late 70’s, a high ranking Karate instructor being interviewd on TV reffered to him as ”an old man which his time has past” and such comments are not taken lightly by a classic martial artist, and Takamatsu Sensei defended his honor by the code of a classic warrior. He arranged his own interview in which he stated that he was far from past it and saw the comment as a challenge which he wished to accept. He gave him 3 days to publicly apologize and retract his statement or he would fight him and kill him. The Karate teacher made the apology.

Takamatsu Sensei stopped training actively when he was 80 years old, though he continued to supervise Hatsumi Sensei training. Takamatsu Sensei died on April 2,1972, and he was buried in Kashiwa City. It is said that when they read his obituary, his neighbours were shocked to discover the full details of his life as a master of a martial arts.