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Stephen K. Hayes

An-shu Stephen K. Hayes is everyone’s image of the iconic master warrior sage. Black Belt Magazine calls him “A legend; one of the ten most influential martial arts masters alive in the world today” for good reason. He is peerless in his ability to share real and honest ninja combat secrets enriched by unparalleled insights from the Himalayan meditative mind sciences. His genius is his ability to translate exotic esoteric concepts from ancient cultures into practical useful understanding for Western seekers. His gift is his ability to deliver a complete and all-inclusive approach to personal security and personal power.

Courses by Stephen K. Hayes

Bojutsu Kihon

Bojutsu Kihon is a 9-kyu course introducing the bo long staff fundamentals taught by To-Shin Do. Completion of the course might take a year-and-a-half to two years. 9 kyu diplomas are issued, followed by a Bojutsu Kihon diploma, comparable to receiving a Black Belt in bojutsu.

Four Foundations of Movement

An-shu Stephen K. Hayes teaches his approach to the four elements as four specific physio-emotional responses to an attack. Earth holding ground, water tactically repositioning, fire intercepting, and wind evading are the four key ways of movement to explore in your beginning study of To-Shin Do.

Techniques From Kata Yaburi No Kamae

In this course, An-shu Stephen K. Hayes takes students through several examples of how to successfully break the form in order to win. Unarmed taijutsu, knife combat, and hanbo cane fighting are offered as examples of the concept of how to employ the special mind set of kata yaburi.

Da Shin

This is an extremely advanced application of principles from the Gyokko Ryu Chu-Ryaku no Maki “Middle Scroll” of training methods. An-shu Stephen K. Hayes shows how to capture a knifer’s attack. Once captured, he then stays with it long enough to sense where the attacker is going, and he accommodates the attacker in a way […]


An-shu details 弾 手 Dan-Shu (“Blink-of-an-eye hand hit” or “Bullet hand”) from Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu Joryaku


An-shu Hayes demonstrates Ro-To and Fu-Do katas at his annual Ninja Festival.

Instructing Earth: Grabbing Attacks

This course covers grabbing attacks and limb restraints from the side and rear, as well as tackle takedowns. An-Shu Hayes and his instructors cover in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to create dynamic earth level classes!

Instructing Earth: Front Attacks

This course covers front striking attacks and limb restraints from the earth element. An-Shu Hayes and his instructors cover in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to create dynamic earth level classes!

Instructing Water: Grabbing Defenses

Learn grabbing attacks and defenses from the water element. This course covers in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to take water level classes to the next level!

Instructing Water: Striking Defenses

Explore striking attacks and defenses from the water element. This course covers in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to take water level classes to the next level!

Magical Escapes

Explore some of the key 6th Degree To-Shin Do Black Belt principles and techniques with An-shu Stephen K. Hayes.

Kuji Kiri

An-shu gives a from-the-heart explanation and interpretation of training in spiritual protection power projection for martial artists. This is the ninja legendary Kuji Kiri, showing Initiation into Kuji Kiri Grid of 9 Syllable Slashes.

Gyaku Nage Kata

The Kuki Shinden Ryu taijutsu exercise Gyaku Nage was most likely originally taught as a way to learn to fight an adversary in Japanese samurai armor. That is how my teacher first taught it to me in Japan in the 1970s.

Sword Mastery Series – Happo Giri Kata

The principle of ‘cutting the cut’ looks like a simple way to win when your adversary underestimates you, but you need bravery, precision, and well-practiced skill to make it work. We show you the secrets for Happo Giri as part of our dojo’s program for earning 4th Degree Black Belt.

Path to Mastery

Techniques to understand the wind element will bring you closer to your To-Shin Do Black Belt. Body positioning, kamae, and timing are the keys to success.

Lineage Study

Lessons from the scrolls of Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Kukishinden Ryu and Togakure Ryu for advanced understanding of the roots of To-Shin Do.

Foundations of Self Protection

Learn how to defend against the most common assaults on the street with An-shu’s Foundations of Self Protection course. This is a great place to begin training in To-Shin Do.

Posts by Stephen K. Hayes

Building Brand Identity

Some students have expressed concern over the relative lack of recognition of the identity of To-Shin Do. After being around for almost 30 years, people still have a hard time recognizing our martial art by name. But can you blame them? Next time you are suited up to train, look down at your left chest […]

Dealing With Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Violence

The purpose and methodology preserved in our To-Shin Do kata were not created to address mutually consented fighting, where we agree to fight another martial artist until one of us quits. Our practice methods address handling non-consensual violence. That means self-protection, or stoping harm when attacked with criminal violence. The purpose determines the strategies used […]

To-Shin Take Charge of Your Thoughts

We all have bad days. Here’s another truth. Our To-Shin Do training teaches us that no one is in charge of your mood but you. No one can hurt your feelings. No one can make you mad. I know. This conflicts with the currently popular view where everyone believes they are a victim. But an […]

Clarifying My New Position

In my mid-70s, I now call myself retired. That just means I no longer run a dojo, I drastically cut back on my traveling seminars, and I have assigned rank-awarding duties to the To-Shin Do seniors. I am however still working with a select few dedicated students. In the past, I devoted my entire life […]

The Tragedy of the “Wave Person”

There is an American interpretation of a Japanese concept that is totally backwards. Some martial artists love to brag that they are “ronin”, a lone masterless samurai. They even name their (usually small) training halls “Ronin Dojo”. Maybe this comes from a misguided sense of the American pioneer spirit, going it alone to forge a […]

The Tragedy of the “Wave Person”

There is an American interpretation of a Japanese concept that is totally backwards. Some martial artists love to brag that they are “ronin”, a lone masterless samurai. They even name their (usually small) training halls “Ronin Dojo”. Maybe this comes from a misguided sense of the American pioneer spirit, going it alone to forge a […]

Secret of Focus – Danshari

An-shu Rumiko and I have been exploring the Japanese concept of Danshari for several years now. Dan-sha-ri could be defined as Dan for “Cut (select, refuse)”, Sha is “Discard, let go”, and Ri is “Liberate, lift up.” “Discern, select, liberate”. Danshari is the process of arranging our homes, workspaces, dojos, cars, and relationships to where […]

Proving the Effectiveness of Our Art

Back in the 1980s, I had very few actual students studying the ninja martial arts with me. Instead of running a dojo, I ran seminars around the world. Into the 1990s, I had 13 actual challenges come up at these seminars. Guys figured that if I was on the cover of Black Belt Magazine, and […]

November’s To-Shin Do Curriculum

This month To-Shin Do explores several key principles and techniques. For our Level 1 students, you’ll explore how to exploit the gift of your attacker’s momentum and how to skillfully applied proper alignment overpowers bigger bodies. Level 2 is in Fire mode this month, exploring vectors, intercepting, angles, using gravity to accelerate in unexpected ways […]

The Many Facets of Ninja Taijutsu

Last year at Festival 41, we emphasized training in a very advanced ninja style combat called Santo Tonko no Kata, or “Method of the escaping rat”. This was a unique form of combat especially suitable for intelligence gatherers. If a spy had his cover blown and had to make an escape, he might have been […]

Secret Winning Power Within

I was talking with a student recently who expressed some pretty conventional negative thoughts about how her life had gone from childhood. Somewhat unhappy relationship with parents. Managed to graduate high school. OK but not super marriage. Picked up a little weight that will not come off easily. It was a sad but normal take […]

Who is Your Teacher?

Best advice ever given to me as a martial artist? “Know yourself and exactly why you are training in the martial arts, and then carefully select the best role model teacher who directly addresses your motivating passion.” For me, that meant looking all across America for a teacher who inspired me with his skill, ability […]

The Worst Advice I Ever Got

Worst advice I ever got? “Shut up and train. Don’t bother me with silly questions about people or techniques. Just do what I say. Practice the martial arts in their unchanging classical form and you can easily adapt them to modern 21st century self protection; it will be simple.” Wrong on all points. I studied […]

Same Conclusion, Different Endeavor

I read this recently, from an interview with Olympic fencer Daryl Homer by Clay Skipper, July 13, 2021, and it absolutely paralleled what we do in advanced To-Shin Do combat. He puts it precisely on the nose! “…with our sport, we really have to understand the opponent’s psychology. Like, you might be a really strong […]

Kyo-Jitsu Ten-Kan Ho

It is said that the ninja uses the juxtaposition of falsehood and truth (kyo-jitsu ten-kan ho) as one of his options for winning. Ostensibly this is translated as presenting truth as falsehood and falsehood as truth. This seems obvious as a ninjutsu tactic. If you are strong, appear weak to trick an adversary into underestimating […]

Force of the Killer

I used to teach this a long time ago. But then I sensed that people could not really understand or grasp it. Anyway, here it is again, the three variations to applying sak-ki “force of the killer” as taught to me in the ninja dojo back in the 1970s: Sak-ki – Experiencing and projecting a […]

Codes in Martial Arts Training?

A friend wrote critically of codes and creeds in martial arts schools. He feels people just want fitness and self-defense and do not sign up for what he calls “Boy Scouts or Sunday School”. He has a valid point. But what of people who want more than fitness and fighting from their martial arts study? […]

COVID Meditation for Restored Health

Let’s look at one action we can all take to diminish the effects of another wave of Covid in the world. Sit comfortably, either on the floor or in a chair. Keep your spine straight. Close your eyes. Place your hands in your lap, palms up, right hand on the left. Enjoy a few relaxing […]

Five Minds in the Middle of Conflict

Traditional martial arts training, back when martial arts prepared the practitioner for living accurately and safely, offers us a series of five states of mind to explore while training and moving about in the world. 初 心 Sho-shin, the “beginners mind”,a state of awareness that remains fully prepared to enjoy things for the first time. […]

3 Levels, 3 Tips

After 50+ years of teaching martial arts, some things stand out. Let’s take a look at 12 bare-bones gotta-do-it To-Shin Do skills as minimal requirements. In To-Shin Do Level 1 classes (White and Yellow Belts) as you practice the 12 fight scenarios and basic striking and ground-hitting skills, you have to constantly remember 3 things: […]

To-Shin Do Schools – Vision, Mission, and Values

I was asked how I define our work, and specifically, what makes the Quest Center To-Shin Do schools stand out. Here is what I ended up replying: Vision: Life mastery through martial arts Mission: To encourage peace, happiness, friendship, and fulfillment through the practice of modern and classical protection, health and fitness, life organization, and […]

Consistent Tiny Steps Win the Day

“An ant on the move is more powerful than a dozing ox.” – Lao Tzu Even though we start from humble beginnings, we can rise to lead a extraordinary life. If little practices are repeated consistently over time, we can improve ourselves and advance in capabilities. We come to the dojo two or three times […]

Concepts, Principles, and Techniques

Something I will be emphasizing in seminars this year is the differentiation between concepts, principles, and technique instructions. If our students know the concept of good taijutsu and know the principle being taught, it may help them do their techniques more correctly. A CONCEPT is an overarching description that applies to everything we do. “Rely […]

Why the 3-Part Student Creed?

When people come into our schools as white belts, they learn a three-part Student Code, or student creed, and promise to abide by it. We tell them right up front: “These are the three things you must remember whenever you’re doing anything dangerous, whether it’s a surf board, or a bungee jump, or martial arts […]

Order and Chaos

What if martial arts training is really an interactive experience of order and chaos? When there is an imbalance, there is less than effective training. You need to have order — the discipline, respect, and intelligently paced learning. You also need the chaos — free testing, the “try it outs”, and “what ifs”. When you […]

Above the Fray

I am 70, and have seen so many cultural fads come and go over the decades. WWII vets got parades; Viet Nam vets got spat on; Iraq vets got applauded in airports. Black and white were segregated in the 1930s; black and white were integrated in the 1970s; blacks demanded black-only spaces on college campuses […]

Fire Preemptive Attack

In a third possibility, Hi no Kata fire element dynamics are the energy of committed intensity and focus. You learn to recognize a problem as it builds. You intercept at just the right moment. Theme – Clinging becomes desire which leads to energy The fire influence shows up as the magnetic power of energy, artistry, […]

A Master’s Tale

Several years ago, Rumiko and I were invited as special guests to a showcase of Japanese karate instructors. These were the men who brought karate to the USA in the 1960s when I was just dreaming about studying the martial arts. All were in their late 60s and 70s. The senior master instructors performed their […]

Ninja Evolution

I have a curriculum all my friends use in their To-Shin Do dojos, from white belt through 6th Degree. 7th and 8th Degree are somewhat special, worked out between each individual student and me. My current major project is a rework of 4th and 5th Degree. The old curriculum was designed in the late 1980s. […]

Radiating Inspiration

Martial arts masters who share the gift of inspiration with us radiate something we feel in their presence: We pick up a quality in them that resonates within ourselves. They are what we want to be. We recognize their high spiritual energy, which we long to have active in our life. When we meet a […]

REPRINT: To-Shin Do Club and School Requirements

In case you missed this important information from last month it is being reprinted again. Licensed Instructors, we have very few requirements governing your participation as head of a To-Shin Do club or school. The following are not new points. Most people have been observing these for years. But it might be good to state […]

Cross Training; Yes or No?

People who do not practice To-Shin Do cannot figure out why there is so little cross training done by our students. Here are three thoughts as to why we find so little cross-training: Our base martial art is so old, that we predate the Meiji separation of martial disciplines into striking, throwing, sword, etc. specialties. […]

Clever for the Win

A relatively small raccoon can kill a much larger hunting dog with a surprising tactic. The raccoon can run up the front of the dog’s chest under the dog’s jaws and reach around the dog’s muzzle to scratch out the dog’s eyes. This is not specially taught behavior or a “raccoon martial arts secret”. It […]

Advice for Younger To-Shin Do Students

I was asked what advice I have for younger martial artists. I’d have to reply: Take it easy on yourself! Be smart. In my 20s there was a kind of prestige implied in what we called “hard training”. We actually damaged nerve plexuses and joint tissues by hitting and twisting body targets too many times […]

Too Slow? Look Again

I talked with a person who commented that our To-Shin Do looked too slow to him. He felt that for a real fight, we should be practicing with “realistic speed”. I understand how he could feel that way. Once upon a time a long time ago, I too studied a less mature form of martial […]

Let It Go

For the past year, An-shu Rumiko has enjoyed a connection to the Japanese concept of Danshari – willfully and deliberately letting go of things that no longer serve you. We are enjoying our progressively “zenified” home and dojo. Want to bring abundance into your life? First let go of no-longer-needed stuff. Get rid of the […]

Commitment To The Future

At a recent private seminar for 15 special friends at my personal house dojo, I explored 3 specific open-ended topics that the high rankers in To-Shin Do will focus on this year. First, we are challenged to translate a late 1500s Japanese martial art into relevance in 2016 in America and Europe. This is a […]

Float Like a Butterfly…

With the recent death of Muhammad Ali, I have been seeing clips of his historical fights on social media. Something caught my attention. As Ali matured and gained experience in fighting formidable foes, he developed an increasing reliance on what we call “water strategic placement”. Watch and see if you do not agree. No, he […]

Three Questions for An-shu

An-shu, what first got you interested in the martial arts? SKH: I wanted to be able to make there be peace when others chose violence and cruelty. As a small child in the 1950s, I remember seeing other children bullied and abused by bigger, meaner children. I was not comfortable with the thought of being […]

A Proposal for the Future

To-Shin Do takes the timeless principles of ninpo taijutsu and brings them into the 21st Century. Have you ever seen a proud YouTube video of a poorly trained Bujinkan practitioner attacking slowly with a non-accelerating lunge right foot and right arm, and leaving the right hand out there so that the defender can make his […]

Secret Study Now Revealed

Ever wonder what happened to me after I stopped writing the ninja book series in the early 1990s? Where I went once I slowed down my Japan trips and replaced them with trips to India, Nepal, and Tibet? An amazing series of events brought me in contact with the Dalai Lama. I started traveling with […]

Last Month’s Article

Well, I got a lot of response to my last month’s article. Mostly agreeing, but some disagreeing. In last month’s opinion, I urged you to cut out online arguing. Don’t get into political battles that eliminate half of your potential training partners. Don’t “rant” and expose focusing on what is not working in your life. […]

Modern “No Name, No Art”

Back in the Warring States era of Japanese history five hundred years ago, the ninja secret agents of the time developed a way of living guaranteed to keep their identity a secret. MU MEI MU GEI translates as “No name, no art” and sums up the attitude of the Warring States invisible warriors. If an […]

Hombu-Registered Instructors and Trainers

Our mission for NinjaSelfDefense.com is to provide every student with easy access to the best possible training material so they can understand and advance. This plays a key role in our vision to make life mastery and inner peace attainable to anyone in the world through To-Shin Do training. One step towards the realization of […]

The Ultimate Secret

To-Shin Do taijutsu is ultimately about principles as opposed to techniques. Oh, sure, we start students out memorizing things, as opposed to considering things. But that is just an expedient to match their beginner expectations. Normal people expect they will be taught how to move faster, be stronger, and to know something that others do […]

To-Shin Do Training Center Mission Statement

Interested in running your own affiliate school? Are you emotionally attached to teaching your hobby – what you like to do as a martial artist? Or are you running a business, earning a dignified living teaching effective martial arts for the most benefit to the largest number of your community members? What is the purpose […]

Subtle Signs of Attack

Since To-Shin Do is a realistic approach to street and field violence, we have to take into consideration a lot more than sport martial artists do. In a competitive ring, you know why the other guy is there. He and you have agreed to a contest of fighting skills. All you need to do is […]

MAIA Lifetime Achievement Award

When I first left for Japan in search of the ninja 40 years ago, it was by no means a happy or triumphant thing. I had a small karate school, and I was not happy with where American karate was headed. It was the early 1970s, and big hair, gold chains, monstrous egos, and cocaine […]

Boundary Setting

Winning a fighting contest is such a different result than returning home healthy and happy each day. And yet many martial artists confuse this reality, talking on one hand about self-defense, but then on the other hand being drawn into a contest when someone makes a challenge. Our training works on a “continuum” model — […]

Brain Involved in Fear

A common mistake regarding the purpose of studying the five elements is to believe that we somehow “choose” a particular element in the middle of a fight. Such a rational decision-making process would be totally impossible for the vast majority of people. Under the effects of cortisol and adrenaline stress chemicals that flood the bloodstream […]

A or F?

What does it take to honorably pass a test and earn a new belt in the martial arts? My view is that there are: Things to know (we are informed – “I know something new!”), and often… Things to be able to perform (“I can do something new!”) And then on the other hand, there […]

Kofuku no Shiori

“The way to experience happiness is to let go of all worries and regrets. Being happy is the most satisfying of life’s feelings. Reflect back on all the progress in your life and allow the positive, creative, joyous thoughts to outshine and overwhelm any sorrow or grief that may be lingering there in the recesses […]

Do You Guys Spar?

A difficult question to answer. Difficult because I know the answer will be misused by people not sympathetic to our training methods. Fast answer is there was very little “sparring” in the dojo back in the 1970s. The classics, when done the way they were practiced in the 1970s, were applied as a flow of […]

The Art of Winning

I remember a conversation I had with my ninja martial arts teacher way back in the 1970s. I was in my twenties and had just moved to Japan to become a student in the grandmaster’s home dojo. I asked my teacher what was the most important thing to remember about martial arts training. “Why do […]

Success, Power, and Freedom

(With thanks to Mark Morgan Ford) Many of us got into martial arts training with the goal of becoming successful, powerful, and free ( as opposed to living at-risk, being weak, and feeling dominated by others). Would you agree? The first step towards the goal of success, power, and freedom is learning how to think […]

35 Years of Uncompromising Spirit

Hosting our first Ninja Festival back in 1981 was one of the biggest gambles of my life. My ninja taijutsu was a totally new phenomenon on the martial arts scene 35 years ago. Yes, a few folks claimed to be “ninjas”, but only I could present evidence of actually living in Japan as a disciple […]

Three Stages of Developing Expertise

What if the point of martial arts training was to become invincible, as opposed to impressing others with visually entertaining technique? What if we trained to attune natural movements to a wide variety of possible assaults, rather than developing complex techniques for one-upping other competitors in a contest? Accomplishing great things with the appearance of […]

Mu-shin: Mind and “No-Mind”

A student once asked me, “Japanese martial arts books sometimes describe a state called mu-shin, or ‘no-mind’. If I were thinking of nothing, how could I handle an attacker who was thinking very hard about beating or killing me? I mean, with nothing in mind, wouldn’t I just be an easy target?” I told him […]

The Science of “Not-Teaching”

I stood at the edge of the training area with one of the brown belt Trainers. She and I were watching a group of new students as they practiced punching into padded targets. “Look good, don’t they? Bodies moving with the arm extension. Hitting the targets well. Getting good results. Having fun.” She nodded silently […]