Ninjutsu/Budo Taijutsu & Related arts descriptions

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by Chris Parker, Feb 3, 2010.

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  1. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Okay, I'm going to try to fill in all the gaps at once here, and be as comprehensive as is possible, as it may help to have a Ninjutsu person actually answer the question.

    To begin with, the term "Ninjutsu" is not as common as it once was, but we'll use it for the sake of convenience here. I'll explain. The major Ninjutsu-related organisations (and I'm talking about the legit ones only here) are the Bujinkan, Genbukan, and Jinenkan. There are also very legitimate off-shoots of these organisations, as well as not-so-legitimate ones, and quite a few people who have read a book or two, or heard some names it seems, and think that they can say they are teaching/studying the arts. So it's safest to stick with the Big Three until you know what you are really looking at.

    The Bujinkan could be looked at as the "father" of the other two (with Takamatsu Sensei being the Grandsire of the three). It's syllabus is made up of 9 distinct Classical Arts, some are Ninjutsu, the others are Bujutsu, and the Ninjutsu side has been sort of downplayed, as the focus of the Bujinkan is not Ninjutsu, it is on instilling the skills and philosophies gleaned from the variety of schools that make up it's curriculuum, and refer to it's teachings as Budo Taijutsu (Martial Ways of Body Techniques/Art), although many weapons are also taught.

    The Genbukan has a couple of associated groups, most notably the Kokusei Jujutsu Renmei (KJJR). They refer to their Genbukan syllabus as Ninpo, and it is made up again of a variety of old systems, primarily coming originally from the Bujinkan, although they have been supplemented/added to others that Tanemura Sensei learnt after leaving the Bujinkan. They teach Bujutsu/Jujutsu in the KJJR, so the Ninpo/Ninjutsu portion that you can learn is kept aside there. This is possibly the best if you are after Ninjutsu only.

    The Jinenkan is headed by Manaka Sensei, one of Hatsumi Sensei's (head of the Bujinkan) first students. He teaches 7 systems, six of which come from the Bujinkan (Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu being the most "ninja" of all the various schools, Koto Ryu and Gyokko Ryu both having links to Ninjutsu and Ninja groups in the past, Kukishin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, and Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu being more "samurai", or classical Bujutsu), and the seventh being the Jinen Ryu, Manaka Sensei's own creation based primarily on sword and Jutte.

    Within the Genbukan and Jinenkan curriculuums you will have the opportunity to learn individual systems, within the Bujinkan this is far less common, as their focus is on the skills, and the others on the correct transmission of the old schools. Neither is better, by the way, just better suited to individual students.

    So as you can see, few legit groups will actually even say they are teaching "Ninjutsu", instead using other terms to show the range of sources that their teachings come from. So what is entailed in that syllabus? Oh, lots! I'm going to be rather general here, as it will cover a variety of the different Ryu that make up each organisation, but it should give you a bit of an idea.

    First off is the unarmed combat. This can be divided up into various groupings, most commonly Jutaijutsu (grappling, most commonly standing up, throws, limb controls and locks, chokes, escapes, etc) and Dakentaijutsu (striking, kicking, blocking etc), possibly with Taihenjutsu (rolls, breakfalls, escapes, junan taiso body conditioning etc). But then we also get groupings such as Koppojutsu (Koto Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu, Kumogakure Ryu, some accounts I have seen of Togakure Ryu's classification, and I would agree with that one), and Kosshijutsu (Gyokko Ryu, sometimes Togakure Ryu as well), Taijutsu (Shinden Fudo Ryu, Togakure Ryu, refering to it's system as Ninpo Taijutsu, Asayama Ichiden Ryu, and others), Yoroi Kumiuchi, and a few others. And just because two arts use the same or similar names doesn't mean they have similar characteristics....

    There is also a large range of weapons taught, primarily from the Kukishin and Kukishinden Ryu, although some come from Togakure Ryu, a few from Kumogakure Ryu, and a few others from other systems, such as Manriki Gusari being brought over from Masaki Ryu and integrated into Gyokko Ryu.

    The weapons formally taught in the scroll material from these arts include various staff weapons (Rokushaku Bo, Yonshaku Jo, Sanshaku Bo/Hanbo, Te Giri Bo), swords (Shinobi Gatana, Katana, Tachi, Kodachi), pole arms (Yari, Kama Yari, Naginata, Bisento), Shuriken, Shako (hand claws), Jutte, and others. Some weapons not covered in the scrolls formal techniques themselves, but still taught include Kyoketsu Shoge, Kusari Gama, Chigiriki, Nagamaki, Nito Ken (although the Jinen Ryu has formal techniques for this), Kunai, and many more. Add to all of this most schools teaching modern weapons, such as knife, pistols, walking canes, and many more, really only limited by the instructors skill and experience.

    So that pretty much covers the physical technical syllabus. As to your question about learning the stealth and concelament side of things, well, that will depend on the instructor in question. The information is there, as part of the Togakure Ryu scroll, and it is something that I have taught myself late last year. However, it was taught more for entertainment value, and isn't really taught often. We have taken the concept into modern times, though, and taught such things as anti-surveilance (to avoid being "marked" by criminals looking for a victim) and more. So it's there, but don't expect it to be focussed on.

    There are many "fundamentals" to the arts, particularly as each organisation takes it's curriculuum from so many sources. The most well-known are things such as the Kihon Happo and Sanshin no Gata, there are many others, and these are all only able to be learnt from an instructor. So I won't really give a description here, as words can't really do it. They are as much about getting the pinciples and feeling of the art as they are just getting the physical movements.

    How long does it take? Oh, the age old question. Honestly, it takes as long as it takes. Don't ever look to rush these things, as you will miss all the subtleties that would get you to that level. Depneding on the organisation, each with very different ranking systems and criteria, different level will be reached in different amounts of time, and with different levels of skill in different areas. The important thing is to start, and then keep going. If you do that, then the rest looks after itself, so don't worry.

    Hope this has made some sense to you. Any more questions, just ask.
     
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  2. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm. Okay.

    How would someone know you were training in Toshindo? They probably wouldn't. They may pick up that you have trained in a Ninjutsu-related system (Bujinkan, Genbukan, Jinenkan, Toshindo etc), but that would probably be about it. In this regard, it's similar to knowing that the person you're watching is trained in Wado Ryu Karate, or Goju Ryu Karate. If you're very well versed, then you may pick up on the differences, but overall, you would probably be able to pick up "Karate", and that's all.

    In terms of the technical characteristics of Ninjutsu-related systems, as mentioned earlier, they are Japanese arts, so they will have a higher focus on grappling over striking (the Koto Ryu is rather unusual in Japanese systems with the amount of striking they use). But the big thing to remember here is that Toshindo, like all the other major organisations, blends the skills and techniques of a number of old systems, the Togakure Ryu, Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, and Kukishinden Ryu, and each of these arts have their own "flavour" or characteristics. For example....

    Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu has no strike or kick defence in it's scroll, which is made up exclusively of weapon and grab defences and escapes, incoporating a range of close quarter weaponry, as well as having a dedicated sword scroll. It's most characteristic posture (kamae) is known as Doko no Kamae, or Mad Tiger, and is defensive and evasive in nature. All techniques have a definate strategy to them, which is to stay out of range, then suddenly move inside the opponents space, perform your technique, then escape and get distance again. I refer to this art as "the art of escape", or, when I'm in a more fun mood, "the art of running away!" This, more than any other system within the syllaus, shows the guerilla "hit-and-run" tactics said to be so typical of the ninja.

    Gyokko Ryu is one of the oldest systems around, and it's history of utilising armour (coming from a time of very heavy O Yoroi) gives it a 50/50 weight distribution for most of it's postures. The most characteristic posture is Ichimonji no Kamae (Number One Posture), again a defensive posture similar to Doko (for what it's worth, Gyokko also has a posture they refer to as Doko no Kamae, which is similar, but different to the Togakure Ryu one). The other primary posture is Jumonji no Kamae (Number Ten Posture), a guarded offensive posture. The primary tactic of Gyokko Ryu is to constantly change direction on the attacker, by leading them first in one direction (say, left), then suddenly switching to move them to the right. This increases the effect of limb controls and joint locks to a quite devestating level. It also focuses on use of fingers and the tip of the thumb to a great effect. I refer to this system as "the art of changing direction", for obvious reasons.

    Gyokko gives most of the basics to the various Ninjutsu organisations, in the form of the Sanshin no Kata, and the Kihon Happo. It is also one of only two well known martial arts said to have been founded by a woman (possibly a princess or lady-in -waiting in China. The skills were brought to Japan later). There are a set of rules associated with this school.

    Koto Ryu, as I said, features more striking than is typical in Japanese systems. This is said to be a hallmark of it's history travelling from China, to Korea, and then to Japan. One theory as to the origin of Koto Ryu in Japan is that the then-current Soke of Gyokko Ryu, SakagamiTaro Kunishige, was finding that Gyokko Ryu was not being successful on the battlefield. He came into contact with the knowledge brought from China via Korea, and adapted both his system (which he reorganised from Gyokko Ryu Shitojutsu as it was known to Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu, which it remains to today), and structured the new knowledge to form Koto Ryu.

    The primary postures include Seigan no Kamae, a defensive posture, Bobi no Kamae, and offensive one, and Hoko no Kamae, a recieving posture. It is characterised by a great deal of forward movement (very little backwards movement, most evasions are sideways instead), and quite a lot of offensive, or attacking techniques. It is said that the Gyokko Ryu used to practice their techinques against the attacking rhythms of Koto Ryu, as these two arts have been taught together since Koto Ryu was founded. I refer to this systems as "the art of striking", or more simply, "just hit them!".

    Takagi Yoshin Ryu is a very typical traditional Japanese Jujutsu system. The focus is on joint locks, throws, and chokes, and is a very compilcated, involved system, with a range of strategies and tactics, and very few formal postures (most schools simply use ones known from other systems), although it does have it's own form of Seigan, and unique ways of sitting in Seiza and Fudoza. Most of the Muto Dori, or unarmed techniques against swords (and other weapons) are from this school. It also has a reputation as "the bodyguard school" as in previous generations it was learnt by a family that acted as bodyguards for a powerful Daimyo. My personal feeling of this school, even though it covers such a great range, is simple. This I refer to as "the art of no hesitation".

    Shinden Fudo Ryu actually has two components to it (some believe that they are actually different schools... I have heard both. Manaka Sensei when he was with the Bujinkan taught that they were different aspects of the same school, others have classed them as different with different lineages). I'll treat them here seperately.

    Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu is a suhada (unarmoured) jujutsu system, again liek Takagi Yoshin Ryu taking a variety of tactics to get it's teachings across. It's a rather direct school, and I like to think of it like Koto Ryu but focused on grappling rather than striking. Along with the Takagi Ryu, this is where the seated techniques come from (suwari waza), including some quite odd muto dori techniques. This system has no postures whatsoever, and has a highly emphasised focus on being natural in all ways. Early teachings said that you should learn in nature, using what is found around before creating a dojo (building) and using training tools. For this reason (and it's technical approach matching this ideal) I refer to this as "the art of nature".

    Shinden Fudo Ryu Jutaijutsu (Taijutsu) is rarely taught in the Bujinkan, and I don't know if it is featured in the Toshindo curriculum. It is taught in the Jinenkan and the Genbukan, though. It is a much rougher jujutsu form, with very nasty throws (a quite vicious habit of applying a forward hip-throw while applying a musha dori/gyoja dori... honestly, that is just vicious). This system has 5 postures associated, focused around it's version of Seigan.

    Kukishinden Ryu is a battlefield system originally focused on the Naginata and spear, and later the focus changed to staff weapons, the bo in particular. The unarmed part is designed to work in armour, or without, and has a high emphasis on chaining joint locks and applying high impact throws. I tend to say that Kukishinden Ryu Dakentaijutsu is designed to take someone and turn them upside down (so they end up on their head) as quickly as possible. Again, a range of postures, most typical being Kosei no Kamae, a guarded offensive posture. This is also where most of the weapon skills come from. I refer to this school as "the art of the battlefield" for again obvious reasons.

    Did that help? I expect not. That's what I meant when I said the only way to really know what makes it this particular art is to train it.

    But, to tide you over, look to things like a slight weight shift to the rear, lead hand extended, and rear guarding your chest, with the hand typically on the bicep (Seigan, Ichimonji, and various others), a shuto ken (hand edge strike) will be done with a cupped hand, rather than the straight edge that karate tends towards, there is a frequent use of anges, not just forward and backward, or to the sides, kicks are typically low (the most common target in the scrolls is the ribs or groin crease, followed by the groin, then lower to the knees) and straight, with the impact (for a foot stomp) with the heel, by turning the foot out, a common attack in traditional patterns is a stepping lead punch, most of the time the same hand and foot are always forward (Koto is the biggest excpetion to this, with Togakure a close second), a large emphasis on rolling and weaponry, probably the most common posture of all is Shizen no Kamae, which actually doesn't come from any of the schools (although a few have similar concepts with different names, most commonly Hira no Kamae, sometimes Shizentai), which is a natural posture, essentially just standing there with no preparation. Toshindo then also has a high focus on modern self defence, taking these traditional concepts and strategies and tactics, and applying them against modern street-style attacks.

    Okay, I think that should do it. Hope this has helped.
     
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