Jinichi Kawakami, Masaaki Hatsumi and Seiko Fujita
The Great Ninja Lineage Debate
For many years in the West people associated only a few names with the art of "Ninjutsu." Most people hear Ninjutsu and immediately think of Masaaki Hatsumi or Seiko Fujita. Masaaki Hatsumi, the most famous in the Western world, is associated with Iga. Seiko Fujita, who passed away decades ago is associated with Koga. Many people believed that the only true Ninjutsu practitioner left was Masaaki Hatsumi. It is also widely believed that the Koga line of Ninjutsu died with Seiko Fujita. But these statements are, and always have been, false.
There exists a man in Japan that is not associated with Masaaki Hatsumi or Seiko Fujita, yet carries on a Ninjutsu tradition. This man is Jinichi Kawakami, and he is the 21st Head of the Koka Ban Family. He not only carries on the Koka tradition but the Iga, Konan and Tanba traditions of Ninjutsu.
A few years ago when people in the West first heard of him they immediately associated him with Masaaki Hatsumi or Seiko Fujita. Since Masaaki Hatsumi was seen as the last person carrying on Ninjutsu, many thought Jinichi Kawakami must share a lineage with him. Since Jinichi Kawakami claimed a Koka connection, which "Koka" is the original way to say "Koga" many people thought he must have a lineage connected to Seiko Fujita. However, Jinichi Kawakami shares absolutely no lineage with either Masaaki Hatsumi or Seiko Fujita. The thought of this seemed to astonish and baffle people.
Jinichi Kawakami and his lineage have always been around, albeit on an obscure and quiet level. Until a few years ago everything about this man and his lineage was only available in Japanese and could only be found if you knew where to look. He remained reclusive and out of the public eye.
Jinichi Kawakami's lineage is completely separate from that of Masaaki Hatsumi and Seiko Fujita. Does that seem strange? It shouldn't, Iga and Koka/Koga are simply different regions. Numerous Ninja clans (families) and lineages came out of these regions, and several other areas. Ninjutsu is and always has been a family-based art. The fact that a lineage survived that nobody in the West heard about until recently is really not that surprising. Especially when you consider that the nature of Ninjutsu is to remain hidden and stay out of the spotlight. It is no surprise that many in the West and even in Japan did not know about him.
Jinichi Kawakami was taught Ninjutsu and Bujutsu from the age of six. He was taught by the 20th Head of the Koka Ban Family, Masazo Ishida. He inherited all of Masazo Ishida's teachings and became the 21st Head of the Koka Ban Family himself. Masazo Ishida's lineage traced back to 3 of the 53 Koka Ninja Families including the Ban Family, the Ishida Family and the Kimura Family. Masazo Ishida's grandfather also had a school in Kyoto.
Because of the nature of Ninjutsu and its use related to guerilla warfare, espionage and assassination, the Ninja families were not as structured as what we see in many traditional Japanese schools. As stated before it was family-based, with someone designated to hand down the techniques. Because of this it was not as formal. Some Ninja families would share information and techniques from time-to-time if they were on good terms. Most Ninja clans were small, secretive, tight-knit family groups. It was a way of life, a way of life that was taught to be kept a secret from outsiders.
Jinichi Kawakami was appointed the Honorary Curator of the Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum in Mie Prefecture, Japan. This is a real museum with weapons, scrolls and various other materials from the days of the Ninja. It is one of the few places in the world you can see these rare artifacts from the past. It is a serious museum with serious Japanese historians involved in the work. These Japanese historians have dedicated their time and lives to researching Ninjutsu's past. These same historians named Jinichi Kawakami as the curator of the museum because he is held in such high-esteem. These Japanese historians, who study Ninjutsu lineages, confirm Jinichi Kawakami's lineage to the art of Ninjutsu.
Jinichi Kawakami's claims are backed by the government of Japan. He and his top student, Yasushi Kiyomoto, hold seminars for them.
Mr. Kawakami has been appointed as a professor at Mie University in Mie Prefecture, Japan. He was appointed to teach the art of Ninjutsu and how it relates to the modern-day business world.
There have been numerous publications, TV programs, magazines etc. in Japanese about Jinichi Kawakami and Ninjutsu. Until recently, very few who could not read Japanese or get them translated had no idea they even existed. Only recently has Jinichi Kawakami opened his art up just a bit to the world. The Smithsonian Channel aired a documentary about him entitled "Ninja: Shadow Warriors" and in that documentary described him the same way most people in Japan know him, "In Japan today, there is still one person alive that holds the secrets of Ninjutsu, the art of the Ninja." Smithsonian is the world's leading cultural institution with19 museums, 9 international research centers and 168 million artifacts (cited from: http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/site/sn/about-us.do) . They chose Jinichi Kawakami when it came to filming a work on Ninjutsu. Why? Because in Japan most do consider his lineage and character impeccable.
You can also judge him by his skill in the martial arts. Since he was six years old, he was trained to dislocate certain parts of his body, for instance his shoulders. He did this so that he could fit into incredibly small places, and also to escape joint-locks while fighting. Even being over sixty-years of age now he can still do this. He can raise his testicles up into his abdomen to avoid being hit in the groin while fighting. He can walk on the tops of his feet in a very awkward and strange fashion. He has conditioned his body to be like a piece of steel and has scarred and gnarled knuckles from punching steel with them. He has gone through extreme fasting and put his body through all types of training and punishment. He is also an expert in psychology, explosives and poisons. He can recite the history and lineage of the Japanese martial arts like he was a text book. All of these things take time to learn...and some of it is physically impossible unless you have trained since you were a child.
Rare footage of Kawakami Sensei
With the knowledge that Jinichi Kawakami is legitimate coming to light all over the world, many people have been taken by surprise. Many martial artists who have studied Ninjutsu in the West never heard of him. They understandably thought he had to be connected to Masaaki Hatsusmi or Seiko Fujita. The fact that he is not connected to Masaaki Hatsumi or Seiko Fujita has confused many people. His art and style are different from anything else out there. But, as more and more of his story comes to light...more and more people learn about him and his solid background and lineage.
As mentioned before, Jinichi Kawakami chose to remain reclusive up until very recently. Even now, to train in Koka Bujutsu/Ninjutsu you must have a sit down interview. This is not an easy thing to arrange and very few have the opportunity and are actually accepted. The art is taught in small groups or one-on-one, as it always has been. Jinichi Kawakami and his top student Yasushi Kiyomoto are not concerned with growing their student base and expanding as most martial arts schools are. If they chose to, they could easily accept large numbers of students from around the world, make videos and sell merchandise. There is plenty of interest in what they do. But, they do not. They keep it small and traditional. Jinichi Kawakami has dedicated his life to Ninjutsu, as has his top student Yasushi Kiyomoto. They are both engineers and do not need to teach or sell their art. They do it because it is their life's work.
Jinichi Kawakami has been offered to do seminars around the world, in almost every country you can think of. Yet, he has done only one overseas seminar in America. Again, he is not concerned with expanding his art and taking on an excessive number of students. He is only concerned with the integrity of his art, the art of Ninjutsu.
In the end, people will believe what they want to believe. With an art such as Ninjutsu, it is very hard to see what the actual truth is. Masaaki Hatsumi and Seiko Fujita both have their believers and detractors. There are serious questions put forth by Japanese historians about the validity of Masaaki Hatsumi's and Seiko Fujita's claims to authentic Ninjutsu lineages. These debates are nothing new.
Most people in the West never heard of Jinichi Kawakami until recently and it has caused a huge controversy in the Ninjutsu and martial arts worlds.
If you look at the facts it is clear. Jinichi Kawakami has been appointed the Curator of the Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum who back his lineage claim to Ninjutsu. He is backed by numerous Japanese historians and has been appointed professor at Mie University in Japan because of his expertise and lineage in Ninjutsu. He is also backed by the Japanese government whom he does seminars for. He is known in Japan as "The Last Ninja" because of his lineage and martial arts prowess.
Jinichi Kawakami, the Koka Ban Family, Yasushi Kiyomoto and Banke Shinobinoden have made their presence known globally...and have changed what many people thought they knew about the ancient art of Ninjutsu forever.
For More Information on Jinichi Kawakami please see the Smithsonian Channel's Documentary: