An Interview With Soke

submitted by Daniel Esteban García

It was during the Spanish Tai Kai in November 1992. My instructor at that time was the organizer of the Tai Kai and all of the dojo worked hard in the organization of this event and it wound up to be a great success. During the Tai Kai, it was arranged for Sensei to be interviewed by 2 of the most important Spanish newspapers. We waited for the journalists to arrive but 15 minutes before the scheduled interview only two journalists of one local newspaper had come. Our instructor was really worried about this and made the decision: "Dani and Kim, you are the journalists. Take two more students as photographers. Hurry up and dress well; go on and do it right."

Can you imagine our nervousness? But we didn't worry; we were "ninjas," and this was our "mission," and we were going to do it perfectly. This was the spirit we lived in at the time. The word of our instructor was the "law" and the "only truth," but this is another story...

We appeared just in time. Mr. Ben Jones translated English-Japanese. Mr. Ricardo Gonzalez translated Spanish-English. All the questions were done by Kim and me because the real journalists of the local newspaper didn't know a thing about ninjutsu so they let us ask all the questions. I'm sure that Soke knew immediately who we were -- because I felt it at the moment -- but he acted like the Grandmaster he is, and he treated us like "important journalists."

I've saved this otherwise secret (and heretofore, unpublished) interview for all of these years and am sharing it here.

Tai Kai Barcelona -- November 21, 1992

Question: For how long has ninjutsu been practiced in Europe?

M. Hatsumi (SOKE): It was approximately 25 years ago that the first European person interested by this art came to Japan. Since then, it has been growing slowly and it has only been a few years, less than 10, that it has known a big increase.

Q: How does the ninjutsu Grandmaster see the future of this art?

SOKE: More humane.

Q: Sensei Hatsumi, you often talk about peace and harmony, about non-violence, etc.; in fact this is your continuous message. If peace is your objective, why are you dedicated to teaching war and combat techniques, ways to kill, etc.? How do you explain this?

SOKE: It's very simple; only if you know pain and death, then you can defend yourself from it. If you have this knowledge you will appreciate and defend life, much better, yours and that of others.

Q: Then, do you think it's necessary learn to kill?

SOKE: Yes, it's necessary, because today there exist many criminals and killers and there is a lot of violence against defenseless people. It's necessary to protect yourself and to protect other people from this kind of aggression -- always working for justice and to defend the life.

Q: The ninja have a very bad and degenerate image that comes from films, books, etc., in which they are often portrayed as vulgar assassins without scruples... Are you doing anything to change this around the world?

SOKE: The only way to do that is by giving the knowledge of the true message. It is for this reason that we have these events --Êseminars around the world. We also try to change things through the communication media. For this reason, I'm traveling around the world, because it's impossible to communicate and "connect" from far away -- I must do it personally, near, face to face.

Q: Is ninjutsu open to all the people? And to students of other martial arts?

SOKE: Ninjutsu's open to everybody who has a pure heart and wants to learn this art and use it for justice and harmony. In fact, many of the Bujinkan Dojo practitioners have been practitioners of other martial arts. They have changed to ninjutsu because they have seen that this was what they had always been looking for.

Q: Who created Ninjutsu?

SOKE: Ninjutsu has not been created... It would take a long time to explain it at this moment, but its enough to say that it was a "movement" that arose about 1,000 years ago in Japan to defend the justice and protect the defenseless people.

Q: Which is the ninjutsu objective at present?

SOKE: For human beings to achieve happiness and well-being. For it, one of the most important things is the Nature/Human Being relationship. The harmony with the environment, with Nature is fundamental, because if we damage it, in fact we are damaging ourselves. If man destroys Nature, he destroys himself.

Q: How do you perceive the attraction that all of these people (practitioners) feel to the culture of your country and your art?

SOKE: I feel very happy. Moreover, it's wonderful because of the possibility of knowing many different people and making friends -- everybody joined with a common feeling. Also it is fantastic be able to teach this art to persons whose role in life is to watch over and protect other people, like the army, different security corps, police, etc., and make them to understand the way of the pure heart.

Q: Don't you think that there are people that could use this knowledge to cause harm and damage?

SOKE: We can say that Ninjutsu is a science and we can compare it with other sciences, like chemistry, medicine or physics. It depends on the use that you give it. You can do good or bad things. In other ways you have to look for harmony. If somebody uses ninjutsu for bad things, he is working at destroying himself, because it is an anti-natural action.

Q: What can you say about ninja theme such as it's seen in films?

SOKE: During the 80's, there was a "ninja boom" in the U.S.A. spoiling and distorting reality. This affected me deeply and I decided go there personally to give the knowledge of true Ninjutsu with seminars, etc. Some books were published then, and I gave interviews, etc., to hopefully put an end to all the lies. It seems that at the end, people were beginning to understand. For example, the ninja turtles, well, they are funny and healthy and this contributes to erasing the bad image.

Q: How do you see the ninjutsu in Spain and specially in Catalonia?

SOKE: It is very good. There is quite a high level and much enthusiasm. Also here people have great hearts. They are really ladies and gentlemen. People come to enjoy the art and the knowledge, not the violence. It's not possible to find people with bad hearts here.

I want specially thank you for the opportunity that you bring me by opening your communication media to give this knowledge to the public. There are other media that have their preconceived opinions and they are closed for us. I hope that this is going to change promptly.

Daniel Esteban Garcia has been training in ninjutsu since 1987.