Nagato Toshiro, a Bujinkan Dai Shihan and Shinden Fudô – ryû Soke, has been training with Hatsumi Sensei for more than four decades (47 years in 2023). His background includes professional Judo & kickboxing teaching and tournaments for a number of years, before finding Bujinkan Budo – or real budo, as Nagato Shihan says.

Here, in his own word in an interview with Nagano Masako in 2013:


Bujinkan Dojo DaiShihan, Moko Toshihiro Nagato (67 years old)

About 30 non Japanese people are training hard at the Bujinkan Dojo near Atago Station in Noda-City, Chiba Prefecture on the afternoon of July 15. There is a Swedish woman, too. When there are many, 200 people come to train. Today’s Shihan is Mr. Toshihiro Nagato who is the only Japanese in the dojo.
He was born in Gifu-city, brought up in Ryouzu, Ebisu and now he is living in Ranzan-town in Saitama Prefecture. His father is the Nagato from Iwayaguchi. A strong person, who was in the Judo club at Sado High School, talks about his life in which he moved from Judo to Bujutsu/Ninjutsu.

We are classmates. When the boys of Judo club walked towards me side by side, I always stepped back because they looked powerful. In those days I was a cool towards women, but women didn’t approach me, either. (Laugh)

I wanted to join the brass band at high school, but my teacher said to me the ‘Join Judo club.’ looking at my body figure. So I reluctantly joined the Judo club.

You took the position of the head of the club and did well at the Judo club of Senshu University. You went to America in 1970 soon after You graduated from the university. Why?

I didn’t want to be in Japan. I just wanted to go to America, as I thought there would be something worth to see there. I taught Judo at Ore Aida Judo club in Oregon State for 4 years. We were in the middle of the Vietnam War.

Meeting with the Vietnam veterans changed my life. Army Special Forces, Green Beret, Michael a special operative, and Charles became my stu-dents and also friends. They were professional army officers who had experienced the real war. There were many things to learn from them re-garding
fights other than Judo. What was Judo? I had thought it was the best until then. I became anxious and my confidence started to get shaken. One day Michael said ‘Toshi, you have Ninjutsu in Japan. You have a duty to learn it.’
Because this one sentence stayed in my head, I returned to Japan in 1975. Those two people were sent to Nicaragua in South America later and organized a Special Forces unit for the gov-ernment. Although they wanted to recruit me, I didn’t join up with them, as I felt danger. Those two people died in 1978 in
the Nicaraguan revo-lution.

When did you start Bujutsu?

of ‘Hit’ and ‘Kick’ which Judo didn’t in-clude. I gained the all Japan middle weight class New King title in 1976. That was aired on TV and the critic, Mr. Daikichi Terauchi, commented that a great new person had appeared. I was asked to stay in the kick boxing world, however, I felt that was not what I wanted. I visited Mr. Masaaki Hatsumi who was the 34th master of Togakushi style Ninjutsu when I was 29 years old. The mas-ter told me about various things and at the end he said ‘If I tell you to die, will you be able to die?’ I got lost in thought. After some silence, he said ‘Join tonight’s training.’ And I joined that night and became his student. I haven’t answered the question yet for 38 years after that, but I knew later that he meant ‘Do it with desperation.’

I was desperate for the first 10 years. I always remembered all the techniques I had learned and wrote them down.

The president of my company got disgusted with me as I went to Noda for training twice a week refusing the overtime work. As it was difficult to balance work and training, I learned osteopathy while working and training, and started my own business and kept training.

What aspect of Bujutsu appeals to you?

Maybe it is what you can learn regardless your age. Bujutsu is what people accomplished by using their best talent and knowledge and fighting for their life. It’s not one in which you compete for a win a loss by rules like sports. The idea is that you use any kind of weapons and anything could be-come weapons. For example, a cup with hot water and chopsticks become weapons. Also it’s important that you sense the change of your surroundings and sign of other people. You don’t have to think about that in sports. First you can-not get rid of your habit of sports and rely on your power and speed. I felt that I had started to change 10 years after I had started to go abroad accompanying my master. I became relaxed and my body moved freely. I don’t adhere to anything and become mindless. I walk 1 hour or longer every day, eat the food which
is good for you and care about my health. I don’t kill creatures thoughtlessly. I feel the value of the silent life.

Speaking of Ninja, Sarutobi Sauke comes to mind. A Bushi who lost in war protected his master, ran away, hid, lived vowing his master’s family’s re-vival, and trained in martial arts. That is the origin of Ninja.

Ieyasu Tokugawa was patient, made the warring society calm and ruled over the whole country. I don’t call him Ninja, but he was the most talented person with Ninjutsu skill.

We have Confucianism which came to Japan and Bushido was born, in which values the order of the society. Although running away from your enemy showing your back was regarded as cowardice and shameful, the bushi in the medieval time who valued honor and dignity also ran away without hesitation when they faced danger. We only have one life.

He has many students from western countries, and you can hear English in the dojo. Japanese who live in the safest and the most peaceful country in the world think that they are strange. They maybe also think that Japanese are strange. People with different cultures gather in the dojo from all over the
world. They accept the differences of each other through training. Martial art is peaceful, therefore, it is maybe popular overseas. Martial art existed all over the world. The Industrial revolution occurred in the 18th century in Europe. Weapons of tremendous destructive power were invented and the era of
swordsmanship ended.

In Japan also guns were brought to Tanegashima Island and they were spread in a blink. The con ventional strategy and technique of fighting changed, but the peaceful period of 260 years has slowly passed by the policy of seclusion and many martial arts were systematized based on a definite theory in this period.

It takes lots of time even to train for one martial art. Bujinkan has nine schools and three of them are Ninjutsu. I won’t be able to reach the wisdom which former teachers piled up even if I spend whole my life. There is no end. As I was taught, I’m training and teaching without exposing my own thought.

Nagano Masako: „Live out your life and love peace”,
Shima no Shimbun, July 2013

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