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.