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.
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.
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.