The grading system in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu differs by comparison to other conventional martial arts that operate by presenting students with different colored belts with each grade acheived.
In the Bujinkan we operate on a system of Wappen (Patches) and Hoshi (Stars) to make it easy to understand at a quick glance what grade someone is. Most traditional schools of martial arts would present a student with a white belt and then through years of training in the Dojo it would eventually become a black belt, the concept of colored belts is a very western concept popularized by Karate, Judo and Jujutsu during its introduction into western culture.
The rank structure is outlined in the image below:
- Kaku – This point is the knee and the painful point on the inside and outside of the knee joint.
- Koshitsubo – Hip Pot – You can find this Kyusho point at the base of the spine where it joins the hip, also called the sacrum.
- Koe – Voice –This Kyusho point is between the centre of the thigh and the groin and is where the Femur joins the hip. This point is also where the femoral artery and femoral nerve begin, before they run down the leg. It is possible to dislocate the hip if this point is kicked hard.
- Yubi Tsubo – Finger Healing Point – This point is found at the base of the thumb, between the thumb and forefinger. It should be hit or squeezed in towards the forefinger.
- Ura Kimon – Inside Demon Gate – You can find this Kyusho poin on the ribs just below the nipple and below the pectoral muscles.
- Suigetsu – Watermoon – This point is just below the xiphoid process and is the solar plexus. This area affects the diaphragm when hit.
- Kinketsu – Forbidden Hole – This is the length of the sternum and is impossible to protect with muscle. This point lies over the heart and is very influential over the governing of Ki.
- Wakitsubo – Side Bowl – This Kyusho point is the hollow of the armpit where there are some lymphatic glands.
- Murasame – Village Rain – This Kyusho point is found on the notch at the top of the Sternum. This Kyusho can be hooked or struck with the forefingers.
- Matsu Kaze – Wind in the pine trees – These Kyusho are the inside ends of the clavicles.
- Ryumon – Dragons Gate – This Kyusho point is the space behind the clavicle or collar bone, going down into the body.
- Uko – Door of Rain – This Kyusho is at the side of the neck and is also known as Amado, and is found level with the adams apple. Located by the artery, Jugular vein and the vagal nerve that regulates the heart. It should be struck inwards towards the spine.
- Jinchu – Centre of A Human – This Kyusho point is located at the base of the nose and the tip if the philtrum, between the nostrils. This point can be struck, but it is more painful if rubbed in a lateral motion. Note: It is not advisable to strike the Jinchu as if struck with enough force it can kill. Don’t do it!
- Hadome – End of the Teeth – You can find this Kyusho point by moving to the area where the back of the teeth or Molars are located, the muscle of the Jaw is also positioned there. This area also goes into the cheek tissue below the eyes.
- Tenmon – Heaven’s Gate – This Kyusho point is located on the ridge of the bone above and below the eye socket. It is sometimes massaged to alleviate headaches, but if pressed hard is painful and is useful for controlling the Ukes head.
- Hiryuran – Flying Dragon Confuser – This Kyusho point is the eyeballs.
- Menbu – Face – This Kyusho point is located on the bridge of the nose, when hit it causes a reflex that causes the eyes to water, which affects Ukes sight like biological Metsubishi. It can also refer to the face in general.
- Yugasumi – Evening Mist – This Kyusho point is located on the sensitive point about an inch behind the lower ear in the base of the skull.
- Kenkotsu – Healthy Bone – These Kyusho points are located on the four parts of the skull positioned front, back, left and right of Tento on the top of the skull.
- Tsuyugasumi – Drop of Mist – This Kyusho point is located under the jawline and is where the lymphatic glands are situated. Also, just below the ear into the Cochlea Jaw is a very sensitive area.
- Inazuma – Thunder – This Kyusho point is located to the left side of Ukes belly Button.
- Tsuki Kage – Thrusting Shadow – This Kyusho point is located on the right side of the Ukes belly button.
- Tento – Heaven Head – This Kyusho point is located at the top of the head. It is the area that is soft when children are born.
- Kasumi – Fog – This Kyusho point is located on the temples on either side of the head. Due to the arteries and their proximity to the surface of the skin, this is a very dangerous area to strike.
- Happa – Eight Leaves – This Kyusho point is located on the ear canal and also the ear drum. It can also incorporate the bone just behind the ear that protects the inner ear. Shock to the latter point can affect the Ukes balance.
- Asagasumi – Morning Mist – This Kyusho point is located under the bottom of the chin.
- Gokoku – This Kyusho point is located in the middle of the back of the hand or Kote between the middle finger and the forefinger. It is the point used when performing Omote Gyaku.
- Ryu Fu – Dragons Wind – This Kyusho point is located on the Adams apple. Hitting here causes severe pain and can cause swelling that could block the airway so care must be taken.
- Daimon – This Kyusho point is located in the middle of the shoulder joint or head of the humorous and if struck correctly can dislocate the shoulder.
- Dokkotsu – Single Bone – These Kyusho points are located on either side of the adams apple. If you hit the Ukes right side it is more effective that hitting the left.
- Jujiro – Intersection – These Kyusho points are located at the front of the shoulders just below the anterior deltoid muscle, and on top of the clavicles.
- Hoshi – Star – This Kyusho point is located on the underside of the elbow, striking here can have an effect on the Ukes grip and is very painful as it pinches the Medial Ulnar nerve against the bone.
- Jakkin – Weak Muscle – This Kyusho point is located on the inside upper arm and is found between the Bicep and Tricep muscles. It is possible to damage the Median and Ulnar nerves when striking here, and also can affect the Ukes grip.
- Kimon – Demon Gate a.k.a Omote Kimon – This Kyusho point is located above the nipple and is the spot between the two chest muscles, the pectoral major and minor. This point should be hit inwards toward the spine.
- Seitaku – Star Mud – This Kyusho point is located on the top side of the elbow joint, with the thumb up. Grabbing here can make Ukes knees buckle and head peck forwards.
- Kage – Shadow – This Kyusho point is the protuberance at the bottom of the sternum called the Xiphoid process.
- Butsumetsu – Buddha’s Passing – This Kyusho point is located on both sides of the ribs and is midway down the ribcage below the armpit. It is an area that is impossible to protect with muscle and also includes the end of the floating rib. It should be struck inward towards the centre of the body.
- Go Rin – Five Rings – These Kyusho points are located around the belly button.
- Sai – Crush – This Kyusho point is located on the inside or outside of the mid-thigh. It has been said that if you are hit here hard you can’t stand up for a few days.
- Kosei – Force of a Tiger – This Kyusho point is located in the groin, specifically the testicles, although this area is a sensitive place for women as well.
- Kyokei – Strong Tendons – These Kyusho points are located on the top of the foot, just above the base of the toes.
- Yaku – Press – This Kyusho point is located in the middle of the calf muscle. It is extremely painful when hit.Note: This subject is quite difficult to compile because some of the Kyusho points have historically been wrongly translated and named, and positioned incorrectly on the diagrams, also different Dojos use different names for the Kyusho and document different affects, from Kyusho that can make you immobile for a few days, Immobile for a moment and those that just hurt momentarily. Please note that although the Kyusho points on the diagrams are marked on one side, they actually apply to both sides of the body unless positioned along the centre line of the body. You should also be aware that the knowledge of Kyusho is useless without the proper Taijutsu necessary to strike them correctly.
We looked at Muto Dori (Unarmed defence against a blade) in the dojo yesterday and moved away from the kata to look at real world application. Theirs a number of factors to take into consideration.
The first being that you need to be aware of some important aspects before engaging an assailant armed with a knife:
1. If you can escape! RUN! Call the Police!
2. If you can’t escape, can you negotiate? It’s better to lose you wallet than you life. What do they want?
3. If its unaviodable can you arm yourself? What may assist you in defending yourself? Have the Police been called?
4. Stuff you’ve seen in a movie will NOT work! It WILL get you killed!
5. NEVER allow the opponent to grab you! The WORST situation you can be in is with the assailant holding your shirt with the left hand whilst stabbing with the right hand!
6. You WILL be terrified! Its 100% natural! Its called fight or flight!
These are just the basic precursory aspects you need to understand but the most important is rule number 1, Run and call the Police!
The second factor is the legal ramifications or what could potentially happen and the impact it will have on your life moving forwards. I can’t stress this point enough its NOT a good idea to confront anyone who is armed EVER!
If however its completely unavoidable then all rules go out the window, their is no room for reasonable force as the slightest hesitation could have devastating consequences. Make sure that your actions are 100% justified as you will have to explain yourself and will likely be arrested for further questioning and with good reason.
Its difficult to comprehensively define reasonable force in a life threatening situation but the legal definition is that your justified to use reasonable force to disarm and restrain the assailant if they pose a significant threat to you of others around you.
In short reasonable force for them trying to stab you with a fixed blade knife would be somewhere in between disarming them, hitting them with a table, to a firearms officer shooting them in the leg. Its kind of broad ?
On a serious note though the situation could also go VERY BADLY! If you don’t know what your doing and i mean REALLY know with continuous training you could easily end up becoming the victim of a knife attack. It really doesn’t matter what martial art you have studied or how many kata involving knife disarms you’ve practiced because all that will go out the window. Don’t be a hero!
The third factor is knife attacks happen fast! The opponent will not leave their arm extended for you to perform a fancy technique like Kote Gaeshi unlike your partner in the dojo. The most common attack is the sewing machine, the assailant latches on with the left hand and repeatedly stabs to the victims abdomen with the right hand. This happens VERY quickly, don’t be under any miscinception a knife is every bit as deadly as a firearm! The key is not to allow the opponent to latch on in the first place! If the assailant grabs you its highly likely you are going to be stabbed so this is VITALLY important! DO NOT LET THEM GRAB YOU!
This grab is often also how you get clear of the knife by using effective Taisabaki and barring off the grabbing arm to restrain the opponent but thats impossible to explain in this post. If you can position yourself out of reach of the stabbing arm behind the shoulder of the grabbing arm whilst in Ura Gyaku for example then it provides the split seconds needed to drag the opponent to the ground to pin the shoulder of the grabbing arm using the knee to then disarm them.
This brings me back to factor 2 the law, Theirs no room for reasonable force as such, you need to dominate the assailant with controlled aggression or you legitimately risk being stabbed. This doesn’t mean using the knife either should you disarm them! Definitely not! Thats murder/manslaughter no matter what way you look at it! You need to do whatever you need to do to neutralise the situation without doing significant lasting damage to anyone! However a broken arm only lasts 6 weeks.
This subject is extremely extensive so i will continue it in a later post but don’t be stupid when it comes to an assailant armed with a knife, It’s a very real and significant threat in modern society and that knife doesn’t care how hard you THINK you are! Steel is harder than flesh no matter how you look at it and it only takes one mistake for the consequences to be devastating. If you can run, THEN RUN! Call the Police! Don’t ever train with live blades either, training should always be done with wooden, rubber or foam knives under the supervision of a fully qualifed and insured instructors.
A question I keep getting asked is whats the difference between the Japanese terms Jutsu and Jitsu?
The explanation is fairly simple, Jitsu is an English term for a martial arts system its not Japanese and when used in the Japanese language Jitsu means something entirely different translating as “Real/Fact/Truth” 事実.
This is most likely to down to a translation error when it was first transcribed as Jutsu is the correct way to romanise it, but when pronounced it could sound like Jitsu. It could also be down to a lack of solidarity in romanisation of Japanese in the past which has since been rectified by the Japanese Language Council who established one system of romanisation. The direct translation of Jutsu is “Art” 術 but it can also be “technique” or possibly “way – Do 術” in some instances.
Another common western practice not seen in Japan is the use of a hyphen to seperate the the name of the art “Ju-Jitsu” instead of “Jujutsu”. This one is a bit of a mystery as theirs no legitimate basis for doing this! It’s most likely being done by whoever has translated it to show some awareness of Kanji but it makes absolutely no sense other than how many kanji are used! To demonstrate i have included the Kanji below:
Kanji Actual Trans. Mystery Trans. Wrong Trans.
柔術 Jūjutsu Ju-Jutsu Ju-Jitsu
忍術 Ninjutsu Nin-Jutsu Nin-Jitsu
空手 Karate. Kara-Te Ka-Rate
柔道 Judō Ju-Dō Jiudo/Jyudo
合気道 Aikidō Ai-Ki-Dō Aikijutsu/Aikijujutsu
So you see the Kanji for Jūjutsu is comprised of two Kanji so when translated for some reason people are placing a hyphen in between the words to make Jū-jutsu but this is totally unneccessary, its simply Jūjutsu.
Jiu-Jitsu is another mistranslation and is simply wrong when translated from Japanese into English but theirs a possibility it could have links to the way the Kanji are translated in the Brazillian language which is why its mostly associated to BJJ (Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu). Japanese Jūjutsu is not Jiu-Jitsu, although for some reason instructors claiming to have connections to Japan use Jiu-Jitsu all the time when they apparently run a Jūjutsu Dojo.
Upon further research i have discovered that what actually happened was Rorion Gracie copyrighted Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to seperate it from Japanese Martial Arts as its not Japanese.
With this in mind doesn’t it make sense that your either an instructor of Japanese Jūjutsu or an instructor of Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu?! Their is no Jiu-Jutsu, Jū-jitsu or Jūjitsu!
The reason this is important is if the instructor doesn’t know how to spell the name of the art being taught correctly or it origins, Then how effective is whats being taught?! Using the term Jujitsu suggests a school of enligtenment somewhat like a monastery so effectively those schools are offering enlightenment, which is kind of funny really when you think about it.
I tell my students regularly to “check the source” because if you follow the art up the chain and find it has no connection to a legitimate martial arts linage or Ryuha then 9 times out of 10 your learning off Sensei Bob who has never actually met anyone Japanese let alone trained with them.
Its the same with Ninjutsu! If a school is claiming to teach Ninjitsu its fake! No legitimate Ninjutsu practitioner will call our art Ninjitsu but Ninpo, Ninjutsu or Budo Taijutsu. We don’t use the names of dead lineages either like Koga Ryu Ninjitsu or Fuma Ryu Ninjitsu as they died out centuries ago and Ninjitsu isn’t a word! Theirs some arguement for Fujita Seiko being the last real Koga Ninja but even then he died decades ago before training any students to continue the lineage. Koga Ryu Ninjitsu translates as “Lieing Wannabe Ninja” to any legitimate practitioner because we learn Japanese from day 1 in the dojo, It’s integral to the art!
As i mentioned previously much of the confusion can be traced back to the 1950’s-1960’s when westerners were translating the Kanji for martial arts and misunderstood the romanisation of the Kanji. Judo became Jyudo, Jiudo, Jujutsu, Jujitsu, Juiido and numerous other varitations that all are apparently more accurate translations of the original Kanji 柔道 Judō. These instructors then refused to accept their individual translations could possibly be wrong so branched out into splinter organisations which all use different spelling for the name of original Japanese art of Judō 柔道.
I’m not saying that just because a name of a martial art is mispelt from the translation of the Kanji that it invalidates the art itself but more that you can determine alot about a dojo and its standards by the name it uses. If they are advertising traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Then thats fairly impressive considering the art itself doesn’t actually exist in either Japan or Brazil! It’s the equivalent to saying we teach traditional Japanese Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.
As martial artists and especially martial arts instructors we have a responsibility to understand the intricate details behind everything we do and teach. If your simply practicing mechanical techniques in the dojo and not asking “Why am i doing this? What am i doing to the Uke when performing this technique?” Then you are completely missing the point of training in the first place!
Training should be performed in a realistic manner with intention, to simulate actual combat and when you perform a technique you should understand the ‘Kuden’ or concept behind it otherwise obtaining any sort of proficiency in the art you practice will be extremely difficult. Their are loads of factors to consider when performing a technique, I often use the legal term that your causing a chain of causation, You attack or lock one part of the body whilst watching for the reaction that will occur somewhere else in the Ukes anatomy to break them down when they are structurally at their weakest. Its all part of the process of Shu Ha Ri which i will explain in a later post.
My point being attention to detail is extremely important in martial arts, so if you can’t get the name of your style right then what else has been overlooked?
In conclusion figure out what you are! Either your a Japanese Jūjutsu Dojo or a Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu School! If you practice Judō its Judō not Juido, Jyudo or whatever else you may call it. Japanese is a language so its a fairly simple process to clarify how the Kanji should be romanised with modern technology leaving very little room for open interpretation. You can’t argue with the Kanji!
As a student you should never be affraid to question what you are being taught and check the source. It will make you a better student overall and it helps your instructors stay on their toes and dig deep into what they represent and how they teach you. After all they learn as much from you as you do from them whilst training in the dojo!
Finally, Attention to detail is key! Understand the “why?” Behind every technique you perform and what the end game is. This is really important as its what helps you become a better martial artist with effective technique. Its not all about brute force and rigid mechanical movements but technical proficiency and scientific application of the art you practice. I say to my students “If its not natural, It’s not Ninjutsu” by which i mean when a technique is performed correctly it should feel effortless because all the little details click into place to break the opponent down. Thats Ninjutsu in action, Not Ninjitsu!
I have always had this obsession with Japanese swords (Nihonto), I never knew what it was about them exactly but no other sword ever had the same aesthetic appeal. Maybe it was growing up during the Ninja boom of the 80’s and 90’s where invincible warriors weilding these mystical weapons wrought shadowy vengence on their enemies or maybe i just watched too much TMNT when i was a kid and wanted to be Leonardo ?
Naturally when i started studying martial arts one of the major things i wanted to learn was how to use a Katana (Samurai Sword) and by the time i was 13 my family finally allowed me to have an Iaito (Blunt) Ninjato (Ninja Sword). This sword was ok for my first sword and i absolutely loved it! I used to finish school, go home and train for a few hours everyday and my sword was always in the vacinity. I think i was studying Jujutsu at the time as i seem to remember wearing a white Gi.
One day me and a friend of mine were training and being a bit stupid we decided to spar with our Iaito (NOT A GOOD IDEA!) and i remember we clashed swords and the end of my Ninjato flew off! My blade had snapped! That was when i realised 440 stainless is not the material for a functional sword!
I was gutted to say the least that i broke my first sword so i started learning how to fix it and convert it into a Wakizashi of sorts. Needless to say it was terrible lol! I just crushed the end of the metal Saya (Sheath) closed and attacked the end with a metal file to make it have some resemblance of a sword. This was when i first started to look into Tsukamaki as my sword was knackered and i would have done just about anything to fix it. After a lot of fiddling i figured it out and the process of perfecting it has taken me years, I’m still learning to this day.
It’s important to mention that its not easy to make Tsukamaki look elegant and its quite a complex process which is why i have never written about it until now. Patience, persistence and excellence are the true requirements to properly perform Tsukamaki, It can’t be rushed and takes a lot of practice.
You will need some tools to properly perform Tsukamaki like a Mekugi-Ana, 2 dental picks or metal tools (I use two converted watchmakers files), Rubber and amber hammer, hacksaw, some paper or tape, Hishigami (Paper wedges), rice glue, scissors and maybe some pliers. A basic Tsukamaki tool kit looks like this:
I will explain what each tool is for when going throught the Hinerimaki technique later in the post but the key tools are the picks and the Hishigami. Some people also use clamps to hold the Tsuka Ito (Cord) in place while performing Tsukamaki but I don’t personally, I learnt to clamp the Tsuka Ito in place with my left thumb and forefinger whilst tying it but this is difficult and very strenuous on your hands at first. The clamps are fairly standard spring loaded grips.
This is a good idea at first but i find them annoying as they get in the way so you may want to drop the grips once you become more proficient.
You can also use a fake Nakago G clamped to a table but these are not readily available you have to make them yourself.
One of the fundamental aspects of learning Tsukamaki is familiarising yourself with the terminology used and the parts that comprise all Japanese Nihonto. Tsukamaki is a Japanese art, Therefore you need to learn some Japanese or you won’t know what your working with.
I have provided a list below of the most common terminology used in Tsukamaki:
Fuchi/Kashira – Pommel caps
Ha – Cutting edge
Hishigami – Paper wedges
Ito – Cord
Maki – To wrap
Menuki – Hilt Ornaments
Mekugi – Peg that secures the handle
Mekugi Ana – Holes in the Hilt
Mune – Back of the blade
Nakago – Tang of the sword
Omote – Outside
Ura – Inside
Tsuka – Handle
Tsuka Ito – Cloth braid covering Tsuka
Same – Shark or ray skin
The basic materials used for Tsukamaki are the Ito, paper and glue.
The glue needs to be sticky but not absorbable as if you use Gorilla Glue or superglue you will ruin the Ito as it will soak up the glue and solidify. The best glue for Tsukamaki is produced by boiling rice, working it into a paste while its warm and adding a very small amount of water to create rice glue.
When making Hishigami the paper can be almost any weight, I tend to use A4 but ideally it should be relatively close to a newspaper thickness. You have to be careful using newsprint though as the ink can run and again mark the Ito.
You should moisten the Hishigami before placing them as this will allow the Hishigami to conform easier to both the Tsuka Ito and the Samegawa.
Tsuka Ito is available from the shop (Ningu) in a wide variety of colours and is only manufactured using two different types of fibres, Natural and synthetic. If you are unsure what your Ito is made from then a burn test is often helpful to indentify it.
Tsuka Ito Lengths
This varies according to the length of the Tsuka that you are wrapping and the Ryuha of the sword, Its best to overestimate rather than underestimate how much Ito you will require as although their are a number of techniques and forumlas to estimate the required length, their isn’t one thats infallible. A simple guideline is:
Tanto – 4” Tsuka – 6ft of Tsuka Ito
Wakizashi – 6” Tsuka – 8ft of Tsuka Ito
Katana – 10” Tsuka – 12ft of Tsuka Ito
However if the Tsuka is for a Kukishinden Ryu Katana or Oniyuri Bujinkan Katana the Tsuka are alot longer so the Ito required would be approximately 16-18ft.
One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of Tsukamaki is the shape of the Tsuka itself. When you buy a production sword its somewhat like buying an iPad with factory settings, you have to add your apps and info to make it yours. One of the most common complaints people make about their swords is that after a while the Tsuka becomes uncomfortable to hold or it feels too thin.
This is easily remedied by removing the Tsuka Ito and adjusting the Tsuka itself.
This is done in a number of ways but the easiest is to apply paper strips to the Ha (Blade Edge) and Mune (Blade Spine) edges of the Tsuka to pack the handle out and make it thicker.
It’s important that you glue each strip down like paper mache as this will keep the Ito in place and also stop the paper moving around and messing up your Tsukamaki. The paper should be wide enough to touch either side of the Samegawa but not obscure it once the Ito is applied. This will also stop the Ito snaring on the rough face of the Samegawa.
Continue layering the paper until the edges are flush with the Fuchi and Kashira once the Tsuka Ito has been applied. This is done by taking a length of Tsuka ito and checking the depth as pictured below.
This process is also known as preparing the Tsuka. I have owned more Nihonto than i can count and until i realised that the Tsuka needed shaping i believed i’d only ever found the right sword for me a few times as all the rest didn’t feel quite right. Turns out i just prefer a fatter Tsuka personally as factory made Tsuka feel uncomfortable in my hands as they are quite big. My point is that if your sword feels uncomfortable in the hand, your Tsuka probably needs packing out.
I tend not to do this last part but its relevant for applying Hishigami. Measure and mark the Ha and Mune sides of the Tsuka in sections of 1 width of the Tsuka Ito. The distance between the Fuchi and Kashira should measure an odd number of width units along the Ha and Mune sides. If the width measurements are not odd then the Tsuka may have to be altered or a different weight of Tsuka Ito may have to be used in order to fit with the odd number of spaces. This also largely depends on the style of Tsukamaki your are practising as some styles simply won’t fit if you don’t use this guideline but its not so much of an issue for Hinerimaki Tsukamaki (Diamond Wrapping). It is an issue for Katate Maki for example as the end knots won’t fit on the Tsuka.
At this point you usually produce you Hishigami ready to start wrapping however i will discuss making Hishigami in a later blog post. Hishigami are small paper triangles used to space out the Tsuka Ito and keep it symmetrical when wrapping. An example is provided below:
Hinerimaki Tsukamaki – Where To Start
Once you have finshed preparing your Tsuka and Hishigami its time to start Tsukamaki. It should be mentioned that its tradition for the Tsuka Ito to be placed on the Omote side of the Tsuka regardless of the style. You can determine the Omote side of the Tsuka by looking for the Kurigata (hole for the cord) on the Saya which always faces out from the body when the sword is worn.
Before you start wrapping the Tsuka theirs a few steps to go through:
1. Take the Tsuka Ito, find the middle and fold perfectly in half.
2. Place the first two Hishigami on the Ura (Inside) of the Tsuka and align them with the marks on the paper strips packing out the Ha and Mune sides of the Tsuka.
3. Place the middle of the Tsuka Ito on the Omote side of the Tsuka and make the first two Tsuka Ito folds overlap the Hishigami on the Ura side of the Tsuka. The left side of the Ito is folded first and the right side of the Ito overlaps the left.
4. Bring the two lengths of Tsuka Ito around to the omote side and make the next two folds. Hishigami should either be placed already or placed as you perform the Tsukamaki
5. Continue the Tsukamaki process alternating the direction of the folds as you go.
Bare in mind that earlier i mentioned their are a variety of ways of doing this, I do it by hand but many people use clamps ?
Its important that your Tsukamaki is tight, after each fold its important to pull fairly hard and draw the Tsuka Ito into shape around the Hishigami. It’s really important that your Tsukamaki is not loose or you will have to start again.
Throughout the process continually monitor and adjust the symmetry of the folds and spacing and try to maintain a smooth surface along the Ha and Mune edges of the Tsuka.
Perfect Tsukamaki is extremely tight and precisely positioned, you should not be able to move the folds in the Tsuka Ito once drawn over the Hishigami on the Tsuka.
Placing The Menuki
Placing the Menuki on your Tsuka in the Hinerimaki style is fairly simple, The Menuki are placed 3 folds up on the Omote side of the Tsuka and 3 folds down from the Ura side knot of the Tsuka.
In the case of a Wakizashi or Tanto the Menuki are usually placed after the second set of folds on the Tsuka.
It varies according to the style of Tsukamaki being performed, the size of the Tsuka, the size of the Menuki, Ito width and the placement of the Mekugi Ana.
Tying The Ura Side Knot
Once you have reached the Kashira end of your Tsuka you will need to tie the Ura side knot.
Pass the end of the Tsuka Ito coming from the Mune side, over and under the fold formed by the crossed Tsukamaki.
Then pass the end from the Ha side over the Mune side Ito and under the Tsukamaki folds on the other side locking the Mune side Ito in position.
Take the Ha side Ito and fold into a loop and then bring it back under the Tsukamaki folds.
Thread both ends through the Shitodome and the Kashira so that both ends of the Tsuka Ito are poking through the Kashira on the Omote side.
Tying The Omote Side Knot
Pass both lengths of the Tsuka Ito under the top set of Tsukamaki folds.
Then take the Ha side length and loop it under the top Tsukamaki folds to form a tight band around them. Cut off excess and tuck into the band.
Now take the Mune side lenght of Ito and fold it into a loop passing it back under the Tsumakai folds on the other side of the band.
The Ito should now be pointing towards the Kashira, simply repeat the process of folding into a loop and passing the Ito back under the Tsukamaki folds on the other side on the band around the centre of the Tsukamaki folds.
Now cut off the excess length of Ito as close to the now formed Omote side knot as possible and tuck in any excess.
Your Tsukamaki is now complete and should look like this:
Finally if the folds of your Tsukamaki aren’t quite symmetrical, take a spoon or a ruler and use the edge to push the base of the folds into your Hishigami. DON’T use your picks! If you slip you will pull the weaving of your Tsuka Ito and form a loop which will effectively ruin all the work you have just completed. Use something rigid but with a round edge.
This post is by no means a comprehensive breakdown of the entire art of Tsukamaki but an insight into one of the most common styles (Hinerimaki/Ito No Maki) of Tsukamaki. It quite literally only scratches the surface but it is a good place to start.
I will write more about the differing styles of Tsukamaki, Making Hishigami, Tying Sageo and anything else Tsukamaki related in my following blog posts but this post will turn into a book if i continue.
It takes time and practice to get it right but after your first few failed attempts you will get to grips with it! It’s a fiddly process but if your an avid practitioner of Kenjutsu its an essential skill.
Its suprising how many martial artists own Nihonto but let them fall into a state of complete disrepair, It’s been more than a few times that i’ve walked into a Dojo and seen the Nihonto on the wall has the Tsuka Ito hanging off, with the instructor clueless on how to tie it back into position. I always assumed it was part and parcel of the art.
Should you need restoration work done on the swords in your dojo please do not hesitate to contact us (www.ningu.co.uk)
I hope you find this post useful in your training.
I will add pictures of how to tie the Ura and Omote side knots shortly.
In this section of the website you will find a brief glossary of all the weapons and tools traditionally used by the Ninja, this is provided purely for reference purposes to help students of the Bujinkan learn the names and specifications.
None of the weapons depicted should be used unless under the supervision of a qualified Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu Shidoshi or Shihan.
Shinken (sharp) weapons should never be used in the Dojo under any circumstances, unless specifically attending a test cutting lesson (Tameshigiri), this is generally only practiced in Japan under the supervision of one of the Shitenno or practiced in your own time after extensive training on private property.
The official stance of the Bujinkan Rugby Dojo is DO NOT train with Shinken weaponry, especially in the Dojo as it is illegal in the UK to bring weapons into a public place under the Offensive Weapons Act 1996. The student accepts all responsibility for any injury incurred outside the Dojo by misusing specialized weaponry intended for use by experienced martial artists.
In short your responsible for your own stupidity, stick with wooden, rubber or foam training weapons until you thoroughly understand what you practicing, throw Bo Shuriken (after training) instead of cheap throwing knives that can easily bounce back and cause serious injury, use your common sense and ensure you maintain control over the weapon at all times, no aimlessly waving a weapon around, bare in mind if you lose grip on a sword swinging it around it could easily take your arm or even head off it is a 3 foot long razor after all!
Just to clarify you shouldn’t be swinging a sword around anyway, Japanese swordsmanship is very controlled, the spinning motions and movements you often see in movies are derived from Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu who use shorter broadswords and position the body in a completely different manner, do it with a Nihonto (Japanese Sword) and your likely to cut off your ear (or other bits) due to the longer blade, in conclusion DON’T DO IT!
Kaginawa 鈎縄 – Hook Rope/Grappling Hook
The Kaginawa quite literally is translated as ‘Hook Rope’ and is a generalized term for a number of different climbing tools including the conventional western styled grappling hook. This particular Kaginawa is comprised of a three pronged claw (Kumade) and rope that could be used not only for climbing but also to restrain violent swordsmen from a distance by snagging clothing and flesh and dragging him to the ground. The Kumade could also be attached to the end of a Rokushakubo (6 Shaku Staff) and used in the same manner.
Shuko and Ashiko – Hand and Foot Claws
Shuko and Ashiko are hand and foot claws traditionally used by the Togakure Ryu Ninja for a variety of reasons, their primary purpose is to aid the Ninja in climbing trees, structures and other obstacles somewhat like a mountaineers crampons but they could obviously be used to devastating effect when used with the Ninja’s Taijutsu to block incoming cuts from an opponents sword and incapacitate them.
Ninja-To 忍者刀 – Ninja Sword
The Ninja-To (忍者刀) or Shinobigatana (忍刀) is the conventional sword of the Ninja portrayed in popular culture and animation. Their is some debate about the exact dates that this sword was used due to a lack of antiques from the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States) period being found but they do feature in various Ninja museums across Japan. The conventional belief is that the Ninja-To was more of a utilitarian bush knife of machete by comparison to the conventional Japanese Katana.
Their are several fundamental differences between the Ninja-To (忍者刀) and the Katana, The first and most obvious being that the blade is straight, this was due to a variety of reasons such as the Ninjas inability to replicate the complex forging processes used to create a Katana at the time but it also served a functional purpose as it makes the blade more stable so that the Ninja-To could be used as a step when in the Saya to climb over walls and other obstacles. The Kojiri (Metal Saya Cap) meant that the Saya could be secured in the ground and the Tsuba used as a step and the longer Sageo meant that the Ninja could hold it in their teeth, climb up and then retrieve the sword. In conclusion the Ninja-To could be compared to the modern soldiers Bayonet or Survival Knife.
Kodachi 小太刀, こだち
The Kodachi is a sword that is roughly about midway between the Katana and Wakizashi. Literally translating into “small or short tachi”, is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (Nihontō) used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Kodachi are from the early Kamakura period (1185–1333).
This particular Kodachi is an Oniyuri Bujinkan Katana although technically it is more of a Kodachi due to the shorter blade, and larger Tsuka (handle) and fittings.
This served a very practical purpose as when the Ninja needed to draw his sword when faced with an opponent the longer Saya would act as a form of psychological misdirection meaning that the Ninja was able to draw the Kodachi at a far quicker rate than the opponent was expecting and cut him down before he even drew his sword. The Saya could also be loaded with Metsubishi (Blinding Powder) in the space left in the bottom to blind and disorientate the opponent or carry secret messages.
Bokken 木刀 – Wooden Sword
The Bokken or Bokuto is a Japanese wooden sword used for training in Kenjutsu (Swordmanship). The Bokken can come in a variety of sizes and are usually made of red or white oak and carved in the shape of a Katana. The Bokken is one of the primary pieces of equipment that you will encounter in the Dojo.
Rokushakubo 六尺棒 – 6 Shaku Staff
This name derives from the Japanese words roku (六), meaning “six”, shaku (尺) and bō (棒) . The shaku is a Japanese measurement equivalent to 30.3 centimeters (0.994 ft). Thus, rokushakubō refers to a staff about 6-shaku (1.82 m; 5.96 feet) long. The bō is typically 3 cm (1.25 inch) thick, sometimes gradually tapering from the middle to 2 cm (0.75 inch) at the end (kontei). This thickness allows the user to make a tight fist around it in order to block and counter an attack.
In the Bujinkan the primary school learnt for the use of Rokushakubo is Kukishinden Ryu (九鬼神流)
Wakizashi 脇差 – Short Sword
The Wakizashi has a blade between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in), with Wakizashi close to the length of a Katana being called Kodachi and Wakizashi closer to Tantō length being called Ko-Wakizashi. The Wakizashi being worn together with the Katana was the official sign that the wearer was a Samurai or swordsman of feudal Japan. When worn together the pair of swords were called Daishō, which translates literally as “big-little”. The Katana was the big or long sword and the Wakizashi the companion sword. Wakizashi are not necessarily just a smaller version of the Katana, they could be forged differently and have a different cross section.
Wakizashi have been in use as far back as the 15th or 16th century. The Wakizashi was used as a backup or auxiliary sword, it was also used for close quarters fighting, to behead a defeated opponent and sometimes to commit Seppuku, ritual suicide.
The Wakizashi was one of several short swords available for use by Samurai including the Yoroi Tōshi, the Chisa-Katana and the Tantō. The term Wakizashi did not originally specify swords of any official blade length and was an abbreviation of “wakizashi no katana” (“sword thrust at one’s side”); the term was applied to companion swords of all sizes. It was not until the Edo period in 1638 when the rulers of Japan tried to regulate the types of swords and the social groups which were allowed to wear them that the lengths of Katana and Wakizashi were officially set.
Kunai 苦無 – Trowel/Dagger
A Kunai (苦無) is a Japanese dagger, derived from the masonry trowel. The two widely recognized variations of the Kunai are short kunai (小苦無 shō-kunai) and the big kunai (大苦無 dai-kunai). Perhaps the most important point to mention is that the Kunai is not bladed and was often used by the Ninja to dig holes and bore peep holes.
Although a basic tool, in the hands of the Ninja the Kunai could be used as a multi-functional weapon. Kunai were originally made to be farming tools but soon evolved into the weapons they have become today. The Kunai is commonly associated with the Ninja in popular culture and animation as a form of throwing knife although this is a popular misconception as this was never their original intended purpose. That’s not to say that they aren’t available as throwing knives today but they tend to be cheap replicas not really suitable for training.
Their are a variety of Kamae and applications for the Kunai which will be discussed more in depth during lessons.
A Suntetsu is a metal rod/spike about 6 inches in length with a ring attached to it. The middle finger is inserted into the ring and the Suntetsu rests in the hand using a variety of grips. Suntetsu are small, easy to conceal and relatively simple to learn how to use. Suntetsu are used for stabbing, poking, pinching, striking, smashing, scraping and throwing. You can use a single Suntetsu or a pair.
In the Bujinkan Suntetsu are predominantly used for striking Kyusho.
Tanto 短刀 – Traditional Japanese Dagger
A tantō 短刀, “short blade”) is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihonto) that were worn by the Samurai class of feudal Japan. The Tantō dates to the Heian period, when it was mainly used as a weapon but evolved in design over the years to become more ornate. Tantō were used in traditional martial arts (tantojutsu) and saw a resurgence of use in the West in the 1980s as the design made its way to the US and is a common blade pattern found in modern tactical knives.
On the 16th of August 2019 we hosted a cross training seminar with Sabeomnim Rob Howarth and the guys from Outlaw Martial Arts – Hybrid Hapkido looking at Japanese Kenjutsu and Korean Kumdo (Swordsmanship).
This was a great seminar that gave us the opportunity to compare two completely differing sword styles but it raised some interesting points. We focused primarily on teaching the Kuden (basics) of Kukishin (Kukishinden) Ryu Hikejutsu and a few of my favourite techniques as obviously we have limited time to compare techniques at a 3 hour seminar.
Sabeomnim Rob Howarth explained about the application of Korean Kumdo and started the session by explaining the importance of using the left hand to drive each cut through the opponents guard and snapping the blade back into a position where a secondary cut can be performed and proceeded to get all of the students to practice this snapping back action in a horse stance. It sounds basic but the fact is many people leave themselves open by overextending and not controlling the blade after performing a cut so its a great place to start.
One key difference we noticed from the start is that they do not practice the same amount of etiquette we do in the dojo, When i asked Rob about this he said in Hapkido they are more concerned with getting on with training so they don’t really bow in in the same way we do.
Sabeomnim Rob then proceeded to explain that its important to drive through the opponents guard when performing an overhead cut (Shomen) so you have to commit to it, then snap the blade back and cut to the side of the opponents head (Tento Uchi) instantly to catch them off guard.
As Rob continued to teach the techniques slowly developed into a form of pattern drill that flowed from end to end, which initially I did not get at all, I just couldn’t see how the movements connected which had my students giggling as they knew what they were doing more than i did at this point. The thing is we had been training for a while at this point and repeatedly performing cuts is quite tiring when your really going for it so my body was willing but after about 200 cuts my mind had checked out.
We were then unfortunately interrupted and had to move into another studio in the venue! The studio we were in had been double booked by a local fitness class which we obviously weren’t happy about considering the time it took to set the dojo up for the seminar. You had to feel sorry for the guys who had to come into a room full of swordsmen and tell them to move.
Once we had relocated into the other studio, Rob continued to teach by introducing us to what he called “The Pineapple Pizza of Martial Arts”, This was a technique from Korean Kumdo known as “Duck Stepping” a form of Randori specifically focused on using Tai Sabaki to move between opponents to cut them down in sequence.
This was great fun! The overall point of the technique being to attack the first opponent then quickly launch a follow up attack to cut them down, use your footwork (Tai Sabaki) to block the second opponent by fanning the blade over your shoulder and performing a cut and then moving to the third opponent, who blocks the cut to which you counter and get clear.
We continued to practice this for quite a while as it was difficult to get into the correct position to perform each cut depending on the positioning of each opponent.
At this point Rob and I switched over and i began to teach our half of the seminar.
I started off by teaching the basics how to draw the sword (Nuki Uchi) and its application when moving from Fudoza No Kamae into Iaigoshi No Kamae to cut, stressing the importance of not moving the tip (Kissaki) of the blade past the shoulder of the drawing arm.
If you over extend, you leave yourself wide open to counter attacks from the opponent so it’s important to keep the tip of the blade (Kissaki) pointed towards them at all times ready to perform a Tsuki (Stab).
I then explained how to properly perform Chiburi (Shaking dirt off the blade) and how to place the Katana back into the Saya with a technique called Noto (Putting the Katana away).
If these techniques are performed correctly it significantly minimises the chances of you cutting yourself with your own sword as your left hand is not exposed to the edge of the blade. A very common accident for students who have never used a live blade before is to release the Habaki (Ferrule) from the opening of the Saya (Sheath) with a technique called Nuku (Pushing on the Tsuba to release the sword from the Saya with the thumb of the left hand), Then they leave their thumb over the edge of the blade as they draw it and slice their thumb open.
Live (Sharp) Katana are not permitted in the dojo at any point unless we are specifically hosting a Tameshigiri (Test Cutting) seminar!
How to Nuki Uchi – Draw your Katana
- Pistol grip on the Tsuka, Knuckles pointing upwards.
- Nuku to release Habaki, Watch thumb position.
- Draw one third vertically.
- Rotate the Saya horizontally so that the blade edge is facing away from you.
- Draw another third of the blade.
- Pull the Saya backwards as you draw the last third of the blade to get it clear.
- Perform Migi Do Kiri (Right Horizontal Body Cut).
- Don’t let the Kissaki pass the shoulder of the drawing arm.
How to Chiburi – Shake dirt/blood off the blade
For this example i’m outlining O Chiburi
- Hold the Katana vertically in front of you.
- Blade edge facing left away from you.
- Rotate the blade edge to face forwards as you extend you arm out in front of you.
- Point the Kissaki at a 45 degree angle and thrust upwards.
- Swing the blade in an arc down at a 45 degree angle stopping just past the right leg.
- Watch your leading leg if your Kamae is wrong you may catch you knee cap!
How to Noto – Sheath your Katana
- Upon finishing your Chiburi bring the back of the Habaki to the opening of the Saya.
- Turn the Saya so that it’s horizontal with the curve facing away from you.
- Use your thumb and forefinger to form a guide for the back of the blade.
- Run the back of the blade through your guide until you reach the Kissaki.
- Guide the Kissaki into the Saya opening (Kogoichi)
- Return two thirds of the blade into the Saya horizontally.
- Turn the Saya and the blade vertically.
- Return the last third of the blade up to the Habaki.
- Slide the Saya forwards over the Habaki.
- Hook the Tsuba with the thumb of the left hand and push it securely into position.
- Slide the Katana back into position in your Obi.
Once we had covered how to draw and sheath the Katana in a couple of different ways I moved on to basic Kamae and the Kotsu (Essence) of Kukishinden Ryu (Kukishin Ryu) Hikenjutsu.
I started off with 3 Kamae to begin with:
- Jodan No Kamae / Daijodan No Kamae
- Hasso No Kamae
- Seigan No Kamae
Which developed into a kata called Aikiken, I personally like this kata as it gives the student a good idea of how important footwork (Tai Sabaki) is in Kenjutsu. I can’t stress enough how key Tai Sabaki is to Kenjutsu, when you actually fight everything speeds up to a thousand miles and hour, you simply can’t block every attack coming your way so you have to move so that your not in position to be caught out by the opponents counter attack.
I then proceeded to demonstrate this without a sword so that everyone could see exactly how important it really is.
The Kotsu or Essence of Kukishinden Ryu (Kukishin Ryu) is as follows:
- The tip of the blade is focused on Uke. All movements pivot around the tip.
- When in Kamae, give an opening for Uke, I.e. by moving the tip of the sword across or down. This is done by moving the whole body. Thereby keeping the Kamae and focus on Uke. Compensate by using the knees, focus on Uke. This gives more balance. Again don’t move the tip or allow it to deviate. If you need to parry use the hips, turn the body. This controls the direction of the opponents blade and their point of attack. If Uke doesn’t attack, return to Kamae. As Uke attacks the openings you present you should be in position to attack or counter attack immediately, with no extra movements of the Kissaki (This gives you more time).
- When you Tsuki keep the tip (Kissaki) Along the same line (It’s the shortest route). Compensate for raised arms. Don’t let the Kissaki wobble or move off line.
- After avoiding an attack, step in so as to hove one foot forward and the Kissaki in line for a Tsuki.
- When drawing the sword, take the Kissaki as far as Uke. Any further and you are vulnerable (Miai)
The Hikenjutsu Waza have one base technique and at least two Henka (Variations). Soke Hatsumi says that to start to understand the Hikenjutsu you must study at least 5 Henka to each Waza.
It’s important that the Kotsu is present in your technique, they aren’t simply philosophical principles but are genuinely important. In the photo above I am demonstrating how not to position your feet when blocking as you risk losing your knee cap when the opponent follows through with their cut. It’s important to draw the rear foot back to make sure that the area is clear to receive the opponents cut.
We the started to look at some basic techniques from Kukishinden Ryu such at Tsuki Komi, Saya Gyaku, Tsuki Kake and Kiri Age No Sayu Gyaku.
The important thing is to open up the Uke to enable an attack, there are 6 particularly relevant Kamae for Kukishinden Ryu Hikenjutsu but the most important one to remember is Seigan No Kamae. Seigan No Kamae is the foundation for pretty much everything, you then change in to the other Kamae as they become relevant to the technique your are about to perform in response the the Ukes attacks.
I also demonstrated how you don’t need to expend excess energy by using proper technique and Kamae. This is complicated to explain but you can use the opponents momentum against them to force your cut into a counter attack with devastating effect. If they cut from Daijodan No Kamae and you block with Kasumi No Kamae you can guide your cut around into a Kesa Giri upon impact with your sword, this provides a quick but simple counter attack. Again Tai Sabaki is key.
Towards the end of the seminar the duels started, First up was Rickie Gomez and Cletus from Outlaw Martial Arts – Hybrid Hapkido. We provided lightsabers for this bout to make it a bit more interesting.
The bout started with the guys both stood in Seigan No Kamae and Rickie saw an opening in Cletus’s guard and proceeded to take his head off his shoulders (Not literally before anyone panics).
We unfortunately had to stop the duel as Rickie managed to break his lightsaber and these are professional grade stunt sabers!
We then moved on to the duel between myself and Rob Howarth, The instructor duel!
We armed ourselves with Shinai (Bamboo Swords) and squared off in the centre of the room assuming Seigan No Kamae ready to start the duel.
It’s important to mention that full contact sparring with Shinai is not a great idea, aside from anything else it’s quite painful as they are still wooden swords after all. We were mainly doing this as a friendly demonstration and were confident we wouldn’t inflict any major injuries on one another with Shinai but we were well aware that it was going to hurt lol. We agreed that a full contact duel was the only way to do it so that we could really test ourselves and our technique.
When your just about to duel your mind goes blank, This is totally normal as even with years of practice, this is not an individual technique or kata but everything recalled in a split second. You just have to respond with attacks and counter attacks the best that you can, it’s definitely a case of train hard, fight easy.
The reality of swordsmanship is that it’s never perfect, even with all the kata, all the henka and Tai Sabaki in place you will get cut. All you can do is fully commit your intention and make sure that the major attacks from the opponent are defended against and you don’t receive to many minor injuries during the fight. Yoroi (Armour) makes a big difference! You can rely on the armour to a certain extent to deflect the minor cuts and position yourself to gain the advantage over your opponent but without Yoroi your just getting cut.
We had this discussion during the seminar but cutting through armour is highly unlikely, you may pierce it with the tip of your blade but you won’t cut into it with the blade. You have to open the Yoroi up to stab the opponent or cut to the areas of the body which aren’t covered in Yoroi.
Rob and I started the duel and it was a good bout! We both got each other a fair few times and upon disarming Rob the duel turned into a test of our Jutaijutsu skills and Jime Waza (Chokes).
I have been somewhat apprehensive about posting the video of our duel and i will explain why. Rob and I agreed to fight with intention but we are both experienced martial arts instructors, We knew what we were letting ourselves in for from the start. We agreed to spar until submission so without me explaining the situation it looks like its descended into a fight, I can’t make it any clearer this is not what happened. If you watch the duel in slow motion i disarm Rob and leave him no option but to fight unarmed, I left myself a bit open so he locks me up, I release myself from the headlock and choke him into submission, He taps, we release each other and hug it out.
It’s just sparring with Shinai added to the scenario and we both went for it in the duel. Do not replicate this as i said before sparring with Shinai is not safe and is definitely not a good idea!
The seminar with Outlaw Martial Arts – Hybrid Hapkido was a pleasure to host and we all learnt a variety of techniques and their applications during the seminar. We will be travelling to train with them hosting the next seminar.
We were then obviously obligated out of respect to travel to the closest pub after the seminar to have a few drinks and discuss our respective arts.
Check out Rob Howarth and the guys from Outlaw Martial Arts – Hybrid Hapkido we had a great time training with them.
Recently we have been setting up a standalone Shurikenjutsu club called Shinobi Shurikenjutsu which launches today! (Thursday 5th September)
Now this really isn’t as simple as you might expect, there has been so much paperwork to sort out to ensure we are operating to the industry standard that it’s taken me about a week to sort everything out.
So what is Shinobi Shurikenjutsu? Shinobi Shurikenjutsu is a throwing club completely separate from the Rugby Ninjutsu Dojo to provide a platform for everyone to come along and give Knife, Axe and Bo Shuriken (Spike) throwing a go!
Students of the Rugby Ninjutsu Dojo already practice Shurikenjutsu as part of their training but aside from that it’s great fun! Looking at the various throwing techniques is an art form in itself and the sense of achievement you get when smashing an axe you threw into a log round for the first time is indescribable!
What we are endeavouring to achieve with Shinobi Shurikenjutsu is to bring the western styles of Knife, axe and tomahawk throwing and Japanese Shurikenjutsu together to form a fully comprehensive throwing art that covers all areas of using thrown projectile weapons. This is all done under the supervision of fully qualified and insured instructors with all equipment provided.
It’s important to point out that Knife, Axe and Shuriken throwing is dangerous you should only practice under the supervision of a rangemaster.
We do not teach the use of Hira Shuriken or Ninja stars, they are not legal in the UK and subsequently are not permitted on our ranges at any time! The same goes for throwing knives, bladed knives are not allowed and only Cold Steel, United Cutlery and professional grade throwing knives are permitted on the ranges. Axes and tomahawks with a rear spike are not allowed on the ranges either.
You get the idea, safety is paramount on the ranges! Rule number 1 is “Safety, Safety, Safety”.
The Safety Rules are as follows:
It’s highly unlikely that you will sustain any sort of injury if these rules are adhered to.
The key thing is never to throw when anybody is down the range collecting knives, always wait until everybody has finished throwing and collect your knives together as a group. Getting hit by an axe is never a good idea!
Due to the nature of Shurikenjutsu we don’t allow anyone under the age of 18 to throw at the club without a parent who’s an existing member, young people can throw axes and tomahawks but knives are off limits.
That’s all the boring legal stuff out of the way. The main thing is that Shinobi Shurikenjutsu is a club for anyone in Rugby who wishes to give throwing a try, it’s great fun and extremely safe when practiced correctly but their is the potential for a fairly serious injury if your an idiot around the equipment.
When it comes to the club itself we are not getting involved in the politics in the wider community, Our Shurikenjutsu comes from Togakure Ryu Ninpo and out western knife and axe throwing techniques from circus and performance throwing. Our technique in short is rotation throwing, half spin and no spin throwing with various aspects of traditional Japanese Shurikenjutsu which incorporates using the body and weapon as one (Ken Tai Ichi Jo) and Tai Sabaki (Footwork) to generate the momentum for the throw from the body. This will be explained in more detail during the lessons.
Lessons are held at Warwickshire College on Thursday evenings 18:30-20:30 to the left of the astroturf. The reason we are located behind the main building is that there is only one point of entry to the ranges. It’s important that safety is in mind at all times!
So who will be teaching the lessons?
The main instructors for Shinobi Shurikenjutsu are Jamie Seal, Kimberley Thomas and Michael Crane. There are no other authorised instructors under Shinobi Shurikenjutsu although instructor training is available. Contact us for more information. (email@example.com)
The instructors all focus on specific throwing techniques although it’s important to have thorough understand of all the throwing styles. Jamie focuses specifically on no spin throwing and Japanese half spin, Michael on rotation and western half spin, Kimberley on rotation throwing.
Students will find that they prefer a certain style of throwing and as they progress will find their preferred throwing knives, tomahawks and bo shuriken. Personal throwing equipment is permitted on the ranges provided that the student has the relevant throwing experience and has obtained permission from the instructor to use it on the ranges. Personal equipment must conform to our rules and regulations.
This will be explained in more detail during the lessons.
I’ve had quite a few private message from people asking me about advice recently and it has got me thinking about what it takes to teach Ninjutsu (Bujinkan or Genbukan).
Let me start by saying I don’t have all the answers, my journey isn’t necessarily yours, we all have to walk our own paths and i’m about 10% of the way down mine.
It’s certainly not easy! You spend years studying and training to develop your technique to then open your own dojo and realise you know nothing about how to actually run a dojo. I don’t mean you don’t know how to teach but more that you don’t know how to run a martial arts school.
When we first started, I thought the best course of action was to get the financial backing of a government organisation (The Princes Trust) to give us a step up in the market we needed to get out there and get students in the dojo. The problem is even after compiling a comprehensive business plan and obtaining the finances needed to stock up on equipment and set up shop, I still had next to no idea what i was doing.
This is the weird thing about it, you can have the best intentions, have everything planned out and be a very capable teacher but, you don’t know what you don’t know, so its easy to fail fast!
The first issue we encountered was commercial premises, EVERYBODY wants a full time martial arts school that is completely kitted out but that costs a lot of money! We couldn’t even afford the repairs on the premises we were looking at initially with the money obtained from the Princes Trust. There is also an fixed term lease to consider, change of license, repairs, business rates, decoration, fittings, security, etc. This gets expensive QUICKLY!
When you first start it’s best to find a decent venue to rent and this need to be in a central location in your area. Renting a hall for a few hours a week is far more affordable than £1900 a month in rent. Some halls can be rented for under £10 an hour! This is important as when you first start you want to keep costs down as much as possible until you start to develop a student base in your area.
The reality is when you first start you’ll be lucky to get a single student in if you haven’t consistently marketed the launch of your lessons. When we first opened we had 2 students, just 2 and i knew them both. We overlooked the fact that nobody cares when a new dojo opens if they don’t know you exist!
So what can you do to assist with launching your lessons?
I think the first mistake I made was keeping things ultra traditional, I opened a Bujinkan dojo in an area that has never previously had a Bujinkan Dojo in it and expected people to know what it was. We were called the Bujinkan Rugby Dojo for ages and recruited one student via word of mouth.
People just don’t understand complex Japanese names so if you call your dojo something like the “Bujinkan Kage No Shinobi No Mono Dojo” people have switched off before they even finish reading the name. You have to keep it simple! Ninjutsu lessons for adults would be far more effective purely because they understand that it’s martial arts lessons for adults even if they don’t know what Ninjutsu is.
I see it a lot in the Bujinkan we all use the Bujin Kanji symbol and call the dojo the Bujinkan (Location) Dojo or a Japanese Bugo that mean nothing to the general public and then wonder why students aren’t lining up at the door for lessons.
Identifying your “brand” is important as it makes you identifiable as a unique entity whilst being part of something much bigger i.e. the Bujinkan.
We did this by simply calling the dojo “Rugby Ninjutsu”, It’s Ninjutsu in Rugby, Having a bright colour which catches the eye (Red Shield) and a Ninja with a sword (Most people know what a Ninja looks like even if they don’t know their name). It’s simple but effective! Then we added the tagline “Master all arts, be limited by none” which explains our ethos in the dojo.
Politics is a big problem in martial arts and i know exactly what it’s like! There is this tremendous pressure (especially in the Bujinkan) to fall in line and do what your told according to the organisation, This is most often due to promoting the overall brand of the organisation whilst being masked as “Traditional” or “The way it should be run”. I remember a saying about watching the ones who stand above the tall grass as they are the first to get cut down, which basically means fall in line and don’t be individual in your dojo. It’s hard to explain as i’m not trying to rip into the Bujinkan just simply using it as an example as i know what rhetoric i have heard over the years and its important to point out that it’s not Sokes doing but a control mechanism put in place in the organisation by Shihan past and present. It’s a sad fact that often people just don’t really want you to succeed unless it benefits them in some way, when the reality is that collaboration is far better than competition.
You have to learn to go your own way whilst still respecting the art you teach, We are called Rugby Ninjutsu but we are the Bujinkan Rugby Dojo and still process all of our gradings with the honbu dojo in Japan. What people think about that isn’t my problem personally as we have a very justified reason to use that name as I previously explained. If it’s well thought out and means your dojo will be more successful then do it! Tell the people with an issue to concentrate on what they are doing rather than wasting your time!
There is also an arguement that times have changed, what used to work 20 years ago to grow a successful dojo no longer works today, you have to adapt with the times its quite literally modern henka of old methods. Social media is a powerful tool but we have had the most success growing things organically, get out there and do the leg work.
Get to know other martial artists in the industry, train together, attend events, contact local schools, host free seminars and events, nothing ever changes when you are sat planning your next move in your living room.
Think about where you post flyers and marketing material, putting a flyer on your local community notice board is pretty pointless in comparison to putting a flyer up in a busy Costa Coffee or Fish & Chip shop that has lots of footfall each day. You have to be strategic in your approach to marketing the dojo! You can spend loads of money on flyers and distribution and realise you are appealing to the wrong demographic of people in your area after significant investment into the marketing. I have found flyers to be pretty much useless unless they are given out in person or by the students, going door to door just doesn’t yield significant results for us.
It’s really important to maintain the integrity on your dojo! This is one that really annoys me personally! I have met so many multiple world champions that it’s ridiculous and even saw one saying that they are a weapons specialist who wouldn’t know a real Nihonto if it slapped them in the face. There is so much bullshit in the marketing of martial arts that when you see it for what it is, it makes you sick! Surely if your a world champion then you would be the champion for that year of one or two umbrella organisations, being a world champion of your own made up internal competition doesn’t count! Thats like me taking a couple of my students and calling it a world chapionship tournament hosted in Rugby and then proceeding to beat them all in duels and claiming to be the best in the world, thats not an achievment thats a farce! The first thing we teach our students is to always check the source of whatever it is you are learning as you don’t want to waste time being led down the garden path. I wouldn’t even bother training with half of the so called world champions out there as its all fabricated for marketing purposes, they don’t have any real knowledge to impart other that how much their current black belt package costs.
I have always considered myself to be a student, when you think your a master its a delusion of grandeur, this keeps us honest in our pursuit or perfection of technique. When you lose your integrity it’s game over, you should constantly be training, constantly teaching like that lesson is the last one you will ever teach, it takes passion to teach properly and if the end game is simply the impact on your bank balance then your focused on the wrong aspect of being a teacher. Yes a teacher not an instructor.
I hate it when i see people talking about students in terms of annual student value as it’s about more that that!
Running a dojo should be about quality of service, integrity and continuity of technique, you need to invest into it, get more equipment to engage the students whilst making it accessible for all.
You can run a dojo with integrity whilst using modern marketing strategies, After all it’s an important part of running a dojo, having students to teach in it.
Find out what your strengths are and market them whilst developing your weakest areas in the dojo. I see this a lot its like instructors just give up when they open a dojo, it becomes more about business and figures than training, they stick to what they know and avoid the things they aren’t good at because it damages their ego and may potentially change peoples impressions of them so that they see they are actually a human being the same as everyone else. It’s important to maintain integrity and an exceptional standard of technique but there is no shame in making mistakes now and then, it happens and you have to learn to just crack on with what your doing rather than being embarrassed. The worst thing you can do is become complacent as there is almost always more work to do when running a dojo.
You have to learn to effectively manage and delagate tasks, you physically can’t do everything yourself it’s impossible! You can’t be the instructor, graphics designer, the marketing team, social media manager, events coordinator, etc. You have to build a team to work together to push the dojo forwards! This is something that we have only recently put in place ourselves but you need to put peoples individual skills to good use and you’d be surprised how big a difference a few dedicated students helping out in their spare time really makes to the overall success of the dojo. After all everyone benefits from the dojo growing! We have this term in Ninjutsu called “Buyu” like a martial brotherhood so we inherently help each other out in the dojo anyway but my point is don’t be affraid to ask your students to help out as they are often more than willing to do so.
Incentivising the students to help out with recruitment is another way but I think this has to be a careful balance between the incentive and the lesson. Some people offer games consoles and similar as incentives but we think this is somewhat counter productive so offer Japanese sweets and custom equipment, This way the student is still incentivised to get their friends into the dojo to train but also are kept focusing on the right thing, Improving their technique and knowledge with the sweets as an added bonus.
The important thing is to get yourself out there, teach with integrity and use modern marketing strategies to recruit students whilst not viewing them as nothing more than an annual student value. The more students you get into the dojo the better as regardless of whether its adults, children, ladies only or diversifications, students will often bring friends and family into the lessons helping you with organic marketing.
The point is to make sure you move with the times whilst maintaining the integrity of the art you teach! The most common comment we get is that people love the lessons as they can tell we love teaching and really care about the students individual progression, which definitely isn’t bad feedback at all!
There is a lot more to this than can be written in a single post but this is the best place to start. Rant over!
We are officially back in the dojo this week with lessons restarting for the Real Mini Ninjas at 5pm on the 7th of January!
We hope you all had a brilliant Christmas and New Year and look forward to seeing you all back in the dojo! It’s been an eventful few weeks whilst we have been closed and we have implemented several changes for 2020!
Firstly and one that every student will be aware of already is that we increased the price of monthly lesson fees slightly to accurately represent the time the different groups spend training in the dojo. The adult classes run for two hours a lesson in comparison to one hour for the Real Mini Ninjas and Shadow Warriors so it was a necessity.
We have an amazing new offer for members joining in January 2020 where they receive 45% OFF the usual membership fee plus their uniform, syllabus, membership card and the rest of the months lessons FREE! All of that for just £24.99!! The only requirement to be eligible for this offer is to sign up to this newsletter via this link:
This offer is also open to new Shadow Warriors students:
And new Real Mini Ninjas students:
We will also be hosting Ninja vs Mini Ninja lessons at the end of the each month for the parents to get involved with their childs training! This will be a great opportunity to learn some cool tips and tricks to help the Real Mini Ninjas and Shadow Warriors train at home and their is no additional cost to participate, its FREE!
We think this will be a great way to get the parents more involved and give them a chance to have a go and show the Real Mini Ninjas and Shadow Warriors how it’s done!
We will also be hosting Weapons Wednesdays for the Shadow Warriors where we will focus on a specific weapon each month to give the students more of a chance to cover everything in the higher belts of the Shadow Warriors syllabus.
The focus for January is the Katana or sword for Weapons Wednesdays! This is the most relevant for those students who are studying for their orange and black belt or 6th Kyu. We will focus on the core 4 weapons with the Shadow Warriors moving forwards which are the Katana, Bo Staff, Nunchaku and Rubber Senban Shuriken. We want all of the students to understand the 9 cutting lines by the end of January and the techniques outlined in the Shadow Warriors syllabus relating to the basic use of the Katana.
We also have a new beginners course starting in a few days on January the 10th! These courses will be running every month this year to give beginners the chance to get an insight into our art for a few weeks before deciding whether or not to sign up as a member. Limited spaces are available on these courses and the focus will be on the basics.
Course students receive a 4 week course and a FREE Rugby Ninjutsu T-shirt for £39!!
As we are close to the first one we will offer the course for £29.99 with a FREE T-shirt to anyone referred by our current subscribers!
Simply get them to sign up via the link below:
Course starts Friday the 10th of January at Warwickshire College, Rugby.
We have new sets of training Nunchaku in for the Real Mini Ninjas and Shadow Warriors! These are stronger than the previous ones that were available (although they did the job perfectly) so are better for the students as they progress and need some Nunchaku that are more hard wearing. These are available in the Nunchaku section of the Ningu website or can be purchased directly from us in the dojo.
We had a photoshoot in the Rugby Ninjutsu Dojo to get all of the Kamae listed and compiled into charts to help the students learn them. We have completed the first half of the Kamae charts and will be completing the other half shortly to compile them into a calendar which will be available to purchase. This calendar will cover all of the Kamae for both Taijutsu (Unarmed) and the Buki Waza (Weapons) each month and is an excellent way to memorise all of the Kamae.
Massive thanks to Lana McGill Photography for spending hours photographing each of the Kamae and editing them all to an extremely high standard.
The Rugby Ninjutsu Dojo clothing section of the website is now up and running, you can either access it via the Rugby Ninjutsu website (www.rugbyninjutsu.co.uk) or go directly to the Ningu website (http://ningu.co.uk/product-category/dojo-clothing/) to purchase custom dojo clothing. If you would like the students name added or have any other requests please talk to us in the dojo or send an email upon placing your order.
Uniforms and sparring gear are due to be added to the website shortly.
Finally annual membership fees are due when everyone returns to the dojo this week. We are aware that this is bad timing just after Christmas and New Year but it is a requirement annually and is stimpulated in the membership forms when everybody signs up. The annual membership fee is £29.99 and is payable by everyone except for those members who signed up in the last 3 months of 2019. We have already informed the members who are not required to pay membership for 2020 but please ask if you require clarification.
Lessons resume as usual this week so we look forward to seeing everyone back in the dojo for the start of 2020!!