Toshitsugu Takamatsu was born in the 23rd year of Meiji (March 10, 1887) in Akashi, Hyogo province. His given name was Hisatsugu but he later changed it to Toshitsugu.
The Takamatsu family originated from Matsugashima in Ise. It is believed that at some point in their family history the Takamatsu’s had been Daimyo of this area and owned the Hosokiubi Castle. Takamatsu was given a makimono scroll called Amatsu Tatara. This scroll connected the Takamatsu family with the Kuki family. (The Kuki family are heirs to Kukishin Ryu)
Toshitsugu’s Grandfather was Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu. He had a bone clinic and a Budo Dojo in Kobe. He was of Samurai rank and Soke of Shindenfudo Ryu and a direct descendent of Tozawa Hakuunsai, the original founder of Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu.
Takamatsu’s father sent him to train with Toda because he was weak as a child. His classmates would often pick on him until he cried. They would call him “cry baby”.
Toda taught Takamatsu Shindenfudo Ryu. Later he learned Koto Ryu and Togakure Ryu. He was fond of Koto Ryu but had little interest in Togakure Ryu.
During his first year of training he was taught nothing, instead he was thrown around by the other students continuously. He would bleed from the elbows and knees. Nobody would comfort him, they would just continue to throw him around the dojo. But every night he came back for more. After a year of this he was taught his first techniques. By the age of thirteen he mastered the techniques of the school.
Koto Ryu training involved strong conditioning of the hands and feet, especially the fingers and toes. As a result of constant striking of rocks and hard objects, Toshitsugu’s finger nails were 4 to 5 millimeters thick. He could not cut them with nail cutters. It is said he could tear the bark off of a tree with a simple sweep of his hand. He later said that this kind of training is of no use today.
When he was thirteen he left High School to go to the George Bundow English School in Kobe. While there he learned Takagi Yoshin Ryu from Mizuta Yoshitaro Tadafusa. When he was seventeen he was given the Menkyo Kaiden to the Ryu.
While seventeen he was also taught Kuki Happo Biken no Jutsu from Ishitani Matsutaro Takekage. It was from Ishitani that Toshitsugu also learned Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu and Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu. Before Ishitani’s death he passed the scrolls of these Ryu on to Toshitsugu.
Toshitsugu received his Menkyo Kaiden from Toda in 1909 when he was 22 years old. Toda died that same year. He once told Takamatsu, “Even when you are faced with death, die laughing”. Toshitsugu made several trips to China and abroad when he was young. There are countless stories of his adventures and martial prowess. Takamatsu once said he fought 12 fights to the death (the result of challenges) and 7 competitive matches.
In the 1950’s Takamatsu took a new student named Hatsumi Yoshiaki, then in his 20’s. Hatsumi had been studying Kobudo under a teacher named Ueno, who had told him that there was nothing more he could teach him. Hatsumi trained with Takamatsu every weekend for 15 years. Hatsumi said that when he first met Takamatsu he was frightened of him.
It is said that when training with Takamatsu there was never any warm up. Even when using real weapons the same was true. Takamatsu said that in a real fight there would be no time to warm up before hand.
In the late 1960’s Takamatsu wrote some articles for some Japanese newspapers. These articles spoke of Ninjutsu and the other arts in which he trained. In one article he wrote that in true martial arts, when fighting, you must be prepared to kill your attacker.
After reading this, a very high ranking Karate master went on Japanese television and said that what Takamatsu had written was wrong and out-dated, no longer necessary in this day and age. He called Takamatsu an “old has-been”. Takamatsu arranged a television interview and said that he saw the Karate master’s comments as a challenge, which he wished to accept. He gave the Karate master three days to publicly retract his statement. If he refused, Takamatsu intended to fight him and kill him with his hands tied behind his back. Within the three days the Karate master retracted his statement.
It is said that the first time Takamatsu saw Judo he was horrified. This was because they bend their backs during their techniques.
One day Takamatsu and Hatsumi were sitting in a room in Takamatsu’s house. Takamatsu told Hatsumi to close his eyes while he left the room, and to keep them closed. Hatsumi heard him leave the room and go downstairs. He did not hear Takamatsu re-enter the room. Takamatsu attacked Hatsumi from behind with a live Katana using Jumonji Kiri, one vertical and one horizontal cut. Hatsumi later said that as he sat in the room with his eyes closed, he felt something was wrong and moved to the side. Then, for no reason, he somersaulted forward. Takamatsu told Hatsumi that he had the “feeling” (sakki) and presented the sword to Hatsumi. After this Takamatsu gave Hatsumi the Menkyo Kaiden.
Takamatsu died on april 2, 1972 at the age of 85. He is buried in the Kumedra cemetery near Nara.