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.
Please enjoy this latest FB post from Sean with more history connecting Togakure Ryu and Gyokko Ryu through the Inukai Clan:
Recently, I received an email asking some questions about things I said in the Hidden Lineage.
One of the questions that was asked is if I had learned anything new about the relationship between our arts and the Inukai family. Because I had stated in my book that the Inukai were the original clan who settled Togakushi Village and acted as chief Shinto priests to the Togakushi shrine since ancient times, he had asked if I found any more "solid" clues or evidence at all that they are related to the Bujinkan martial arts.
Interestingly, As I was researching the Gyokko Ryu's Sakanoue family for my next book I found that the Sakanoue family itself is a direct blood line clan from the Inukai.
The famous general Sakanoue Tamuramaro's father, Sakanoue Karitamaro was the son of an Inukai family member, Sakanoue no Inukai. They hail from the Asuka village in Nara, along the east-west roads that led in and out of Iga on the west side. Interestingly Asuka is written as "Hicho 飛鳥", as in Hichojutsu, Hicho no Kamae, etc. Terms heavily connected to the Gyokko Ryu.
Since the end or WW2 Asuka village changed the characters to 明日香.
So, as you will learn in my next book (The Hidden Lineage - Fighting art of the Imperial Tigers), the Inukai family were the ancestors to not only the Togakure Ryu, but also the Gyokko and Koto Ryu. There is even a direct link between the Inukai and the Okuni clans. For those that do not follow, the Okuni clan is one of the main clans for the Kukishin and Shinden Fudo Ryu lineages.
The more we dig, the more we learn, but we also discover many new questions that beg to be answered.
Volume two will be centered on the Gyokko Ryu and the real Tozawa Hakuunsai, not the fictional character related to Sarutobi Sasuke, and the origins of the Tozawa Clan. This will clear up a lot of questions that the Bujinkan’s skeptics have always had. I will also go into great depth regarding the Sakanoue family and their relationship with the mysterious monk of Kiyomizu Temple that introduced the secret doctrine of the "Shugun Jizo" to Japan.
As I have said before, volume two will be a much more interesting read than the first. The Gyokko Ryu's history is so intriguing that I have confidence to say, if you liked the first one you are going to love the second!"
For those who have not picked up my book yet and would like to get a copy please go to www.bkrbudo.com
Sean Askew (導冬)
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
July 19, 2019
Sean Askew's long awaited book, The Hidden Lineage, detailing the history of the Toda clan with Togakure Ryu Ninpo and particularly Takamatsu's grandpa's past. Buy the book from his own website (it's also on Amazon, but currently his website is the better price) https://bkrbudo.com/book/
Today I am sharing a post originally shared by the Bujinkan Shugyo Dojo on their Facebook Page.
"As you know, Takamatsu-sensei gave me the Kukishin Ryū scrolls. He was 73 or 74 years old when he did this. He told me that when he himself received the scrolls from his own teacher, Ishitani-sensei, he was told, 'It is too deep to be written down.' So when the scrolls were passed down to me, Takamatsu-sensei said, 'I am sorry. I am sorry that these things have to be written down in this way, but they must be preserved and there is no one else who could understand.' The things written in the scrolls are extremely difficult to understand. They would be impossible for the average person to comprehend. Although I had the scrolls, I thought about how to comprehend them for many years. I now am able to tell others that the value of all things is determined by our humanity, and that the scrolls' kotodama (spiritual language) originate from the sincere heart of humans. Only now, at nearly 70 years of age, do I understand what the words 'menkyo kaiden' mean, what the Kukishin Ryū scrolls say, and what the Kukishin Ryū teachings are. I hope that you also keep going till the end and learn to hear the kotodama."
- Hatsumi Sensei,
Quotation from 'Understand? Good. Play!' (2001/2012) by Masaaki Hatsumi & Benjamin Cole, image from Saigo no Jissen Ninja, Takamatsu Toshitsugu DVD (2003).
Bujinkan Shugyo Dojo
The view of Kobe in the time that Takamatsu was there living on the mountain. This would have been his view of the city.
The stone lantern at the Togakushi shrine near the border of Iga and Nara, it is dedicated to the safety of the soldiers.
The long awaited book by Sean Askew is published and he is taking preorders. Sean Askew dug up a ton of research that has not before been made public. This book covers the history of the Togakure Ryu Ninja, the Toda family's stewardship of the Ryuha (school), and Toda Shinryuken's hidden lineage. This is a must have for all Bujinkan members.
Another great essay written by Sean Askew. It is really fun seeing all of the new research being done on Japan's Ninja. The reason for this is because of the 2020 Summer Olympics being in Tokyo. The government knew that all things ninja would be of interest to tourists, so as part of creating ninja attractions for tourists, they are funneling money into researchers digging into old archives to discover information on the ancient ninja that hasn't been brought to light previously. Sean Askew's new book, The Hidden Lineage, due out anytime now, will be an important book for our art and a fascinating read. Enjoy his latest essay below:
In a recent research project in Japan executed by the Fukui Prefectural Library, they came up with some interesting finds on the Fukui Domain Shinobi or "ninja".
They lived proudly in the castle town, yet their names were mediocre in status. They usually performed normal daily tasks such as Ninjutsu practice, worked as gatekeepers and administered the weapon depots. Their main job was information gathering and they were responsible for writing out and posting the public notices. Based on the castle records written by one of the persons in charge, Fukui Castle researcher, Mr. Eishun Nagano (長野栄俊), has drawn us a picture of the ninja at the end of the Edo period.
According to the research done by Mr. Nagano, the ninja of the Fukui domain were called "Shinobimono" (忍之者) etc., and there were 12 Fukui domain ninja in service at the end of the Edo period in the late 1860's. Their status was "bushi" (武士) or warrior. They belonged to the lowermost class of samurai called "Ashigaru" (足軽). Since the status of "Ashigaru" could be purchased by money, Mr. Nagano speculates that "If a ninja had the money they could pay and become an ashigaru samurai of the domain".
For Ashigaru, their salary was unusually high, and about 500 tsubo was given to their unit around the present day Hoei 1-chome, Fukui-shi 1-chome and Hinode 5-chome area. They lived in a mansion considered to be a long house (長屋敷).
In the center of the map, depicting the castle town at the end of the Bakumatsu period, the word "Shinobi-gumi" is found. Mr. Nagano also reports that "the people of the castle town should have all openly known that it was a ninja's mansion as it is clearly drawn on a public map from the period".
The shinobi's names are also recorded in the historical materials. Although, the names are just like names that can be found today, such as "Yamagata Takashi" and "Takahashi Toshisuke". Jokingly, Mr. Nagano says, "It would be easier to search for their offspring if they had distinctive names such as "Kirigakuresaizou" or "Sarutobi Sasuke".
"Yoshitsune Ryu" Ninjutsu training
According to Mr. Nagano, "Ninja did not do the exciting jobs we think of when we imagine a ninja".
It is said that they usually worked as a gatekeepers at the domain's martial arts training halls, and managed the weapons stored in the storehouses of the castle. All while working hard at their Ninjutsu training. Their school of Ninjutsu was the “Yoshitsune-ryū”. Next to their mansion was a handy short-bow (半弓) range It seems the Fukui ninja worked hard at their skills with the bow rather than shuriken.
The work that they did do that ties in with the stereotypical image of the ninja is spying. They would gather information from the inside and the outside of the domain. However, what we see in the historical materials from the end of the Edo period, they were often sent to Kyoto to copy the contents of the public notices. According to the scrolls of Yoshitsune Ninjutsu, their main disguises used to prevent raising suspicion were merchants and Yamabushi, but there are no descriptions of ninja hiding in the rafters of an attic in order to steal something or to listen to conversations.
At the time of Commodore Perry's "Black Ships" arriving to Japan, the Fukui domain, upon receiving orders from the Shogunate, sent 272 warriors, including three shinobi, to Edo Castle as support. The shinobi's equipment were determined in advance, they wore a black-painted helmets with red armor, armored gauntlets, and a half-bow in their belt at the waist. In addition, they carried a tool unique to the shinobi, the rope and grappling hook, used to climb walls and cliffs. Finally, torches that could be used even in rainy weather. It is also said that they had their very own "servant" called a "Nimotsumochi" (荷物持ち) to carry their weapons and tools.
Translated and edited by Sean Askew, 5/1/2019
Thanks to my good friend Ferreteria Jm for sharing this link with me!
If you are searching for a dojo for Martial Arts training (karate, judo, jujutsu, kendo, Taekwondo, Aikido) you will likely be interested in checking out our dojo if a combat martial art with a 1,000 year old heritage is of interest to you.
When one hears the word “Musha Shugyo”, a landscape where strong samurai traveling exclusively in search of worthy opponents and “dojo-yaburi” or honor matches comes to mind.
But… this image lives only in the minds of people today and bears no resemblance to the reality for those who undertook it. The name literally means “the warrior’s training sabbatical”.
It was the time we like to imagine that every young samurai would put his skills to the test.
Historically, the real objective of most of these journeys was;
• Self-promotion (looking for job opportunities)
• Intelligence (Spying)
It is said that the first Musha Shugyo in Japan was done by a man from the Chugoku region of Japan. His name was Yamauchi Gembei. It is certain that since about the time he started his Musha Shugyo, many warriors soon began this practice throughout Japan too.
After the battles of Onin no Ran (1467 to 1477), many areas were disturbed with skirmishes and violence. Many lords fell from grace and their samurai became “Ronin” or wandering samurai with no lord to serve. They were all looking for work and started to travel in order to find it.
If a battle took place while on the road…all the better. It was considered a good opportunity.
They even often joined in the ranks of “Jingari” 【陣借り】or those who joined armies to fight for food. Usually with the hopes of getting noticed by the lord and being taken into the upper ranks. Today these kinds of men are called mercenaries.
Also, the samurai traveled not just for travelling’s sake. They did so while investigating the topography of each area, the situation of the Daimyo’s castle and family, the state of the vassals, the number of weapons and ammunition, etc.
Unfortunately, it seems that there were many samurai who earned money by merely providing information. The kind of information necessary for studying the strength and weaknesses of neighboring countries. At this point it was only money they usually cared about. In other words, some had become merchants of information.
It is also said that many samurai would take their servants while on their “Musha Shugyo” so it appears if you came from a strong “Daimyo” or feudal lord, they lived life well on this journey.
I once read that Akechi Mitsuhide lived the first half of his life as a “Ronin” then served the Echizen Asakura family. But later to betray his lord at Honnoji????
In relation to our Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu history, it is said that Yamamoto Kannsuke also traveled to various places in the country studying martial arts, never to lose a match. He also studied architecture and art during his personal “Musha Shugyo”. He is considered by historians to be very well educated for his time.
In summary, the “Musha Shugyo” was a samurai warrior's quest. The warrior or shugyōsha, would travel the land practicing and sharpening his skills without the protection of his family or clan. During this time they could expect to train with other schools, have duels, perform bodyguard or mercenary work, and search for a worthy daimyō to serve.
Comments by the author on the essay post script:
Just for clarification, after lots of digging, the Fujibayashi family chronicles from the early to mid 1600’s say that, on the order of Takeda Shinden, Fujibayashi Nagato no Kami taught Yamamoto Kansuke the art of Ninjutsu. It does not mention a Ryu name. Japanese historians and researchers have inferred that it was Togakure Ryu because the Fujibayashi family came from Togakushi village and brought the Kami from Togakushi shrine to Iga. They built the Tejikara Shrine in Yubune, Iga to house the Kami once it was brought there in elaborate ritual. The Fujibayashi clans lineage of Togakure Ryu was famous for fire and smoke skills as well as explosives.
Here it mentions that 戸隠流忍術を山本勘助より秘伝された藤林長門守は、火術、火筒、狼煙などの忍術が得意であったと伝わる。The Togakure Ryu, especially fire, smoke and explosives related skills were taught to the man who wrote the Bansenshukai (Fujiwara) by Yamamoto Kannsuke.
Here is a link to the fireworks festival from the shrine that the Togakure Ryu Fujibayashi family built.
I encourage everyone to check out this contest and the company, the owner, Shannon Julius Mcdowell, is a friend and I want their company and competition to be successful. These are some great clothing designs with ninjutsu and Bujinkan themes!
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.