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.
Another great essay by Sean Askew, click on the title below to visit the original blog. Shared with permission:
The other kind of Shinobi – Toda’s Mitsumono Kamari
"In some documents from Japan’s Warring States period coming from the Tohoku and Kanto regions, the term “kusa-chōgi” (草調義) can be found. This roughly translates as “the wit and intelligence of the grass”. As can be expected, there was often skirmishes at the borders of all the various competing lands, each with the desire to expand their territory. Much of the fighting in these battles was done by groups of “ashigaru” (足軽) foot soldiers called “kusa” (草).
What were these “kusa” operatives and what was their purpose, you may ask. It was to cause havoc and disruption in the enemy’s ranks both before and during the battle. A standard fifty man “kusa” army was usually broken down into several three-man units when deployed. These warriors would not go by their given names and keep it secret. Instead they were to be called “Ichi-no-kusa”, “Ni-no-Kusa” and “San-no-kusa” or literally blade of grass one, blade of grass two and blade of grass three.
Evidently their typical strategy was to have one lure the enemy in while two and three lay waiting in ambush. They would also usually sneak into strategic places to plunder, pillage, destroy crops and take hostages.
An interesting note here is evidence suggests that Yamamoto Kansuke of the house of Takeda Shingen led a one hundred and fifty man “kusa-chōgi” army that only reported directly to his lord. This is the same Yamamoto Kansuke, who at the same lord’s order, studied Togakure Ryū ninjutsu from Iga shinobi commander Fujibayashi Nagato no Kami.
The famous Sanada Masayuki, who early in his career also went by the name Takefuji Kihei (武藤喜兵衛), was another leader of one of Takeda’s fifty man “kusa-chōgi” teams. His responsibilities included information gathering activities and guerilla warfare.
The “kusa-chōgi” fought their skirmishes on the boundaries where everyday life and the battlefield met. Mentions of these warriors are to be found in old documents held at the Date family estate in Sendai Japan. It seems that Date Masamune, the regional ruler who founded the city of Sendai, also placed great importance on intelligence gathering and guerilla warfare.
The Hōjō clan of the Kantō region made active use of the “Fuma-Ittō”, a “rappa” (乱波) shinobi unit whose job was to sneak into enemy territories to conduct night raids and such. They were especially crucial in the night battle at the siege of Kawagoe castle (1545-1546 CE) which triggered a leap forward in prominence and influence for the Hōjō clan. It is well known that at this battle the Hōjō used the “Fuma-Ittō” shinobi to repel the allied Uesugi and Ashikaga armies.
Takeda Shingen is said to have created an intelligence agency with more than one-thousand members that included shugenja from Mount Kaikoma (駒ヶ岳) in the province of Kai and Mount Togakushi (戸隠山) in Shinano. Allegedly he also made use of “Onshi” (御師) shrine and temple guides, wandering shrine maidens (のうのう巫女) and even merchants (商人). This new group of secret agents were termed “Mitsu-mono” (三ッ者) by Shingen and their specialization was in gathering intelligence. It seems Takeda Shingen skillfully manipulated this network to collect and spread a wide variety of types of information throughout the country. As people with long legs walk faster and with a greater stride than people with shorter legs, Shingen was nicknamed the “Sokuchō-bōzu” (足長坊主), meaning “the Buddhist monk with long legs” because he was able to gather and spread information at great speed.
Matsudaira Ietada (松平家忠), a Sengoku period samurai, known for his journal titled the “Ietada nikki” (家忠日記), which he kept for 17 years (1575 to 1594 CE), notes that this group of specialist warriors acted as Takeda’s “Kamari”.
“Kamari” is defined by the Japanese martial arts historian and author Nakabayashi Shinji (中林信二) in the Japanese World Encyclopedia (世界大百科事典) as follows:
“…their skills include traveling great distances very quickly through techniques of fast walking and running, forming the mudra seals with the hands and chanting magical mudra. They were originally schools from Iga and Koga but later developed into the Takeda style, the Togakure style, the Kishu style, the Kusunoki style, etc. Eventually there were many styles all over the country. Depending on the region these groups were called shinobi (忍び), kamari (かまり), suppa (透波), kanchō (間諜), rappa (乱波), onmitsu (隠密), etc. They had many names depending on the style and location.”
The “Daijirin” (大辞林) dictionary defines “kamari” as; shinobi/ninja scouts and soldiers who carry out reconnaissance activities.
In the 1860 CE “Bukemyomokushō” (武家名目抄), an encyclopedia of military job descriptions, it states that “they were called the Iga-shu (伊賀衆) or the soldiers of Iga. They are put in place and used as an ambush.”
So, based on these definitions, the shugenja that were being recruited at Togakushi and Kaikoma mountains were serving Takeda as a type of shinobi or ninja. Some western ninjutsu researchers may disagree with this based on their own personal definition of what a shinobi or ninja is, but the Japanese historians have decided and agreed a long time ago that Suppa, Rappa, Kamari, etc. were all various types of shinobi-no-mono or ninja.
The men who carried out the organization and training of these shinobi for Takeda Shingen were Toda Gozaemon (富田郷左衛門) and Ideura Morikio (出浦盛清). While Morikio was a local of the Shinano region, having been born and raised in Hashina-gun just a short ride by horseback from Togakushi Mountain, Gozaemon’s origins are more of a mystery. His name itself almost seems like a made-up cover. A nickname of sorts, hinting that his roots are with the Toda family of Izumo. I believe this because the first three characters of his name are 富田郷 which means Toda Township or village, the home of Gassan-Toda castle in Izumo which is famous for its shinobi called the Hachiya-shu (鉢屋衆). The rest of his name 左衛門 is a very typical name for a warrior before the Meiji period. So, his name can simply mean “the warrior from Toda village”.
As I mentioned, the Toda (富田) family, also sometimes read as “Tomita”, originate from Gassan-Toda castle in Izumo. This is the same family as Toda Hisajiro, Toda Gosuke and Toda Hisasuke – the Tokugawa Shogunate falconers that carried Togakure Ryu ninjutsu into the modern era. They were deeply involved with the Onmitsu secret intelligence agency, the Torimi spies and investigators, the Oniwaban inner castle security forces and the Kobusho military academy. When this Toda (富田) family left their homeland castle in Izumo they intermarried with the Toda-Matsudaira (戸田松平) and the Kuki (九鬼) clans and changed their characters for their last name from 富田 to 戸田. This is well recorded and documented.
Regarding the skirmishes on the borderlands, the activities of many of these historical shinobi are described in the “Kazawa-ki” (加沢記), an Edo period document recording the history of the Sanada clan and the Kōzuke lands.
To learn more about the history of the Toda family and Togakure Ryu ninjutsu please check out my book, Hidden Lineage – The Ninja of the Toda Clan and my upcoming second book, Hidden Lineage – The Fighting Art of the Imperial Tigers."
Sean Askew – 導冬 – Dōtō
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
July 16th, 2020
This is great research performed by Sean Askew. The history of our art and the Toda lineage keeps getting deeper.
Essay by Sean Askew, first shared on Facebook:
As I have written in the past, I have found evidence that proves the Toda clan was involved with the Tokugawa Shogun's family for a very long time, as far back as the end of the warring states period.
This time a new document has been discovered. The "Kokakoushi Soganjou", or the "Petition to the Koka Warriors". In it is recorded a Toda clan member petitioning the Koka (Koga) warriors to assist Tokugawa Ieyasu with his efforts in the siege of Kaminogou Castle.
Ieyasu had been assaulting the castle for quite some time and was not making the progress he had hoped for. So, early February 1562 CE, he sent his men Toda Katsutaka and Makino Denzo to Koga to recruit the famous guerilla warfare style warriors from the area.
They were able to bring back 200 warriors from Koga and on the night of February 26th, Ieyasu was able to take the castle in a single night. The Koka warriors took the head of the castle's lord and shot down with bow and arrow, over 200 of his top retainers. It was a great victory for the Koka warriors. Ieyasu was very grateful and paid them well to stay in his service.
In another record about the taking of this castle, known as the Kanseichoushushokafu (寛政重修諸家譜) there is a passage regarding Hattori Hanzo Masanari 「服部半蔵正成」. It states that during the night raid against the castle, when Masanari was still only 16 years old, he successfully led 60 to 70 Iga no mono (ninja) on an infiltration mission and helped win the battle.
So, the proof that Tokugawa Ieyasu had a deep relationship with the warriors of Iga and Koga before Oda Nobunaga's invasion of Iga keeps piling up. Now we also know that the Toda clan seems to have been the middle men in this relationship.
The search continues for the Hidden Lineage...
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
The Hidden Lineage Vol. 1 - The ninja of the Toda Clan
The Hidden Lineage Vol. 2 - The art of the Imperial Tigers (Coming Soon!!!)
Hello all, Sean Askew has a new essay out on his research into the history of the Gyokko Ryu, our oldest school in the Bujinkan, and one that is said to be the foundation of all Japanese Budo (martial arts). This research is especially important for members of the Bujinkan, but I think any fan of martial arts, whether they be Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Taekwondo, Kendo, Aikido, will appreciate this essay. Please visit this link for the original post and to see the pictures mentioned. Shared with permission by the author: Original Post
I have made some corrections including the proper readings of some of the names, big thanks to my friend and fellow ninjutsu researcher Eric Weil for pointing those out to me.
It is late at night and I don’t want to be up all night, but I am so excited with this find I need to post this before I sleep… so please forgive any grammar or spelling mistakes…I really want to share this quickly…
I believe that the mysterious Sō Gyokkan Risshi 僧玉観律師 (Master of the Law, Monk Gyokkan) of the Gyokko Ryu, who has up until now has remained completely anonymous, was in reality a Sakanoue family member carrying on the family tradition of worshipping the Shogun Jizo or Kachigun Jizo. If you have been following my posts, you may have read that the famous General/Shogun Sakanoue Tamura Maro was a huge proponent of this faith and funded the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto where this ritual first started.
Now, in a document tracing the Sakanoue family I may have found some clues.
In the red box on the first photo from the Gyokko Ryu Soke lineage chart, you can see the name Sakanoue Kotaro Masahide, a descendant of Tamuramaro.
In the green box we see Masahide passed the art on to the Monk Gyokkan…
Then the Ryu goes to Sasaki Gendayu Sadayasu (of Kishu). The “Gen” of Gendayu represents that he is of the Sasaki Genji lineage (Minamoto).
This Sasaki Minamoto clan is actuality a direct blood related branch family of the Sakanoue clan that went by the name Sasaki Genji (Minamoto).
From there the Ryu goes on to Sasaki Goroemon Teruyori, a warrior also from the Sasaki Genji clan (Minamoto), who founded the Gyokushin Ryu Koppo school. This Uemon is listed in a lineage document titled the 群書系図部集 shown in the second picture.
You can see the whole document here…
So, my belief is that since the historical trend in the old past was to keep a Ryu within a family or clan, the Monk Gyokkan was most likely a Sakanoue family member who became a monk and later passed the art on in the Sasaki Genji branch of the Sakanoue clan. Possibly to his own son as it was quite common for monks to have children, especially those from nobility and the warrior class.
For more information on this Sasaki Genji branch of the Sakanoue family (in Japanese) please see …
The family Shrine, Sasaki Shrine 沙沙貴神社, can be found in Shiga, just a short distance north of Iga and Koka. The Sakanoue family's shrine in Asuka is just to the south-west of Iga.
Another interesting point is that our Toda Hisajiro (Shinryuken Masamitsu) comes from the Toda clan that changed their Toda characters from 富田 to 戸田. AND… this 富田 clan was a branch from the above mentioned Sasaki Genji clan out of Izumo.
It is becoming more and more clear that these families were deeply connected. Not just by lineage, but by blood.
The search for our roots continues…
Sean “Dōtō 導冬” Askew
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
I often get asked about our Dakentaijutsu, or striking methods, and how they are similar to, or differ from, Karate. In many ways they are very similar. Dakentaijutsu means striking body art, and is our method of delivering punches, kics, and various other strikes. As opposed to Jutaijutsu (more modern is Jujutsu or Jiujitsu) which is joint manipulation and submissions, and includes Nage Waza (older combat version of Judo) which is throwing. Karate and our use of Dakentaijutsu may appear similar on the surface, but there are some key differences I think is important to cover:
* Dakentaijutsu developed alongside Jutaijutsu, so they are built to work with each other. They are quite literally two sides of the same coin. Whereas many modern sport martial artists will earn two different systems and blend them together, like Karate or Muay Tai and BJJ or Judo, in our system they were never separate and are designed to work together. A strike sets up a throw, sets up another strike, sets up a submission.
* Dakentaijutsu utilizes the whole body to strike with. Our Dakentaijutsu striking techniques can be used to cover great distance very quickly, or deal with threats in a confined space. There is a key alignment with the structure of the skeleton that enables the great power that comes from our strikes while using very little effort. Thus, it is extremely efficient: Maximum power, minimum effort to generate the power.
* There are a variety of ways to shape the fists and other parts of the body (head, elbow, knees, toes, heels, etc.) for striking. In fact, the basic level of learning Dakentaijutsu has 16 different ways of shaping the fists and other parts of the body for striking. We don't just do push ups on our knuckles to condition them, we do pushups on our knuckles, fingers, thumbs, extended fore-knuckles, and sides of the hands in order to develop the strength in the ligaments of the hands to be able to perform our striking, or Dakentaijutsu. This allows a Bujinkan practitioner to be able to adapt to various situations with different ways of striking.
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.