Gyokko ryu primer

Gyokko ryu primer


What is Gyokko ryu kosshijutsu? Why is it fundamental? Is it really the oldest school in the Bujinkan?

There are several legends about the origins of Gyokko ryu. My favorite one says that it was founded in the 6th century A.D. by a Chinese nun to protect against Chinese soldiers. I like this origin story because it’s so instructive: at its core, Gyokko ryu pits weakness against strength to find victory. As with most origin stories for martial schools, I think it’s more useful to look at the lesson from the myth, rather than getting too caught up in the historical details. Apply some Joseph Campbell-style analysis to the myth, and there are lessons to be learned there too.

The formal founding of Gyokko ryu is attributed to Tozawa Hakuunsai Hogen in 1156. It passed through to Takamatsu to Hatsumi, who then passed it on to its current Soke, Ishizuka.


Gyokko ryu is a foundational school. After all, every student is expected to master the kata in the Sanshin and Kihon Happo, which are both from Gyokko ryu. As a foundational school, Gyokko ryu is very challenging. Leverage is a crucial element — remember our Chinese nun fighting soldiers who are presumably bigger, stronger, trained, and possibly armed and armored? A great deal of sophistication is required to apply leverage against opponents with minimal effort and maximal effect.

There has long been a relationship between Gyokko ryu and Koto ryu, with both schools passed down together since the 16th century. Hatsumi has described kosshijutsu as a kind of backbone or hips, in the sense of something being fundamental. Certainly in the Bujinkan, Gyokko ryu takes on that fundamental role.

Other characteristics include hidden weapons, balanced footwork, flanking, “magnetizing” to your opponent, and using gravity.


Studying in the Bujinkan
Learning from the past
The background on our martial art
We need all the help we can get
Extra advice for life

Share this article


More To Explore

Five Books

The 5 books that Rob recommends

Training with an Injury

As anyone who has trained with me recently knows, I have been the lucky recipient of three knee surgeries in the past year and have been unable to practice taijutsu during that time. I have only recently begun to attend classes again and this article is about some of the things that I have learned from training (or not training) with an injury.

Scroll to Top