Gyokushin Ryu


This school, which is one of the 3 ‘ninja’ schools (as opposed to the 6 ‘samurai’ schools of the Bujinkan), is not officially taught in the Bujinkan curriculum, and so it raises the question why is it part of the Bujinkan at all? Well there are a number of answers to that, many of which include Soke Masaaki Hatsumi choosing to not devulge all his teaching to joe public; to only a select few. Although this maybe true, the essence of the Gyokushin Ryu has been taught in both seminars, lessons and on video. Hatsumi has officially said that Gyokushin has no named techniques, but strategies and free movement so it is likely that he doesn’t formally teach them because there are no kata to actually teach.

It is believed that Gyokushin Ryu’s founder, Sasaki Goemon Teruyoshi, who founded the school in the 16th century, was originally from the Gyokko Ryu lineage, or that at least the techniques of the Gyokushin Ryu were based on the Gyokko Ryu techniques. Gyokushin Ryu focuses mainly on stratagem and espionage, rather than combat, which is typical of most ninjutsu schools, since their techniques were mixed with other combat schools early on already. Sasaki Goemon’s son Sasaki Gendayu, was employed by the Daimyo of Kishu, and was paid 200 Koku per year (one Koku was enough to feed one man for a year), this was later raised to 400 Koku per year. It is highly possible that he, like his father was highly skilled in the Gyokko Ryu as well as Gyokushin Ryu. Gyokushin Ryu practitioners also came into contact with the Togakure Ryu, but in time the Gyokushin Ryu split into 3 different directions: Kosshijutsu (Ninpo Taijutsu), Koppojutsu and Jujutsu. However, since they split, all 3 Gyokushin schools have had no connection with eact other in the meantime.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 2.23.43 PM

From what little has been taught on Gyokushin Ryu, the style appears to be about expansion and inserting yourself into the opponents movement as well as the use of the rope, or lasso. The unarmed techniques would appear to be based on the Gyokko Ryu, and are very similar. The kamae for example, such as Ichimonji no Kamae, is exactly the same. It uses bent arms and (iron) fingernails for striking, and like the Gyokko Ryu, there are only a few steps per technique; the majority of the body movement comes through the shifting of weight by bending the knees.

The Sasaki family kept the teachings of the Gyokushin Ryu secret, and it was not until it passed to Toda Nobutsuna and was taught along side, and mixed with other schools, that it came more out into the open. Because of this secrecy there are two people laying claim to being the Soke of this school. One is Hatsumi Masaaki, and the other, Ueno Takashi, is also an ex-student like Hatsumi of Takamatsu Toshitsugu (some people believe him to be a relative of Takamatsu). Both give different lineage. The Dai Nipon Bugei Ryu-ha book lists Ueno lineage and has no mention of the Toda-Takamatsu-Hatsumi line so somewhere in the eight missing generations someone either split a school or gave it to two people. Ueno Takashi is reputed to have been covered with tattoos, and was very friendly with the local Yakuza. It is possible that Ueno Takashi is dead, and that the new inheritor to this version of the Gyokushin Ryu is Kaminage Shigemi, although I cannot seem to find Kaminage actually openly claiming that anywhere, but that does not mean that he does not have the sokeship, just, as in typical ninja fashion, he chooses not to tell the public about it!

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 2.23.55 PM

As well as these two soke claims, the founder of another school, Yoseikan, called Minoru Mochizuki is said to have based his school’s teachings on Gyokushin Ryu Jujutsu. Kano Jigero, the founder of Kodokan Judo, was a friend of Takamatsu Sensei. It is possible that Takamatsu taught at the Kodokan as a guest instructor and that what he taught there was the Gyokushin Ryu. This also makes the claim by Mochizuki believable. He was born in 1907, and started Budo at the age of 5 years old. He studied many things such as Gyokushin Ryu Jujutsu. At the age of 26 he joined the Kodokan, and in 1928 was promoted to Sandan. At this time he was living in Tsurumi. Mochizuki says that the suitemi techniques taught in the new martial art he has created, the Yoseikan (also based on Judo, Aikido, Karate, and Katori Shinto Ryu), come from the Gyokushin Ryu. Mochizuki was a student of Kano at the Kodokan, and holds the rank of 8th Dan in Judo, he therefore probably met Takamatsu at some point, but there is no guarantee that he was taught Gyokushin by him or not!


Gikan Ryu

by Fane Hervey – Ninjutsu London

The Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu is the most unknown of the arts within the Bujinkan and is often translated as ‘The School of Truth, Loyalty & Justice‘. Possibly the main reason for this is that the secret techniques were only handed down from one Soke to the next Soke, (this would often be from father to son). Gikan Ryu was founded during the Eiroku Era (1558 – 1570) by Uryu Hogan Gikanbo. He was the lord of present day Osaka (back then known as Kawachi no Kuni). His castle was known as Uryujo. He was considered a good leader and real warrior. He is seen as being an honorable martial artist who strove to keep Japan at peace. Gikanbo specialisied in Koppo Jutsu (bone breaking), Hicho Jutsu (jumping), and Senban Nage Jutsu (blade throwing). The styles of this era were normally known as: Kosshi Jutsu, Koppo Jutsu, or Daken Taijutsu.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 2.54.21 PM

Gikanbo was heavily influenced by the Chinese style of Cho Gyokko’s line (Gyokko Ryu Koppojutsu) and the Ikai line. From the teachings of Gikanbo comes the saying: ‘Bufu Ni Sente Nashi (From this side will not come the first strike). This is from where he developed Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu.

Gikan Ryu koppojutsu contains secret kicks, punches and throws and rumour has it that Gikanbo developed a special punch that could snap a sword in two! Grades were awarded through the traditional Japanese menkyo system using scrolls for: Shoden Gata, Chuden Gata, Okuden Gata, Kaiden Gata, and others.

The 10th Soke of Gikan Ryu had the same name as its founder, Uryu Gikanbo. On August 17th, 1863 Gikanbo fought for the Emperor during the famous battle of Tenchu Gumi no Ran. He is said to have fought valiantly, since even after being wounded by a rifle shot, he continued to attack with his one good arm until he was overcome by numerous sword cuts from the enemy. However, he was not killed and sensibly managed to retreat, despite being injured to the point of exhaustion. He retired from the battle to behind a nearby temple. There he was discovered by an Iga warrior, called Ishitani Matsutaro, who himself was on his way to join the battle. Gikanbo convinced Ishitani that the battle would be lost and that he should not waste his life. Ishitani tended to Gikanbo’s wounds and took him to Iga to recover. Ishitani Matsutaro, already the Soke of Takagi Yoshin Ryu and Kukishin Ryu, was then repaid for his kindness by being taught the Gikan Ryu, becoming the 11th generation Soke.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 2.54.02 PM

In the Meiji Era, when Ishitani was 61 he was given employment by the father of Takamatsu Sensei at his match factory. It was from here that Ishitani met and started teaching the young Takamatsu Sensei. Takamatsu Sensei later would receive from Ishitani the Grandmasterships of Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, Gikan Ryu, and many others.
Takamatsu Sensei awarded the Gikan ryu to Akimoto Fumio who was his senior student. This was based through his family’s connection to the Gikan Ryu along with the Shoken Ryu of Daken Taijutsu. Unfortunately, his scrolls and densho were destroyed during the 2nd World War. Sadly, Akimoto passed away in 1962.

At this point, there are two different stories that are being told by the Genbukan and the Bujinkan.
Shoto Tanamura, the soke of the Genbukan, who was at one point a student of Hatsumi Sensei, claims to have inherited the Sokeship from Sato Kinbei who supposedly in January of 1963, was awarded the sokeship for Gikan Ryu Koppo Jutsu. As the story accounts, from this time on, any information concerning Gikan Ryu was held exclusively by Sato Kinbei Sensei in the various forms of knowledge, scrolls and texts. Kimbei Sensei for reason unknown chose to keep secret the heritage given to him by Takamatsu Sensei. Sato Kimbei is regarded by Genbukan Schools the 14th Soke of the Gikan Ryu. It was however proven in a Japanese court that Shoto Tanamura is the Soke of Gikan Ryu, and he has provided the scrolls to prove it.

Massaki Hatsumi’s story is less complicated – After Akimoto’s death the the Sokeship came back to Takamatsu who gave it to Hatsumi along other eight Ryus that all together were used to create the Bujinkan Budo Ninpo Taijutsu School. However, when asked he has not provided any scrolls to prove that this is the case. It may well be that there is more than one sokeship for the Gikan Ryu that has been given, none-the-less, it is almost completely unaccessible to the general public or even senior practitioners of the Bujinkan. The only real way to study the Gikan Ryu is through the Genbukan, where the scroll has been given to the public.

However, on 28th February 2015, I had the great fortune to attend a seminar on Shidenfudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu lead by Dr. Kacem Zoughari. Kacem had just recently been allowed access to a few scrolls and densho from Soke Masaaki Hatsumi’s personal library, and one of the scrolls that he brought to show us in the UK was a never before seen scroll of sword on sword techniques within the Gikan Ryu. What was particularly unique about this scroll was that as well as the kanji detailing the technique, the illustrations of various kamae were quite beautiful and very colourful. Most scrolls have no illustrations or few, and those that do are not often coloured. This was a very nice exception to that rule. It also proved that Soke Hatsumi does have quite a few scrolls that until now he has not shared with people, or at least only a trusted few. This scroll also detailed that one of the defining characteristics of the school is for the feet to be pointing in completely opposite directions, like a ballet stance, which alone makes any technique very difficult.

Ultimately though, the strong influence of the Gyokko Ryu upon the Gikan Ryu, means one can assume that the differences between the two are not very big. Therefore studying the Gyokko Ryu is probably as close as we will get within the bujinkan to understanding the essense of the Gikan Ryu.

To visit Fane Hervey’s site or read more of his writing’s on Ninjutsu visit –


Kumogakure Ryu

by Fane Hervey – Ninjutsu London

Meaning “Hiding in the Clouds School“, Kumogakure Ryu was founded by Heinaizaemon Ienaga Iga (of the Iga clan) in the middle 16th century. Like Togakure Ryu, which was paired with Kumogakure Ryu by the Toda family in the 17th Century, it is a ninjutsu school of thinking. Both schools teach that violence can basically be avoided. You learn how to go with the flow so that you can achieve what is best for yourself. It is all about adapting oneself to one’s environment.

The Taijutsu (body movement) of Kumogakure Ryu is almost identical to Togakure Ryu. Soke Hatsumi has demonstrated the Kumogakure taijutsu in the past, which was reminiscent of walking in a woman’s kimono; the feet taking small steps, which allows the knees to remain very close together (bent inwards), protecting the groin. This is of course very similar, if not identical to Wing Chun Kung Fu.

One of the special weapons of the school is the kamayari (a cross-bar spear). This was originally a type of grappling device for climbing onto ships, but proved useful for combating sword bearers too. An infamous ninja called Sarutobi Sasuke who was known for his amazing ability to leap form one tree to the next, used the Kamayari in order to swing from branch to branch like a monkey.Despite the close feet, the Kumogakure is known for its great leaps during close combat. Takamatsu Sensei was reputed to be able to leap 8 feet from standstill. Another taijutsu proficiency was the use of double blocks and strikes, as well as strikes against the forearm, yet again, similar to Wing Chun Kung Fu.

In the same vain, the Ippon Sugi Noburi (a metal pipe with an extendable chain inside and 3 claws at the end) was used for both climbing trees and as a flexible weapon in the Kumogakure Ryu. As well as leaping through trees, the Ninja’s of the Kumogakure would wear demon’s masks to frighten their opposition, and they would use the horns on the masks much like an animal would; by headbutting their opponents. They would also use torches that burnt when wet and other survival tactics for extreme environments, making them appear super human or like demons to their rivals. These types of deception and mind games were common implements for the ninja.

To visit Fane Hervey’s site or read more of his writing’s on Ninjutsu visit –

Koto Ryu

by Fane Hervey – Ninjutsu London

The ‘Tiger Knocking Down School‘ does not really have an exact origin. Like Gyokko Ryu, it is thought to have originated from China, being brought to Japan by a monk called Chan Busho, but when, or even if this is true, remains a mystery. This makes it hard to really tell what influenced it from a Chinese kung fu perspective. On one hand, the linear fashion of Koto Ryu would indicate something of a Xing yi origin, although Xing yi itself is steeped in legend and the exact origin of that art are also unknown. Maybe that’s just a coincidence! Certainly though, Xing yi has an older claim, with its originator supposedly being Yue Fei, the famous Song Dynasty general (10th-13th century). The first Soke of the Koto Ryu; Sakagami Taro Kunishige, is dated as being 16th century. It could also have easily originated from a monk, Xing yi being a popular Taoist martial system.

The second Soke of Koto Ryu was meant to be Bando Kotaro Minamoto Masahide, but unfortunately he was killed in battle around 1542. Therefore the sokeship past to Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi, who was the 17th generation Soke of Gyokko Ryu. So since then, the Koto Ryu and Gyokko Ryu, follow the same lineage. Traditionally only the next soke was taught the Koto Ryu, whereas any student could have been taught the Gyokko Ryu. However, there are instances of many ninja knowing both, so it would appear that this was not a steadfast rule.

Koto Ryu is a hard natured discipline, so it really requires conditioning and tough training. This used to be done by punching and kicking stones and gravel. Supposedly this would empower the practitioner to puncture a tree with 5 holes from a ‘shako ken’ – claw strike!!!

The name of the school, knocking a tiger down, implies that the techniques are for hitting a larger, more powerful opponent.The techniques are rough in their execution and the attitude is a ‘do or die, no mercy’ type of mentality. It is a very brutal system.

Koto Ryu is known for its koppojutsu, (bone breaking/attacking) , shurikenjutsu, and kenjutsu. Unlike the Gyokko Ryu which plays more with distances, Koto Ryu is very close in its execution and is far more offensive. The angling of the attacks can often be at 90 degrees to the opponent, so the timing and rhythm of the practitioner must be excellent in order to be successful. However, the starting distances in the densho for the Koto Ryu are often quite far apart, so this would indicate that it was designed more for the battlefield, rather than confined spaces.
So technically the Gyokko Ryu (and therefore Gikan Ryu) and Koto Ryu complement each other really well, and they form the basis of self defense in the Togakure Ryu too. However, you should not forget that the Koto Ryu is also a system in itself, independent from the Gyokko Ryu, with unique ways of moving.

This school is taught inside the “Bujinkan”, “Genbukan”, and “Jinenkan”, even though Soke Hatsumi is actually the only registered Soke of the school.

To visit Fane Hervey’s site or more writing on Ninjutsu visit –