Hatsumi Soke and his successors
Hatsumi Soke and his successors (Photo provided by Paul Masse)

Seated: Hatsumi Masaaki (Bujinkan Soke 武神館 宗家)
Standing (Rt to Lt): Ishizuka Tetsuji (Gyokko Ryu; 玉虎流), Noguchi Yukio (Koto Ryu; 虎倒流), Nagato Toshiro (Shinden Fudo Ryu; 神傳不動流), Kan Junichi (Gyokushin Ryu; 玉心流), Furuta Koji (Kumogakure Ryu; 雲隠流), Sakasai Norio (Takagi Yoshin Ryu; 高木揚心流 & Gikan Ryu; 義鑑流), Iwata Yoshio (Kukishin Ryu; 九鬼神流), Takumi Tsutsui (Togakure Ryu; 戸隠流).

Hatsumi Masaaki (Bujinkan Soke 武神館 宗家)
Hatsumi Masaaki
Bujinkan Soke
武神館 宗家
Ishizuka Tetsuji (Gyokko Ryu; 玉虎流)
Ishizuka Tetsuji
Gyokko Ryu
Noguchi Yukio<br>Koto Ryu; 虎倒流)
Noguchi Yukio
Koto Ryu
Nagato Toshiro (Shinden Fudo Ryu; 神傳不動流)
Nagato Toshiro
Shinden Fudo Ryu
Kan Junichi (Gyokushin Ryu; 玉心流)
Kan Junichi
Gyokushin Ryu
Furuta Koji (Kumogakure Ryu; 雲隠流)
Furuta Koji
Kumogakure Ryu
Sakasai Norio (Takagi Yoshin Ryu; 高木揚心流 & Gikan Ryu; 義鑑流)
Sakasai Norio
Takagi Yoshin Ryu
Sakasai Norio (Takagi Yoshin Ryu; 高木揚心流 & Gikan Ryu; 義鑑流)
Sakasai Norio
Gikan Ryu
Iwata Yoshio (Kukishin Ryu; 九鬼神流)
Iwata Yoshio
Kukishin Ryu
Takumi Tsutsui (Togakure Ryu; 戸隠流)
Takumi Tsutsui
Togakure Ryu


Hatsumi Becomes Soke

Hatsumi-soke shared the story of how he became heir to the Bujinkan’s nine traditions: One day, I went over to Takamatsu-sensei’s house. He invited me in, took me to a room and told me to sit down. “Please close your eyes and wait.” I sat and relaxed a bit. After what felt like hours, I sensed a heavy, pressing force from behind and rolled sideways. Then there was a sharp feeling from the side of my head so I executed breakfall. I slowly opened my eyes to see Takamatsu-sensei, lowering his sword, and heard him say “Well done.” Then he handed me the sword.


Godan Shinsha (五段 審査; fifth dan exam)

The test normally takes place after training. The candidate sits seiza with eyes closed and a relaxed, no-thought feeling. The Soke or Shihan stands behind them with a fukuro shinai (padded sword). After due time, the Shihan cuts with intent to move the practitioner. The practitioner must sense and evade the cutting sword to pass the test.


Modern History

From 1983 to 1989, Hatsumi Soke gave the test. If you failed you waited until next visit.

From 1990 through 1999, Hatsumi Soke gave the test and, if you failed, you could have a second chance later that day or next class.

Then through 2005, Hatsumi Soke gave the test but if you failed one of the Japanese shihan gave you the second chance. In 2003, a select few high-ranking foreign shihan would give the second chance. [Note: around this time, a few high-ranking foreign shihan were given special case permission to give the test outside of Japan.]

Between 2005 and 2009, a Japanese shihan (occasionally a high-ranking foreign shihan) would give the test. The second chance would be given by one of the Japanese shihan.

After about 2009, a foreign shihan (from the person’s home country) would give the test with a second chance given by one of the Japanese shihan.

Currently, a Japanese shihan will give the test at hombu or tai kai. Special permission can be granted (case-by-case) via request from Hombu Admin for high-ranking foreign shihan to give the test in their home country.


[Of course, there have been variations on the above given unique situations.]