It was from Takamatsu Sensei that the current Grandmaster, Masaaki Hatsumi (1931 - present day) received all the transmissions of the three ninjutsu ryus in which Takamatsu held the Grandmaster license, as well as six Koryu Arts.
Although it is important for Budo Taijutsu practitioners to understand the origins of the art, these schools are today taught in a combined fashion and lessons will integrate elements from any or all of the schools.
Below is a brief summary of each of the Nine Schools of the Bujinkan (*- Indicates a Ninpo or Ninjutsu tradition).
Togakure RyūNinpo * - Hidden Door School
The oldest of the nine traditions, the techniques and skills of the Togakure Ryu form much of the basis for the Ninjutsu techniques taught in the Bujinkan.
The Togakure Ryu Ninja were required to master 18 forms of Bujutsu (Martial arts) including various punching, throwing and levering techniques making up taijutsu (unarmed combat) along with the arts of Kenpo (swordsmanship), Yari (spear), Naginata (halberd), Bojutsu (staff fighting), and three school secrets, named Sanpo Hiden, which are Shuko (hand claws), Senban Shuriken (throwing daggers), and Shinodake (bamboo tube for breathing under water).
QUOTES FROM THE TOGAKURE RYU
“To Hide is the Defence”
”Violence is to be avoided, and Ninpo is Bujutsu”
“The sword is to be used for peace and to protect family, country and nature”
Gyokko Ryū Kosshijutsu – Jewel Tiger School
Kosshijutsu means "to knock down the enemy with one finger". Koshi could also mean "Backbone", as if the Kosshijutsu is the backbone of martial arts. Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu, is a distant branch of the Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu.
Their is a saying in the Gyokko Ryu: "Bushigokoro wo motte totoshi no nasu", 'the warriors heart is precious, and essential'.
The school specialises in techniques that involve Kosshijutsu (attack against muscles), and Shitojutsu (use of thumbs and fingers). Typical for the Gyokko Ryu are the powerful blocks, and balance taking. They prefer to block, by hitting with the knuckles to the muscles areas.
This ryu forms much of the basis for the Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu system.
THE NINE RULES OF THE GYOKKO RYU
1. The character NIN means to guard the nation even with one’s life.
2. Forget self, be patient, fear not dying.
3. In danger say or show nothing.
4. As a strong enemy comes at you, keep indomitable.
5. Serve and protect the master, as you must your parents.
6. Vices dissipate your proficiency.
7. Being drunk affects your judgment.
8. Destroy the enemy’s power but leave his life.
9. To others teach not without the master’s permission.
QUOTE FROM THE GYOKKO RYU
“Bushigokorro wo motte totosho no nasu” - ‘the warriors heart is precious, and essential’
Koto RyūKoppojutsu – Tiger Knocking Down School
The name 'Koto Ryu' (Tiger knocking down) means, to knock down the Tiger (opponent) with the tips of the fingers.
The basic movements in the Koto Ryu, include large exaggerated blocking movements. As you progress through the levels, these movements are reduced, according to your skill. The Kihon movement is the same as the kata 'Ichimonji no kamae', from the Gyokko Ryu Ki Gata (Moto gata). The Koto Ryu has an emphasis on using the opponent’s bone structure and skeleton to defeat him. Strikes are generally targeted to areas that disrupt spinal alignment and locks are applied in the same fashion. This system consists of mostly striking and some joint locking, but has no full body throws. Movement tends to be linear, and 45- degree angles are a trademark of this system.
Shinden Fudo RyūDaken Taijutsu – Immovable Heart School
Shinden Fudo means "immovable teachings transmitted by the gods." Shinden Fudo Ryu has many body conditioning methods using items found in nature. The school is broken into two sub-disciplines of taijutsu. These are called Dakentaijutsu, and Jutaijutsu. In the Dakentaijutsu there are no Kamae (postures or set stances) per se, except the Kamae 'Shizen no Kamae’ as it represents the 'Natural posture' and holds no fixed form. The use of Kamae is really only found in the Jutaijutsu.
Hojojutsu, the art of tying someone with a length of rope is also taught in this Ryu-ha. It is used alongside the Taijutsu to help restrain the opponent as well as several different types of Yari, Ono (war axe), O-Tsuchi (war hammers), and Naginata.
Kukishinden Ryū – Transmission of the nine Demon Gods School
Many of the principles of this school were forged on the battlefield. The weapons used can be quite large, including spear and Naginata (halberd). The Kukishin Ryu has a weapon called "Bisento", which is similar to the Naginata. The difference between the two is that it is much heavier, and a lot larger, with the blade reaching up to 3ft (1m) in length. Because of its length, and weight, it made it simpler to knock down an opponent, and smash through any armour that was being worn. It was also used to take horses down in the battlefield. Techniques are therefore done assuming the combatants are wearing armor, and require skillful movement (sabaki) of the body. This system was also used as a naval art, and consequently the movements are designed for use on a ship that is slippery and rocking.
Takagi Yoshin Ryū – High Tree, Raised Heart School
This system specializes in grappling and throwing techniques similar to aikido and judo. However, unlike judo and aikido, this style makes it difficult for the opponent to make ukemi (to fall or roll safely). This ryu is known as the “bodyguard school”. Jutaijutsu uses an opponent’s force against him. No resistance is offered, but rather the opponent’s direction of movement is enhanced and used to defeat him. Jutaijutsu was frequently used by police and in more civil settings than other, more battlefield oriented arts.
QUOTES FROM THE TAKAGI YOSHIN RYU
“Soft like cotton, hard like lightning; courage to win against ten thousand men”
“A willow is flexible, but a high tree is breakable”.
Gyokushin Ryū *
The Gyokushin Ryu was taught in the Kishu, and Takeda Fiefs. This possibly happened in the 1600's, and it was then that it came into contact with the Togakure Ryu. It is not known in the west as to what the fighting techniques of the Gyokushin Ryu are except that it uses Sutemi (sacrifice) throws.
Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo was founded in the mid 1500’s. This school is partially directed towards Cho Ho (spying). The main characteristics of this school are said to be Sutemi Nage (sacrificing throwing). This school preferred spying rather then combat, but it is known that many forms of Nage Waza (throws) were used. This ryu teaches many of the secret philosophies of our art.
Kumogakure Ryū * - Hiding in the Clouds School
The third of the ninja ryus, it uses similar taijutsu as Togakure Ryu, and is also known for double blocks and strikes. The taijutsu of this school is very similar to the taijutsu of Togakure ryu. The main differences are that in Kumogakure ryu jumps as well as multiple blockings are used. One of the special weapons of the Ryu is the kamayari (Hook spear). This was originally designed for climbing up the sides of ships. It is also used when fighting against swordsmen. The join of the hooks to the spear blade, acts in the same principle as the Jutte, trapping the incoming sword, and controlling it. The hooks can be used to snare clothing, or hook the legs of the opponent running away.
Another speciality of the Ryu is the Demon mask, sometimes worn by members of the Ryu. Kikaku Ken "Demon horn strike" (head butt), this could also give rise to another theory of the Demon mask. Using this strike when the mask was not worn also gave rise to the use of the head during fighting. This is a part of the body that is rarely used in Japanese fighting systems.
Historically, the Ninja of the Kumogakure Ryu, would when going into combat wear armoured sleeves to help protect them and also to use while attacking. Also, parts of the training and skills of the Kumogakure Ryu involve such things such as lighting fires in wet and damp weather, also various aspects of survival training.
Gikan Ryū – Truth, Loyalty and Justice School
The Ryu contains many special kicks, punches, and throws.
One of the special teachings of the Ryu in "Bufu ni sente nashi" (from this side there is not the first strike). The dynamic footwork of the Gikan Ryu is used widely within the Bujinkan system. This ryu is scarcely seen by members of the Bujinkan, but its techniques tend to be very direct and hard. This style is known for its low stances, with much of the footwork within the Bujinkan system coming from this ryu.
QUOTE FROM THE GIKAN RYU
“Bufu ni sente nashi” - ‘from this side there is not the first strike’