34th Grandmaster of the Togakure Ryu Ninpo, Soke - Head Master - of Bujinkan's 9 Martial Traditions
In 1990 I moved to Japan. I intended to stay a year, study Bujinkan with the Grandmaster and his senior students, improve my Japanese and return to university to complete my studies. Thirteen years later I returned home.
In the summer of 1990 I first trained with the Grandmaster in a dojo in Shinagawa. During this first meeting with the Grandmaster I also met Anthony Netzler of New Zealand - who's since become a good friend and training partner. Anthony introduced me to Hatsumi Sensei as John from Australia. I bowed expressed a formal greeting. He looked me square in the eyes took my hand shook it and said "Keep Going". I have never forgotten this. To this day I encourage all studying/training with me to maintain these two simple words in their heart. To me therein lies the secret to attaining whatever I've though of as "Success!" I'm positive it is a universal rule, and I know it lies as the anchor at the core of Ninjutsu.
I never went to that dojo again! Sensei soon began regular training at Ayase later trained regularly in dojos built by Noguchi Sensei and Someya Sensei. They were small, but there were a small number of students visiting Japan! So it wasn't very crowded.
Early in 1991, at Hatsumi Sensei's house, after watching a video of him training with Takamatsu sensei, the Grandmaster turned to me and said that I should set up a dojo in Osaka - my home city at the time. I went home stunned. The Grandmaster presented me with a solid challenge and an honour of being the first foreigner to start a Bujinkan dojo in Japan. This opened in Nakatsu, just a station across the Yodo river and down the line from where a famous foreigner Steven Segal had been training and teaching Aikido.
My first student was an American and over the years in Japan I was privileged to introduce Bujinkan training teach and help many good men and women from various countries throughout the world. Hatsumi Sensei had bestowed on me a wonderful gift. The opportunity to experience and learn the path of the judoka - as he had done - in the reverse direction! You see, for 15 years he'd travelled to Nara - where I lived - to train with Takamatsu Sensei - the 33rd Grandmaster. I was doing this in reverse!
I have good memories of my time with Soke - Bujinkan Headmaster/ family head - both training and personal. In training, perhaps my favourite was when a fellow student and close friend Nicholas Lynn passed his 5th Dan test under Hatsumi Sensei's shinai - bamboo sword - in Ayase! The photo above is taken by another colleague Shayne Harris after the training completed. Nick knelt in front of Soke with 390 students watching for so long. It felt like an eternity. Sensei slashed down with shinai. It bit air, as Nicholas had smoothly rolled away.
Toward the and of 1991 Sensei and I were walking down his little street in Noda. He turned to me and said that the world was focusing too much on the 'Ninja' aspect of the Bujinkan. He believed that for many this had led to a limited and narrow understanding of Japanese martial tradition. He intended to introduce all connected to his school to the Bujinkan's vast array of training, traditions and the philosophy that defined the 'Warrior Path". He said that at the heart of Bujinkan training would be Ninjutsu, but the Taijutsu and Weapons training were so vast that we needed to broaden our efforts to gather a complete picture of kobudo - ancient martial way. He would initiate this in order for the the art to live and cascade to generations.
To this day I have kept this moment in mind and witnessed the transformation of the Bujinkan into a truly international multi-dimensional budo training practice. It is my hope in training with us that we will help you along your path to broaden and acquire martial skills. In time - and it will take time - you will come to an understanding that this budo tradition contains both the Ura and Omote that pervades all that is Japanese.
Dai Shihan - January 2020.