About the Bujinkan

 Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi Sensei


Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu: Unveiling the Essence of Nine Martial Schools

Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, born on December 2, 1931, in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, delved into the realm of martial arts during his childhood, exploring a spectrum that included judo, karate, aikido, and boxing. At the age of 27, he immersed himself in the martial traditions under the tutelage of Toshitsugu Takamatsu. In 1972, Hatsumi succeeded Takamatsu as the lineal head of the nine arts, establishing the Bujinkan Dojo to propagate "Budo Taijutsu," a martial art synthesized from these diverse traditions.

The term "Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu" designates the collective embodiment of nine distinct martial arts schools, providing a comprehensive approach that extends beyond mere physical techniques. It seeks to dispel common misconceptions tied to martial arts, encompassing samurai traditions and ancient esoteric martial forms. While accessible physically, a profound understanding of the philosophies underlying these arts is imperative to truly embody their essence.

Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, a Grandmaster, assumed the role of Soke at the age of 27, inheriting the legacy from Toshitsugu Takamatsu. Dr. Hatsumi's influence goes beyond martial arts; he is an artist, author, actor, musician, and martial arts pioneer. While he no longer conducts teachings outside of Japan, enthusiasts worldwide can journey to Japan for invaluable training under Hatsumi Sensei. 

Inside the former Hombu Dojo in Noda, Japan. 


The Bujinkan has evolved into a truly international organization, transcending geographical boundaries. Practitioners worldwide collaborate diligently, fostering mutual respect for diverse customs. The legacy of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu resonates globally, uniting individuals in a shared pursuit of martial excellence and cultural understanding.

In 2019, around Soke Hatsumi’s 88th birthday, he commenced the announcement of successors to the nine schools, ensuring the continuity of his art for future generations.

 Outside the former Hombe dojo location in Noda, Japan.


The Bujinkan comprises nine distinguished schools, each with its unique lineage and Soke:

  1. Togakure Ryu Ninpo - 34th Soke, Hidden Door School
  2. Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu - 28th Soke, Jeweled Tiger School
  3. Koto Ryu Koppojutsu - 18th Soke, Tiger Knocking Down School
  4. Shinden Fudo Ryu Jutaijutsu Dakentaijutsu - 26th Soke, Immovable Heart School
  5. Kukishinden Ryu Taijutsu - 28th Soke, Nine Demons School
  6. Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu - 17th Soke, High Tree, Raised Heart School
  7. Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo - 14th Soke, Hiding in the Clouds School
  8. Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo - 21st Soke, Jeweled Heart School
  9. Gikan Ryu Ninjutsu - 15th Soke, Truth Loyalty and Justice School

These schools encompass a holistic approach to personal growth, integrating spiritual, intellectual, and physical elements. While the nature of these martial arts is combative, formal competition is not a prevailing practice. Randori serves as an avenue to assess one's skills under pressure, devoid of rewards beyond the insights gained from the experience. The enduring relevance of these schools over centuries can be attributed to their adaptability, eschewing rigid adherence to a singular mindset or movement style.

The benefits derived from training in these schools extend far beyond mere self-defense. The acquired skills foster confidence, contribute to business acumen, and instill virtues such as self-restraint and patience. Emphasizing a well-rounded development, the Bujinkan discourages a singular focus on fighting skills alone. Instead, the philosophy encourages individuals to cultivate qualities that protect justice and uphold the well-being of the innocent. Recognizing that learning to live and embody principles of justice is paramount, the Bujinkan transcends the ephemeral satisfaction of ego-centric pursuits, aiming to nourish the heart and spirit for enduring personal transformation.

 Intro to the 9 Schools of the Bujinkan


In tracing the lineage of the Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, it is essential to delve into the distinct characteristics of each of its nine constituent schools, each representing a unique facet of martial expertise. The historical foundations and philosophies that underpin these schools contribute to the richness and diversity inherent in the Bujinkan tradition.

Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu: Hidden Door School

Founded in the 1100s, the Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu serves as a cornerstone, advocating the avoidance of violence and emphasizing the application of Ninpo as Bujutsu. The school promotes the use of the sword not as a tool of aggression but as a means to maintain peace and safeguard Country, Family, and Nature. With its roots influencing ninja schools in both the Iga and Koga regions, Togakure Ryu remains an integral part of the Bujinkan. The school's three teachings, Senba shuriken, Shuko, and Shindake, collectively known as Sanpo Hiden, further underscore its significance.

Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu: Jeweled Tiger School

Established in the 1100s, Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu specializes in techniques centered around Kosshijutsu (attacks against muscles) and Shitojutsu (use of the thumbs and fingers). Renowned for its powerful blocks and balance-breaking methods, Gyokko Ryu distinguishes itself by advocating the use of knuckles to target muscle attachment points. The Kihon Happo, originating from the first two levels of this school, is considered foundational for all martial arts, emphasizing the backbone role of Kosshijutsu.

Koto Ryu Koppojutsu: Tiger Knocking Down School

Founded in the 1500s, Koto Ryu Koppojutsu derives its name from the unique concept of knocking down a tiger with fingertip strikes. This school introduces distinctive swordsmanship techniques, intentionally altering kamae and sword positions to deceive adversaries. The emphasis on Yoko Aruki (sideways cross-stepping) and specific foot and toe movements characterizes the movement within Koto Ryu. Notably, the school places significant importance on the eyes, considering them as the key focal point.

Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu: High Tree, Raised Heart School

With its origins dating back to the 1500s, Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu extends the boundaries beyond Judo and Aikido. The techniques employed in this school focus on making it challenging for opponents to take ukemi, utilizing throws, locks, and close combat maneuvers. The philosophy revolves around using the opponent's weight and momentum against them, requiring practitioners to keenly observe the eyes and employ speed in their actions.

Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu & Jutaijutsu: Immovable Heart School

Established in the 1100s, Shinden Fudo Ryu encompasses both Dakentaijutsu and Jutaijutsu, with a distinctive emphasis on a natural defensive posture (Shizen no Kamae). The school encourages practitioners to connect with nature, using elements like spears, war axes, and pole arms. Shinden Fudo Ryu also imparts the art of Hojojutsu for restraining opponents, complementing its taijutsu techniques.

Kukishinden Ryu Happo Hikenjutsu: Nine Demons School

Considered the primary school for weapons training within the Bujinkan, Kukishinden Ryu Happo Hikenjutsu imparts skills with various heavy bladed weapons rarely found in other martial arts. With its roots intertwined with Japanese seamen combatting pirates, the school incorporates techniques using weapons like Bisento, Kaginawa, and Daisharin. The influence of maritime combat is evident, with warriors reportedly utilizing ship masts and riggings during confrontations.

Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo: Hiding in the Clouds School

Emerging in the 1500s, Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo shares similarities with Togakure Ryu while introducing unique elements such as the Kamayari (hooked spear) and the enigmatic Demon Mask. The school's taijutsu techniques align closely with Togakure Ryu, emphasizing agility and incorporating jumping movements in combat. Armored sleeves, employed for protection and attack, add an additional layer of distinctiveness to Kumogakure Ryu.

Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu: Truth Loyalty and Justice School

Founded in the 1500s, Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu distinguishes itself with specialized kicks, punches, and throws. The school's philosophy, encapsulated in the teaching "From this side comes not the first strike," emphasizes a defensive approach. The footwork style unique to Gikan Ryu finds widespread use within the Bujinkan, contributing to the overall versatility of practitioners.

Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo: Jeweled Heart School

Established in the 1100s, Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo maintains an air of mystery in the West, with its fighting techniques less known. The school leans towards the espionage side of ninjutsu, embodying principles of subtlety and secrecy. Gyokushin Ryu excels in the use of the Naganawa (lasso), showcasing superior skill in espionage and clandestine operations.

In the intricate mosaic of the Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, these nine schools not only serve as repositories of ancient martial knowledge but also provide a holistic framework for personal and martial growth, embracing diverse philosophies and techniques.


Perspectives on Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu: Insights from Duff Culp, Sanami Defense Academies

Within the realm of Bujinkan Sanami Dojo, our mission transcends the physicality of martial arts, extending to instill values rooted in ethical and empirical self-motivation. Our dojo is not confined within walls; instead, the expansive outdoors serves as our training ground, promoting a pragmatic approach vital for both the school's longevity and the students' development.

Budo Taijutsu, the essence of Bujinkan training, translates to "the way of war with the body." It encompasses six samurai-based schools and three ninpo-based schools. However, dispelling Hollywood myths, we delve deeper into the true nature of a ninja—a person of perseverance and endurance.

Emphasizing a holistic approach to training, we incorporate the philosophy of shu-ha-ri. Shu involves learning the basics and biomechanics, Ha delves into understanding applications, and Ri represents the perpetual process of self-evaluation and progress—a continuous flow.

Comparing Shu, Ha, Ri to Training Phases: Mechanical/Cooperative, Non-Competitive Conflict, Non-Cooperative/Combative

Shu: Learning the Basic Biomechanics (Form)

Comparison: Shu correlates with Mechanical/Cooperative Training, focusing on grasping the basic biomechanics of movement and motive.

Contrast: While Shu emphasizes the form, the focus is on the mechanical aspects and understanding foundational movements without significant resistance.

Ha: Understanding Application and Purpose (Function)

Comparison: Ha aligns with Non-Competitive Conflict, where the practitioner moves from understanding form to grasping the application, purpose, and functional aspects.

Contrast: Unlike Shu, Ha introduces a level of non-competitive conflict, encouraging adaptability and the beginning of creative self-assertion. It goes beyond form to explore dynamic scenarios.

Ri: Embracing the Flow, Non-Cooperative/Combative

Comparison: Ri, representing the understanding that there are no fixed stages, can be likened to Non-Cooperative/Combative training.

Contrast: Ri is not a final stage but an ongoing process, much like the flowing nature of non-cooperative/combative scenarios. The emphasis is on continual progress and adaptation.

In summary, while the Shu-Ha-Ri philosophy shares overarching concepts with the listed training phases, it's crucial not to conflate them. Shu aligns with the foundational aspects of Mechanical/Cooperative Training, Ha corresponds to the transition into Non-Competitive Conflict, and Ri mirrors the ongoing and flowing nature of Non-Cooperative/Combative scenarios. These parallels provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the multifaceted journey in martial arts training.

Contrary to a common misconception, Bujinkan training goes beyond techniques; it aims for self-awareness forged through rigorous physical training. Our goal isn't merely to teach fighting; instead, we guide practitioners to master themselves, shedding ego, and recognizing that the journey, not the destination, holds significance.

In our daily lives, the concepts of Bujinkan find practical application. The idea of KU, representing void and ethereal space, goes beyond physical distances—it extends to time management, task balancing, and even conversations. These lessons teach us to control our space, understand capabilities, and maintain a balanced life.

Focusing on six primary schools—Kukushinden ryu, Takagi Yoshin ryu, Koto ryu, Gyokko ryu, Shinden Fudo ryu, Togakure ryu—our curriculum covers diverse aspects, from traditional weapons to modern tools. The absence of a rigid path for rank progression offers instructors the freedom to shape their teachings, striking a balance between foundational basics and pushing boundaries for growth.

As Bujinkan transcends borders, practitioners are encouraged to seek diverse experiences, attend seminars, and learn from various instructors. An open heart and mind are essential, fostering discernment and objectivity in evaluating techniques.

Concluding Thoughts on Martial Arts

In conclusion, the practice of martial arts extends beyond the realm of physical training. It represents a profound journey of self-discovery, embracing life's complexities, and achieving internal equilibrium. As martial artists, we recognize that enlightenment transcends external pursuits, finding its roots in acknowledging our inherent connection to the universe. This journey involves perpetual introspection and an unwavering commitment to personal progress.