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Rumors are now circulating around the Bujinkan and now on our Facebook Bujinkan study group so I will address my thoughts on this matter.
Soke Hatsumi is in his late 80’s now. So we must assume that at some point he will teach less, or retire completely. Yes, it is possible that it may be tomorrow or it may be on April 2nd at the Japan Takamatsu event or it may be on his 100 birthday. Soke loves doing things on auspicious dates so it would not surprise me if he indeed choose this date for his transition. I will be there.

Also note for at least 10 years I have heard even directly from my teacher that he may indeed retire the next year. He is still sharing his art today, it is in his blood and he loves doing it and he really loves being with all those that come to Japan to learn from him. He is budo and has been a great Soke and very very generous human being. He has opened his art and teachings to anyone that wants to come learn from him no matter what level of their training or rank. It is their hearts that he is most interested in and he loves painting a drawing for them to take home to remind them of this connection. Soke is a true role model on all levels.

If you have a desire to make this connection with him and have not done this as a student of the Bujinkan yet I highly invite you to do so. If you have the ability to join us then I invite you to go to the April 2 event to witness and train with this great budoka, our Soke, at least once. There is a deep reason that I have been there over 50 times to train with him. I can assure you it is not to learn more techniques. I have an endless supply of them. The journey has been extremely transformative.

Whether he retires then or not it is quite evident that it will happen someday. To that I say do not be concerned.

The Bujinkan has many great teachers all over the world so the art will continue long after he is no longer leading. I can assure you of that as myself have set those teachings in place in a way that the art will continue beyond me or any of my students. The IBDA Master Council was established for this purpose as well and I am very grateful for all their efforts in service to these teachings. A good master teacher, Shihan, will do that and the Bujinkan has many great leaders, both in and out of Japan.

Align yourself with one of them or a great Shidoshi that is aligned with a senior Shihan. Most everyone reading this are not really studying as a student of Soke anyway. We are all students of the art.

No matter what Soke Hatsumi chooses to do at any time the Bujinkan will continue. Realize that he just built a new Hombu dojo and there are many Japanese Shihan that will still teach there. He may still remain the Soke as long as he is alive even if he teaches less or not at all.

I know people will ask who is going to take over when he is gone. In a way he is going to leave the art to you. What I mean by that is that if you train still then it matters what you learn as you carry on the art. If you do not train then it doesn’t matter does it? Your level of involvement depends on you and not on who is leading. Again, this goes back to you aligning with a Senior Shihan that can guide you.

Soke is a brilliant man and he will do the right thing. Soke has stated many times in public that he is leaving the art to everyone and that the Jugodan will carry it on and not to one person as it is usually done. Now he may or may not choose an individual successor. I could tell you what he told me but that may change AND it is not my place to make any announcement for him. Nor is it anyones to speculate. Just train!

What I do know is that I am extremely grateful for all my time with him both in and out of the dojo. I am grateful for all the teachings, including the bumps and bruises. I am most grateful for the friendship with him and all the most wonderful people that I have met and trained with in the Bujinkan arts.

That gratitude will keep me going no matter where the path leads.

Richard Van Donk, Shihan Jugodan