I’ve been training in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (aka ninjutsu) for just over seven years and, as I’ve fallen deeper in love with the art, I’ve often dreamt of visiting the grandmaster in Japan. Today I met Soke Masaaki Hatsumi.
Sporting a crazy purple hairdo and arriving fashionably late, a hush descended on the room and, turning to see what was up, there he was! Looking at him, you just see a cheerful old Japanese man with a nutty hairstyle. What you don’t see, until he steps on the mat, is the sheer wizardry this man can accomplish. I’ve shown many of my friends YouTube videos of him doing his thing and a few were skeptical about whether it was real because, without having been on the receiving end of these techniques I guess it does look a little odd. As a martial artist, showing Joe public how much one of these techniques hurts makes you a dick. And if you don’t show a move, you’re obviously full of shit. So to gain any kind of true appreciation for this stuff, short of making me lose my rag and going full ninja on your ass, you have to train.
Soke is so casual, slow almost, in his movements its almost as if he isn’t really doing anything, until, with a giggle, he will drop his weight into the technique he is showing and his uke will quite literally fly through the air. Poetry! I found the hombu dojo a few days ago on a reccy and I had trained the previous day with one of the shihan, Furuta-sensei. Soke’s session went on for hours and by the end I was rather bushed. In the middle of the class we got to see him doing some calligraphy and I was lucky enough to get a scroll done. Towards the end he even showed a little of his famous humour by managing to encorporate some boobs into some of the kanji he was painting, much to our amusement! At the end he scurried off pretty quickly, so I didn’t get my picture with him, but that’s OK, I’m not going anywhere for the moment, so there’s plenty of time!
I’ve been in Japan over a week now and I’m feeling very much at home. Things aren’t quite as expensive as I’d anticipated so I think I may try and get at least two weeks, perhaps even a month’s worth of training. This is the experience of a lifetime and I’m no where near done yet. Although my wisdom teeth do really knack at the moment, so I might well go home in the new year for the surgery. Until next time friends, shiken haramitsu daikoumyo!
P.s. If any of y’all decide to come out here to train, two things that are best avoided – don’t go into Soke’s room to get changed and remember your tabi. I walked onto the mats first time barefoot and the Japanese were too polite to tell me to go put my socks on. An hour later an Italian guy whispered “bare feet are not permitted”. Colour me majorly embarrassed. Furuta-sensei laughed though and told me it was OK, everyone makes mistakes first time he said, before ripping my consciousness apart with a delightful bit of tengu-dori!x