Kata To Start Off The Year

Dale Seago

Black Belt
Jan 20, 2004
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San Francisco
Blame Brian R. VanCise for this thread:

Would you mind starting a thread on the kata's you are personally working on right now based on the theme of the year?

A friend who was in Japan last month mentioned at the time that there apparently is a more formal relationship between Gyokko ryu, Koto ryu, and Togakure ryu than he'd previously realized: He was training with Nagato and Someya and mentioned that waza from the first two were being used as starting points and then 'ninja-ized' through the addition of the sanpo hiden of Togakure Ryu - metsubishi, shuko and senban shuriken.

Strangely enough, I was doing the same sort of thing in my dojo. ;) In an email to someone near the end of January I wrote,

One of the things I've been doing in my Tuesday classes for a few months now, due to a number of newbies coming in, is spending some time initially in each class (up to half the class, actually) on one of the Kihon Happo waza: First the "original recipe" densho form to get the correct mechanics down, then making it more "tactical" to show ways in which it can actually be used for combat.

Since the first of the year, though, while I've still done this, I've been going further and "Togakurizing" (TM) these forms.

And of course we're beginning to work with the "Escaping Rat" forms as well; actually, we only finally got into the first one last week as I didn't feel folks were ready yet and I wanted to do other things with characteristic Togakure tactics and movement for a while first. (Even though it's been many years since Togakure ryu was a "theme" for the Bujinkan, I have an advantage in that this is my 3rd training cycle in it and I have the perspective to add from all the "annual theme" concepts since it was last stressed in '91.)

This past Sunday I had my usual 3rd-Sunday-of-the-month "monthly mini-seminar" from 10-14:00 and spent almost all of it on the "Tonkatsugata" (hee!!)

We spent the first two hours just on the first "escaping rat" form: The timing (which isn't shown in the Quest video), the mechanics, how to do it without getting killed. Then we worked on "why someone might grab your wrist and yank it" and what that could lead to. Then we began adding accessing & using weapons (carried in different ways on different parts of your body), then doing it unarmed vs. multiple attackers, then using it vs. multiple attackers while accessing and using weapons.

We didn't restrict ourselves to 16th-century scenarios. Specific weapons we brought into play included tanto or wakizashi worn in the traditional position; shuriken held concealed in the hand or hidden in the gi jacket; modern pistol holstered at the right hip; folding knife clipped into a pants pocket; and modern tactical carbine or shotgun held at the shoulder ("bad guy" grabs the barrel to yank it offline so he can deal with you and get your weapon -- remember, we have security/law enforcement/military types training in our dojo). All of these require adapting your use of space within the parameters of the original form in such a way that an opponent can't get at your weapon but YOU can.

We spent about the last hour on scenarios with no formal kamae where you're attacked by someone but don't want to "blow your cover" by letting anyone know that you're trained. Everything appears to be accidental -- you may, for example, seem to just "stumble and fall on him to death". :)
More recently we spent an evening working with Koku, the first kata of Gyokko ryu, and "Togakurizing" it with henka using various weapons and adding shinnenjutsu methods to really confuse the senses of the opponent, focusing on the feeling of "hiding/escaping" throughout.

Here's a 5-second clip of a henka from koteuchitonsougata from 3 weeks ago: www.bujinkansf.org/kote_uchi_henka.mp4

Since I was in "demonstration/teaching" mode we're not going especially fast, but it's nicely dramatic nonetheless: Uke goes airborne because (a) he has no balance, making it easy to rotate both ends of his body around his own center of mass; (b) I end up applying potentially-breaking pressure to his elbow while (c) simultaneously displacing his foot from below. He told me afterward that he could tell that his arm would have broken had I not withdrawn and "escaped" from the flow in the midst of the technique. As he falls, I have effectively "disappeared" and he can't tell where I am. (BTW, at no point do I grab him with my hands.)

On Thursdays (weapons class), we're focusing on swordsmanship. So far we're not yet using the formal sword kata (they're in the old Ninja Biken video from Quest if anyone needs them), but we're working with various things off of a couple of the formal kamae.

I don't want to go into too much specific detail on a forum, but hopefully these will serve as helpful suggestions for some.

Brian R. VanCise

MT Moderator
Staff member
Sep 9, 2004
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Las Vegas, Nevada
Hey Dale,

Cool information particularly of the more formal relationship between Gyokko ryu, Koto ryu, and Togakure ryu. Interesting.

Nice movement throughout the clip and I too particularly like taking someones balance without tying up my hands completely.
(always a good point to remember if you can pull it off)


Yellow Belt
Feb 12, 2007
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About the link between Gyokko and Togakure ryu. I've read on the Genbukan's forum that Tanemura Sensei put some of the "Tonkatsu no kata" in the end of the Gyokko Ryu Video.

Chris Parker

MT Mentor
Feb 18, 2008
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Melbourne, Australia

The formal structure of the Togakure Ryu Densho is actually quite short in terms of number of techniques, having about half the number of a school like Gyokko Ryu, and almost all of them are armed kata in some form (Senban Shuriken and Metsubishi for the Santo Tonso no Kata; Shuko for the Ukemi Kata etc). As has been stated, you can potentially "learn" all the techniques of Togakure Ryu in a very short time when compared to other systems. As a result, I am not surprised to see the kata of other Ryu used as a "launching pad" for the study of Togakure Ryu concepts, and Gyokko is the most logical to begin with.

As is well known, Togakure Ryu is a primarily armed system based around the use of Taijutsu. Togakure Ryu teaches quite an array of weaponry, including the afformentioned Shuriken, Metsubishi and Shuko, as well as Ninjato/Shinobigatana, Ashiko, Yari, Shinodake, and a fair amount of Kuden covering Kusari Gama and Kyoketsu Shoge, and probably others. But this last one is the most telling. Kyoketsu Shoge is said to have been invented by a Martial Artist named Hachiryu Nyudo, who was the teacher of Hakuunsai Tozawa, founder of Gyokko Ryu (BTW, Gyokko's close association with flexible weaponry has seen the integration of Kusari Fundo in the Bujinkan and realted arts most strongly linked with Gyokko Ryu, so that would be my starting point if you wanted to explore that particular waeapon as well...).

So, in short, if you don't have access to Togakure Ryu Densho or Kata, don't stress too much about it. Just do as Dale has suggested, and explore the Kata you already know well, and then add the elaments of Togakure Ryu as you become more familiar with them. This will also help "flesh out" the Togakure Ryu material, because it actually misses a fair bit, such as having no strike or kick defence at all (just grabs, Muto Dori [swords and spears] and a couple of intuition and hidden kata).

Oh, and just for peace of mind, the main body of the Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu Scroll is called the Santo Tonso No Kata (Practice Forms Of The Escaping Rat), not Tonkatsu Kata (Deep Fried Pork Schnitzel Forms). I think Dale was having fun with the similar Japanes terms in his e-mail...