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Methods of gripping the shuriken
Both Negishi Ryu and Shirai Ryu hold the blade in the same way, with a few variations depending upon the type of blade, and other schools follow suit, with a few variations of their own. It is held in the hand by forming a guide with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers. The little finger gives extra support and the thumb holds the blade in place. The feeling of the hand when holding and throwing is said to be gentle, like holding a swallows egg so as not to break it. (see fig. 1). Shirai Ryu In Shirai Ryu, the blade is held with the point outwards towards the target, or inwards to the palm, depending upon the distance to be thrown.
Figure 1. Holding the shuriken of the Shirai Ryu
Fig 2. A variation in the hold of Shirai Ryu, for long blades. (Used with permission,© Robert C. Gruzanski) Gripping the blade in Negishi Ryu In Negishi Ryu, the blade is always held with the tip pointing forwards, and much like the method of Shirai Ryu, it is held in the hand with the fingers acting as a guide, and the thumb locks it in place.(see fig. 2)
The major difference to the above throws is in the way the blade is held (see fig 4). Holding the shuriken in the Jikishin grip The grip of "kanime" see Advanced techniques . The index finger then rests on the side of the blade. Figure 4. downwards. the arm cuts down as if it were a sword. as though making a gun shape with the hand. The throw is a simple raising and lowering of the arm from the side as a step is taken forward. and as the Jikishin method involves the same specific method. The 3 smaller fingers are curled. and it is suspected that this is a variation in style of a precursor to Shirai or Negishi Ryu. and holding the tail down as it leaves the hand. The blade sits with its butt in the palm and the thumb applies slight pressure from above.Figure 3. Kashima Shinto Ryu has a particular method of throwing the shuriken with a step of the right foot forwards and a rapid raise and drop of the right arm for the throw. holding it in place on the side of the curled middle finger. providing support. it is possible that Kashima Shinto Ryu has in fact preserved the jikishin throw. Holding the shuriken of the Negishi Ryu The Jikishin grip Not much is known about Jikishin. while the index finger points out straight.
Opponents make a visual judgement of each other before engaging. The thumb. or held in a high position with the palm downwards. as it leaves the hand is direct. This makes it difficult to see. not only on the body for carrying. Holding a shuriken in the "Chinese Fist" method Concealing blades in the hand As mentioned previously. Figure 6. called "positive" and "negative" hand. which pushes the blade out through the fingers on the throw. forming a kind guide through which the blade exits. and the tactics one uses are based upon what one is able to perceive. part of the tactical advantage of the shuriken is it's small size and unobtrusive shape. The path of the blade. as opposed to the Shirai or Negishi Ryu basic throws where the blade is thrown from above the head like a sword cut. throwing at targets below horizontal. The "negative" hand (shown in fig. or straight.com. The hand flicks forward to the target. It is interesting to note that film footage of the late Isamu Maeda Sensei of Negishi Ryu. which appears to be run by a practitioner of the NInjutsu arts. and/or Mou En Ryu (said to have originated in China). and is also discussed on www. There are two methods of throwing. middle and ring fingertips clutch the sides of the blade.Figure 5. but the Japanese arts which utilise this type of throw use a longer blade. It appears this method of holding and throwing is peculiar to Teihozan Ryu. The butt end of the blade is placed in the centre of the palm. thus creating a very small profile as it could only be seen from in front of the tip. senior of Satoshi Saito Sensei. meaning that it can be concealed quite easily. is regarded as a "metsubushi" (sight remover) attack. 6 below). a blade of 9-12 cms is used. as it targets the eyes. who appeared in the NHK documentary on Negishi Ryu shuriken jutsu featuring Yoshinori Kono Sensei. Shuriken can be . where the hand is either held in a low position with the palm upwards and throws at targets at above horizontal. Gripping the shuriken in preparation for "kanime" "Chinese Fist Method" Chugoku Genho This method of holding and throwing a blade is mentioned in Douglas Hsieh's "Ancient Chinese Hidden Weapons". therefore making it an ideal metsubushi waza. but also within the hand as a surprise tactic before throwing in battle. yet this is to be confirmed.mumyouan. index. shows him distincly throwing blades in this "Chinese Fist" method. In the Chinese arts.
These same experiments have also shown that covering the back of the hand and fingers with a flat. When the arm hangs by the sides of the body without carrying anything. In order to carry something in the hand without giving anything away. dark material not only masks the shape of the hands. one must project the illusion that the hand is empty. When we carry objects in the hand. the skin goes a bit whiter than the rest of the parts of the body. that of "deceit". they are used in many human activities. and there is no whitening of the skin. "Attack the enemy where he least expected and prepared" (Chapter 1. and thus swing the balance of power in an altercation. V4. but also makes it difficult for the observer to recognise what a person is doing. This idea follows the fundamental principle of Sun Tzu's Art of War. and the shape and movement of the hands can often unconsciously betray our intentions. ie. our hand naturally takes a shape and position about the body that we can readily recognise as being the shape used for carrying. Experiments have shown that an observer relies heavily on the shape and position of the hands in relation to each other and the body when trying to determine the intended activity of a subject. . The fingers close into a fist. due to the contriction of blood from tightening the muscles that are doing the holding.) The hands are very expressive parts of the body. the muscles are relaxed. and this surprise change to the battle situation could gain one a valuable few seconds advantage in timing. In this way we can see how the body can betray our intentions. the fingers loose and open. using these small facts we know about the way we unconsciously do things.quickly drawn and deployed.
the hand is turned to reveal the weapon and the method of holding it. or shaken . Hira shuriken. we can hide a shuriken in plain view. thus giving us a tactical advantage over an opponent. that is.Example 1a Example 2a Example 3a In the 3 examples above. so we rely more on signals given by our subconscious. Our body follows familiar paths of perception. under stress we act more on instinct or unconscious signals than through carefully thought out decisions. the hand shapes and position do not give away the fact that a potentially dangerous weapon is being carried. and when situations are changing rapidly. Much like a magician performing sleight of hand. in the 3 examples below. judgement. Example 1b Example 2b Example 3b In the immediacy of an engagement at battle. decision and action. however. we don't have as much time to think or rationalise. we need to make quick decisions based on what we immediately perceive.
so I won't discuss that method. is similar to the throw with bo shuriken. and it will curl off and raise slightly in its path off target.The star and cross shaped shuriken. that is. the latter method can generate much more power. I haven't had any instruction in throwing the way Hatsumi Sensei described. known as hira shuriken. The throw of the other method. Shirakami Eizo however. between the thumb and first finger. Throwing Shaken As mentioned in the introduction. where the arm moves in a vertical downwards and forwards movement. Note that the thumb grips the centre of the blade. If it leans over in the throw. parallel to the ground. Holding a hira shuriken of the Ninjutsu schools. 5. shows throwing the shuriken as one would throw a small "frisbee". (see fig. This ensures that the blade remains under control during the throw. It is important that the shaken is thrown perpendicular to the ground. air resistance will create an aerodynamic effect against the blade. as they spin at a rapid rate. below) Figure 5. but is turned sideways in the . and to the target. states that this method is wrong. Even if the shaken is held upright. holding the shaken vertically. or shaken. Dr Hatsumi. and that the blade is held and thrown vertically. There seems to be some dispute over the method of throwing. or 34th soke of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu. (1) shows an incorrect method Both types of throw are feasible. there are two reported methods of throwing shaken. Several shuriken are held cupped in the left hand like a stack of coins. holding the blade firmly against the forefinger. however. See here for more details on throwing shaken. the blade is held horizontally. that being from horizontal. and have multiple points which can make contact with the target. The wrist makes a flicking action forward as the arm straightens out in front of the thrower's stomach. thus removing another possible variable from the blade's travel to the target. use an entirely different principle in flight than do the bo shuriken. in much the same way as a bo shuriken. it is an over-head throw. Figure 6. current Head Master. and are passed to the right hand in rapid succession.
Only when the blade is vertical. and perpendicularly to the target..throw. the next thing to do would be to carefully check the edges of the blade for symmetricity. not in line with the flat plane between thrower and target. So if your blade seems to veer off from straight. If the amount of surface area on the sloped edges of each side of the blade are not equal. Figure 8. . air resistance created by its forward movement will cause the blade to angle off line and drop quickly. Shaken have sharpened edges that are sloped much the same way as a knife blade. that is. Another cause for inaccuracy with shaken is an asymmetricity between the two sides of the blade itself. even though you are sure of holding it vertically to the ground. will you be able to control the throw with any degree of accuracy. then there will also be an aerodynamic effect when the blade is thrown. (refer to diagram) Figure 7. and perfectly aligned with the line of throw to the target.
or just before. one cannot make the same simple adjustments possible in Shirai Ryu. creating a more powerful throw. and turning the palm. and the leaning of the body at throw. Mid release for mid-range targets . pull the torso back at the last moment to add turn to the throw. giving the psychological advantage by creating the illusion of being closer to the target.(see fig 34-35) Fig. in case the blade miss hits and bounces back. necessary to cover greater distances. When the arm is raised in Koso no I. This causes the shuriken to straighten earlier in the shorter distance. Leaning the body "When close to a target. release earlier". so a late release means that the shuriken is more horizontal as it leaves the hand (see fig 33). where one just needs to turn the blade in the hand. so it is in line with the angle of trajectory at the moment of. the hand grip is constant. 2. both in the way the hand is held. It also has the added benefit of pulling the head back from target slightly. 34.ADVANCED TECHNIQUES Throwing the blade in Negishi Ryu Adjusting to distance When adjusting to the variation in distance while throwing in the Negishi Ryu. the blade is pointing upwards. for distant targets. It also has the added effect of intensifying the concentration forward. leaning forward on the throw adds the body weight. On distant throws. 1. slight postural changes need to be made. lean forward on the throw" On close throws. 33. In Negishi Ryu. release later. striking the target. Timing the release "For close targets. When far from a target. so an early release will compensate for this tilt. thus allowing a more direct hit. the shuriken has less time to tilt in flight. When further from the target. the shuriken needs to align with the trajectory just before striking the target. lean back on the throw. the tip tilts forward and straightens in relation to the target. for close targets. Fig. because of this tendency to tilt. as the arm sweeps down. Late release. To make the adjustment to different distances. In its flight towards the target. So when closer to the target.
so their departure tends to be more variable (see fig. causing the blade not to turn so much. rather than take aim with the eyes. By turning the hand so the palm faces to the left in relation to the target. it will have become a dead hit already. as basic technique (as shown above in Manji no kata). one should start at a close distance. and even departure called hanare. but it has to be done skillfully else it will upset the smooth flight. it strikes the target. our focus is outside the body. As the student becomes more proficient. By looking at the target. and our thoughts are with striking the target. it will continue "falling". Note: The "stroking" of the shaft as it leaves the hand is actually a method of applying power to the forward momentum of the blade in the throw. the hand is still facing more to the target. but also it creates a drag effect on the tail as it releases. By turning the hand so the palm faces the target on early release. which will enable more pressure to be exerted on the stroking action on the release. above). The thumb catches on the butt end of the blade as it departs. However. so that by the time it is about to align with the trajectory of the throw itself. and practice late release with the turning of the palm. and when it strikes the target. and try to feel some sort of connection between our centre (the . the basic shape of the aim is to have the tips of the blades in the left hand in line with the eyes and the target (see fig. as though "holding a swallows egg". and earlier releases have a less controlled hold. as this is the last contact with the body to have influence over the blade's flight. the blade is pointing upwards.35). smooth. and the blade releases earlier in the throw. the blade releases when the arm is still quite high above the head. Rather. * Aim When aiming at the target. we should feel the target. the distance is increased." The shape of the hand is very important for the trajectory of the blade as it leaves the hand. there is more weight and support behind the blade. so the grip then tends to require more gentle guidance. from the hand. so that during its travel to the target. and facing the palm. For a late release. while at the same time. turn the palm for closer throws. the hand is really only offering a straight pathway for the blade to depart the hand. preventing the blade from turning excessively before reaching the target (see fig 33) In training. then coating it with laquer. It seems that the feeling of stroking has less of an upsetting effect. This is why there is the practice of wrapping the shafts with thin twine. and the fingers actually seem to stroke the shaft of the blade as it leaves the hand. For a long distance throw. It creates a "grippy" surface on the tail end of the shaft. the hand must facilitate a clean. Early and late releases have different effects on the position of the blade in relation to the trajectory. the idea is to try and take aim with the navel. the head of the blade "falls" forwards. for distant targets 3. Not only does the blade need to be gripped lightly.Fig. the blade has already developed velocity. by placing our awareness in the navel. If it aligns with the trajectory before striking the target. 35. on a more advanced level. As it does so. Early release. (see fig 35). Turning the hand "Face the palm for distant throws.26.
One of the basic forms of variation is to train on the knees. then the second blade made an unusual sound. by varying the training method. is illustrated . as in a) . Mr Shirakami relates a story of how his teacher felt confused by this concept. The side throws can also be performed in seated posture. * Variations in Training Training can be made more interesting. Apparently it had hit the tail of the previous blade. Za Uchi. (see fig. or to focus on particular skills. c) where the left knee is forward and the foot on the ground. is still done on the knees. and the right knee is back and placed on the ground. or seated throw. rather than by relying in sight alone. called suwari-waza. and also teaches the body movement to be more precise. 36) and can be done directly facing the target. 37) . and began to throw shuriken in the dark. This form of training builds up necessary strength and stability in the hips. 36.b) or in the stance called tachihiza. This story illustrates how one can learn the perception of the target by feel. In several traditional martial arts. whereas sideways throws are made in tachihiza with the left leg back. The two of them went to the dojo at night. training in a number of techniques. Note that the front throw is performed in either seiza. (full seated posture). The first blade made the sound of piercing the target. or tachihiza with the right leg back. Figure 37. and mentioned this to his teacher. Tonegawa Sensei. The seated form of the throw is called za-uchi.tanden) and the centre of the target. Fig. (see fig. Here the toji form on the knees in tachihiza.
By training during movement. At each distance. 4 . either forwards or backwards. and merge with the target at the moment we think of throwing. Figure 39. The training method of throwing while running. yet the blade flew powerfully and struck firmly. the distance is set. then we take the next step back. By training at static distances. we throw repetitively until that distance is mastered. So arises the desire to be able to throw one step further away. To be able to achieve this. However. one is using the form. Multiple throwing can also be practiced while walking. Mr Shirakami writes of his teacher Naruse Sensei that even when he was throwing at great distances. jumping and turning.Figure. and training progresses incrementally from 1 step and beyond. one learns the mechanics of the form. The tendency when throwing at greater distances is to unconsciously add more power to the movement.5 are shown from the back. is another such method. Training at Sei no Maai. Figure 39 shows a method of multiple throwing in time with the stepping of the feet. and while static. At each step. we have plenty of time to think about the distance and achieve this. 38 Hon uchi. Eventually. and also lying down. his movement was relaxed and appeared as though he was throwing only a close distance. . yoko uchi and gyaku uchi from kneeling posture (tachihiza) Throwing from a "still distance" and from a "moving distance" There are training methods for throwing the blade while running. at the moment of departure of the blade. The action is a continuous stepping to the throwers right side. one must make minute adjustments in their technique to have the blade strike effectively. which in fact adversely affects the technique. the concept of distance is always at the back of our mind. our posture and movement has to be adjusted quickly and precisely to allow the blade to strike effectively. But when moving while throwing. which is a constraint preventing us from being able to throw at any distance. we lose the concept of distance entirely.3 shown from the front. or "still distance" lays the technical foundation for Do no Maai. When we count the steps and throw. enabling us to throw a blade and have it stick at any distance without thought. When the basic form is practiced. we are bound by the throw from a static position. thus decreasing the obstacle that is always at the back of our mind. This form of training cuts down the time we think about distance. Note: 1 . we must overcome our thoughts about distance as being an obstacle. Rapid throwing. or "moving distance".
Figure 40. so passing the blade from left to right hands could be done with the raised throwing arm. There are 5 forms in a kata called Tojustsu Kumikomi no Kata. . and the right hand is held in Koso no I. so it is sometimes necessary to be able to throw several in rapid succession. This allows for the rapidity of throwing blades in succession. A strong or prepared adversary may be able to receive the first blade (ie. Because the throwing position of the right hand.© Robert Gruzanski) Throwing the blade during a sword cut There are also techniques that involve throwing shuriken while holding a sword. and throw the next. the 2nd blade should be on its way. There is a phrase from olden times that says "Ikki Goken". and so on. The art is in being able to detach ourselves from the throw immediately after the blade has departed the hand. Before the 1st blade strikes. (Used with permission. in zanshin or readiness. which means to throw 5 blades in one breath. closely followed by the 3rd. When we practice the basic form. (see fig. or commit ourselves to the next action. The throw is made.). and to be able to continue our movement without caring if the blade strikes well or not. But we have to be detached from the throw. then the right hand returns to the sword. 37) where the sword is held as normal by the left hand. we are taught to pause and observe momentarily.There is a certain posture with a technique developed for rapid throwing. This is because we are learning the throw. and the throwing action of the right hand is the same as the position and action of the right hand as it holds and cuts with a sword. Posture for rapid throw. where the left hand is held above the left eye (see fig 40. the two weapons can be blended in such a way that they do not adversely affect the movement of each other. gripping the handle. deflect or ignore).
due to the weight and size of the weapon.Figure 41. such as a shuriken. called yadome. yadome An advanced level of training involves not throwing a blade. The shuriken. This stems from the days of the Samurai where a swordsman would defend himself against attackers throwing or propelling objects at him. . can be drawn and thrown much quicker than a sword. being smaller and lighter. to develop this ability. Some of the postures of the Tojutsu Kumikomi no Kata Image temporarily unavailable Figure 42. The idea is that one develops the ability to throw shuriken quickly while one is drawing and cutting with the sword. though this is generally thought of as being the stuff of legends. which has a certain timing. giving you an advantage already. Thus one could be able to launch 1 or 2 shuriken at the opponent before they are in sword distance. Satoshi Saito Sensei demonstrating shuriken throwing with the sword. Mr Shirakami tells of his experiences where he asked his student to shoot arrows at him. or an arrow. so we should not discount the possibility that an individual can perform this sort of feat. so it can be said that you can attack inside the rhythm of a swordsman's attack. within the arts there are training techniques designed. There are stories of famous encounters where swordsmen could deflect the flight of arrows and shuriken in battle. Receiving a blade. However. but having a blade thrown at you. Most swordsmen trained only in the sword know only the rhythm of the sword.
The grip is similar to that of Jikishin. The practice of gluing pigskin to the end of the blades with the hairs pointing backwards. the smooth metal surface of the shaft would slip easily from the fingers. but uses the power of the arm and body to create the strike. however this seems to serve a different function to that of wrapping the blades. with the same feeling as the attacker. in order to apply a small amount of friction as it leaves the hand. and create drag in flight for a straight trajectory. The tip targets vital areas of the body. laquer and/or string is a way of creating a rough surface on the shaft of the blade. thus deflecting the attack. 42). because a flat surface allows more grip on the shaft as it leaves the hand. and that is holding it in the hand and using it as a striking implement. an arrow or a shuriken. is to assist in the smooth departure from the hand. I believe this feeling is the same as awase training with sword. however it is not at all clear. After further discussion by email with several people who are training in shuriken. 1999). varnish and string . but this appears not to be the case. This is because the technique of throwing involves a slight flicking or twisting of the hand. the idea is to move at the same instant. The principle of "Kanime no Daiji" (eyes of a crab) . and therefore generate excess rotation. to cut as the attacker cuts.Using the shuriken as a striking implement There is another method of using the shuriken. which applies a slight amount of pressure to the tail end of the blade just before it completely departs from the finger tips. So by using awase. This effect hinders the natural rotation of the tail end forwards. Here the idea is to match your feeling and movement to that of the attacker's without the thought of reacting to their movement. correct performance of the technique will protect your centre. which is for reasons different to that of attaching pigskin hairs to the end of the blade.. and providing the sense of timing in awase is correct. thus creating a more straighter flight before striking the target. it appears that this practice of wrapping the shaft of the blade in paper. In the interview Saito Sensei makes vague mention of this in conjunction with the balancing of the centre of gravity of blades to accentuate close or distant hits.while wearing fencers protective face gear. He was able to develop the ability to deflect the flight of an arrow but cutting at it with a sword as it was fired at him. string and lacquer (Interview with Saito Sensei in Skoss. but the postioning of the thumb and first finger are reversed (see illustration fig. then react to it by trying to block it. The key seems to be in the mental attitude one takes when faced with such an attack. The shooting of an arrow. whereas a rounded shaft will allow less grip on the shaft as it leaves the hand. There is the moment in the attackers mind where they commit to action. and cut the arrow down. with no string or paper wrapping. then the body follows.updated There is mention of some Negishi Ryu shuriken being wrapped in paper. as well as a simultaneous downward movement of the hip. Wrapping the blades with paper. or the throwing of the blade is seen as being like the cutting of a sword. acting out the mind's intentions. Rather than wait to see the path the arrow is taking. This is also one of the reasons Mr Otsuka believes the Negishi Ryu shuriken were hexagonal and octagonal. Some people have suggested this is to adjust the balance of the blade so it is perfectly centred. in Aikido. a sword. If one were to throw a clean blade. . the idea is to unify yourself to this moment. it does not matter whether the weapon attacking your centre is a fist.
as shown in the photo on the left. This poison was not strictly limited to shuriken. without raising suspicion. for which there is no specific antidote. I am not sure this is correct. in his book "Shuriken Giho". an interesting connection to either the Aizu area. The techniques appear to be karate-like striking movements. 42. and the depression in the throat just above the collar bone. thus giving them lethal capability.. or Aconite (Aconitum japonicum). That is. the tip is held slightly up with the arm bent at the elbow. The targets for this strike have been listed as the eyes. chicken's blood and oysters. Mr. the effect of the poison wears off after 24 hours. The active constituent Aconitine causes neuro-muscular paralysis and contractions. Shirakami discusses this strike at length. and demonstrates methods of holding that can conceal the blade from onlookers. As one strikes. secret instruction to him. that you have entered and caught the opponent by surprise. There are two traditional poisons I know of used for this purpose. 3). When you can see the opponents eyes bulging. one is the extract of Wolfsbane. like "the eyes of a crab".Fig. To do the strike. affecting the heart and respiration. Holding the shuriken in order to strike the target with the hand The thumb presses down hard on the top of the blade. meaning. or Japanese Puffer fish may have been used for tipping blades. which together contain the broadest spectrum possible of infectious bacteria. Death is caused by severe and fast acting infection from a mixture of horse manure. and the wrist extends forward. The second poison is not so fast acting.. As a side note. as fugu poison is neutralised by oxygen after 24 hours. pushing the tip into the target. or the Aizu clan. There has been extensive research into fugu poisoning. The technique is to be used as a final resort. Substantial doses of Aconite cause almost instantaneous death (2. the arm is straigthened and the thumb pushes forward. Mention has been made by some that the poison from the fugu. saying that this technique came from a secret Negishi Ryu document titled "Kanime no Daiji". making it almost impossible to treat. with the blade tip protruding in various ways. there is a variety of Aconite in Japan called Aconitum Aizuense. so you can no longer throw the blade. Chikatoshi Someya Sensei. the distance has closed between you and your opponent. Tipping the shuriken with poison Mention has been made of the use of poison being applied to the tips of shuriken. demonstrates a wide variety of apparently secret striking techniques where the shuriken is hidden in the palm. but also used on many types of edged weapons. . He illustrates methods of holding 1 and 2 blades in the hand. as shown in photo on the right. and it has been found that one can survive its paralysing and fatal effects if one submits to an artificial respiration machine for a period of 24 hours. but nevertheless lethal. then you would be victorious. but the focus of the attack is to pierce the opponent in vital areas with the shuriken at close range. particularly among Ninjutsu schools. That is. which contains highly toxic and extremely fast acting alkaloids. and was Master Naruse's final.
Long Beach.Notes: 2. Everist "Poisonous plants of Australia" Australian Natural Science Library. Hsu. Angus & Robertson. Selwyn L. 1986 . Hong-yen "Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide" Oriental Healing Arts Institute. 1974 (back) 3.
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