Please, not ninjutsu again!


A new comment on the post #66 “Get it straight, people” is waiting for your approval
Author : Vivek Patel  (IP:
E-mail :

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He begins this deviation by presenting the Togakure ryu scroll as a historical document.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.


6 Responses

  1. dervenis  •  May 26, 2014 @12:10 pm

    I mean, case in point. In “Essence of Ninjutsu,” written directly by Masaaki Hatsumi and translated by Masaru Hirai, so there were no evil intermediaries, Dr. Hatsumi writes about Takamatsu’s life in China, ostensibly quoting Takamatsu’s autobiography.

    Takamatsu was apparently 26 at the time, so the date is 1905. At this time, Takamatsu was in China, where he “entered martial arts contests and was never beaten.” He was made “Chairman of the Young Japanese Association of Martial Artists.”

    Takamatsu had “more than 800 Chinese, Japanese, American, and French students. Every night he taught 70-80 students.” His patron was “Lord Ren, the uncle to the former Emperor.” (Note that in 1905 China was still under the sway of the Empress Dowager Cixi, who had placed her nephew the Guangxu Emperor under permanent house arrest, and quite simply had never allowed him to rule except for a three year period.)

    Anyway, Takamatsu’s success so infuriated the Chinese that a Shaolin master called him out and eventually Takamatsu agreed. The fight was a draw because the Emperor’s Uncle stopped the fight just as Takamatsu was going to kick his opponent’s backside.

    Now, here is what was happening between Japan and China in 1905.
    Prior to its engagement in World War I, the Empire of Japan fought in two significant wars after its establishment following the Meiji Revolution. The first was the First Sino-Japanese War, fought in 1894 and 1895. The war revolved around the issue of control and influence over Korea. A peasant rebellion led to a request by the Korean government for the Qing Dynasty to send in troops to stabilize the country. The Empire of Japan responded by sending their own force to Korea and installing a puppet government in Seoul. China objected and war ensued. In a brief affair with Japanese ground troops routing Chinese forces on the Liaodong Peninsula, and the near destruction of the Chinese navy in the Battle of the Yalu River. The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed between Japan and China, which ceded the Liaodong Peninsula and the island of Taiwan to Japan.

    After the peace treaty, Russia, Germany, and France forced Japan to withdraw from Liaodong Peninsula. Soon afterwards Russia occupied the Liaodong Peninsula, built Port Arthur fortress, and based the Russian Pacific Fleet in the port. Germany occupied Jiaozhou Bay, built Tsingtao fortress and based the German East Asia Squadron in this port.

    In 1900, many western countries dispatched forces to China to protect their citizens and Chinese Christians from the Boxer Uprising. After the uprising, Japan and the western countries signed the Boxer Protocol with China, which permitted them to station troops on Chinese soil to protect their citizens. After the treaty, Russia continued to occupy all of Manchuria.

    The Russo-Japanese War was a conflict for control of Korea and parts of Manchuria between the Russian Empire and Empire of Japan that took place from 1904 to 1905.

    The war began with a surprise attack on the Russian Eastern fleet stationed at Port Arthur, which was followed by the Battle of Port Arthur. Those elements that attempted escape were defeated by the Japanese navy under Admiral Togo at the Battle of the Yellow Sea. While the ground war did not fare as poorly for the Russians, the Japanese forces were significantly more aggressive than their Russian counterparts and gained a political advantage that culminated with the Treaty of Portsmouth, negotiated in the United States by the American president Theodore Roosevelt. Russia’s defeat cleared the way for Japan to annex Korea outright.

    Korea was occupied and declared a Japanese protectorate following the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905, and officially annexed in 1910 through the annexation treaty. Korea would be officially part of the Empire of Japan for 35 years, from August 22, 1910, until the formal Japanese rule ended on September 2, 1945, upon the surrender of Japan.

    What perfect conditions for Sino-Japanese friendship! Or for the Uncle of a Chinese Emperor to support a Japanese worker with no political or military rank against a Shaolin master! Zounds!

    So if I were a historian looking for proof of Takamatsu’s claims, I would start here. Records of the period abound. Pictures were taken by the score. Did the Guangxu Emperor have an Uncle who supported the Japanese? Who was he? Could the name be pronounced Ren in Japanese? Note that following China’s humiliating defeat and being forced to agree to the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Guangxu reportedly expressed his wish to abdicate. Guangxu and the Qing government faced further humiliation in late 1897 when the Germans used the murders of two priests in Shandong Province as a pretext to occupy Jiaozhou Bay, prompting similar actions by the other foreign powers. He was poisoned in 1908 by the Dowager Empress, a day before she herself died of illness.

  2. dervenis  •  May 26, 2014 @5:34 pm

    And it was pointed out to me that Takamatsu was born in 1889, not 1879, which means even though it’s fun, I shouldn’t rant when my mind is elsewhere (studying and working). However, that makes it even better, because it places Takamatsu’s alleged presence in China right in the middle of WW1.

    Thus we have:

    1. Korea was occupied and declared a Japanese protectorate following the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905, and officially annexed in 1910 through the annexation treaty. No other change.

    2. Japan entered World War I in 1914, seizing the opportunity of Germany’s distraction with the European War to expand its sphere of influence in China and the Pacific. Japan declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914. Japanese and allied British Empire forces soon moved to occupy Tsingtao fortress, the German East Asia Squadron base, German-leased territories in China’s Shandong Province as well as the Marianas, Caroline, and Marshall Islands in the Pacific, which were part of German New Guinea. The Siege of Tsingtao and a swift invasion in the German territory of Jiaozhou (Kiautschou), proved successful and the colonial troops surrendered on November 7, 1915. Seizing the opportunity effected by its status as an Allied power, Japan presented China with a secret ultimatum in January 1915 designed to give Japan regional ascendancy over China.

    Anyway, you guys decide what is possible. That is the background.

  3. Vivek Patel  •  May 28, 2014 @2:49 am

    Wow! You put a lot of effort into that!!
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question in such an elaborate way.
    It was an interesting read. I hope it was time well spent for you.


  4. dervenis  •  May 28, 2014 @7:02 am

    Not that much time. Wikipedia is your friend.

  5. stefan marcec  •  July 18, 2014 @11:01 pm

    Its been a while old friend…hope those lines find you safe and sound…
    Indeed very interesting that the legacy thing is still causing so much debate on the http://www….especially as you stated when somebody who hasnt been part of the organisation for many years questions some of the “claims” made by somebody considered by many organisations members as ” absolute authority”…
    The Bujinkan faces the same dilemma as neurosience at the moment – to explain and prove facts with a part of their own system; in neuroscience the problem is to trying to explain the brain through the brain and in the Bujinkan using historians who are part of the organisation…I am still waiting for a neutral historian not affiliated with the Bujinkan to present valid research….
    Myths and legends: my current study is a style of Ba gua ( that I have the luck of studying directly under one of the lineage holders of the systems ). And there is a part of our art that our founder claimed to have learned from some mysterious Taoist warrior that he knew only the nickname….and yes there is some minor debate if this Taoist really existed or not ( My teacher thinks it existed I dont….) but for our training it doesnt matter at all, because the system itself is so logical and itself that it doesnt count at all if the Taoist really taught our founder or if he got the knowledge elsewhere… Acting almost desperately in the Bujinkan community when it comes to the” Toda and Takamatsu question” could let the question raise how much the members really believe in their art when they are shaken f.i. by comments of an ex-members ( and ex means here 20 years….) all the best Stefan

  6. Stefan Marcec  •  July 18, 2014 @11:16 pm

    It`s been a while old friend and I hope this lines find you safe and sound…

    Indeed surprisingly how the crowd still jumps when a certain ex member – and ex means truly here 20 years – publishes on his private forum his doubts…
    The problem that the Bujinkan faces is the same as neuroscience is dealing with:
    The later tries to prove facts through using the sane device they are researching as the researcher – in short: using the brain to explain the brain…so using only historians who are members of the system to prove certain doubtful facts within the system….
    I am still waiting for a independent, neutral historian to do his research and connect the dots…
    My main study at the moment is a particular style of Ba gua. There is a open question if our founder really learned a part of the system from a mysterious Taoist from whom he only knew the nickname…
    Some believe, some dont: so does my teacher ( who is one of the lineage holders of the system – this Ba gua style has several…) believe in the Taoist version meanwhile I dont ( I spent 20 years in the Bujinkan and left ist exactly 10 years after Kostas…so maybe I am enormously sceptical when it comes to such legendary stories…) – but actually nobody in our style cares….the system is totally logical in itself so it actually doesnt matter if our founder studied under this Taoist ( I have to confess the idea itself isnt totally unromantic even to me) or if the guy got his knowledge from other sources… the fact that the Toda-Takamatsu-legacy question still shakes the Bujinkan community deeply let me raise the question about the trust that members have in BBT and its teachers….mayber a thought that is worth pursuing ?
    Alle the best Kostas from the turkish coast where I am spending some marvellous days with my family

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