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"
This is a great video on Japan's largest ninja network, and it's still around today...
This is an older essay from Sean Askew Shidoshi, but I didn't post it yet and it is an important one for the Bujinkan given the connection to Togakushi Mountain and the connection to the Togakure Ryu ninja. To read the original article and see the photos he shared, visit: https://www.bkrbudo.com/the-legends-of-the-opening-of-togakushi-mountain/?fbclid=IwAR3hkE9jdvDEakb7wy-dHmOmpg805R-_UpTSjM0AdnmEYx8yCyJ28TJVlwM
"The legends of the opening of Togakushi Mountain in Shinshu (Nagano) originate with the myths of “Amano-Iwato”, translated as “The cave of the sun goddess” or “heavenly rock cave”. According to the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), the devious actions of Susano’o, the Japanese god of storms, drove his sister Amaterasu, the sun goddess, into the Ame-no-Iwato cave and the world was cast into darkness.
To get the sun goddess out of the cave, the other gods called Yao-yorozu-no-kami threw a wild party outside of the cave. The goddess Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto performed a crude and sexual dance, making everyone laugh and excited. The sun goddess grew curious about the noise and decided to look out of the cave entrance. When she peeked out, she became fascinated by her own reflection in the Yata no Kagami mirror which the other gods had crafted and hung before the cave for that purpose. She stood there, like in a trance and then Ame-no-tajikarao forced the cave open and the world was full of light once again. As Amaterasu stepped out of the cave a holy seal was placed on it so that she could never go back into hiding.
Then later, the Izumo Achi-Zoku, Chinese/Baekje(Kudara) blood relatives of the legendary 8th Emperor of Japan, Kōgen-tennō (孝元天皇) are said to have enshrined the indigenous nine-headed dragon known as Kuzuryū there. The Achi-Zoku are the families descended from Achi no Omi, the gentleman from my previous post.
In addition, the legendary Gakumon Gyoja, a student of the founder of Shugendo, En no Gyoja entered the mountain in 849 CE and sealed the nine-headed dragon inside the Ame-no-Iwato cave as the guardian god of the mountain. It is said that he built Togakushi Temple there and became the administrator. Towards the end of the Heian Period (794-1185 CE) Togakushi had become a well know center of Shugendo activities.
What I find most interesting about this is that it was the descendants of Achi-no-Omi from Izumo that originally went to the mountain and enshrined a nine-headed dragon there. This makes some historical sense as one of the major families that populated the Shinano and Togakushi regions was the Inukai Clan, a clan with a direct blood connection to Achi no Omi and the Sakanoue Clan. All families that are tied to the history and lineage of both the Gyokko Ryu and Togakure Ryu.
Another point that I find compelling is that the tomb of Emperor Kogen is in Kashihara, Nara. Very near the areas that were settled by the descendants of Achi no Omi, the Sakanoue and the Inukai. The same place that Takamatsu Sensei lived out the last few decades of his life.
Sean Askew – 導冬 Dōtō
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
References and sources for this post…
Ina. (1975). (n.p.): (n.p.). – Page 8
善光寺史. (2004). Japan: 東京美術 – Page 554
新訳日本神話: 出雲神話の原像. (1989). Japan: 西日本文化出版 – Page 173
信州の韓来文化. (1985). Japan: 銀河書房 – Page 73"
This is a different kind of post than usual. Not necessarily martial arts related, but I enjoy sharing Japanese culrtual things also from my trips to Japan. I love Udon, I jokingly call it life changing, but I'm not sure just how much of a joke it is... At least that is how I feel about Udon in Japan. Not what gets called Udon here in the states. In this Youtube video, you'll see how the Udon is made in one of my favorite Udon restaurants. It is a chain restaurant, but the level of perfection they strive for is incredible, and the noodles are always amazing. Enjoy!
This great article, written back in 2018 by Sean Askew, is pertinent for us this year since we are studying Kukishinden Ryu. Enjoy:
"Is the link between the Togakure Ryu and Kukishin Ryu deeper than we thought???
In the middle ages there was a very serious samurai practice to take written vows when undertaking the study of a military science, especially when the pupil is from outside of the family.
In the case of the Kukishin Ryu, the Kuki family to this day still preserves a document from 1532 CE that has been continuously added to until modern times. The document is the 2nd scroll in a set of two titled “Seiyakusho” (誓約書). It is a written oath that pupils sign upon formally entering the school or “Ryu”. It is a promise to uphold the true meaning and spirit of the martial arts (military arts) and that one promises to cultivate a great sense of justice. The signature is traditionally accompanied by a thumb print in blood, vowing they will never reveal what they have been taught to others without the master’s permission.
In the book Kukishinden Zensho by Ago Kiyotaka in 1983 he writes that he could hold in his own hands and examine this original 1532 CE document carefully. He notes that the more recent portion of the document leading up to the modern times was re-written by Kuki Takaharu in 1904.
This list is a veritable all-star list of Japanese military commanders and master swordsmen. Including Yamamoto Kansuke (Red Star on pic), known to have studied Togakure Ryu ninjutsu from Fujibayashi Nagato no Kami. The list also includes Sanada Masayuki (Green Star), the father of Sanada Yukimura. Both men are recorded as hiring local shugenja from the Togakure and Iizuna regions as shinobi and “Kamari” commandos in their forces.
Takamatsu Toshitsugu (Yellow star), our current Soke’s master also signed this list in 1899, vowing his allegiance to the emperor and the nation and to protect the teachings of the Kukishin Ryu. His “Kohai” or junior training partner Iwami Nangaku signed the list in 1922.
As Kuki Takahiro (隆博) died in WWII he was the last signature on the list as the Kuki family has taken vows of peace and no longer are involved in the martial arts. They now run several successful businesses and corporations all over the country and still administrate the Kumano Grand Shrine.
The original document list begins in 1532 with the vows and signatures/stamps of;
Kuki Yagoro, 1532 CE
Yamamoto Kansuke, 1534 CE
Kuki Moritaka, 1573 CE
Kuki Yoshitaka, 1574 CE (Formed the Kuki Navy from various bands of pirates from the Shima region)
1 name omitted
Sanada Masayuki, 1577 CE (Father of the famous Sanada Yukimura who used Shinobi from Togakure)
Bessho Nagaharu, 1576 CE
2 names omitted
Itō Ittōsai, 1573 CE (Famous master swordsman, 2nd to only Miyamoto Musashi, 33 matches, no losses)
Kuki Shigetaka, 1576 CE (Son of Kuki Yoshitaka)
Kuki Takasue, 1597 CE (Son of Kuki Moritaka)
Miyamoto Musashi (Black star), 1494 CE (Here we have an enigma, the date is exactly 100 years too early but it is for the famous swordsman, the Kuki family claims that it is the same Miyamoto Musashi who wrote the book of 5 Rings and fought over 60 duels with only one loss, I think the date may be a typo and should read 1594 putting Musashi at around 10 years old, the normal age of taking these vows)
Chōsokabe Motochika, 1595 (Daimyo of the Chōsokabe Clan)
Takagi Oriemon (Blue star), 1616 CE (Founder of the Takagi Yoshin Ryu)
Kuki Takayuki, 1648 CE (Daimyo of the Tanba Ayabe Domain)
1 name omitted
Kuki Takanao, 1662 CE (3rd Daimyo of the Tanba Ayabe Domain, brought Kito Ryu into the Kuki family)
Kuki Takahide, 1683 CE (Son of Kuki Takanao)
Shibukawa Bangoro, 1625 CE (Founder of Shibukawa Ryu Jujutsu)
Kimura Ittosai, 1649 CE (no information on him at this time)
Kuki Takashin, 1712 CE (Founder of the Shima branch of the Kuki family)
Kuki Taka??, 1743 CE (no information at this time)
Kuki Takanori, 1773 CE (8th Daimyo Lord of the Tanba Ayabe Domain)
3 names omitted
Ishitani Matsutaro, 1868 CE (Takamatsu Sensei’s 2nd master)
Takamatsu Toshitsugu, 1899 CE (Hatsumi Sensei’s master)
Iwami Nangaku, 1921 CE (Takamatsu Sensei’s Kohai under Ishitani Sensei)
9 names omitted
Shiozaki Katsuo, 1923 CE (Student of Iwami Nangaku)"
Essay by Sean Askew
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
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.