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Damion Ellis – Bujinkan Poser

March 24, 2018

Generally, Bujinkan practitioners who have been around for a while say that rank is meaningless. Unfortunately, there are people who make it even more meaningless than that. One such person is Damion Ellis, who has gamed the system and slipped through the cracks, and thus gotten himself a Dai-Shihan rank in the Bujinkan.

Below is the text of the Facebook Note from Dale Seago, the man keeping track of the matter. For a commentary on such behavior, check out this blog post from Don Roley.

The Facebook Note itself:


The Judan who wasn’t there

On Sunday I was informed of this thread:

I sent the link via PM to Damion Ellis, as I thought he might want to say something about it, and according to Facebook he saw it about an hour later. But he never responded. In fact, three days later he still is not responding to messages from me, his instructor Chris Cowan, or Michael Simien (even though he was on Facebook again this morning), and Chris’s phone calls to him just go to voicemail and are unanswered.

To summarize things, I did not meet Damion to the best of my recollection until he moved up here from Southern California. However, back around the end of the ‘80s he was teaching what he was advertising as Bujinkan classes down there, claiming a black belt rank – godan, if memory serves – from Stephen K. Hayes. Some folks down there for whom I was doing occasional seminars told me about it and I had them go check out his classes. When it was apparent that he had no connection with the Bujinkan and was doing something different, I sent him a “cease and desist” letter indicating there could be legal action if he did not comply, which apparently he did.

After that he got into legitimate Bujinkan training with Ron Blackwood in July of 2007, and held a 7th kyu rank at the point where he moved north to the San Francisco Bay Area. He began training with Chris Cowan, who was promoted to Jugodan last year. In 2014 he went to Japan with Chris, and passed the godan test. In 2015 he went back, and (in light of the years he’d allegedly been training) Chris offered to recommend him for a more suitable rank. He actually gave him a signed letter for 10th dan as an option, but according to Chris they talked about it and settled on 8th dan as the most appropriate.

It now appears that Ellis took that Judan recommendation letter and turned it in, and also forged recommendation letters from Michael Simien (who was originally my student and was Chris’s teacher, and who never recommended Ellis) and David Fetterman (who does not even know Ellis). It *IS* conclusive that the letters from Simien and Fetterman are forged.

I’m not sure why this is coming to light now, a year and a half later, but it seems likely the promotion paperwork was misplaced and just recently found, and Mark Lithgow and Phil Legare were asked by Soke to check things out. If that’s the case then Ellis probably was not actually promoted to judan at all – though he claimed to have been. There’s a photo posted on Chris Cowan’s page showing Chris and a couple of others with their shiny new menkyo, and Ellis is standing there with them. The caption also congratulates Ellis (who is the only one not holding a menkyo) on his Judan promotion. According to Chris, Ellis said he received his package from Japan before everyone else’s arrived. . .and apparently no one has actually seen the Judan menkyo.

I would love to later be able to tell everyone “Oops, sorry, Ellis has an explanation for everything and we were mistaken”. But right now – especially since he has totally “gone dark” and isn’t communicating with anyone about this – that doesn’t seem likely.


Not looking good. He has submitted an explanation to a Dai-shihan in Japan, which basically boils down to meeting a mysterious Fairy Godfather with no last name at the Hub pub in Kashiwa, who granted his wish for recommendation letters.

Yes, really.

(EDIT: The individual has been identified and has confirmed that Damion Ellis did ask him for a promotion recommendation letter, but he says he refused because he had only met Ellis, not trained with him, so could not evaluate him.)

I can now confirm from that same Dai-shihan that, as I speculated in my original note above, no judan menkyo has actually been issued to Ellis by Hombu, he only claimed to Chris Cowan that he’d received it.

EDIT/UPDATE TUE, 25 APR 17: I checked in January of this year to see what the status was and was told, “The Admin put a big red X on his recommendation letter with a note regarding fraud and taped it on his record in the book he is in. Bottom line he is not getting promoted. If he tries to again later the admin will see the note in his record and again question it.”

That was regarding the 10th dan Ellis had claimed to have received, and the red X was in his godan book as that was the last legitimate rank he had held. Since then he has returned this month to Japan and been promoted to 15th dan. Soke may have done that without checking; in any case, I am informed that he has now been made aware of this.

EDIT/UPDATE SAT, 03 JUN 17: Well, well, something else for Soke to consider. Amazing what can sometimes still be found from the pre-internet age: Some documents from December 1990, back when Ellis was 23 and claiming to be a Bujinkan godan (as well as falsely claiming to be a California peace officer) have just turned up. They include the “cease and desist” stuff I mentioned above, along with a signed and notarized statement essentially saying he would go, and sin no more.


On the recommendation of a Dai-Shihan in Japan, I was going to summarize everything to date and send it in a letter to Soke with pertinent supplemental documentation in a letter so that he would have everything in a single file. I was told that it was unlikely Soke would revoke his rank as he basically “just doesn’t do that”; but he would essentially be “persona non grata”: Not welcome in Japan training, and his students if any would be non-promotable. However, that may have just become unnecessary due to the new direction in the Bujinkan’s administrative procedures which were announced a few days ago:

This is about administrative communication flow, but once fully implemented Ellis may need to develop a relationship with a Dai-Shihan. Since the instructors in the areas where he has trained are now aware of his history and he’s burned his bridges with them, he’s going to have to look elsewhere. So I want to be sure all this remains on record in case he does find someone, so that informed decisions can be made by any Dai-Shihan dealing with him.

EDIT/UPDATE, 09 DEC 17 Here is a copy of the pertinent correspondence from 1990:


Well, no need to develop a relationship (as I mentioned above) with a Dai Shihan if you can get the piece of paper saying you ARE one. Ellis showed up in Japan, at Soke’s class Friday night, and got Darren Horvath to recommend him for Dai Shihan. After I apprised him of Ellis’ background, Darren asked Soke on Sunday to please talk to Phillip Legare before going ahead with the award; but apparently he told Darren not to worry, that the title is really useless to Ellis because everyone knows his reputation. He went ahead and gave him the certificate at the beginning of today’s class. I know I shouldn’t speculate, but the idea may have been something like “You want it that badly? Here, have one, and see if it makes anyone take you more seriously”. Or perhaps it’s more to benefit everyone else: Asgard wouldn’t be nearly as interesting a place if Loki weren’t there. At any rate, it’s done.


From → bujinkan

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