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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BOOK REVIEW - NINJUTSU: Basic Skills and Techniques

Ninjutsu: Basic Skills and Techniques written by Robert Bussey should in my opinion (yes, I am probably somewhat biased here) be called the Ninja field hand book. It was originally written for Mr. Bussey's students at his Fremont, Nebraska dojo. Published in 1983 it was one of the coolest books on ninjutsu (still is) and went on to do very well during the 'ninja craze' of the 1980's. This rare book is a classic piece of the ninja culture from this era. The information and techniques found within are realistic, useful and in the true spirit of the ninja. Well worth a look for any fan of ninjutsu.

The name Ninja has been associated with an ultimate warrior, capable of explosive skills, and fighting ability. Robert Bussey became synonymous with the Ninja image that we identify with today, a modern version that was both dynamic and versatile, and, one that could be matched against any fighting discipline. Bussey takes a more modern approach and there are some very interesting techniques.

It is 151 pages that are heavy on photo sequences and illustrations.  The topics covered include: Pressure points, rolling techniques, weapons of the hand, mobility & flexibility, fighting stances, techniques of the foot & leg, stealth, defensive body techniques, invisibility, sword, ninja group travel, herbs/edible plants, techniques for measuring time, communication/signals, survival skills, knot tying, rappelling, wind measurement, etc.

Ninjutsu Basic Skills and Techniques is an excellent photographic guide of techniques that are refined, dynamic, versatile and effective and it shows that early ninjutsu students were taught many things that Budo Taijutsu students don’t get taught.

Mr. Bussey received his instructor license from Soke Masaaki Hatsumi, 34th successor to the Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu tradition and taught Togakure-Ryu directly under Soke Hatsumi. Mr Bussey awarded Dan (Black-belt) rankings in Togakure-Ryu Ninjutsu under the endorsement of Soke  Hatsumi for nearly a decade.

Robert Bussey focused his Ninjutsu training on the practical and realistic; a modernized openly aggressive and modified form of Ninjutsu was taught while downplaying the antiquated and esoteric aspects of Ninjutsu. He had also disregarded the shinotist beliefs of the ninja and stuck with his christian beliefs and values. His interpretations of Ninjutsu lead him to have at one time the largest Ninjutsu school in the world.

The reader will see much of the traditional motion and influences as well as traces of the dynamic, Americanization of the art that was Robert Bussey's trademark. “Ninjutsu: Basic Skills and Techniques” is a real blast from the past that is as contemporary and relevant today as it was then. The quintessential uber cool basic training ninja field hand book.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Article by Gingetsu Ito
Artwork by Lorant Pataki 

During the period of military despotism in old Japan the art of espionage was carried to a high degree of perfection, being used to secure all kinds of secrets, to bring about desirable assassinations and for incendiarism in aid of political exigency. By some the art was called Shinobi-no-jutsu, and the professional spy was known as the ninjutsu-sha or shinobi-no-mono. History tells nothing of the origin and history of the practice. One of the more ancient books, the Wakan Sansai Zuye states that there are five methods of espionage: mokuton, by wood; suiton, by water; katon, by fire; doton, by earth; kinton, by metals; and that the real spy can make himself invisible by utilizing any of the means mentioned, especially the earth, which is everywhere and enables him to be quick and effective in his art.

 The art attained a high degree of efficiency in the days of Yoshitsune of the Minamoto clan, and was adopted by most of the great warriors of the day. The famous patriot Kusunoki Masashige, utilized the spy system to a great extent; and the Taiheiki describes how four young warriors of the Yüki army stole into Akasaka castle and set fire to it. It is probable that the earliest and most successful spies were robbers, whose live had been given up to secret deeds and plans of as well as to apt modes of disguise. The art soon became a legitimate one in connection with military tactics, and assumed a right of existence not known at first; so that it came to be dilligently studied by soldiers in order to promote military efficiency, even down through the Tokugawa period.

There were even leagues of spies, among the more famous of which were those of the Koga district in the province of Totomi and in the province of Iga also, where mountains facilitated practice in the art. The members of these mountain leagues used to practice on each other in times of peace so as to render themselves efficient in time of war. They came to be more skilful in the art of espionage and disguise generally than the experts of any other region, and were much employed by the various daimyo. These spies were known in their day as Koga-mono and Iga-mono, and the two schools of the art which they represented were known as Koga-ryu and the Iga-ryu.

 The ninjutsu-sha being of a low class and ever engaged in secret deeds, it is but natural that no history of them should be extant. A book of instruction in the art of espionage, called the Seininki, gives some idea of what they did but little of their origin and development. Apparently the ninjutsu-sha was not referred to in the same way in all parts of the country; for in the Kwanto districts they were known as rappa, and the Koshu district suppa.

Of course the ninjutsu-sha regarded their calling as far away above that of robbers and ordinary doers of evil; and their art as of a nobler genius than the latter. The daimyo employing them always warned them never to be guilty of the deeds of robbers; they were never to kill, rob or set fires save in case of real necessity, and never from a purely selfish, motive. To be a first class ninjutsu-sha a man had to have the necessary mental and physical qualifications. The quality of complete self-possession was a primary essential, and next to mental acumen came agility of body and strength of physique. After the proper mental and physical qualifications then came the necessary training, which was long and arduous. They studied the meaning of physiognomy, mind-reading, principles of deception, the importance of various phenomena and atmosphere. Geography, too, they must know well, and the significance of numbers, together with local manners and customs of the places where they were set to operate. How to disguise themselves so as to pass themselves off anywhere was a fine art among them. How to give first aid in cases of accident, and the question of food, clothing and general behaviour, were all matters of earnest study to the ninjutsu-sha. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Vital point striking techniques have been misunderstood for many different reasons mostly from fictitious and dubious techniques reputed to kill using seemingly LESS THAN lethal force targeted at specific areas of the human body. Exaggerated and false accounts of Dim Mak also known as “the delayed death touch” or ” the touch of death” appeared in Chinese Wuxia fiction and film in western popular culture in the 1960s. Notions of Dim Mak, or a “delayed death touch” is not only controversial but there is no medical, scientific or historical evidence for the existence of a “touch of death”.

Some Instructors have claimed to have the skill however Dim Mak claims have not stood up to third-party investigations and have been consequently denounced as fraudulent.  Even the term DIM MAK is mistakenly translated as “delayed death touch” and in some cases wrongly referred to as “ninja death touch”.  In actuality the term “dim mak” simply means “press artery” nothing so ominous or theatrical as “the touch of death”.


 The early development of vital point striking was created to destroy the enemy and indeed an applied substantial force was needed to do so.  In those days the combat arts were a lethal art. It was a system developed solely for war, it was lethal hand-to-hand combat, killing techniques which would render a man inanimate, by means of unconsciousness and or death, quickly and efficiently.

The term “killing techniques” has multiple definitions. One definition of a killing technique would be to Kill or take an enemy’s life.  Another definition would be to kill the attack itself, meaning to stop or squash an attack. Rendering unconscious, maiming, or disabling an opponent are examples of the term killing techniques.

A very possible example of such a strike is mentioned in The Bansenshukai, a Japanese book, written in 1676, containing a collection of knowledge from the clans in the Iga and Kōga regions that had been devoted to the training of ninja: “The ninja pretended to withdraw retreating and quietly came back to the door and stayed by the wall. The Master of the house not realizing it was a trap opened the door and came out. The ninja was waiting and killed him with a single strike.” The Bansenshukai continued to state that this was but one example and that there were many cases other than these and that they were too numerous to mention.

Years and years later toward the end WWII, the Japanese command became dead set on developing on shortest terms a system of Killing Techniques, a close quarter combat system that would put the enemy out of commission quickly and efficiently. The soldiers of the Japanese Army were trained in Karate and Judo or at least the basics, however the Japanese Command felt this was not enough. Because of his reputation as a skilled martial artist, Fujita Seiko, a shadowy figure known as the Last ninja was assigned by the Japanese Government to arrive at such a lethal methodology that would give the Japanese soldier an advantage in hand to hand combat.

These types of combat techniques are a stark contrast from the less than lethal force “Dim Mak” claims. In reality the most effective way of hitting the anatomical weak points/ vital points hinges upon multiple factors; physical application, conditioning, awareness of targets and psychological preparedness. The right places to strike the most effective vital points for the secrets of Killing/disabling/ rendering unconsciousness/maiming require an energetic transference of force needed to affect the targets. If you learn the way of hitting the vital organs points you will obtain the way of taking out enemies quickly and efficiently. There is a wealth of scientific, medical and historical evidence on the impact it takes for an effective strike to render someone unconscious, incapacitate, or even cause death from a punch.

(One can simply look at the sport of boxing and we see a wide variety of these techniques boxers have been getting knocked out, stopped and have even died from punches thrown in a boxing match. All the punches even the body shots require an energetic transference of force to render the stopping strike. A boxer wearing 10, 12 or 16 ounce gloves can incapacitate his opponent with a body shot for a few minutes garnering a KO win.)

The energetic transference of force needed to affect the targets
1) Velocity: efficiency of the blow in a striking technique is determined according to the following formula  I =MV2/2  :   where M- is the mass and V- is the velocity. Force is the speed: the bigger and harder the object is, the higher the speed, with which it is struck the more efficient the blow.
2) Body mechanics: all hand, hips, legs and foot movements are coordinated and fast.
3) Precision of the blow: Be right on target the strike must be executed at strictly the right angle to the target.
4) Drawing back the striking limb after the blow: (Snapping out and then back) after the blow you must pull back your hand with the same if not greater speed with which he delivered the strike and be able to follow up with another. Striking should be practice in combination with withdrawals. In other words it explodes outward and is snapped back.  A violent and dynamic action.
5) The strikes are most effective/destructive when the piercing effect is combined with a revolving or snapping motion of the hand upon impact. (Boxers are known for turning their punches over for more effectiveness of the impact of their punches)

For the effective use of striking techniques one needs to be relaxed NOT rigid, calm, cold blooded and calculating. Strikes should be applied resolutely, fearlessly, without doubt whole heartedly and with full force based on knowledge of proper coordination of movements and distance.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten’s discussion of Fujita Seiko and Takamatsu Toshitsugu

There are numerous debates concerning ninjutsu over the internet by purists, historical researchers and fraudulent authorities regarding accuracy, authenticity, and lineages of the ninja. Biased opinions abound. SO….. How does one then get to what is more than likely the truth of such things? How does one get a more realistic picture or viewpoint of the subject?  

In my mind the only way to cut thru the bias is to find a third party unbiased opinion of the situation and I believe a publication called The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten meets that standard. The BRD chronicled both Takamatsu and Fujita and their perspective arts.  

What Is The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten?

In 1963, two men, Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi were gathering information for a book, The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, an Encyclopedia of Martial art schools, a catalog of Koryū Bujutsu (old schools) and Gendai Budō (new schools) of Japanese martial arts (budo). It is composed both of active and inactive schools, chronicled over the lifetimes of the authors. Watatani and Yamada collected data on thousands of different ryuha from throughout Japanese history, and created this approximately 1000 page incredible resource. For each ryuha there is a list of weapons used by the ryuha, detailed tree charts showing the lineage and branching of the ryu, as well as connections to other ryuha it may have had. For ryuha where a great deal of data is available, there are also lengthy entries describing the ryuha and notable events and people concerned with it.

Due to the meticulousness of their cataloging, formatting style and methods used in creating the book it has become the standard academic reference for anyone doing research into the field. The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten is Japan's official "Martial Arts Directory," a publication that is considered the authority in all matters of Japanese martial arts.

Fujita Seiko- Koga ryu Wada Ha

The entry of Fujita's information for the Koga Ryu Wada Ha, which appears on the top of page 273 of The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten is as follows:

 "This ryu is one of the 53 Koga families. Moreover, this ryuha is one of the Minamiyama Rokke of only 6 families, and nobody knows this ryuha." Watatani then attributes the quote to "Fujita Seiko, 1963."

The 1978 revision of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten states that Fujita Seiko was the last soke of this ryuha and it was one of 6 ryu that belonged to the Minamiyama Rokke, maybe 6 strong families or an organization and that nobody knows this ryuha today.

There is an additional entry on the bottom of page 921 of the BRD, that is entered as "Wada Ryu," and which is said to be the same as Koga Ryu Wada Ha. The entry mentions that a Wada Iga Morishinori founded the ryu, [and that] Fujita Seiko is a descendent of Wada Iga Morishinori. The entry provides a very compelling piece of evidence that the Koga Ryu Wada Ha was transmitted through Fujita's family, and coincides with the evidence that he was soke of the last Koga ninja tradition.

Takamatsu Toshitsugu-Togakure ryu

The entries pertaining to Takamatsu Toshitsugu and the Togakure ryu is as follows : Bugei Ryūha Daijiten pg. 626 and 627 Watatani Kiyoshi & Yamada Tadashi, 1978:
"Togakure-ryū. (Nin.) This is the genealogy organized by Takamatsu Toshitsugu. The succession is an oral tradition from Toda Shinryūken. The lineage passed through Momochi Sandayū and entered into the Natori-ryū of Kishū domain. From the time of Toda Nobutsuna, the tradition was passed on to the Toda family. The genealogy includes embellishments by referring to data and kuden about persons whose existence is based on written materials and traditions in order to appear older than it actually is."

The 1969 version of the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten, page 537, Watatani & Yamada:
“This is a genealogy newly put together by Takamatsu Toshitsugu, who made use of (took advantage of) the popularity of written materials on ninjutsu after the Taishō era. The transmission is said to be based on oral teachings of Toda Shinryūken. Toda Shinryūken (Isshinsai) died in Meiji 13 at the age of 73. Takamatsu’s birth took place four years later.

According to this lineage, the ryū originated with a person named Ikai, separated from Hakuun Dōshi of Hakuun-ryū in the Yōwa era, became the Kōga and Iga-ryū of ninjutsu, passed through the lineage of Momochi Sandayū, entered the Natori-ryū of Kishū domain, and from Toda Nobutsuna onwards came to be passed down by the Toda clan. However, this genealogy refers to a variety of traditions and oral teachings, there are many points where it has added embellishments, it has made people whose real existence is based on written records older than is actually the case, and so it is a product of very considerable labor”.

Claims of legitimacy can certainly survive not being in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, but not comfortably.  These entries do answer a lot of questions pertaining to both Seiko and Takamatsu as well as shed some light on current ninjutsu historical lineage claims. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: Protecting online copyrighted works

There is nothing I like better than to fight the good fight, no matter the odds right is right and wrong is that just wrong. I have made stands and stuck to my guns whether it was popular to do so or not. It's principle.

Deliberate plagiarists and content thieves or scrapers lurk on the web they know that what they do is illegal and damaging to others and they just don’t care. But like I have already stated it's principle damn it.

Just recently someone copied and pasted some of my older articles and had them reposted online on other websites. This person also took credit for my copyrighted articles, claiming that he was the author.  Basically stealing the articles and claiming that they were his. After filing Takedown notices and having all the infringing and plagiarized articles removed I was able to find the person responsible and contacted him directly.

The violator at first denied that he stole and plagiarized my article. He changed his story and claimed that his email was hacked.  After several excuses he finally admitted to copying the articles and sending them to the different websites. Realizing he was caught dead to rights he then claimed fair use. However fair use does not give any person the right to take someone else’s copyrighted material  and claim it as their own.

Not stopping there the violator then tried to tell me that since my articles were on a free blog that my copyrights didn't apply. It was obvious that he had no understanding of the scope of fair use or no understanding of copyright or the Digital Millennium Copyright act (DMCA) which protects those who produce works online.  

There are an incredible amount of misconceptions out there, concerning the use of images/text and articles on blogs, websites and other social media. Just because you search for information on the internet and it pops up, doesn't mean you have the legal right to use it.

People will take information found on the net and copy and paste it somewhere online and assume that if they credit the source on their website, then it's legal. This is completely incorrect. Any "original work of authorship" is subject to copyright protection the moment that it is "fixed in any tangible medium of expression." Similarly, blogs readily qualify as copyrightable literary works as long as they contain some your own original works. The author’s entries are "copyrighted" as soon as he or she writes them.

Some mistakenly think that if they credit the author of an article or image they are not violating the copyright law. The bottom line is that you can only use copyrighted material if you have permission from the author to do so.

Copyright infringement is incredibly serious and there are lawyers and legal services that specialize in it. If you are found violating someone's copyright, a civil lawsuit can brought against the infringer, with monetarily devastating results and even jail time.

A lot of people copy images and text on the Internet mistakenly thinking that the worst that can happen is receiving a takedown notice from the author and remove the material from the website. The removal of the copyrighted material will not remove the copyright infringement at all. Should the author decide to go after you in court you will be in trouble all the same.

To those that think I won’t fight the good fight to protect my copyrighted works you are really taking your chances…… as the rights holder I get to decide how my content can be used. Yes I do hire lawyers and procure legal services. WHY???? Because I can.


Sunday, July 13, 2014


Did Fujita Seiko pass down his Koga ryu Ninjutsu? Did he appoint someone to carry on his Koga ryu ninjutsu?

I have been asked this question several times and the simplest answer is an emphatic and resounding “NO”.  Fujita personally went on record stating that he would not appoint a person to become his successor to his family’s Koga ryu Wada Ha Ninjutsu.

In 1959, Fujita wrote a book, which he titled Doronron: Saigo No Ninja (The Last Ninja), recounting how his grandfather had passed on the secrets of his family Koga Ryu Wada Ha system to him. Fujita’s family name used to be Wada, and so the art they passed down in the family was called Koga-ryu, Wada- ha. In his book Fujita Seiko made it quite clear that he DID NOT pass on his Family’s Koga ryu Wada Ha Ninjutsu to ANY of his students or colleagues.


Four years later in 1963 Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi were gathering information for The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten (武芸流派大事典?) or "Encyclopedia of Martial art schools", a catalog of Koryū Bujutsu (old schools) and Gendai Budō (new schools) of Japanese martial arts. It is composed both of active and inactive schools, chronicled over the lifetimes of the authors Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi. The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten is Japan's official "Martial Arts Directory," a publication that is considered the authority in all matters of Japanese martial arts.

 The entry of Fujita's information for the Koga Ryu Wada Ha, which appears on the top of page 273 of The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten  is as follows: "This ryu is one of the 53 Koga families. Moreover, this ryuha is one of the Minamiyama Rokke of only 6 families, and nobody knows this ryuha." Watatani then attributes the quote to "Fujita Seiko, 1963."

In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun in 1964, Fujita again made it clear of his intentions to be the last ninja of Koga Ryu Wada Ha. Fujita said that the art would die with him (“Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warrior Cult” Stephen Turnbull, pg. 144).

The 1978 revision of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten states that Fujita Seiko was the last soke of this ryuha and it was one of 6 ryu that belonged to the Minamiyama Rokke, maybe 6 strong families or an organization and that nobody knows this ryuha today.

An additional entry on the bottom of page 921 of the BRD, that is entered as "Wada Ryu," and which is said to be the same as Koga Ryu Wada Ha. The entry mentions that a Wada Iga Morishinori founded the ryu, [and that] Fujita Seiko is a descendent of Wada Iga Morishinori. The entry provides a very compelling piece of evidence that the Koga Ryu Wada Ha was transmitted through Fujita's family, and coincides with the evidence that he was soke of the last Koga ninja tradition.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

IN SEARCH OF THE NINJA: The Historical Truth of Ninjutsu

BOOK REVIEW:  IN SEARCH OF THE NINJA: The Historical Truth of Ninjutsu.

Article By Phil Elmore

 I’ve tried. I’ve tried more ways than I can count to review In Search of the Ninja: The Historical Truth of Ninjitsu.  I’ve attempted to do so in good faith but, honestly, this book has defeated me. Its prose makes my brain hurt. The claims of its author Antony Cummins make my brain hurt. Its author’s self-important presentations make my brain hurt. (In his most recent video, Antony appears wearing a t-shirt with his name, CUMMINS, emblazoned across the chest). Ultimately I simply cannot take seriously what is in this book because the claims of any “historian” rest on his credentials and his credibility. Mr. Cummins appears to have neither, at least not in the traditional sense.

“To begin with,” writes Cummins early in the book, “this will be done by exposing what is believed to be the origin of the ninja and then replacing it with the facts. Like Hansel and Gretel we will then trace the breadcrumbs into the darkness, through the grammatical gore and the slippery surface of syntax…”
Is this a realistic goal? Mr. Cummins’ Internet critics frequently cite the fact that he is not fluent in Japanese — which would seem to be a prerequisite for translating and understanding ancient Japanese texts on war, warfare, and ninja business of whatever stripe.  Apparently Mr. Cummins is also on the outs with the most significant of the latter-day ninjitsu schools, too — that of the Bujinkan, an organization he seems to spend a lot of time denigrating online.

Add to this the fact that Mr. Cummins associates, at least through the Internet, with a number of characters from the Koga-ryu ninja crowd that I would consider people of extremely low character and credibility, and this, at least by association, does him no favors.  A historian must have your trust before he can tell you about things you have no way to verify or to know. He can easily lie; he can make things up as he goes; he can befuddle you with BS as readily as he can baffle you with brilliance. In reading through the tortured prose of In Search of the Ninja, I can’t help but conclude that, while a very entertaining story about the history of said ninja, I cannot afford to believe anything written in its pages.

By what authority would I check its validity? Shall the reader learn Japanese and then compare Antony’s work to the source material? Those who speak Japanese and who have compared Cummins’ translation of the document called the Shoninki (a translation Cummins calls the “definitive work” on the topic) say it does not hold up favorably to other translators’ work. But we shall have to take their word for it, too… won’t we?

Cummins is the man behind the “Natori Ryu” and “Ichigun Ichimi.” The latter is a loose confederation of every half-baked Koga-lineage YouTube-ryu ninja school and practitioner you could ever want. Its Facebook page quotes a Natori Masatake, who allegedly said, “Later, the people from Kōka甲賀, next to Iga伊賀, followed this path of ninjutsu and having made the oath of Ichigun Ichimi一郡一味, the friendship oath of ‘one district and one band,’ joining the people together. They went out expansively to various provinces to utilize their skills…”

As you can guess, there’s a link here: Cummins claims that the last descendants of the Natori family gave him their permission to “resurrect” the “Natori-Ryu” under Cummins’ guidance. “The school manuals will be translated and published in English for students to enter the school and study the military ways of the Natori Family,” says Cummins, who at this point has essentially appointed himself as the head of some kind of ninja and/or samurai school of martial arts or feudal traditions.

Where does a dedication to historical research end and a smug, self-important cult of personality begin? It’s hard to say. Certainly the line blurs here.  I don’t normally review the author of the book to the exclusion of the book itself, but frankly, there is no other means available to me. Anthony asked me to review the book; he encouraged me to trash it; he wrote, in an inscription, that I should “take my best shot;” he then called me a liar and demanded I ship the book back to him in England when I didn’t review the book on his schedule (which I told him would not be possible).

When you buy a book written by Antony Cummins, I fear you have no choice but to buy the man as well. There is no quantitative measure by which we can gauge the accuracy of his research if we are not both fluent in Japanese AND have access to his source materials. Neither is possible.

Either you belong to the cult of Cummins and you laud his work, or you are vaguely suspicious of everything he does. Either might constitute a truthful evaluation of In Search of the Ninja. Don’t ask me which, though. I honestly couldn’t tell you.