The ninja heritage of the Bujinkan is from Iga province, so this is a great article written by Sean Askew as a Facebook Post posted on his personal FB page. Visit his website/blog for more: bkrbudo.com
"Evidence for the resiliency of the Iga-no-mono shinobi warriors
Most ninjutsu history enthusiasts are aware that the Iga province was conquered by Oda Nobunaga in 1581 CE after a failed attempt in 1579 CE by his son Oda Nobukatsu. This battle, in Japanese, is called Tensho Iga no Ran. But did you know the men of Iga made a bit of a comeback???
Oda Nobunaga's large army of approximately 42,000 men attacked the Iga warriors, totaling 10,000 men at most. When the Oda forces advanced, they burned down castles, shrines, and temples. The most significant battles were the siege of Hijiyama Castle (the headquarters for the northern Iga forces defended by Momota Toubei and Toda Zairoku) and the siege of Kashiwara Castle in the south (defended by Momochi Tanba Yasumitsu, headmaster of Gyokko and Togakure Ninpo). When Hijiyama castle was about to be lost, Momota Toubei and Toda Zairoku escaped at night and fell back to Kashiwara to support Momochi.
Vastly outnumbered, the Iga forces quickly surrender at Kashiwara Castle on October 8, 1581 CE.
But nearly all the major Iga shinobi commanders, including Momochi, Momota and Toda, seem to have escaped during the night before the surrender. Large scale Iga resistance ended and control of the Iga province was handed over to Oda Nobunaga's son, Nobukatsu. Fortunately, as you will see below, the Iga-no-mono and their secretive shinobi would live on to fight another day.
In June of 1582 CE Oda Nobunaga committed suicide after being surprise attacked by Akechi Mitsuhide at Honnoji temple. Immediately upon receiving this information, the Iga-no-mono rose up from the various places they had been hiding in. The military chronicle, Seishu Gunki (勢州軍記), describes this as the "Iga Province Dust Uprising" 「伊賀国一挨蜂起」
The Iga-no-mono quickly took back Fukuchi Castle at Tsuge, attacked Oda commanders Fukuchi Iyo and Ikejiri, driving them out of Iga and back to Ise. Sawa Rokuro (沢六郎), Akiyama Ukon (秋山右近), Yoshino Miyauchi (芳野宮内) and others from Yamato were dispatched to suppress the uprising against the guardian of Iga (伊賀守護) Nikki Yubai (仁木友梅) at Heiraku-ji Temple in the heart of Iga.
In a sense, it was this Nikki Yubai that set off the chain of events into action that led to Oda’s invasion of Iga. After officially being appointed guardian of Iga, with Oda Nobunaga’s approval and support, he was invited by the countrymen of Iga to come to Iga from Eshu. After staying in Sanda for a while, he entered Iga province and settled at Heirakuji Temple (平楽寺) in Ueno. He ruled as the lord of Iga, but the countrymen came to despise him for his policies. A fissure gradually arose between them and in 1577 CE, he was exiled to Shigaraki in Koka after a confrontation with Momota Toubei over a Buddhist statue.
This event in turn infuriated Oda Nobukatsu causing him to underestimate the warriors of Iga and fail miserably in his attempt to invade the province in 1579 CE. This embarrassment to the Oda family caused daddy, Nobunaga, to invade a second time in 1581 CE, this time they would not lose.
In the above mentioned Seishu Gunki we find the following entry about Hattori Hanzo and the Kuki family;
…Also, Tokugawa Ieyasu added Hattori Hanzo and his 100-man musketeer units to his forces. In total, the forces of the Iga/Ise army numbered more than 30,000 men. Takigawa had long been taking hostages from the southern samurai families (to ensure loyalty). However, Tamaru Nakatsugu Shosuke (田丸中務少輔), Kuki Osumi no Kami (九鬼大隅守), Sawa Genrokuro (澤源六郎), Akiyama Ukon Shogen (秋山右近将監), and Yoshino Miyauchi Shosuke (芳野宮内少輔), at the advice of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, plotted a rebellion and became allies of the Hashiba clan (羽柴家). Oda Uenosuke Nobukane (織田上野介信包) also sided with Hideyoshi…
I find this to be clear and compelling enough evidence to demonstrate that ninjutsu was not squashed out by Oda Nobunaga and his invading forces. It seems to be quite the contrary. It also shows that by the end of the Sengoku Period the warriors of Iga were advanced marksmen and were held in high regard for this. More so than their skills in invisibility and magic. As soon as Nobunaga was dead the shinobi of Iga quickly sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu to form his personal bodyguard and sharpshooter unit. Ieyasu and his family in Mikawa province had been long-time benefactors of both Iga no mono and Koka no mono, so it was a natural transition.
The next question that pops up in my head is, what would they have done had Oda Nobunaga not died at Honnoji? Would they have still risen up and try to take Iga back, or would they have stayed in hiding and make a new start elsewhere?
The search continues...
Sean Askew – Dōtō 導冬
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
August 23, 2020"
Great article on the Togakure Ryu, written by Sean Askew and posted on Facebook:
"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 Tokimoto (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"
- Facebook post by Sean Askew, August 18, 2021
This is going to be a controversial blog post by Sean Askew for some Ninja history enthusiasts, but very informative and likely bringing new information to light that most people do not know about. I'm including a teaser of the beginning of the blog, click on the link and go read the full thing on his website:
Blog post by Sean Askew:
"Is the Bansenshukai even worth the paper it is written on??? Of course, I’m kidding but only partially…
Credibility is defined as the quality of being trusted. In literature, having a credible text means that the information therein is reputable and a trusted source for those looking for information on the subject. In this post, I will go over why the Bansenshukai and possibly other famous ninjutsu texts are not credible, or at least not completely reliable.
When a document is said to be a secret one, passed down only within the clans of the shinobi, or “ninja” for the lay people out there, you would expect it to be accurate. You would expect it to have credibility, right?! After all, from the early 1600’s until the late 1860’s the shinobi families that served the Tokugawa shogun provided a nationwide network of spies, assassins, sharpshooters, etc.
Taken from Wikipedia… “The Bansenshukai was compiled by Fujibayashi Yasutake in 1676, in the early years of the Tokugawa shogunate, to preserve the knowledge that had been developed during the near-constant military conflict from the Ōnin War until the end of the Siege of Osaka almost 150 years later. As well as information on military strategy and weapons, it has sections on the astrological and philosophical beliefs of the times, and along with the Shōninki of 1681 and the Ninpiden of 1560 make up the three major sources of direct information about this shadowy profession.”
So, if this document was meant to preserve secret knowledge for a very specific group of people, the text’s credibility should be considered as of the utmost importance. Should it not?
But, within the Bansenshukai, as with the other documents mentioned, there are several items that are discussed where I am highly skeptical of its validity or accuracy. Of course, most of the document is filled with logical things that make sense, but at times there are things that are just not right..."
Finish the article on his blog: BKRBudo.com
With the new school year, parents are looking for after-school extra curricular opportunities for their children/youth. Our Kids and Teens classes are truly beneficial as they develop confidence, gain experience in leadership, and have fun while they learn self-defense and train in one of Japan's oldest martial arts systems. Please contact the dojo ahead of time using our contact form to set up a time to try out a class.
This is a whole martial arts system, one that never splintered up it's subdisciplines (karate, judo, jujutsu [jiujitsu], kendo, kenjutsu, and more). Most of the old warrior systems of martial arts splintered their subdisciplines when recreational sports became more popular, so that their system could be used in sports competition. The schools of the Bujinkan did not do this, they kept their systems complete. So we train striking with throwing with grappling with weapons simultaneously. It is a lot of fun, we get to participate in a living part of history, and it is effective self-defense.
Enjoy this fascinating video on more the the history of our martial art and ancient ninjutsu.
This is a Traditional Japanese Marital Arts school in Meridian, Idaho also serving Boise, Kuna, Star, Nampa, Caldwell and surrounding communities with traditional Japanese Martial arts. If you are looking for Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, Judo, Kendo, Jujutsu or Juijitsu in Meridian or Boise, Idaho, this may be the school you were hoping to find if you are looking for a traditional combat martial art but don't know the differences in styles.
Information like that in this video is great for helping us understand the history of our martial art. The Bujinkan has a history unlike most all modern martial arts. Very few martial arts from the Waring States Period survided into the modern era because the Meiji Era caused most of them to change to a sport version or a "gentlemen" version. The schools of the Bujinkan survived this change and maintained the original essence of their martial arts.
Toda at the heart of Iga, a Facebook post by Sean Askew. This is important because our primary ninja school in the Bujinkan, the Togakure Ryu, which was part of the Iga region and one of the oldest ninja traditions of the region, was passed to Takamatsu Sensei from his grandfather Toda. This shows just how much the Toda family was involved in the ninja clans of Iga. This is important in establishing the martial arts history and validity of the Bujinkan.
Another Toda discovered that is a master of the Iga-Ryu….
戸田清太夫 Toda Seidayu, mentioned in the early Edo Period work titled “Kakan Shōsetsu” (可観小説).
Despite the term “Shōsetsu” in the title, this book is NOT a work of fiction. It is a type of document called Zuihitsu (随筆), a style of writing that is written freely in a casual format, such as what you saw and what you experienced. I think a collection of essays is the best translation for this word “Zuihitsu”.
The Kanazawa City archives classify this document as the following:
分類１ 藩制 (Classification 1 Domain related)
分類２ 藩史 (Classification 2 Domain history)
分類３ 見聞記・雑記 (Classification 3 Memoirs and miscellaneous notes)
Now, how do I know he is a master of the Iga Ryu???
In the above mentioned work the author states that Toda Seidayu was a master of the Iga-Ryu military sciences and was fond of studying the military sciences of other domains. It says that he lived in Edo and had been writing several works of his own on the topic.
In other sources, Toda Seidayu is mentioned as a “Kikiban” (聞番) for the Daimyo Lord, Akimoto Takatomo (秋元喬知), who was ALSO born as a Toda. He was born as the son of Toda Tadamasa (戸田忠昌) and the daughter of Akimoto Tomitomo (秋元富朝娘). Later he was later adopted by his mother’s father, Tomitomo who did not have a son of his own. Again, this just deepens my belief that Takamatsu Sensei and Akimoto Fumio Sensei were related. Possibly even cousins.
OK, now back to Toda Seidayu…I mentioned he was a “Kikiban” (聞番) for Lord Akimoto. A “Kikiban” was a job title during the Edo Period for a type of liaison. Their role was to communicate with the Shogunate on public affairs and to interact with other daimyos throughout the country on behalf of the Shogunate. It is said that this position often worked closely with the Onmitsu units (secret police, formed from the Iga men who helped support Tokugawa Ieyasu).
For more information on Akimoto Takatomo and Toda Seidayu please see the following links:
This year the Boise Japan Day celebration event was held virtually. Here are some videos from the virtual event. I am really looking forward to this being offered again in person, hopefully in 2022! There are all kinds of foods, martial arts demonstrations (Embu), dancing, music, and more that celebrate Japanese culture. This is put on each year by the Idaho Japanese Association. Please enjoy!
The rebellious ones…
Fujiwara Chitsune, Chiharu and Chikata
In part one we covered Fujiwara no Kamatari and how his lineage leads to Fujiwara no Chikata, the legendary infamous rebel General that led a campaign against the imperial court. In this second installment of three (possibly four or five) separate posts, I want to cover the details of how some of the Fujiwara family came to be seen as rebels by the imperial court and why Chikata is considered one of the early ancestral founders of ninjutsu in the Iga region.
To start let’s go back to his lineage chart and remember who the clan says his father was, Fujiwara no Chitsune. Keep in mind we are talking about things that happened just over 1,000 years ago. So, bear with me as much of this is now legend, complete with demons and wizards with superhuman powers.
Chitsune's father, Chikata’s grandfather, was Fujiwara no Hidesato, a "kuge" level imperial court bureaucrat, well known for his courage in many battles and is believed to be the common ancestor of several clans. Hidesato was what I call an "Imperial Tiger" because he fought for the Japanese emperor, Suzaku.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Fujiwara clan highly respected the military text from mainland China known as the "Rikutō", especially the 4th chapter titled "Secret Teachings of the Tiger". This text along with another, the “Sanryaku”, came to be the basis of the teachings we in the Bujinkan label the Gyokko Ryū.
Gyokko is written with the kanji characters for "Jade" and "Tiger". In old China and Japan, Jade was the symbol of the imperial court, and tigers were often symbolic of warriors. So here we have a potential meaning of "imperial warriors", Gyokko, and the base of their teachings in Japan were contained in a scroll known as the "Tora no Maki". According to Takamatsu Sensei's writings, this was the same martial art that was taught to Minamoto no Yoshitsune at Kurama mountain by the yamabushi and shūgenja that were there under the guidance of Kiichi Hōgen. Takamatsu Sensei also notes that Yoshitsune's leaping skills known as "Hassōtobi" is the same as "hichōjutsu" from the Gyokko Ryū.
Ok, back to Chitsune's father Hidesato... he also fought alongside Taira no Sadamori in 940 CE to suppress the revolt of Taira no Masakado, a provincial magnate (gōzoku) and warrior that lived in eastern Japan. He was most well-known for leading the first ever recorded uprising against the imperial government in Kyōto. As a reward for his service Hidesato was appointed to the position of "Chinjufu-shōgun" or (Defender of the North) and Governor of Shimotsuke Province. So, to say that Chitsune came from a military family would be an understatement.
What I feel is important about Hidesato’s sons, Chitsune and Chiharu, is that they both rebelled in Shinano, the same province as Mt. Togakushi, homeland of the Togakure Ryū of ninjutsu. As a result of this rebellion, known as the Anwa Incident of 969 CE, an incident in which the legitimate branch of the Fujiwara Hokke clan ousted other clans, Chiharu was captured by a warrior of the opposing Seiwa Minamoto clan, Minamoto Mitsugi, and exiled to the small island province of Oki. His whereabouts after that have always been a complete mystery. The island was so remote that during the late Heian period it came to be well known as a place for political exile. Later in 1332 CE, Emperor Go-Daigo was sent into exile on the island but later managed to escape and regain control of the country. Maybe Chiharu managed to escape too. I may even have a clue as to what happened to him...we will talk about that later.
Chitsune, surviving unscathed, in the following New Year (970 CE), was appointed as the shogun of his township and later also served as a lieutenant and governor of Mino province. While Chiharu was caught and exiled Chitsune’s military might was strong enough for him to maintain official positions even after his insurrection.
And now for the interesting part….
Fujiwara no Chikata, the son of Chitsune, or was he?….
According to the “Sonpi Bunmyaku”, a Japanese genealogical text originally written by Tōin Kinsada in the late 14th century, the genealogy of Hidesato, Chitsune, and Chikata is annotated as saying "the actual person (Chikata) is Chitsune's younger brother”, making him the “Chinjufu” or the Shogun of Mutsu Province. So according to this, it seems like it could very well be that Chikata is Chiharu after a potential escape from exile. This would be a very good reason to change your name, raise an army and attack the emperor. And do it in style, as did our good old Chikata of the legends…
Chikata in the Taiheiki
While the most referred to version of the story of Fujiwara no Chikata is found in the Taiheiki, written in the late 1300’s CE, it is obvious that there is an error, and we see somewhere, someone got it wrong. Most researchers have always pointed to our man Chikata, the son (or brother) of Chitsune as being the real person that the legends and stories from the Iga region are based on. This would place Chikata’s birth sometime in the late 900’s CE. But in the Taiheiki, he is placed much further back in time, by a few hundred years to the time of the emperor Tenchi (天智天皇). It could just be that the author did not know when Chikata actually lived and decided to “place” him in history where he thought fit, but there is no way to say for sure.
In another manuscript known as the “Kokinwakashū” written in 905 CE, but completed and edit several times afterwards, the story of Fujiwara no Chikata is also found mentioned along with his four “demons” or “Oni” and again placing him at the time of emperor Tenchi. It is likely that this is the source text for the mention of Chikata in the Taiheiki. So, the next question is, did the author of this text make the mistake of placing Chikata too far back in history? I think it is highly unlikely, because our Fujiwara no Chikata, according to the family’s lineage chart, was not born for about 80 years after the publication of this text.
To me it seems much more likely that Fujiwara no Chikata is a fictional character based on a historical model and the Fujiwara clan and the Iga region legends lay claim to him. This I find likely because there is not a single mention of Fujiwara no Chikata rebelling against the court in any of the imperial archives. If Chikata was historical and did indeed base himself out of Iga to fight against the imperial government with thousands of warriors (and 4 demons) I am sure there would be some evidence of this left behind by the imperial scribes and archivists. It is well known that they were meticulous. Historical or not, the Fujiwara clan and the people of Iga wanted to claim Chikata as their own.
It could even be that he was not Chitsune’s son or brother, but rather born a few generations earlier. Possibly even Fujiwara no Kamatari’s son or grandson, that would place him at the correct time.
So just what do the stories and legends say about this Fujiwara no Chikata and how does that tie in with the Hidden Lineage of the Bujinkan and the origins of ninjutsu in Iga???
Stay tuned for part three…
Sean Askew – 導冬 – Dōtō
September 27, 2021
Visit Sean Askew's website and blog: BKRBudo.com
Fantastic first part of a multi-part essay by Sean Askew. Click the link to see read the original and see the pictures he shared: https://www.facebook.com/sean.askew.9/posts/4169200283192822
"One dragon with nine heads…
Does the source of all the Bujinkan Ryū boil down to one original school of martial arts, the Gyokko Ryu?
Part 1 of 3 (Possibly 4)
The Kuki family has in their possession many old documents and scrolls related to their long samurai heritage and religious accomplishments. Among these are a distinct set of scrolls that are directly related to the martial arts of their clan. They detail the martial art known as Kukishin Ryū Tenshin Hyōhō, covering subjects such as Jūjutsu, Bōjutsu, Kenjutsu, Shurikenjutsu, etc. The final scroll of this set, known as “The Teachings of Lord Fujiwara no Kamatari”, is the scroll that I find most interesting for various reasons.
First is that according to the Kuki family archivist and Japanese historian, Mr. Miura Ichirō, this is a very unusual scroll when compared to the others in the set. To the expert, it seems that the words have been “rewritten in a modern style (by Takamatsu Sensei), but that the scroll’s contents do not seem to have been created in modern times”. In the first part of this scroll, Kamatari states that the contents were handed down from Amenokoyane no Mikoto to the Nakatomi family and that transmission to outsiders was strictly prohibited. Amenokoyane no Mikoto is a Shinto deity who appears in Japanese mythology. He is believed to be the ancestor of the Nakatomi-Fujiwara clan and is enshrined at the Kasuga Grand Shrine, as the ancestral deity of the Nakatomi-Fujiwara clan. As you may remember from some of my previous posts, the Kuki family is a direct bloodline branch of this Clan.
The following are just a few of the many titles of the topics covered in the scroll:
天地生三巻神法秘謡 Tenchisei Sanmaki Shinpo Hiutai
The Divine Method of the Secret Songs of Heaven Earth and Life
養心法 Yoshin no Ho
Method of Nourishment
神力法 Jinryoku no Ho
Method of Divine Power
呼吸法 Kokyu no Ho
Method of Breathing
靈電法 Reiden no Ho
Method of Spirit Lightning
統一法 Toitsu no Ho
Method of Unification
神醫法 Shinei no Ho
Method of Divine Healing
鎮魂八陣乃秘法 Chinkon Hachijindai no Hiho
Secret Method of the Repose of the Soul from the Eight Guardian Deities
狐霊法 Korei no Ho
Method of the Fox Spirit
蟇目乃秘法 Hikime no Hiho
Secret Method of “Toad Eye” (ancient archery ritual)
鳴弦乃法 Meigen no Ho
Method of warding off evil spirits by pulling the string of a bow
(It was widely performed when the emperor took a bath, or when a nobleman was born or sick)
As this scroll was noted as being unusual by Mr. Miura, I wanted to know more about it and investigate what its teachings are in more depth. I had been thinking in the back of my mind that I had seen the name Fujiwara no Kamatari before, but I just couldn’t remember where. I also remembered that his name was somehow related to another notable name in the history of Togakure Ryū ninjutsu and the origins of shinobinojutsu in the Iga region. But it just kept slipping off the edge of my memory, hanging in the back of my mind. So, I went back to the beginning and started with fresh look into who was this Fujiwara no Kamatari. And that’s when I found the second thing about this scroll that really piqued my interest.
I started to refresh my memory by going to Wikipedia. I know, it gets a bad rap by serious academics, but I find it an excellent place to get general information that I can dig into deeper and confirm. I figured from there I might find tidbits that I can investigate even further to find more information. And lo and behold I found a nugget right in the first paragraph. The Wikipedia entry for Fujiwara no Kamatari starts off like this...
(Edited from Wikipedia)
Fujiwara no Kamatari (藤原 鎌足, 614 – November 14, 669) was a Japanese statesman, courtier, and politician during the Asuka period (538–710). He is the founder of the Fujiwara clan, the most powerful aristocratic family in Japan during Nara and Heian periods. He, along with the Mononobe clan, was a supporter of Shinto and fought the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. Kamatari, along with Prince Naka no Ōe, later Emperor Tenji (626–672), launched the Taika Reform of 645, which centralized and strengthened the central government. Just before his death he received the surname Fujiwara and the rank Taishōkan from Emperor Tenji, thus establishing the Fujiwara clan.
(End Wikipedia passage)
With this first passage we learn that Kamatari was the founder of the Fujiwara clan. He was from the Nakatomi family and had been awarded the surname “Fujiwara” by the emperor. With this bit of information, I knew I could find a family lineage for him and see what else I can discover. Very quickly I contacted one of my research partners, Sensei Javier Morla, and he provided me the family lineage chart that started with Fujiwara no Kamatari. Within a few moments I had found what I was looking for. I remembered who Kamatari was and what his connection is to our martial arts. Kamatari is the 7th great grandfather of the legendary Fujiwara no Chikata and his specialty was the Chinese military science known as the “Rikutō”. A text that specializes in guerilla warfare and sabotage techniques. It is the only one of the Seven Military Classics of ancient China to be written from the perspective of trying to overthrow a government. As such, this text became one of the main sources of knowledge for both the Iga and Koka schools of ninjutsu. Mentions of it can be found in many historical documents related to ninjutsu. In several old texts it is recorded that Kamatari thought so highly of the Rikuto text that he memorized the whole thing by heart. He could repeat the whole text from memory alone, which is no easy task as it is over 50 pages in length. He is also accredited with applying the strategies within the text in real combat and assassinations he was involved in.
One note, I would like to make here is that according to Takamatsu Sensei, this text, the “Rikutō”, along with its usual partner, the “Sanryaku”, are the foundations of the Gyokko Ryū and is the same martial art that was taught to Minamoto no Yoshitsune by the Yamabushi/shugenja of Kurama mountain in his youth. Hatsumi Sensei even makes the statement in a few of his books that Yoshitsune’s martial art should be properly named Gyokko Ryū Happo Bikenjutsu. Of course, these are all legends, and we cannot say these things for sure but at least it shows the idea that most of the original Japanese martial arts all stem from this one source of knowledge, no matter what its name was at the time. Keep in mind that before the 14th century there was no “Ryū” or “Ryū-ha” in Japan. The concept of “Ryū” did not come into use until around the 1300’s. So, at the time, warriors simply studied military strategy texts that were secretly passed down within their families and commonly named them after the region they lived in, or came from, and called it “Heihō”.
So, with this first discovery we see the connection being made between the Gyokko Ryū (the Rikutō and Sanryaku) and Japan’s first schools of swordsmanship, the Kurama Hachi Ryū or Kyohachi Ryū and the Kanto Shichi Ryū.
Next, I would like to go back to the above-mentioned Fujiwara no Chikata, also known as Gamon Dōshi in the Iga-Togakure Ryū lineage of headmasters. He was the 7th generation grandson of Kamatari and therefore the Rikuto/Sanryaku (Gyokko Ryū) was passed down in his family to himself. It had already become a tradition in several of the Fujiwara clan branches by the time of Chikata’s lifetime.
But to start to talk about Fujiwara no Chikata now would turn into another several pages of material. So, I will end my post here and continue the story again in a day or two. It is quite long and complex so I feel it should be broken up in a few separate posts.
Sean Askew - 導冬 Doto"
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.