Togakure Ryu History

So-o was the name of a monk at a monastery on Mount Hiei-zan. As was a custom in those times he left his home to live for three years in a cave, subjecting himself to the hardship of nature in order to discover truth and enlightenment. It was after a mysterious dream that he formed the Tendai Shugendo sect of Buddhism, and established the headquarters of the Tendai monastery at Hiei-zan. These monks still exist today and some are still engaged in Shugendo, or mountain asceticism: purifying one's self by trial and hardship.

Near to Hiei-zan was a small village called Togakure, in the prefecture of Shinano. Here in approximately 1161, Daisuke Nishina was born into a Samurai family. Sometime during his early life, he studied at the Tendai monastery on Togakure Mountain (Mount Hiei-zan) near his village. These early experiences were to play an important role later when Daisuke was to establish a system of fighting, survival and infiltration.

It is important to understand the events leading up to the creation of Togakure Ryu Ninpo. Daisuke Nishina's father was Yukihiro Nishina, who was a highly ranked samurai in the service of Lord Yoshinaka Minamoto, the cousin of the first Shogun of Japan. When Yoshinaka Minamoto was only an infant, a samurai was sent from a rival family to kill him and his mother. Yoshinaka's mother escaped with him and went secretly to the home of a farmer who was loyal to their family. Yoshinaka was later brought to Kiso village in Shinano, not far from Togakure village.

It was possibly because of this movement that Yukihiro Nishina of Togakure came into his service. Years later, Yoshinaka's family had defeated their rivals and became rulers of Japan. But they saw Yoshinaka as a threat to their leadership, and they turned on him. Yoshinaka Minamoto changed his name to Yoshinaka Kiso, taking the name of the village where he lived, which was a common practice at the time. In 1184, Yoshinaka was attacked by the army of his half-brother... sixty thousand warriors descended quickly upon Yoshinaka's army near Kyoto. The battle was called Awaza no Kassan, and Yoshinaka Kiso was killed by an arrow in his eye. On his side had fought Yukihiro Nishina of Togakure, who was also killed, and his son Daisuke Nishina, who survived.

Daisuke, being on the losing side of this battle, was forced to flee into far-away Iga to escape persecution. There he fled into the remote villages, hidden in the mists of a land of high mountains and thick forests. He changed his name to Daisuke Togakure, after the village of his birth.

While he was in Iga, Daisuke was found by Kagakure Doshi. Kagakure Doshi was a shinobi, and the third soke of Hakuun Ryu, which was one of the original ninjutsu systems developed from the teachings of Ikai (Yi Gai, who brought the roots of koshijutsu from China). It is also possible that Doshi was Daisuke's uncle, and that Daisuke fled to Iga with the intention of finding him.

Daisuke Togakure learned Doshi's warrior teachings, and added them to his own Shugendo beliefs, and the beginnings of Togakure Ryu where forged. But Daisuke was not alone studying under Kagakure Doshi. With him was Shima Kosanta Minamoto no Kanesada. He was a high level samurai retainer who had also fought at the battle of Awaza no Kassan, where he had become a friend to Daisuke and his father. Shima was wounded in the fighting, and was taken by Daisuke to Iga. Shima was to become the second soke of Togakure Ryu. He took the name Daisuke Togakure II after Daisuke's death. His son Goro Togakure, the third soke, is recognized as being the person who actually formed the teachings of Togakure into the Ninjutsu system that we learn today. The 11th, 12th and 13th Soke of the Ryu are named after the main town of Iga, Ueno. Again, it was common in those days to be named after the town or village from which one came. It is therefore likely that the Togakure Ryu was based at or near Ueno at that time. Ueno is in north Iga, but Togakure Ryu mainly operated out of southern central Iga during most of its history.

It is told that members of the Hattori clan trained in Togakure Ryu. Hattori Hanzo is the most famous of all Ninja. Also members of the Momochi family also trained in this system, and the 21st Soke of Togakure Ryu was Momochi Kobei, a descendant of Momochi Sandayu, the second most famous ninja and a leading figure of the Iga region.

As with most martial traditions in earlier days, control of the system stayed within the family that founded it, and control of the style passed from father to son. With Togakure Ryu, it continued in this way for the most part until the 1600's. When the immediate family died out, most senior member of the system was Nobutsuna Toda, who was given leadership and became the 24th Soke. When the Toda family took control in approximately 1625, they added their own ninjutsu system of Kumogakure Ryu to it. They also controlled Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu, and from that time on, all those martial arts systems were then passed down together.

The 32nd Soke of Togakure Ryu, Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda, was the sword instructor for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the mid 19th century. He resigned his post when he learned that he was teaching men who were then forced to kill other Japanese people. This went against the Law of Togakure Ryu. The 33rd Soke, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, was the last member of the Toda family to control the Togakure Ryu. Within the Tendai Shugendo sect, nearly a millennium after its founding by the monk So-o, the 33rd Soke of Togakure Ryu Toshitsugu Takamatsu was ordained on Mount Hiei-zan.

At the height of the historical ninja period, the clan's ninja operatives were trained in eighteen fundamental areas of expertise, beginning with this "psychic purity" and progressing through a vast range of physical and mental skills. The eighteen levels of training were as follows:

Seishin Teki Kyoyo (Spiritual Refinement)

The Togakure ninja worked at developing a deep and accurate knowledge of himself, his personal power, his strengths and weaknesses, and his influence on the playing out of life. The ninja had to be very clear about his intentions, his commitments, and his personal motivations in life. Personality traits could often mean the difference between life and death in his line of work. Exercises in mental endurance, ways of looking at things, and proper perspective when evlatuating things, were taught to the ninja along with his physical skills. By evolving into a mystic's understanding of the universal process, the historical Togakure ryu ninja became a warrior philosopher. His engagements in combat were then motivated by love or reverance, and not by the mere thrill of violent danger or need of money.

Tai Jutsu (Unarmed Combat)

Skills of daken-taijutsu or striking, kicking, and blocking; jutai-jutsu or grappling, choking and escaping the holds of others, and taihenjutsu or silent movement, rolling, leaping, and tumbling asisted the Togakure ninja in life-threatening, defensive situations.

Ninja Ken (Ninja Sword)

The ninja's sword hada short straight single edged blade, and was considered to be his primary fighting tool. Two distinct sword skills were required of the ninja. "Fast Draw" techniques centered around drawing the sword and cutting as a simultaneous action. "Fencing" skills used the drawn sword in technique clashes with armed attackers.

Bo-Jutsu (Stick and Staff Fighting)

The Japanese stick fighting art, practiced by samurai and peasants alike, was also a strong skill of the ninja. Togakure ninja were taught to use the bo long staff (six feet) and hanbo "half-staff" cane (three feet), as well as sticks and clubs of varying lengths. Specially constructed shinobi-zue or ninja canes were designed to look like the normal walking sticks, but concealed blades, chains, or darts that could be used against an enemy.

Shuriken-Jutsu (Throwing Blades)

Throwing blades were carried in concealed pockets and used as harassing weapons. The Togakure ryu used a special four-pointed throwing star called a senban shuriken, which was constructed from a thin steel plate. The blade was thrown with a flat spinning motion and hit its target with a sawing effect. Bo shuriken or straight shaft darts and spikes were also constructed for throwing.

Yari-Jutsu(Spear Fighting)

Togakure ryu ninja agents were taught to use standard Japanese spears and lances as middle-range fighting weapons. Spears and lances were used for stabbing and piercing attacks, and rarely ever thrown in normal combat. The togakure ryu also used a unique spear weapon called a kami-yari, or "sickle lance", which consisted of a spear blade with a hook at the base. The total length of the weapon was over nine feet. The lance point could be used to lunge and stab, and the hook point could be used to snag and pull the opponent or his weapon.

Naginata-Jutsu (Halberd Fighting)

Virtually a short blade mounted on a long handle, the Japanese halberd was used for cutting and slashing attacks against adversaries at medium range. Togakure ryu ninja warriors were also proficient with the bisen-to, a huge heavy-bladed version of the naginata halberd. Based on a Chinese war tool, the broad-bladed weapon was heavy enough to knock down attackers, smash through armor, and ground the horses of mounted samurai.

Kusari-Gama (Chain and Sickle Weapon)

The Japanese chain and sickle weapon was adopted into the arsenal of the Togakure ryu ninja. A chain, six to nine feet in length and weighted at one end, was attached to the handle of the traditional grain cutting tool. The chain could be used to block or ensnare the enemy's weapon, and the blade then used to finish off the attacker. The kyoketsu-shoge, a weapon similar to the chain and sickle, was favored by the togakure ryu. The weapon consisted of a straight hand-held dagger blade with a secondary blade hooking out from the hilt, attached to a fifteen foot resilient cord usually made from women's or horse's hair. A large steel ring was attached
to the free end of the cord.

Kayaku-Jutsu (Fire and Explosives)

Ninja were experts in the effective placement, timing, and rigging of explosive devices for demolition and distraction. In later years, the use of black powders and other explosives was supplemented with knowledge of firearms and their strategic applications.

Henso-Jutsu (Disguise and Impersonation)

Essential to the ninja's espionage work was his ability to assume false identities and move undetected through his area of operation. More than merely just putting on a costume, ninjutsu's disguise system involved thoroughly impersonating the character adopted. Personality traits, areas of knowledge, and body dynamics of the identity assumed were ingrained into the ninja's way of thinking and reacting. He or she literally became the new personality, whether taking the role of a monk, craftsman, or wandering entertainer.

Shinobi-Iri (Stealth and Entering Methods)

The ninja's techniques of silent movement, breaking and entering, and gaining access to inaccessible areas became legends in feudal Japan. Togakure ryu ninja learned special walking and running methods for covering long distances, passing over floors silently, and for staying in the shadows while moving, in order to facilitate entry and escape.

Ba-Jutsu (Horsemanship)

Togakure ryu ninja were taught to be proficient on horseback, both in riding and mounted combat skills.

Sui-Ren (Water Training)

Stealth swimming, silent movement through water, methods of using special boats and floats to cross over water, and underwater combat techniques were taught to Togakure ryu ninja.

Bo-Ryaku (Strategy)

Unconventional tactics of deception and battle, political plots, and advantageous timing for use of current events were used by Togakure ryu ninja. By employing or influencing seemingly outside forces to bring the enemy around to doing what the ninja wanted him to do, ninja were able to work their will without drawing undue attention to themselves.

Cho Ho (Espionage)

Methods of successful espionage were perfected. This included ways of locating and recruiting spies and served as a guide for using espionage agents most effectively.

Inton-Jutsu (Escape and Concealment)

Ninja were experienced masters in the ways of using nature to cover their exit, allowing them to "disappear" at will. The goton-po five elements of escape were based on a working familiarity with the creative use of earth, water, fire, metal, and wood aspects of nature and the environment.

Ten-Mon (Meteorology)

Forecasting and taking advantage of weather and seasonal phenomena was an important part of any battle consideration. Ninja were trained to observe all the subtle signals from the environment in order to predict weather conditions.

Chi-Mon (Geography)

Knowing and successfully using the features of the terrain were crucial skills in the historical art of ninjutsu.