Why Does a Martial Artist Paint?

Learn more about the paintings & calligraphy of martial arts grandmaster, Masaaki Hatsumi.

In the martial arts there is an essence – a feeling beyond training and knowledge and skill.

Performance at this intuitive level is beyond description.

So how does a master martial artist teach this indescribable feeling?


The Artist


Masaaki Hatsumi is the head instructor of 9 historical martial traditions dating back 900 years. His students travel from around the world to train with him at his dojo in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.


Hatsumi Sensei mentors his students physically, verbally and with brushwork. His lessons are challenging and occasionally excruciatingly painful but they provide students with an opportunity to taste this essential feeling.


Masaaki Hatsumi was born in 1931 and raised in Noda City, Japan. Hatsumi Sensei’s teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, trained and appointed him Soke (head instructor) of nine Japanese martial schools.

34th Soke 戸隠流 Togakure Ryu
28th Soke 玉虎流 Gyokko Ryu
28th Soke 九鬼神伝流 Kuki Shinden Ryu
18th Soke 虎倒流 Koto Ryu
26th Soke 神伝不動流 Shinden Fudo Ryu
17th Soke 高木揚心流 Takagi Yoshin Ryu
15th Soke 義鑑流 Gikan Ryu
21st Soke 玉心流 Gyokushin Ryu
14th Soke 雲隠流 Kumogakure Ryu

“I see Hatsumi Sensei’s heart and soul reaching out from these works. I am struck by his personality and his inexhaustible spirit. His soul finds bursts of expression through his martial and artistic actions, making these works and photos truly moving.”
— Shunkei Yahagi, Artist of Japanese Calligraphy

Bruce Helander interviews Masaaki Hatsumi

Bruce Helander is a writer for Huffington Post, former White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and Editor-in-Chief of the Art Economist. In 2014 he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

In 2001, Masaaki Hatsumi traveled from Japan to Washington D.C. to teach a martial arts seminar.  While there, he met with Bruce Helander to discuss his art.

In this video we illustrate excerpts from the interview with photography from the book, Masaaki Hatsumi: Dojo Art. Join us to learn more about Masaaki Hatsumi’s art and his purpose.

More about Bruce Helander is on his site and on Huffington Post.

“Alive, thrilling and contemporary… These works are a direct dialogue with the recipient and are both didactic and inspirational. Each image conveys a narrative and a relationship with both the viewer and history.”
— Paul Fisher, Owner of Paul Fisher Gallery

Contact Us

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Steve Olsen
Photographer & Publisher,
Masaaki Hatsumi: Dojo Art

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