Ninjutsu training expert Jack Hoban, student of Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, comments on their years as master and student in the art of the ninja.

Jack Hoban is one of the founding fathers of American ninjutsu. He rode the wave of ninja-mania that struck during the 1980s, and he weathered the drought that moved in when the popularity of ninjutsu training plunged. Other fads have come and gone, but still Jack Hoban is there, steadfast is his belief in his art and the ninjutsu training of Masaaki Hatsumi, its 34th-generation grandmaster. In this interview excerpt from the February 2002 issue of Black Belt, Jack Hoban comments on the art and his teacher, Masaaki Hatsumi.


Black Belt: Can you briefly describe your involvement with ninjutsu training and your teacher, Masaaki Hatsumi? Jack Hoban: I studied some karate and escrima and was a captain in the U.S. Marines. I also boxed a little. I read about Stephen K. Hayes and went to some of his training [camps], including the Ninja Festival. It was Stephen K. Hayes who was my first sempai (senior) and who introduced me to Masaaki Hatsumi in 1981 or 1982.

NINJUTSU TRAINING VIDEO Jack Hoban Ninjutsu Training DVD Series, The Art of the Ninja, Features Ninjutsu Techniques as Taught to Him by Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi

Incorporate ninjutsu into your everyday self-defense arsenal with this FREE download!
Ninja Gear: Master Modern Self-Defense Weapons With Ninjutsu Training

BB: What was your initial impression of Masaaki Hatsumi and his style of ninjutsu training? Jack Hoban: Well, he was warm and friendly — very different from the image of the stern Asian martial arts master. His skills were absolutely awesome, and his approach to the martial arts was apples to the oranges I had previously studied. The breadth of his knowledge was amazing, too. He talked about all kinds of things — from swordsmanship to meteorology, from esoteric Buddhism to rope tying, from exotic healing to how to kill a horse quietly. And he had this underlying hint of mystery — like a small waft of smoke that would appear at times. Kind of like a ninja, I guess. (laughs)

Learn how the Japanese sword-fighting style of niten ichi-ryu was accidentally discovered by Miyamoto Musashi in this FREE download!
Miyamoto Musashi: Samurai Weapons Legend, Creator of Niten Ichi-Ryu and Author of The Book of Five Rings

BB: Has your impression of ninjutsu training master Masaaki Hatsumi changed much since then? Jack Hoban: Only in that I see him more as a human being now. In the beginning, he was more like a character from my imagination. I can say this: In all the time I’ve known him, he has never once done anything but support and help me in an extremely straightforward manner. I have heard other people say different things, but that has been my experience. BB: You've undertaken ninjutsu training with Masaaki Hatsumi for quite a long time. How would you describe your relationship with Masaaki Hatsumi? Jack Hoban: I think of him as a mentor and father figure. ... As we both get older, I am starting to feel that I understand him better and am embarrassed at the trouble I caused him over the years by being impatient, arrogant and immature. I hope to be able to repay his kindness in future years by being more pleasant to associate with and less demanding of his time and energy — and his patience. I don’t know what he would say, but all in all, the relationship has been a wonderful one from my point of view. When I first met him, there were not so many people training, so I really got a lot of time alone with him. That is impossible now for most new members of the Bujinkan, so I was lucky. Good timing.

Jack Hoban ninjutsu training DVDs — The Art of the Ninja — available now!

BB: What is the most important aspect of martial arts training — whether ninjutsu training or otherwise? Jack Hoban: Of course, the most important aspect of the Bujinkan and the martial arts is to “keep going.” Keep going in your quest to be a good martial artist, a good person and a person dedicated to peace. BB: What has helped you to keep going in your ninjutsu training? Jack Hoban: Well, a sense of curiosity is one thing. I am constantly entertained by the thought of what Masaaki Hatsumi will come up with next. He once told me that to be good at martial arts, you have to practice three times as much as a normal person, spend three times as much on your training as a normal person and be three times as stupid as a normal person. Stamina, money, mule-ishness. I have at least two of those qualities. (laughs) But seriously, the Warrior Creed keeps me going — knowing I can be one of "those people” who can be counted on when the chips are down. That’s a good feeling. And I have a lot of buyu, too, who are in the same boat as me. We move forward together, but alone. We inspire each other to keep going. About the Interviewer: Josh Sager started studying the martial arts when he was 4. Since then, he has trained in taekwondo, kali, jujitsu and wing chun kung fu. For more information about Jack Hoban, visit his website at LivingValues.com. For more information about ninjutsu training expert Masaaki Hatsumi, visit Bujinkan.com.

Black Belt Magazine has a storied history that dates back all the way to 1961, making 2021 the 60th Anniversary of the world's leading magazine of martial arts. To celebrate six decades of legendary martial arts coverage, take a trip down memory lane by scrolling through some of the most influential covers ever published. From the creators of martial art styles, to karate tournament heroes, to superstars on the silver screen, and everything in between, the iconic covers of Black Belt Magazine act as a time capsule for so many important moments and figures in martial arts history. Keep reading to view the full list of these classic issues.

Keep Reading Show less

On Saturday, May 15, ONE Championship returned with a sensational five-bout card capped off by a ONE Heavyweight World Championship main event.

Arjan "Singh" Bhullar became the first heavyweight in ONE to topple Brandon "The Truth" Vera at ONE: Dangal and became India's first-ever mixed martial arts World Champion in the process. The former Commonwealth Games gold medalist adds to his collection of accolades and now leads a division that is only deepening with talent by the day.

What else went down in Singapore? Here is your chance to catch up with a recap of all the happenings from ONE: Dangal.

Keep Reading Show less

Black Belt is proud to announce NEW online mini-courses with Sifu Damien Chauremootoo.

In Australia, one reality-based training organization stands out: Empower Tactical in Melbourne. Under the leadership of Damien Chauremootoo, Empower Tactical has built a reputation for results in the self-defense world, and now its courses, which combine street savvy and a scientific knowledge of biomechanics with proven strategies and effective techniques, are being made available around the world.

Keep Reading Show less