Transcript for Mr. Stephen K. Hayes – The First American Ninja, Ninjuts

the human experience is entering the

shadows of EAGA as we explore ninjutsu

with my guest mr. Steven Hayes mr. Hayes

thank you so much for being here sir

it’s an honor it’s great to be here so

mr. Hayes if you could briefly tell our

audience who you are and what you do for

those that don’t already know that would

help to preface this conversation well

in a nutshell in the 1970s I went to

Japan to find the last training hall of

the ninja this is before there were

Turtles or anything else like that you

know and I was the first American to

become actual disciple of the Grand

Master there and for several decades I

stayed in Japan went back and forth from

America it was a very different martial

art from the 1980s the idea of being a

protector as opposed to being a champion

somebody who fights for his own name

very different and I developed from

mid-1990s a modern version of the ninja

fighting art I called it tossing dull

and I’ve been promoting that since the

mid 1990s and here we are 20 years later

I was inducted into the black belt Hall

of Fame in 1985

I’ll get the martial art industry

association Lifetime Achievement Award

this July wrapping up a career here

very interesting I’d like to get more

into I mean black belt magazine calls


legend one of the most 10 influential

martial arts masters alive in the world

today if you could just kind of go into

more of your story about how you got to

Japan and met Natsume sensei I think

that would be interesting well got to

travel back you know almost 40 years to

a time when Hatsumi sensei was

relatively young guy in his early 40s

his teacher

Takamatsu sensei had just died Takamatsu

was the guy from the 1800s he witnessed

a lot of radical change in Japanese

culture went through the war and had

found in Hatsumi sensei a worthy heir

and so he had just finished transmitting

all of this ancient cryptic lore and had

died in his 80s I arrived on the scene

there were 15 people training in the

dojo at that time you know it’s kind of

funny to think now when you look at all

thousands and thousands of people around

the world involved in this but there

were 15 people and I was the

non-japanese and I was amazed that they

allowed me to train they were very

welcoming brought me right into the

training hall

training was brutal very very rough

rougher than I was used to later I found

out you know I was so honored that they

would allow me to train with them years

later my what my Japanese wife was


with one of the Japanese seniors and you

know she had expressed that you know I

was honored that they had accepted me

and he looks at her and he says all he

says is that what he thought happened

she said what do you mean oh no we

thought he was a big guy from America we

try all the techniques out on him he’d

get sick of us after about a week and

want to go back home and we could

continue on where they’re training he

just never went home so I was I guess

supposed to be discouraged but you know

what I learned there was so different

from anything I had encountered in the

u.s. and it just steeped my desire no

matter how rough or discouraging it was

I was determined that I was gonna learn

this I was gonna get this I was gonna be

the the ninja martial art yeah yeah very

very interesting in your book I’m not

sure which one there I think I mean

didn’t you write to me sensei and there

was kind of no reply and you just showed

up in Japan yeah this is you know way

before the internet or emails or

anything like that and I managed to find

it an address I just sent a letter to

Masaaki Hatsumi in notice city and I

sent several letters actually finding

three didn’t get any reply but it just

you know I was obsessed I had to do it

and I got there and they were very

welcoming for the you know for the

reasons I just went into and I said oh


you get a letter from me oh yeah we got

three letters from you and I’ll sue me

since I said he knew you were coming

over so there was no need to reply Wow

okay so I guess I was that obvious in my

determination to to get it or he knew

psychically that you know this was going

to be an important relationship for the

ninja martial art I’ll never know I’ll

never know yeah very very intriguing

with that story why why do you think

ninjutsu has survived for so many

thousand years I think it’s a couple

thousand years well that’s a really good

question obviously political situations

in Japan of the 1500s the 1600s you know

no longer exist this isn’t an

underground resistance movement but you

know modern times there are different

very different but equally perplexing

difficult times you know people have so

much more than they’ve ever had before

and yet it seems that you know people

aren’t so happy they have plenty of free

time and certainly the Internet has

allowed people to be in touch with each

other and yet you know there’s there’s a

lot of discord and so when we look at

what ninjutsu really is it really is not

a martial art as such

that’s just one aspect of it it really

is about how to fit in how to adjust

oneself so that we don’t make a target

out of ourselves people don’t notice us

as much as say you would notice a MMA

champion or somebody like that and so as

the ages go by different challenges

arise for human beings and there’s

something that’s timeless about this

ninjutsu that causes it to continue to

change its form a little bit and be very

be very valid to study in the different

different times since World War two what

do you think what do you think it is

about ninjutsu that makes it so

different than other martial arts well I

can say pretty quickly you know a lot of

in the West in the West anyway a lot of

martial arts are set up really on a

sport model two people go into a ring

and you know the better man wins and

this guy who comes in second place you

know he vows to train harder and he’ll

get another chance and ninjutsu is so

old that it goes back to an older time

an older age where you either won and

there was no second place you know you

were killed or maimed and and it was

used as a way to preserve peace to

encourage peace the samurai warlords

were you know vying with each other for

power and the ninja could

subtly persuade these people peace was

was was was better and so to this day

the reliance on rescuing other people

and escaping just defend and then

disappear makes ninjutsu a very

different kind of a martial art than one

where a 28 year old champion at the

height of his you know physical prowess

is temporarily the guy that everybody

celebrates yeah I mean this might be a

little bit of a controversial question

you can elect to not answer it if you

want but what was what happened between

the Bujinkan system and that the tow

Shindo system I mean there was kind of a

split where you decided to open the

quest centers and move away from how to

me sense his teachings what caused that

well what happened

over the years the 1970s until the early

2000s I wrote a series of books that are

still available to this day and it made

ninjutsu quite famous so there weren’t

15 people studying for very long

everybody wanted to everybody wanted to

be Steven Hayes you know they all wanted

to be the the guy and when you can’t be

the guy I’m the guy you have to create a

new role but people wanted to have that

old days kind of a situation so that was

going on there were a lot of people that

know didn’t particularly like me you

know they were to try

to criticize the way I handled the early

days of publicity and so forth they

wanted to be important so that was one

aspect another aspect was that Hatsumi

sensei was changing and he was adjusting

the art to fit what Japan was looking

for what Europeans were looking for it

wasn’t the same art that I had studied

in the 1970s it became kind of like a

abstract art strange funny kind of

situations how would you defend against

guy with two six-foot bows you know

things that would never happen in real


they were just fun to explore but I was

not ready to go there I really believed

in the way we had trained originally so

finally there were some individuals that

were so obsessed you know really with me

and my role they wanted to all cause a

little trouble and so I find I felt I

had gotten my start I had 30 years of

training with HUD Sumi sensei

it was time to take the ninja martial

art and really make it appropriate for

an American base hmm okay fair enough

thank you so much for answering that

what do you think is the most esoteric

thing that you’ve learned about ninjutsu

would be in all of your years of


well the way I use the word esoteric it

means something that is not obvious

it could even be explained to somebody

and theirs is not going to get it it’s a

truth that exists but without certain

experiences nobody’s gonna understand

that truth so I would say the most

esoteric thing that I’ve learned is the

reality behind why ninjutsu exists the

the subtle way in which the training

effects changes a person and again I’m

going back to my 1970s training that way

you can’t stay in this martial art and

just get stronger you have to change as

a human being

as you’re learning these lessons and

that changes were not always easy

changes were very heartbreaking

sometimes but those were necessary in

order to develop a kind of warrior

wisdom at the end of the path why do you

feel like there are I mean you don’t

really see any ninjas in combat arena

such as the UFC and other fighting

stages why do you think that is well you

know the Brazilian jiu-jitsu rule book

is pages after pages of all of these

rules and PFC the same thing you can’t

attack the groin you can’t attack hinge

joints they’re all is so-called

no-holds-barred but there’s an extremely

small window

of applicability and so athletes train

how to fit into that window and overcome

somebody else and it’s just not what

we’re interested in doing I’m 66 years

old you know what if I had to fight some

28 year old who has 50 pounds of muscle

on me I still have to win by submitting

myself to these rules and attitude MMA

is big business now

I mean mega big business and so they

play two people against each other and

you know one steals the other guy’s belt

and they’re about to get into a fight on

the stage and you know it’s all planned

a big business this is philosophically

at great odds with real ninjutsu where

what we’re trying to do is confuse an

opponent into not seeing us as an

opponent can you can you get into some

of the differences between toch Indo and

the Bujinkan systems well one of the

things that is different is the way that

people attack Bujinkan attacking method

is kind of a standard from an old age

where people had very short limbs and a

long body you know genetically the

Japanese of 300 years ago 400 years ago

and so a lot of in fact all of the

attacks are initiated with a right foot

moving forward and a right hand striking

so see if you know the listeners can

picture that right foot and right hand

going forward at the same time

nobody fights like that today nobody

fights like that they project a left

foot forward and throw a left hand at or

a right hand and so that was the first

thing that we changed

we made the attacks more like what an

individual is going to experience in the

real world of attacks today the second

thing that’s very different is in

ancient Japan ninja would get into a

fighting situation very rarely and it

was almost always an escape how to

escape so there were a certain kind of

spirit training we could say that was

just unnecessary in those days everybody

knew each day you go out we’ve got the

possibility of physical run in today a

lot of people don’t really know what

violence looks like so we have to teach

them what violence looks like how it

sounds there are certain things that

people say when they’re trying to

confuse a victim and so there’s a heavy

reliance on verbal combat as well as the

more realistic attacking method so

that’s just the beginning that’s the

beginning of what of what pushing doli

is how it’s different from the Bujinkan

method you know I saw I saw you on the

Discovery Channel and you were kind of

tasked to go in there and kind of take

this guy’s hat off or something and

which I found very interesting but how

what do you think the best way to defuse

violence would be or is oh wow that’s a

very broad question are we talking about

violence among strangers violence among

angry people all by

among people to know each other take

quite a long time to answer that so I

think the best thing to say you know

where we start in is trying to

understand where this other person is

coming from you know somebody could be

they got a bad day bad lifetime you know

and they’re just mouthy and saying stuff

that they shouldn’t and it’s offensive

and we need to put a stop to this

well it’s – the law doesn’t allow us to

punish people for saying things no

matter what they say if they’re just

talking we can’t stop them from talking

that’s the way the law is if a black

belt in ninja martial art pushing though

were to physically go over and stop

somebody from talking oh gee yeah you’d

be arrested and understanding where a

person is coming from so somebody’s you

know shooting his mouth off you know I

might say something oh man not you’re

the third person I’ve hacked off today

and I’m getting in everybody’s way let

me just get out of here I get in the

truck I’m taking on if you get in your

truck you go your way I’m apologize to

you I’m sorry

well that’s kind of a strange way a

slightly humorous gives the guy away out

you save face my friend knows I just say

that guy’s life and you know so that is

I would say you know the beginning

understanding where this person is

coming from and then fitting in allowing

ourself to fit in to that exchange is

there is there a personal way that you

deal with injuries because I know that

with training there’s usually a lot of

kind of wear and tear injuries that come

about from that well there’s not really

that much we’re much safer than


we lose a lot more people to basketball


and we do martial arts I think because

it’s so dangerous that when people are

training they’re totally aware of how

far to take something you know for

themselves for their training partner

you know whereas with basketball or

skateboarding or something else you know

they might be injury prone a person has

another challenge oh I’m gonna make this

ramp I’m gonna dunk this basket things

that you know distract away from how

dangerous the activity is I guess we

really don’t have that many injuries in

our training so how do you think this

this training toch Indo can improve your

everyday life well we start with the

most scary possibility known to human

being and that is what if I weren’t

alive you know what if this person had

their way and I’m gone and there are all

kinds of considerations you know maybe

this person is just too big how do I fit

in there maybe it’s not worth fighting

how do I get myself away and out of

there without making a target for myself

maybe because the talker is not the

problem the problem is his cousin over

there who’s real quiet who’s just gonna

sneak up behind you and hit you over the

head it demands absolute complete

attention and I think that in our busy

times you know busy lives you know that

feels good it feels zen-like you know

many is the time we’ll be training along

and say ok well we’re done for the night

and people do a double-take they look at

the clock

they can’t believe that 45 minutes has

gone by there that rapidly involved in

physical training the mental training

trying to get better letting go of bad

habits trying to pick up a new good

habit I think that’s really the key to

you know how this works

why it works why people continue to

train for years and years what what can

you say I know you’ve been training for

many years but what can you say has been

the most difficult lesson that you’ve

had to learn through your training well

physically when I started back in the

1970s you know I was in my 20s I was

very used to a kind of aggressive style

of movement charging forward and

knocking limbs out of the way and

hitting and that’s just totally the

opposite of the ninja way of winning we

engage the limbs we let the person think

they’re winning for a half a second we

fit in and that took me a lot of years I

would get it and then under a test or

whatever I would you know be thrown on a

loop and go back to the old way just

standing there trying to slug my way out

and these guys had become phantoms and

that yes I think that was probably that

the toughest thing you know and it was

good that I had the teacher that I had

that’s Umi sensei is a very different

person for me very different person and

that’s good if you’re studying with a

person who’s exactly like you it’ll just

reinforce your bad habits so I had to

learn new ways of of doing things

sometimes I wondered if he was kidding

me you know this can’t be real but I’ll

just go along with it and sure enough it

turned out you know that’s one of the

aspects of growth that I experienced in


okay well I mean you’re you’re credited

with being a Buddhist and it seems like

serendipity is a major famine you you

have to be the most lucky person in the

universe just because you were a

security advisor for the Dali Lama how

how did that occur how did that happen

well I had visited with the Dalai Lama

in 1986 when I was in India and just as

you say very lucky very lucky he had a

brother who lived just a few hours away

from me back in the US he was the first

one to escape Tibet in 1951 and he had

worked as a professor at Indiana

University so I went over to see his

brother and you know find out a few more

things from him and that very so 8687

the Dalai Lama came to Indiana to see

his brother brought all these monks with

him and so I got to see him again there

and he remembered me it was a very

amazing memory that he has he remembered

me and then 88 I got to see him again 89

I was in Los Angeles at a conference

where he was and they announced that he

had won Nobel Peace Prize and

immediately the sleepy little California

coastal campus just went wild reporters

and people showing up people who didn’t

even you know think about the Dalai Lama

take him seriously suddenly where

pouring in and by then I had gotten to

know the Dalai Lama’s family and gotten

to know his political staff and so I

jumped in and helped them with some

security security at this little sleepy

California University was you know some

old old duffer with that time key

walking around you know the you know

they had no security at all really and

so after that he was coming to Ohio and

the staff had by then gotten to know who

I was and asked if I would help with the

Ohio visit and then it just went on and

on from there whenever he would visit

the u.s. and be in the Midwest I would

organize a team that lasted until Oh

1999 and that’s when the federal

government got involved we just we

couldn’t keep doing this with you know

volunteer work and finally talked the

federal government into supplying State

Department dignitary protection team and

so like 70 guys would show up and three

bomb sniffing dogs and you know

intelligence briefings every morning at

that point I can I mean they were only

protecting the Dalai Lama and I mean

there were a lot of people at the events

that you know needed security and so I

continued as a liaison officer kind of

working with the State Department and

even played the role of the MC a couple

of times to introduce him to the to the

crowd as the years went by you know I’m

too old to be a potty guard now they

have guys one-third my age you know yeah

Wow Wow very very interesting this

Heys I do really appreciate your time

and you have to be one of the most

interesting people that I’ve gotten a

chance to read about and hear about is

there is there a place then that people

can find out more about your work

yeah the best place probably is the web

Steven K Hays you just write that out

like one giant word ste Phe my s Steven

K Hays dot-com and that gives them a way

to find out about my training school

here in Ohio find out about our we have

a massive library of techniques that are

online now people can subscribe and

basic lessons to intermediate lessons to

some pretty exotic techniques some of

the weapons some of the psychic you

could call it psychic type of work that

we do all available online so Steven K

Hays calm would be the best place to go

just to check it out perfect

we will make sure that we link that in

the comment section below

mr. Hays thank you so much for being

here this is the human experience my

name is Xavier we’re going to get out of

here thank you so much for listening

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