Shurikenjutsu, a Brief History

Shurikenjutsu, a Brief History

Shurikenjutsu, sometimes called “etsubai judo” or “etched steel techniques,” is the art of throwing sharp objects. The name Shurikenjutsu comes from the words “sensei” and “ken” which mean master and servant respectively. The term was applied to a great number of throwing arts developed throughout time from ancient China to Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Some of these arts developed by means of Buddhist monasteries and schools, while others were developed independently by Martial artists.


Shurikenjutsu is actually a generalized term classifying the various traditional Japanese martial arts of tossing weapons, including hand-to-hand combat, bo-shurken, and jabsokan, circular throws, and other small hand-to-hand fighting tools. While the exact origins of the bo-shurki is not clear throughout early Japanese history, most historians speculate that it came from either a combination of Japanese knife methods and the concept of Eight Limbs Steel Style (also known as Hang chi) practiced by Chinese soldiers during ancient times. In fact, there are even records of the creation of this particular throwing technique prior to the arrival of the Chinese. Either way, the bo-shurken or jabsokan still circulate throughout early Japanese history and are known commonly as shuriken.

In general most historians attribute the origin of the throwing bo-shurken to a particular school called the Muromachi school, also known as the Ikebami school. This school’s main teacher was Kani Yumoto, who would go on to teach numerous other thrown weapons techniques throughout his life. One of his many techniques was the bo-shuriken.

However, this particular style of throw was only adopted and incorporated into the Japanese martial arts by Minoru Mochizuki, the creator of Aikido. This being the case, many martial arts enthusiasts argue that the origin of the shuriken throwing technique actually originated from the Aikido disciplines, since the two styles share many similar principles. Still, whether this is true or not, the existence of such a martial art in the first place can be traced back to several years of practice amongst the Ikebami family. Also, even if this is true, it is debatable whether such a martial art should be credited as a direct descendent of judo, chiaki, or kyudo.

Shurikenjutsu has undergone significant changes through the years.

For instance, many proponents of the throwing shuriken believe that the original form was actually based on the tanto. Others point out that the name shuriken comes from a combination of two words, one of which is “skean” (a throwing stick) and the other one is “ken” (a blade). Nevertheless, the most commonly accepted version of shurikenjutsu was derived from the combination of both the katana and the short sword. These weapons, called “ogiri” in Japan, are believed to have been used primarily for practice among the samurai class thousands of years ago.

Today, there are many different styles of shurikenjutsu available. In fact, it is rare to see a classroom anywhere in the country that does not possess one. The original version was mainly performed with the use of both katana and short swords, but due to changes in technique and availability of higher quality blades, these are no longer the only tools used to perform the art. One method that has come about for the throwing shurikens is to incorporate them into the more traditional forms of karate, thus turning them into more “traditional” martial arts.

As with most things, the evolution of this ancient art has come with its own challenges – both from the changing needs of the student and the changing needs of the practitioner. Today, throwers often use either small hand tools called bo shuriken (bamboo throwing knives) or larger fixed bamboo weapons called senbonzakura (angel axes). Both of these tools are essential for breaking down the tough hide of the target. In addition, the throwing knives also serve as a secondary weapon, so that when they are not in use, the student can use the angel axes to ward off would-be attackers.

When it comes to studying shurikenjutsu, the student must understand that there are many different schools of this particular martial art, each with its own unique set of techniques. For the sake of uniformity, however, I will refer to the most common forms as being part of a “school.” There are the Nagekimono school, the Gyokuryu school, and the Kenwa style, all of which employ throwing stars as one of their primary weapons. No matter which name is used, however, one thing must be understood: whatever style of shurikenjutsu a person studies, he must learn to master the proper safety procedures for handling his or her weapon. It is far better to have a safe weapon that will effectively defend oneself than to use a potentially dangerous weapon that will do little good.

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