A question that we commonly get asked in the Bujinkan is about the legitimacy of other Ninjutsu Ryuha (Schools) and for good reason, if you type in Ninjutsu into YouTube you will usually be presented with a veritable freak show of sword wielding idiots and weirdos all claiming association to long dead Ryuha that have been documented as ceasing to exist in historical record.
The problem with this is that often these people have absolutely no martial arts experience of any variety and are wielding lethal live bladed (Shinken) Katana around unwitting would be Ninjutsu students with little or no regard for how much damage their assumed mastery of the martial arts will cause. People can and do get seriously injured and killed because some idiot watched to much Naruto or Bleach and decided he’s a Ninja master. What’s worse is that these people then market their stupidity and get others to buy into these shambolic organisations giving themselves totally unrelated and vague instructor titles taken from other non Ninjutsu related arts such as Kyoushi or Senpai.
A prime example of this is Fuma Ryu Ninjutsu UK.
Other examples of this are Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, Hagakure Ryu Ninjutsu, Budo Ryu, Natori Ryu in its modern variation, Ashida Kims Ninjutsu, The list is quite literally endless of fake Ninjutsu Ryu. This is exactly what causes the confusion about Ninjutsu lineages as so many wannabes claim to be Ninja but in reality their are very few Ryuha that have actually survived to this day.
Their are a few telltale indicators that give away if a school claiming to teach Ninjutsu is fake, number one is the name of the Ryuha, Number two is what are they teaching, if it isn’t technical in its approach and doesn’t make coherent sense then its probably fake, If it looks like Karate or Tae Kwon Do it definitely isn’t Ninjutsu.
Ask yourself do they have a legitimate venue, are they insured, do they have links to a legitimate governing body, do they have links with masters in Japan, do they train in Japan, do they teach children, if so, do they have a safe guarding policy and are the instructors CRB checked.
If they say they were taught by their neighbour who was a little Japanese Ninja Master until he said his number one student should pass on his newly acquired Ninja mastery to the world, then thats the storyline of an 80’s movie called Blood Sport with Jean Claude Van Damme. Do you really want to be placing you life in the hands of an instructor who’s martial arts experience is watching a Tae Kwon Do based action movie at some point in their life?!
As ever use common sense and check the source of whatever style you are endeavouring to learn, Who is the grandmaster? Who is it exactly that you are aspiring to learn from and what knowledge do they have to impart in reality. If they are called Black Scorpion Ryu Ninjutsu or Black Dragon Ryu then use common sense, I mean really?! Do they sound legitimate?! They haven’t even tried to come up with a decent name!
To try and help clarify the situation i have provided a list of all of the Ryuha known to no longer be in existence as verified by historical record.
- Nakagawa Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Aomori Prefecture. Organised by Nakagawa Kohayato.
- Haguro Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Yamagawa Prefecture and was said to have been developed by the warrior ascetics of Haguro Mountain.
- Uesugi Ryu Ninjutsu was established for Uesugi Kenshin as a military espionage organisation by Usami Suruganokami Sadayuki in Niigata Prefecture.
- Kaji Ryu Ninjutsu was founded by Kaji Ominokami Kagehide, A student of the founder of Uesugi Ryu but was also linked to the roots of Iga’s Hattori Ryu Ninjutsu.
- Matsumoto Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Tochigi Prefecture.
- Matsuda Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Ibaraki Prefecture.
- Koyo Ryu, Ninko Ryu and Takeda Ryu Ninjutsu were all founded by Takeda Shinken for intelligence gathering and used wandering monks and merchants as agents.
- Fuma Ninpo / Fuma Ryu Ninjutsu based in Kanagawa Prefecture was established by Fuma Kotaro and specialised in guerrilla warfare.
- Akiba Ryu and Ichizen Ryu Ninjutsu based in Aichi Prefecture were established by Hachisuka Koroku Masakatsu who was a famous ninja from this area.
- Mino Ryu Ninjutsu based in Gifu Prefecture was developed during the rule of Saito Dosan and included the Kurokawa Ninja group of Koga.
- Echizen Ryu Ninjutsu was established in Toyama Prefecture by Iga Ninja fleeing the attack of Oda Nobunaga.
- Yoshitsune Ryu Ninjutsu based in Fukui Prefecture was developed for Yoshitsune Minamoto as a blend of espionage methods taught by Ise Saburo and yamabushi teachings.
- Koga Ryu Ninjutsu was a regional tradition made up of over fifty families.
- Iga Ryu Ninjutsu was a regional tradition made up of several key families, most notably the Hattori and Momochi Clans.
- Negoro Ryu founded by Suginobo Myosan, firearms master, Saiga Ryu were firearms and explosives specialists, Natori Ryu, founded by Natori Sanjuro Masatake the author of the Sho Nin Ki reference book and Kishu Ryu Ninjutsu were all based in Wakayama Prefecture.
- Bizen Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Okayama Prefecture.
- Fukushima Ryu Ninjutsu transmitted by Nojirijiro Jirouemon Narimasa was based in Shimane Prefecture.
- Kuroda Ryu Ninjutsu was based in Fukuoka Prefecture in support of the Kuroda family government.
- Nanban Ryu Ninjutsu Was based in Nagasaki Prefecture.
- Satsuma Ninpo was based in Kagoshima Prefecture in support of the Shimazu family government.
In reality the vast majority of Ninjutsu Ryuha died out prior to the Meiji restoration in 1868 and couldn’t possibly exist today.
Which brings me to Natori Ryu, whilst it is true that information has been translated and published this school cannot possibly be revived in a way that would be recognisable as the original Natori Ryu Ninjutsu. This dead Ryuha is being paraded around and used as a scapegoat to advocate people with no actual or limited martial art experience to teach something losely based on Ninjutsu. The fact is the so called Natori Ryu instructors i have seen to this day have been nothing short of an absolute liability to the martial arts community overseen by a martial arts researcher, who could never actually demonstrate any of the techniques he is publishing and promoting to unstable individuals. It is a bad joke in the martial arts community and should be avoided at all costs, just another buy your own black belt course. Quite frankly I would even go as far to say that the organisation is dangerous. A vivid memory of a so called Natori Ryu Ninjutsu master going postal on homemade cardboard judgemental targets with a homemade Yari (kitchen knife tied to a broom handle) comes to mind and why the hell anyone would mistake that for a legitimate martial art is beyond me.
You need a good instructor with a thorough understanding of the art, That takes years of dedicated practice, you need to really understand why you are practicing whatever technique you are performing. How does it effect the opponent? Is it breaking their structure? You need to understand the Kuden (Concept) and Gokui (Secret) behind the technique and that cannot be learnt from a book alone.
Be careful who you invest your time studying under as when it really comes down to it do you want to hold a rank and own a nice looking belt or be able to survive an attack. Don’t serve someone’s ego placing them on a pedestal, any instructor worth learning from will respect you far more for asking “why?”, If they don’t then ask yourself why that is exactly?
It’s our job as Shidoshi-Ho, Shidoshi and Shihan to guide you on the right path and help you make discoveries and learn along the way, after all we have been their ourselves at some point, we have to lead by example. If your instructor can’t then once again, ask yourself why?
In conclusion don’t be drawn in by fakes and fraudsters, do your research before training in any art, it will save you a lot of time and a lot of money!
*Ryuha list sourced from Legacy Of The Night Warrior by Stephen K Hayes.
Nagare Manji aren’t associated with any traditional Ryuha that i can find, They appear to be produced in a reverse swazstika (Manji) design with long flowing (Nagare) points. The points have an almost Kissaki like geometric tip that forms a sharp edge.
The Swazstika although associated with the Nazis during World War Two is actually a holy and auspicious symbol in Japan and throughout Asia. It’s commonly used by Japanese schools girls putting them in their hair taking photos on Instagram and is the word Manji is used somewhat like the word “Cheese” when taking photos. The word can be used in a variety of ways in the Japanese language such as to appear strong or high class or even as a sarcastic “Really?!” Or. “Seriously?!”.
The Manji has been closely linked to Buddhism for thousand of years before the Nazis adopted the symbol. The Japanese call the Nazi variation “Haaikenkuroitsu” ハーケンクロイツ
The specifications for the Nagare Manji Shuriken are as follows:
Type: Swazstika (Manji)
Material: Tool Steel/Tempered Steel
My overall opinion of Nagare Manji Hira Shuriken is they are ok, They are perfectly functional Shuriken if thrown with the curvature of the Shuriken facing away from the target so that the points hook into the target. If thrown the other way around with the curvature facing the target they tend to bounce off without doing any noticeable damage.
The Nagare Manji have to be thrown quite hard to get them to penetrate the target properly when practicing so I would say they are an intermediate level Hira Shuriken in comparison to some of the Juji Shuriken from specific Ryuha (Schools).
I do like the Nagare Manji but if I’m honest, they aren’t my favourite Hira Shuriken, They have a solid construction, they are quite heavy, they are robust and will take a lot of punishment but they just refuse to stick in the target 99% of the time. They just aren’t reliable enough to be used as an effective weapon in the Ninjas arsenal.
Trying to get 3 to stick in succession feels like a really labour intensive task by attempting to force the Shuriken to rotate enough to stick in the target, it’s not easy! Which makes me wonder if they would be effective in reality? Maybe you would give Uke a concussion or a nasty scratch.
In conclusion the Nagare Manji look the part but fall a bit short of when it comes to functionality, They will stick in the target but it doesn’t feel natural throwing them, I think a lot of that could be solved by sharpening and honing the arms down into a fine edge but then that could compromise the overall structure of the Shuriken.
The Nagare Manji is a good addition to any Shurikenjutsu practitioners collection but not essential, fun if your looking for something more challenging to practice with but their are better Hira Shuriken available.
The specifications for the Togakure Ryu Senban are as follows:
Material: Tool Steel/Tempered Steel
The Togakure Ryu Senban Hira Shuriken is one of the Togakure Ryu trinity of Shuriken along with the Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai Bo Shuriken and the Togakure Ryu Ita Ken.
The Togakure Ryu Senban Hira Shuriken is an iconic image in just about every book ever written or DVD produced about Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu and Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.
It is the single most common Shuriken you are likely to encounter when training in the Bujinkan and is usually the first Shuriken you learn to throw.
As Hira Shuriken they are fairly effective, have good penetration on the target, good overall weight and are fairly accurate but they aren’t particularly spectacular either.
The issue is mainly in the design as the elongated sides of the Togakure Ryu Senban mean that it is somewhat prone to bouncing off of harder targets like wood when thrown horizontally. It very much depends on what you expect from a Shuriken however, if your intention is to get the points to penetrate deep into the target each time you throw then Togakure Ryu Senban Hira Shuriken aren’t really the right tool for the job.
Traditionally the Togakure Ryu Senban was used as a tool for psychological misdirection more that a devastating weapon and the larger geometry of the Shuriken enabled it to be used as a hook or Teppan (plate) to aid with Taijutsu techniques. The wider inwardly curved edges of the Togakure Ryu Senban would also cause larger lacerations and cuts to the opponent when striking hard area of the body and face before bouncing off and being lost in undergrowth and bushes.
The overall balance of the Togakure Ryu Senban is excellent when thrown as it has a wide surface area making it very aerodynamic.
In conclusion the Togakure Ryu Senban is an essential Shuriken for any Bujinkan practitioner learning Shurikenjutsu but they take practice to master properly and develop accuracy. They aren’t really designed to penetrate deeply into the target so its advisable to use softer targets or to throw with additional momentum using Ken Tai Ichi Jo (Using the body and weapon as one).
Similar varieties of the Togakure Ryu Senban Hira Shuriken exist is other schools such as Kukishinden Ryu Senban which have a fine edge and Shosho Ryu Senban which are similar to Teppan (Solid metal plates). Shosho Ryu is better known for its Jujutsu which is currently in its 68th Genration, an example of Shosho Ryu Senban is provided below.
Kobori Ryu Happogata Hira Shuriken roughly translates as the Kobori Schools Eight Pointed Hira Shuriken and they are extremely effective. The eight sharp protruding points almost guarantee that the Shuriken will penetrate the target regardless of how it is thrown although obviously all Shuriken should be thrown utilising proper technique.
The specifications for the Kobori Ryu Happogata are as follows:
Type: Happogata – 8 pointed star
Material: Tool Steel/Tempered Steel
The Kobori Ryu Happogata comes from the Kobori Ryu Tosuijutsu school which is primarily focused on Suijutsu (Classical combat swimming and warfare). After doing a bit of research the original Densho of Kobori Ryu Tosuijutsu is actually owned by a private collector who purchased it from an online auction sight after it was lost for 96 years after their most prominent teacher Saruki Muneyasu died on the 5th of October 1912.
Overall the Kobori Ryu Happogata are extremely effective but their is a little room for improvement, They are quite light Hira Shuriken being only 2mm thick so increasing the thickness would provide these Shuriken with substantially improved penetration on the target.
The additional weight would enable the Kobori Ryu Happogata to build up more velocity when travelling to the target after being thrown and considering the tips are not sharpened, you need the additional velocity for them to stick effectively into the target.
In conclusion Kobori Ryu Hira Shuriken are an intermediate level Shuriken, they are extremely effective but you do need a certain degree of skill to control them effectively to be accurate, its definitely a case of using Ken Tai Ichi Jo to propel them directly at the target. They are brilliant for throwing multiple Hira Shuriken at once, I believe this is due to the decreased surface area of the Kobori Ryu Happogata not causing air pressure to separate the individual Hira Shuriken until a later stage in their trajectory toward the target.
A brilliant addition to any Shurikenjutsu practitioners collection although to be accurate with them its good to have developed some proficiency beforehand as they are lighter than some of the other Shuriken.
They will work if you just launch them at the target but thats kind of missing the point of what we are doing when training entirely.
Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai Bo Shuriken Specifications:
Type: Tapered Bo Shuriken
Material: Tool Steel/Tempered Steel
The Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai is one of the traditional Shuriken of the Togakure Ryu Ninja. Somewhat similar in design to the Katori Shinto Ryu Shuriken the Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai is tapered down to a needle shaped tip and has a slight taper at the rear of the Shuriken.
The Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai Bo Shuriken is one of the 3 fundamental Togakure Ryu Shuriken of the Bujinkan which includes the Togakure Ryu Senban Hira Shuriken and the Togakure Ryu Ita Ken. These Shuriken should be the primary focus initially of any student of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu who is studying Shurikenjutsu.
The Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai are extremely effective Shuriken somewhat like throwing oversized needles into the target, They are well balanced and robust overall although somewhat prone to bending with repeated usage.
The sharp geometric pyramid shaped tips of these Shuriken are deceptive as they don’t feel as sharp as the Meifu Shinkage Ryu Bo Shuriken but the overall design of the Uchi Barai means their is less resistance upon penetration of the target.
Definitely an essential Shuriken for any Shurikenjutsu practitioner and should be the first Bo Shuriken of any Bujinkan Budoka.
Meifu Shinkage Ryu 明府真影流 Bo Shuriken are very robust with a strong geometric needle sharp tip and are probably the best Bo Shuriken available.
Meifu Shinkage Ryu is a modern school of Shurikenjutsu founded by Chikatoshi Someya in the 1970’s. Someya was a student of Katori Shinto Ryu although the throwing style of Meifu Shinkage Ryu is different.
The current Soke of Meifu Shinkage Ryu is Yasuyuki Otsuka who runs an organisation of around 200 international students and Keiko which focus specifically on teaching Shurikenjutsu.
The specifications for Meifu Shinkage Ryu Shuriken are as follows:
Type: Bo Shuriken (Spike)
Material: Tool Steel/Tempered Steel
Meifu Shinkage Ryu Bo Shuriken are excellent overall, the increased length make no spin throwing significantly easier which is the main focus of the Meifu Shinkage Ryu Shurikenjutsu.
They can take a lot of punishment without sustaining much damage from practicing with them, the only down side is that sometimes the tips can bend if thrown too hard due to the increased weight of the shaft.
In conclusion Meifu Shinkage Ryu Bo Shuriken are an essential addition to any shurikenjutsu practitioners collection and are arguably the best Bo Shuriken available.
Iga Ryu Daimatsuba are one of my personal favourites, They are the perfect compromise between Bo and Hira Shuriken in a single projectile weapon.
The Iga Ryu Ninja are quite possibly the most famous Ninja of all time and are one of only a few ninja lineages that have survived to this day. The Iga Ueno Ninja museum is based in Iga Ueno, Mie prefecture where they celebrate an annual Ninja festival and host regular theatrical displays and demonstrations.
Iga Ryu Daimatsuba translates into the Iga School Pine Needle but they are also affectionately known as “Swallow Tail” Shuriken due to their shape.
The Iga and Koga Ryu schools were born out of warfare during the Onin War in which they honed their guerilla warfare and weapons skills into the art that formed Ninjutsu. The history of Iga Ryu Ninjutsu is a very extensive subject that closely links to the formation of the Bansenshukai and its different variations. The original Bansenshukai that forms the basis for Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu was in fact compiled by an Iga Ryu Ninja, Fujibayashi Sabuji in 1676 for the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Fujibayashi himself is quite a mystery as Fujibayashi Sabuji, Fujibayashi Nagato and Momochi Sandayu could all be the same person.
The specifications for Iga Ryu Daimatsuba are as follows:
Width: 4.5cm at Tail
Type: Daimatsuba – Pine Needle
Material: Tool Steel/Tempered Steel
When I initially encountered the Iga Ryu Daimatsuba I had heard a lot of mixed opinions about their effectiveness as Shuriken, Some people hated them, Some people said they wern’t really Shuriken and others loved them.
Once I managed to get my hands on some Daimatsuba, I started training with them and absolutely loved them! I think the issue is if you view them as Hira Shuriken then they are somewhat like ineffective Sankou Shuriken, they should definitely be used in the same manner as Bo Shuriken.
Personally I find Iga Ryu Daimatsuba to be well balanced, to have very good penetration on the target and to be very stable during flight. It’s actually difficult not to layer these Shuriken on top of each other when thrown as they just seem to fly directly to the target in the same way an extremely well balanced throwing knife would like an Arrow HD.
In conclusion if being a Ninja was based on your choice of Shuriken, I’d definitely be an Iga Ryu Ninja, They know how to produce very good Shuriken! Possibly the best variety of Shuriken I’ve ever had the pleasure of practicing with!
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu 柳生新陰流 Juji Shuriken are possibly one of the best varieties of Hira Shuriken, The long rounded needle sharp points and thick overall construction of the Shuriken give them excellent penetration on the target.
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is one of the oldest schools of Kenjutsu, It’s primary founder was Kamizumi Nobutsuna who called the school Shinkage Ryu (New Shadow School).
In 1565 Kamizumi Nobutsuna handed Sokeship of the school to Yagyu Munetoshi who added his own name to the school.
It has been believed for centuries that the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu School of swordsmanship also studied Ninjutsu skills and tactics, mainly during the time of Yagyu Munenori, Yagyu Munetoshi’s son.
The specifications for the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Juji are as follows:
Length: 11.5cm point to point
Width: 1.2cm at base
Type: Juji (Cross)
Material: Steel / Tempered Steel
As Hira Shuriken the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Juji are probably the best, their are some minor pitfalls such as the denser construction makes them less aerodynamic than Koga Ryu Juji but its a trade off between increased penetration and accuracy at a distance.
In conclusion they are an essential Shuriken for any practitioner of Shurikenjutsu.
The Koga Ryu Juji Shuriken is possibly one of the most iconic Ninja symbols in popular culture and anime and for good reason.
The Koga Ryu Juji is an excellent all round Hira Shuriken which is reliable, has good penetration on the target and is stable during flight once thrown due to it being equally balanced.
Koga Ryu Juji were actually the first Hira Shuriken I ever came across when I first started training and they are excellent for beginners.
They were not exclusively used by The Koga Ninja but also the closely related Iga Ryu Ninja as well, the two families were possibly the most famous and influential Ninja families of medieval Japan and gained notoriety during the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States c. 1467 – 1603) period with prominent Ninja like Hanzo Hattori.
When you first start training in Shurikenjutsu Togakure Ryu Senban are usually the first Hira Shuriken you encounter but Koga Ryu Juji are equally suitable, perhaps even a little better that Togakure Ryu Senban.
They can have a hole in the centre of the Shuriken with some Koga Ryu Juji and others without hole but they are much the same really, it perhaps slightly effects the Shuriken over a distance but not at a relevant effective range to the target.
The specifications for Koga Ryu Juji are as follows;
Length – Point to Point: 12.8cm
Width: 2.7cm at base
Type: Juji (Cross)
Material: Steel / Tempered Steel
In conclusion the Koga Ryu Juji Shuriken are one of the better Hira Shuriken on the market, They have a great geometric design overall, good penetration on the target and the weight and balance of the Shuriken keep them on a straight trajectory to the target once thrown. The only Hira Shuriken I have encountered with better penetration capabilities than the Koga Ryu Juji are Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Juji due to their increased weight and needle sharp tips.
Togakure Ryu Ita Ken are one of the main varieties of Shuriken you are likely to encounter when learning Shurikenjutsu as part of your training in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.
The three main types of Shuriken associated with Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu are Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai (Bo Shuriken), Togakure Ryu Ita Ken (Tanto Gata) and Togakure Ryu Senban (Hira Shuriken) although their are a vast array of other Shuriken associated with other Ryuha such as Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu and Meifu Shinkage Ryu.
Togakure Ryu Ita Ken Shuriken Specifications:
Type: Tanto Gata / Ita Ken
Material: Steel / Tool Steel
The Togakure Ryu Ita Ken can be seen being used by Soke Masaaki Hatsumi (34th Grandmaster of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu) in the book Ninjutsu History and Traditions published in 1981.
They are also well known in the Tsuagawa Ryu according to one of the top ranking UK Shihan.
Togakure Ryu Ita Ken are good Shuriken and perform well when thrown but I have to admit, if given a choice between Togakure Ryu Ita Ken and Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai, I would probably stick with the conventional Uchi Barai Bo Shuriken.
The Ita Ken lack the penetration capability of the Uchi Barai’s geometrically structured needle tip, although that could be rectified easily enough by sharpening the Ita Ken tips and turning them into Tanto Gata.
That’s not to say that Ita Ken aren’t extremely effective Shuriken in their own right, just that their is a little room for improvement and its not to much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that at some point in time the Togakure Ryu Ninja may well have sharpened the tips of the Ita Ken.
An obvious benefit to the Togakure Ryu Ita Ken over the Togakure Ryu Uchi Barai Bo Shuriken is in the design itself, having two points either end of the Shuriken means that it doesn’t really matter which way the Shuriken is held when thrown from the hand.
I’m specifically highlighting this point about how the Ita Ken is positioned in the hand as having tips either end of the Shuriken doesn’t really increase the likelihood of the Shuriken sticking, The probability that the Ita Ken will stick in the target doubles but that isn’t really relevant as whether you throw with or without spin you are still controlling the tip of the Shuriken and guiding its trajectory to stick into the target. This only really applies to Bo Shuriken, Ita Ken and Tanto Gata, Hira Shuriken are entirely different as their is a very high probability they will stick in the target regardless of how they are thrown.
Ita Ken have a roughly 50/50 probability of sticking if just thrown without technique but with good technique they are pretty much guaranteed to stick in the target each and every time.
In conclusion Togakure Ryu Ita Ken are great for practicing Shurikenjutsu and are one of the more relevant Bujinkan Shuriken for students of the Dojo but they aren’t the best Shuriken on the market. Definitely. An essential Shuriken for any Bujinkan students collection.
The Togakure Ryu Ninja traditionally carried 9 of each Shuriken during missions and it’s good to have multiple Shuriken to practice with when training so if you get the opportunity then stock up on Togakure Ryu Ita Ken.