Five Tiger kamae

By Pertti Ruha

Shinden Kohyō no Hikan (secret transmission of the divine tiger transformation scroll; 神伝虎変の秘巻) describes five kamae; five aspects of an inner attitude which spontaneously grows within us in an emergency.

  • Fukko No Kamae (Crouching Tiger; 伏虎之構)
  • Bōko No Kamae (Violent Tiger; 暴虎之構)
  • Uko no kamae (Starving Tiger; 飢虎之構)
  • Komochi Tora no Kamae (Tiger Cub; 子持虎の構え)
  • Gōko no Kamae (Resounding Tiger; 轟虎の構え)

These structures are collectively called Koteki ryuda Juppō sesshō no Jutsu (虎的竜打十方折衝之術) and defines the art’s oldest and most original forms or  kata.

In a chronicle, Kusshyo Ratsugi no maki (詳辣技之巻), which is from the year 4 BC, described “Sesshō no Jutsu” as a method for defeating enemies, and it explains the concepts gyaku waza, nage waza and atemi waza .
Juppō (Ten Directions; 十方) is a term to define everything that exists around us, in a spherical direction. Koteki ryuda (Battle of the Dragon and Tiger; 虎的竜打) is a multifaceted concept that includes the mythological battle between Tiger on earth, and the dragon in heaven. It can be equated with what we term as Kihon Happo.

Regardless of the outward form we assume in the event of an acute emergency situation, and whatever happens around us, it has very little to do with what is happening within us.
The five tiger kamae is a way to describe these internal events;

Fukko no kamae is a structure in which one observes the enemy, and then switch to a ferocious tiger fighting. Bōko no kamae is a structure that whips up a mood and then fights. Uko no kamae is an intimidating structure, struggling in the state of sutemi; it is about “eat or be eaten,” feeling in the depths of himself the sacrifice that awaits (the evidential death so others can live). Such sits in his eyes, no matter what happens thereafter. Komochi Tora no kamae is a desperate structure, which is to protect a third party at any price. Gōko no kamae is to bombard at many points against a strong enemy with rain, lightning, and thunder.

These five tigers form the foundation for what is usually called the “combative mindset“.


2 thoughts on “Five Tiger kamae

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  1. In Masaaki Hatsumi’s publication “Way of the Ninja: Secret Techniques (Jap. Ninja no Michi; 忍者の道), it states similar information:

    “[. . .] Another older Japanese document contains a volume entitled “Shinden Kohyō no Hiken” (“Secret scroll of the divine tradition of tigers’ transformation”), with five entries describing Kamae or fighting attitudes: the Crouching Tiger, Raging tiger, Starving Tiger, Nursing Tiger, and Thundering Tiger.

    The Crouching Kamae is the form where you lie quietly, watching the movements of the enemy forces with sharp eyes, then suddenly change into a fierce tiger to fight.

    The Raging Tiger Kamae is the form of a fierce tiger who whips up a wind and fights.

    The Starving Tiger Kamae is a terrifying form, in which you fight in Sutemi, the spirit of self-sacrifice: it is a question of ‘eat or be eaten.’

    The Nursing Tiger Kamae is a desperate form, used when your intention is to protect others at any cost.

    The Thundering Tiger Kamae is like a bombardment of thunder and rain when faced with a strong enemy.

    These are collectively known as “Koteki Ryōda (dragons and tigers fighting) Juppō Sesshō no Jutsu,” and are the original forms of the Kata found in Budō. The “Ryūko no Maki” (dragon and tiger scrolls) are a later derivation.

    The Dragon Scroll describes all things leading up to certain victory. The Tiger Scroll, in contrast, describes what one needs to know about various phenomena, objects and people, as well as things one needs to predict, sense and see through. In other words, the combination of the two great elements of the Dragon and the Tiger, having foresight and be certain of victory, is seen to be an important aspect of Budō. [. . .]”

    Masaaki Hatsumi. The Way of the Ninja: Secret Techniques (2003). Page 178.


  2. Also in Masaaki Hatsumi’s “Unarmed Fighting Techniques of the Samurai (Jap. Budō Taijutsu; 武道体術), it states in the chapter for Takagi Yōshin-ryū:

    “Koteki Ryoda Juppo Sessho no Jutsu 虎擲龍撃十方折衝の術

    Every year, for the last several years, I have used a different theme in my teaching of students. In the year of Takagi Yoshin-ryu, I was teaching perception of according to the insight of the Tiger and Dragon. This one legend of the Tiger and the Dragon is called “Sessho” (negotiation; 折衝), and it teaches the mental preparation of facing an enemy empty handed, yet rendering the enemy powerless. This Juppo Sesshou no Jutsu (which can also be written with the characters for “taking life”) is connected to the secrets of Kodachi, Jutte, and Tessen no Jutsu. Juji Ryoku, or power of the right angle or cross, is like trapping a bee in the palm of your hand and rendering the bee’s stinger useless.[. . .]”

    Masaaki Hatsumi. Unarmed Fighting Techniques of the Samurai. (2008). Page 116


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