By the start of the 1980's the Kung Fu craze was starting to die down and the country was about to have not one but two major Martial Art influences for the decade. The first part of the 80's was owned by the Ninja!! Every wear you turned in the Martial Arts world or in the media you saw the influence of Ninjutsu. The craze for the art started slowly in 1967 when the James Bond film "You only live twice" hit the theaters. This was the first time the black clad assassins were shown to the mainstream public. By 1980 the art of Ninjutsu was all the rage. The only problem was that there were virtually no qualified teachers to satisfy the demand for the art. A hand full of teachers who had been traveling to Japan for a few years already, were holding Camps and spreading the style to whoever wanted to learn. Teachers like Stephen Hayes and Bud Malmstrom were traveling to train in Japan with the last of the living Ninjutsu teachers, Masaaki Hatsumi. The big problem was that the lack of teachers meant that many unscrupulous instructors began to pop up all over the country claiming to teach Ninjutsu. Especially on the east coast where many martial arts teachers tried to cash in on the popularity of Ninjutsu by claiming to be teachers of a different lineage then Hatsumi.
No matter where you looked in the media the Ninja were there, or were they? (lol) Every martial arts publication was swamped with Ninja articles and most of the adds were for the sale of Ninja weapons and gear. You saw the Ninja as principal characters in major Hollywood films. They were being satirized in commercials and on late night television. By the mid 80's there were more qualified teachers starting to help spread Ninjutsu as many started to follow suit and make many trips to Japan to train, and Hatsumi had also made many trips to the U.S. to help the spread of the art. The art of Ninjutsu is a complex style and this complexity is one of the reasons that the style began to lose its luster among the general public. One of the biggest downfalls of the art was the over commercialization (think, Teenage mutant Ninja Turtles). There are no competitions or competitiveness in Ninjutsu. Americans, culturally being very competitive in nature felt this was lacking and many people moved on to other systems that offered tournament competitions. Today there are still hundreds of groups training in Ninjutsu in America, although they are relatively harder to find and most do not operate in traditional storefront type of businesses.
Next week we will hit the mid 80's and the Martial Art that due to it's inclusion in the 1988 Olympics, became the next major player in the development of the arts today.