There are many writings concerning the history and practices of the legendary Ninja Warriors, and yet this martial art still remains shrouded in mystery. Ninjutsu was not invented by just one soul, but was an art, like all true genius, that developed over time. Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, 34th Grandmaster of the Togakure Ryu, states the following on page 7 in his infamous work, Ninjutsu, History and Tradition:
“The people who were later referred to as ninja did not originally use that label for themselves. They considered themselves to be merely practitioners of political, religious, and military strategies that were cultural opposites of the conventional outlooks of the times. Ninjutsu developed as a illegal counter-culture to the ruling samurai elite, and for this reason alone, the origins of the art were shrouded by centuries of mystery, concealment, and deliberate confusion of history.”
From Sensei Hatsumi’s observations and research, we can get a clear idea that Ninjutsu originated in a manner similar to the early days of the Hip-Hop era here in America. Who created Hip-Hop? What inspired urban youth in the early 80’s to create beats and melodies by pounding their fists on their desks at school? At same time DJ’s began scratching records, then breakdancing came next. Some teenagers would recite their poems over looped grooves until a new art-form was established. These things were not invented by just one individual, but were evidently Generation X’s response to the changing astrological configurations in the sky and a manifestation of stellar influences of the time. Just think about it, all of a sudden young people just picked up various forms of expression at the same time that would all later become known as Hip-Hop. Ninjutsu developed in the same manner. Most art-forms developed by indigenous people usually follow this pattern of Chaos evolving into Order, which is the theme of many creation myths and traditions of indigenous people. The spiritual forces involved in bringing a new art-form into being, is both a communal and individual process. In Dr. Hatsumi’s work, cited earlier, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, the 33rd Grandmaster of Togakure Ryu is quoted as stating the following words on page 5:
“If an expert in the fighting arts sincerely pursues the essence of ninjutsu, devoid of the influence of the ego’s desires, the student will progressively come to realize the ultimate secret for becoming invincible-the attainment of the mind and eyes of god….The vast universe beautiful in its coldly impersonal totality, contains all that we call good and bad, all the answers for all the paradoxes we see around us. By opening his eyes and his mind, the ninja can responsively follow the subtle seasons and reasons of heaven, changing just as change is necessary, adapting always, so that in the end there is no such thing as surprise for the ninja.”
This profound statement is similar to the wisdom of the I-Ching’s 49th Hexagram, which is what directed me to the Muzosa Bujinkan Dojo, a subject we will cover a little bit later in our discussion. In order for us to gain a deeper understanding about the origins of Ninjutsu, it is imperative that we understand the spiritual forces behind the development of the martial art. Actually, the origin of this art is not really so difficult to understand when we drop the mind of the West and come to an appreciation of the wisdom of the East. In some ways the West still holds a bigoted view in regards to martial arts as a whole. When we really accept the equality of man, we realize that if all men are created equal then all societies will produce the same things. Just thing about it for a second, all societies must have an adequate system of providing and obtaining food, shelter, and clothing, for anyone living in any society. With the development of resources also comes the development of an armed force to protect what a particular society has acquired. Warfare is as old as man and even exists in the realms of the gods. So every nation and culture produced a martial art. History reveals that the Egyptians, Greeks, Sumerians, and many other cultures developed and possessed a martial art formulae. So this whole idea of trying to figure out how a martial art-form reached certain lands from China is somewhat an erroneous approach in discovering the history of various forms. China’s influence is well-documented in the history of various martial forms, but to approach the history of a specific style believing that it must have migrated from China in some way, shape, or form, is what has made the history of Ninjutsu so mysterious.
Before we continue, I would like to mention to the reader that the science of Taoism has led to the production of many Great Eastern works, such as, the I-Ching, The Art of War, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Of Internal Medicine, Tao Te Ching, and many more jewels of wisdom. What is interesting is that the indigenous religion of Japan, Shinto is also perceived by the Japanese population as a form of Taoism, and this is useful in understanding the origins of Ninjutsu. In the East, it is held that there are many activities that lead one to the Tao. For example, Japanese calligraphy is an exercise useful I achieving the Tao. It is a form of meditation, where concentration is needed and by the continual focus of the drawing the Kanji, which increases ones willpower. Shinto is also considered to be a form of the Tao. This is interesting because the same mystery behind the origins of Ninjutsu, is also found in the workings of Shinto.
Shinto has no founder and there is no unique exclusive text, or bible, it is a form of spirituality that does not have to rely upon these things as there were no comparative practices in Ancient Japan except to understand and work in harmony with the universe. Why would there be any need to assign a human founder to dictate what man should know about himself already? It would be foolish to assign such responsibility to one man. In like manner, it would be foolish to assign a founder to the depths of knowledge contained in Ninjutsu. Toshu Fukami, a well-known businessman, ordained Zen Buddhist Priest, and Shinto spiritualist, states the following in his work entitled, Understanding Japan on page 19:
“But Shinto is not a religion that began with a certain person or revelation or idea or book. It is not a definable doctrine. Shinto is the body of knowledge the Japanese have developed about themselves over tens of thousands of years.”
Over the past 15 years, I have studied various forms of mystical and shamanistic practices and from my research and conversations with Elders of various tradition it is a worldwide opinion that various “magical “ practices all stem from one body of knowledge that included martial arts. A good friend of mine told me that he met a man several years ago who served time in prison and was a part of a secret society in Southeast Asia. The man informed him that in the history of this secret society that it was taught to him that the Ninja were considered to be the keepers of the ancient wisdom of all of Asia and India and that over the years their science were broken down into different fractions, which were later called Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism and etc. The idea of Shinto being another form of Taoism is held in the opinion of many Japanese people. This may shed a deeper understanding of why Taoist sages sought refuge amongst their brethren in Japan when persecution arose in China. Dr, Hatsumi mentions this in his work, cited earlier, on page 7:
“Among the ancient Ninjutsu documents that I inherited from my teacher are several scrolls that tell of Chinese ex-patriots who fled their native land to seek sanctuary in the islands of Japan. Chinese warriors, scholars, and monks alike made the journey to find new lives in the wilderness of Ise and Kii…the cultural ancestors of the ninja lived their lives as naturalists and mystics, while the mainstream of society became increasingly structured, ranked, stylized, and eventually tightly controlled.”
Muzosa Bujinkan Dojo
I had studied some martial art techniques during my time with the Marines in the early-90’s. Soon after, I studied few forms, but spent a great deal of time exploring various spiritual traditions, while maintaining physical training. About a year ago, I remember performing a shamanistic rite, feeling that I had exhausted my current spiritual path. I felt that a new door of knowledge was going to open soon. So I performed certain rites and prayers seeking guidance in the matter. About two days later, I had a dream wherein the deity Nergal came to me and advised me that I should begin studies in Ninjutsu for further spiritual development. I reflected on what was told to me and began searching for various schools in the area, and learned of Muzosa Bujinkan Dojo. I remember visiting the class once while they were located near Astor Place, but this occurred before my divination, and I didn’t really know if this was the same Dojo. Anyway, I came to the Monday night class and I had a really nice time. The students were very friendly and I could feel the family atmosphere. At the end o the class, Senior Instructor Jeff Christian spoke concerning various emails he received from people in the public who were curious about the art, and what techniques were useful for various situations. I cannot recall at this time what Jeff’s response was, but I remember gaining the insight that in order to perform certain movements in this martial art, ones’ way of thinking must change, otherwise, he or she, will be unable to properly execute the movement. The other insight that I received is that the idea of this work is not to focus on trying to learn certain movements to perform in certain theoretical situations, but to learn the movements and master them as they change our way of thinking so that the practitioner will best know how to handle each and every situation. I knew after learning these things that this is where I needed to be at. It took a little time, working for Lehman Brothers to say the least, but I was determined to make it happen.
Although I was eager to begin my instruction started some months later, as I was trying to get a few things together financially and dealing with some domestic things. However, during this time I began studying Shinto and became a member of the Shinto based community called WorldMate. Another concern that I was having was with my son who I love dearly. It seems that he was having some problems with school and focusing. We signed him up for Karate, but it didn’t really capture his interests and his school reports weren’t coming up good. I told my mate that it may be a good idea for him to attend the Dojo I went to earlier. Finally, after his birthday I was able to get some things squared away and we attended our first class together two weeks ago. We had a great time and my son was very impressed. I would even say that he has found that passion to keep him occupied while teaching him focus. The class was very responsive and the energy extremely uplifting and of course Jeff’s words were very encouraging.
Sensei Jeff Christian is a 15th degree black belt. His charisma and charm, and profound knowledge of the art is unique. After conversing with him during class and email, you can see his love for Muzosa Bujinkan Dojo. Interestingly, is said in Shinto that when one pursues their passion to the degree that Jeff has, they are one of the founders of the art and reincarnated to ensure its progress in the modern world, and I am sure that anyone who has encountered Jeff’s energy can testify to this.