Gyokko ryū – Togakure Ryū – article translation

•July 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Gyokko Ryū Kosshijutsu


Gyokko ryū kosshijutsu
It is said that a Chinese person called Ibou in the 8th Century brought this to Japan, according to Mr Hatsumi it is correct to interpret that the person was a foreigner, although we don’t know who clearly, there is a clear indication of it’s origin in the martial arts of T’ang China (618-907). To defeat the enemy with one finger is kosshijutsu, it also means to have a better understanding of the essence or essentials of martial arts. This Gyokko ryū of Iga was the source of a variety of martial arts.

In the genealogy chart the characters used are  異匄 Ikai – something like an ‘unusual beggar’, whereas in the Gyokko description 異匂 Ibou is used – which could be translated to something like ‘curious fragrance’ (Furigana, small pronunciation hiragana, are used to indicate the reading as Ibou/Ibō).

八道入道 Hachidō Nyūdō is shown as a successor of Ikai/Ibou in the chart with and Gyokko ryū listed under his name.  八道 Hachidō can mean the 8 feudal districts of Japan, and 入道 Nyūdō is a monk – possibly indicating that he was a widely traveled or itinerant monk.



Hiden – Togakure Ryū – errata

•July 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Thanks to George Ohashi for correcting me on the source of the article – it is not Hiden magazine (as I had always assumed) but Kakutōgi Tsuushin 格闘技通信, unarmed martial arts transmission (magazine), of May 1990.

The full info at the very bottom of the page is:
参考資料 • 武芸流派大事典 (東京コピー出版) 秘伝 • 戸隠流忍法体術 (新人物往来社/提供 • 若林太郎)
Reference material – martial arts school encyclopaedia (Tōkyō publication) Secret – Togakure Ryū Ninpō Taijutsu (Newcomers correspondence society/contributor – Wakabayashi Tarō)

If I have the name right then I am guessing Wakabayashi-san was the interviewer/reporter writing about the ‘Secret art of Togakure ryū’.  So in my defence at least Hiden is written there…

Kakutōgi 格闘技 – describes martial arts that don’t use weapons, fight one-to-one or as sports.

More to follow shortly.

Hiden – Togakure Ryū – article translation

•July 6, 2012 • 2 Comments

What follows a translation I have been mulling over for a time of a single sheet handed out by Hatsumi sensei at class in Ayase.

What his reasons were at the time for passing this around I do not know (most probably it was found buried under a pile of other books, weapons and objects in the Bujinkan office – that being the same situation for me when I rediscovered it a few months back). It is a photocopy of a page from the Japanese martial arts magazine Kakutogi Tsuushin 格闘技通信. The date written by hand at the bottom left is 平成25(the fifth month of the second year of the Heisei era) or May 1990.
(* 9 Jul – corrected source ref from Hiden to Kakutogi Tsuushin)

I have endeavoured to translate the text into English without much in the way of interpretation or rearrangement, some parts may therefore seem a little clumsy or confusing whilst reading. First I’ll present the Japanese text that I have had to write from scratch onto the laptop, then my translation paragraph by paragraph, followed by any notes or explanations that seem relevant. I will present this translation over several blog entries over the next few days or weeks.

To describe the page – after the heading and sub heading there is a genealogy chart that lists notable people and the styles or schools (ryū) demonstrating their connections and eventual merging together under Takamatsu Toshitsugu to be passed on to Hatsumi Masaaki. The text under the table is from an interview where Hatsumi sensei gives a summary of the different origins of the schools he has inherited, then some information on each of the 9 schools, concluding with a profile of Hatsumi sensei.

Title and Headings…


Togakure ryū ninpō taijutsu – the last part
Hidden village and sanctuary of Iga • mysteries nurtured in Kumano
As successor and inheritor Mr Hatsumi’s nine schools genealogy

Genealogy table image…

Main text…


In the martial arts that Mr Hatsumi has inherited there has not been much focus on the variety of densho. In other words, rather than to say clearly that this kind of art comes from a great variety or diversity (of sources) … because some have interpreted that it is something that is born spontaneously through the cultural exchange of a wide variety of styles/arts. If you think of this origin time then you have to go back to the 7th Century. At that time monks and magicians (puppeteers and illusionists) came over from the continent (China) and brought martial arts (kenpō) and magic (genjutsu). Also, at the same time there are changes brought to Esoteric Buddism and Shugendō appears.


Such early warriors, shugensha and monks began living a communal life secluded in the mountains. Iga is surrounded by mountains and ideal for their hidden villages, it was a kind of drifting together of cultures. In such a place where many arts gradually came together, eventually many martial arts schools were created. The block on the left side of the genealogy table illustrates this process.


In the kind of densho Mr Hatsumi holds, the description of the time of the origin is ambiguous/vague, when you think of it as a summary – a kind of model case – of the intricately intertwined course of history. I requested Mr Hatsumi “please show me the ancient techniques” and asked “what techniques have been around for all time?”.  The techniques and tactics are constantly changing depending on the cultural background of different eras. Written or recorded history and historical records are also important, however, each cultural period has continually transmitted the feeling of martial arts, with passionate people some of these have been handed down to the present day. He brings together wisdom from over hundreds of years.


Contrast this with Kumano, a little south of Iga, that has been a sanctuary and Mecca for old Shintō. In this area martial arts that incorporate Shintō have been nurtured/cultivated/flourished. The block on the right side of the genealogy table illustrates this process. Also, they could boast of the Kumano navy known as the Kuki navy and also called pirates (one kind of maritime warrior group) that used the open sea around Kumano, I cannot miss out the martial arts they were raised in?


Also the 9 martial arts from Iga and Kumano are an important part of Japan’s cultural history and sports, combined into one by Takamatsu Toshitsugu and passed on to Mr Hatsumi. Mr Hatsumi said he was impressed to be given such an amazing thing. I do not know the old saying exactly, but please read the description of each school with that intention (bearing that in mind?)…

Fukuro Shinai – Use or Misuse

•July 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I thought I would take a few minutes to write this to provide a few pointers on how to properly use fukuro shinai – and by extension training tools in general.

(Don’t worry this is not a treatise on the correct hand position and grip employed in using or drawing a katana).

Use of a fukuro shinai:
• against another fukuro shinai
• on a person or persons
• in mutōdori practice

Misuse of a fukuro shinai:
• against a bokken/bokutō, shinai or metal weapon
• to strike hard or rough surfaces, scrape along the ground and so on

Inadvisable use:
• drawing a fukuro shinai from the obi (belt) – this goes for shinai too – they are overly large (round) for this purpose and the leather will stretch and ‘cling’ to the belt and body when it is drawn, slowing the movement down

L-R 4 sizes of fukuro shinai, 16k stick, kashima daito, bokken, kashima kogatana and shoto

Fukuro shinai and Japanese oak bokuto


The reasons for this are simple, firstly that is what they are intended for and secondly the construction lends itself  to these purposes.

The fukuro shinai in essence is a bundle of ‘loose’ bamboo shafts held together firmly at the handle, or tsuka, with the ‘blade’ portion being covered by a leather ‘bag’ (fukuro is bag or pouch in Japanese).  This differs from the typical kendō shinai where the blade portion is still bound reasonably tightly.  The looseness of the fukuro shinai blade allows it more flexibility to be used to strike another fukuro shinai or person and disperse/dissipate the energy of the strike.

Fukuro shinai are also more gracile (thinner and shorter) than your typical kendō shiani.  (And here I am talking about the ones I make and similar, as opposed to the white or red Yagyu Shinkage type and so on).  The bamboo core has to  allow for the handle binding and tsuba over the top – if I were to use a full size shinai as a base then you would have a monster of a club by the end, not to mention the tsuba not fitting.


Quite simply the leather covering is pliable on the fukuro shinai as opposed to the solid nature of the other weapons.  Striking a fukuro shinai with a bokken you are going to increase the wear on the leather through abrasion – this is also the case with other hard surfaces mentioned.

I remember my father when I was young being rather… umm… irate when he saw I was using a mallet to bash in nails.

The lesson remains the same – use like on like – so use fukuro shinai against fukuro shinai.  In the same vein you should pair the same training weapons (or materials) – use bokken against bokken, shinai against shinai, rubber training knife against rubber training knife, wooden yari, bō or nagainata against each other or a bokken.

The density and form of different materials or training weapons is an important consideration, as well as a reminder that you should understand the ‘tools’ you use.  For example – a Japanese white oak bokutō is a single piece of reasonably dense wood with a good grain, a cheap mass produced martial arts bokken is often lighter, less dense, drier and may have a poor grain and knots giving it numerous weaknesses, a shinai is flexible being composed of four separate bamboo sections secured together by different means at different points, an iaitō is essentially two parts, a metal (often alloy) blade attached to the handle part made up of numerous pieces and materials.

Aside from the abrasion to the leather of a fukuro shinai you should bear in mind that a good quality Japanese bokutō can crack or snap bamboo and makes short work of a cheap bokken, reducing it to splinters.  It all comes down to choosing the right tool for the right purpose or the appropriate purpose.  That’s not to say that cheap bokken don’t have a purpose, they are great for when you first start out and don’t want to spend a fortune or if you need to equip a marital arts dojo for numerous people to use – that said if you continue to train for some time then you realise that quality equipment is worth it and will spend ¥16,000 on a single bokutō…

Using weapons of different materials in practice (and sport) is Misuse, matching the materials of weapons is proper Use.

However out of practice using weapons of different materials to ‘win’ (or to achieve your purpose) is to use superior weapons (and your knowledge of them) to be victorious.  Nagato sensei told a story of being invited/challenged to a contest by some kendōka (this was some time into his training under Hatsumi sensei), he says he put lead fishing weights into a pipe down the centre of his shinai thus allowing him to damage their shinai and apparently dent some of the kendōka’s bōgu (training armour).  This is using weapons (and by extension tools) to your advantage by knowing their qualities.  The flip-side to this thinking, the ura of misuse opposed to the omote of use, would thereby be the Togakure-ryū or shinobi adaptability of using an inappropriate tool or using a weapon in an unorthodox method to achieve a desired purpose, thus changing misuse to usekyojitsu

* Note – I tend to use bokutō when talking about it’s use in Japan, and bokken when talking about the weapon in English, as these are the most readily understood terms.


Well that was a little more than I intended to write, but hopefully helpful.

I now have more leather, including some black, to carry on making more fukuro shinai – as always please look at the heading to the right for full details and how to contact me/order.

Thank you all for your continued support.

New fukuro shinai orders – wait til end of June ’12

•June 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’m off on summer travels for a few weeks so will not be able to reply to any requests regarding the Fukuro Shinai until after the 25th June 2012.

I should also have some more blog updates including some translations I’ve been working on about Hatsumi sensei and the Bujinkan schools – eg.  Ikai 異匄 the ‘unusual beggar’ and Ibou 異匂 the ‘wonderfully fragrant’ which could also be the ‘strangely pungent’…

Fukuro Shinai – Post/Shipping update

•May 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Update to Post/Shipping costs for Fukuro Shinai to adjust for Royal Mail price changes April 2012.

Following the Royal Mail rate changes I have recalculated and updated the Post/Shipping costs for the Fukuro Shinai. The base prices are based on delivery of 1-2 swords (daisho set or two regular size) plus the weight of packaging as a guide unless otherwise noted.

Generally the price will increase a little for each additional item, but please email me and ask for specific numbers and destinations. Ireland, France, Germany and Denmark benefit with special rates for up to around 10 items and BFPO rates rise very little between 2 and 20 swords. As always just ask me via for more info.

– £10 – United Kingdom & Northern Ireland – up to 10 swords
– £10 – BFPO *£12.5 for 4-10 swords
– £13 – Channel Islands

– £17 – Ireland *Express £25 for max 10 swords
– £21.5 – France, Germany, Denmark
– £28 – Benelux
– £34 – Rest of Europe

US & Canada
– £33.5

– £47

Rest of World
– £50 – best to just ask as quantity will justify postage

The prices are based on delivery of 1-2 swords (daisho set or two regular size) plus the weight of packaging as a guide.

Generally the price will increase a little for each additional item, but please email me and ask for specific numbers and destinations. Ireland, France, Germany and Denmark benefit with special rates for up to around 10 items and BFPO rates rise very little between 2 and 20 swords.

Kenmakiryū 剣巻龍 the sword entwining dragon

•April 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

剣巻龍 Kenmakiryū

Blade engravings, Horimono 彫物, are decorative additions of various designs found on Japanese weapons, most notably swords but including other weapons such as yari, naginata and tantō (there may be a bias in favour of katana due to the historical preservation of heirloom swords and modern academic interest).

These weapon engravings are associated with Shingon Mikkyō, Japanese esoteric Buddhism. The most frequently occurring image is that of the sword wrapping dragon or sword entwining dragon Kenmakiryū 剣巻龍. This image connects warriors (and martial artists) with Fudō Myō-Ō 不動明王 and the goal of attaining Fudōshin 不動心, the immovable spirit.

Fudō Myō-Ō 不動明王, the Immovable Wisdom King – protector of martial artists and yamabushi. Fudō is the personification of Dainichi Nyorai 大日如来 venerated as the central deity of Shingon Mikkyō 真言密教 (true word, secret teachings). Fudō is the most prominent of the five wisdom kings, godai myō-ō 五大明王, bellicose and wrathful beings who frighten people into accepting the true path of Buddha and representing the power of humans to overcome their base passions.

Fudō has a furious countenance, blue skin, wielding a straight, double-edged sword in his right hand and rope or noose in the left. The rope is used to pull people back on to the correct path when they are heading towards evil or binds those that are ruled by violent emotions and passions. If the rope is ineffective then the sword is used to sever the link between worldly afflictions and karma thereby quenching the defiance in a persons heart to return them to the right path.

The sword – a type of hōken 宝剣 treasure-sword – has the dual purpose of being the demon subduing sword to conquer evil spirits and the sword of wisdom that cuts through human delusions and ignorance. The sword itself is of an ancient style, that of the straight ken or tsurugi 剣, brought to Japan in conjunction with Buddhism and Buddhist imagery and maintaining this visual form to the present day. The form of this sword is an extension of the main symbol of Shingon Mikkyō, the Vajra, known as Kongōsho金剛杵 in Japan. The vajra represents a thunderbolt, symbolising irresistible force, and diamond, symbolising indestructible truth. The vajra is used as a weapon to crush resentment and destroy evil. It comes in various forms, including the single pronged dokko 独鈷 and the three-pronged sanko 三鈷, that are incorporated into the hōken image. This straight sword is also seen in association with yamabushi.

There is a legend that Fudō was challenged to duel with a representative of another faith. They both transformed their bodies into various forms to gain advantage, upon assuming the form of flaming swords they found they were equally matched. Fudō then transformed into a dragon, entwining the opponents sword and began to devour it from the tip and achieved victory. This image has been passed down to the modern day as the sword entwining dragon Kurikara Ryū-Ō Fudō 倶梨伽羅龍王不動 or shortened to Kurikara Fudō 倶梨伽羅不動. The dragon is both servant of Fudō as well as being a representation the deity. The sword wielded by Fudō is called Kurikara-ken 倶梨伽羅剣.

The image of the sword and dragon is seen to represent the weapons used by Fudō, the dragon being the rope, used to capture and bind, not to kill. You can seen here the rule in Gyokko ryū to use only the force that is necessary to achieve victory. The sword is the last resort and you must not rush to use it. Use the technique or weapon that is appropriate.

The aim of the warrior is to posses Fudōshin, the spirit of Fudō. Fudōshin can be understood as many things – having a magnanimous and compassionate heart that remains dauntless – to possess unwavering resoluteness – to be a point of calm in a tempest – to be steadfast, immovable, imperturbable.  By carrying an image of kenmakiryū on ones weapons the warrior is invoking the protection of Fudō and expressing the aspiration to achieve Fudōshin.  Fudō serves humankind in protecting it from itself, the same should be true of the martial artist in protecting others.

The martial artist is not expressing the idea of non-violence. The martial artist will fight when required for the purpose of protecting others. The difference between selfish power and just action. The martial artist does not seek violence but will respond appropriately to the violence of others with a calm heart.

This can be seen as the calming of emotional responses or extremes. Fudōshin is to be able to control emotions, removing the ego enabling the body, mind and spirit to act in unison, unencumbered by desires – as seen in the idea of mushin 無心, no-mind, a mind that is not distracted as opposed to an empty or vacant mind.