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Gyokko Ryu "jewelled tiger" "bone finger art" koshijutsu

Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu is the oldest of the nine martial art traditions that make up the Bujinkan System, and it is safe to say that it is the core style of the majority of our arts. Hatsumi Sensei has stated that the koshijutsu forms the basis of the following systems: Togakure, Koto, Gikan, Shinden Fudo, Gyokushin, and Kumogakure. The name 'Gyokko' means Jeweled Tiger, or Tiger Jewel, and may refer to the eye of the tiger.

The method of movement and basic principles were developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). It is thought to be developed by either a smaller man or a woman, based on the movement. It is known that there was a woman in the court of Chanan (the capital of the Tang Dynasty) very well known for her martial arts abilities. When the Tang Dynasty fell in 907, many of the Chinese nobility escaped into Japan. The names Yo Gyokko (Yao Yu Hu) and Cho Gyokko are associated with the art leaving China and arriving in Japan. (They possibly were the same person). General Ikai (or Ibou) is also associated with the origin of Gyokko Ryu. According to Hatsumi Sensei that person could also be somebody (bou) from foreign (I) country.

The first actual Soke of what we would call 'official Gyokko Ryu' was Tozawa Hakuunsai. His name suggests a connection with Hakuun Ryu Ninjutsu, which no longer exists. This was in the Hogen Era (1156-1159), which makes Gyokko Ryu one of the oldest documented martial art systems in Japan. Hatsumi Sensei has said in fact that koshijutsu is the basis of martial arts in Japan, and that it forms the backbone (koshi) of the fighting systems in the Iga Region (I'm assuming he's referring to all ninjutsu clans). The Bugei Ryu-ha Daijiten refers to the Gyokko Ryu as "Kosshijutsu, Shitojutsu, Ninpo".

Koshijutsu means 'to knock down an enemy with one finger'. Therefore, intense striking training was involved, mostly to the fingers, toes and knuckles, but also with all parts of the body. The style is characterized by powerful blocks with the knuckles that destroy the muscles of the opponent, ripping, piercing and tearing techniques with the fingers and toes, powerful stomping kicks, and close grappling with locks and throws. It was taught in the Gyokko Ryu to only use as much strength as needed to defeat the opponent. They were also known for their skill with the sword, 6-foot staff and knife.


The character NIN means to guard the nation with even your life.

Forget self; be patient and do not fear dying.

In danger, say and show nothing.

As a strong enemy comes, keep an indomitable spirit.

Serve and protect the master, as you must your parents.

Vices dissipate your proficiency.

Being drunk affects your judgement.

Destroy the enemy power but leave his life.

Do not teach others without the master's permission.

Koto Ryu "tiger knockdown" "bone structure art" koppojutsu

It is thought that the Koto Ryu came from China via Korea, brought by Chan Busho, a Chinese warrior, in the form similar to koshijutsu. Yet it would be many hundreds of years before the style was shaped into Koto Ryu koppojutsu. The exact origin of the style is not known, but the techniques of this Ryu were organized and formulated into a proper Ryuha by Sakagami Taro Kunishige in 1542. He was also a Soke of Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu. The two systems share many similarities, including the Sanpo Gassho (Gassho Kuji Kiri in Gyokko Ryu).

There were a large amount of ninja, and some samurai, who were trained in the methods of the Koto Ryu. Momochi Sandayu is one of the most famous of all ninja (after Hattori Hanzo), and he taught ninjutsu to Ishikawa Goemon, the infamous ninja who spent most of his life as a criminal. Momochi always denied that Goemon was a member/ex-member of his school. Goemon was thought to have attempted an assasination on Toyotomi Hideyoshi, but this was in fact attempted by Hideyoshi's general, Akechi. Goemon, the 'ninja Robin Hood', was eventually caught and boiled to death in a cauldron of oil. Some historians, including Toshitsugu Takamatsu, believe that he was not caught, and the Shogunate was too shamed to admit it. In some cases, history handed down through generations can be more reliable that the written word.


Koto Ryu contains one of the complete Kyusho (pressure point) scrolls of the Bujinkan System - the other coming from the Takagi Yoshin Ryu.


Koto Ryu had a unique and unorthodox method of kenjutsu, handling the sword in a way that gave the observer the impression that the swordsman was unskilled, changing the gripping method and stance at will. They also have a kamae, unique to the Koto Ryu, called 'Mangetsu no Kamae', in which the sword is held above the head and the blade is used to reflect sunlight into the eyes of the opponent. Alternately, if it was raining, the blood groove (hi) was used to catch the rain water, which was then flicked at the eyes of the enemy.

Shinden Fudo Ryu "divine transmission of immovability" "hard weapon body art" dakentaijutsu

The founder of this school, Izumo, learned Chinese Kempo boxing. Today, some of this is still noticeable within the techniques. The second soke, Minamoto Hachiman Tamenari, is credited as being the official founder. At some point in his life he fled to Iga. This was possibly a result of being on the losing side at the end of a battle.

One of the secret attributes of the Shinden Fudo Ryu is the "Principle of Nature". The school has two styles of taijutsu: Dakentaijutsu and Jutaijutsu, each with its own sets of techniques. In the Dakentaijutsu, there are no stances - Shizen no kamae represents the 'natural posture' and holds no fixed form. Hojojutsu, the art of tying someone with a length of rope, is also taught in this Ryu-ha. Also taught are several different types of yari (spear), Ono (war axe), O-Tsuchi (war hammer), and naginata.

Kuki Takei from the Kuki family of Kukishin Ryu was also from the Shinden Fudo Ryu. Takenaka Tetsunoke, senior student of Jigano Kano, the founder of Judo, was at one time a student at the Shinden Fudo Ryu dojo.


The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten lists the soke slightly differently from below, which is the list provided by Hatsumi Sensei, and is missing the 17th and 18th soke. Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu, the 24th soke, was a samurai, and a master in the Bikenshin Ryu. He was also a sword instructor to the Tokugawa Shogunate. He was Takamatsu Sensei's grandfather, and operated a dojo that had a plaque above the door which read: "Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu".


This was the first style that Takamatsu Sensei learned from Toda Sensei.


A list of rules that was written into the Densho:

  1. Know that endurance is simply a puff of smoke.

  2. Know that the way of men is justice.

  3. Forget the heart of greed, ease and relying on others.

  4. One should regard both sadness and malice as natural laws, and just gain the enlightenment of an unshakeable heart.

  5. In your heart, never leave the ways of loyalty and filial piety, and aspire greatly for the ways of the pen and the sword.


Observing the 5 rules above is the law of the dojo.

Kumogakure Ryu "hidden cloud" ninjutsu

The taijutsu of Kumogakure Ryu is very similar to Togakure Ryu. The Kumogakure Ryu may have been created by the Toda family (also of Togkakure Ryu) in the 1600's, as a ninjutsu school of thought - centering it's techniques on the non-violent side of Ninpo. (The Togakure Ryu teaches that violence is to be avoided).

The ninja of Kumogakure Ryu went into combat wearing armored sleeves to protect themselves. Another interesting feature of the ryu was the Demon Mask, sometimes worn by members of the system. Kikaku-ken (Demon Horn Fist, or head butt) gives rise to another theory of the Demon Mask.

One of the special weapons of the style is the kamayari, or hooked spear. Used in combat against swordsmen, the hooks were used to parry and trap the incoming blades. It was also used to hook opponents from above.

The Kumogakure Ryu densho mentions a ninja named Sarutobi Sasuke, who used the kamayari when leaping from tree to tree, hooking it onto the branches.

Another Kumogakure Ryu speciality involved survival training, and being able to light fires under all conditions.

Iga Heinaizaemon had a son, Kami Hattori Heitaro Koreyuki, who was the ancestor of Hattori Hanzo, the famous ninja

Kukishinden Ryu "nine demons divine transmission" happo hikenjutsu "eight secret weapons arts" dakentaijutsu

Tradition of the Nine Demon GodsAs the 26th Grandmaster of Kuki Shinden ryu Happo Hiken (secret weapon arts) Takakage Matsutaro Ishitani taught Toshitsugu Takamatsu the eight part Happo method which included: Taijutsu (unarmed combat), Hichojutsu (leaping), Mawanage (rope throwing), Koppojutsu (bone smashing technique), Jutaijutsu (grappling), Yarijutsu (spear technique), Naginatajutsu (halberd skills), Bojutsu (long staff fighting), Jojutsu (cane technique), Hanbojutsu (stick fighting), Seban Nage (shuriken throwing), Tokenjutsu (blade throwing), Kojutsu (fire and explosives), Suikutsu (water techniques), Chiku Jo Gunryaku Heiho (military tactics and fortress design and penetration), Onshinjutsu (art of invisibility), and Hensojutso (disguise).

He then taught the Hiken or secret sword methods of the ryu. All of these methods are said to have been developed in the mountains of Kumano by shugenja warrior monks who first of all developed the use of their shakujo ringed staff to defend themselves.

Togakure Ryu Ninpo "Hidden door" "concealing arts", "stealth arts" or "patient arts" ninjutsu

So-o was the name of a monk at a monastery on Mount Hiei-zan. As was a custom in those times he left his home to live for three years in a cave, subjecting himself to the hardship of nature in order to discover truth and enlightenment.It was after a mysterious dream that he formed the Tendai Shugendo sect of Buddhism, and established the headquarters of the Tendai monastery at Hiei-zan. These monks still exist today and some are still engaged in Shugendo, or mountain asceticism: purifying one's self by trial and hardship.

Near to Hiei-zan was a small village called Togakure, in the prefecture of Shinano. Here in approximately 1161, Daisuke Nishina was born into a Samurai family. Sometime during his early life, he studied at the Tendai monastery on Togakure Mountain (Mount Hiei-zan) near his village. These early experiences were to play an important role later when Daisuke was to establish a system of fighting, survival and infiltration.

It is important to understand the events leading up to the creation of Togakure Ryu Ninpo. Daisuke Nishina's father was Yukihiro Nishina, who was a highly ranked samurai in the service of Lord Yoshinaka Minamoto, the cousin of the first Shogun of Japan. When Yoshinaka Minamoto was only an infant, a samurai was sent from a rival family to kill him and his mother. Yoshinaka's mother escaped with him and went secretly to the home of a farmer who was loyal to their family. Yoshinaka was later brought to Kiso village in Shinano, not far from Togakure village.

It was possibly because of this movement that Yukihiro Nishina of Togakure came into his service. Years later, Yoshinaka's family had defeated their rivals and became rulers of Japan. But they saw Yoshinaka as a threat to their leadership, and they turned on him. Yoshinaka Minamoto changed his name to Yoshinaka Kiso, taking the name of the village where he lived, which was a common practice at the time. In 1184, Yoshinaka was attacked by the army of his half-brother... sixty thousand warriors descended quickly upon Yoshinaka's army near Kyoto. The battle was called Awaza no Kassan, and Yoshinaka Kiso was killed by an arrow in his eye. On his side had fought Yukihiro Nishina of Togakure, who was also killed, and his son Daisuke Nishina, who survived.

Daisuke, being on the losing side of this battle, was forced to flee into far-away Iga to escape persecution. There he fled into the remote villages, hidden in the mists of a land of high mountains and thick forests. He changed his name to Daisuke Togakure, after the village of his birth.

While he was in Iga, Daisuke was found by Kagakure Doshi. Kagakure Doshi was a shinobi, and the third soke of Hakuun Ryu, which was one of the original ninjutsu systems developed from the teachings of Ikai (Yi Gai, who brought the roots of koshijutsu from China). It is also possible that Doshi was Daisuke's uncle, and that Daisuke fled to Iga with the intention of finding him.

Daisuke Togakure learned Doshi's warrior teachings, and added them to his own Shugendo beliefs, and the beginnings of Togakure Ryu where forged. But Daisuke was not alone studying under Kagakure Doshi. With him was Shima Kosanta Minamoto no Kanesada. He was a high level samurai retainer who had also fought at the battle of Awaza no Kassan, where he had become a friend to Daisuke and his father. Shima was wounded in the fighting, and was taken by Daisuke to Iga. Shima was to become the second soke of Togakure Ryu. He took the name Daisuke Togakure II after Daisuke's death. His son Goro Togakure, the third soke, is recognized as being the person who actually formed the teachings of Togakure into the Ninjutsu system that we learn today. The 11th, 12th and 13th Soke of the Ryu are named after the main town of Iga, Ueno. Again, it was common in those days to be named after the town or village from which one came. It is therefore likely that the Togakure Ryu was based at or near Ueno at that time. Ueno is in north Iga, but Togakure Ryu mainly operated out of southern central Iga during most of its history.

It is told that members of the Hattori clan trained in Togakure Ryu. Hattori Hanzo is the most famous of all Ninja. Also members of the Momochi family also trained in this system, and the 21st Soke of Togakure Ryu was Momochi Kobei, a descendant of Momochi Sandayu, the second most famous ninja and a leading figure of the Iga region.

As with most martial traditions in earlier days, control of the system stayed within the family that founded it, and control of the style passed from father to son. With Togakure Ryu, it continued in this way for the most part until the 1600's. When the immediate family died out, most senior member of the system was Nobutsuna Toda, who was given leadership and became the 24th Soke. When the Toda family took control in approximately 1625, they added their own ninjutsu system of Kumogakure Ryu to it. They also controlled Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu, and from that time on, all those martial arts systems were then passed down together.

The 32nd Soke of Togakure Ryu, Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda, was the sword instructor for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the mid 19th century. He resigned his post when he learned that he was teaching men who were then forced to kill other Japanese people. This went against the Law of Togakure Ryu. The 33rd Soke, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, was the last member of the Toda family to control the Togakure Ryu. Within the Tendai Shugendo sect, nearly a millennium after its founding by the monk So-o, the 33rd Soke of Togakure Ryu Toshitsugu Takamatsu was ordained on Mount Hiei-zan.

"Violence is to be avoided, and Ninpo is Bujutsu"

The three secret treasures of Togakure Ryu

Senban Shuriken - the four pointed throwing star. This resembled a tool used by carpenters to remove nails, called a kugi-nuki. It was a weapon to harass the enemy to assist in escape.

Shuko - commonly known as climbing claws, they were frequently used on both the hands and feet for combat as well, capable of delivering very serious injuries. They were made of metal bands around the hand and wrist with a strap of leather connecting them. Also called Tegaki.

Shindake - a bamboo tube around 4 feet long, used as an underwater breathing tube and a blowgun.

Gyokkoshin Ryu "jewel heart" ninjutsu

Gyokkushin Ryu Ninjutsu is a branch of Koshijutsu, and it is believed that its founder, Sasaki Goeman Teruyoshi, was from the Gyokko Ryu. The methods used in Kumogakure Ryu (its blocks, strikes and stances) strongly resemble those of Gyokko Ryu, and they both used the Ichimonji no Kamae in the same way.

Sasaki Gendayu was in the employ of the Daimyo of Kishu, and was paid 200 Koku per year (1 Koku was enough to feed a man for a year), but this was later increased to 400 Koku. It is possible that he, like his father, was highly skilled in Gyokko Ryu.

The Gyokushin Ryu was taught in secret in the Kishu and Takeda provinces, and sometime in the 17th century it came into contact with the Togakure Ryu and the Toda family.The exact circumstances are not known, but when the style passed to Toda Nobutsuna, it was not kept as such a close secret from then on.

Not much is known about the fighting style of the Gyokushin Ryu.The system concentrated on more of the espionage skills and abilities of ninjutsu than on hand to hand combat. This is common among ninjutsu systems.Gyokushin Ryu is known for its superior use of the Nagenawa, a lasso.

Kano Jigero, the founder of Judo, was a friend of Takamatsu Sensei. It is thought that he taught at the Kodokan school as a guest instructor, and what he taught was Gyokushin Ryu. The style passed by Takamatsu Sensei to Masaaki Hatsumi along with many other styles of kobujutsu.

Takagi Yoshin Ryu "High Tree, Raised Heart" Jutaijutsu

In 1569, during the Yeiroku Era (1568-1579), in the Funagata Yama area of Miyagi, lived a mountain priest from the Abe family called Unryu (Cloud Dragon).The Bugei Ryu-ha Daijiten gives his name as Sounryu.He was an expert in shuriken, bojutsu, yari, naginata and taijutsu from the Amatsu Tatara Rinpo Hiden Makimono.The Amatsu Tatara scroll was kept by the Abe, Nakatomi, Otomo, and Monobe families.Takamatsu Sensei's family also posessed a copy, through their blood relation with the Kuki family.

Unryu taught his system to Ito Sukesada, a famous martial artist in his day (1570).He was a samurai from Katakura Kojuro in the Fukushima Province.He added hanbo, kenjutsu and kodachi to the teachings of Unryu.He taught the techniques that would later become Takagi Yoshin Ryu to Takagi Oriuemon Shigenobu, a young samurai from the Tohoku-Shiroishi Han in Oku (a northern part of Japan).He was born on April 2nd, 1625, and died on October 7th, 1711.He was given menkyo kaiden when he was just 20 years old.On the 15th of August, 1695, he was made a shihan of up to six different martial arts of the Imperial bodyguard by the Emperor Higashiyama.

He revised, improved and expanded the techniques that he learned from Ito, and put them together into what he called Takagi Yoshin Ryu, naming it after himself.He studied hard to improve himself for the purpose of avenging his father's murder.His father had gifted him with the teaching "A willow is flexible, but a high tree is breakable".

The style has been called many things throughout its history, including Jutaijutsu, Jujutsu, and Dakentaijutsu.It has been heavily influenced by Takenouchi Ryu Jujutsu, and Kukishin Ryu.In the 17th century, the soke of Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Takagi Gennoshin Hideshige, and the soke of Kukishin Ryu, Ohkuni Kihei Shigenobu, fought a friendly match, and became close friends.The two systems exchanged information, and even became restructured as a result.The two systems passed down through history very close to each other.

The style came to Toshitsugu Takamatsu through Yoshitaro Tadefusa Mizuta in August of 1908, and to Masaaki Hatsumi in May of 1959.

When applied, the techniques of Takagi Yoshin Ryu go farther than those of Judo or Aikido, making it impossible to roll or breakfall.>The throws are intended to break the shoulder or neck of the opponent.

Gikan Ryu "trust, loyalty and justice" koppojutsu

Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu was founded by Uryu Gikanbo, who was the Daimyo (feudal warlord) of Kawachi no Kuni ( Kawachi Castle ). It is said that Uryu Gikanbo's punch was so powerful that he once broke a sword blade in half.
Takamatsu Toshitsugu orginally awarded this system to Akimoto Fumio, who became the 14th soke.  Akimoto met an untimely death from an illness around 1962, and he left no successor. The system therefore came back to Takamatsu Sensei.  He passed the style onto Masaaki Hatsumi, who is the current soke, as listed in the Bugei Ryu-ha Daijiten.
One of the special teachings of Gikan Ryu is "Bufu ni sente nashi" (From this side there is not the first strike). This ryu contains many special kicks, punches and throws.   We have been told that the makimono scrolls do not contain step by step instructions of techniques. There are no formal kata in the Gikan ryu. The techniques are created based on the skill of the exponent, and are a combination of the body's movement and the methods of kicking and striking from the ryu. The methods are taught orally.

Shinoko Ryu "knocking down" okugi keri dakentaijutsu

Shinoko Ryu focuses on attacking the skeletal structure, using devastating kicks to knock down the adversary,  a fundamental difference from other kicking methods, is the continuation approach used,  follow your advesary to the ground using feet or knees to attack muscles or bones.

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