Shurikenjutsu 手裏剣術? is the generic term describing the traditional art of throwing shuriken. Shuriken-jutsu was usually taught among the sogo-bugei, Koryu, or comprehensive martial arts systems of Japan, as a supplemental art to those more commonly practiced such as kenjutsu, sojutsu, bōjutsu and kumi-uchi (battlefield grappling).
The art possesses many originators and innovators who discovered and developed their own various methods of adapting everyday objects into throwing weapons, hence the wide variety of both schools and blades. Furthermore, the art itself is typically quite secretive, as shuriken-jutsu gains its tactical advantage by using stealth and surprise. Shuriken are small and easily concealed ( kakushibuki ), yet they have the versatility of being used as a stabbing weapon at close range ( Shoken ), as well as a longer range thrown weapon.
Bo-Shurikenjutsu 棒手裏剣 renshu using Bujinkan Budo Taihenjutsu 武神館武道体変術 Hichojutsu 飛蔦術 and Ninja-to 忍者刀.
By Duncan Stewart at the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo, Japan.
With the abolition of swords during the Meiji period, shuriken-jutsu saw a major decline, along with many classical martial arts, and almost died out after the turn of the 20th century as Japan sought to become modernized. In fact, many styles of shuriken-jutsu became extinct. A handful of surviving classical martial arts schools such as Yagyu Shingan Ryu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinto-Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, and Takeda Ryu Nakamura Ha and the Togakure Ryu, the art of shuriken-jutsu would indeed have been lost to history. Two schools specifically devoted to shuriken-jutsu exist. The Negishi Ryu, and more recently the Meifu Shinkage Ryu.
It is much less prevalent today than it was in the feudal era.It seems many arts have disregarded it as a necessary ability in their current era of training. I believe this is a mistake. Shuriken-jutsu teaches you many things.
Recently, The Meifu Shinkage Ryu has been established and has increasingly gained popularity with martial artist around the world. I know that Danny Fletcher when he lived here in Japan, trained regulary and earned a dan rank in this system. I think it is thanks to Danny, that many Bujinkan people gained exposure to the style with special classes conducted for enthusiasts. I believe that Bujinkan sutdents now also cross-train in this school and many have earned dan ranks and become repreresentitives in their own countries. It may have also reintroduced a new enthusiasm for this very important art form with Budoka in general.
After speaking with Danny, and viewing himself and his teachers from the Meifu Shinkage Ryu practise shuriken-nage, I was impressed greatly at the expertise with which they threw the shuriken. It is definately a specialist art and school.
Veiwing many Koryu styles performing traiditonal waza, we can see that they are performing the art for tradition alone. Soke said just recently in class that people who perform martial arts for the sake of collecting kata and techniques, can never be called martial artists. Only those that can apply the art for survival in any circumstance can be called a martial artist.
This is the same for when practising Taijutsu. We must be able to “see” how the taijutsu can be used to aid in the use, concealment, and application of weapons. If we cannot perform taijutsu and see these connections, than we cannot bring to life weapons and understand the Happo Bikenjutsu of Ninjutsu. This is why Soke admonishes us to seek the “feeling” in order to bring the techniques from the densho to life!
It’s Taijutsu that brings weapons to life. Whe must then have excellent taijutsu to develop excellent methods with weapons. In regards to throwing the shuriken, we must not just stand still. We must move!
In this day and age, we see the authorities armed and often firing upon crazed individuals charging at them with knives,etc. The authorities still have to use their legs to avoid these people, even after the crazed people have been shot numerous times.
For the collectors, the techniques will just be forms written on a piece of paper and only be mimicked physically to the level of a set form or kata. The kata is therefore dead. The narrow minded will view the densho waza as techniques not applicable for modern day society, and therefore train with a mentality of performing the waza as forms to preserve tradition only. This is sad isn’t it. The techniques of many arts never grow larger than the minds or rules of that particular style. We are so lucky to have Soke explain the true way of budo aren’t we.
It can be often heard by people who study “modern arts” that traditional skills such as muto dori and sojutsu etc, are not applicable in this day and age. Well, as I have just said, these people can see no further than their own world. I’d like to reiterate to those people that professional minds such as the FBI, CIA, NSA, SAS, Mossad, etc all see and understand the value of the Bujinkan martial arts from the result of their direct experience in life and death situations.
In order to have consistent success with the throwing of the Bo-Shuriken, I believe we firstly must enter Mushin – the state of ”no mind”. If I commence individual practise in shuriken-jutsu while being distracted by wondering thoughts, my ability to “feel” is greatly impaired. I therefore fail at controlling my throws. It is only once I enter a state free from success or failure, sadness or happiness, power or weakness, I am able to produce consistency.
First. Shuriken-jutsu has helped me with the search for the “right mind” for budo. I feel the essential essence required when playing music or performing other artistic pursuits has a similar mind set. This can be likened to Mu or ” no mind “.
Secondly. Shuriken-jutsu teaches you the necessity to gain good form and train correctly in Taijutsu. I believe the Gogyo no Kata correct Te-sabaki is the basis for Shuriken-jutsu. Soke has said that a persons ability in taijutsu can be seen in their ability in shurikenjutsu. Learning to be natural is essential. Soke always tells us that this is the case with all weapons. But, until you actually realise his teachings first hand ( by actually practising hard at them yourself ), you will never really understand to the core of your being. This is very important to understand.
Thirdly.The principals of taijutsu teaches you the Kukan. It is in the kukan that the shuriken is thrown. Constantly studying with you heart set deeply on understanding the principals also frees your mind from adversity. This is crucial for maintaining a clear mind to throw shuriken effectively.
There is a moment ( one breath ) from the time the shuriken leaves your hand and hits the target. This can be likened to the space between the lines of a book. This moment ( shunkan ) holds many teachings. The teachings are in the breath. Throwing shuriken is actually a type of kiai. With the throw, you release concentrated energy toward your target. The concept of Shin Gi Tai Ichi is very important here.
Fourth. Rigidity is the death of shuriken-jutsu. Taijutsu and the freedom to “play” in the kukan is the only way to truly understand the art of shuriken-nage jutsu in a fighting scenario and to keep the art “alive !”.
Let me just finish by saying, I am no master at throwing the Shuriken. However, I love throwing the Shuriken!
I am no historian, or scholar of shurikenjutsu. I just pick up the spikes I’m given or have, and “feel” for the throw. This is important.
Pick up the Shuriken, let them fit into your hand naturally, and learn to throw from that natural state.
Most of the points I have noted are a result of my personal experiences. I miss the mark many times, but I pick the shuriken up and learn about my attitude when walking back from each throw. Have fun, and allow yourself to get frustrated with your own inabilities and perservere.
This is Ninpo Ikkan.
Keep going and learn to enjoy the experiences that throwing spikes can give you.
” Do not neglect the art of shuriken-jutsu. “ Soke