KYOKETSU-SHOGE AND NAGE-NAWA. This article is about the weapon (actually farm tool). At the end is a video (from Bujinkan Kaigozan Dojo previous week).


Kyoketsu-shoge (距跋渉毛) translates as “to run about in the fields and mountains”. It is one of the weapons used in Togakure-ryu and Kumogakure-ryu.

This weapon is believed to be the forerunner of Kusarigama. Wikipedia says it is a double edged blade with a curve edged blade attached. I don’t believe that was true. I think the double edged blade was just as dull as the Kunai. And only the inside of the curved blade was sharp.

The Kyoketsu-shoge was used by the rural peasantry class from the Iga province. If they was caught with something that looked too much like a weapon, they might have been executed on the spot.

Kyoketsu-shoge as it probably looked hundreds of years ago. Except the rope, it was made of hair.

I think it was a multi purpose farm tool. You dig the earth, cut the grass, tie up the grass with the rope etc. Why would a farm tool have chain. Rope made of hair was less suspicious. The farmer could stick into his belt and not cause too much attention.



Nage-nawa 投げ縄 (rope throwing) is not as easy as it looks. The trick is to throw the loop and make sure the rear end of the loop passes on the other side of the hand.

On the video below I show you two common techniques we in the Bujinkan Dojo use at demonstrations. In the first technique I hit down on his hands to unarm him. Threaten him with the blade and protect the sword (we had no room to do this on camera).

Throw the ring towards his head. He steps to the side and catch it. Yank it out of his grip and prepare for the throwing. Do the first loop around his hand. He grab the rope with his other hand. Make it look like a tug of war. Loop his other hand.

Blind his eyes with the rope (or Shuriken, powder etc), he covers his eyes with the hand. Continue and loop the rope around his hand and neck.

He kicks. You do Kerikaeshi and take him down. Tie him up more with the rope. Put the blade to his neck and cut his neck.

The second technique he is attacking you and you deflect withe the blade and strike with the ring behind you to hit him. Loop the sword and yank it out of his grip. Loop his hands and neck as previous technique.

Do these techniques with good choreography and acting and it will look good in demonstrations.

Yes I know looping around the sword and yanking, the sword would probably just cut the rope. Even looping around his hands he can cut the rope. These techniques is mostly for demonstrations and just fun training.


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Last Tuesday I practiced BŌ-SHURIKEN at KAIGOZAN DOJO. I made up my own Bō-shuriken Kata. I will explain below. Enjoy!

I’m not going into detail how to start practicing because it is too difficult explaining. But basically you always start close to the Makiwara. I tell my students to start close. When the Shuriken is hitting the target good, they should take one short step back. If the next Shuriken does not hit good, do not step back until the next Shuriken hit good. If they manage to hit with all five Shuriken, they can start further away and repeat. As long as all five hit good they can start working on longer distances. When learning a new throw or with the non dominant hand you always start close.

Scroll down to see the video.


This is the order I throw the Shuriken. I’m throwing the 4’th Shuriken with my left hand. So I prepared by flipping it with the point outward.


Prepare by taking this Kamae. Aim with the left hand against the target and hold the right hand over the right shoulder and head. Zanshin.


1. Migi Hon-uchi. Shift the weight forward to the left foot and throw the first Shuriken with the right hand. Bring the left hand to the left hip.


2. Migi Yoko-uchi. Step forward with the right foot and throw directly from the left hip as you would do an Ura-shutō with the right hand.


3. Migi Gyaku-uchi. Step forward with the left foot behind as in Yoko-aruki. Throw the third Shuriken from under with the right hand. Use the momententum from the left step to increase the power.


4. Hidari Yoko-uchi. Spin around anti-clockwise and throw the fourth Shuriken with the left hand directly.


5. Migi Hon-uchi. Finish by throwing the fifth and last Shuriken with the right hand.

Analyse your Shuriken hits.

As you can see only one Shuriken hit good. Most Shuriken are “dead” and only one is “live”. The rear end of the Shuriken should be lower than where it hit, if it is higher the weight is not going into the target so much. It is rather going upward. These hits are called “dead”. When the Shuriken is completely level or the rear end is lower than the tip it is called “live”.

I did a Gyaku-uchi where the rotation was the opposite way. I don’t know which Shuriken that was, maybe it was “live”. Also the two Yoko-uchi might also be “live” as it was rotating sideways.


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Bojutsu vs Kenjutsu vs Bojutsu vs Kenjutsu…

Cutting against his arm

This summer like most summers we train a lot more with long weapons since the dojo is too small to really use long weapons properly. This summer we train Bojutsu against Kenjutsu (long staff against sword). I think I teach and train a little different than most Bujinkan teachers out there, but I can’t really say maybe there is those who approach the training like I do. Let me explain.

Kote haneage followed by Haneage
Kote haneage followed by Haneage

First of all you learn how to use the staff, spinning and striking etc, this is mostly solo-training. Then you learn the Keiko Sabaki Kata (movement practice techniques) in my dojo we only practice one technique for the whole two hour class. Some students really have problems with coordination, others capture it quicker. In this first step I don’t mention distance, timing or anything except which strikes and blocks to make. This can also be solo-training and done alone against an imagined opponent.

Second I take the sword and we focus on how to handle the situation the best way with a sword. If he is attacking me with the staff I immediately counter him by stepping forward. I’m not gonna step backwards defending myself all the time, when he steps in to strike me in his preferred distance out of my reach; I boldly step in at the same time and block the staff and get even closer into my preferred distance so I can cut him with the sword. As I see it this is the only chance I have against a longer weapon, there is no point of running backwards.

Catching the staff and Tsuki
Catching the staff and Tsuki

Thirdly I take the staff again. I attack the kenjutsu-ka fully (not really, but almost) and make sure he does a good block, and as he block I don’t stay frozen or try to push harder on him. As I strike I’m already prepared for the next movement when he comes in and try to cut me, I move out to my distance and do the next strike.

Then I take the sword again and try to avoid being hit from this point in the technique, by blocking and countering again. I’m not really gonna give up or run away. If I can cut I will cut.

Then again I take the staff and try to deal with this really difficult opponent, I avoid his cut and counter him until the end of the technique where I make it impossible for him to do anything. Then the technique is finished without changing the sequences of the strikes, the only thing that is flexible is the distance and the timing. And this is where the true training comes in.

Then at the end of the class we record a short demo to video which will be available for download later. This is how we spend our two hour trainings at Kaigozan Dojo this summer.

No henka, no variations, true to the technique.

Kote haneage as he try to cut my left arm
Kote haneage as he try to cut my left arm

I always thought quality is better than quantity. It is amazing how cleverly these techniques is made up, it is so much more than executing the strikes rapidly against a rather passive opponent. If the opponent (sword-guy) is good and understand how to use the sword there is really not many options to change the technique and do something different, the possibility for henka becomes very narrow, what you can change is very small details. For me this is what henka means, you failed your initial technique and need to adapt because of miscalculation.

I know there are those out there only doing henka-training, but how do you do henka training only, henka of what? If you try to train yourself into intuition without basic foundation you are doing something I don’t understand. You weren’t born out from nowhere, someone did something very basic with someone and you was born. How do you henka anything into existence?

Victory ending of the technique
Victory ending of the technique

If anyone is interesting I’m doing three more one day Bojutsu mini-seminars this summer.

Happy Training!


Modern warrior coming to Stockholm in October

Dean with the Bufuikkan menkyo

There are many people in the Bujinkan who claim to teach reality based techniques without any real experience. There is however a few people that can do this, and do it very good. And one of the best one I know is my close and good friend Dean Rostohar Shihan from Croatia. With his experience from the civil war in former Yugoslavia, and as a former police officer he certainly knows what he is talking about.

Dean goes to Japan to train with Hatsumi Soke and the Shihan several times per year. He always train three trainings per day, to make out most of his time in Japan. Hatsumi Soke always put him up to teach about his experiences. When he was there earlier this month even more so, Soke used him as Uke often to teach the real feeling. Soke also awarded him with the Bufu-ikkan menkyo which he only give to his top students.

When Dean doesn’t go to Japan he practice in his own Dojo with over 100 students. He also attend many courses and seminars and further his studies in many areas with instructors outside the Bujinkan. He also practice shooting and military tactics with SPECWOG, and teach many seminars and courses.

In October 29-30’th I’m organizing a seminar with him in Stockholm. I can’t emphasize enough how important a seminar like this is for everyone training in the Bujinkan system. Especially if you want to learn self defense and tactics how to defend yourself against a knife or pistol. Running backwards on a flat floor in the dojo all the time until the opponent overextend himself and fall down is fine, but how reality based is the training, really? Your instructor may say this is reality, and then do something pretty stupid and cover it up with a henka and flow so that you don’t see how stupid the first response really was. OK, sorry! The word “stupid” might be a strong word, I know there is good teachers out there, but far from all. Being “stupid” is also a learning process that we all need to go through, but staying on the stupid level is just stupid ;-).

I know there is many seminars all the time, and find the time and money to all is difficult. All I ask of you is to ask yourself what do you want from the training? If you think it is fun as it is in your dojo and you don’t care much about reality then fine, good luck! If you on the other hand think that being able to defend yourself is important, then you should really try to attend this seminar (or any other Seminar with Dean)! I promise it will be very eye opening, and you will see your training with different eyes.

Both knife and pistol is very scary weapons, defending against them is very difficult. But it is possible if you also know how to use them as weapons. If you don’t know how to use the weapons properly how can you say that you know how to defend yourself against them.

Dean Rostohar together with Noguchi Shihan, Hatsumi Soke and Kan Shihan.

This is the feeling Hatsumi Soke teach in Honbu dojo all the time. All instructors take what they want and do what ever they feel like for various reasons. By Hatsumi Soke using Dean in Honbu dojo so much, and constantly ask him to teach and explain in front of him, as well as being his Uke must mean that Hatsumi Soke appreciate what Dean is doing. I think also that Hatsumi Soke is learning from Dean as he watches.

So with this I really recommend you to come to this seminar! The web site is in Swedish, but there is translation buttons on top of the web site. If you have problem with the language, you can always contact me, I know the translator is not always 100% correct.

Remember to sign up, because the places is very limited!


Taihen Kuden Shinden by Arnaud Cousergue

Here is another old article I had on my web site 10 years ago, enjoy!

– Mats 2010-08-18

Background: This article was the result of me asking about the Shu Ha Ri (learn the technique, break the technique and then leave the technique) on a mailing list. And the response was so good that I thought more people should be able to read it. Click on the image on the right and it will explain the meaning of the Kanji. Shu-Ha-Ri is not only a Bujinkan term, it can be found in many Japanese Budô arts. And as Arnaud explains below, not necessarily just Budô, it involves everything we learn and master. Enjoy the article!

/Mats Hjelm – January 2000

Taihen Kuden Shinden by Arnaud Cousergue

Mats said: “I need some more information about that. I think most japanese Budô arts have this saying. Can someone give me a few comments or more information about this?”
The process of learning for human beings (maybe animals too) follows three basic periods:

you learn the new stuff,

you understand the new stuff,

you go beyond the new stuff, making it your own stuff.

If we take the process of learning how to ride a bicycle we have the following steps:

  • When you are a kid you first learn to stay balanced on your bike, you learn to stay up (i.e. not to fall). To help you keep your balance, your parents (Sensei?) add two small wheels to your bike so that you cannot fall on your side so easily. With the help of the wheels, you can learn to move the pedals and you can move forward.
  • Then you develop your experience by playing with your friends (training with partners) over the months. You fall sometimes but, little by little things get easier. You begin to feel and understand how the whole thing works and you free yourself from the “form”.
  • After a while, you know how to ride your bicycle, you do not fall that much, you do not think on “how to ride” but more on “how to get to this place”. You know how to ride a bicycle and you adapt your knowledge to your environment.

By learning how to ride your bike, you followed the three steps of: learning, breaking and leaving! But this is not the end of the story. You have been riding your bike for a few months and the little wheels are bent upwards because you trained hard. They do not touch the ground any more, but you don’t know it. You think you are still using them to balance your bicycle and prevent you from falling. One day, your parents (Sensei?) see that and with a tear in their eyes admire your mastery 🙂 Watching you, they even saw that sometimes these little wheels where preventing you from riding properly. Because they love you, because they are proud of you they decide to take out these little wheels that you do not really use anymore, to make you more free of your movements.

Alas the whole process is to be followed again! You have to learn a different way of riding your bicycle. Everything you knew from experience is not good anymore.

  • you have to learn a new form of moving because without these little wheels you feel unbalanced (even if, without knowing it, you were not using the little wheels anymore). You fall again very often and you get more pain and bruises as you progress in learning this new process.
  • After a while you understand the new rules. You learn new angles you can use to change direction. Your bicycle becomes more the extension of your self.
  • After a small period of time, you do not pay attention anymore to your bicycle, you are more interested in getting to some place(adapting the technique to the environment). Your movements are free you are not limited anymore by the little wheels (basics?).

And if one day you want to learn how to ride a motorbike, you will have to go through another (yet the same) learning process of “learn-break-leave”.

This is the same in Budô. You first learn the body motion trying to reproduce what your teacher is showing. You cannot do it but you try hard to understand the “mechanics” of motion.

Then by training hard with your partners you build YOUR understanding of body motion and little by little you adapt it to your own body and capabilities. You break the forms and use what is good for you leaving what is not. You break every step into small parts so that you can integrate them easily in your body natural movements.

One day, the movement is no more your teacher’s movement but it is yours. You reached the “leave the form” step until you get a deeper understanding of it that will put you again through the learning process and the three steps.

Now, if we want japanese names we can give the following names for these steps:

  • learning the form = TAIHEN: learning through body motion,
  • breaking the form = KUDEN: breaking the form through the experience you develop by yourself, with your partners and with the help and advises of your teacher,
  • leaving the form = SHINDEN: you create your own form “naturally”, your own spirit feeds your understanding of body motion. you can adapt your actions without thinking because you are one with the technique, you are above the form. The movement exists and you “manifest” it naturally, including it in different situations and environments.

For me this is what Hatsumi Sensei is teaching us. He is not only teaching movements or techniques. He is giving us freedom and this freedom can only be attain through hard practice, sweat and bruises. There is no limited time to get it, this is a whole life study!

I hope this will help you Mats 🙂

Arnaud Cousergue

January 25’th 2000