Tsuki no Sho 月之抄

 

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Author: Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi 柳生 十兵衛三 厳
Title: Tsuki no Shô
Year: 1642

Author Yagyû Mitsuyoshi (柳生 三 厳) in the original language Title: “月 之 抄” (Other spellings mentioned in the original language: 月 之 抄 / 月 の 抄 / 月 ノ 抄 / 月 之 書 / 月 の 書 / 月 ノ書 / 月 之 諸 / 月 の 諸 / 月 ノ 諸 / 月 見 之 抄 / 月 見 の 抄 / 月 見 ノ 抄 / 月 見 之 書 / 月 見 の 書 / 月 見 ノ 書 / 月 見 之 諸 / 月Titre の 諸 / 月 見 ノ 諸).

Japanese title: “Tsuki no Shô” (or sometimes “Tsukimi no Shô”) Title in French: “Written in the moonlight” Title in English: “Annotation (s) ) in the moonlight

The “tsuki no sho” is a strategic and philosophical treatise mainly about kenjutsu (saber warfare technique), written by one of the most famous fencers in Japanese history:

Yagyû Jûbei Mitsuyoshi (1607 – 1650). You will find here the complete transcript in modern Japanese. This transcription in modern Japanese comes from the book of Yoshio Imamura, published in April 1995: “Shiryô Yagyû Shinkage-Ryû (Vol.2)” (史料 柳生 新 陰 流 (下 巻)), of which she occupies about the first 70 pages (Pages 9 to 80).

Link download: Mitsuyoshi-Yagyū-Jūbei-Tsuki-no-Shô

 

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Ikai 異匀

Ikai is a person who is present in the background to many of our schools.

In prehistory, Iga ryu, Gyokko Ryu and Togakure Ryu mentions a person by the name “Ikai” as an original source of these schools. Identifying Ikai [異 匀], with the alternative pronunciation “Ibou” ‘may be interpreted as “a charismatic person” (I; 異) from “foreign” (kai; 匀). The name can also be interpreted as “different person”, that is perhaps a “transgender”? A man dressed as a woman, or vice versa?

The sign [異] symbolizes “a person with demon head”. The Chinese pronunciation of these characters is “Yi Hui” or “Yi Gai”, but with the same meaning. A hypothetical conclusion to be drawn is that Ikai was a stranger  and unusual even in China, perhaps initially of a people from eastern China.

In Hatsumi Sensei book Sengoku Ninpo Zukan (p.81) printed on 1978, Ikai was described as follows:

“During Huang You’s first year (possibly 1049), Ikai from Sijiang went into exile to the distant Japan, after losing the war against Ren Zong’s army, on the Qidan and Xia’s side. He came to Ise and settled in a cave in Iga.”

Shandong

Sijiang is probably the same region as Shandong [山东] in today’s China. Because of its location on the North China Plain, Shandong area came into contact early on with the Chinese civilization whose cradle is just West of the present province. Both the first historical coated dynasties Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty, controlled the western and central Shandong. The Shandong Peninsula was, for a long time outside the Chinese of influence. There lived the ethnic groups as the Chinese gave the name Dong Yi to, and who was regarded as barbaric, that is to say, nomadic.

The above-mentioned Ren Zong was Emperor Song Renzong of the Song Dynasty, ruled between 1023-1063. His real name was Zhan Zhen and was an emperor in the Northern Song Dynasty.

Xia is also known as Hsia and the Qidan are also known as Khitan. They were both a people who were related to Tungus, which in turn was a people who lived in northeastern Siberia. They were a significant nomadic people who dominated parts of what is today Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. The Russian word for China, Kitaj, is believed to originate from Khitan, as well as the older China name in English – Cathay.

If now Ikai had been a Chinese who fought on the Khitan and Hsia/Xia side against the Song Dynasty, then one can understand that he had to flee the Chinese continent in defeat, but it was more likely that he was a Khitan.

Oral tradition says that Ikai had been a general, and was very skilled in hicho ongyo no jutsu (飛鳥隠形之術). It was said that strangers, such as Ikai, Yi Gyokko (Yao Yu Hu) and Cho Busho (Zhang Wu Sheng) spread the knowledge of hichojutsu (飛鳥術), tode Koppojutsu (唐手骨法術), senban nage jutsu (旋盤投術) and the like to Japan. From this was born later Gyokko ryu kosshijutsu, Koto ryu koppojutsu, Gyokushin ryu kosshijutsu and Gikan ryu koppojutsu and others.

Considering that all the Koga ryu ninjutsu’s 53 traditions, and Iga ryu ninjutsu’s 30 traditions developed happo bikenjutsu based on Gyokko ryu’s teachings, the latter can be considered the oldest source of Japanese martial art.

Sakagami Clan’s Mon

In a text by Takamatsu, it says that Ikai had two students during the Johou period (1074-1077), namely Gamon Doshi and Hogenbo Tesshin. Ninjutsu was thus founded during the period between 1049 and 1077.

An alternative background for Ikai is that he was actually the same person as Hogenbo Tesshin. The reason is found in the book Essence of Ninjutsu, on pages 121-122. There, Takamatsu tells a story about an old man who talks to two students. The old man tells of the war when he fought on Kittan Ka’s (i.e., Khitan and Xia) side against King Jinso. Jinso is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character for Renzong.

The story of the old man is consistent with the story of Ikai in Hatsumi sensei’s book Sengoku Ninpo Zukan (available in Japanese only). In Essence of ninjutsu, on page 122, it is mentioned that the old man is Hogenbo and the students are referred to as Ryutaro and Dosan.

According to the book, Ryutaro later became the great ninjutsu champion “Garyu Doshi” and Dosan survived further under the name Tendo Sakagami. This Tendo Sakagami can be the same person as Sakabe Tendo (mentioned in the prehistory of Togakure ryu and Shinden Fudo ryu Dakentaijutsu).

Otomo Clan’s Mon

According to oral tradition, when he came to Japan, Ikai was presented to the Otomo clan who offered him a sanctuary in the distant Iga region.

Otomo, which means “great escort”, was a military clan who was considered to be descendants of Amaterasus grandson who pacified Japan. The power of the Otomo clan extended from the early Yamato period (250–710) to the Sengoku period, thus stretching over 1100 years.

Between the Yamato and the Heian period, Otomo had high military records in the Imperial Court, such as the life guards captain of the Empress Suiko.

The most famous ninja family – Hattori – were members of this clan. According to a legend, the life guards consisted of warriors of the Hayato people and it is therefore possible that the Hattori family came from this indigenous people.

According to the same legend, Ikai (sometimes also referred to as Chan Basho in Koto ryu documentation) trained parts of the Otomo clan in a unique form of combat technique – i.e. It is known today as ninjutsu, kosshijutsu and koppjutsu.

Translated by Luke Crocker from HERE.

Essence of Budō – Menkyo Kaiden Henchō Gata

Wanderings in Budo

From the Essence of Budō book. There is a second omission in the English translation for the sōjutsu section (p90), under the Menkyo Kaiden Henchō Gata 免許皆伝変蝶型 heading there is a short descriptive paragraph.

Below is the Japanese text and a translation:

免許皆伝変蝶型
この変蝶型というのは、ちょうど蝶が舞い遊ぶがごとく、右に左に身体を転じて相手方の虚に付き入るというのが目的で、槍を充分に使うことが出来得る者に於て、この型を練習と共に使うことが出来るのである。

Changing butterfly patterns passed from teacher to student
These are the changing butterfly techniques, that is to say as the butterfly dances and plays (flutters) so must you. Move the body to the right and left, turning around the opponent’s side, harmonise and enter in to the space with intent. To fully make use of the spear a person needs to practice and gain competence with all these techniques and to be able to use them together/interchangably.

The above is my translation, the last line being quite difficult to find the best way to express what is written.

Kukishin Ryū Sōjutsu and the Creation Myth of Japan

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高木揚心流 . . .

SEISHIN NINPO DOJO

KACEM DENSHO

“Takagi Yōshin-ryū is a style of jūjutsu. Of course it’s not ninjutsu. That is obvious. Historically, the founder of this style, Takagi Oriemon, practiced a school called ‘Takenouchi-ryū’ (竹内流), one of the oldest and most famous traditions of ‘sōgō bujutsu’ (composite martial arts; 総合武術) of Japan. The reason why I say sōgō bujutsu is because you also have weapons. So, sōgō bujutsu in martial arts means ‘general martial art’ or ‘various martial arts’. From one point, a nucleus, they teach many, many weapons. Takagi Oriemon had learned this method with the second generation, but the problem with the Takenouchi family is that they never gave the inner movement, the deepest understanding, to someone from outside of the family. That was one of the main rules back in the 14th and 16th centuries. But he learned enough to create his own style. He received many things and, with that, he had…

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Kata, Kuden, and Hiden

There are two kanji characters for the concept of kata in the battle art, one is interpreted as form [型] and the other structure [形], i.e. what is in the form. Both of these contain a sign for “imitating reality” [幵], i.e. kata has always had the purpose of “reality based” training. 
There is another third character, [方], which is pronounced as kata and means direction or direction, and which can sometimes be used as a related word.

The very earliest martial arts, known as the kaden (family traditions; 家伝), those that were created before the Edo period (1603 – 1868) originally had no kata. These first appeared later in the 17th century.

In the oldest makimono (scrolls; 巻物) known, for kenjutsu, jujutsu, yari etc, the word kata was not used at all. The words used were “uchi tachi” and “shi dachi“. In one of our original documents, Kyussho ratsugi, which is part of the Amatsu Tatara collection of chronicles and described only the very principles and concepts, i.e. what to do. The answer to the question how the principles were put into practice was transferred as the kuden (oral transmission; 九伝) , verbally from teacher to student. It’s a bit like reading Sun Tzu or Sanryaku, the ideas are presented, but not how they can be used in individual situations. We have several hundred kata in our schools, but they are completely useless if you have not learned the kuden that belong to them.

The form of kata used in karate, for example, and similar modern martial arts came much later, only during the end of the 19th century. Then the purpose was to teach large numbers of students new techniques. The schools that changed their pedagogy from transferring quality to managing quantity were already named “shin ryu” (new schools; 真流), a term that is a bit funny because many of these schools are today called “ko ryu” (old schools; 古流).

When kata was created for describing principles and concepts, then the need to name them and the principle it contained also arose. Many names, concepts and ideas come from Buddhism, theater, archery, Noh, ikebana, sado, poetry, etc. In Gyokko-ryu, for example, it is said that the innermost secrets are embedded in the kata name.

Kata can be interpreted as a sequence or modulation of previous masters’ movements. If the student knows how to read the description and has the tools in the form of the kuden to decode the information, there is much to deepen in. The problem with kata is that they can easily become rigid and “die” unless the kuden is properly decoded by the student. Some parts can be lost over the years, such as distance, kukan, juppo sessho, rhythm, breathing or to change the weapon technique or tactics.

By definition, it is not possible to describe a master’s movements, either in writing, image or verbally. There are many aspects that the learner must learn “heart to heart” – this is called hiden (secret transmission; 秘伝). 
It’s like a teenager trying to understand their parents. You probably won’t do this until you have become a parent yourself.
A master’s movements can be likened to a stream running down a mountain side. A kata trying to describe this becomes inevitably rigid and clumsy. A kata can never describe anything spontaneous and natural, but it can describe its various aspects of it, which then the student must juggle in his own body and mind. Many old kata have names that are very poetic, which include concepts such as clouds, fog, running water etc, in order to describe another dimension.

Another problem we have today with kata comes from modern martial arts. When moving from educating a handful of students to mass training of hundreds of students, one had to create standardized techniques that were taught in a ritualized form. And from here, the wrong belief also stems that even in koryu kata is about learning techniques on a ritualized set.

One simple example is our “tsuki kata” (thrust form; 突型). If you consider this as a technology to be used in emergency situations, you are wrong. But if you understand the kuden that is attached to it, namely that it is important to repel the opponent so that he does not, despite being hit and seriously injured, continue his movement path and even manage to meet me with his weapon.
Compare with sword; if the enemy cuts with a sword against the us and hit with “hiki kiri” – pulling cut, then we, after the hit may still complete our chop and thereby seriously hurt us. On the other hand, if you have understood the danger in this and use “oshi kiri” – pushing cut, then the opponent is discarded. In martial arts contexts, it does not matter if you meet with “hiki or oshi“, because it is the one who meets first who gets the score.

One can divide all kata a little loose into two categories; Tanren gata and Shinken gata. 
The tanren gata (鍛錬型) is exercises for “forging and polishing” motor skills and physics in order to use the bio-mechanics of the tradition. Ukemi kata is a typical Tanren. 
Shinken gata (真剣型) is for real combat and represents tactics that of course also include abilities that have been practiced with Tanren gata. 
Kihon Happo is a genric piece made by one of the old masters. For beginners it is a Tanren gata and for the advanced students it is a Shinken gata thanks to the kuden, but for those who have gained insight via hiden, the content is raised another level to also include “kaname” (the deepest principles; 要).

During the Edo period, there was also the Hyoen gata (表厭), techniques shown at public and public demonstrations, to attract students to school and to make money. Many koryu schools of today consist of many Hyoen forms, but it is not always the practitioners of these schools are aware of it because the kuden has been lost over the years. 
An image can be seductive. Below is Hatsumi sensei and kamae. Is it out of the Shinken gata or the Hyoen gata? Just Kuden can reveal the purpose of this and if you have faced Soke when he assumed this position, maybe you even have managed to capture the hiden.

this article originally appears on Pertti Ruha’s blog HERE.

A Glance at Satsuma’s Heki ryu Kyujutsu: Part 1

Light in the Clouds

Japan has a long history of the bow and arrow. A prestigious weapon when feudal lords were at conflict for the unification of Japan, many bushi were required to learn the art of shooting an arrow, called kyujutsu in Japanese. Several martial schools became famous for their instruction on kyujutsu, such as Yamato ryu and Ogasawara ryu. One school in particular, called Heki ryu, has strong roots in warfare and was systematically devised to be used in the hands of both the elite warriors and infantry. It is unique in that the traditional methods of battlefield tactics is still preserved today, which is visible in the Satsuma style of Heki ryu.

Yumi-p1000624 A Japanese bow with arrows, dating back to Edo period. From Wikipedia.

Let’s take a brief look into the history of Heki ryu to understand its roots, and it’s further development as a battlefield-focused archery system under the…

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A Glance at Satsuma’s Heki ryu Kyujutsu: Part 2

Light in the Clouds

Here we continue with part 2 of the talk on kyujutsu, with the focus on the Satsuma style of Heki ryu. While part 1 focused on Heki ryu’s history and development, this time around we will look at the technical aspect of this archery system. If you have yet to read part 1, you can access it here.

@-cimg0576.jpg.jpg Archers wait patiently during a public exhibition. Photo from “Izumi Terebi Digest

Heki ryu is categorized as a busha style of archery, or battlefield-centric. This involves heavily structured group formations and moving in patterned sequences while shooting at targets in a wide field clad in armor. This is different from the more commonly practiced “reisha”, or ceremonial-centric, style of archery found in schools such as the Ogasawara ryu, where the attire is much lighter, and archery performed either standing up or on horseback. Kyudo, the non-violent form of kyujutsu…

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Nata 鉈

My Introduction to the Nata

Many years ago (about 15~) in my days of obsessively playing the Tenchu series of video games, I was exploring every nick-and-cranny of all the levels, and in one of the levels that took place in the mountain-top Buddhist monastery, I noticed a small detail where there was this sort of chopping blade sticking out of a block of wood just like a hatchet might.

A few years later I became quite interested in this short battle royal type of anime and manga called Basilisk: Kouga Ninpou Cho (and later the novel that it came from). In it I was drawn to  a character named Yashamaru from the Iga clan, and besides his distinct long-distance fighting style, he also carried as similar short cleaver, though between the three forms of media he never uses it, in the anime adaptation he does draw it so that you can see the angle and length (screen shots provided in the slideshow below.

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Finally, in around 2008, when I started to take studying Japanese and the ninja more seriously, I acquired a copy of the Shinobi Hiden (or Ninpiden), and before even having a translated copy, I knew what the illustration I was looking at was.

Etymology

I have seen two different ways to write Nata: the first seems to be the most common way 鉈, and seemingly less common way, 屶.

The first, the dictionary tends to translate as “hatchet”, but that is an evident transliteration to English based on it’s general use. However, when we break the radicals apart we find “stretch” (它) and “metal” (金). In my mind, this gives the image of a simple elongated piece of metal; which could stretch back in history  as a tool quite some ways.

The seal script of the kanji 會

The second way, I cannot recall where I got the kanji from initially, but a quick google search shows the very same tool. One doesn’t need a dictionary to see that this kanji easily breaks down  to “mountain” (山) and “blade” or “sword” (刀), so some form of mountain blade (see the Tenchu reference above). However, the Japanese dictionaries that I have don’t have this character. Instead, Wiktionary shows that , is a variant form of . So in looking at that…

The relevant seal inscription form (see image to the right) is a variant form (through phonosemantics) of 介 “reduce” and 曾 “pile” or  “mass” (That’s a bit of an adventure on how it gets there, but current dictionary’s go in a different direction as usual). Thus this character can refer to reducing a pile of something.

Interestingly, 會, which has come to refer to “reducing the space between things”, and as such nowadays means something like “gathering”, “to meet”, etc., and is usually simplified to “awasu” or “awaseru” (会).

Nata in the Shinobi Hiden

shinobi-hiden-ninpiden-tetsu-nata
The “Testsu” (鉄), found in the second volume of the Shinobi Hiden.

In the Shinobi Hiden, it is listed as a “Tetsu” or “Kurogane” (鉄), which basically means “Iron”. I’m not yet sure if the name changed at some point, but the common term for it is currently a “Nata” (鉈), referring to something like a hatchet.

In the Shinobi Hiden, it primarily details the proportions and materials used for it and it’s scabbard. It is even detailed at the end that a hole should be in the end of the scabbard and a “thieves gimbal lantern” can be attached.

What can be inferred

A point of interest is that it details to “Be sure the iron blade is well forged. Do this in case it is used in place of a sword, and thus the blade is of the most importance.” (Cummins, 2011). Though there is a growing opinion that the ninja would not have their own martial art, one can note that a machete or hatchet handles very differently from a sword or spear. As a result, in order to treat this tool as a sword, the biomechanics of ones martial tradition would have to allow for more than a familiarity with swords, spear, halberds, etc. but also a unity of combative methodology between any weapon.

This is precisely what we see in traditions such as Gyokko-ryu, Koto-ryu, Togakure-ryu, and similar traditions that have some part of their history in the Iga region of Japan.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that though such a tool can be weaponized, it is not in itself a weapon and is to this day used by foresters and gardeners alike. Used like both that of a hatchet and a machete. I have herd several accounts now of North American outdoors-men (and women) now preferring the Nata over that of their choppers or hatchets for their every day use.

How the Nata ended up being associated with the ninja in a few video games and anime is honestly beyond me, but for those guys dressed up in black masks and running through the bush with their Filipino machetes, this would be the direction that they would want to go.

Sources

  • The Ninpiden – True Ninja Traditions: And the Unknown Ninja Scroll
  • Etymological Dictionary of Han/Chinese Characters. By Lawrence J. Howell, Research Collaborator Hikaru Morimoto

 

Being Old School: An Interview with Ellis Amdur on the Classical Martial Arts of Japan

In excellent interview with an excellent practitioner!

The Freelancer

Alphabet - Ellis Amdur has pursued the study of East Asian martial traditions since the late 1960s. He is a licensed instructor in two koryū (classical Japanese martial traditions), the Araki-ryu Torite-Kogusoku and the Toda-ha Buko-ryu. The Araki-ryu is a rugged system that specializes in close combat. It could be termed, “grappling with weapons.” The Toda-ha Buko-ryu specializes in the use of the naginata, a long pole-arm with a curved blade against a variety of weapons. Details about this school, including dojo locations and entry requirements can be found at the Toda-ha Buko-ryu website. Over the years, he has trained in a number of other martial systems, most notably Aikido, Judo, Brazilian jiujitsu.and xingyi chu’an (studying varying lengths of time with Su Dong Chen, Chris Bates and Zhang Yun).  Aside from his ongoing koryū training, Amdur has most recently been training in two new areas: the basics of Arrestling, under the instruction…

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