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