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  1. Plasma is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/09/2009 9:05pm

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    Koka-ryu Ninjutsu At Drew University

    Review by Samuel Browning:

    On June 26, 2009 I traveled down to Madison New Jersey for a conference entitled "Ninjutsu of the Koka Ryu and Iga Ryu". For non-Japanese speaking Gaijin like myself, it came as a surprise to learn that "Koga" is actually transcribed "Koka". It makes one wonder why dozens of supposedly legitimate American "Koga" ninjustsu schools have been mistranslating their names for years.

    The panel discussion featured Jinichi Kawakami who was described as Koka Ninnoden Soshike, Honorary Curator of the Iga Ninja Hakubutsukan (Museum) and Yasushi Kiyomoto who is “Senior Student of Kawakami Sensei, President, Ban-ke Ninnoden Kenshujo".

    I was attending this discussion because I was interested in obtaining answers to the following questions.

    1) What is Koka or Koga Ryu Ninjitsu?
    2) Does Koka or Koga Ryu Ninjitsu still exist, and are there any people teaching this art who have a legitimate lineage back hundreds of years to feudal era Japan?
    3) Does Jinichi Kawakami have an authentic lineage to Koka ryu ninjutsu?
    4) If Kawakami does have such a lineage, does he have any instructors or senior students who are American?
    5) If Kawakami is a legitimate representative of Koka Ryu, how does that effect the legitimacy of everyone else in the United States who claims to teach "Koga Ryu"?

    There was a nine person panel and Dayn DeRose of South Mountain Martial Arts who had put together the weekend served as the moderator/facilitator. Dayn DeRose had recently passed his Sakki-jutsu test with Ronald Duncan.

    http://www.kogasociety.com/news.htm

    Duncan is known for having his own Ninja system. The program read: "Special Mention, Professor Ronald Duncan, Shihan, Way of the Winds School, affectionately called O-Sensei by his many students, without who's help this presentation would not have been possible." I was watching closely to see Kawakami's claims would lend support to Duncan's alleged Ninja lineage.

    What happened next was not really a panel discussion since Yasushi Kiyomoto started off by providing a short introduction to Ninjutsu with Jinichi Kawakami then answering questions, through an interpreter. The other members of the nine person panel who did any talking were Katie Takahashi, who served as the main interpreter for the panel discussion, Jeremy Sather; from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of Pennsylvania, and Meik Skoss, who is a co-publisher of Kotyu Books, a student of the late Donn Draeger, and one of a handful of Americans who is fluent in Japanese and truly knowledgeable about Japanese Koryus.

    Typically someone would ask a question, Kawakami would answer, and use an martial arts term or historical term that Katie Takahashi had never heard of, and Jeremy or Meik would help clarify the term or concept. This is not a knock on Katie Takahashi’s translation abilities. Ask most Americans to translate technical terms that originated in the pre-American colonies during the 1600s, and you would face the same problem.

    I. What is Koka Ninjutsu?

    According to Kawakami, Koka Ninjutsu was military techniques used in the Koka and Iga Regions the last half of the Muromachi period. (1336 AD to 1573 AD) and what we think of Ninjutsu became codified in the Edo period. He also pointed out that we do not even know how the kanji on the front of the program was pronounced. Nisha may have been the proper pronunciation but this is unclear (Jeremy later clarified that the concept of the ninja and their specific costume became reified by Edo period developments, evidently Ninjas were frequently featured in Kubuki theater.)

    According to Kawakami, Ninja is a verb more then a noun. A Ninja would be a person who would use a special technique. The Samurai of the Koka and Iga regions carried out ninjutsu activities. It involved carrying out a function. He also said that it could not be proven that all the people in the families were necessarily Ninja. Jeremy later clarified that this means that these were samurai families, many of whom were ninja/spies but certainly not all of them. They found a special niche in the Sengoku period (1477 AD to 1600 AD) as intelligence gatherers and spies, but were still samurai.

    There was no such thing as “Koka Ninja” but there was ninjutsu widely used in that region. Ninjutsu is a collection of techniques, occasionally one family would approach another family it was on good terms with and ask for information about one of its techniques.

    We tend to think of the social classes before the Edo period as being Townspeople, Ninjas, Samurai, and farmers, when the social structure was not that formal. Men coming from the Samurai class did Ninjutsu. There was even a class of Samurai Farmers called the jizamurai who were of lower rank. This social flexibility changed during the Edo period, when the class system became more rigid.

    Towards the end of the Edo period there were 53 families in the Koga area that tried to collect and systematize what the had learned. Jeremy later told me: The bakufu devalued their status as samurai, and they wanted to preserve their teachings and show they were still useful. This is why the fought in the battles leading to the fall of the bakufu, or shogunate.

    The Bufu (military government) had formed men from these families into the Koga Tai. Tai means Battalion. (Meik provided this translation) Kawakami’s teacher’s grandfather came from the Ban family and was one of the leaders of this effort.

    Kawakami was asked if Ninjutsu was considered a Koryu art and he said no, he didn’t think so. It was a family based art, with a member responsible for passing information along, but no formal headmaster as you would find in the Koryus.

    On Saturday, Kawakami mentioned that, again, there was not such a distinct classification of martial arts back then as we have now. Joe from down the street may have trained with a certain teacher, and you might learn something from him, which would then be passed down. This doesn’t necessarily make it a Ninjutsu technique. Jeremy told me: This is also one reason why, I think, Kawakami said that ninjutsu is not a koryu or even a specific style, but rather "a way of life”.

    II and III. Does Jinichi Kawakami have an authentic lineage to Koka ryu ninjutsu?

    Kawakami's story is that his training began when he was six years old and he happened to meet an older man who was drawing a circle on the ground, and who also sold medicines. This man turned out to be Masazo Ishida who had a lineage back to three of the 53 Koga families. These were the Ban family, the Ishida family, and the Kimura family. Kawakami also mentioned that Mazazo Ishida’s grandfather ran a school in Kyoto but I did not pick up the name of this school, or what his name was. Kawakami claimed that not even his family knew of this training at the time.

    I'm a bit skeptical of this story since its a variation of one I've heard over and over again, from people who have questionable martial arts pedigrees. (An old man found me and taught me the secrets of this unique martial art) Additionally how did Kawkami's family not know that such training was going on? Verification, however will only be achieved by some future researcher who confirms the existence of Masazo Ishida, and then finds the name of his teacher, and then confirms the existence of the Grandfather and his school in Kyoto and that it taught any art related to what we broadly call ninjutsu. When the existance and martial arts background of the three people previous to Kawkami are confirmed then I would consider the authenticity of this lineage to be verified.

    I asked Meik Skoss if he thought Kawkami's claims were possible and Meik said in part:

    "His [Kawkami's] explanation about the "kaden dento geijutsu" (family transmission of traditional arts) is very close to how other traditional arts and crafts are taught/transmitted. Not organized into "ryu," without a rigid structure, without the densho (that is, documents of transmission) seen in more organized systems like bujutsu, ikebana, and sado. I think that Kawakami's claims track very well." Later Meik wrote: "I think that "verifying" Mssrs. Kawakami's and Kiyomoto's claims remains to be seen, but I am certainly leaning toward accepting or believing what they said."

    However as another martial artist who was not at the conference, pointed out to me, since Kawkami is very conversant with the historical material concerning Ninjutsu it would not be beyond his abilities to put together such a story even if his art was not authentic.

    Another part of Kawakami's story I had some difficulties with was his statement that “All of the arts I am practicing are the ones handed down”, and that the scrolls he used were for historical research only. We simply do not know how long Kawakami trained with Masazo Ishida. If he was a young man when this instruction stopped he might not have been able to grasp everything he was shown. He stated that reading the scrolls helped him remember what he had been taught before. I strongly suspect that at least part of what Kawakami teaches has been recreated from studying such material, and refined through the process of experimentation. If however evidence comes out that Masazo Ishida lived to a ripe old age, and taught his student through his 20s, then perhaps my suspicions are unfounded.

    IV: If Kawakami does have such a lineage, does he have any instructors or senior students who are American?

    The short answer to this question is No.

    When the lecture was finished, I asked Yasushi Kiyomoto, Kawakami's senior student (with Jeremy translating) whether there were any Americans who were teaching Kawakami’s style or who were studying in Japan and might teach. Yasushi said that they had no teachers in the United States, and they did not have any Americans studying with them who would be teaching since it took typically 10-15 years to become Deshi, which is a formal title for a student. The term Kai-in indicates less time spent studying and means informal practitioner/group member.

    After the conference I found out there is a Spanish man named Juan Hombre who makes a claim to their lineage, but he only trained with them several times, he is not a deshi, and does not have a certificate to teach.

    V: If Kawakami is a legitimate representative of Koka Ryu, how does that effect the legitimacy of everyone else in the United States who claims to teach "Koga Ryu"?

    Kawakami was asked if there was more then one ryu of Ninjutsu that existed now. (Other then his) and he said through the translator.

    “As far as I’m concerned as a person who is the product of the Iga and Koka there is not more then one”. (referring to himself.)

    [Jeremy who heard his comments in Japanese told me Kawakami was not combative about the other ninja arts. He did not devalue other’s techniques or dedication, he would say to Jeremy that he was impressed with everyone’s dedication to their art. He did and does feel, though, that his historical lineage is accurate.]

    The way Kawakami's comments were translated however, lead me to believe that he was saying that he did not know of other legitimate Koka ryus that traced their lineages back to the 53 Koka families. One might argue over whether his statements included all Iga claims, or argue that such a statement is fairly typical of Ninja practitioners in Japan. For example, Hatsumi of the Bujukan is known for telling Americans that all authentic Ninjutsu comes from him.

    What Kawakami's statements however do, is effectively indicate that if you are claiming to study Koka or "Koga" ninjutsu in America you do not have an authentic lineage. First, Kawakami has no longterm American students, he has no teachers presently in America, (though this might eventually change) and he politely says that there are no other historically authentic Koka lineages.

    While Kawakami did not say this, the only other Japanese who claimed such Koka lineage and who, skipping a long argument, may have been legitimate, was Fujita Seiko. Seiko who died in the 1960s in Japan, said that Koka Ninjutsu would die with him. As close as we are able to determine Seiko left no senior students to teach this art.

    In conclusion, Kawakami's statements during the panel discussion effectively undercut the claims of dozens of Americans teachers that they are teaching "authentic Koga" ninjutsu. That clarification was well worth the price of admission.
    Last edited by Sam Browning; 8/12/2009 5:03pm at .
  2. Plasma is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/09/2009 9:08pm

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    Panel Notes by Samuel Browning:

    On June 26, 2009 I went to an afternoon panel discussion entitled “Ninjutsu of the Koka Ryu and Iga Ryu" held at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Koka is another, more common, pronunciation of the word Koga, though I tend to use the term Koga, throughout these notes.

    There was a nine person panel and Dayn DeRose of South Mountain Martial Arts served as the moderator/facilitator. Actually the term panel is not a truly accurate description, since what transpired was an introduction to Ninjutsu by Yasushi Kiyomoto who is “Senior Student of Kawakami Sensei, President, Ban-ke Ninnoden Kenshujo followed by Jinichi Kawakami answering questions. Kawakami was described in the program as Koka Ninnoden Soshike, Honorary Curator of the Iga Ninja.

    The other members of the panel who did any talking were Katie Takahashi, who served as the main interpreter for the panel discussion, Jeremy Sather; from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of Pennsylvania, and Meik Skoss, who is a co-publisher of Kotyu Books, a student of the late Donn Draeger, and one of the handful of Americans who is fluent in Japanese and truly knowledgeable about Japanese Koryus. Typically someone would ask a question, Kawakami would answer, and use an martial arts term or historical term that Katie Takahashi had never heard of, and Jeremy or Meik would help clarify the term or concept. This is not a knock on Katie Takahashi’s translation abilities. Ask most Americans to translate technical terms that originated in the colonies during the 1600s, and they would have the same problem.

    The presentation started with a TV story that had been done in Japan back in 1988 and which reported on an obviously younger Jinichi Kawakami. According to Katie’s translation, it had been 22 years since he had began training. (He began when he was six years old) We watch one of his student break some posts over his chest, and him consume a very small, specially prepared Koga family lunch which contained blood that had been extracted out of a still live fish. In 1988 he was working in the automobile industry as some sort of electrical engineer or technician.

    We then were treated to some conditioning with Jinichi hitting a steel ball and hitting himself with an iron rod. At one point he explained that the time of 1 to 3 am held special significance to the Ninja, though I was not sure what significance this actually was. Katie was summarizing at this point and not going into details.

    In the program Kawakami explained that the Ninja appeared approximately 1,000 years ago and that there were 53 Koga families. His training began when he was six years old and he happened to meet an older man who was drawing a circle on the ground. This man also sold medicines for a living. This individual turned out to be Masazo Ishida who had a lineage back to three of the 53 Koga families. These were the Ban family, the Ishida family, and the Kimura family. It is important to note here that these were not ryu and were more informally organized. When later asked, Kawakami specifically said that these family arts were not Koryu. While a member would be in charge of transmitting the art, they were not a formal headmaster and did not follow the formalities associated with the Koryu. Kawakami also mentioned that Masazo Ishida's grandfather ran a school in Kyoto but I did not pick up the name of this school, or what his name was.

    Kawakami said that he started training in secret without his family knowing. He mentioned that he had either 51 or over 100 of the Koga scrolls (I missed the exact number) and Kawakami said they helped him remember what he had been taught.

    These scrolls contained lots of different things such as how to create explosives which I gathered was one of the specialties of one of the families in Kawakami’s lineage.

    Kawakami said that there is no such thing as “this is Ninjutsu” and there is not just one ninjutsu. I think he was referring to how with 53 families in the Koga region, each had a different way of doing things.

    Kawakami commented that what we associate with the Ninja Garment was originally clothing used for agricultural purposes. For example the hood was intended to protect the wearer from bugs. If you added the mask then it became the Ninja hood.

    According to Kawakami the Ninja outfit was actually agricultural clothing from the Iga region and was typically brown or orange brown from being soaked in some substance to make it more bug resistant.

    The clothing tended to be linens which were strong, cotton was introduced later to Japan. The Ninja would carry objects in an attached bag but sharp objects would be typically carried in a tube or hard cylinder to avoid cutting themselves when they went into a bag.

    In the tape we saw a ninja entrance ceremony and students practicing in the snow. In 1988, Kawakami taught on Sunday, had approximately 100 students, of whom many were in high school. He now has more college students and foreigners studying with him now. Kawakami may also have retired, leaving the teaching to Kiyomoto sensei.

    On the tape we watched him break four chopsticks with one chopstick, and then mention that this was not Ninjutsu per-se

    When asked “what is Ninjutsu” Kawakami said it was military techniques used in the last half of the Muromachi period, which Jeremy later said ran between 1336 to 1573 AD and which were used in the Koga and Iga Regions. (The Sengoku period ran from 1477 AD to 1600 AD) He also pointed out that we do not even know how the kanji on the front of the program was pronounced. The words often used were shinobi, shinobi no mono, ninsha may have been the proper pronunciation but this is unclear. I believe he also said the word Ninja was not used in this period and it showed up in the Edo period in Kubuki theater were it was associated with magicians. (Jeremy later clarified that the concept of the ninja and their specific costume became reified by Edo period developments) The Ninja later showed up in 20th century Japanese novels. In the 1960s the Ninja showed up in many movies made in Japan.

    According to Kawakami, Ninja is a verb more then a noun. A Ninja would be a person who would use a special technique. The Samurai of the Koga and Iga regions carried out ninjutsu activities. It involved carrying out a function. [He also said that it could not be proven that all the people in the groups were necessarily Ninja.] Jeremy later clarified that this means that these were samurai families, many of whom were ninja/spies but certainly not all of them. They found a special niche in the Sengoku period as intelligence gatherers and spies, but were still samurai.

    There was no such thing as “Koga Ninja” but there was ninjutsu widely used in that region. Ninjutsu is a collection of techniques, occasionally one family would approach another family it was on good terms with and ask for information about one of its techniques.

    We tend to think of the social classes before the Edo period as being Townspeople, Ninjas, Samurai, and farmers, when the social structure was not that formal. Men coming from the Samurai class did Ninjutsu. This changed during the Edo period, when the class system became more rigid. [Jeremy mentioned that there was one class of farmer/Samurai called “jizamurai” who “were closer to farmers and of lower rank.]

    Kawakami also said that no one used the sword now called a Ninja-To. For a sword, Ninja would have used the katana like everyone else.

    Written material. At one point I thought I heard Kawakami say that he trained from written material of the Edo period. In Koga, the families tended not to use scrolls or headmasters. What the families practiced were “family arts”. There was no soke, just someone to teach and hand down the art.

    There was a discussion of “Nin do” the way of the Nin. [Jeremy later clarified that the word dou was used as opposed to jutsu. Dou is a way of life/ less militaristic/daoist term; jutsu is technique, usually applied in a military setting. Thus the difference between kendo and kenjutsu.]

    According to Kawakami, The purpose of Ninjutsu is to live in nature and to live wanting to achieve peacefulness.

    Answers to questions.

    The Ninja used to only wear chain mail when fighting on the battlefield. They would obtain their swords from swordsmiths, or given the high price of such weapons occasionally take them of dead people on the battlefield. “wrestling them away from someone.”

    There was a discussion whether these family arts blocked like karate. [Jeremy said “that the next day there was a demonstration (Browning was not present for the demonstration) and there seemed to be some similarity, but then Kawakami mentioned that, again, there was not such a distinct classification of martial arts back then as we have now. Joe from down the street may have trained with a certain teacher, and you might learn something from him, which would then be passed down. This doesn’t necessarily make it a Ninjutsu technique. This is also one reason why, I think, Kawakami said that ninjutsu is not a koryu or even a specific style, but rather a way of life”]

    Kawakami was asked what was transmitted from his teacher, as verses what did he learn from his own research. He replied through an interpreter: “All of the arts I am practicing are the ones handed down”, and that the scrolls he used were for historical research only.

    Bushido was apparently developed rather late in the Edo period and this was not followed by the Koga families. [Jeremy said that word existed in rare usage before mid Edo, but it was really with Nitobe Inazo, that it came to popularity]. The most important priority was to live and the Ninja tended to follow who was stronger. Later in the Edo period Confucian ethics tended to have much influence but not earlier.

    Towards the end of the Edo period there were 53 families in the Koga area that tried to collect and systematize what the had learned. [Jeremy said: The bakufu devalued their status as samurai, and they wanted to preserve their teachings and show they were still useful. This is why the fought in the battles leading to the fall of the bakufu, or shogunate].

    The Bufu (military government) had formed men from these families into the Koga Tai. Tai means Battalion. (Meik provided this translation) Kawakami’s teacher’s grandfather came from the Ban family and was one of the leaders of this effort.

    Kawakami was asked if Ninjutsu was considered a Koryu art and he said no, he didn’t think so.

    He was asked if there was more then one ryu of Ninjutsu that existed now. (His) and he said through the translator.

    “As far as I’m concerned as a person who is the product of the Iga and Koga there is not more then one”. (referring to himself.) Kawakami was not combative about the other ninja arts, his main concern was the history. [Jeremy would tell me that Kawakami did not devalue other’s techniques or dedication, he would say to Jeremy that he was impressed with everyone’s dedication to their art. He did and does feel , though, that his historical lineage is accurate.]

    When the lecture was finished, I asked Yasushi Kiyomoto with Jeremy translating whether there were any Americans who were teaching Kawakami’s style or who were studying in Japan and might teach. Yasushi said that they had no teachers in the United States, and they did not have any Americans studying with them who would be teaching since it took typically 10-15 years to become Deshi, which is a formal title for a student.. The term Kai-in indicates less time spent studying and means informal practitioner/group member. [Jeremy mentioned that there had been one Spanish guy named Juan Hombre who had trained with them several times only to return to Spain and claim to be affiliated with them, when he is not a deshi, and does not have a certificate to teach.]

    During another conversation with Jeremy he indicated that there was a false binary, that people wanted to see Samurai and Ninjas as completely separate, when these classes overlapped. “This binary can be said to have been created by dramatic arts like kabuki, which stylizes things like ninja, as well as novels and movies later on.”
    Last edited by Sam Browning; 8/12/2009 5:04pm at .
  3. Lindz is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/09/2009 9:28pm

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    Did they show any techniques? What is sakki-jutsu? I thought it just meant Hatsumi hits you on the head with a stick.
  4. Sam Browning is online now

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    Posted On:
    7/09/2009 9:40pm

    hall of famestaff
     

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    I wasn't there for the technique demostrations but you can go to here: and see some video from Saturday and Sunday.

    http://www.smma.net/page0015.html
  5. JSather is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/10/2009 6:28am

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    whoops...

    Just so I don't incur embarassment for incorrect dates, the Muromachi period is typically considered to end in 1573 when Nobunaga kicked Ashikaga Yoshiaki out of Kyoto. Either I mispoke or you heard wrong Samuel. No problem, but I know how picky people can get (I'm one of them!). This is a debunking site, and I'd hate to be debunked for an error:)

    Someone asked about Sakkijutsu; it is, as I've heard it discussed, the ability to sense "killing" intent. If I recall, Dayn told me that it involved someone trying to hit him in the back of the skull, and he had to dodge the attack. I guess he succeeded.
  6. Sam Browning is online now

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    Posted On:
    7/10/2009 8:28am

    hall of famestaff
     

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    Thank you Jeremy and welcome to Bullshido. :)

    I'll go back in and change the date, the error was on my part.
  7. Re4 is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/10/2009 12:07pm


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    very interesting! I had long wondered whether any modern lineage existed dating back to actual ninja, Or if modern ninja schools were all based on speculation.
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    Posted On:
    7/10/2009 12:37pm


     Style: Noob-Jitsu

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    This is very educational. Thank you!
  9. Antifa is offline
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    Sin Dios! Sin amos!

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    Posted On:
    7/10/2009 6:06pm

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    So what does plasma think?
  10. Plasma is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/10/2009 6:13pm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antifa View Post
    So what does plasma think?
    Why do I always have to have an opinion......

    Basically, Sam did a great job on the article. I think he captured it well. I have seen this "ninja master" presented in Japanese shows often enough. He does have an impressive knowledge of ninjutsu history and Japanese history. His history is accurate, no Bujinkan "I am the only real one bullshit fake Ko-ryu History." However, he has never been able to prove his lineage, but again he is not claiming Ko-ryu. Overall I found his write-up well done and unbias.
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