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Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu
Bujinkan is an international martial arts organization based in Noda, Japan. Founded in 1974, and headed since then by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, it teaches Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu, the nine traditional Ryūha (schools, or martial arts lineages) he inherited from his master, Toshitsugu Takamatsu before his passing in 1972. The Densho (scrolls containing the techniques, forms and movements), and the way of using them have been transmitted for over 900 years from generation to generation through an unbroken lineage of Grandmasters. While each Ryū stands as a complete martial system on its own, they share similarities with contextual differences related to when they evolved and what weapons and equipment people were using at that time.
Bujinkan promotes a holistic approach on self protection revolving around natural principles and biomechanics, and the appropriate use of timing, distance, and angle to achieve desirable results. The teaching method used serves three purposes: providing a realistic self protection ability; ensuring that the ability taught is appropriate to the student's skill level; and developing an above-average sense of self awareness and self-control in the practitioner. Within the training we examine rolling, break-falling, striking, throwing, locking, balance taking, the use of - and defense against - weapons, multiple opponents, how to use your surroundings, etc.
We don't participate in competitions or contests. Our approach focuses on gaining compliance through pain, and potentially damaging techniques in order to survive dangerous situations. We have no official rules or guidelines to limit the impact of techniques used. As a result, many of the responses of a Bujinkan practitioner would be inappropriate in a competition or a contest. Our training mainly aims at developing the ability to protect oneself (and others) using techniques that focus on disabling attackers and/or removing their desire (or ability) to continue posing a threat as efficiently as possible.
The nine Schools of Bujinkan
Togakure Ryū ("The School of the Hidden Door") is one of our three Ninpō Taijutsu Ryūha founded during the 12th Century by Daisuke Nishina. The school contained San-po Hiden (three secrets): The Senban Shuriken, a four pointed throwing star that was used to harass the enemy to assist in escape; Shuko, the climbing claws frequently used on both hands and feet to climb and to fight; and Shindake, a four feet long bamboo tube, used both as a snorkel, and as a blowgun. Other prominent elements in this school are Kyoketsu Shoge, a hooked blade attached to a cord,with a heavy ring at the other end of the cord (also known as Kusari Gama; Tetsubushi, a type of iron caltrops used to slow down pursuers; and Karuwaza, an acrobatic spatial awareness nowadays used by tight-rope walkers. Tsutsui Takumi is the 35th Sōke in the lineage of Togakure Ryū.
Gyokushin Ryū ("The Jeweled Heart School") is a Ninpō Ryūha founded during the 14th Century by Sasaki Goemon Teruyoshi, who was also Sōke of Gyokko Ryū Kosshi Jutsu, which explains the similarities between the two styles. This school focuses more on the espionage side of ninjutsu than on the fighting aspects, although it uses some specific weapons, in particular the Nagenawa, the throwing rope, or lasso used to snare and restrain opponents. Kan Junichi is the 22nd Sōke in the lineage of Gyokushin Ryū.
Kumogakure Ryū ("The Hidden School") is a Ninpō Ryūha founded during the 14th Century by Iga Heinaizaemon No Jo Ienaga. It is believed to be the origin of the mantra "Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo", as this school of thought was based on Buddhist and Shinto attitudes of non-violence. The Taijutsu of Kumogakure Ryū is very similar to Togakure Ryū as both originated from the Toda family, but this School had some specific features like its Tobi (jumping techniques); its survival techniques (including the ability to light fires in all weather conditions); wearing armoured sleeves to protect themselves and Demon Masks to scare the enemy (one of their techniques was a head butt called Kikaku Ken or "Demon Horn Strike"); and some of its specialized weapons like the Kamayari (a hooked spear), or the Ippon Sugi Noburi (a long chain, with a 25cm long metal tube with three spikes at one end, and hooks at other one) used for combat (to parry and trap swordsmen's blades, or to hook opponents from above), and for climbing (or jumping from tree to tree). Furuta Kōji is the 15th Sōke in the lineage of Kumogakure Ryū.
Koto Ryū ("The Tiger Knock Down School") is a Koppō Jutsu Ryūha founded during the 14th Century by Toda Sakyo Isshinsai, who learned Gyokko Ryū Shitojutsu from Sakagami Taro Kunishige. It specializes in aggressive, linear attacks, using larger bones to strike weaker ones. Many of the techniques involve surprise attacks, leaving no opportunity to counter strike. Although often referred to as "Bone Breaking" art, its emphasis is more on maintaining your skeletal alignment while you disrupt your opponent's skeletal structure. Noguchi Yukio is the 19th Sōke in the lineage of Koto Ryū.
Gyokko Ryū ("The Jade Tiger School") is a Kosshi Jutsu Ryūha founded during the 14th Century by Sakagami Taro Kunishige, who first organized it as Gyokko Ryū Shito Jutsu before passed it on to Toda Sakyo Isshinsai (founder of Koto Ryū Koppō Jutsu) who also created Gyokko Ryū Kosshi Jutsu. The school's expertise is focused into Taijutsu techniques (unarmed vs. unarmed), and Muto Dori techniques (unarmed vs. knife, short sword and katana). There is also a strong focus on bone breaking and muscle damage; on using digits to strike and maim the opponent (Shitojutsu); and on sword (kenjutsu and stick (bōjutsu) fighting techniques. Ishizuka Tetsuji is the 29th Sōke in the lineage of Gyokko Ryū.
Kukishin Ryū Happō Hiken ("The Nine Demons School") is a Daken Taijutsu Ryūha founded during the 14th Century by Ryūshin Yakushimaru, and teaches battlefield weapons (Bō, Yari, Naginata) and the Taijutsu that serves as a basis for this; Heiho (military strategy); as well as armor-wearing techniques and Shuriken throwing. There are two guiding principles in this school: Teko (the pivot and lever), and Jūjiro (the perpendicular control). Iwata Yoshio is the 22nd Sōke in the lineage of Kukishin Ryū.
Shinden Fudō Ryū
Shinden Fudō Ryū ("The Tradition of the Immovable God School") is a Daken Taijutsu Ryūha founded during the 12th Century by Izumo Kaja Yoshitero, who studied Chinese Kempo boxing. The school has throws, locks, and very straightforward strikes and kicks that use the body as a striking weapon and often appears hard in application. There are no formal postures in this school as the kamae is in your heart (kokoro no gamae and most techniques start from the natural postures (Shizen or Fudoza). Nagato Toshirō is the 27th Sōke in the lineage of Shinden Fudō Ryū.
Takagi Yōshin Ryū
Takagi Yōshin Ryū ("The High Tree Raised Heart School") is a Jutai Jutsu Ryūha founded during the 15th Century by Takagi Oriuemon Shigenobu. This Bodyguards school is designed to attack in a very fast manner so that the opponent cannot roll or escape. Movements are explosive, and incorporate natural recoil or resistance to take the opponent's balance, drive them into the ground and finish with pinning or restraining them. Sakasai Norio is the 18th Sōke in the lineage of Takagi Yōshin Ryū.
Gikan Ryū ("The Mirror Justice School") is a Koppō Jutsu Ryūha founded during the 16th Century by Uryu Hangan Gikanbo. It is based on skills and techniques learned from Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi, Sōke of Gyokko Ryū and Koto Ryū. Focused on Koppō Jutsu, Hicho Jutsu (jumps) and Senban Nage (blade throwing), it contains specialized strikes, kicks, and throws. Gikanbo's punch was so powerful that he once broke a sword (although it was rumored that he hid a Tessen (iron fan) in his hand). Sakasai Norio is the 16th Sōke in the lineage of Gikan Ryū.
Bujinkan Grading Structure
Bujinkan has established a ranking system consisting of three belts. When you start your journey, you are Mu Kyū, which is represented by a white belt. Once you satisfy the requirements to be promoted, men receive their Green belt, and women their Red belt, in which there are nine ranks (going from 9th Kyū, to 1st Kyū). After that, all practitionners can be promoted to Black belt. There were originally 10 ranks or Dan ranks in the black belt, but Sōke increased the maximum rank to 15 Dan.
Dan ranks are divided into Ten (heaven), from 1st to 5th Dan; Chi (Earth), from 6th to 10th Dan; and Jin (Man), from 11th to 15th Dan. These last five ranks are further divided into the five elements: Chi (earth), Sui (water), Ka (fire), Fū (wind) and Kū (void).
Ranks are also displayed by the color of the Wappen, or felt patch worn on the heart. It bears the Kanji "Bu" and "Jin" which form the Bujinkan logo. There are six different wappen (9th to 1st Kyū, 1st to 4th Dan, 5th to 9th Dan, 10th to 15th Dan, Dai Shihan and the one reserved only for Sōke) sometimes augmented with up to four Hoshi (silver or gold stars) around and above the Wappen.
For the 5th Dan (Godan), practitionners submit to a Sakki test, where Sōke (or a Dai Shihan) establishes that they are able to sense the presence of danger and evade it. A practitioner ranked Godan or above can request to become a Shidōshi (licensed teacher) and is then is allowed to open his own dōjō and grant ranks up to 4th Dan. A practitioner ranked 1st to 4th Dan can request to become a Shidōshi-Ho (assistant teacher) and may deliver classes under supervision of a Shidōshi. Practitioners ranked 10th Dan and above are referred to as Shihans.
Guidelines for participation in the Bujinkan
- The Bujinkan shall be open to only those who agree with and uphold the guidelines of the Bujinkan Dōjō. Those not doing so shall not be allowed to join. Specifically: Only those who have read and agreed with these guidelines shall be allowed to participate.
- Only those able to exercise true patience, self-control, and dedication shall be allowed to participate. A physician's examination report shall be required. Specifically, individuals with mental illness, drug addiction, or mental instability shall be barred from joining. The necessity of such a report concerns individuals who may present a danger to others, for example, those with infectious diseases or illnesses, individuals with clinically abnormal personalities or physiology, and individuals lacking self-control.
- Individuals with criminal records shall be turned away. Trouble makers, those who commit crimes, and those living in Japan who break domestic laws shall be turned away.
- Those not upholding the guidelines of the Bujinkan, either as practitioners or as members of society, by committing disgraceful or reproachable acts shall be expelled. Until now, the Bujinkan was open to large numbers of people who came to Japan. Among them, unfortunately, were those committing violent drunken acts, the mentally ill, and trouble makers who thought only of themselves and failed to see how their actions might adversely affect others. Through their actions, such people were discarding the traditional righteous heart of the Bujinkan. From this day forward, all such people shall be expelled.
- Regarding accidents occurring during training (both inside and outside the dōjō), one should not cause trouble to the Bujinkan. This is an extremely important point. Those unwilling to take personal responsibility for accidents occurring during Bujinkan training shall not be admitted. Reiterating for clarity, the Bujinkan shall not take responsibility for any accidents happening in the course of training, regardless of the location.
- All those joining the Bujinkan must get an annual membership card. This card not only preserves the honor of the Bujinkan members, it indicates you are part of a larger whole--one whose members come together with warrior hearts to better themselves through training and friendship. It evinces the glory of warrior virtue, and embodies both loyalty and brotherly love.
- The tradition of the Bujinkan recognizes nature and the universality of all human life, and is aware of that which flows naturally between the two parts:
- The secret principle of Taijutsu is to know the foundations of peace
- To study is the path to the immovable heart (fudoshin).
Recently, the Bujinkan has become truly international. Just as there are various time zones, so exist various taboos among the world's peoples and nations. We must respect each other, striving to avoid such taboos. We must put the heart of the warrior first, working together for self-improvement and for the betterment of the Bujinkan.
Those not upholding the above-mentioned guidelines shall be forced out of the Bujinkan.
Masaaki Hatsumi, Sōke
Bujinkan Honbu Dōjō
636 Noda, Noda-shi
Phone: +81-471-22-2020, Fax: +81-471-23-6227