About the art
The Martial Art / Style
The martial art is made up of 9 schools of Japanese budo (ie skills / philosophy of warfare). Some of these schools were developed by ninja and some are associated with the samurai. Collectively they are known as Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu
The core principle of our schools is that it is possible to survive attacks from larger, stronger, more aggressive and potentially armed attacker(s) without the use of physicial strength or speed.
The schools are:
Any one of these schools is a martial art in its own right and would be sufficient, however studying all of them gives us a very wide base of understanding to work from. The formal history of these arts can be traced back over 900 years, but they were in existence long before that. The schools were inherited by Masaaki Hatsumi from his teacher Takamatsu in 1972.
There are several excellent books on the subject here Bujinkan Books
Unlike many martial arts in the West, Bujinkan Budo has not been converted into a sport or academic exercise in modern less turbulent times and is still taught in its entirety.
It is my personal belief that there are very few true martial arts taught in the world and there is a real danger that practitioners of martial arts which have lost their original focus often place themselves at more risk in a dangerous situation than someone who has never practiced any martial art at all..
Different styles of Ninpo / Ninjutsu
There are 3 organisations in the UK that include Ninpo / Ninjutsu in their curriculum and are headed up by qualified Japanese instructors.
These organisations all share the same source for their arts and consist of several old style Japanese martial arts (known as koryu),
including those from the region of Iga and famous for their historical use by the ninja
Each of these styles teaches similar techniques and the associated organisations are made up of people who sincerely want to teach & learn real martial arts. For most of the organisations below the differences are largely ones of emphasis and teaching style.
I would suggest that any prospective student visits dojos of
style in their area and chooses the class that best suits them
This is the art as taught by Dr Masaaki Hatsumi (and the style taught at this dojo)
Dr Hatsumi was a direct student of Toshitsugu Takamatsu who is the ultimate source of all styles considered here. Mr Takamatsu was the previous grandmaster (soke) of the nine schools. He chose Dr Hatsumi as his successor (soke).
As soke Dr Hatsumi was given the sole responsibility to take the
teachings of the nine schools of martial arts into the 21st Century.
(Note: see below for the BBD which is not part of the Bujinkan)
This is the art as taught by Mr Fumio Manaka
Mr Manaka was a student of Dr Hatsumi's and one of the most senior members of the Bujinkan until in 1996 he decided to leave and set up his own organisation called the Jinenkan. He held 10th dan in the Bujinkan.
This is the art as taught by Mr Shoto Tanemura
Mr Tanemura was orginally a student of Dr Hatsumi and was graded 8th dan in the Bujinkan system. He left the Bujinkan in 1984 and set up his own organisation called the Genbukan. He also learnt martial arts from several respected teachers in Japan including other people who had trained with Takamatsu sensei.
Mr Tanemura also teaches other martial arts such as karate.
Different Styles of Samurai Martial Arts (Jujutsu or Bujutsu)
With all old Japanese martial arts it is best to train with someone who maintains a strong relationship with Japan.
There are many old styles of Japanese martial arts (bujutsu) that are still active in Japan. Two of the samurai martial arts that are included in the Bujinkan curriculum are also legitimately taught by other organisations. These are the Yoshin Ryu and Kukishinden systems.
Yoshin Ryu Style of Jujutsu
During the 1800’s the Yoshin Ryu split into three branches under the three main proponents of the time. These branches are usually referred to as: Fujita, Ishitani and Seito styles of Yoshin Ryu. Within the Bujinkan we study two of these lines (Fujita and Ishitani). The Ishitani line has further split under different masters since 1800 and a couple of these styles are taught in the organisations headed up by Inoue Munenori & Yasumoto Akiyoshi respectively. Both these teachers have representatives in the UK and London.
Kukishinden Style of Bujutsu
This style is very old and, like the Yoshin Ryu, it has a few branches that are still active in Japan. However, outside of the Bujinkan there are no legitimate groups of these branches that are active in the UK.
Other Styles of Jujutsu / Bujutsu
As far as I know outside of the organisations listed above, there are only a handful of “old style” Japanese martial arts that are legitimately taught in the UK. In London there is a group teaching Sosuishi Ryu. I do not have direct experience of these styles or dojos outside of Japan.
UK Based Ninjutsu Organisations Without a Connection to Japan
There are many organisations and instructors claiming to teach the martial arts associated with the ninja. This is because the ninja and ninjutsu have some marketing appeal. However, very few instructors are actually qualified to teach these arts in the UK.
Of course there many well be merit in what these instructors teach, but I would recommend a cautious approach to finding a instructor and organisation. In my opinion it is best to train with someone who maintains a strong relationship with Japan.
To my knowledge there are 2 organisations in London that are using the term ninjutsu in their marketing, but do not have links to Japan:
(Bujinkan Brian Dojo)
This is the organisation run by Brian Mcarthy
Brian was connected to the Bujinkan for just over 10 years and visited Dr Hatsumi in Japan 4 times. However, in 1992 he decided to go it alone, sever his connection with Japan and continue his training without the guidance of a Japanese master.
Please note that despite leaving the Bujinkan, and for reasons that are unclear to me Brian continues to use the term "Bujinkan" for his organisation. Unfortunately this can cause some confusion and often people think that they are learning the Bujinkan arts when attending a BBD dojo
This is a style of martial art associated with Ashida Kim
Ashida Kim is a rather strange figure in the martial arts world with no discernable skills or link to training in Japan. The people running martial arts classes in this style may well teach useful skills to their students based on the more mainstream styles that they incorporate. However, in my view, their art is something quite different to the old Japanese martial arts that are known as Ninpo/Ninjutsu or Budo
There are several other UK organisations and instructors that claim to teach ninjutsu. Examples are The British Combat Ninjutsu Association, the UK Shinobi Kai and so on. Unfortunately I have not seen any of the people leading these organisations study for a meaningful amount of time under a qualified instructor of the old Japanese systems. As a result their use of the term ninjutsu in marketing is, in my view, quite misleading.
The Grading System
10th Kyu: White belt
Beginners (you automatically start at this level)
9th to 1st Kyu: Green belt
(Ladies can opt to wear red or purple belts if they like)
As graded by the instructor
1st to 4th Dan: Black belt
As graded by the instructor
5th Dan: Black belt, Shidoshi
As graded by Hatsumi Sensei in Japan
6th Dan and above: Black belt, Shidoshi
Recommendation to Hatsumi Sensei by the main instructor or a shihan in Japan
There is no formal syllabus, and students study the art in its entirety from day one. However, any student who is graded should be familiar with the techniques covered in the basic workshop.
As a rough guide a student who trains hard would be expected to attain 1st Dan (black belt) in 3 to 4 years.