This is a different kind of post than usual. Not necessarily martial arts related, but I enjoy sharing Japanese culrtual things also from my trips to Japan. I love Udon, I jokingly call it life changing, but I'm not sure just how much of a joke it is... At least that is how I feel about Udon in Japan. Not what gets called Udon here in the states. In this Youtube video, you'll see how the Udon is made in one of my favorite Udon restaurants. It is a chain restaurant, but the level of perfection they strive for is incredible, and the noodles are always amazing. Enjoy!
This great article, written back in 2018 by Sean Askew, is pertinent for us this year since we are studying Kukishinden Ryu. Enjoy:
"Is the link between the Togakure Ryu and Kukishin Ryu deeper than we thought???
In the middle ages there was a very serious samurai practice to take written vows when undertaking the study of a military science, especially when the pupil is from outside of the family.
In the case of the Kukishin Ryu, the Kuki family to this day still preserves a document from 1532 CE that has been continuously added to until modern times. The document is the 2nd scroll in a set of two titled “Seiyakusho” (誓約書). It is a written oath that pupils sign upon formally entering the school or “Ryu”. It is a promise to uphold the true meaning and spirit of the martial arts (military arts) and that one promises to cultivate a great sense of justice. The signature is traditionally accompanied by a thumb print in blood, vowing they will never reveal what they have been taught to others without the master’s permission.
In the book Kukishinden Zensho by Ago Kiyotaka in 1983 he writes that he could hold in his own hands and examine this original 1532 CE document carefully. He notes that the more recent portion of the document leading up to the modern times was re-written by Kuki Takaharu in 1904.
This list is a veritable all-star list of Japanese military commanders and master swordsmen. Including Yamamoto Kansuke (Red Star on pic), known to have studied Togakure Ryu ninjutsu from Fujibayashi Nagato no Kami. The list also includes Sanada Masayuki (Green Star), the father of Sanada Yukimura. Both men are recorded as hiring local shugenja from the Togakure and Iizuna regions as shinobi and “Kamari” commandos in their forces.
Takamatsu Toshitsugu (Yellow star), our current Soke’s master also signed this list in 1899, vowing his allegiance to the emperor and the nation and to protect the teachings of the Kukishin Ryu. His “Kohai” or junior training partner Iwami Nangaku signed the list in 1922.
As Kuki Takahiro (隆博) died in WWII he was the last signature on the list as the Kuki family has taken vows of peace and no longer are involved in the martial arts. They now run several successful businesses and corporations all over the country and still administrate the Kumano Grand Shrine.
The original document list begins in 1532 with the vows and signatures/stamps of;
Kuki Yagoro, 1532 CE
Yamamoto Kansuke, 1534 CE
Kuki Moritaka, 1573 CE
Kuki Yoshitaka, 1574 CE (Formed the Kuki Navy from various bands of pirates from the Shima region)
1 name omitted
Sanada Masayuki, 1577 CE (Father of the famous Sanada Yukimura who used Shinobi from Togakure)
Bessho Nagaharu, 1576 CE
2 names omitted
Itō Ittōsai, 1573 CE (Famous master swordsman, 2nd to only Miyamoto Musashi, 33 matches, no losses)
Kuki Shigetaka, 1576 CE (Son of Kuki Yoshitaka)
Kuki Takasue, 1597 CE (Son of Kuki Moritaka)
Miyamoto Musashi (Black star), 1494 CE (Here we have an enigma, the date is exactly 100 years too early but it is for the famous swordsman, the Kuki family claims that it is the same Miyamoto Musashi who wrote the book of 5 Rings and fought over 60 duels with only one loss, I think the date may be a typo and should read 1594 putting Musashi at around 10 years old, the normal age of taking these vows)
Chōsokabe Motochika, 1595 (Daimyo of the Chōsokabe Clan)
Takagi Oriemon (Blue star), 1616 CE (Founder of the Takagi Yoshin Ryu)
Kuki Takayuki, 1648 CE (Daimyo of the Tanba Ayabe Domain)
1 name omitted
Kuki Takanao, 1662 CE (3rd Daimyo of the Tanba Ayabe Domain, brought Kito Ryu into the Kuki family)
Kuki Takahide, 1683 CE (Son of Kuki Takanao)
Shibukawa Bangoro, 1625 CE (Founder of Shibukawa Ryu Jujutsu)
Kimura Ittosai, 1649 CE (no information on him at this time)
Kuki Takashin, 1712 CE (Founder of the Shima branch of the Kuki family)
Kuki Taka??, 1743 CE (no information at this time)
Kuki Takanori, 1773 CE (8th Daimyo Lord of the Tanba Ayabe Domain)
3 names omitted
Ishitani Matsutaro, 1868 CE (Takamatsu Sensei’s 2nd master)
Takamatsu Toshitsugu, 1899 CE (Hatsumi Sensei’s master)
Iwami Nangaku, 1921 CE (Takamatsu Sensei’s Kohai under Ishitani Sensei)
9 names omitted
Shiozaki Katsuo, 1923 CE (Student of Iwami Nangaku)"
Essay by Sean Askew
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
"It is easier to instill confidence than competence" -- Rory Miller
In the world of martial arts, this is particularly true. Many instructors and coaches will instill a sense of confidence in their students. That keeps them in the dojo longer, keeps them paying. They may not actually be competent, but their coach has made them feel confident, but the two are not the same. I don't instill false senses of confidence in my students. In fact, I don't ever let them feel complacent with where they are at. I always point out the next thing someone needs to work on to improve and get better. This is tough for new students because they want to be told they are good, but the reality is there is always more to learn, more to improve on no matter how long one has been training. If you come to train at the dojo, it will be a growing experience. But growth should be the goal always and not just having a false sense of confidence.
Just how badass was the Togakure Ryū???
Today I received an email asking me “I don’t see much historical information available regarding the Togakure Ryū, in your opinion just how badass do you think they really were???”
This is a great question; it requires a lot of explanation.
First, keep in mind that the actions of the shinobi were never meant to be made public, so it is likely that 95% of the ninja’s history will never be known. But we can get good glimpses from reliable source texts as to the types of missions they were involved in.
In the case of the Togakure Ryū, during the 1500’s the headmasters of the lineage were of the Momochi family.
According to Toda Shinryuken’s oral traditions, there were no less than ten Momochi family members that acted as Grandmasters of the Togakure Ryū. They were considered, along with the Hattori family and the Fujibayashi family, to be the supreme commanders of the Iga-shu shinobi. Today we often refer to these families as Jōnin (上忍). Therefore, in my humble opinion, any actions that were carried out by the Momochi family and their supporters would have been executed by Togakure Ryū shinobi.
On top of this there is plenty of evidence to show that the Fujibayashi family were from Togakure village and that their ninjutsu was of Togakure origins.
For one final nail, we also know that the Hattori family, Momochi family and the Fujibayashi family had extremely close family connections, including intermarrying, adopting each other’s children, etc.
So, it is likely that the differences between these three families’ styles of ninjutsu would not be that different. Rather, it is likely they shared many similarities.
With keeping all of this in mind I would like to introduce an entry in a historical record that shows just how extremely effective these ninja families were.
In the chronicles of Ozuki Tokimotoki (小槻時元記), there is an entry for February 15, 1502, that says when the local rulers of Iga tried to secure their control over the peasants of the region for their idleness, the peasants asked for help from the yamabushi in Kyoto on Atago Mountain. Soon after, dozens of yamabushi (mountain priests) from Atago, accompanied by about 400 men, invaded Iga Province.
However, the Iga-shu 伊賀衆 (the shinobi) rushed into the Yamabushi camp at night and defeated them without having a single formal battle, leaving only a dozen or so people to return to Kyoto. This was described as an extremely "strange occurrence” because the Iga people must have been well-trained and used guerrilla warfare methods such as surprise attacks and distractions. It must be so as they easily defeated the Yamabushi, who were known to have been skilled in battle, with less than 20 men.
So, in summary, I believe that as this was 1502, the Momochi family were most likely directly involved in these actions. Being that the attack was coming from Kyoto it would have been the Momochi and the Kami-Hattori clans that they would encounter first. So, if the Momochi family was involved, I think it is safe to say that it was the Togakure Ryū.
To answer his question…the Togakure Ryū were more badass than 400 battle hardened men from Atago Mountain, where the men there were known to be masters of the martial arts. This is probably why they were even able to defeat Oda Nobuo's army during the early part of the Tensho-Iga War.
Sean Askew – 導冬 - Dōtō
PS - Don't forget to register for the Noguchi Taikai by October 7th and save $55. Spaces are filling up quick so act now!!!
Words cannot express how much I love training in Japan. It is an amazing experience to say the least of it. COVID-19 has put a damper on things regarding travelling to Japan for martial arts training, but next year hopefully things will be open again and travel allowed. Interested in martial arts training, particularly in a dojo that has ties to Japan with the opportunity to travel with us as well, use our contact page to reach out about joining our local Bujinkan Dojo here in Meridian, ID.
Now is a great time to get signed up for training. Keep your kids and/or yourself active during the summer break from school with dojo training.
"Since even before ancient times, mankind has found significance and meaning in the various star constellations of the night sky. Even considering them gods. This is called Astrolatry.
Astrolatry is the worship of stars and other heavenly bodies as deities, or even as simple as the association of deities with heavenly bodies. Common examples of this are sun gods and moon gods in polytheistic religious systems all over the world. Other examples are the association of the planets with deities in Babylonian and Greco-Roman religion, such as Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
In the far east Asia things were no different and I would like to introduce one belief or practice of revering the stars that dealt with military strategy, or Heiho 兵法 in Japanese. To our modern mind it may seem extremely superstitious and risky to base your military strategy on the stars in the sky, but in ancient China, Korea, and Japan it was considered fundamental and logical.
"When considering a battle plan, one of the first steps a Warring States Period Samurai General would take would be to find the location of the star known as Hagunsei (破軍星) or “the army breaking star” and the direction it is pointing in. Hagunsei is a star in the constellation of Ursa Major. It is the star at the end of the handle in the Big Dipper.
The reason it was so important to know the location of this star is because according to Scott C. Littleton in his 2005 published book, “Gods, goddesses, and mythology”, in Chinese fortune-telling, north is believed to be a very unlucky direction. Northwest is even worse. Hunters and soldiers traditionally did not point guns and weapons in the direction of this star.
"In Chinese tradition, the Big Dipper is made up of seven stars:
The seventh star of the Big Dipper, Hagunsei, was also worshipped as the god of bows and arrows, and in the Middle Ages it was revered as the guardian deity of warriors and worshipped by many of the major samurai clans such the Chiba, Soma, Ouchi, and others.
"This traditional superstition or belief in the Hagunsei star was deeply influenced by Taoism, the Yin-Yang and Five Elements ideology, and later by the Yin-Yang Doctrine that developed independently in Japan (Onmyodo), which gave rise to the belief that Amaterasu is the North Star (Hokushin Myoken), also known as Taichi. Originally, the worship of Hokushin Myoken was reserved for only the Japanese emperor, but later, it spread to the common people. Around this time, there also developed the tradition of “housing” the Buddhist deity, Kokūzō Bosatsu 虚空蔵菩薩, in the celestial star of Hagunsei.
To read to rest of the article, visit Askew San's blog: CLICK HERE
All Sean Askew posts shared with the permission of the author.
Sean Askew did it again, he found yet another connection in a historical document that shows the Toda family were not only in Iga, but major players in Iga. This is from the Igatsuke Sashidashicho. The Toda family were responsible for transmitting sixe of the nine schools of the Bujinkan through history eventually to Masaaki Hatsumi Soke. Iga was a hot spot for ninja clans during the Sengoku period. Iga and Koka (aka Koga) were the two main areas where ninja clans originated. The ninja schools of the Bujinkan are Iga based. To see more great research from Mr. Askew's blog, or to order one of his great history books, visit www.bkrbudo.com/blog/.
Here are a couple pictures of the new conditioning training space. There are a few more things on the way (stall ladder, additional grip training implements, larger slosh pipe), but this is far enough along I wanted to share.
There is a new conditioning space being built in the dojo that I'm excited to share with everyone. Stay tuned for an update and pictures once completed.
Shane Sensei is a licensed Shidoshi in the Bujinkan and member of the Shidoshi-Kai. He has trained in the Bujinkan since 1998 and regularly travels to Japan for training.