essay, Movies

is the third Ninja boom coming?


The first boom was in Japan during the 1960’s, they produced a lot of ninja movies then. The producers asked Takamatsu Sensei and Hatsumi Soke for advice and help. The first “Shinobi no mono” movie had Hatsumi Soke as advicor, it turned out to be really cool movie, they made eight movies between 1962-1968. There was also many other ninja movies.


Then in the beginning of the 1980’s the second Ninja boom cam, and it became really big in the west. The Swedish “Ninja Mission” hit big in the US, it was more popular than the new Clint Eastwood movie at the time. It had Bo Munthe who then was a 4’th Dan in Bujinkan (the highest ranked in Europe at this time), and many of his students did stunt work.

There was also plenty of ninja movies and TV series from Hollywood at the time. People came from everywhere and wanted to study this mysterious art Ninjutsu. In Stockholm the dojo had several hundred meters of people lining up to start training. In other countries which hadn’t so well established Bujinkan dojo’s there was charlatans who saw the opportunity to make money. The choice of American filmproducers how they displayed the art was not in favour for true Ninjutsu practitioners. It was often kung fu, tae kwon do, karate, kendo practitioners who got the stunt cordinator job for these movies, the biggest star of this era was probably Sho Kosugi.

He claims he learned Ninjutsu from a “strange neighbour” when he was 7 years old. I believe the neighbour was strange, but I don’t think he knew much about Ninjutsu. How the film industry portaited the Ninja was not good! I wish they (Hollywood industry) spent more time on research than listen to someone who was taught Ninjutsu by a crazy guy when he was seven years old.

Now 54 years later Kosugi still have too much influence in Hollywood, who apparently decided that there will be a third Ninja boom to cash in money on. They still prove they are too lazy to do proper resarch. The forth coming Ninja Movies (see below) this summer and autumn of 2009 will probably not be as successfull as in the 80’s, but they will certainly enforce the stereotype of what a Ninja and Ninjutsu is, which is not true at all.

Ninja Assassin (2009) by James McTeigue

He previously worked with films such as Matrix, V for Vendetta, and is currently working on the new X-Men to be released in 2011. In this movie the old star Sho Kosugi is playing Lor Ozunu. The main character Raizo in this movie is played by Rain, who is a big pop star in Asia.

Ninja (2009) by Isaac Florentine

The film stars Scott Adkins as a westerner named Casey, who is studying Ninjutsu in Japan when he’s asked by the Sensei to return to New York to protect the legendary Yoroi Bitsu, an armored chest that contains the weapons of the last Koga Ninja. Somehow, cops, the mob, and a rival ninja enter the picture. Much death, sword slashing, and ninja ass kicking ensue.

The Warrior’s Way (2009) previously The Laundry Warrior

G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra by Stephen Sommers

Not exactly a ninja movie, but there will be ninjas in it.

Kamui gaiden (2009) by Yoichi Sai

A Japanese Ninja movie, the ninja movie boom never really went away in Japan.

Recommended reading

If you as an practitioner or teacher in Bujinkan Dojo is getting interviewed by journalists, this article “Ninjutsu and the media” by Mike Hennessy is really good.

For people who doesn’t know much about Ninjas and Ninjutsu apart from what is portrayed on movies, comic books, and games, there is a few things you should know.

There was a Ninja master who died in the 60’s, his name was Seiko Fujita. He wrote books about Ninjutsu (only available in Japanese, and if you are lucky). There is many people who claims that they was taught by him. As far as I know they are all lying. Fujita died without a successor. Basically everyone that claims to teach from the Koga-ryu are all fakes, so please be careful about who to trust.

There was another Ninja master called Takamatsu Toshitsugu had many students in his life time, but at the end when he died in 1972 he only had one true student, and this was Hatsumi Masaaki. Before the first Ninja boom in the early 1960’s there was no other known master of Ninjutsu other than Seiko Fujita (who died without a successor), Takamatsu Toshitsugu and his student Hatsumi Masaaki (Yoshiaki at the time).

Hatsumi Soke is still alive today, he has many, many students all over the world. Hatsumi Soke is the last true Ninja…

Hatsumi Soke had two older students that only once met Takamatsu Sensei that broke off and formed their own organizations, namely Genbukan and Jinenkan. Hatsumi Soke still have students that still trains with him weekly in Honbu Dojo that also meet Takamatsu sensei on the same occasion. Anyone else living than Hatsumi Soke claiming to have been a direct student to Takamatsu Sensei is not telling the truth at all. Unfortunately there is people claiming this.

Organisations that is more or less still teaching Ninjutsu is the following…
Bujinkan Dojo (headed by Hatsumi Masaaki)
Genbukan (headed by mr. Tanemura Shoto formerly student of Hatsumi Soke)
Jinenkan (headed by mr. Manaka Unsui, formerly student of Hatsumi Soke)
Toshindo (headed by mr. Stephen Hayes, formerly student of Hatsumi Soke)

Unfortunately there is bad examples everywhere, so please don’t judge a whole martial art based on a few rotten apples. Keep an open mind.

There is also a few Japanese Ninja Museum’s, some of them also have coreographed demonstrations (rarely with no authentic Ninjutsu training at all). Please keep in mind these are Museums, and they are not Martial Artists!

2 Comments

  1. Peteris Kelle

    Mats, thanks for posting this article! I found it very useful.

  2. Here’s a review of “Ninja (2009)” movie… http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ninja-2009-movie-review/