In order to understand how Ninjutsu evolved,
you have to understand the Iga region of Japan. Iga as a region belonged to the
Ise province. Ise being one of the central focuses in Japan's history due to
the Tokaido road where most traders passed by.
Around the year 680 Iga was separated from Ise, and became a relatively isolated region. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, except on the north side close to the Koga region in the south Omi province. In this remote and unvisited area is where the Ninpo culture was developed. Both the Iga and Koga regions were located in a relatively safe place just southeast of Kyoto, the capital town of Japan and just south of the Tokaido road. So these regions played an important part to the rest of Japan and its history.
From there a general named Ikai, a refugee from China with a wide knowledge of military strategy and martial arts, brought to what is know today as the foundation of Ninpo Bugei. His knowledge gave all the opportunity for developing an independent Ryu Ha (martial arts systems). As a parenthesis it can be mentioned that in Sada (in Iga) there are places called Tojin Iwa (The Chinese rock) and Karadobuchi (The door to china's deep water) still reminding of the connection to China.
Close, just southeast of Iga at the Yoshino mountain is where one of the head leaders of the Shugendo sect was located. And in south of Iga where the Kumano Mountain is located, is another holy place to the Shugendo sect. It is very probably that these Yamabushi (wandering Mountain priests) exchanged philosophy and methods with the Iga people.
Within Iga there was a lot of other different Ryu's (traditions) with their own specialties and traditions, but the origin to all Iga Ryu are supposed to have come from Ikai who had fled to a cave at mount Takeo in the IGA region from China.
What he brought from China was in first place his knowledge of Kosshijutsu that he taught to among others Gamon Doshi (Doshi means Moralist). Gamon Doshi's and his student Garyu Doshi can be seen as foundation to most parts of the tradition of martial art that developed in and around IGA. It may also be so that Yo Gyokko brought the Kosshijutsu, and that Ikai brought the knowledge about strategy and Hicho Kakure Gata and it was those systems together that formed the foundation of the martial arts in Iga.
To continue, Garyu initiated Hakun Ryu, a school that was further developed and named by Hakun Doshi. Hachi Ryu Nyudo is another name that ought to be mentioned, because it was probably he who brought GARYU's knowledge further on to Tozawa Hakunsai, the first official grandmaster of Gyokko Ryu. Gyokko Ryu is in most cases recognized as a Kosshijutsu school, but it's also officially known as a school of Ninpo.
Hakun Ryu was transferred to Kagakure Doshi and it was Kagakure who taught the system to Nishina Daisuke. Daisuke founded Togakure Ryu, and Togakure Ryu together with Gyokko Ryu two of the oldest Ninjutsu traditions in Iga, and they have both been a great influence to most of the other schools in IGA.
In the book "Essence of Ninjutsu" by Masaaki Hatsumi it is mentioned that Iga Heinabe Yasukiyo, another student of Gamon Doshi. Was given a piece of land, Iga Hattori in the Iga region as thanks for the help he gave Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1198) in the fight against the Taira clan. He is supposed to have built a castle, which became the origin to Iga Heinabe. But since Iga Heinabe Yasukiyo was supposed to have lived in the late 11th century and Minamoto Yoritomo in the late 12th century.
On the other hand, IGA Heinabe Yasukio seem to be the basis of the knowledge that IGA Heinai Zaemon Nojo Ieanaga, his descendant in the 12:th generation, used when he founded a school, also named IGA RYU, but which later had its name changed to Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo. There is another story that states that Ise Saburo Yoshimuro allied with Minamoto Yoritomo's brother Yoshitsune in the flight from Yoritomo. This is more in line with the dates in history, even if it's not verified yet.
All the different Iga Ryu had their own linage of Soke (family head), but Iga Ryu as whole also had a lineage of persons that was in a leading role, called Jonin. It is not unusual to find names that also was a Soke in other Iga Ryu. Below is an approximate list of the Iga Ryu Jonin until the end of 16th century. The mentioned year is not exact or the year they was grandmasters but the year they was active.
∑ Gamon Doji - Jiryaku period, 1065-1068
∑ Garyu Doji - Shoho period, 1074-1076. Founded HAKUUN RYU
∑ Unryu Doji - Shoho period, 1074-1076
∑ IGA Heinabe - Yasukio Eicho period, 1096
∑ Tozawa Hakuunsai - Heiji period, 1159. Founded GYOKKO RYU
∑ Ise Saburo Yoshimoro - Heiji period, 115
∑ Togakure Daisuke - Shogen period, 1207-1210. Founded TOGAKURE RYU
∑ Kumogakure Gen-an - Kencho period, 1249-1255
∑ Tozawanyodo Gen-eisai - Shouou period, 1334-1335
∑ Hachimon Hyouun - Kouryaku period, 1379-1380
∑ Kuryuzu Hakuun - Oiei period, 1394-1427
∑ Tozawa Ryutaro - Chokyo period, 1487-1488
∑ Momochi Sandayu I - Tenmon period, 1532-1554
∑ Iga Heinai Saemon no jo Ianega - Tenmon period, 1532-1554. Founded KUMOGAKURE RYU
∑ Kamihattori Heitaro Koreyu - Tenmon period, 1532-1554. HATTORI HANZO's Fam.
∑ Nakahattori Heijiro Yasuyori - Tenmon period, 1532-1554
∑ Shimohattori Heijuro Yasunori - Tenmon period, 1532-1554
∑ Momochi Sandayu II - Tensho period, 1573-1591
There is a difference between each Ryu and the organization around the same sphere of interests, in IGA region as whole. For example Gyokko Ryu, Togakure Ryu and Hakuun Rty, which were different systems of specialties and methods, were only tools used to protect the Iga region.
The different knowledge systems that belonged to Iga Ryu was developed and protected by a total of 45 families.
Tozawa * Fujiwara * Minamoto * Taira * Kuriyama * Momochi * Ishitani *
Hattori * Izumo * Kimura * Ohkuni * Tsutsumi * Arima * Hata * Kazama *
Mizuhari * Hanbe * Shima * Togakure * Sugino * Ise * Sakagami * Narita *
Oda * Hisahara * Ooyama * Mori * Abe * Ueno * Suzuki * Otsuka * Ibuki *
Kaneko * Kotani * Kashiwabara * Shindo * Iida * Kataoka * Kanbe * Fukii *
Sawada * Kimata * Toyata * Toda * IGA
The Toda family is also interesting, except for having the lineage for Kumogakure Ryu, they also inherited Togakure Ryu in the 17th century from the Hatori family who in turn inherited Togakure Ryu when the headline of Toda family had all died. Toda who was one of the leading families in IGA was also close connected to the Tozawa family.
Momochi was one of the most famous families and Momochi Sandayu was without doubt the most famous Ninja leader, together with Hatori Hanzo. Momochi Sandayu and three of his followers were in the 16th century Soke in both Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu. They had inherited the schools from the Sakagami family. In the 17th century Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Kumogakure Ryu and Togakure Ryu would all become under the Toda family by Toda Seiryu Nobutsuna. Later also Gyokushin Ryu was brought into the Toda family.
Here is a list of some of the Ryu that have been part of the Iga Ryu and the Iga province's traditions...
Hakuun ryu * Togakure ryu * Kumogakure ryu * Genjitsu ryu * Tenton
Happo ryu * Goton Juppo ryu * Kadone ryu * Kukishinden ryu * Gyokko ryu
* Koto ryu * Rikyoku ryu * Tsuji Ichimu ryu * Hattori ryu * Taki ryu *
Yoshimori ryu * Uchikawa ryu * Gikan ryu * Gyokushin ryu * Takino ryu *
Sawa ryu * Gen ryu * Momochi ryu * Ryumon ryu *
This is not a complete list; there were other Ryu that have disappeared through history. Another interesting point worth a note is that Iga Ryu and Kumogakure Ryu who is listed among the single Ryu, is in principle the same Ryu. Since Iga Ryu changed its name to Kumogakure Ryu.
Both the Gikan Ryu and Gyokushin Ryu were developed from Gyokko Ryu. According to the "Bugei Ryuha Daijiten" the Gyokko Ryu contains Koshijutsu, Shitojutsu, and Ninpo. The Gyokko Ryu also incorporates Tenmon Chimon, Saryaku Hiden (Koshijutsu Kata) Baku-in Sanpo Hiden (Kuji) and the idea of Shinshin Shingan. . The Gyokko Ryu is the oldest of the nine schools of the Bujinkan. The Togakure Ryu is next, even though it had more generation leaders than the Gyokko Ryu (some did not live to long). The following shows the initial founders that mark the formal beginning of the teaching of the Koshijutsu in Japan.
Lineage: Cho GyokkoCho Buren Chan Busho (Ikai) Gamon Doshi Garyu Doshi .
Gyokko Ryu: Garyu Doshi Hachiryu nyoda Tozawa Hakuunsai (Formal founder of the Gyokko)
∑ Koto Ryu Koppojutsu: There are several theories that all link this Ryu to the Gyokko Ryu, just differently. The "Bugei Ryuha Daijiten" says that the Koto Ryu comes from the Koshijutsu of the Gyokko Ryu. It was founded in the middle of the 16th century by Toda Sakyo Ishinsai, who learned Gyokko Ryu from Gyokkan, a Buddhist monk (found in the book "Hiden Ninja Submission".)
∑ Togakure Ryu Ninpo: Garyu Doshi Kimon Hei Bei Hakuun Doshi Kain Doshi Togakure Daisuke. In "Hiden Ninja Submission". Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu is a branch of the Koshijutsu.
∑ Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo: Garyu Doshi Yasukiyo Heinai Iga Heiraizaemon Ienaga Iga (Kumogakure Hoshi) who is believed to be the founder of Iga Ryu Ninpo.
∑ Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu: A branch of the Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu as mentioned by both the "Bugei Ryuha Daijiten" and Hatsumi Sensei ("Hiden Ninja Submission")
∑ Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo: Stated in "Hiden Ninja Submission" to be traced back to the Koshijutsu. The "Bugei Ryuha Daijiten" also traces it back to the Koshijutsu.
∑ Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu: Garyu Doshi Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru (founder of the Ryu) Masaaki Hatsumi states in the book "Hiden Ninja Submission" that this Ryu can be traced back to the Koshijutsu.
∑ Kukishinden Ryu: Garyu Doshi Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru (the founder of the Ryu; the founder of Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu.) This Ryu has major influences outside of its link to the Koshijutsu.
From the beginning of training, Ninjutsu practitioners are taught to approach every fight as if he/she were facing multiple opponents, and to vary techniques to fit them to different situations and directions of attack. Weapons techniques normally taught in Ninjutsu include Kenjutsu (sword techniques), Bo Jutsu (long staff techniques) and Hanbo Jutsu, (short staff techniques).
It is a generally soft Art, incorporating armed and unarmed combat, although there are a number of "hard" techniques. Philosophical aspects as well as general exercise are both important. Both linear and circular techniques are used, and there are both internal and external aspects to the art.
Very eclectic, very general, very broad. Seems to emphasize having an answer for every situation and flexibility of response. There are no tournaments or competitions in Ninjutsu.
Each school had its own specialities and variations of Kamae and handed them down through the members of a family that guarded its secrets with their life.
For example, the Kota Ryu specialized in techniques of bone breaking, known as Koppo jutsu, which later evolved into Jujutsu and Karate.† The Fuda Ryu relied heavily on Shirikan (steel blades) to hinder adversaries.† The Kukishin Ryu developed many unorthodox methods of utilizing standard weapons. The speciality of Gyokko Ryu was Koshijutsu, attacking the nerve centres with punching or striking finger drives.†† The Togukure Ryu secret was the Shuko, spiked iron band worn on the hands enabling the Ninja to stop sword blades or climb trees and walls catlike.† They also made great use of the Tetsubushi, a small spiked weapon dropped on the floor to slow down adversaries.
Historically, Ninjutsu also attempted to incorporate aspects of every possible situation and needed knowledge of fighting, by means of different arts inside the Art. For example, there are subdivisions for spying, infiltration, poisoning, and cryptography. However, these are not typically incorporated in modern training. Training:
This style involves a broad base of training designed to prepare the stylist for all possible situations.
Our philosophy is simple: protect life, live according to nature and the natural law.† All lives are equal (even if their behaviour isnít) and must be respected,
and if possible protected.† Those that agree with this philosophy will be instructed in the skills needed to support the philosophy, regardless of age, health,
gender or cultural distinction.† If you cannot summon up the personal discipline to train with a friendly and courteous demeanour, you will probably feel out
of place.† Make no mistake the training is challenging.† Once you acquire the skills, you will be capable of walking through life as a true warrior.
To talk of harmony and justice is simple. But to apply those principles to the conflicts which we face everyday requires a deep understanding and sincere trust.
Logic may tell us that truth lies within the process of harmony, but the moment something of value rests on the outcome of a situation we no longer trust that logic.
The beautiful ideas and eloquent phrases are forgotten under the pressures of reality.† In philosophy a theory of truth is expressed in words, but the truth of
Ninjutsu is expressed in action, the theory proven in practice.† By the physical application of its principles we develop a deeper understanding in the heart instead
of the mind.† Through practice and experience we learn to trust its power.
In training you challenge yourself, not the other.† You will develop confidence by facing your fears, and negative fighting spirit will become creative fighting spirit.
The stress and pressure of serious Ninjutsu training brings this spirit to the surface, exposing it so that it can be examined and refined in a controlled atmosphere
of respect and mutual study. †Discovering your physical limitations will cause you to reflect on the deepest meanings of harmony and conflict, and to strive for a level
of consciousness above the selfish ego, closer to a universal consciousness.
This is the essence of Ninjutsu.† It is not the art of fighting, of narrow technique, but an art of personal refinement and of protecting the quality of life.† Ninjutsu is first
and always Ninpo. Without the heart of a warrior and the deep desire to protect society, to protect all life, Ninjutsu becomes an empty dance. Ninpo is its spirit.
Ninjutsu is not a sport.† It is a discipline, an educational process for training the mind, body, and spirit.† A Ninjutsu dojo is not a gymnasium.† It is the place where the way of the discipline is revealed.† Physical technique is not the final objective, but a tool for personal refinement and spiritual growth.† The correct attitudes of respect, sincerity, and modesty combined with the proper atmosphere are essential to the learning process.† And as Ninjutsu is a martial way, they are essential to the safety of each individual.† The following rules are necessary to the maintenance of this atmosphere and vital to your study of Ninjutsu.