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Tuesday, August 13, 2013


In 1937 focusing principally on the threat from the Soviet Union the Imperial Japanese Army began to develop the tools and techniques of shadow warfare. A year later, it was decided to formalize training in a spy school, Rikigun Nakano Gakko (Army Nakano School), The Nakano Japanese Military Intelligence School.

The Trainees at Nakano were on a one year course and were trained in a variety of subject matters related to counterintelligence, military intelligence, covert operations, sabotage, along with unconventional military techniques in general, such as guerrilla warfare. The Imperial Japanese Army placed a high priority on the use of unconventional warfare much of the training was either very similar to ninjutsu techniques, or derived directly from them. Shadow warfare, ninja style was the thing, but adapted to the modern world.

Purists within the ninja community argue that the Nakano Graduates were not actually ninjas. However upon closer study of what was taught at Nakano it appears nothing could be further from the truth.  According to Fujita Seiko's autobiography he modified and taught his koga ryu ninjutsu at Nakano. Fujita also went on to say that Nakano's tasks were originally about assassination and sabotage. 

In order to become modern ninja, however, extensive teaching and training was high on the agenda at Nakano. Spiritual refinement, strategy, espionage, unconventional warfare, disguise and impersonation, escape, concealment, geography and meteorology were all part of training.

Historical documents on training in ninjutsu such as the Shoninki, Bansenshukai, and others reveal these very same areas of knowledge. So in comparison  when you breakdown the skills, knowledge and tactics learned at Nakano, there is enough in common with the  training of a ninja during feudal Japan to call the 2500 Nakano graduates modern ninja. The Shadow Warriors of Nakano had to fulfill their missions and could not expect to be honored for it. Such was the same for the ninja of old.

In 2012, The Japan Daily Press reported that Professor Taketoshi Yamamoto at Waseda University recently discovered a set of World War II documents which revealed that the secret military spy school taught ninjutsu, martial arts techniques used by ninjas, as part of its curriculum.

Unarmed combat was also included in the Nakano curriculum, Aikido, various styles of Karate such as Shotokan, Goju, wado ryu and Kenpo. Every close combat system was carefully scrutinized. Numerous karate styles failed the tests. One of the original instructors was Morihei Uyeshiba (of Aikido). Uyeshiba himself was good but when the students tried to apply the techniques they really couldn't make them work under real conditions. It was decided that Aikido had too much "technique" for the limited one year of training. Goju-ryu, with its heavy stress on sanchin training, did not seem to have the practical application necessary, and Wado-ryu technique seemed too "light". Shotokan concentrated on two techniques a front kick and a straight punch, with kicks mostly delivered to the shins.

The NEO- ninja of Nakano needed a more realistic and practical and efficient style of unarmed combat to complete their missions. "Fighting" rather than sparring or kata was stressed at Nakano. The training was realistic, violent and led to considerable injuries.  One had to continue fighting no matter whether injured or defeated. It is quite possible that the instructors at Nakano also used this kind of training, though brutal, for checking the effectiveness of techniques under realistic conditions.

The soldiers of the Japanese Army were trained in Karate and Judo or at least the basics, however, the Japanese command was dead set on developing on shortest terms a system of Killing Techniques, a close quarter combat system that would put the enemy out of commission quickly and efficiently.

Seiko Fujita (Wada-Ha Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, Nanban Sato Ryu Kenpo), replaced Uyeshiba Morihei, as the Martial Arts instructor and taught Kenpo/Kempo and ninjutsu at the Nakano Japanese Imperial Military Intelligence School. Toward the end of WW II Seiko was ordered, according to his autobiography, by the Imperial Japanese Government and was tasked to come up with such a system for the Imperial Japanese Army.

The unarmed/minimally armed close combat art he taught was  “Nanban Satto Ryu Kenpo” (“Foreign Killing Fist Method”, ”南蛮殺到流拳法”)Texts of Fujita’s Kenpo (“Kenpo Gokui Atemi Sakkatsuho Meikai” & “Kenpo Gokui Sakkatsuho Zukai” – “Illustrated Secret Kenpo Killing Strikes”) show that Fujita’s style was indeed a method for fighting and killing an opponent concentrating on the vital areas of the human body and at what precise angle a blow should be delivered. A sniper’s manual of Kenpo striking techniques so to speak.  Fujita Seiko’s Nakano school kenpo curriculum may indeed have a surviving variation thru Nakano graduate Naraki Hara.


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