An Introduction to Kyoketsu Shoge

This is an often seen, but little studied weapon. I have a little information on this weapon which I present here, so those who are unfamiliar with the weapon may gain a little insight.

The Kyoketsu Shoge, which means "to run about in the fields and mountains", was thought to have developed before the more widely known kusarigama (sickle and chain). The Kyoketsu Shoge is a double edged blade with another blade attached at 90 degrees to it. This is attached to roughly 18 feet of rope, chain or hair which then ends in a large metal ring.

Almost exclusively used by the ninja, the kyoketsu shoge had a multitude of useful applications. The blade could be used for pulling slashes as well as thrusting stabs. The chain or cord, sometimes made from women's or horses hair for strength and resiliency, could be used for climbing, ensnaring an enemy, binding an enemy and many such other uses.
The long range of the weapon combined a cutting tool with the capability to strike or entangle an enemy at what he perceived to be a 'safe' distance out of the way.

As far as I am aware there are no formal kata for the Kyoketsu Shoge. It appears to be a weapon that is often dropped into a technique just the same as Kusari Fundo. Hatsumi Sensei has shown the weapon at several Tai Kai's. For example at the 1992 UK Taikai he demonstrated some kamae with the weapon ;

1/ The Shoge and coiled rope are held in the left hand, with the right hand holding the rope about 2.5 feet from the end of the ring.

2/ The ring is held in the left hand with the Shoge and rope. The Shoge can then be thrown and the ring kept held in your hand.

Perhaps the most well known technique with this weapon is one called "Torite Baai". In "The Ninja and their secret fighting art", Steven Hayes best describes this technique ;

"Hatsumi Sensei held the Kyoketsu Shoge loosely coiled in his left hand. He moved to the corner of the training hall opposite me, leisurely swinging the ringed end of the cord in his right hand. The narrow cord was approximately 12 feet in length, strong and resilient. To one end of the cord was fastened a steel ring, which could be tossed over the ends of roof beams, tree limbs, or suitable hooks to form an anchor for climbing the rope. The other end of the cord was attached to a unique hand held blade. From the wooden handle protruded two-edged spikes of steel, at right angles to each other.

I held a defensive position as Hatsumi Sensei circled me and lectured the class. He twirled the ringed end of the cord in a small loop and explained how the ring could be used to snag the adversary or knock him unconscious. The master jerked the cord and ring back into his grip. He continued his teaching: Let the ring fly as a natural extension of the swing. Do not deliberately throw it.

The ring left his grip once again. The cord went out to the master's right and snaked its way to the left of my head in a broad arc. This time the master did not pull it back. As the ring came within reach, I threw up my left hand and snatched the ring from the air

Upon catching the ring, I felt a rush of excitement and pride. I had foiled the attack of the master of the ninja. As suddenly as the feeling had come, it was replaced by a feeling of regret. I was deeply embarrassed for the master. His weapon had been so easily intercepted by an inexperienced student from America. I wished I had not made the catch, and had not made him look foolish in front of his students. I felt that I should have been more thoughtful, more considerate of his rank and position. This feeling, too, was in turn replaced by another. I was suddenly very disappointed that I had been able to catch the weapon so easily. This man was supposed to be the supreme master of the last ninja school in Japan, and I had outmaneuvered him. If he really was the teacher I had hoped he would be, this couldn't have happened. I felt annoyed and let down.

Hatsumi Sensei held his position for the second or two that it took those thoughts to cross my mind. He was about ten feet away, holding the other end of the cord, looking at me. His expression hadn't changed. He continued to lecture, though I still held the ring firmly. He spoke briefly about "the unexpected." I thought he meant my catching the weapon. He didn't mean that at all.

Hatsumi Sensei snapped his arm up and down briskly, and sent some sort of loop over my clenched fist. He yanked on the cord and I felt a knotted coil dig into my wrist. He had somehow tied up my arm from across the room. Now I was the one facing the unexpected as I flew across the floor, helplessly lassoed . The master made a slashing motion with the blade as I floundered toward him, and commented that the adversary would be easy to finish off in such a situation.

I was stunned; the rest of the class was amused. They shook their heads and laughed out loud. Everybody falls for that set-up, they told me. It's so easy for Hatsumi Sensei and it always works. The master was smiling as if to say, of course it was a trick. You never know what's coming next. That's what makes this Ninjutsu."