Masaaki Hatsumi (初見良昭 Hatsumi Masaaki, (born 2 December 1931) calls himself the 34th ninjutsu Soke (Grandmaster), and is the founder of the Bujinkan Organization. He currently resides and teaches in the city of Noda, Chiba, Japan.
Beginning in childhood, Masaaki Hatsumi studied several popular martial arts. After teaching martial arts to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Japan he noticed that the larger and stronger Americans had an advantage in bouts when using the same techniques. He began to question the legitimacy of modern martial arts training and started to search for an art where persons of equal skill truly were equals, even if the other one was more muscular. It was after this time, while studying the ancient Japanese weaponry of the Masaki Ryu under Yumio Nawa, that he learned of ninjutsu and a martial artist named Toshitsugu Takamatsu who claimed to be proficient in this art. In 1957 he and Fukumoto Yoshio began making regular trips to train with his new teacher (who resided at the time in Kashiwabara, in Nara), taking a 15-hour train ride from his hometown of Noda in Chiba. This training continued for 15 years until the passing of Toshitsugu Takamatsu in 1972.
Hatsumi claims that from his instructor he inherited the position of sōke (headmaster) of nine ryū (schools of martial arts):
- Togakure-ryū Ninpō (戸隠流忍法)
- Gyokko-ryū Kosshi jutsu (玉虎流骨指術)
- Kuki Shinden Happō Biken jutsu (九鬼神伝流八法秘剣術)
- Kotō-ryū Koppō jutsu (虎倒流骨法術)
- Shinden Fudō-ryū Dakentai jutsu (神伝不動流打拳体術)
- Takagi Yōshin-ryū Jūtai jutsu (高木揚心流柔体術)
- Gikan-ryū Koppō jutsu (義鑑流骨法術)
- Gyokushin-ryū Ninpō (玉心流忍法)
- Kumogakure-ryū Ninpō (雲隠流忍法)
Masaaki Hatsumi focuses the training of the Bujinkan on the "feeling" of technique, or perhaps more accurately, what he terms the feeling of real situations. Hatsumi has a non-standoffish teaching approach, leading Black Belt Magazine to call him "wild, funny, unpredictable, and a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Obi-Wan Kenobi." While technical knowledge of an art is considered important, the direction of this feeling-based approach guides the practitioner towards a "natural understanding" of what links various martial lineages as well as what is most effective in real situations. In addition Bujinkan students do not participate in martial art tournaments because they see their martial art as non-competitive and not a sport.