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


COMPILED BY JOE MAURANTONIO