Gyokko-ryū kosshijutsu (玉虎流骨指術) is the oldest of our nine martial arts traditions and is the basis for all of them. The prefix “kosshi” (骨指) means “bones of the fingers”, emphasizing the use of the fingers in both striking weak points of the the enemy as well as in Anma (accupressure therapy; 按摩). An other historical name of this method has been Shitōjutsu (Science for using the fingertips; 指頭術) and hichōjutsu (Science of the Leaping Bird; 飛鳥術).
Kosshijutsu is often translated simply as “approach to soft tissue and nerve points, consisting of oblique movements” or something similar, but this would be a rather superficial description considering the profound depths of the system.
Another, deeper, interpretation is that kosshijutsu is a dynamic process in taijutsu (Sciences of the body; 体術). By process, we mean the one that understands the chains of posture-displacement-movement and how this leads from foot to head, through the lumbar vertebrae, and to act in synchronicity. There are more guided movements where the optimum number of muscle chains interact and produce the desired motion. They strive to use offsetting muscle groups in both directions to achieve the relaxed and functional movements found within this tradition. When kosshijutsu was founded, there were not terms that described the more guided movements or “muscle chains”, but instead this was described as meridians and it was noted that the body was crossed by eight such meridians. Our Ryūtai undō is based on stretching these meridians and is a way to reset the body into homeostasis, which is a prerequisite for kosshijutsu and our other bio-mechanics.
The functionality of kosshijutsu is defined by Gyokko-ryū‘s three basic concepts:
- Fūsui 風水 – Wind and Water – feng shui (Environmental Psychology)
- Jūryoku 重力 – Gravitational force (use of body weight)
- Jiryoku 磁力 – Magnetic force (balance of tension)
This forms an implicit structure of movements that give an impression of “volatility” and refers to the origin of which was quick and nimble movements for “avoiding arrows” – yachigai (Arrow Avoidance; 矢違) and Yadome (Arrow Stopping; 矢止).
According its pedagogy, Gyokko-ryū was systematized according to an ancient book about warfare called Sanryaku (Three Strategies; 三略). This book originated from China and is over 2000 years old, it has been known in Japan since the Heian period, and consists of three chapters; Jōryaku no maki, Chūryaku no maki, and Geryaku no maki, ie, the same breakdown as Gyokko-ryū‘s curriculum.
Within Gyokko-ryu, one can find staff, spear, longsword (tachi; 太刀), iai (居合), shuriken, the kusari (chain; 鎖) a way of using the kodachi (small sword; 小太刀).
Though the tradition is made up of three levels, Jo, Chu, and Ge, there is also preparatory techniques to learn first, including The Kihon Happo (Eight Fundamental Techniques; 基本八法), Sanshin Gata (Form of the three hearts; 三心型), and Taihenjutsu (Body Changing forms; 体変術). These usually make up the introductory curricula before beginning the core curriculum.
The first of the core levels, Joryaku (Upper Strategy; 上略), is primarely made up of unarmed fighting techniques that in twelve kata, manage to account for all 36 Habitual Acts of Physical Violence (HAPV). This level also teaches the concept of the above mentioned Jiryoku, managing tension in the body and reading the enemy’s tension.
The second level, Churyaku (Middle Strategy; 中略), is primarely in response to knife and short sword attacks, and within teaches a shorter distance as well as Jūryoku, the use of one’s own body weight and the enemy’s body weight.
The third level, Geryaku (Lower Strategy; 下略) is focused on Muto Dori (catching without a sword; 無刀捕). This level, due to it’s Muto Dori applications has a high demand on grasping environmental psychology.
 In fact, the first scroll of Gyokko-ryū (Jōryaku no maki; 上略之巻) directly quotes the first scroll of the Sanryaku (also Jōryaku). The original quote is as follows:
“The soft can counter the hard, the weak can counter the strong. Being soft at the appropriate extent can be a virtue, being inappropriately hard can be a menace. The weak is what the people will help, those that pretend to be strong is what people will resent. Soft, hard, weak and strong, to each has its appropriate place, and one should combining these four and use them where it is most appropriate. When neither the beginning nor end is visible, no one is able to gain full understanding. Heaven and Earth, like the myriad of things, also changes and transform. Thus the commander-in-chief should make changes and not be constant when situation depicts. He should change and transform in response to the enemy.He does not precede affairs; when the enemy moves, he immediately follow up with it. Thus he is able to formulate inexhaustible strategies and methods of control to secure victory, sustain his gains, bring tranquility and order to the whole land, and settle the Nine Barbarians. Such strategist is a teacher for an emperor.”
“Nurture the heart (心) without making the first move, the “In” secret is emotional strength (force of will) without making the first move, To cease an advantageous situation change to the form of “Yō“. When confronting “Yō“, control with “In“, the strong is controlled by the weak. Your own power is not enough, victory by means of your opponent’s power, your own power appears spontaneously…”