From Ninja to Needles


Not older than 12 or 13 I must have been. And already a big fan of books by then. No, not the literature we had to read in school. But books and magazines on martial arts, Ki and meditation. I can’t exactly recall the order in which I bought them, but I think one of my first books in that genre was: The Zen Way to Martial Arts by Taisen Deshimaru. Two subjects for the price of one!

Mystique c’est moi

One day I walked into the well-known bookstore Donner in Rotterdam, then still situated at the former location which now houses Dudok, famous for their apple pie. Naturally I directly went to my favourite section: Martial arts. Immediately my eyes were caught by the title “The Mystic Arts of the Ninja”. This kid’s heart really made a jump out of sheer joy and excitement. Technically a teenager, but in most aspects i was still a small kid. Same as now actually. Minus the teenage part.

Yesssss Ninja’s, yesssss mystique! I kept the book with me 24/7. Devoured it. The author was Stephen K. Hayes. At that time my new personal hero. He had lived my dream; had gone to the East to study with a Grandmaster. In (t)his case Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, 34th generation of this Ninjutsu lineage. Wow!

Father’s help

Ninjutsu turned out to be more than a black suit, a sword and the night. Fascinating. I wanted to do that too. With my father’s help I wrote a letter in English to request for more information to the address mentioned in the book: Shadows of Iga Ninja Society. That name alone made my eyes light up. And to my delight, a while later mail came in from the US. A beige brochure. Wow, I received an answer. But to quote the penguin from Madagascar: “Now what?”

Ohio wasn’t any closer to home than Japan or China. So I turned to my father again and asked through a follow up letter if there was any list with legitimate teachers in Europe. Hard to imagine, but Google did not exist at that time. This time I received a hand written lettter back, saying that he did not have such a list. So decent that he took the time to write back, but of course I was disappointed.

A while later, with my eldest sister, I did get to visit the dojo of Hans Hesselmann who to my (limited) knowledge introduced Ninjutsu in the Netherlands. But unfortunately, I had not yet reached the age that allowed me to train there. So all that was left for me, was my own Shuriken (throwing stars) which I bought at Asahi. And a second book on Ninjutsu that I found. This time written by the Grandmaster himself: History & Tradition. The lineage of 34 Grandmasters, which is mentioned in the beginning of the book, I tried to learn by heart. That might be impressive was my reasoning. By the way, relatively a short while ago, I lent that book to a boy in the clinic who carefully asked me if I was secretely a Ninja.


In the years waiting until I was 16 a lot changed. In especially my interests, focus, attitude and discipline. And so Ninjutsu disappeared from my radar. Now, 35 years after my visit to Donner I use needles instead of Shuriken. My interest within martial arts took a shift more towards the art part, to expression and of course healing. Spirituality remained. Like of course my love for books. My current read? Vajrakilaya: Heart of Light, Blade of Thunder. About a secret lore and practise, within the Tibetan Buddhist and Spiritual paradigms. The author? Stephen K. Hayes.

Each chapter closes with Possibilities to Contemplate. After the very first chapter I read the following questions:

“Who did you want to be when you were little? What were your fantasy themes and someday dreams?Do you remember what called out to you and got your attention as a small child? What grabbed your heart? What pulled you to think and explore and hope for? What really made your eyes light up?”

Questions and contemplations that are right up my alley. Questions that I also potentially ask in my clinic. Not useful or realistic to contemplate what you dreamed of as a kid? Why not? Then please describe what it means to be realistic. And who or what is your frame of reference for that description, Interesting to contemplate right?

A heart’s adventure

Against the background of all interests and shifts mentioned above, very soon a new adventure will begin for me. That will bring me closer to the lineage of Toshitsugu Takamatsu (the Mongolian tiger) and Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, than i have imagined in the past 35 years. But now through a very different route. How, what and where I will expand upon in the near future. As kind of a preperation, lately I have been delving into Ninjutsu literature again. The tradition, the masters and practicioners. And alongside that path, I ran into the Vajrakilaya book. No, I do not aspire to become a Ninja at this point of my life. But one thing is for sure. This kid’s heart will always need to blossom.