Martial Arts Schools

Martial arts schools represent a codified system of methods and concepts used to transmit martial training. Japanese martial arts schools are usually suffixed by ryū (流) and are called ryūha (流派). These ryūha are often hundreds of years old and date back to feudal Japan. 

These ryūha were self-contained schools that offered everything a warrior of the time would need for their vocation, but often the sōke (宗家) [Grand Master] of a school would die without a heir and the family the school was connected to would be passed on to a sōke of another school to keep the school alive for future generations. Ryūha were also shared, sold or taken over, resulting in a complex and varied history for many of the schools. 

When Japan modernised in the Meiji era, martial arts were already in decline and many ryūha were at risk of becoming footnotes in history. During this time prominent martial artists were sought out by families who were custodians of ryūha, but did not train in them, to become sōke of these ryūha so they could live on into the future. This is how many ryūha ended up under the stewardship of a single person.

Masaaki Hatsumi is one of these people and created an organisation called the Bujinkan (武神館) [Divine Warrior Hall] to pass on nine ancient ryūha. Hatsumi is well known in Japan as an artist and has also become a collector of ryūha. The 'style' the Bujinkan represents is Budō Taijutsu, which is just a general term for martial arts (the martial way). Hatsumi was taught by Toshitsugu Takamatsu, who was in turn taught by Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda. 

Budō (武道) means martial or military arts or skills. It is an umbrella term to describe all martial arts. Jūdō is Budō, Boxing is Budō, even marksmanship with a rifle on the range is Budō; any skill or art to do with warfare is considered Budō and this includes auxiliary and support skill-sets like logistics, intelligence and management (in a military sense). 

Taijutsu (体術) means body methods or ways of moving the body. Any activity involving the movement of the body is considered taijutsu, running is taijutsu, dancing is taijutsu, tennis is taijutsu; it's a very broad definition. 

Together, Bujiinkan Budō Taijutsu refer specifically to martial methods of moving the body in respect of the lineage of Takamatsu and Hatsumi. 

The Bujinkan is a conglomerated organisation that incorporates the teachings of nine distinct martial arts lineages. These schools were founded hundreds of years ago in Japan and have survived the tests of time.

These ryūha include:
  • Kukishin Ryū Happō Bikenjutsu (九鬼神流八法秘剣術)
  • Shinden Fudo Ryū Dakentaijutsu (神伝不動流打拳体術)
  • Takagi Yoshin Ryū Jūtaijutsu (高木揚心流柔体術)
  • Gyokko Ryū Kosshijutsu (玉虎流骨指術)
  • Kotō Ryū Koppōjutsu (虎倒流骨法術)
  • Gikan Ryū Koppōjutsu (義鑑流骨法術)
  • Togakure Ryū Ninpō Taijutsu (戸隠流忍法体術)
  • Gyokushin Ryū Ninpō (玉心流忍法)
  • Kumogakure Ryū Ninpō (雲隠流忍法)

Kukishinden, Shinden Fudo, and Takagi Yoshin ryū, incorporate many weapon and hand to hand combat techniques used by the samurai, sohei and youjinbō (bodyguards). Dakentaijutsu and Jūtaijutsu are methods of unarmed fighting with or without armour. Kukishinden ryū covers many weapons including the sword, spear and naginata (glaive).

Gyokko, Kotō, and Gikan ryū also focus on close combat techniques. Kosshijutsu refers to muscle breaking techniques (strikes, blows, and throws designed to damage muscle and soft tissue) and Koppōjutsu refers to bone breaking and set-up techniques. 

Togakure, Gyokushin, and Kumogakure ryū are ninjutsu schools concerned more with strategy, tactics, information gathering, and espionage. Although these schools do have combat techniques, they mostly comprise of techniques and concepts for evasion and escape rather then pure combat and battle.

Together these nine schools create a holistic training curriculum that cover many aspects of Japanese martial arts and give a student a wide variety of tools when it comes to combat and self-defense.