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The 9 Ryu of Ninjutsu


The ninjutsu ryu of the Togakure family was not formalised until three generations after Daisuke Togakure began to develop it. Allied with a clan that was defeated in a series of battles against superior forces, Daisuke lost all, including his samurai status, and escaped to the mountain wilderness south east of Kyoto. Wandering among the pine forests and marshes of the Ku Peninsula in A.D. 1162, he met the warrior monk Kain Doshi, who had fled to Japan from the political and military upheaval in China.

There in the mountain caves of Iga Province (within present day Mie Prefecture), Daisuke studied with this mystic, learning new concepts of warfare and personal accomplishment based on Chinese and Tibetan ideas about the order of the universe. Daisuke was taught the practical applications of the balance of the elements in diet, in combat, in thought and emotion, and in utilising the forces and cycles of nature to his advantage. Thus, away from the limiting conventions of samurai conduct that he had never thought to question, He discovered a completely new way of working his will. It was Daisuke's descendants that developed and refined these notions into the Togakure ryu of ninjutsu, and came to be called by the name ninja.

The Togakure-ryu's secret was the shuko, a spiked iron band worn around the hand, enabling the ninja to stop sword blades or climb trees and walls like a cat. Another device utilised by the Tokakure ninja was the tetsubishi, a small spiked weapon used to slow pursuers or protect doorways. Made with spikes sticking out in all directions, the tetsubishi were scattered on the ground to be stepped on by the unsuspecting.

They also used and kept secret the use of the senban shuriken or four pointed throwing star, originally made from a metal building washer, it looked so innocuous as to be ignored by samurai soldiers. Most important to our training today is the Togakure ryu ninpo taijutsu, or unarmed methods of moving the body with subtle rather than forceful movements which controls the actions of the attacker and allows the ninja to win whilst expending minimum energy and exposure to the least amount of danger.


Said to be the oldest fighting system used by ninja, the Gyokko Ryu is developed from an older fighting system brought over from China and integrated with the Japanese systems of the time. Legend tells of its founder Yo Gyokko using this koshijutsu (the attacking of nerve centres with pinching or striking finger drives) system to defeat several tens of warrior monks lead by an old man of strange appearance who wanted Yo dead because of his reputation in defeating challengers. He killed over fourteen monks and defeated the old man even after being struck on the head by a sword which bounced off, as his head was so hard. Later after killing a lion with one one fist he became known as Koto-ou (lion battling king).


Translated as the Chinese Hand skill of Tiger attack this ryu teaches us the koppojutsu or bone breaking methods employed in ninjutsu.

The Kuden (oral tradition) at Koto Ryu say that a monk named Chan Busho travelled from Korea to Japan bringing with him the concept of Koppojutsu - the study of bone breaking and weak points. The system was passed from master to student until it passed to Momochi Sandayu. It stayed in his family until 1624 when it passed to the Toda family, Toda Shinryuken passed it to Takamatsu Toshitsugu his grandson. Takamatsu passed it on to Hatsumi Masaaki which brings us to the present day.

Momochi Sandayu's famous student Ishitrawa Goemon became known as a Japanese Robinhood. He also attempted to kill the famed leader Hideyoshi, but with no success.


As the 26th Grandmaster of Kuki Shinden ryu Happo Hiken (secret weapon arts) Takakage Matsutaro Ishitani taught Toshitsugu Takamatsu the eight part Happo method which included: Taijutsu (unarmed combat), Hichojutsu (leaping), Mawanage (rope throwing), Koppojutsu (bone smashing technique), Jutaijutsu (grappling), Yarijutsu (spear technique), Naginatajutsu (halberd skills), Bojutsu (long staff fighting), Jojutsu (cane technique), Hanbojutsu (stick fighting), Seban Nage (shuriken throwing), Tokenjutsu (blade throwing), Kojutsu (fire and explosives), Suikutsu (water techniques), Chiku Jo Gunryaku Heiho (military tactics and fortress design and penetration), Onshinjutsu (art of invisibility), and Hensojutso (disguise).

He then taught the Hiken or secret sword methods of the ryu. All of these methods are said to have been developed in the mountains of Kumano by shugenja warrior monks who first of all developed the use of their shakujo ringed staff to defend themselves.


With its own unique Taijutsu methods this ryu teaches us many leaping tactics and also the use of the kamayari or hooked spear said to have been used by pirates on the Japanese inland sea, specialising in field craft and espionage.


Founded by Uryu Hangan Gikanbo in 1558, this ryu was based on the Chinese style of Cho Gyoko. It contains many special kicks, punches and throws. One of the original teachings is "Ni Sente Nashi" (From this side there is not the first strike). During the battle of Tenchi Gumi No Ran August 17th 1863, the tenth grandmaster who was also named Yryu Gikanbo was shot and although he continued to fight with only one arm had eventually to retire after been cut many times. He was found by Matsutaro Ishitani, who was himself on the way to the battle. Ishitani helped Gikanbo recover in the mountains of Iga. In return for this act he was trained in the secrets of Gikan Ryu.


As the grandmaster of this ryu Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda taught the arts of striking and kicking to his grandson Toshitsugu Takamatsu. This ryu teaches the art of defeating a strong person by feigning weakness.


This ryu teaches many of the secret philosophies and tactics of our art.


Said to have been founded by a monk named Un-Ryu (Cloud Dragon) this ryu has close links with Kuki Shinden ryu after a contest between the two schools took place in 1672. It was realised that the Kukishinden Ryu was superior in the stick fighting arts, but that the unarmed combat techniques of the Takagi Toshin Ryu was in its own turn superior. So the schools adopted techniques from each other to improve the quality for future generations. Takakage Matsutaro Ishitani was also a soke of this ryu and it is through Takamatsu Sensei and Hatsumi Sensei that many of the throwing and locking tactics are handed down.

Most of the other remaining ninjutsu schools were wiped out by Oda Nobunaaga in 1591 when the men, women and children of the Iga mountains were slaughtered by a force out numbering them 10 to one. Of those few families to survive all forgot or put aside their training in the many years of peace that followed. Leaving Masaaki Hatsumi as the only surviving grandmaster. The only person acknowledged as an authentic soke in ninjutsu by the Japanese authorities.