1 hour






Foundational skills of the Samurai for solo practice (Taihenjutsu - Body Changing Methods)

Expected learning & outcomes

  • Walking techniques for posture and balance
  • Crawling techniques for strength and cardio
  • Break-falling techniques for safety and evasion

    Skills you will learn

    Arts, Concentration, Development, Leadership, Music, Safety, Strategy, Training, Travel

    About this course

    Bujinkan Ikari Dōjō Online (武神館奭道場) presents a beginner foundation for taijutsu, the martial arts of the Samurai. Ikari Dōjō (Majestic Hall 奭道場) is affiliated with the Bujinkan organisation (Divine Warrior Temple 武神館). The Bujinkan teaches Budō Taijutsu (Classical Martial Arts of the Way of War 武道體術) and is based in Noda, Japan, and headed by grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi. The Bujinkan teaches nine traditional Japanese martial arts schools including:

    • Togakure-ryū Ninpō Taijutsu (戸隠流忍法体術) [Hidden Door School]

    • Gyokko-ryū Kosshijutsu (玉虎流骨指術) [Jade Tiger School]

    • Kuki Shinden Happō Bikenjutsu (九鬼神伝流八法秘剣術) [Nine Fierce Gods School]

    • Koto Ryū Koppōjutsu (虎倒流骨法術) [Tiger Felling School]

    • Shinden Fudo Ryū Dakentaijutsu (神伝不動流打拳体術) [Immovable Heart School]

    • Takagi Yoshin Ryū Jūtaijutsu (高木揚心流柔体術) [Willow Heart School]

    • Gikan Ryū Koppōjutsu (義鑑流骨法術) [Virtues Paragon School]

    • Gyokushin-ryū Ryū Ninpō (玉心流忍法) [Jade Heart School]

    • Kumogakure Ryū Ninpō (雲隠流忍法) [Hidden Clouds School]

    Beginner foundation for taijutsu (taihenjutsu shoden 体変術初伝) is part of the the Bujinkan Unified Fundamental Curriculum (Touitsuteki Kihon Katei 武神館統一的基本課程 [TKK]) and is a general curriculum made up of multiple modules to prepare students for the practice of the nine schools of the Bujinkan. The TKK contains foundational basics for the three general aspects of the Bujinkan; taijutsu, jujutsu and ninjutsu. It also prepares students with specialist modules for further training in preparation for the denshou (transmission 伝承) of the nine schools.   

    This course is part of a sub-section of the TKK called 'body, mind, spirit' (Taishinki 体心気) designed to prepare a student physically, mentally and spiritually for the practice of the nine schools of the Bujinkan. Taishinki includes nine modules focusing on developing physically and mentally for martial arts training. The Taishinki is split into three general areas, 'body changing methods' (Taihenjutsu 体変術), 'mind changing methods' (Shinhenjutsu 心変術), and 'spirit changing methods' (Kihenjutsu 気変術). Taihenjutsu are body development methods that focus on muscles, skeletal structure and nerves. Shinhenjutsu are mind development methods focused on willpower, flexibility and agility. Kihenjutsu are spirit development methods that focus on breathing, circulation and mindfulness. Together these three areas promote the development of the martial artist for the successful practice of the physical and mentally challenging activities in martial arts. 

    Taishinki modules are split into three levels; beginner level (shoden 初伝), intermediate level (chuuden 中伝) and advanced level (jouden 上伝). Shoden modules are designed for solo practice. Chuuden modules involve paired exercises and techniques. Jouden modules are practiced by a group of three or more people. The idea of these modules is to develop personally, but also to practice leadership skills to empower others and understand the dynamics of groups and teams.

    The module levels of the Taishinki correspond to module levels of the other courses in the TKK. Shoden courses in the Kihon Katei assume prerequisite knowledge and practice of shoden courses in the Taishinki. This also applies to chuuden and jouden modules in the Kihon Katei.

    Taishinki is only a training guide and baseline; students should continue to explore training systems to improve their physical and mental health. 

    Taishinki Katei (Body, Mind, Spirit Curriculum) 


    • Taihenjutsu Shoden (体変術初伝)

    • Taihenjutsu Chuuden (体変術中伝)

    • Taihenjutsu Jouden (体変術上伝)


    • Shinhenjutsu Shoden (心変術初伝)

    • Shinhenjutsu Chuuden (心変術中伝)

    • Shinhenjutsu Jouden (心変術上伝)


    • Kihenjutsu Shoden (気変術初伝)

    • Kihenjutsu Chuuden (気変術中伝)

    • Kihenjutsu Jouden (気変術上伝)

    Course Description

    Taihenjutsu shoden contains three general areas for the development of muscles, skeletal structure and nerves, necessary for the more advanced practice of taijutsu; walking methods (arukijutsu 歩術),  crawling methods (shisokujuuarukijutsu 四足獣歩) and break-falling (ukemijutsu 受身術). Arukijutsu are isotonic exercises that reinforce posture and develop skeletal structure during movement. Shisokujuuarukijutsu are cardiovascular exercises that develop functional strength and full body strength. Ukemijutsu are break-falling techniques to prepare the body for falling and to condition nerves for heavy impact.

    Walking Methods [Arukijutsu] (歩術)

    [一] Small Steps [Shouho] (小歩): Place both hands along the pelvic inlets, raise the crown of the head and move forward landing with the ball of the foot followed by the heel.

    [二] Big Steps [Daiho] (大歩): Place both hands along the pelvic inlets, raise the crown of the head and move forward in large steps. Land with the ball of the foot and turn the foot inward perpendicular to the line of travel before placing the heel.

    [三] Posture Steps [Kamaeho] (構歩): Raise the lead hand in kitenken (turning fist) and hold the rear hand in the crook of the arm in shitouken (blade fist), this is seigan no kamae (true eye stance). Step forward using the same method as daiho.

    [四] Unilateral walking [Nanba Aruki] (南蛮歩): Place both hands perpendicular to the body at the top of the thighs, with the lead hand facing palm down and the rear hand facing palm up. Move forward with the ball of the foot landing first, followed by the heel. While shifting, turn the hands so that the lead hand is always facing down when stepping on the lead foot.

    [五] Quiet walking [Muon Aruki] (無音歩): Place both hands along the pelvic inlets and step with the heel followed by the ball of the foot. As the foot is placed down, roll along the outside of the foot to increase foot contact with the ground. 

    [六] Side walking [Yoko Aruki] (横歩): Place the lead foot forward and the rear foot perpendicular to the lead foot, then cross the arms. Step and cross the legs and at the same time raise the arms. Continue moving like this.

    Crawling Methods [Shisokujuuarukijutsu] (四足獣歩)

    [一] Monkey crawl [Saru Aruki] (猿歩): Lower down to a squat and move sideways, crossing the hands between each step. 

    [二] Bear crawl [Kuma Aruki] (熊歩): Lower down to a squat and place the lead hand forward and the rear hand back. Bring the rear leg to the rear hand and keep the lead leg back. Crawl forward on all fours.

    [三] Cat crawl [Neko Aruki] (猫歩): Lower down to a squat. Place the hands and feet in a line, lead hand, rear hand, lead leg, rear leg. Move forward while remaining on the line, hands moving first followed by legs.

    [四] Toad jump [Hikigaeru Aruki] (蟇蛙歩): From a squatting position, leap forward hands first, before resetting to the squat position. 

    [五] Salamander crawl [Sanshouuo Aruki] (山椒魚歩): Squat down and bring the lead hand forward and the rear hand back. Place the lead leg back and the rear leg forward behind the rear hand. Lower down so the elbows are perpendicular to the ground.

    [六] Lizard crawl [Tokage Aruki] (蜥蜴歩): As the salamander crawl, but turn the head up stretching the neck and rear leg. 

    Breakfalling methods [Ukemijutsu] (受身術)

    [一] Forward breakfall [Zenpou Ukemi] (前方受身): From a squatting position, place arms in a triangle position and dive forward, taking impact on the forearms and stretching out the legs. Reset to squat and continue moving forward.

    [二] Backward breakfall [Kouhou Ukemi] (後方受身): From a squatting position, lower down and sit back bringing the legs and arms into ichimonji no kamae. Use elbow to return to hanza and get up to continue moving back.

    [三] Sideward breakfall [Sokuhou Ukemi] (側方受身): From a squatting position, sweep the leg inward and lower to the ground with the groundward arm extending into ichimonji no kamae. Use elbow to return to hanza and get up to continue moving back.  

    [四] Forward roll [Zenpou Kaiten] (前方回転): From a kneeling position [Seiza], bring the lead leg up to a raised position and place the rear leg perpendicular to the direction of travel [Hanza]. Shift forward so the lead knee touches the ground and place the lead hand perpendicular to the lead leg, and the rear arm in line with the lead leg, forming a right triangle with both arms. Turn the head away from the lead leg and push the body over the lead arm in a straight line, rolling across the back, from the lead shoulder to the opposite hip. Come back up into a raised kneeling position [Hanza].

    [五] Backward roll [Kouhou Kaiten] (後方回転): From a raised kneeling position [Hanza]. Sit back and bring the lead leg over the same shoulder, landing on the curled back toes and transitioning to the knee. Place the rear leg perpendicular to the direction of travel and raise the leg back into hanza.

    [六] Sideways roll [Sokuhou Kaiten] (側方回転): From the raised kneeling position, shift forward and place the hands in a right triangle on the ground as in the forward roll. To roll to the inside, roll across the rear arm in a 45 degree angle backward from the front and return to hanza. To roll to the outside, shift the body backwards in a 45 degree angle backward and return to hanza.

    Historical Background

    Taihenjutsu shoden is based on concepts and ideas of the Gyokko Ryu school of the Bujinkan. The Gyokko Ryu school is an ancient tradition that dates back to feudal Japan. Each grandmaster in the lineage is called soke. The current head of the Gyokko Ryu school is grandmaster Hatsumi Masaaki. The lineage of the school is as follows:

    • Tozawa Hakuunsai (1156-1159)

    • Tozawa Shosuke (1161-1162)

    • Suzuki Saburo (1171-1180)

    • Suzuki Gobei

    • Suzuki Kojiro Mitsu

    • Tozawa Soun (1288)

    • Tozawa Nyudo Geneai

    • Yamon Hyoun

    • Kato Ryu Hakuun (1394)

    • Sakagami Goro Katsushige(1532)

    • Sakagami Taro Kunishige (1532-1555)

    • Sakagami Kotaro Masahide (1532)

    • Sogyokkan Ritsushi

    • Toda Sakyo Isshinsai (1532)

    • Momochi Sandayu (1542-1555)

    • Momochi Sandayu II (1573-1591)

    • Momochi Tanba Yasumitsu (1595-1615)

    • Momochi Taro Saemon (1615-1624)

    • Toda Seiryu Nobutsuna (1624-1644)

    • Toda Fudo Nobuchika (1658-1681)

    • Toda Kangoro Nobuyasu (1681-1704)

    • Toda Eisaburo Nobumasa (1704-1711)

    • Toda Shinbei Masachika (1711-1736)

    • Toda Shingoro Masayoshi (1736-1764)

    • Toda Daigoro Chikahide (1764-1804)

    • Toda Daisaburo Chikashige (1804)

    • Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu (1824-1909)

    • Takamatsu Toshitsugu (1887-1972)

    • Masaaki Hatsumi (1931-Current)


    According to Kuden, the verbal tradition in Gyokko ryu, the system was developed in China during Tang-dynasty. There are two possible origins. Either there was a guard at the palace who developed the system after his small body, or it was developed by a princess. This is in accordance to the system of movement, which implies that it was developed by a physically smaller person.

    According to another source, a famous musician and authority on the history of music by the name of Mr. An of Xian in China, there was a woman by the court in Xian (which was the main residence of Tang-dynasty), who was very famous for her skills in dancing and martial arts. By the fall of Tang-dynasty, year 907, many people of high stations in society escaped from China to Japan. The name that is connected to the origin of Gyokko ryu in Japan is Yo (or Cho) Gyokko. It could have been introduced by a single person, but it also might have been a whole group.

    The first formal grandmaster in Japan was Hakuunsai Tozawa, who appeared some time during the period of Hogen (1156-1159). How he got the title, and how he got knowledge of the system is unknown. But Gyokko ryu, which means "Jewel Tiger", is according to Dai Nippon Bugei Ryu Ha one of the oldest documented martial arts in Japan.

    The system was brought on and kept alive during Kamakura, Nambuko and Muromachi period, by the Suzuki family. In the 16th century it came to the Sakagami family, and between 1532 and 1555, the methods were organized by Sakagami Taro Kuniushige, who called the system Gyokko ryu Shitojutsu. The next supposed grandmaster, Sakagami Kotaro Masahide, was killed in battle 1542. Because of this, the title was passed on to Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi (also known as Gyokkan Ritsushi). Sakagami Kotaro Masahide was also known as Bando Kotaro Minamoto Masahide, and he was supposed to be the grandmaster of Koto ryu koppojutsu as well. He was never registered in Koto ryu, and his name is only mentioned in some of the lists of Gyokko ryu grandmasters.

    Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi, who either came from the Kishu area or belonged to Kishu ryu, renamed Gyokko ryu Shitojutsu to Gyokko ryu Koshijutsu. He had some students who, in the 18th century, founded different schools based on Gyokko ryu and knowledge from Sougyoku.

    In spite of the fact that two of the schools founded by Sougyoku Kan Ritsushis students went on to Takamatsu Toshitsugu and Hatsumi Masaaki, Gyokko ryu went it's own way along with Koto ryu. The schools went to Toda Sakyo Ishinsai and Momochi Sandayu I. After that, the schools remained in the Toda and Momochi families until Takamatsu, who was the last of the Todas to learn the arts, passed the schools to Hatsumi Masaaki.

    It is thanks to the Toda and Momochi families' activities in the Iga province that the schools has come to belong to the local ninjutsu tradition, despite that the schools themselves were not really ninjutsu. Another connection in history is that Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu, Takamatsu's teacher and uncle, is said to be a descendant of Hakuunsai Tozawa's.

    Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu taught Takamatsu that the most important thing is to study the techniques of Kihon Kata, also known as Kihon Happo, since they are the basis of all martial arts. This means that Kihon Happo covers all methods that are effective in real combat such as blocks, punches, kicks, breaking of wrists and elbows, and throws. The methods of Gyokko ryu are based on Koshijutsu (attacks against soft parts of the body). The strategy differs therefore very much from for example Koppojutsu, which concentrates on the bone structure.
    While Koppojutsu motions goes in and out to come at right angles to the joints, Koshijutsu moves sideways, or around the attack, to get close to Kyoshi (the weak parts of the body). These targets can be nerve points, but also inner organs, or muscles and where the muscles are attached. One of the reasons for this system is probably because it was developed by a small person. The power in the counterattacks is therefore not generated by muscles, but by the hips and the spine. This is shown for example by the way of blocking, which concentrates on a powerful block to break the opponents balance, and thereby reaching the weak points of the body. An important detail in order to move close to the opponent, is that the back hand is always held in front of the face as a guard against counterattacks.

    A frequently used body weapon in Gyokko ryu are the fingers and the fingertips. This is the reason for the earlier name Shitojutsu, which means techniques with the fingertips. Shitoken, also known as Boshiken, is the most common finger strike. This is a strike with the tip of the thumb, most often against where the muscles are attached or nerve points. The bone by the wrist is also a weapon, which is used for blocking, hits against Kasumi (the temple), etc. Another way of hitting is to push the knuckle of the middle finger in front of the other knuckles in a modified Shikanken. It is not only Boshiken that has another name in Gyokko ryu. Shutoken is called Kitenken, for example.
    The thumbs are important in Gyokko ryu. It is mostly shown in the three official stances: Ichimonji no kamae, Hicho no kamae, and Jumonji no kamae, where the thumbs always are directed upwards. The reason is that the energy always should flow freely, and there should be no lockups in the movement. In Gyokko ryu it is important to protect the heart. Therefore a starting position with the right leg forward is preferred, so that the left side is turned away from the opponent. Shoshin no kamae, Doko no kamae — "Angry tiger", and Hanin no kamae are also said to belong to Gyokko ryu.

    Gyokko ryu consists of several parts. First there is Kamae no kata (stances) and Taihen Kihon (falls). The next step is Ki kata, also known as Sanshin no kata. Ki kata teaches basic movements based on the five elements. These movements reoccur in all techniques in Gyokko ryu. After that comes Kihon kata and Toride Kihon kata, which are basic exercises for punches, kicks, blocks, grabs and throws. There are different statements on how many the exercises are, and which exercises that belongs. Usually there are three exercises for punches, kicks and blocks, and five or six for grabs and throws. The last are trained from both sides.

    After all these basic exercises, you come to Koshijutsu. Koshijutsu is split in three main parts:

    • Joryaku no maki - Unarmed vs Unarmed

    • Churyaku no maki - Unarmed vs Tanto or Kodachi

    • Geryaku no maki - Unarmed vs Ken or Yari

    Mutodori from Geryaku no maki are techniques against sword or spear and is considered to be the highest, and most difficult level of Gyokko ryu.

    Gyokko ryu was, beside the Kosshijutsu, also known for it's methods with Katana, Tanto and Bo. Except for some techniques with Bo, very much of this is unknown. More of this will probably be known, however, since Hatsumi Masaaki is releasing more information on the subject.

    Even though Gyokko ryu can not claim to be a ninjutsu school, due to the lack of philosophy among other things, there is one saying that has followed the school: "Bushigokoro wo motte totoshi no nasu", which means "The heart of a warrior is precious and essential".

    October 1995:

    History of Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu

    by Peter Carlsson; Contributed by Mats Hjelm



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