Dead Ninja Lineages
A question that we commonly get asked in the Bujinkan is about the legitimacy of other Ninjutsu Ryuha (Schools) and for good reason, if you type in Ninjutsu into YouTube you will usually be presented with a veritable freak show of sword wielding idiots and weirdos all claiming association to long dead Ryuha that have been documented as ceasing to exist in historical record.
The problem with this is that often these people have absolutely no martial arts experience of any variety and are wielding lethal live bladed (Shinken) Katana around unwitting would be Ninjutsu students with little or no regard for how much damage their assumed mastery of the martial arts will cause. People can and do get seriously injured and killed because some idiot watched to much Naruto or Bleach and decided he’s a Ninja master. What’s worse is that these people then market their stupidity and get others to buy into these shambolic organisations giving themselves totally unrelated and vague instructor titles taken from other non Ninjutsu related arts such as Kyoushi or Senpai.
A prime example of this is Fuma Ryu Ninjutsu UK.
Other examples of this are Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, Hagakure Ryu Ninjutsu, Budo Ryu, Natori Ryu in its modern variation, Ashida Kims Ninjutsu, The list is quite literally endless of fake Ninjutsu Ryu. This is exactly what causes the confusion about Ninjutsu lineages as so many wannabes claim to be Ninja but in reality their are very few Ryuha that have actually survived to this day.
Their are a few telltale indicators that give away if a school claiming to teach Ninjutsu is fake, number one is the name of the Ryuha, Number two is what are they teaching, if it isn’t technical in its approach and doesn’t make coherent sense then its probably fake, If it looks like Karate or Tae Kwon Do it definitely isn’t Ninjutsu.
Ask yourself do they have a legitimate venue, are they insured, do they have links to a legitimate governing body, do they have links with masters in Japan, do they train in Japan, do they teach children, if so, do they have a safe guarding policy and are the instructors CRB checked.
If they say they were taught by their neighbour who was a little Japanese Ninja Master until he said his number one student should pass on his newly acquired Ninja mastery to the world, then thats the storyline of an 80’s movie called Blood Sport with Jean Claude Van Damme. Do you really want to be placing you life in the hands of an instructor who’s martial arts experience is watching a Tae Kwon Do based action movie at some point in their life?!
As ever use common sense and check the source of whatever style you are endeavouring to learn, Who is the grandmaster? Who is it exactly that you are aspiring to learn from and what knowledge do they have to impart in reality. If they are called Black Scorpion Ryu Ninjutsu or Black Dragon Ryu then use common sense, I mean really?! Do they sound legitimate?! They haven’t even tried to come up with a decent name!
To try and help clarify the situation i have provided a list of all of the Ryuha known to no longer be in existence as verified by historical record.
- Nakagawa Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Aomori Prefecture. Organised by Nakagawa Kohayato.
- Haguro Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Yamagawa Prefecture and was said to have been developed by the warrior ascetics of Haguro Mountain.
- Uesugi Ryu Ninjutsu was established for Uesugi Kenshin as a military espionage organisation by Usami Suruganokami Sadayuki in Niigata Prefecture.
- Kaji Ryu Ninjutsu was founded by Kaji Ominokami Kagehide, A student of the founder of Uesugi Ryu but was also linked to the roots of Iga’s Hattori Ryu Ninjutsu.
- Matsumoto Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Tochigi Prefecture.
- Matsuda Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Ibaraki Prefecture.
- Koyo Ryu, Ninko Ryu and Takeda Ryu Ninjutsu were all founded by Takeda Shinken for intelligence gathering and used wandering monks and merchants as agents.
- Fuma Ninpo / Fuma Ryu Ninjutsu based in Kanagawa Prefecture was established by Fuma Kotaro and specialised in guerrilla warfare.
- Akiba Ryu and Ichizen Ryu Ninjutsu based in Aichi Prefecture were established by Hachisuka Koroku Masakatsu who was a famous ninja from this area.
- Mino Ryu Ninjutsu based in Gifu Prefecture was developed during the rule of Saito Dosan and included the Kurokawa Ninja group of Koga.
- Echizen Ryu Ninjutsu was established in Toyama Prefecture by Iga Ninja fleeing the attack of Oda Nobunaga.
- Yoshitsune Ryu Ninjutsu based in Fukui Prefecture was developed for Yoshitsune Minamoto as a blend of espionage methods taught by Ise Saburo and yamabushi teachings.
- Koga Ryu Ninjutsu was a regional tradition made up of over fifty families.
- Iga Ryu Ninjutsu was a regional tradition made up of several key families, most notably the Hattori and Momochi Clans.
- Negoro Ryu founded by Suginobo Myosan, firearms master, Saiga Ryu were firearms and explosives specialists, Natori Ryu, founded by Natori Sanjuro Masatake the author of the Sho Nin Ki reference book and Kishu Ryu Ninjutsu were all based in Wakayama Prefecture.
- Bizen Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Okayama Prefecture.
- Fukushima Ryu Ninjutsu transmitted by Nojirijiro Jirouemon Narimasa was based in Shimane Prefecture.
- Kuroda Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Fukuoka Prefecture in support of the Kuroda family government.
- Nanban Ryu Ninjutsu Was based in Nagasaki Prefecture.
- Satsuma Ninpo was based in Kagoshima Prefecture in support of the Shimazu family government.
In reality the vast majority of Ninjutsu Ryuha died out prior to the Meiji restoration in 1868 and couldn’t possibly exist today.
Which brings me to Natori Ryu, whilst it is true that information has been translated and published this school cannot possibly be revived in a way that would be recognisable as the original Natori Ryu Ninjutsu. This dead Ryuha is being paraded around and used as a scapegoat to advocate people with no actual or limited martial art experience to teach something losely based on Ninjutsu. The fact is the so called Natori Ryu instructors i have seen to this day have been nothing short of an absolute liability to the martial arts community overseen by a martial arts researcher, who could never actually demonstrate any of the techniques he is publishing and promoting to unstable individuals. It is a bad joke in the martial arts community and should be avoided at all costs, just another buy your own black belt course. Quite frankly I would even go as far to say that the organisation is dangerous. A vivid memory of a so called Natori Ryu Ninjutsu master going postal on homemade cardboard judgemental targets with a homemade Yari (kitchen knife tied to a broom handle) comes to mind and why the hell anyone would mistake that for a legitimate martial art is beyond me.
You need a good instructor with a thorough understanding of the art, That takes years of dedicated practice, you need to really understand why you are practicing whatever technique you are performing. How does it effect the opponent? Is it breaking their structure? You need to understand the Kuden (Concept) and Gokui (Secret) behind the technique and that cannot be learnt from a book alone.
Be careful who you invest your time studying under as when it really comes down to it do you want to hold a rank and own a nice looking belt or be able to survive an attack. Don’t serve someone’s ego placing them on a pedestal, any instructor worth learning from will respect you far more for asking “why?”, If they don’t then ask yourself why that is exactly?
It’s our job as Shidoshi-Ho, Shidoshi and Shihan to guide you on the right path and help you make discoveries and learn along the way, after all we have been their ourselves at some point, we have to lead by example. If your instructor can’t then once again, ask yourself why?
In conclusion don’t be drawn in by fakes and fraudsters, do your research before training in any art, it will save you a lot of time and a lot of money!
*Ryuha list sourced from Legacy Of The Night Warrior by Stephen K Hayes.