Authenticity and the Bujinkan

When considering the validity of a given ryuha, there are four things that one must consider. First, can the instructor making claims as Soke (or other teaching authority, such as Menkyo Kaiden holder) be tied to the art? Second, is the instructor named as Soke or Menkyo Kaiden holder of that particular art? Third, can the art itself be traced back historically in some sort of verifiable way? And fourth, can the actual documents or other artifacts that the individual possesses be historically verified in some form?

I would like to walk thru each of these four points with respect to Masaaki Hatsumi with the information that I, bencole, have at hand. This information is NOT complete but it CAN BE verified if you actually care enough to locate the sources yourself. The translations of the Japanese are mine (including the titles of books and chapters).

1. Can the instructor making claims as Soke (or other teaching authority, such as Menkyo Kaiden holder) be tied to the art?

This first question is one that most ninjutsu frauds (Frank Dux, Bryce Dallas, Ashida Kim, etc.) cannot answer. They claim to have studied an art but they cannot provide any proof that they even trained in it in the first place. Don Roley has written significantly on this issue and so I will not bore you with my regurgitation of Don’s rants on the subject. Don hangs out at Budoseek and Martial Talk. Do a search of his posts on these various frauds….

As for Hatsumi-sensei, it is very clear from both photographic and filmographic evidence that Hatsumi-sensei did, in fact, train with Toshitsugu Takamatsu. Takamatsu-sensei CLAIMED to be the Soke of several Ryuha, some of which were passed to Hatsumi-sensei. (More later on whether these claims can be verified.)

2. Is the instructor named as Soke or Menkyo Kaiden holder of that particular art?

Anyone who has been to Hatsumi-sensei’s home can easily view several of the Menkyo that bear his name as the designee and Takamatsu’s name as the designator. Photographs of these menkyo are floating around in various publications or in private collections of people who have been astonished with the clutter in Hatsumi’s home.

I don’t think that anyone will dispute these first two questions and answers because they require almost no work to verify personally.

Now, we turn to the third question….

3. Can the art itself be traced back historically in some sort of verifiable way?

When trying to verify something historically, you will run into all of the issues that any historian will encounter. Many times, this requires piecing things together from various sources. Sources can be documents (such as the books I will mention below) or even locations (such as shrines, where members of the Kuki family can be engaged).

All of the following documents can be purchased or found in a Japanese library. Your best bet would be the National Library, because they have just about everything.

Kakutogi no Rekishi (“The History of Fighting Arts”), p.508-517
This section of this book describes a periodical published in 1843 that lists twenty famous Ryuha in particular, including Takenouchi Ryu, Araki Ryu, Youshin Ryu, and others. The book then states, “Even though they are not mentioned in this particular periodical, there are several schools that are well-known for being ‘effective arts’ (jitsuryoku ha).” Among the schools listed in this section are Gyokko Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu, Gikan Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, and Takagi Ryu (see below), and Asayama Ichiden Ryu (which in not part of the Bujinkan’s nine schools but was studied by Hatsumi-sensei via Ueno-sensei).

So this is a good start for a few of the schools. Let’s turn to another tome:

Bugei Ryuha Daijiten (“The Encyclopedia of Martial Schools”).
As one would expect by the name, this is probably the most exhaustive list of martial arts schools in Japan. There were versions published in 1969 and 1978 (at least).

What’s particularly interesting about this book is that it lists the full lineage of an art. So you can turn to the page for Gyokko Ryu and look at the last entry and see who was the recognized Soke at the time of publication. For Gyokko Ryu, we can see “Hatsumi Yoshiaki (Chiba-ken Noda-shi)” listed after Takamatsu Toshitsugu, Toda Shinryuken, and others all the way up to the beginning of the Ryuha.

This book has entries bearing the name of Hatsumi-sensei below Takamatsu-sensei for the following school entries: Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Kukishinden Happohiken Jutsu, Kumogakure Ryu, Gikan Ryu and Takagi Yoshin Ryu. (Please note that if you look at the entry for Takagi Yoshin Ryu, you are referenced to the listing for Takagi Ryu (which was also listed in Kakutogi no Rekishi as I described earlier). Hatsumi-sensei is one of six individuals listed below Takamatsu-sensei in this listing (because Takamatsu-sensei split his scrolls among several students, including Akimoto and Hanaoka, among others)).

Please note that there are numerous other Ryuha (not Bujinkan Ryuha) that are mentioned in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, whose lineage members prior to Takamatsu-sensei are listed in the history of these other schools. Among those schools, see: Izumo Ryu, Kishu Ryu, and Bokuden Ryu.

So here is the score based on researcher publications:

Gyokko Ryu – KKTNR, BGRDJT
Kukishin Ryu – KKTNR, BGRDJT
Takagi Yoshin Ryu – KKTNR, BGRDJT
Shinden Fudo Ryu – BGRDJT
Kumogakure Ryu – BGRDJT
Gyokushin Ryu – KKTNR
Koto Ryu – BGRDJT
Togakure Ryu – BGRDJT

So with just two books, we have been able to verify that the Bujinkan Ryuha were at least recognized sufficiently by two independent third-party researchers to include these schools in their books on Japanese martial arts, and that their publishers believed enough in the verity of this information to include the Ryuha as entries in their encyclopedia. While imperfect, it’s certainly not a bad start. And it certainly provides sufficient evidence that differentiates the claims of Hatsumi-sensei FAR, FAR AWAY from the claims made by Bryce Dallas and Ashida Kim.

So at this point, we have Yoshiaki Hatsumi training with his teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu. Takamatsu is the recognized authority from such famous schools as Kukishin Ryu (recognized even by the Kuki family themselves) and Gyokko Ryu. Takamatsu teaches Hatsumi various things, and provides certifications that name Hatsumi as the guy in charge of these ryuha, and Hatsumi receives lots of stuff from his teacher.

Even though I believe I have highlighted three other VERY important (and arguably MORE important) facets of establishing “legitimacy,” let’s now move to the fourth question.  The question raises several interdependent sub-questions, in particular: WHAT is being verified, WHY verifying is being done, and WHO is doing the verifying.

4. Can the actual documents that the individual possesses be historically verified in some form?

It is important to note that now we are talking about actual physical ARTIFACTS (i.e. the scrolls), rather than the traditions/history of the Ryuha (which HAVE BEEN DOCUMENTED in the previously mentioned materials, as well as several other sources that I will not discuss here because this already has taken me about five hours to write).

It is important to note that now we are talking about actual physical ARTIFACTS (i.e. the scrolls), rather than the traditions/history of the Ryuha (which HAVE BEEN DOCUMENTED in the previously mentioned materials, as well as several other sources that I will not discuss here because this already has taken me about five hours to write).Let me first start by saying that, in general, it is not “common” for people to submit their scrolls for scientific dating or examination unless there is a purpose in doing so, such as for joining a particular organization. To do so “just to check,” would be akin to saying, “I think my teacher lied to me,” which conflicts with the teacher-student trust that should be expected between a grandmaster and his named heir. It would be the same as a woman who has her engagement ring checked out, just to see if the guy really loves her. That’s a bit crass for most people.

Given Takamatsu-sensei’s unimpeachable status in two very important Ryuha (Kukishin Ryu and Gyokko Ryu), it actually is UNINTUITIVE to think that Hatsumi-sensei would rush off to get the actual artifacts that Takamatsu-sensei gave him verified.  Call me a bit old fashioned, but is there really a need to do so? In the opinions of some, “Yes, because otherwise, how would you know that your teacher, this Takamatsu guy, didn’t just make up this stuff?”” Fair enough. I guess there is always a chance that Takamatsu-sensei did make up some of the stuff….

Yet an important question to ask would be: If he did construct false schools, complete with documentation and a history of characters, why would he do such a thing?!?

First, Takamatsu was already the undeniable heir to some very famous schools. Why would he risk his reputation (as the Soke of these other arts) by “claiming to be a ninja” when the average Japanese would think he would be as whackie as some guy in the U.S. claiming to be a cowboy from the 1830s? As a Soke, one’s primary job is to protect the integrity of the schools one has been entrusted. If one starts making up fake schools, and trying to pass them off as real schools, then one runs the very real risk of endangering the reputation of the legitimate schools. The incentives point us AWAY from the idea that Takamatsu would make fraudulent schools.

But what about other incentives? People will do just about anything for the right price, right? Well, money and fame do not appear to be valid incentives either. Takamatsu lived a simple life, and ended up an ordained priest. Moreover, when he died, his neighbors were astonished to discover that he was such a renowned martial artist. Does that sound like a money-seeking, publicity-seeking fraud to you?

I personally cannot think of any logical reason to presume that Takamatsu would create false schools.

That being said, the Bujinkan as a whole *HAS* been recognized by the Zen Nippon Todo Renmei (All Japan Sword Federation). Duncan Mitchell was present in Japan during the months that the Bujinkan was under review, which included checks into the background and history of the Ryuha. Duncan commented on this on E-budo a couple of years ago, but I think it was lost with the server crash. Perhaps someone has a copy somewhere. If you are interested, you should look around or contact Duncan.

Does that mean that each and every school was verified by this organization? I dunno. But it does provide SOME evidence (as with everything I have cited earlier) that the schools that were investigated (whichever they were) were NOT illegitimate in nature.
As for historical verification, there are other ways to do this without actually looking at the artifacts themselves. For example, another researcher, Koyama Ryutaro, discovered that Daisuke Nishina (one of the names listed in the lineage of Togakure Ryu) actually EXISTED in history. That’s encouraging! Hatsumi-sensei is given a list of names that could be all made up by his teacher, yet a third-party researcher uncovers the fact that one of the names on that list was actually a REAL HUMAN BEING! That’s pretty cool, and again, provides SOME additional evidence that what Takamatsu-sensei says he was teaching to Hatsumi-sensei was NOT all made up.

Hatsumi-sensei has absolutely no problem in letting researchers view the densho, provided they view them in his presence. He’s not going to let someone he does not know take them home to pore over. I’d have similar limitations if I were in his shoes as well. Certainly, no one wants to see a “Kunii Zen’ya” of Kashima Shin Ryu, who evidently left some of his densho in a taxi cab in 1965 (Source: ISBN: 0-8248-1879-2).

In the past, I have made the offer (to such researchers as Dr. Karl Friday, the author of the Kashima Shin Ryu book mentioned above) to act as intermediary in trying to get access to the scrolls for research purposes. These researchers would examine characteristics of the densho, such as the writing style, to determine whether they appear authentic.  No one has taken me up on the offer because they simply are not interested. As I said before, only people who are interested in assessing a particular thing will actually go through the trouble to do so.

I’d like to wrap up by answering one final question that has been put to me: “Which of the scrolls are original?”

My answer: I dunno.

It is important to remember that not all historical schools necessarily had “official scrolls.” Some arts are transmitted via densho. Other arts are transmitted via oral transmission (a.k.a. Kuden). Applying the litmus test of one to the other is simply inappropriate.

But any Soke is free to re-write or alter the scrolls however he sees fit, including rearranging the techniques, replacing techniques with other “better” techniques, or removing/adding techniques that the Soke feels better captures the essence of the tradition. The Soke is charged with ensuring that the Ryuha survives, and this may entail adding a hand here or there.

Also note that as with any human endeavor, the impact of politics clearly played a role in determining why certain Ryuha survived till today and others did not. Many of the Ryuha that have the oldest densho-based transmission, for example Katori Shinto Ryu, received sponsorship by powerful political or religious leaders in historical Japan. Does that make them any “better” than those who did not curry favor with certain leaders? Nope. Just different.


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