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.”


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.


Munen Muso 無念夢想

Often ‘Shugyôsha’ (修行者), or those engaged in an intensive physical or mental practice, often refer to the phrase ‘munen musô’ (無念無想). The idea of ‘munen musô’ is to make oneself free of worldly thoughts and desires. However, the term ‘munen musô’ is not what describes a correct state of mental unity. The reason is that within ‘munen musô’ is a concept known as ‘Boga no Kyo’, or a state of forgetting the self.

In other words, ‘munen musô’ is exactly the meaning of the four ‘kanji’ that make up the phrase. They are: 無 No – 念 Desire – 無- No – 想 Thought. Further, unification of the mind by eliminating the myriad and unending onslaught of ideas and thoughts as taught in various doctrines of religion and cultural programming is nothing like the unity of mind and spirit found in a true ‘Heihôsha’ (兵法者), or one engaged in the intensive practice of the subtle methods of combat and military strategy. True unity of mind and spirit is the state of utter selflessness and intensive singular focus.


Sourced from HERE

Kiichi Hogen

Translated from Pertti Ruha’s Blog HERE.

In the mythology of the schools of the Bujinkan, there exist a person called Kiichi Hogen [鬼一法眼] (also sometimes romanized as Kiitsu Hogan) as mentioned in Takagi Yoshin Ryu’s Ryuko no maki. He is a legendary figure, who we do not know much about. Hogan lived in the 1100s in the areas around Kyoto.

He is said to have been skilled in onmyojutsu  (陰陽道)  a form of Japanese Taoism — and was a famous strategist.

Kiichi Hogen

Among the documents that are left behind after the “Kyoto’s eight schools,” Kyo Hachi Ryu, mentioned him as a prominent figure, whose teachings have been embraced among many of the martial arts schools that came from western Japan. Among other things, he must have left behind the piece of text included in Ryuko no maki;

“If the opponent comes, welcome it; if he goes so send him away. Add five to five and to receive ten; add two to eight, and to receive ten. How to create harmony.
Assess the situation, see through the intention; the large larger one ten square feet; the little penetrates the smallest things.

It can get hectic, but when you face whatever is in front of you, keep a cool head. “

According to a book from the early Edo period this was most like Chujo ryu. The tachi used was short and a characteristic technique was to squeeze close to the opponent.

The brief description of the sword he used is similar to our Togakure ryu sword and the  techniques of Kasumi, Fuma and Aranami with movements that oshi kiri and Raikou ken etc., are extremely similar.

A temporal link with the Togakure Ryu is also a legend that Hogan was Minamoto Yoshitsune’s sword teachers, the same Minamoto Daisuke Nishima fought before he was forced to flee into Iga mountains.

If this connection is true, then one can also speculate that Chujo ryu, a famous but now extinct school, could have links to Togakure ryu and Gyokko ryu.

Kiraku-ryu and the Toda Family

Kiraku-ryu (氣樂流) is a composite tradition including the use of the sword, grappling, chained-sickle, and more. Some of its secret teachings involve the Kuji, various mantra, accupressure, kanashibari spells, and so on.

According to the Menjo (diploma; 免状) of the school (my source is written sometime between 1862 – 1870), the founder was Toda Echigo no Kami, though there has been research that suggests that this is not accurate: possibly Watanabe Mokuemon (according to Serge Mol (2001: 209)) or Izuka Garyusai Okiyoshi (according to Watatani and Yamada (1978: 233). The Menjo simply lists these individuals in it’s list of past soke, or reputable practitioners, along with short biographies of each.

It is interesting to note that under the heading for Izuka Garyusai Okiyoshi it is stated that Kiryaku-ryu and Toda-ryu are one and the same and both founded by Toda Echigo.

Similarly, there are a number of other members of the Toda family found in this listing including Toda Naiki Yoshinori (戸田内記義則) and Toda Hayato Yoshitoshi (戸田隼人義敏). Though not likely to be expressly related, for those following Sean Askew‘s work on the Toda family, I have added the passages regarding these two Toda’s (Some of the other headings discuss parts of the Toda family, but they are seemingly further off topic).

The biography of Toda Echigo no kami Shigenori as found in the Kiraku-ryu Menjo (1862 – 1870)

Toda Echigo Morinobu no Kami (戸田越後守信)

“As for the the Toda family line, its ancestors also possibly called themselves the Tomida family (富田派) line originally; being the clan of the family of Gōshū Sasaki, many living in the generation of the family of the ranked official Asakura. They themselves, afterwards, were acting as public master instructors of swordsmanship under Toyotomi Hidetsugu (1568-1595), with the resignation of 70 years teaching in various provinces on the forefront of the field. With 400 households, they presided over swordsmanship with three blossoms: the tradition of the unrivaled Muteki-ryū spearmanship, the Tomida-ryū family tradition of jūjutsu and Toda-ryū family tradition. Mastering three traditions of inner technique, they went about serving in battle out of the province in Echizen /  tsuzen with the family of Lord Maeda Toshiie, during which they faced 138 famous unequaled rivals. Later to defeat other first class parties and obtain the title of a Chief  family with seven classes, due to having a myriad of battlefield deeds, the Toda family was honored with Sanzengoku, becoming known as the ‘Protectors of Echigo’. Being the aforementioned founder of Toda-ryū jūjutsu at the time, he was 70 years old when he passed away.”

Toda Naiki Yoshinori (戸田内記義則)

“Regarding the Toda family line, its original name was Yamada / Kumada family line at  Shiro / Jo province, natives of Fushimi, with Lord Yodo appointed as an official after his wanderings with Shindo Uunsai. Therein refining his character by diligence, the product of the merits of his actions, he, in the end, evolved into a topnotch master of the secrets and founder, venturing deep to the source of Toda-ryū. In both modern and ancient  times, the advantage of such personas, wandering alone unequaled in good name throughout the country, is the notable trace they leave. This master died at age 72 years.”

Toda Hayato Yoshitoshi (戸田隼人義敏)

Biography of Toda Naiki Yoshinori and Toda Hayato Yoshitoshi found in the Kiraku-ryu Menjo (1862 – 1870).

“Regarding Yoshitoshi, he was a legitimate son of Toda Naiki / Uchiki, wearing his father’s badge upon his leather garments, engaging in intense active practice himself, unceasingly in the house of (?) Koemoto (?). He was a person of recreational diversions, his name carried near and far, but he was repeatedly emotionally volatile. Yet in service to Lord Yodo, he was chief instructor, who, before long, increased that family’s  prosperity. This master died at age 82 years in Yodo’s feudal domain.”

Kukishinden-ryu Bisento

Bisento from the Wǔ jīng zǒng yào (1040), vol. 13.

An illustration of the Bisentō (眉尖刀) is found in the Chinese treatise, the Wǔjīng Zǒngyào (武經總要) compiled around 1040 to 1044 by scholars such as Zeng Gongliang (曾公亮), Ding Du (丁度) and Yang Weide (楊惟德), whose writing influenced many later Chinese military writers.

It contains the earliest known written chemical formulas for gunpowder, made from saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal along with many added ingredients. In addition to formulas for gunpowder, the compendium contains details on various other gunpowder weapons such as fire arrows, incendiary bombs and projectiles, grenades and smoke bombs – all tools found both in common manuals of strategy and battlefield martial arts. It also describes an early form of the compass (using thermoremanence).


Bisento from the Wubeizhi (16th century), vol. 37

Much later, this siege weapon appears in the famous Wǔbèi Zhì (武備志) is the most comprehensive military book in Chinese history. It was edited by Máo Yuányí (茅元儀 1594–1640~), an officer of waterborne troops in the Ming Dynasty. Wǔbèi Zhì contains 240 volumes, 10405 pages, and more than 200,000 Chinese characters, which makes it the longest book in Chinese history regarding military affairs. Being known as “a military encyclopedia in ancient China”, Wǔbèi Zhì is one of the most influential works in Chinese history on warfare. It is a rare source of some compass maps and designs and some weapons has contributed enormously to corresponding areas, and it also gives an account of ancient Chinese military theories and Chinese militarists’ thoughts.

According to the Nihon Budō Jiten (日本武道事典), an encyclopedia and dictionary of Japanese martial arts related terms, the Bisentō can also be found in Okinawan Kobudō, in a tradition called Ryūe-ryū, where it is sometimes referred to a Chugoku Naginata (Chinese halberd; 中国薙刀). The founder, Nakaima Kenkō (1911-1988) learned Chinese martial arts from Xie Chongxiang, who was also known as Rū-rū Kō (1852-1930), who was the founder of Whooping Crane Fist. This system still has some exotic Chinese weapons, including the staff, trident, dual sickles, the rowing oar, the spear, and of course the glaive, which they call the Bisentō.

In the Kukishinden-ryū, one of the nine traditions that the Bujinkan derive from, it is said that the founder, Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru revolted against the Imperial Regent Tadamichi Fujiwara during the Hōgen period (1156-1158) and escaped to a cave called Izumo-no-kuni Inome-dōkutsu (according to the Kukishinden Zensho). It is here that he is said to have been instructed in the bisentō by a Chinese Tang-dynasty martial arts master Tǐe zhàng Sēng (Jp. Tetsujō-ō 鉄杖僧).
Currently, there are nine kata publicly taught in the Bujinkan regarding this weapon, each of which are demonstrated in Masaaki Hatsumi‘s video detailing Kukishinden-ryū naginata, nagamaki, and bisentō, as well as in his book, “The Essence of Budo“.
  • Ōshin 汪振 (Deep Wave)
  • Kakugyaku 鬲逆 (Tripod Reversal)
  • Chikusha 竹斜 (Leaning Bamboo)
  • Namiba 波刃 (Wave Edge)
  • Battō 抜刀 (Drawing Blade)
  • Gisen 㬢先 (Before the Light of Day)
  • Shintō 伸刀 (Lengthening Sword)
  • Seitō 惺刀 (Tranquil Sword)
  • Miken 魅剣 (Demon Sword)
A modified Pudao with reinforced and extended tsuka to recreate the Bisento (private collection)

The Shukō of Togakure-ryū


In the Bujinkan organization’s vast collection of teachings, techniques, and tools, there are a wide assortment of unusual weapons and tools that have been adopted, adapted, and re-purposed to fit new needs and intentions. This isn’t new for the martial arts, a tertiary glance at Okinawan martial arts will illustrate that. However, one of the more exotic and supposedly specialized tools has a great wealth of mystery and misconceptions – the shukō.

This is a highly misunderstood tool that has had much of it’s qualities exaggerated, and even it’s place in history re-shaped to fit many people’s conceptions and ideals of farmer-warriors and the ninja. Some of the things that are misunderstood:

  • The shukō are unique to ninjutsu,[1]
  • The name means “tiger hands” (手虎),[1]
  • The shukō were designed for climbing trees,
  • and so on…

In regards to these things, they aren’t always easy to source, but they do tend to have a certain logic about them so I’ll peel them off quickly: The notion that the shukō are unique to the ninja don’t generally make much sense as anything visibly unique to the ninja would simply give up one’s cover; as such, like many such interesting tools, they originate in agricultural practices (elaborated on later).

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The name means “hand hooks” (手鉤) not “tiger hands” (手虎), though a viable homonym, there are literally no reputable sources for this way of writing the name. One may take some artistic license in regards to such things, and the connection is an easy one to make, but neither the history of the tool, nor any prevalent sources support this. One source that we can look to is in Takamatsu Toshitsugu‘s own writing, one of the densho of the Togakure-ryū (see the above slideshow), where by his hand, it is written 手鉤. This kanji is also reproduced in Masaaki Hatsumi‘s “Way of the Ninja” (page 48).


The foundation and evolution of the shukō begins in the agricultural fields of ancient Japan around the Kofun period (c. 250 CE – 538 CE), when the establishment of iron tools really started to take hold in rural Japan. At this time, the source tools we can find is that of the Asakagi (fiber hook; 麻鉤), also called the tekagi (with the same spelling as shukō; 手鉤), used for hooking bails of straw, hay, wheat, and in early times, bundles of rice, for manual moving and transportation.

There was also the Asanō (shallow agriculture; 浅農), a three-to-five pronged claw on a shaft, used for hand plowing gardens and smaller crops. This could also be used for the same purpose as the above mentioned asakagi in moving bails of various horticulture product.

Quite a while later, during the Heian period (794 – 1185 CE), there was a certain merger to this tool in certain regions of Japan[2]. At this point, the development of the tekkō kagi (claws that cover the hand; 手甲鉤) can be seen (source waiting for release [3]). This was used similar to that of a pitch-fork, a tool used for scooping up hay, straw, and wheat manually.

Sometime in the Sengoku period (1467 – c. 1603) certain regions developed a variation of the tekkō kagi, but with the hooks worn on the inside of the palms, often with cloth or leather sleeves similar in use to chaps in order to protect the bare skin from whatever produce was being handled (see figure 3). This allowed better leverage and handling when lifting and moving bails (koku; 石) of rice by hand. The version made popular by Togakure-ryū ninjutsu is made of a metal band that wraps the palm, and a wrist band. The hooks are located on the inside of the palm (see figure 2).

(Figure 2) Evolution of the shukō
(Figure 3) The use of shukō and manipulation of rice bails by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎, 1760 – 1849).


Within the martial arts of Togakure-ryū ninjutsu, there are three particular ways to go about it:

  1. Applying this to augment one’s unarmed fighting (taijutsu; 体術),
  2. Usage for fleeing techniques (Taijutsu Ukemi Gata; 体術受身型),
  3. Kata that are specifically made to utilize shukō (Santō Tonkō Gata; 鼠逃遁甲型)

With Taijutsu

The first approach, and most common one it seems, is to explore one’s taijutsu while wearing shukō. This, however, requires that you understand the qualities of the tool. For example, one can assume that you could simply slap the enemy with the claws and have some exciting results. However, what then happens when the claws get stuck in bone? Now this slows you down; this is also where one can quickly see where this was a tool before it was a weapon – the hooks are designed for fibrous produce, not human… consumption.

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Instead, one uses the weight of the metal band and the shape of it in various ways, while moving in an exceptionally light way[4], including changing how one delivers strikes. the forms of boshiken (thumb fist; 拇指拳), shutō (edge of hand; 手刀), and even fudoken (clenched fist; 不動拳) are forced to change to accommodate the shape of the shukō. As such the following gokui is relevant:

Sutemi also contains a sense of moving as though empty handed,
even while holding a tool.

– Masaaki Hatsumi

Ukemi Gata

The second way draws from the more acrobatic section of Togakure-ryū, from the Togakure-ryū ninjutsu hidensho (戸隠流忍術秘傳書), which is shown in Figure 1 above. This details some vague forms of evading sword attacks and takes into account matters such as striking the opponents vitals with the metal band of the shukō as well as using it to catch a sword blade in the hands and hoist the weapon away from the enemy.

The Escape Forms

Finally, there is the Santō Tonkō gata (鼠逃遁甲型) found in the Shinjin Ichinyo no maki (神人一如之巻)[5]. This writing lays out the primary techniques of the shukō, shuriken (throwing blades; 手裏剣), and metsubushi (blinding powder; 目潰し). These forms are derived from Hajutsu (破術)[6], and deal with dire situations where one is detected and forced into combat. This is different from conventional kata dealing with the defeat of the enemy in that these kata detail how to escape from various grabs, stun or weaken the enemy and flee or hide.

the second section deals with being unarmed (or with shukō and various other tools) while facing an armed assailant. These techniques again don’t necessarily deal with killing the enemy, but stunning or disabling, and then fleeing or hiding.

The third section is regarding situations where you are discovered, cornered, and outnumbered. Then things like stones, metsubushi, and misdirection is deployed in order to survive and escape.

Figure 4. Shinjin Ichinyo no Maki (神人一如), containing the Togakure-ryū Santo Tonko Gata – including usage of the Shukō, Shuriken, and mitsubishi.


As can be seen above, although certain groups have weaponized this uncommon farm implement, it is not inherently a weapon. Shukō are not weapons for war, they are soto no mono (improvised weapons; 外の物), but before being a weapon, it was a tool for carrying things on the back. So a warrior or samurai who is working in the fields is suddenly attacked by somebody and he used the tools by accident. That is to say the shukō wasn’t something you necessarily carried (though see the photos at the end of this article to see how they were carried), unless that was a planned thing.

And the techniques involved further exemplify this, as well as a very important gokui of Togakure-ryū:


Win without drawing; if you must draw, don’t cut. Just forebear. Know that it is a grave thing to take a life.



[1] It has been stated in other sources across the Internet, but here is an example where a notable amount of misinformation has been cast. I don’t know where this information comes from, but according the “About” page, it is linked to To-shin-do. I emphasize that this is not a slight against Stephen Hayes at all, but the information has been clearly inaccurate.

[2] Even in North America, though notably later (circa 16th century), I personally can attest to seeing tools similar to the Tekkō kagi for the purpose of moving handfuls of hay and straw before the bundling of hay bails with large scooping movements, having grown up on a horse farm in an French Acadian family (the initial European settlers of the country to be known as Canada).

[3] I have translated several primary sources on commission, and this is one such one that is under a confidentiality clause; it is regarding agricultural tools and their usage during the Kamakura (1185–1333) or Muromachi (1336–1573) periods. I can say that this is a long gap in history, and there was tremendous developments and improvements in metallurgy during this time as there has always been two major influences in historical development: military, and entertainment – in this case the Sengoku jidai (warring states period) stretched from 1467 to 1603; a very long time, but a very scientifically influential time.

[4] “Smooth is slow; slow is hidden.” (滑らかさは遅いです、遅いが隠されている。)

[5] This particular scroll teaches not only the fighting techniques of the tradition, but also the philosophical principles of “harmonizing with nature”, that is to say, Shinjin Ichinyo. As I have explained elsewhere, the notion of the kami (神) in the Shinto faith, are like the manifestations of the elements of nature; and like that, this scroll teaches how to escape and hide with the five phases (gogyo; 五行) as inspiration. As such, learning to rely on and harmonize (become one with) the phases of nature is becoming one with the kami.

[6] “Hajutsu no hō is a very violent method of combat, which requires a deep understanding of the human anatomy as well as the ability to move with fluidity. Hajutsu no hō allows the practitioner, among other things, to incorporate the use of the various types of weapons. It encompasses the likes of kosshi-jutsu and koppō jutsu, the art of kyūsho (急所) and kyūsho (求所 or 救所). Here, the two words have the same sound, but the characters are different. They are complementary sciences, which shows why kosshi-jutsu and koppō-justsu were always transmitted together.” (Zoughari pp 77)

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And here’s the TL;DR version:

Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu – background

The origin of Kukishin Ryū Bōjutsu 九鬼流棒術, as we practice it, can be found among the martial arts practiced during the Tang Dynasty in China. Some of these skills and techniques came to Japan with Otomo Furumaro. Sometime during Choho period (999-1004) was reformed method of Nawa Shinzaburo Motonaga and he became Ryuso (founder) of Chōsui Ryū 澄水流. This ryu had been renamed, when the 3rd Soke Okuni Kihei Kitosumi inherited sovereignty, to Kishin Chōsui Ryū 馗神澄水流.

On Mount Kurama was a Shingon priest named Yakushimaru Kurando Taka Masa, who had studied both Kishin Chosui ryu and Shinden Fujiwara Muso Ryū 神傳藤原無双流. In the summer of 1336 Yakushimaru participated the emperor Godaigos side at Ikoma mountain and when he was in the battle broke the blade of his Naginata, he had to fight on with just the shaft. It was a life-changing experience and he developed techniques with long pole – staff 棒 – and incorporated them in his Kishin Chosui ryu. Later he founded Chosui Kukishin ryu which was shortly thereafter renamed Kukishinden Tenshin Hyoho and which today is known as Kukamishin ryu.

In 1349 Izumo no Kanja Yoshiteru founded the Kukishin Ryu Happo Bike Jutsu after studying Chosui Kishin ryu. Bojutsu techniques were recorded in a book which was named Kangi no maki .

The 27th Soke of Kukishin ryu Happo Biken – Takamatsu Toshitsugu structured these kata to what we know today as bojutsu, and left the sucession to Hatsumi Masaaki, thus he is the 28th Soke of this tradition. Takamatsu Sensei took what we call Keiko Sabaki gata from Kukishin Ryu and Shoden-, Chuden- and Okuden gata from Kishin ryu. The last three can also be found among the documents that define Amatsu Tatara Kukishin ryu bojutsu, and the first are included in both Takagi Ryu bojutsu and Kukamishin ryu bojutsu.

Kukishin ryu bojutsu has several different types of forms. The two most common are maru-bo (round rod) and Hakkaku-stay (octagonal rod). These two could also have reinforcements of metal around the ends. The other two are Donryu bo 呑竜棒 (dragon staff) and nyoi-bo 如意棒 (wishful staff). The last two rods requires an extremely high taijutsu management.

Nowadays, one standardized length of the rod to 6 shaku (6 feet, i.e. 182 cm), but in the past would be a staff 1 foot (33 cm) longer than what one was, but could also be longer. The thickness of the rod usually 1 sun (3 cm), but it could also vary.

Nyuibo  如意棒

Hatsumi with nyoibo

Manufactured from wood and 2 m long, wrapped in leather and covered with metal studs. Used on battlefields to put down the warrior in armor and keep at a distance. A blow could crush a man. Could also be used as a shield against arrows, sword and other weapons. A long rope could be attached to the narrow end to provide assistance for techniques such as throws.



Bo no Kagi 棒の鉤


Rod with a hook at one end that could be used to hook the clothes or armor at a distance. The hook could also be used as a tip for strikes and swipe from the side.

Kuki Gyoja bo 九鬼行者棒 – nine demons pilgrims staff

Donryu bojutsu.1

This is a weapon that was also called Donryu bo 呑龍棒- dragon staff. Four metal tips are secured at one end and attachment is reinforced with metal strips in itself has studs. The inside is hollow and conceals a four foot long chain of weight and that can are whipped if necessary. The other end of the rod is reinforced with nine studded metal spikes and a metal tip.

Tetsubo 鉄棒 – iron staff


Same as Kanabo 金棒 – metal rod. Could weigh up to 5-6 kg.

Shakubo 錫棒  – walking stick


This rod had a big ring with nine small rings attached to it. The top of the ring had a point, like a nail. The rings and the tip of made of metal. The nail could be used to shock or impact against the enemy, like a short spear.


Ruha, Pertti. Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu – bakgrund.

The Background of Kukishin-ryū Jōjutsu

Kukishin-ryū jōjutsu developed sometime during the Genna period (1615 – 1624) by the 11th Sōke, Okuni Kōgenta Yukihisa.

The Jō-bō (杖棒) could in the old days sometimes had a stone or iron weight at one end. Because of this reinforcement, all our basic jōjutsu techniques today have two versions, so you can choose whether they wanted to strike with the reinforced end or not.

During the latter part of the Edō period the jō-staff was more popular and at some point it was decided to remove the weight.

There are 3 types of jō-bō in Kukishin-ryū, the two most common are maru-bō (round staff; 丸棒) and Hakkaku-bō (octagonal staff; 八角棒). The third type is called Shaku-jō (copper staff; 錫杖), a rod that monks used on their hikes.

Tengu with Shaku-jo

Originally Kukishin-ryū jō-bō is about one shaku (feet, ie 30.3 cm) shorter than what one was long, (eg if you were 5 feet long rod was 4 feet (~ 120 cm) or if you are 6 foot-long rod was 5 feet long (~ 150 cm)) to compare to modern standards jō-bō which can be bought in store and which is 124 cm long. The staff diameter was usually 27mm (9 bu).

Chinese Martial Arts

One of the first references to melee combat in China was a battle about 3000 years ago between the legendary Yellow Emperor Huang Ti and a monster with horns. During archaeological excavations bronze weapons have been found such as axes and spears dated between 1200 and 800 BC and iron weapons dated from 800 BC
There have been no details about the martial arts of the time described in writings or chronicles, and in some cases the chronicles are known to have been written by historians without connection to the martial arts. They also know of writings that disappeared and we have no detailed knowledge of what they contained.

The practice of Jiao li in the Zhou Dynasty was recorded in the Classic of Rites (Classic of Rites. Chapter 6, Yuèlìng. Line 93.)

From the Chou dynasty (1122-255 BC) there is the Li Ki (Book of Rites; 禮記), which describes ritual duels and legends from ancient times.[1]

Chronicles from the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BC) describes warfare with chariots (horse and carriage) instead of infantry (foot soldiers), and a defeated foe receives post-war assistance such as grants in the form of seed.
Literature of the Warring States period (403-221 BC) describes ritual wrestling matches, demonstration of archery, fencing and horsemanship. Martial Arts and warfare are described as precious knowledge and performed in the highest propertied society.
During the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC – 220 AD) Shuāi jiāo di (raw wrestling and dueling with fists; 摔角抵)[2] was popular. It was organized competitions and the winner is given employment in the Imperial Life Guards (it covered many benefits, such as tax exemptions, etc.).

The first description of Chinese boxing was in the “Han Books of Arts“. Its contents are unknown when the six chapters with description has been lost. This period marked the end of feudalism, which meant warfare and martial arts, moving from being a profession to only for the nobility.
It was decreed that the imperial army was to train Jiao Di during the winter months, as well as the lance and swords, but not archery.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) martial arts was to be a must in the young men’s upbringing and they were put to practice horse riding, archery, lance, and sword in parallel with Confucian texts. Army officers were trained in the Tang Dynasty military institutions and regiments. Where one learned the “Eight elements of the battle formation“. It was a setup for the battle that was formed by eight units and named as Sky, Earth, Wind, Cloud, Dragon, Tiger, Bird and Orm. A form of tactical feng-shui in other words.  Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” was studied by everyone.

According to historians monks from the Shaolin Temple in Honan province have helped the second emperor of the Tang dynastyLi Shimin – to defeat the enemy Weng. This led to a fighting art that was spread further and above all to the Shaolin Temple and became famous for its boxing.
Sometime in the 530s, the monk Bodhidharma (japanese: Daruma) come to Shaolin and there founded what later became the famous Shaolin Wushu. Again, it is a myth and it is more likely that it was scarred war veterans who had “retired” in the monastery and developed it.

It is from this time that the roots of our  Kosshijutsu  and  Koppōjutsu originated. However, we can not currently find any kind of contemporary Chinese martial art that has some similarities with Kosshi- and Koppō methodology. Either the Chinese martial arts changed over the years or it is Kosshijutsu that has changed.


[1] “In this month there is the great festivity when they drink together, and each of the stands bears half its animal roasted. The son of Heaven prays for (a blessing on) the coming year to the Honoured ones of heaven; sacrifices with an ox, a ram, and a boar at the public altar to the spirits of the land, and at the gates of towns and villages; offers the sacrifice three days after the winter solstice with the spoils of the chase to all ancestors, and at the five (household) sacrifices; thus cheering the husbandmen and helping them to rest from their toils. The son of Heaven orders his leaders and commanders to give instruction on military operations, and to exercise (the soldiers) in archery and chariot-driving, and in trials of strength.” (Classic of Rites. Chapter 6, Yuèlìng. Line 93.)

[2] The word Shuāi,” , stands for “to throw onto the ground”, while jiāo may be one of two characters: the first and older, , stands for “horns” and the second and recent, 跤, stands for “wrestle or trip using the legs”. In modern Chinese Shuāi jiāo is always written using the more recent characters 跤, and should be translated as “to throw onto the ground through wrestling with legs”. The use of the character is because in the earliest form of Shuāi jiāo, players wore helmet with horns and head-butting was allowed. This form of Shuāi jiāois called ‘Ciyou Xi‘. (from Wikipedia)

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