Browsing the blog archives for May, 2014.

Please, not ninjutsu again!


A new comment on the post #66 “Get it straight, people” is waiting for your approval
Author : Vivek Patel  (IP:
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I am curious, have you actually read Kacem’s book and his thesis?
And if you have, have you followed up on every reference given therein?


First off, let me say I’m pretty amazed that people still care what one man, who has not been part of a particular school for twenty years, thinks about its lineage. To answer your questions:
1. Of course.
2. Of course not.

The reason that I have not followed up on Kacem’s references is that, in those cases that are actually of interest, they are not legitimate references.  The historical components of his book were actually better put forth by Stephen Turnbull more than twenty years ago. When Kacem decides to deviate from history, he does so in a big way.

He begins this deviation by presenting the Togakure ryu scroll as a historical document. He uses the scroll’s style of the writing and its content to present it as dating to some author other than Takamatsu, specifically to some point in the Edo period (broad: 1603-1867). Radiocarbon dating would require 50 grams of material from that scroll to establish its date plus/minus forty years, effectively displacing any criticism – I would be happy to bear the costs of this testing myself if only to prove that the scroll was written by Takamatsu (though this can also prove disastrous – see my comment below **). In other words, if the scroll dates to 1750 plus or minus 40 years, it is clearly not Takamatsu’s work, but if it dates to the 20th century, it is. You see, Hatsumi told me so himself back in 1986 when he showed me the scroll: “Takamatsu Sensei writing” he said, in as clear English as he could. Yes, guys, most of us old timers have seen the source material, especially those of us who were cultivated as weapons to cement the foundation of the new business model. We did not have to wait for you enlightened scholars in the age of Youtube and Facebook to do the work for us. My assigned task back then as a Young Acolyte was to transfer Stephen Hayes’ business empire to Hatsumi by writing articles in magazines, and I did a pretty good job of it. In 1986, according to all the Japanese, Steve was Evil, probably pretty much the same way I am evil today.

So Kacem uses the style of writing to date the scroll as pre-Takamatsu, then goes on from there. He calls Takamatsu “a true ninja, descended from a ninja family in Iga, and heir of nine schools of ninjutsu, including Togakure ryu ninjutsu which has roots in the Kamakura period.” He provides not a single scrap of evidence to corroborate any of those statements. Please note that not ONE member of the supposed historical genealogy is substantiated – we are not talking about “one Toda” but generations of Todas who do not exist. In summary, the part of Kacem’s work that is supposedly original research, falls far from the standard of what could be considered original research under any type of legitimate peer review.

In fact, the most interesting part of the book is Kacem’s translation of a letter sent from Takamatsu to Hatsumi. In this letter, Takamatsu goes to great lengths to state that, even though Ikai came from China and taught Chinese arts, ninjutsu is the product of “evolutionary research” in Japan and not a Chinese art.  “Just as for the types of combat of the schools that emanate from Shorinji, they are technical points that seem to be taijutsu.” “They naturally developed the use of gunpowder and pharmacology as a ningu.”
Yeah right. Methinks Takamatsu is expressing his internal heart a bit more deeply in this letter than he would have cared to let on. I can’t, and don’t, know what happened to him in China. I know where he was employed, and it had nothing to do with Emperors or governments or the military or whatever. He was never a hero of the downtrodden. He was never the Emperor’s bodyguard. But somewhere along the line he picked up a very evident need to distance himself from the Chinese sources of whatever he came to be teaching.

In any case, Vivek, I’ve been very lucky as a historian (*), but I don’t see why it should matter to any of you what I think. I would be very happy if I was proven wrong at some date in the future, primarily because it would offer legitimacy to a method that I have spent a considerable portion of my life training in. But Pammachon only has as much to do with ninjutsu as, say, Takenouchi ryu jujutsu or Glima wrestling – they are all systems of combat that employ hip throws. I would not be overly concerned with what I think. And, as I have stated repeatedly, I would be very happy to be proven wrong.

Except that maybe what is bothering you is that you can’t prove me wrong. If that is the case, no worries – you are in the company of much larger, much more prestigious, much more legitimate and far more wealthy organizations. The U.S. Army for example.


(*) I got lucky twice:
The first time was when I pointed out that Mycenaean hand to hand combat was probably based on submission grappling. Oxford historian Bettany Hughes went on to locate anatomical evidence that gave a high probability to that thesis.
The second time was when I took a stance pointing out that Pammachon was clearly something distinct from Pankration.  In light of their internal troubles during that period, the Greek Pankration Federation employed the Central Archaeological Council to state that all records show Pammachon as a Palaeo-Christian, Roman era word that referred to Pankration.  Lo and behold, Sofie Remijsen translated her now famous papyrus and proved without a doubt that Pammachon was something clearly distinct from Pankration. Today most experts are siding with my opinion that Pammachon was a word very much like the German “fechten”.

(**) “Mein lieber Hermann!” Back in 1996, I “took a bath” when I stumbled onto some “collectors” who had located a “trove” of “Nazi art”, including works by Gaugain, Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc.  I’m still a fairly decent chemist, so I took a work by “Gaugain” and had it analyzed. It had “old paint” dating to the turn of the 20th century at the latest. Starry-eyed and full of visions of the tens of millions I would acquire I took the “Gaugain” to a prestigious art museum in Germany, where the technical analysts confirmed it was “old paint”. I then triumphantly (sounds of Carmina Burana) marched into the office of the curator, who was an expert on Gauguin, and lay the painting reverently on his desk. “Where did you get this?” he whispered as he peeled back the newspaper covering the work, and my chest puffed up as I stood on the ship of my inherent destiny, roaming the world to engage in the betterment of mankind (but on a luxury cruise ship). The my hopes shattered. “Oh no no,” he said, “no, this is a fake!” “What?” I roared, you incompetent, you buffoon, you sniveling crawling worm “how can it be a fake? The paint is old!” “Why yes,” he answered  mildly, “it’s an old forgery. They made thousands of them back then.”

So it is with Kacem, except he cannot see it because he is emotionally entrapped.