Anda di halaman 1dari 94



The word shuriken, composed of the characters " shu", "ri" and "ken", is literally
translated as "hand hidden blade". The character "ri" is composed of the morpheme (meaning
component) "i" as in clothing, in the sense of covering, as well as the phoneme (sound
component) "li", together representing the idea of "reverse, back, or covered. Ri (the on yomi
reading) is also read in kun yomi as ura, which to us martial artists would be familiar from
expressions such as "ura waza" as opposed to "omote waza". In combination with the first
character, "shu-ri" suggests "hidden in the hand, or in the palm". "ken" means blade, and is the
same character as found in bokken, or shinken, hence "hand hidden blade".

There is however, occasional usage of the character "ri" which means separate, or to release,
and this has sometimes led to the translation of shuriken as "hand release blade". Why this usage
occurs is not clear at this stage, though it could refer simply to thowing of blades such as tanto,
kodachi, or even katana, where it is not necessary to hide the blade in the hand. The other
possibility is that people were not greatly literate in feudal times, and they simply used any
character that sounded correct. Mou En Ryu documents, the Mou En Ryu Shu Ri Ken Goku Hi,
held in the University of Kyoto library contain one particular example of this usage.

During the time of the Sengoku Jidai, (Warring States period, 1482 - 1558) shuriken were also
once known as shiriken, meaning "rear end blade", due to a popular misconception that the
weapon was the small utility knife (kozuka) held in the scabbard of the long sword, which was
thrown from a grip which held the tip of the blade in the palm, (the rear end of the knife thus
pointing outwards to the target). Of course, kozuka were indeed thrown as a weapon, but they
were not all that were thrown. As we shall see, there were many types of blades and objects,
small enough to be worn hidden on the body, but heavy and sharp enough to be thrown as a
tactical weapon.

There are two basic types of shuriken, bo shuriken ( ), which are long, thin and
cylindrical, with varying thicknesses and shapes, and shaken ( ), which are made from flat
plates of metal.

Bo shuriken consist of three main designs, defined by the origin of the material used for the their
construction, the first being cylindrical, and straight sided, which are called hari gata ( ), or
needle shaped. The second type are square sided, and are called kugi gata ( ), or nail
shaped, and the third type called tanto gata ( ), or knife shaped, that are flatter and wider,
and maintain a knife shaped appearance. Within these three bo shuriken categories, there is a
more detailed classification system, which mostly describes various blades based simply on their
shape, or the objects from which they were adapted. (Please refer to table below)

Shaken are further classified as hira shuriken ( ), which are the multi-pointed, star-
shaped design, and senban shuriken, which are lozenge-shaped blades. The source for these is
not clear and could be from the washers that sit under nails in the woodwork of traditional
Japanese buildings, from carpenters nail removers, (see below), from stones, fashioned into
throwing objects (tsubute) or hishi-gane, derived from coins. There is a 3rd type, called teppan
which is a large version of the senban, some as large as 12cm in width, that were adapted from
the carpenters "nail-removers", whether they are classed as shaken or not is uncertain at this

The basic method of throwing of the shuriken varies little between schools, the main differences
being the shape of the blades and their origin.


Throwing things has no doubt been a pastime of human beings for thousands of years, and when
early man learned he could protect himself and catch food by throwing hard objects at living
things, the idea of a throwing system surely developed from here on. A study of the development
of throwing things throughout human history would be a next to impossible task, so this site will
be mainly concerned with the highly refined traditional Japanese system of throwing concealable
edged/pointed weapons.

There is very little historical documentation, particularly accurate, detailed and objective
information, available today on the shuriken art, due to a number of factors. Possibly the primary
reason is that it was a rather secretive art...the technique of using the shuriken itself involved
deception and surprise, and the main schools that utilised such methods of battle were also
heavily involved in deceptive and secretive activities. This probably also contributed to a certain
amount of disdain held towards the art and its proponents, by the innocent population in general.
What documentation that may exist would be held by the individual schools in the form of scrolls,
the contents of which would only be shown to trusted students of the particular school.
Furthermore, the simplicity and utility of the weapon was probably not held in such high esteem
as that of the kenjutsu arts, which used highly developed techniques to wield swords of great
refinement and advancement in metal technology. Added to this is the fact that the shuriken itself
was a supplementary weapon to the sword and other weapons within the main martial art schools
of the time, and hence probably did not gain much popularity, even among students who were
initiated into the secrets of the schools they were member of. Nevertheless, it did hold some
historical and practical value, as there are occasional mentions of the use of throwing blades in
the literature showing them to be held in a positive regard.

The earliest Japanese work, the Kojiki (around 600AD), contains a passage where Prince
Yamato-Takeru throws a cylindrical vegetable into the eye of white deer, killing it. Some
translations have him throwing a chopstick.

The Nihon Shoki (also around 600AD) mentions a stone throwing implement called an ishihajiki,
but its possible this was a sling. Yet another ancient work, the 8th century Man'yoshu, in one
section describes throwing an arrow, and another section a flat stone called tsubute (see below).

The record of the Later Three Year War (Gosennen no Eki, 1083-87AD), entitled Hiyori no Ki,
contains a passage describing holding a short blade hidden in the palm and throwing it from a
distance "shuriken ni utsu" (lit. strike with a blade in the palm). One researcher believes this may
be the origin of the term shuriken (1)

The Osaka Gunki (military record of Osaka) contains a passage that says: "Tadamasa saved
himself from his foe by drawing out his wakizashi and throwing it, as you would a shuriken". It is
said that Tadamasa later created the first shuriken, called the Tanto-gata from a short sword.

Chronicles of Japan's history, such as the Heike Monogatari, and Gikeiki make mention of "ishi-
nage", or stone throwing. The stones were specially shaped to aid throwing, and were called
"totekibuki", and later "tsubute", which means both to throw a small stone, and the stone itself.
Tsubute were later made of "iron-stone", and thus called "tetsutsubute"., and appear to be the
precursor to the lozenge shaped senban shuriken.
Today, there are many and varied types of shuriken, which suggests that the development of the
art was rather fragmented and insular among various schools and areas. According to Yasuyuki
Otsuka Sensei, headmaster of Meifu Shinkage Ryu Shuriken-jutsu, there were no standardised or
formalised set of rules governing manufacture and use of the shuriken blades as there were with
the katana, or Japanese sword, and this would have aided in the proliferation of differing designs
and schools around the country. Chikatoshi Someya Sensei attempted to form some sort of
categorisation of shuriken in his book "Shuriken Giho", but admitted that without historical
records, such categorisation is purely speculative, and that there were a number of examples that
could not fit in his categorisation method as well. Nevertheless, such categorisation can be useful
today for the purpose of describing and discussing the art and the items in use.

Origins of bo shuriken - Needle, Knife and Arrow

In discussing bo shuriken, Someya Sensei divides the blades into two main groups, needle, or
cylindrical, and tanto, or square. The tanto group possibly derived from the early practice of
throwing knives, (tanto) and even swords. Blades such as those found in Chishin Ryu, Mou En
Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu etc, are those that are believed to have originally been fashioned from the
Japanese nail, called wakugi, having been found to be the suitable replacement material for knife
blades ground into the eventual shuriken shape. These nails varied in size from small pins for
furniture to huge rods used to hold the support beams of houses and temples. Early nails up to
the Meiji period (1863) were square, with large heads of various size and shape, and
subsequently became round with the influence of western manufacturing methods. Of further note
is that these shuriken schools were closely related to, or a part of the kenjutsu or sword schools,
and hence it follows that the shuriken would evolve from a thrown blade.

Figure 1. Some examples of size of traditional Japanese nails, called wakugi.

( - link no longer active)
Figure 2. Some examples of traditional nails from various ages.
( - link no longer active)

Some people have stated that shuriken were actually forged in the method of the Samurai sword,
and were thus of very hard, tough metal rather than the somewhat unrefined iron as evident in
several of the photos below. It is true that traditional nails were hand forged, a practice which is
apparently still in use today (see link), so it may be true that blades had some hardening and
forging to a certain extent, though I sincerely doubt it was to the same extent as that of swords.
Shuriken by their very nature, being small, and thrown from one's person, very likely were either
lost or left embedded in the opponent (or the ground) during battle. Since they were primarily
used as a distracting weapon, many of their applications would involve being thrown by the
proponent before they took to escape by foot from the attack. Blades which were forged would
have taken time and money to create, and thus would not have been so readily left behind after
use. My feeling is that because shuriken were adapted from pre-existing items found in everday
places, there was little value placed upon them as objects, and thus being left lost or unretrieved
from battle would not be a costly mode of operating.

The Needle group is a little more problematic, while the material origin of these blades can quite
possibly be thought to be needle - like objects such as chopsticks, tongs, hairpins (see hibashi
below) etc., the idea for the throw possibly came from the arrow, or from the Chinese method of
piau, or dart throwing. Michael Finn in his book "Art of Shuriken Jutsu" suggests that shuriken
evolved first from sticks used as striking weapons held in the hand, then into sticks that were
thrown, hence the uchine (see below).

That the idea of throwing needle and arrow like blades came from archery is a strong possibility.
It is interesting to note the similarity in shape between the Ganritsu Ryu shuriken, one of the
earliest examples of shuriken in Japan, and with the Qin Dynasty crossbow bolt (see below). The
arrow is about 18cm long, and has a triangular conical head. Compare with the Ganritsu Ryu
blade next page)

Figure 3. Bronze Crossbow bolt of the Qin Dynasty (221BC), China,

From the Shaanxi Museum of Terracotta Warriors, Lintong.(see more)
Figure 4. A Ganritsu Ryu bo shuriken, one of the earliest examples in Japan
of a needle intentionally adapted to be used as a throwing weapon.

Chinese Origins

Chinese Martial Arts have a lenghty and well represented history of throwing weapons. Many of
these weapons are rather unusual in shape and usage, and obviously bear no connection to the
Japanese throwing weapons at all, however there are at least two examples that may have a
historical connection to one or two schools of shuriken in Japan. The Fei Biao (or piau, air dart
) and the Lo Han Ts'in (Magic Coin - see below) both have strong similarities, in both
design and method of throwing, to a couple of the Japanese schools. There two reported types of
Fei Biao, one is a dart shaped spike much like the Ganritsu Ryu blade shown above, and the
other a triangular shaped blade which is held and thrown in an unusual way (called Chinese Fist).

Figure 5. Piau, (biao). This is a modern, stylised version of the original Chinese throwing dart.

Tibeto-Indian Origins

There is also some suggestion of an influence from India and Tibet, via China and the importation
of Buddhism to Japan. Mikkyo Buddhism played an important role in relation to several Japanese
martial arts, particularly with the use of mystical symbolism, some meditative practices, and a
form of numerological divination. It is interesting to note the Tibetan purbha, a dagger with 3 sided
blade that often figures in Buddhist religious art, has some stylistic similarities to certain shuriken
blade shapes. The historical use of these items is not fully known, some referring to them as
being pegs to tether horses, others saying they are ritual daggers used to pierce ghosts. Some of
the Ninjutsu schools include items similar to purbhas, called Vajra, or Dorge, being double ended
blades, as part of their shuriken tradition, particularly in the development of the ryobari-gata
shuriken, or double pointed blade, and possibly also the uchine, or throwing arrow. Some
examples can be found throughout this site. (more research on this in the future)
Figure 6. An 8th Century Tibetan bronze purbha or ritual dagger. The stylistic similarity
in shape to uchine, (throwing arrow), and to the vajra and dorge is quite evident.

Otsuka Sensei postulates that Shirai Ryu derives from the practice of throwing needle-like tongs
called hibashi, along with Negishi Ryu and others, but I suspect the type of throw is more
important an indicator for the origin of the school, rather than the type of material used. Therefore,
schools which use the turning hit method, or hantendaho or ikkaitendaho method quite possibly
derived from the throwing of tanto, whereas schools which use the direct hit method, or jikidaho
or chokudaho throw, quite possibly derived from needle or arrow throwing, since these projectiles
do not turn in their flight to the target. Once the throw had been established, the blade shape was
later adapted from whatever suited the throw. So I suspect that although Shirai Ryu uses a round,
needle shaped blade that may have originated from long thin coal tongs, because it uses the
turning hit method, it actually evolved from a thrown blade. When one considers that Shirai Toru,
the founder, studied extensively in some kenjutsu arts, this theory seems all the more plausible.
Anyway, until more evidence comes to hand, this remains purely speculation.

The octagonal blades of Negishi Ryu are believed to have derived from the round, needle shaped
utensils used in sewing. The large leather needles were then thought to be ground to possess the
eight flat this aided the jikidaho method of throwing. Since the throwing method
required a certain amount of snap in the wrist, and finger pressure on the tail end of the blade as
it left the hand, it has been observed that a flat sided blade allows this effect much more
effectively than does a rounded surfaced blade. The rounded surfaced blades of Shirai Ryu don't
particularly need this same snap, since they utilise the turning hit method of throwing.

Otsuka Sensei has heard of some forms of bo shuriken being made from parts of agricultural
farming implements, and gives this example, called a senbakoki, as one such item which may
have been used. Senbakoki is a rice/grain threshing tool developed during the Tokugawa period,
that has a number of iron teeth which could have been modified to produce blades for throwing.
Further information and photos on Senbakoki and their possible use as shuriken can be found

Figure 7. Senbakoki, a traditional rice threshing machine

( )
Kogai , Kozuka , Hashi , Hibashi , and Hari .

These are long, thin, knife and needle shaped items used in various parts of traditional attire or
around the home, and have been known to be readily adapted for use as a thrown weapon.
There are a wide variety of stories in Japanese literature that give examples of these items being
thrown as a weapon, in various situations.Their use generally does not belong to any particular
Ryu, rather they are either items that were used because they were available at the time as a
weapon, and thence began the idea of a throwing system, or were used by proponents of a
throwing system, who through their training, were able to pick up any object at hand, and
effectively throw it as a weapon. So it could be said that they are more of an opportunistic
weapon; they were used because they were available at the time, and were an item that could be
effectively thrown. Perhaps, at a later stage, because of their everyday use, these items were
then used as a disguised weapon, however there are no schools or styles that use these items in

Kogai are a somewhat mysterious traditional household item. They are essentially a long, thin,
pointed metal stick, about 20cm long with a handle around 1.5cm wide. They were originally
made of ivory or silver of various decorative designs, later to be made in a variety of metals (see
Figure 7). It appears no-one can definitively say what they were designed to be used for, but
there are many examples of various uses for them, such as traditional Japanese ornamental
hairpins, used by both men and women to hold the traditional styling of the hair, or chonmage, of
samurai together in a bundle. Some have suggested they were head scratchers, finger nail
cleaners, ear wax removers, even specially designed spikes used to pierce and carry the heads
decapitated by execution, but these are more correctly known to bekankyuto (more on these
later). What is clear is that they were regarded as a multipurpose instrument, which included
throwing as a weapon.

Figure 8. Kogai , Japanese ornamental hairpin

There is a famous story which relates a duel between Shosetsu and Sekiguchi Hayato, who faced
each other off with swords. As Hayato rushed at Sekiguchi, the latter pulled a kogai from his hair
and threw it, pinning Sekiguchi's hakama, or pleated skirt, to the wooden floor. It is thought that
Sekiguchi used a specially fashioned kogai that was balanced, and made to look like a hair-pin.

Kozuka are small utility knives that fitted into the saya, or scabbard of the Samurai sword
and served, as the name suggests, a variety of purposes (see Figure 8). The tsuba, or
handguard, generally had 3 holes, one for the blade tang to pass through, in the centre, and two
smaller holes either side for the utility blades to slide through, fiting into the saya. (see fig. 10)

Figure 9. Kozuka , or utility knife.

Figure 10. A Tsuba, or handguard for a Samurai sword, showing two
holes for the utility knives, kozuka, and chopsticks, hashi, that fitted into the scabbard.
(Photo - Author's collection)

Hashi are chopsticks, and while traditionally made of bamboo or other woods, some were made
of metal, and hence were adapted as a throwing weapon. Picture of hashi here The founder of
Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu, Sokaku Takeda, reportedly carried his own set of metal chopsticks, which
were sharpened, and no doubt used on occasion. There are two kinds of hashi, the even tapered,
straight sided sticks, purpose built as chopsticks, and a second type (wari-bashi, or wari-kogai)
with thin blades and thicker handles, which was a type of utility chopstick set that was pressed
together and inserted in the saya of the long sword, alongside the kozuka.

Hibashi are metal tongs used for lifting hot coals from the fire and into various heating and
cooking implements in the kitchen. (see fig. 11). Although there appears to be no documentation
to support the theory, Mr. Otsuka believes hibashi were the original items used to create the
blades of Shirai Ryu, due to their similarity in size, shape, and material. The tongs pictured here
are 39cms in length.

Figure 11. Modern day hibashi , or coal tongs, a simple design which has not changed
much over the centuries.

Hari are needles, and there appears to be great variety of these, mainly according to the type of
sewing they were required to do. Mr. Otsuka believes the bulbous projectile shaped blades of
Negishi Ryu (see above) are derived from the large and heavy needles used for sewing leather,
probably because the bulb head of the needle was used to form the hole in order to pull twine or
thonging through. This would account for the reason why many Negishi Ryu blades have a hole
or ring at the tail end, as the twine would be attached. It is possible that this hole or ring was then
used as a convenient way to connect the tassles to the end, and thus serve an advantageous
purpose of steadying the blade in flight. This would also explain why some of the Negishi Ryu
blades did not have holes or rings in the end - not all needles would have had holes or rings, as
some would have been used solely as hole punches, or tools simply used to make holes in the
leather. Mr Otsuka also believes that the hexangonal and octagonal shape of the Negishi Ryu
blades was added later to the needles, as the flat faces of the blades are easier to throw,
particularly in the jikidaho method.

hari gata needle shaped

hoko gata spear shaped
kankyutao gata hand held piercing tool shaped
kugi gata nail shaped
kunai gata kunai (utility tool) shaped
matsuba gata (enbi
swallow tail shaped
mesu gata
tanto gata knife shaped

Table 1. List of blade types in the bo shuriken category.

Various Photos

Figure 12a and 12b. Some straight blades from various schools and sources,
from the collection of Charles V. Gruzanski
(Used with permission,© Robert C. Gruzanski)
Figure 13. A variety of straight throwing blades from the collection of
Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, current Head Master of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu.

This interesting collection of blades (fig. 13) shows a wide variety from a range of schools. The
large blade with long tassle, and the second from left, top row, are called uchine, which are
actually throwing spears. They are held and thrown much like a modern-day javelin (see fig. 14b).
The long chord was used to retrieve the uchine, and also the tanto-gata (top row, 7th from left)
immediately after the throw, so it could be thrown again, in rapid succession. The smaller uchine
has tassels which are used to create drag in flight, ensuring a straight hit. Centre row, 4th from
the right is a kozuka, a small utility knife that fits into the scabbard of a katana, or long sword.
There are several blades peculiar to Ninjutsu, such as the flat spatulate blades or itaken shuriken,
and the arrow-head shaped blade, as well as several from Negishi Ryu and Shirai Ryu. At some
point in history, Negishi Ryu became utilised by various schools or clans of Ninjutsu.

Figure 14a, b. Posture for throwing the uchine.

It is also suggested by an authoratitive Japanese source that some shuriken, particularly those of
Tsugawa Ryu, were adapted from parts of the soldier's armour, called yoroi. Figure 15 shows
detail of the narrow, thin metal plates that were sewn together to form a protective armour against
the sword, particularly the splines that form the kote, or wrist protector. No doubt an industrious
soldier, in the thick of battle, possibly staring death in the face and attempting all that he could do
to survive, ripped pieces of his own armour off and threw them at his attacker as a last resort
effort in defending himself. If successful, it follows that the use of such metal plates of similar
shape and size would have been investigated as a potential weapon - anything to give one the
advantage - and from there we have the beginnings of a new tradition of throwing weapon:
Tsugawa Ryu (see blade here)

Figure 15. Detail (L) of yoroi, or armour of the samurai, showing the thin plates
of metal that could have been adapted for use as a throwing weapon.
(Photo courtesy of Takeshi Yoshizaki, used with permission)

Origins of shaken ( ), or hira shuriken ( )

The origin of these blades is somewhat unclear, as historical detail is severely lacking, especially
in English. Shaken are generally used in the Ninja ryu-ha, who have been somewhat secretive as
to the nature of their techniques and activities. This situation is made worse by the fact that false,
misleading and mistaken information is sometimes passed around, often unwittingly, among
teachers and students of these arts who have not actually had formal training in these ryu-ha.
Further to this, many of the arts which used hira-shuriken of various designs have since died out
and become extinct, leaving only examples of their blades behind in collections and people's

Within the contemporary Ninjutsu arts there are two particular methods (among others) of
throwing shaken, firstly; the overhand throw which is like a baseball pitch, and secondly, the
horizontal throw which is like throwing a frisbee. These two types of throw suggest two possible
and separate origins for the early development of throwing shaken, both determined by the nature
of the objects originally being thrown.

Shaken thrown in the overhand method may have originated with the throwing of flat circular
stones, called tsubute ( ) There are very early mentions of this in Japanese literature, such as
the Man'yoshu, where the word was first used in conjunction with the act of throwing stones, and,
as mentioned above, in the Heike Monogatari and the Gikeiki, where stone throwing in combat is
referred to as ishi-nage, and later inji-uchi. Tsubute were around 4 - 6 cms in diameter, and 1 -
1.5cms in thickness (see fig. 16a), and were thrown originally as percussive weapons, designed
to smash bone and/or armour. Eventually, these rounded blunt objects were fashioned from
ironstone, called tetsutsubete, into slimmer and more perfect round shapes, even octagonal or
hexagonal shapes, and then began to be sharpened along the edge, when it was realised the
sharp edge could cut.

Figure. 16a and Figure 16b

Figure 16a. A flat round, round stone of similar size and shape to the tsubute,
and 16b a depiction of throwing round objects such as tsubute is shown in Fujita Seiko's "Zukai
(Photo A - author's collection)

Just as a number of bo-shuriken, namely the kugi-gata type, were constructed from construction
materials such as nails, it is possible that some types of shaken may also have been fashioned
from construction materials, such as cross shaped brackets found in traditional timber
architecture, as in Fig 17, and from metal washers, used to sit under the heads of nails, as in Fig
21 (below). These would have been mass produced as flat plate metal (teppan) and cut to size
and shape for particular building applications. They would then have the nail holes punched out,
and then get hammered into the curve shape that suits the timber they are affixing. It is not
difficult to see how an industrious person could take these blank pieces of metal, find that they
are easy to throw and then sharpen the edges to make a dangerous weapon, at virtually no
expense to themselves. Most people would recognise these plates of metal as construction items,
and thus would not become suspicious if they were discover an individual carrying them. This
way an assassin could hide the tools of his trade in plain view.
Figure 17. A cross shaped construction bracket found at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.
(photo courtesy of Danny Fletcher, used with permission)

The influence from China is not to be overlooked, as Chinese Kung Fu arts also have a lengthy
tradition of throwing weapons, and shaken thrown in the horizontal manner could quite possibly
have originated on the Chinese mainland.

In addition to the piau, , there is also a tradition of throwing coins called Lo Han Ts'in,( "ts'in"
being a coin see fig. 18) as weapons. Douglas Hsieh in his "Ancient Chinese Hidden Throwing
Weapons" tells the story of how coin throwing first developed.

A man was watching children throwing tile fragments across the water. He noticed that the thinner
fragments seemed to carry better than thicker ones, and from this got the idea to throw coins.

It is said coins were sharpened and thrown as weapons at a very early date, and these could be
the precursor to the Hishi-gata and senban shuriken , and also the origin of the
horizontal throw. The method of throwing the coin is to hold it horizontally between the thumb and
the forefinger, with the palm facing towards the belly. The throw involves forcefully flicking your
hand at the wrist, causing a rapid spinning of the coin as it travels in a flat straight line to the
target, usually the face. It is said that if you could cause the coin to penetrate the clay surface of a
wall, your skill in throwing was very high. These coins could be either sharpened, of left with their
normal edge.

Figure 18. Lo Han ts'in, a large Chinese coin of the type that is possibly
the precursor to flat circular thrown objects, eventually known as hishi-gane.
(Photo - author's collection)
From this one can gather that the thicker heavier tsubute could not be thrown in this method,
rather, only a thinner object, such as a coin and later the thinner senban. The throwing of these
coins, therefore, appears to be the historical origin of the horizontal throw. From this innovation,
the idea of throwing round, flat sharpened blades probably arose, and everyday items were then
recognised as being easily adaptable to be thrown in this manner. There seems to be several
sources of material for the construction of these blades; large old coins called hishi gane (
Hishi = Japanese water chestnut shaped like a diamond, Gane = money) (see Fig. 19, L),
washers (senban - ) (see Fig. 20, R) carpenters nail removers (kugi-nuki) (see FIg. 19, top
L), and possibly Mikkyo Buddhist religious objects such as horin (see Fig 21.).

Figure 19. Examples of carpenters kugi-nuki, or nail removers. Note top left
( - link no longer active)

Figure 20. Hishi-gata shuriken (L), formed from old coins and Senban shuriken (R), formed from

Figure 21. Horin. Mikkyo Buddhism religious items of unknown usage

Another report states that the Chinese also had a cross shaped blade called Mu-Zi Shi Zi Biao
(Mother-Son Cross Dart), but this needs clarification.

All these blades are based on a circular design as opposed to the straight pencil shape of bo
shuriken, hence the name shaken, meaning "wheel shaped blade". Whatever the origin, it was
the convenient shape of these items which first attracted proponents of these schools to forming
a throwing weapon, with minimal modifications. From this point, the many innovations and
different designs became formalised and adapted by practitioners who eventually formed schools,
where knowledge of the construction and use of the items began to be passed on and used

Shuriken in the 20th Century and beyond

As it was an art often associated with the use of the Samurai sword, the use of shuriken declined
along with that of the sword. The art seemed to have lost popularity and almost died out in the
period immediately after the second world war. Many masters of the martial arts did not return
from the war, as Mr Shirakami recounts, only three of master Kanji Naruse's students survived
the war; Shirakami Sensei, Isamu Maeda Sensei (1901 - 1988), and Satoshi Saito Sensei, the
present headmaster of Negishi Ryu. Many such arts suffered after the occupation, such as the
traditional art of sword-making, but in subsequent years, as interest and understanding of Japan
grew around the world, the valuable cultural heritage of this great nation began to attract many in
the West, and hence a resurgence of cultural preservation has been occurring. Shirai Ryu would
have died out completely were it not for Satoshi Saito Sensei resurrecting the art and
incorporating it into Negishi Ryu practice, and now, students from around the world visit Japan
and train in the traditional arts under these masters.

Fortunately however, the art of shuriken has probably been saved by it's inclusion as a
supplementary weapon within a rather large number of koryu bujutsu arts, or classical martial
systems, such as Katori Shinto Ryu, Tatsumi Ryu, Yagyu Shingan Ryu, Kukishinden Ryu, etc.
Due to the nature of transmission of these arts from teacher to student, or headmaster to
successor, the continuation of these schools has been possible even under the most oppressive
and difficult of times. However complete transmission of a schools curriculum requires many
years of dedication and service, and since shuriken was considered to be of somewhat lesser
importance than other weapons within the curriculum of many schools, it is probable that shuriken
jutsu could continue to decline over time.

Despite this, Shuriken jutsu seems to recently be undergoing somewhat of a rise in popularity.
Information is becoming more freely available, and the art is being more freely taught in dojos in
Japan. An example of this is in the Iwama Aikido Dojo in Ibaraki prefecture, live in students are
becoming increasingly interested in the art, of which the late headmaster, Morihiro Saito Sensei
was for many years a master. Entry into this particular art until recently was quite limited, students
having to sign a ledger recording an oath of responsibility, and to be judged of sound character by
the headmaster before being permitted to learn.

It is difficult to justify to the authorities the ownership and use of shuriken these days, especially
with the high rates of violent crime in today's society. Offences relating to sharp, concealable and
throwable weapons are quite common these days, and prohibitions on such weapons are a
logical and easy solution. Yet, still the problems of violence remain, suggesting that the root of the
problem lies deeper within the fabric of society itself. It is simply not feasible to continue placing
endless prohibitions on everyday objects which can be adapted to become weapons, because if
violence and hatred are still present, crimes will continue to occur. This is one area where Martial
Arts can have a positive rather than a negative influence, and one that often gets overlooked. I
believe there are many reasons for training in a Martial Art, especially a traditional art which
places great emphasis in moral values such as respect, humility, honour and integrity as well as
techniques of self defence.

Arts that are aimed at developing skill in fighting are useful only for military purposes, and simply
remain as a jutsu, or method. Arts that follow the principles of Japanese Budo, are deeper in that
they become a way of life, and that these moralistic principles become a strong guiding influence
over the student, and for them the art becomes the way. Development and mastery of a Martial
Art requires years of patience, perseverance, dedication and humility, and this kind of training can
only have a positive influence on a student. For this reason, I believe that proper practice of
shuriken can and does have a place in the modern world. The skill in throwing a blade is to have
it strike the target perfectly, and such is the danger of the weapon, but to achieve such skill
requires a calm and relaxed mental state, free from distractions and feelings of egocentricity.
Such a mental state can only be achieved by years of dedication and understanding, which
makes it an unattractive proposition for persons of ill intent who wish to maliciously cause others
Shirakami Eizo tells a story in his recollections of how a problem student of his at high school
turned his life around after studying the shuriken art. The student was throwing a knife in a
classroom, and Shirakami walked in on he and his friends. Shirakami got angry and reprimanded
the boy, then told him that if he was going to throw a knife, he should throw it in earnest.
Shirakami took the knife and threw it at the wall, embedding deeply. This act so impressed the
student that he came to ask Shirakami to teach him, to which Shirakami replied that violent,
dishonest and lazy people cannot throw a blade correctly, so he wouldn't teach him. The boy was
disappointed, and practiced on his own, vowing to surprise his teacher, but couldn't make the
blade stick. He came to his teacher and asked again, this time promising to work hard and
earnestly. Shirakami agreed and showed him the basic form. As it turned out, the boy trained
diligently, and his parents noticed a change in their son. Over time, the boy began to apply
himself more to training and less to troublesome activities with his friends, and eventually he
earned a new found respect for teachers, and his grades began to improve. The student went on
to be accepted in University.

This story serves as a good example of how Martial Arts can lead those who are astray into a
focussed and worthwhile path in life.

It should be mentioned here that there are weapons regulations in place that govern the
possession and use of shuriken, so if an individual is endeavouring to begin practice by
purchasing or making one of their own, they should check the laws of their area. Click here for
more discussion on the law.

As a final note in this introduction, it is interesting to hear that some American Special Forces and
other military units are becoming interested in shuriken, because, aside from their combative
characteristics, the shuriken has potential in survival applications, where one needs to hunt for

Sleeve, or Wrist Daggers

H.G. Long and Co. of Sheffield, England, made an item called the OSS Sleeve Dagger, a 7 inch
long spike with a triangular blade intended for piercing and causing a nasty wound. The blade is 3
1/2 inches long, with three grooves, or fullers, sharpened into flat blade edges The handle is
rectangular cross section 3/8inch wide and 1/4 inch thick, with a groove around the butt forming a
hammer head. Used in World War 2 as a close personal defence weapon; whether the blade was
actually adapted for throwing is not known, but highly possible, given its shape.

Figure 22. OSS Sleeve, or Cross Dagger, by H.G. Long & Co.

Figure 23. A replica of the OSS Sleeve Dagger by Crawford Knives

Some sleeve daggers also here

Cold Steel Special Projects produce a blade called the Delta Dart. It is 8 inches in length, with a 3
1/2 inch blade, which is triangular cross section. The handle is round, with a bulbous pommel,
through which a lanyard ring can be attached. It, like the Sleeve Dagger above, is intended to be
a hand held piercing weapon, although as the name "Dart" suggests, could possibly be thrown as

Figure 24. The Cold Steel Special Projects "Delta Dart"

The design of both these weapons lends themselves very well to the throwing method of
Japanese bo shuriken, and like the French flechettes of World War 1 which was in fact based on
Japanese shuriken, the Delta Dart also appears to be based on the bo shuriken shape. However,
whether these weapons were used as throwing spikes or not would have to be confirmed.

German Air Darts and French flechettes, World War I era (5)

There are several interesting items in the Imperial War Museum, London, which are worth
mentioning. In the "Air Artillery" section of the World War I display one can find several pieces
labelled "Air Dart" (see Fig 22-23 below). The items depicted in Fig 22 are German made
"Fliegerpfeile" (lit. flier arrows), which are copies of the French "flechette", a 12cm long metal
projectile dropped from airplanes and Zeppelins from a height of 500m - 1,500m. Held together in
packages of 50, a single airplane could carry as many as 5,000 of these darts, which when
dropped, developed a speed of 200m per second and a spread of 200m radius. They could
pierce through both a man and the horse on which he sat, causing either severe injury or death.
Illustrations depict the flechettes being stored and released from the plane with the tips pointing
upwards, and as they fell to the ground, they turned in the air so the heavier tips pointed
downwards on impact. Not widely employed, especially later, due to their small and random
striking area, they play an important role in the development of aerial weaponry as the finned tail
structure of the flechette came to be a major design feature of airplane bombs.

Figure 25. WW I German copies of the French "flechettes"

(photo courtesy of Martin Garnett, Imperial War Museum, London.)

These flechettes are of interest because it is quite clear that their design was adapted from the
Japanese shuriken. Mr Shirakami relates an anecdote in his book where several Japanese
dignitaries visited France in the 1880's in order to negotiate new trading relations. One of the
dignitaries, possibly skilled in martial arts, carried several shuriken, believed to be of the Yagyu
Ryu, as part of his equipment allowing him to serve the secondary function of a bodyguard. At the
end of the trip, the dignitary in question saw no need to continue carrying such weapons, and
donated them as a gift to the French government, where they were then installed on display in a
military museum in Paris. The similarity in design of these weapons to the Yagyu Ryu blade, and
the fact that they were released with the tips pointing upwards (away from the target), shows that
the Japanese dignitary probably demonstrated their use to the French officials, who then
experimented with the design and the method of throwing to develop an aerial weapon of their

The item in Fig. 25 appears to be a modified "flechette" with the metal tails cut down and bird
feathers added by attaching with twine. The shaft is about 7 inches long, and the feathers appear
to be those of a raven (crow). Further information on these items is not available at present. The
dart is very similar in shape and design to, though much larger than, the Chinese "fei biao" (air
dart), which is probably due not to any historical connection, but rather an independent innovation
based upon a logical application of throwing sharp objects in a straight line.

Fig. 25. A German "Air dart"

(photo courtesy of Martin Garnett, Imperial War Museum, London.)

The future of Shuriken

During the pre-Meiji era in Japan, shuriken design was largely determined by the shape of the
item borrowed and adapted to make a weapon. Arrows, knives, needles, nails, washers and coins
were all everyday items that were adapted by martial artists form a throwing weapon. In early
times, metal was somewhat scarce as compared today, simply due to the lengthy and inefficient
smelting process, and the low grade of iron sand found in Japan at the time. Metal went first to
construction, then weaponry, such as swords, spears, etc...the more commonly used battlefield
weapons, then to armour, and it later filtered through to craftwork and artistry. Shuriken-jutsu was
an obscure and unpopular form of warfare; it was not a lethal art, it had a limited range and
capability, and required great skill to actually be used effectively. So it can be understood that
little metal was given over to a formalised production of shuriken blades as compared to that with
the sword. Metal was basically scavenged in earlier times, to make shuriken, and this is why
many old, authentic examples of shuriken betray their material origin.

In later times, as metal became more freely available, through both importing and improvement in
smelting processes, shuriken began to be purpose built, particularly within schools that had a well
established tradition in the of use of shuriken. Generally, a metal smith was known to a particular
dojo, or family, who would commission the smith when necessary, but, still, the design was still
somewhat restricted to emulating that of the material origin of earlier blades. With most of the
sogo budo, or composite martial arts that contain a shuriken component in their teachings, such
as Yagyu Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu, etc., the skill of an innovative individual was initially absorbed
into the school's training. The skill became formalised into a collection of techniques, particularly
for teaching and preservation processes. Once this tradition of passing on the form within the art
was established, a particular blade shape became accepted as the standard, and thus a
particular shape of shuriken blade.became associated with a particular school or style of martial
art. Thus blades would eventually be specially made, usually hand forged, as per the
requirements of a particular school. There are still teachers of the traditional arts today, who
maintain a shuriken teaching regime, and develop their skills within the arts they transmit.
Yasuyuki Otsuka Sensei of Meifu Shinkage Ryu is a more public example of this, taking his
teacher Someya's knowledge from Katori Shinto Ryu and applying it a modern understanding of
the throwing art. Otsuka Sensei has access to some highly skilled smiths who make high quality
blades for his school's use. There are also quite a number of classical arts that continue, in a
more insular way, to pass on their tradition, and no doubt they obtain their blades in much the
sme way.

Today, metal of varying grades is freely available to the individual, as is access to the metal
trades. We are no longer restricted by the material origin of an existing metal item over the shape
of a small, hand held throwing weapon. I believe the development of shuriken and shuriken-jutsu
is now at a crucial stage. As the art becomes more popular, interested individuals are beginning
to make their own blades, and develop their own styles of throwing. Hozan Suzuki of Mumyou
Ryu is a prime example of this. His blades are unusual, quite radical in design, yet they retain an
understanding of traditional knowledge. His throwing style is very individual, but he has
developed quite a high level of skill, and is constantly researching and experimenting with not
only blade shape and throwing style, but methods of concealment and carry.

There are also several smiths, both in Japan and in the west, who have become quite well
respected as shuriken smiths, such as Ed Green and Jeff Adams in the US, and Daniel Bowley in
Australia. Although these smiths take great pains to make accurate reproductions of authentic
blades using traditional methods, catering mainly to students of more traditional schools as bound
by their design requirements, they are also experimenting with their own designs and construction
processes. I sense a growing movement within the shuriken community that is vibrant, innovative,
and positive, and this is healthy for the art. It means positive advances will be made in the art,
both in design, and in technique.

However, due to the changing nature of our society today, I also see a movement towards a
prohibition on weapons. It began with restricting automatic firearms, spurred on by no doubt,
murders on civil soil by misguided and angry individuals. Over the years despite these
restrictions, killings have continued, but with tamer and tamer weapons. Nowadays we are
hearing of petrol station hold-ups by individuals brandishing cheap replica Samurai swords...the
type that would hardly do much damage even if the attacker could properly weild them. But due to
media attention and hysterical reaction against the acts of killing themselves, prohibitions are
becoming even more restrictive. In Australia only licensed martial arts instructors are permitted to
possess a sword. This movement towards prohibition, I feel will not remedy the problem of violent
crime in our society, and to make matters worse, local law enforcement appears to be seen less
and less as a reliable force to assist in civil unrest and domestic violence. What I think will
happen, in response to this seeming lack of power by the relevent authorities is that individuals
will begin to take the law into their own hands. Only this week we had a home invasion in
Melbourne, where two attackers, one armed with a sword, and the other with a gun, confronted a
man in his own home. The man disarmed the intruder holding the sword, and used it on him,
killing him, and he then cut the man holding the gun, wounding him pretty badly. It appears police
will not be charging him, but I can't help but think if it was a less brave man whose house was
invaded and he relied on help from the authorities, would he still be alive?
No, I think the nature of our society is such that people are beginning to think for themselves, to
stand up, join together and look after themselves. Look at the community of Bendigo when the
Commonwealth Bank pulled out leaving the town without banking facilities. The town got together
and formed their own bank, the Bendigo Bank. So I think then that people will begin to think for
themselves about personal protection. I believe we will see a development in shuriken-jutsu that
while being a modern innovation to deal with a modern problem, it will at the same time be also a
rekindling of the original spirit of the shuriken art. There will be a movement towards carrying and
using small, durable, easily obtainable yet inconspicuous everyday items that can double up as a
stabbing and throwing weapon, - this is the practical nature of the minds that developed shuriken
in ancient times. But there will be a movement towards using non-metallic materials to make
these items. Metallic items are now easily picked up by detectors, which are becoming more and
more present in our society - airports, nightclubs, even schools. Ed Green makes items in a
modern plastic called Delrin, a very tough and durable compsite developed in the aerospace
industry. Porcelein is also making great advancements, armour-piercing bullets are made of
porcelein, and I believe some surgical instruments. - this is the stealthy nature of the art that was
a major aspect in its usefulness as a weapon.

What I think will also happen is that we will see some developments in the throwing technique. As
people choose particular items based first on their innocent concealability, then on their merit as a
personal defence weapon, I think will will then see that people will then experiment with how to
use these items, and probably develop their own method of use and style. This is again, the
practical and adaptable nature of the people in the past who developed such weapons and made
them the interesting and unique items today. The tradition lives on.

Definitely interesting times ahead.


1. Mol, Serge (2003) Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial
Artists. Kodansha, Japan

Shirakami, Eizo (1985) Shurikendo: My study of the way of Shuriken, Paul H. Crompton, London

Tsubouchi: Kinsei Jitsuroku Zenshu (complete works of the modern authentic record, in

Note 5: Sources of information on Flechettes

"Aeroplanes, Dirigibles, Zeppelins" periodical, Paris, France, c. 1915, pp 211-212
"Aeroplane Darts and Fire Darts", Scientific American Supplement No 2042 (Feb 20, 1915)
"The War In the Air" by C. G. Grey, in The War Illustrated, 23rd January, 1915
"Pliegerpfeile" (flying arrows), Waffen Lexikon 2102-000-1, Waffen-Revue 2, pp 311-312.

Schools of shuriken
With the exception of Negishi Ryu, and perhaps one or two others, Shuriken jutsu was not taught
as a single art belonging to its own school or style, although even Negishi Ryu in the past was
taught alongside a sword art, typically Yamamoto Ryu. When we say "schools of shuriken", we
are really talking about a combative art that would include a grappling art along with several
weapons, particularly sword, and which happens to have a shuriken component as well.
Various schools however, were inclined to use their own particular individual designs for shuriken,
and had their own exclusive techniques and methods for teaching them. These techniques were
passed down within the ranks of the school, generation by generation, and they developed an
individual personality different to the techniques and methods of other schools. When a sword art
dies out, the techniques and methods of teaching die with the last proponents, and we are left
with only the swords. By observing the design and manufacture of a sword, it is not possible to
discern which school the sword was peculiar to, as many schools would use the same design.
However with shuriken, where we have many schools that have indeed died out, and we are left
with uniquely shaped tools of the art, we can however, discern the name of the school by
observing the blade's design. For this reason, while we cannot say a particular sword is
representative of a particular school of swordsmanship, we can identify a particular shuriken as
being from a particular school, based on its design. So in light of this, it is not a futile exercise to
categorise various shuriken by their associated school, as some people today have suggested.
And for the interests of preserving traditions of the past, I think it is necessary to maintain this
system of nomenclature.

Blades of the various schools - bo shuriken

Gan Ryu, or Ganritsu Ryu

An early mention of specifically throwing blades comes from Ganritsu Ryu, founded by
Matsubayashi Samanosuke Nagayoshi "Henyasai", a professional swordsman in service of the
18th lord of Matsuhiro in the 20th year of Kanei (1644). Ganryu was the stylistic name assumed
by Matsubayashi, and he was sometimes called "henyasai" as he had an unusual ability of
hopping and jumping around his opponent, sometimes "brushing the rafters with his kimono"..
The school included Iai, Tachi-Uchi (sword fighting method), Kodachi, Jo, Naginata, Yari, Kumi-
Uchi (wrestling) and Shuriken.

Mr Shirakami states that the blade of this school is not known, however a video on Negishi Ryu
Shuriken-jutsu produced by Nippon Budokan shows a blade similar to the one below (see fig. 1)
and specifically states it as being a Ganritsu Ryu blade. It is highly possible that this blade, and
the throwing method associated with it was either copied or imported from China, as it resembles
both the shape and throwing method of a Chinese dart called the "piau" (or fei biao "air
dart"), in use during the Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD) (more info offsite here) Also see Qin
Dynasty crossbow bolt (previous page)

Figure 1. A needle type shuriken of Ganritsu Ryu.(according the Nihon Budokai Shurikenjutsu
This shape is also very similar to the Chinese "piau", or throwing needle.

Figure 2. Another needle type shuriken of Ganritsu Ryu, according to

Fujita Seiko in "Zukai Shurikenjutsu".

Katono Ryu, (or Izu Ryu) ,
This school was founded by a samurai of Sendai-han, called Fujita Hirohide of Katono, also
known as Katono Izu, who served around 1764 -1780. Katono was a student of Matsubayashi
Henyasai of Ganritsu Ryu, and learned kendo, shuriken, as well as Ganritsu Ryu techniques from
him. He pioneered the use of a throwing needle, about 10cm in length and weighing about 20gm,
which was used in the manufacture of the helmet, armour, and leather mask. The needle, several
of which he wore in his hair, was held between the middle and forefinger, and thrown into the
eyes of an attacker. Apparently, Katono said that if he was able to blind an attacker, there would
be no reason to fear them. It was said that he could throw two needles at a time at a picture of a
horse, hitting each hoof in turn. Listed in Iwai Kohoku's "Hidden Weapons" as using the blade
depicted below (see fig 4) called "mesu gata",.

Figure 3. Needle type shuriken of Izu Ryu. (Fujita Seiko "Zukai Shurikenjutsu")

Figure 4. Mesu gata shuriken of Izu Ryu, from Iwai Kohoku's "Hidden Weapons".


Negishi Ryu

Negishi Ryu was founded by Negishi Nobunori Shorei, a retainer of Joshu Annaka during the last
days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Negishi became a student of Kaiho Hanpei, the second master
of Hokushin Itto Ryu sword, after showing promise with the use of a shinai as a child. He then
studied swordsmanship of other schools such as Araki Ryu, taught by his father Negishi Sentoku,
and spear of Oshima Ryu, but he returned to Hanpei, eventually becoming the head of the Kaiho
Ryu, and later taught for several years. When the Meiji Restoration ordered the abolition of
swords, he became a farmer, and passed away in 1904. Kaiho Hanpei was also a student of the
Katono Ryu shurikenjutsu, and hence we can see that Negishi Ryu descended directly from
Ganritsu Ryu. The similarity in shape between Negishi Ryu blades and Ganritsu Ryu blades is
evident in the bulbous head and tapering shaft. The successor to Negishi Shorei was Tonegawa
Magoroku (also called Tonegawa Sonoroku Masatoshi), (1850 - 1939), who was succeeded by
Kanji Naruse (also Narusei) (1888 - 1948). For a brief period, 4th headmaster role was pased
onto Isamu Maeda Sensei, who transferred the title in 1959 to current headmaster, Satoshi Saito
Sensei 1922 - ). In interview, Saito Sensei has stated that his successor will be Mr. Yoshimi
Tomabechi, but there have also been reports that his successor will be Yoshinori Kono Sensei.
(to be confirmed). There is also a report that 2nd headmaster, Tonegawa also studied under
Shirai Toru Yoshikane, but this is possibly not true, as Shirai Toru passed away in 1843.

The basic blade shape of the Negishi Ryu is a projectile shaped pen that has an enlarged head
and tail, like a slender bomb (see fig.4-5), and can weigh between 47 - 74gm. According to
Someya Sensei, there are two types, one where the shaft of the blade narrows in the middle, and
widens towards the tail (Type 1 - fig.4), and the other where the shaft narrows towards the tail,
(Type 2 - see fig. 5 ) and sometimes has a eye-hole shaped hook attached to the base. The Type
1 blades generally have either string, or paper wrapped and held together by lacquer, around the
shaft, in order to create a rough surface which causes friction against the fingers as it leaves the
hand. This is to enable the thrower to limit the forward rotation of the tail end towards the tip, thus
assisting in longer distance flight. The Type 2 blades generally have animal hair (see fig. 7,
below), or a tassle of strings (see fig. 5, below) attached at the tail end of the shaft, to create drag
in flight, which also assists in straight flight. Mr Shirakami mentions that as the student throws this
type of blade, his throws are at first rather wild, and the long hair assists a straight flight, but over
time, the hair wears off and becomes shorter, while at the same time the students throw becomes
more comfortable and accurate, thus compensating for the lack of hair.

Figure 4. Negishi Ryu shuriken Type 1, showing tail wrapped in string.

(from the cover of Someya Sensei's book "Shuriken Giho")

Figure 5. Negishi Ryu shuriken Type 2 showing tassle attached to tail

(From Otsuka Sensei's Meifu Shinakge Ryu Shurikenjutsu website)

Some people suggest that the wrapping of material around the blade changes the balance of the
blade, thus assisting either a shorter or further distance throw, however the weight shift caused
by adding by such material is negligible when compared to the weight of blade itself and the force
used in the throw. The balance of the blade, whether for shorter or long distance throws is
determined rather, by the actual shape of the blade. As can be seen from the many examples
shown here, the size of the bulbous head and the length of the shaft are what determines the
balance of the blade. Thus it is in the nature of the Negishi Ryu blade whether it is a long distance
or short distance thrower, unlike the Shirai Ryu, who can throw long or short distance by adjusting
the throwing technique, regardless of the nature of the blade.
Figure 6. Negishi Ryu shuriken, Type 2

Figure 7. A shuriken (Type 2) of the Negishi Ryu, showing attached pigskin/hair tail (Click image
to view large)
From the collection of Charles V. Gruzanski
(photo courtesy of Robert C. Gruzanski, used with permission)

Figure 8. A modern day Japanese made Negishi Ryu blade, with a conveniently constructed knob
on the tail around which a tassel can be more easily fitted.

Figure 9. A modern, commercially made Negishi Ryu shuriken.


Shirai Ryu

Shirai Ryu was founded by Shirai Toru Yoshikane, born 1783 in Okayama and died in 1843, aged
61. At the age of 8 he began to learn swordsmanship under Ida Shimpachiro of Kiji-ryu, and at 14
moved to Tokyo and trained daily under the Nakanishi school of Itto Ryu sword, and began
teaching in Okayama at 23. Over 9 years his fame spread and he had over 300 students, but he
continued to doubt his ability. In the subsequent years he returned to Edo a number of times to
train with his seniors, until eventually he achieved some sort of major revelation and found peace
with his technique. After this revelation, he added the word Tenshin to the name of his art, thus
known as Tenshin Itto Ryu. The style of blade and throwing method he taught became known as
Shirai Ryu. According to Satoshi Saito Sensei, current headmaster of Negishi Ryu, the Shirai Ryu
became a lost art, ie. no-one who practiced it remained alive, and that he began a study of the art
and revived it. Shirai Ryu techniques are now taught by Saito Sensei as part of Negishi Ryu
training.(2) According to Yoshinori Kono, although Shirai Toru left no official successor, his
students "gathered together to practice among themselves" (3)

The blade of Shirai Ryu is a metal rod 15cm to 25 cm in length and about 5-6mm in diameter. It is
sharpened at one end and rounded at the other.(see fig. 7-8). They consist of both round and
square cross sections, the differences no doubt due to the origin of their source material -
needles for the round type, nails for the square.

Figure 10. Shuriken of the Shirai Ryu

Figure 11. Shuriken of the Shirai Ryu, (click to view large)

From the collection of the late Charles V. Gruzanski
(photo courtesy of Robert C. Gruzanski, used with permission)


Other styles and types of shuriken

There are other less well known styles of shuriken, and a huge variety of blade shapes. Here are
some more examples.
Araki Ryu
No information on their shuriken techniques available at present. The blade in fig. 12 shows the
shape thought to be used in Araki Ryu, taken from a screen shot of the Negishi Ryu
Shurikenjutsu video produced by the Nihon Budokai, which is te-yari gata shuriken. A te-yari is a
short hand spear, similar to uchine, but not intended to be thrown. It has a 25-30cm blade
attached to a wooden haft. The shuriken is named so as it is shaped like the blade portion of the
te-yari. Fujita Seiko has this type of blade listed as belonging to Tanba Ryu and Chishin Ryu
below. To confuse matters, Fujita Seiko lists only the blade shown in Fig. 14, an Onkobushi (lit.
trans. "Yin Fist") as being of the Araki Ryu, and not the te-yari blade .

Figure 12. An Araki Ryu shuriken, thought to have derived from the "te-yari", a type
of short throwing spear, similar to uchine. About 17cms long.

Figure 13. Hoko gata (spear shaped) shuriken, listed by

Yumio Nawa Sensei as Araki Ryu blades.

Figure 14. Onkobushi (inken?- kanji reading uncertain) of Araki Ryu


Chishin Ryu
According to Mr Shirakami, this style is descended from Takemura Ryu (see below). A student of
Takemura, by the name of Iijima Hyobei (Iijima Ichibei?) further developed these techniques,
which were then passed on to Dogen Tasaemon, who passed it on to Niki Juemon and then on to
Asano Denemon, finishing with Tanba Orie Ujinaga (who presumably was the last headmaster of
the art). It is interesting to note that the name of the last headmaster is Tanba, suggesting a
connection between Chishin Ryu and Tanba Ryu, about which nothing is known at this stage.
Furthermore, the throwing style of Musashi was said to be the turning hit, with a tanto-gata (knife
shaped blade), whereas the Chishin Ryu blade in its final form is a kugi-gata (nail shaped blade),
to be thrown with the Negishi Ryu style direct hit throw. Under what circumstances did the tanto-
gata shuriken of Takemura Ryu change into a kugi-gata shuriken of Chishin Ryu? It seems as
though there is a discrepancy in the history at some stage.

Someya Sensei describes the blade (see pic below, and also design) in his book, as being 16cms
in length. A Chishin Ryu blade in the author's possession also measures 13.5cms. An interesting
feature of the Chishin Ryu stance is that the right foot is forward as opposed to the left stance
used in the majority of the other styles. Also, a distinguishing feature of the blade itself is the
pyramidal finish to the butt end.
Figure 15. Shuriken of the Chishin Ryu
(photo courtesy of Robert C. Gruzanski, used with permission)

Fig.16 Chishin Ryu blade as shown by Fujita


Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu

According to a student of the Abashiri Dojo in Hokkaido, Sokaku Takeda Sensei was a master of
Negishi Ryu shuriken. Daito Ryu is the foundation art from which Morihei Ueshiba Sensei
developed Aikido. Historical sources state that Takeda Sensei carried a pair of metal chopsticks
which he was able to throw like shuriken. One source has stated that Daito Ryu uses the
projectile shaped Negishi Ryu blades, although students of Abashiri Dojo are taught shuriken
rather informally at present, and practice with bo shuriken constructed from large rounded nails
15cm in length (see Fig. 17), thrown outside against old tatamai, or traditional matting. It seems
the art is going through somewhat of a revival in recent times

Figure 17. Simple bo shuriken made from nails, used for practice at Abashiri Dojo, Hokkaido.
(photo courtesy Giacomo Merello, used with permission)


Enmei Ryu
The famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi was reportedly the founder of this school, which
involves throwing a 40cm blade, probably a tanto, or knife. There is a story of a duel between
Musashi and Shishido, an expert of the kusari-gama, a sickle and chain developed specifically to
defeat the samurai's sword. As Shishido pulled out his chain, Musashi threw a dagger and struck
him in the chest, killing him. According to Meik Skoss, Enmei Ryu is no longer extant. Bugei
Ryuha Daijiten lists Enmei Ryu as having a jujutsu component, added by one of Musashi's

Chikatoshi Someya Sensei, late headmaster of Meifu Shinkage Ryu Shurikenjutsu, depicts a
tanto-gata as the blade used in Enmei Ryu.
More information added as it comes to hand.
Figure 18. Shuriken of the Enmei Ryu, tanto-gata, Japanese knives adapted to become shuriken


Hirano Densho Ryu Toukenjutsu

This is a modern school, founded by a Mr. Ohmi., who, I believe, was a student of the now
defunct Hakkaku Ryu. The art is characterised by utilising very powerful throws, with both left and
right hand alternately, and the blades are large , heavy (about 150gm), forged and polished with a
very sharp edge, to a unique design. Visit their website here.

Figure 20. Shuriken of Hirano Densho Ryu. Note highly polished tip.

Iga Ryu
Refers to a collection of traditional arts, including jujutsu and buki-waza (weaponry), as well as
Ninpo, confined historically to the Iga-Ueno region in central Honshu, Japan, with close ties to
Koga Ryu, basically an identical art confined to the Koga region. Iga Ryu utilised a wide variety of
blades in the shuriken component of their art, mainly shaken, although they do possess a
uniquely shaped blade called "Matsuba gata" (Pine needle shaped), or "Enbi-ken" (swallow-tail
blade). Along with being thrown as a weapon, the blade served several other functions, much like
a pocket knife.

Figure 21. An illustration of the "Swallow Tail blade" of Iga Ryu, from Fujita Seiko's "Zukai
Shuriken jutsu"
Figure 22. The method of holding the "Swallow Tail blade" for throwing.
(photo courtesy of Danny Fletcher)

Ikku Ryu, or Ikku-ken

Ikku-ken is the name given to a relatively modern style of shuriken, created in 1965 by modern
day shuriken master, and author Shirakami Eizo. Mr Shirakami was born in Tokyo in 1921, sadly
passed away in 2001, and although he did have some students over the years, he apparently left
no successor as head of this Ryu. He was a student of Master Naruse Kanji (d. 1948), the 3rd
headmaster of Negishi Ryu shurikenjutsu who had also trained in Yamamoto Ryu sword, and had
written a book on Japanese Sabre Fighting after his experiences at war with China at the turn of
the century. Master Naruse was a student of Yonegawa Magoroku who in turn was a student of
the above mentioned founder of Shirai Ryu, Shirai Toru. Mr Shirakami began shuriken training in
1938 under Mr Naruse, and learned both Shirai Ryu and Negishi Ryu, and combined the blade
from the Shirai Ryu with the throwing style of the Negishi Ryu, and formed a new method, which
involves a double pointed blade (see fig. 23), This method overcomes the problem of positioning
the blade the right way round in the hand before throwing, giving greater flexibility in distance. Mr
Shirakami also learned kenjutsu of the Hokushin Itto Ryu under his uncle, General Hayashi
Senjuro, and archery (including uchine) of the Heki Ryu, from another uncle, Miyamura Chizuka.

Figure 23. Shuriken of the Ikku Ryu (to be confirmed)

Click image to view enlarged
(photo courtesy of Robert C. Gruzanski, used with permission)

Note: Mr Shirakami writes that it was his innovation to make use of the double pointed blade, so
one could throw either Negishi or Shirai Ryu style throws, without having to change one's blade,
or without having to adjust the positioning of the blade in the hand. Are we to assume from this
that he developed the double pointed blade? Perhaps something was lost in the translation I am
not sure, but the double ended shuriken has been around for quite some time. This needs some


Itto Ryu
Itto Ryu Kenjutsu, and several of its substyles, figure heavily in the lives of several prominent
innovators of shuriken. Negishi Shorei, founder of Negishi Ryu Shurikenjutsu, was a student of
Kaiho Hanpei, the 2nd headmaster of Hokushin Itto Ryu. Shorei originally learned Annaka-ha
Araki Ryu kenjutsu from his father, Negishi Sentoku, but he also learned both kenjutsu and
shurikenjutsu from Hanpei. Hanpei, who studied shurikenjutsu under Katono Izu (Fujita Hirohide),
also studied Itto Ryu under Chiba Shusaku Narimasa, who created the Hokushin line by mixing
Hokushin Muso Ryu and Nakanishi Itto Ryu. Nakanishi Itto Ryu was studied by Shirai Toru
Yoshikane, who founded later Tenshin Itto Ryu, and his shuriken jutsu, although strictly speaking
was part of Itto Ryu, came to be popularly known as Shirai Ryu. Itto Ryu is said to use the round
sectioned blade, similar to the subsequent Shirai Ryu style of blade. It is interesting to note that it
is said of Negishi Shorei that he filed the round needles to make the octagonal blades that is
characteristic of Negishi Ryu.

The throws in both Shirai Ryu and Negishi Ryu utilise a vertical downward action, through the
body's centreline, similar to the sword cut kiri-otoshi, a once secret cutting technique peculiar to
Itto Ryu.

Itto Ryu is one of the major influences on kenjutsu throughout Japanese sword history, and I
suspect, although it is not verified at the moment, that Itto Ryu has also played an important part
in the dissemination of the early shuriken art.


Jitsuyo Ryu or Kobu Jitsuyo Ryu, Chuko Shinkan-Ryu

Not much reliable information on this school available at present, however Fujita listed it among
his list of schools in Zukai Shurikenjutsu . Jitsuyo means "pragmatic use". The founder was
Hirayama Kozosen, (or Hiraiyama Kozo Hisomu, also Hirayama Gyozo), (1759 - 1828) born into
a family who functioned as Iga-gumi or guards in the Iga area, and was succeeded by Soma
Taisaku. Under Saito Sandayu he studied the Naganuma school of military strategy, from
Matsushita Kiyokuro the spear-fighting methods of Oshima-ryu, from great wrestler Shibukawa
Bungoro Tokihide the jujutsu and iai-jutsu of Shibukawa-ryu, from Yinokami Ryuzaemon the
firearm shooting of Buei-ryu school. Also he studied horseback riding, archery and swimming.
Hirayama's sword-fencing teacher was Yamada Mohei from Shinnuki-Ryu. Also Yamada was the
third-generation grandmaster of the Untyu-ryu (spelling?) school of kenjutsu. Hirayama also
studied kenjutsu of other schools, including Shinto Isshin-ryu. Hirayama's treatises "Kensetsu"
("Meaning of fencing") and "Kentyo" ("Collection about fencing") are the treasure of bujutsu.

The essence of the system Hirayama described in the beginning of "Kensetsu": "My kenjutsu is
served to punish enemies by death". Tyuko Shinkan-ryu was ultimately combat-oriented and
completely negated competitions. Apparently all their weaponry was thick and heavy duty,
designed to penetrate armour and dismount riders. For training fights they used bamboo shinai,
but didn't use protectors. Opponents used standard 1-metre shinai, but students a short sword
(only 40 cm with handle!). Fighters of Tyuko Shinkan-ryu tried to immediately came close to
enemy and stroke him by sword, hands and legs. Yumio Nawa depicts the blade below as
representative of this school.
Fig. 24. Shuriken of Jitsuyo Ryu, about 6 inches in length.


Founded in the late fifteenth century, the Kashima-Shinryu is one of the oldest martial systems in
Japan. Although training focuses on the use of the sword, Kashima-Shinryu is a composite art,
consisting of twelve disciplines including kenjutsu, naginata (halberd); sojutsu (spear), bo (staff) jo
(short staff), hojo-jutsu (rope tying techniques) a form of grappling called goshin jutsu, and others,
such as shuriken-jutsu. A recent video has been produced by this school which features, among
a few other obscure weapons, a shuriken component.

Fig 25. The Kashima Shin Ryu shuriken is a slightly tapered square blade, about 12cm long,
with an octagonal tapered tip, about 3cm long.

The shuriken of Kashima Shinryu resembles the blade of Ryu, it is about 12cms long, 1.5cms at
its widest point, tapering down to about 8mm at the tail end. The tip is octagonal, with a 2.5 cm

The method of throw is the choku-da-ho, or "direct hit" method, though the hanare, or exit of the
blade from the hand differs from that of Negishi Ryu. In Kashima Shinryu, the blade is held in a
slight angle across the palm, with the tip resting over the first finger. The throw mimics the kesa-
giri, or "collar-cut" style of the sword, but as the blade leaves the hand, the hand slightly pushes
forward, and the fleshy part of the base of the thumb pushes against the tail, thus inhibiting the
natural tendency of the blade to turn. For short distance throws, the blade is pushed further up
the hand, towards the fingers, and for longer distance throws, the blade is pushed further down,
closer to the centre of the palm. This method is quite contrasted with the Negishi Ryu method of
stroking the tail of the blade with the middle finger as it leaves the hand.


Katori Shinto Ryu - Sugino line

A branch of Katori Shinto Ryu under Yoshio Sugino. Sugino sensei was regarded as Japan's last
great swordsman, as was famous for helping the choreography on Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai".
Shurikenjutsu is still taught today as part of the curriculum.
Yoshio Sugino shihan, 10th dan (1904-1998)
Photo courtesy of Kristoffer Sandven, Yuishinkan Sugino Dojo, Tokyo


Koden Ryu
A form of ju-jutsu, said to be of Korean origin, extant in Japan as early as 7th Century AD.
(Seems very early) Source: , Finn. They are very
distinctive in appearance, being called "kunai gata". Kunai come in a variety of shapes, and
appear to be a rather versatile utility tool, used for purposes such as digging implements and
climbing aids. They were apparently originally used in "kumi-uchi", an early battlefield grappling
art, as a hand held item for prying open an opponent's armour. Perhaps their use as a throwing
weapon was realised, and thus the technique was passed on and came to be known as Koden
Ryu Shuriken. Fujita Seiko shows the following as blades of Koden Ryu in "Zukai Shurikenjutsu".
Firegure 26. Shuriken of Koden Ryu. From "Zukai Shurikenjutsu"


Koga Ryu
Refers to the martial systems that were practiced around Koga prefecture, Japan. Probably not a
ryu as such, rather a general term for a number of various arts known to the region. Fujita Seiko
was reportedly the last headmaster of this system. He died in a car accident with three of his
students in the 1960's. Not long before this however, he had donated a large part of his martial
arts collection, including shuriken, to the Koga City Ninja Museum. (see also Iga Ryu, Shingetsu

Kukishinden Tenshin Hyoho

Kukishin Ryu is another ancient and comprehensive fighting art that traces its beginnings back to
the 1300's, and teaches a variety of weapons and hand techniques. They use 7.5cm square flat
plates of sharpened steel called "teppan", which are said to be thrown against warriors with
armour, a technique reminiscent of the tsubute of ancient times. They are lozenge shaped with a
square hole in the centre, as seen in Fig. 50(r) below. In some of the Kukishin documents there is
mention of such plates reaching up to 12cm in diameter. They also use the "kozuka" or
swordsman's utility knife, as well as normal "bo-shuriken".(FIg. 27)

Fig. 27. A bo shuriken of the Kukishin Ryu, of the needle type called "uchibari" ( )


Masaki Ryu
In one of his books, Yumio Nawa Sensei, current headmaster of Masaki Ryu Manrikigusari jutsu,
pictures this blade as being of the school, however this may be an error in publication. A student
of Nawa Sensei has confirmed that this is a typographical error, as Masaki Ryu, by tradition, does
not include shuriken jutsu as part of the school.

Fig 28.

Meifu Shinkage Ryu
This style was founded by Chikatoshi Someya Sensei, who began training as a boy in Katori
Shinto Ryu from the 1930's to the 1970's. Shuriken jutsu was his forte among the buki waza of
the Katori Shinto, and he made some modifications and formed his own style in the 1970's, thus
giving the art its current name. He was also a shuriken researcher, having investigated a number
of techniques and types of blades used in various ryu. Someya Sensei passed away in June
1999, and is succeeded by Yasuyuki Otsuka Sensei, who trained under Someya Sensei since
1980 and now runs a dojo with about 30 students in Japan, and also manages the Meifu
Shinkage Ryu website. It is one of only 3 ryu specifically devoted to the shuriken arts, the other
two being Negishi Ryu and Ikku Ryu, although with the passing of Shirakami Sensei in 2001, it is
not certain whether there are any Ikkyu Ryu students or schools in existence.

Chikatoshi Someya Sensei depicts blades and throwing methods at length in his book, "Shuriken
Giho", in Japanese. Someya Sensei was trained in Katori Shinto Ryu, who utilise a variety of
blade shapes. However, he introduced the blades below, resembling those of Shirai Ryu, for
beginners to practice with, as they are easier to learn the basics with. They practice the direct hit
method of throw up to 7m distance, beyond that they practice the turning hit method, and
advanced practitioners throw a wide variety of blade shapes, in a variety of throws, including
"Chinese Fist method". There is a video available here on this art.

Figure 29. Shuriken of Meifu Shinkage Ryu Large image available here [1]
(author's collection)

Figure 30. Shuriken of Meifu Shinkage Ryu [view larger]

These blades are 7mm in thickness and 15cm long.
(photo courtesy of Danny Fletcher, used with permission)


Mou En Ryu
The founder was Koshiba Soubei, and it appears the art may have originated in China. This fact
seems to be confirmed by several sources when taken together suggesting that the long tapering
shape of the Mou En Ryu blade derived from a triangular Chinese dart, although the blade is
termed kugi gata as it is made from wakugi, the traditional nail. Someya Sensei in his book
"Shuriken Giho" states that the art is "touden" ( ) - ie. originated in China, and shows the
blade for this art as seen in fig. 31. The blade shown appears to have a triangular cross section,
however Otsuka Sensei said in personal communication that it is square, and triangular blades
were not generally known, due to a certain difficulty in throwing them. The example shown here is
16.7cms long. In Fig. 28, the top example is 13.3cms

Fujita Seiko, in his book "Zukai Shurikenjutsu" depicts Mou En Ryu blades as seen in Fig. 32,
which exhibits square cross sections. In "Ancient Chinese Hidden Weapons" by Douglas H. Y.
Hsieh, a triangular throwing dart is described, which has a two sharp edges that meet at the point,
and a third dull edge at the rear (see also Teihozan Ryu, below). This dull edge sits in the palm,
and the blade is thrown under-arm, palm forward, with the tip pointing outwards towards the
target. This description may well suggest the reason for the unusual triangular butt end of some
Mou En Ryu blades, and therefore show a derivation from the Chinese. However, the method of
throwing in Mou En Ryu is not known at this stage, so it is still difficult to accurately compare the
Ryu with Chinese sources.

Fig.31. A blade of the Mou En Ryu, as depicted in Someya Sensei's "Shuriken Giho"

Fig. 32. Mou En Ryu blades as depicted in Fujita Seiko's "Zukai Shurikenjutsu".
Note that the cross section for these blades is square, confirming Otsuka Sensei's coments


Mouri Ryu
Named after its founder, Mouri Gentaro Gentatsu who apparently was a cripple and practiced
throwing 15cm nails at sparrows as a child. He later dueled with Yagyu Jubei, and carried 36
blades, 18 in each hand. (There is an account of this duel with Yagyu Jubei somewhere, I am
presently searching for it. There is some suggestion that this account is actually fictional,
appearing in a work of fiction and misunderstood to be an historical event. - Jason)


Otsuki Ryu
Yasuda Zenjiro, a master of Otsuki Ryu Kenjutsu from Hiroshima recounts that his teacher,
Okamoto Munishige, an Edo period samurai of the Aizu domain used shuriken on a number of
occasions during his employment in the Shogunate's security force. He reportedly carried around
12 blades in various places, including the koshita, or back flap of the hakama. - no longer extant

Ryusei Ryu
There are several mentions of this school, but no information can be found on them at present.
The blade said to be of this school is depicted below with the Yagyu Ryu examples, Ryusei is a
Japanese word for comet.


Shinei Ryu
This style of shuriken jutsu was formed by Isamu Maeda Sensei (also known as Shinei Maeda,
his martial arts name) based on his training in Negshi Ryu and Shirai Ryu under Kanji Naruse
Sensei. Maeda Sensei was due to be next headmaster of the Negishi Ryu after Naruse, but
passed the title on to Satoshi Saito Sensei, during the 1950's. Maeda Sensei felt his style wasn't
representative of Negishi Ryu, and therefore should not be headmaster, however his throwing
style was rather distinct, if not unusual, in that he seemed to make very little arm movement while
throwing. Video footage shows Maeda Sensei holding and throwing blades in what is called the
"Chinese Fist" method, and was able to accurately throw blades well into his later life. Reportedly,
Shinei Ryu is still taught, under the auspices of a Master Teranaka, in Osaka. It appears this style
of shuriken jutsu is taught as part of the Itosu-kai Shito Ryu karate curriculum.

Shingetsu Ryu
This shuriken art was reportedly passed onto Manzo Iwata Sensei of Shito-Ryu by Seiko Fujita
Sensei, in 1948. Fujita Sensei was the 14th headmaster of Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, and the author of
several historical books on various traditional arts. In his "Zukai Shurikenjutsu", he mentions that
the founder of this art was Fujiwara Naritada, and depicts the Shingetsu Ryu blade, of similar
length to Shirai Ryu blades, but thicker, with a rounded sides..

Fig.33. Bo shuriken of the Shingetsu Ryu. Note that the thickness increases towards the tip.


Shosetsu Ryu
Founded by Yui Minbu no suke Tachibana Shosetsu, this art is said to use a kogai, or ornamental
hairpin as its representative blade.


Shosho Ryu
Shosho Ryu Yawarajutsu is a old school of jujutsu, based in Iwate-ken (prefecture), that also
includes sword, staff and rope tying techniques, and possesses a shuriken component. Details
are scanty, but it appears they used tanto-gata (knife-shaped blades) in the manner of
Enmei Ryu, of Musashi Miyamoto.


Takemura Ryu
This school was founded by Takemura Yoemon Tsunenori who was the adopted son of Miyamoto
Musashi. It is said he was very skilled with the sword, and the shuriken, and that he once
demonstrated his skill by throwing a 40cm dagger at a peach floating on a river, piercing it to the
core. Fujita Seiko, in his Shurikenjutsu book depicts the blade as the type of tanto shown in Fig.
34 below:

Figure 34. Tanto gata shuriken of Takemura Ryu

Fujita Seiko also illustrates this blade shown in Fig. 33 below as being of the Takemura Ryu.
(This is the same type of blade thrown by O-Ren Ishii, the female mafioso in the movie "Kill Bill",
but with a tassle attached). According to Iwai Kohaku, in his "Hidden Weapons" book, this blade
is a Kankyuto gata ( ) shuriken. According to the kanji, this translates as "pierce a
decapitated head". It is possible this example is the spike used to either pick up a decapitated
head and present it to the presiding official at executions, or to act as a support to which an
identifying label is attached and iserted into the head on display, not, as has been suggested, the
kogai. A similar item to the Kankyuto is the uma bari, (lit. horse needle), which is a utility needle
used to either pierce boils in the horse's skin, or the let blood from the swollen veins in the horse's
legs caused by overwork, or possibly to clean objects from under the hoof. They are usually
classified together and thought to be the same, however technically, the kankyu-to possess a
sharp knife edge hence the character -to, whereas the uma bari is, as the name suggests, needle
shaped, usually being round with a sharp point.

Fig 35. Kankyuto gata shuriken , also of Takemura Ryu.

Fig. 36. "Uuma bari". From Iwai Kohoku's "Hidden Weapons"


Tamiya Ryu Kenjutsu

This school of swordsmanship also contains shuriken throwing techniques as part of its
curriculum, no doubt as an "assimilated art". Viewing a demonstration on video, the style appears
very similar to Katori Shinto Ryu. More information needed to confirm this.


Tanba Ryu
Little is known of this school at present, although Fujita Seiko shows the blade below as
belonging to both Tanba Ryu and Chishin Ryu. It is interesting to note that the last headmaster of
this school is named Tanba, and this blade, along with the blade shown above in the section on
Chishin Ryu, are both listed together by Fujita Seiko as Chishin Ryu AND Tanba Ryu. It is my
suspicion that Tanba Ryu and Chishin Ryu are synonymous, and that the error is caused by the
fact that the teachers name was Tanba, and the art's name was Chishin. See also Araki Ryu
Figure 37. Shuriken of the Tanba Ryu, from "Zukai Shurikenjutsu".

Tatsumi Ryu
This school is a comprehensive martial art founded by Tatsumi Sankyo around the mid 1500's,
and still operates today. It teaches a complete range of weaponry, including shuriken, as well as
battlefield and martial strategies. Details about the shuriken in this Ryu are scarce at present,
though I suspect shuriken training was introduced into the art at a later date. The photo below
shows a blade currently used in the Tatsumi Ryu. It is 12.6 cms long and weight 90 grams. At its
base, it is 17mm wide, and 12mm thick. This blade is rather interesting in that it's cross section is
somewhat diamond shaped, being flattened along one axis. This is possibly due to the nature of
the source material used to make the blade.

Figure 38. Shuriken of the Tatsumi Ryu

(photo courtesy of Danny Fletcher)


Teihozan Ryu (Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu)

Teihozan is an alternate reading for the name of the school's founder, Tsutsumi Yamashiro no
kami Hozan. Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu is a 15th century ju-jutsu art that included a form of grappling
called yoroi kumi uchi, which involves grappling in armour, as well weapons such as kenjutsu and
kusari-gama (sickle and chain). Hozan Ryu is sometimes mistakenly called a school of Kendo,
but this is untrue. When the Kendo kata were being formulated, specific techniques were
incorporated from a variety of existing Ryu which contained a kenjutsu component. Tsutsumi
Hozan Ryu was one of these schools, and it was the Hachiten Giri technique from Hozan Ryu,
borrowed and used, along with techniques from others schools, to form the first standardised set
of Kendo forms.

Little is known about the shuriken component of the Ryu at this stage. Fujita depicts the blade
shape shown below as being the blade of this school. It is interesting to note that this blade shape
is similar to the Chinese flying dart, called Fei Biao (see History). See also Moen Ryu, above for
similar triangular shapes in blades.
Figure 39. A Shuriken of the Tsutsumi HoZan Ryu.


Tendo Ryu Naginata-jutsu (Tendo Ryu Heiho)

Tendo Ryu also includes shuriken, although there are apparently very few people who know
these techniques. Naginata is practiced against sword, where the uketachi for the tachi side, and
shidachi for the naginata side. Tendo Ryu also includes Nito, Jo and kusarigama, all of which are
matched against the tachi, and the sword against sword kata have apparently been lost. In some
of the earlier kata, too, techniques for kaiken and tanto are included as well.There were
apparently even some yari techniques, too.. The later weapons are only taught to older high
ranking students.


Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-Ryu

This style is one of the most famous martial arts of Japan, with a long and distinguished history. It
is a composite art consisting of many weapons, sword and shuriken included. As with many other
schools, the shuriken was taught as part of the techniques for sword. There are descriptions of
two different blades. One is a blade with hexagonal cross-section, (fig. 38) but most are the
square sectioned type shown in fig. 40 - 42. It is thought the throw of Katori Shinto Ryu is that of
the "direct hit" method, as of Negishi Ryu, which explains the similarity in shape of the example in
fig. 38 to those of Negishi Ryu. The variations in shape of these types of blades (excluding hashi
shaped) are due to the balance of weight along the length of the blade. The ones shown in fig. 40
have their weight balanced close to centre, fig. 38 the weight is forward, and in fig. 39 top, the
weight is to the rear. These variations in weight balance affect the blades rotation in flight,
therefore determining whether a blade is more suitable for a short, middle, or long distance throw.
This theory is identical to that of Negishi Ryu, and it suggests that the two arts are more closely
linked than previously thought.

Figure 38.

Figure 39. Top Shuriken of Katori Shinto Ryu, middle Chishin Ryu, nottom. Ikku Ryu.
Figure 40. Authentic Katori Shinto Ryu shuriken, on display at the Katori Shrine.
These blades were offered to the shrine by the school in 1890.

Figure 41. Authentic Katori Shinto Ryu Shuriken from the collection of Chikatoshi Someya
Sensei, now
in the possession of Yasuyuki Otsuka Sensei.
(photo courtesy of Danny Fletcher)

Figure 42. Shuriken of the Katori Shinto Ryu from the collection of the late Charles V. Gruzansky.
(photo courtesy of Robert C. Gruzansky, used with permission)
Figure 43. A set of Katori Shinto Ryu shuriken copies, made by myself following the
pattern of a blade given to me by Otsuka Sensei. Length has been extended to
17.8cm, thickness is 8mm.

According to school documents called the "Mokuroku Heiho no Shinsho", Tenshin Shoden Katori
Shinto Ryu contains the following shuriken jutsu techniques in their curriculum:

1. Omote no shuriken - 7 kajo (Basic techniques - 7 teachings)

2. Gogyo no shuriken - 8 kajo (Higher techniques - 8 teachings)
3. Gokui no shuriken - 9 kajo (Secret techniques - 9 teachings)


Tsugawa Ryu
The blade used by this style is a large, double pointed spatulate blade, called by some a teppan,
and by others a ryobari-gata shuriken, or ryohashi tsurugi-gata shuriken, as it has two points that
are similar to the double edge straight sword called tsurugi. Some groups use teppan to signify a
large lozenge senban type blade. The word teppan means "plate metal", so the label is not
incorrect for both. I heard a report that this pattern is similar in shape to a part of the traditional
armour, and that in battle it was known to be removed and used as a throwing weapon. Perhaps
this is the reason for the unusual shape of the blade.

Fig. 44. The Tsugawa Ryu shuriken, a double ended blade.


Yagyu Ryu
A famous kenjutsu style founded by Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Nobutsuna, and passed through the
Yagyu family. Successive generations of Yagyu lords served the Tokugawa shogunate for many
years. Someya Sensei depicts the Yagyu Ryu shuriken blade as a 4 pointed hira shuriken, as
well as a 2nd type, similar in shape to Negishi Ryu's "projectile" shaped blades, but with the tail
end having a star shaped cross-section, much like the fletchings on an arrow. This is the style of
shuriken that was presented to the French Government on a diplomatic mission during the
1800's, and was the basis for the French designed "flechette", a piercing weapon dropped at
height from aeroplanes, used in World War I. They were dropped in bundles of 3500 to 4000 from
an altitude of 2000m, and achieved a velocity of 150m per second, enough to pierce through
body of a man, and the horse he sat on.

Figure 45a& b. Shuriken of the Yagyu Ryu, Type 1 (Click to enlarge)

(photo courtesy of Robert C. Gruzanski, used with permission)

Figure 46. Shuriken of the Yagyu Ryu, Type 2. (Click to view enlarged)
(From Otsuka Sensei's Meifu Shinkage Ryu Shurikenjutsu website)

Figure 47. This "ju-ji" (Japanese: number 10 shaped) shuriken is listed

in Fujita Seiko's Shurikenjutsu book as being a Yagyu Ryu blade, however
in Nihon Kobudo's video on shuriken it is referred to as a Ryusei Ryu blade.
The kanji in the top right do not specify Yagyu Ryu either.
Figure 48. "ju-ji" shuriken of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu
(photo courtesy of Danny Fletcher)


Isu Ryu
Quite possibly a variant of the spelling of Izu Ryu (See Katono Ryu above).

Blades of the various schools - hira shuriken, or shaken

Generally these blades were of Ryu used by the various clans of Ninja.

Figure 49. Some disc or star-shaped shuriken, or shaken from various Ninjutsu schools.

From top left, examples 1,3, and 4 are shuriken of the Koga and Iga Ryu. 5, 6. Kobori Ryu, 7.
Yagyu Ryu or Ryusei Ryu, 8. Koden Ryu, Shosho Ryu, 10 is from Yagyu Ryu and Koga Ryu.
Figure 50. Some throwing stars from various schools and sources.
from the collection of the late Charles V. Gruzanski (Used with permission,© Robert C.

Figure 51. A variety of shaken, including hira shuriken, and senban shuriken (top
right), throwing blades from
the collection of Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, current Head Master of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu. Of interest
is the
rough rounded black object next to the large centre item. It is a tsubete which is a flat, round
a very early pre-cursor to the shaken.

Figure 52. A selection of shuriken from the collection of Charles V. Gruzanski (Click image to
(photos courtesy of Robert C. Gruzanski, used with permission)

The star and cross shaped shuriken, known as hira shuriken, or shaken, use an entirely different
principle in flight than do the bo shuriken, as they spin at a rapid rate, and have multiple points
which can make contact with the target. There seems to be some dispute over the method of
throwing. Dr Hatsumi, current Head Master, or 34th soke of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu, shows
throwing the shuriken as one would throw a small "frisbee", that is, the blade is held horizontally,
parallel to the ground, between the thumb and first finger. The wrist makes a flicking action
forward as the arm straightens out in front of the thrower's stomach. Several shuriken are held
cupped in the left hand like a stack of coins, and are passed to the right hand in rapid succession.
Shirakami Eizo however, states that this method is wrong, and that the blade is held and thrown
vertically, in much the same way as a bo shuriken. (see fig. 53, below)

Figure 53. Holding a hira shuriken of the Ninjutsu schools. (1) shows an incorrect method

Both types of throw are feasible, however, the latter method can generate much more power. See
here for more details on throwing shaken.

Finn: Michael Finn Martial Arts: A Complete Illustrated History , "One of the earliest schools of
jujutsu, dating back to the seventh century, was called Koden Ryu ... Much of their inspiration
derived from Korea."

2. Interview with Satoshi Saito in "Sword & Spirit: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan Vol. 2"
Koryu Books, 1999 (back)

3. Kono, Yoshinori (1996). Toru Shirai: Founder of Tenshin Shirai Ryu in "Aikido Journal" #108

Wearing the Shuriken
The shuriken's tactical advantage is it's small size and concealability, and ability for a quick draw
which helps one gain the upper hand by using surprise when attacked. With practice, great
accuracy with the shuriken can be achieved, and this enhances its tactical advantage. By
momentarily disabling an attacker who could be from 3 to 15 paces away, this gives one precious
time to collect your thoughts and move to better position from which to deal with the attack.

To make better use of this advantage, a thorough understanding of the draw is necessary, and
how the shuriken are worn can either help or hinder your ability to respond to attack effectively.
Traditionally, in Shirai and Negishi Ryu, a number of points around the hip were used as places to
wear the shuriken, and each position would offer some advantage over another, due to hand
position, angle of the hand to the opponent, and position of the blade as it comes into the hand.

Figure. 26. Wearing the shuriken

The illustration above shows 3 positions, each convenient for a right hand draw in a variety of
situations. The points of the blade are embedded in the clothing, so whether one takes the front
or back set, the blade will fit in the hand ready for a turning or a direct hit, dependent upon the
situation.(Particularly important in Shirai Ryu) In feudal times in Japan, Samurai did not have the
restrictions on wearing such weapons as we do these days, so their blades could have been in
view, or hidden, as the left illustration shows.

Ninjutsu practitioners hold their hira shuriken, up to 8 or 10, together like a stack of coins wrapped
in a leaf of cotton, which is then pocketed or secreted in any number of pouches built for that

As mentioned above, shuriken were also worn as hairpins.

The shuriken in flight

The shuriken travels through the air to the target in 3 different ways, depending upon the school,
grip, and throw. The "direct hit" method, jikidaho or choku-da, involves holding the blade with the
point out, towards the target. This method is employed in the Negishi Ryu, and also as a short
distance throw in the Shirai, Jikishin and other Ryu. (see fig. 22, below)
Figure 22. "The direct hit" method

The second way that the blade turns, the "turning hit", is called hantendaho, or Ikkaiten-da, and
involves holding the blade with the tip pointing into the palm. During its travel through the air to
the target, the blade turns 180 deg, or 1 turn. This method is employed by the Shirai and other
Ryu. (see fig. 23, below) but not by Negishi Ryu, however I believe nowadays students of Negishi
Ryu also learn the throws and about the blades of other Ryu, including Shirai.

Figure 23. The "turning hit" method

The third way a blade turns, the "multi turn" method, or dakaiten-da, has the blade turning 360
deg. or more as it flies through the air. This method is employed by the hira shuriken schools,
where the many points of the star shaped blade will rotate and have no difficulty piercing the
target at any distance. This method is also employed by the Shirai Ryu over long distance throws,
(up to 18 steps). (Not illustrated.)


Distance from the target, especially in Shirai Ryu, is measured in steps, rather than units such as
feet or metres, because distance varies for each individual. A taller individual has a longer stride,
but they also have a longer arm reach, so proportionately, the relationship between the travel of
their arm and their distance in steps from the target is exactly the same as for a shorter individual.
This makes standard units of measurement useless as a guide to learning distance. In Shirai
Ryu, throwing distances are multiples of 3 steps from the target, from 1 to 15-18, (about the
maximum effective range for throwing a blade). This is due to the fact that Shirai Ryu is based
upon the principle of the "turning hit" method of throwing. Each turn in the air is equivalent to 3
steps of added distance, which is a kind of limitation, as one can only throw from one of these
distances. 1 step's distance is measured by standing in a right zenkutsu dachi, or right forward
stance, with the right arm extended forward touching the target with the tip of the shuriken. By
taking one deep stride backwards with the right foot, then withdrawing the left foot so one is
standing in shizentai, or natural stance, this process measures the 1st step's distance. From this
stance, the form is practiced (Manji no kata, with blade, see below), utilising the "direct hit"
method, as there is not room enough for the blade to turn in flight..

The next throwing distance from the target is 3 steps, which involves turning the blade in the hand
so the tail is pointing to the target. Standing at the target as before, take 3 deep strides
backwards, so that the left foot is forward. From here, withdraw the left foot, and stand in
shizentai. This is the 3 step's distance, and from here the "turning hit" method is utilised, as this
distance dictates, according to the Shirai Ryu technique, a turning hit.

For the remaining distances, this same process is repeated, each time turning the blade in the
hand. When retrieving the blades from the target, stride forward counting the steps, so one gets a
disciplined and repetitive experience of measuring the distance by steps. Ultimately, one should
be able to judge automatically whether one should hold a blade in hand with the tip or tail pointing

The technique of Negishi Ryu does not have this problem of turning the blade, because the
principle of the throw is different. As mentioned above, Negishi Ryu solely utilises the "direct hit"
method of travel, with the tip of the blade always held pointing outwards, so throwing at any
distance can be achieved. However, the technique is much more advanced and much more
difficult to master, though technically, it is superior to Shirai Ryu. Judgement of distance is purely
by feel based upon experience, and minute adjustments in technique (see below) are made to
allow for the minute variations in distance. To develop this judgement, one must train quite
severely and repetitively, otherwise a good hit of the target will be an impossibility. Training starts
at 1 steps distance, arrived at in exactly the same way as above for Shirai Ryu. The individual
practices at this distance for about 2 weeks, ensuring that mastery of this distance is achieved.

After 2 weeks, the next distance is begun. From a left zenkutsu dachi, the left foot slides back so
the heel meets the instep of the right foot, weight is transferred to the left foot, then the right foot
slides back, stepping again into zenkutsu dachi. This action decides the next distance, and is
actually a shuffle, however it is exactly the same change in distance as a full step, except that
one remains with the same foot forward, rather than the opposite foot, as described above with
the Shirai Ryu.

The throw is then practiced, with the necessary adjustments made (eg. earlier release, see
below), for another two weeks. Each day, the individual at first throws at 1 steps distance, until
they are comfortable with their ability, then the next distance back is trained at. After 2 weeks of
this, the slide backwards is repeated, and the 3rd distance is added to the routine. Once again,
the individual starts at 1 steps distance, progresses to 2 steps, then onto 3, and practices like
this, each day, for a further 2 weeks. Every 2 weeks, a further backstep is added, only practiced
after each of the shorter distances have systematically been practiced. So after 9 months of
dedicated training, one should be reaching the limit of their throw.

The throw of Jikishin Ryu is only used for short distances, as its grip does not allow for a "turning
hit" method of throwing, nor does it allow for earlier release. The practice of Jikishin is primarily a
development in speed, as it is only used for short distance. Because it can only be used at short
distance, the reaction time to attack is necessarily much shorter, therefore the goal of the training
is achieve a quicker draw and throw.

More on distance here

Striking the target

There are many forms of target, so only a brief discussion will follow. Shuriken were developed as
a quick response shock weapon that caused the enemy to be distracted while the thrower rushed
closer for a killing technique, usually by sword. This is why shuriken appears to be have been
taught as part of swordsmanship. So it can be said that it is not a weapon that can deal deathly
blows. In its role as a distracting weapon, it therefore was targeted at the softer and more
vulnerable parts of the body, such as the head, especially the eyes, the throat, and various
exposed regions of soft tissue, such as the back of a swordsman's hands, and the exposed feet.
It was not meant to pierce armour or to be able to kill with one blow from a distance.
Image temporarily unavailable.
Figure 22 Tatami used as target

For this reason, practice with a hard target is not necessary, and it also tends to damage the
shuriken. Traditionally, tatami, or straw matting was used, although more elaborate targets
consisting of frames holding various types of material, ranging from screens of paper, boards of
wood, or even blocks of wood have been developed. Trees have been often used, especially by
"yamabushi", or mountain warriors, whose retreat to the wild had left them without resources.
Today, cardboard boxes, or sheets of cardboard, with a piece of white paper and a target image
drawn on it and pinned to the box would be sufficient.

According to Satoshi Saito Sensei, targets consisted of two main areas in which the throw was
focused; head height, representing the face, and stomach height, representing the swordsman's
hands while holding the sword.

The shuriken can hit the target in a number of ways, and the ideal is to have the full weight of the
blade moving down its length through the point into the point of impact. This gives maximum force
to the hit. If the tail is swinging up or sideways as the point strikes, much of the blades force is
lost to lateral movement, and penetration by the blade is reduced.

Because the blade is falling due to gravity, and turning during flight due to the force of the throw,
there is an ideal moment during the rotation of the blade for it to hit the target, and that is as the
blade is just becoming horizontal, or just as it becomes aligned with the direction of the throw. If
one were to draw a line from the hand that releases the blade directly to the target, then the blade
should hit the target just as it becomes aligned to the trajectory of the throw.

Figure 23 The "Live" and "Dead" Hit

This illustration shows a number of possible angles the blade can hit the target if thrown in a
horizontal trajectory. Any angle between A and B is ideal, because as the tip hits the target, the
body of the blade is still rotating and applying force down its length to the tip. This type of hit is
said to be a "live hit", as the blade is still applying force directly to the strike after it touches the
target, thus is more penetrating..
C and D are termed "dead hits" because at the moment of impact, the weight at the base of the
blade is no longer being transferred to the tip, but is being carried upwards, laterally to the point
of impact, and is therefore much less penetrating.

The throw

Needless to say, the throw is the most important aspect of the shuriken art. How important it is
though, is the obstacle we have to realise and overcome. All schools and methods stress the
importance of "form" when throwing, it is not just a matter of throwing the blade at the target.
Adhering to the throwing form is absolutely necessary for achieving consistent and controlled

In throwing the shuriken, at the moment of the throw, there are two major variables that affect the
outcome of the throw; distance and the throw. The distance we are subject to, so it is a variable
we have to account for by adjusting our technique. The extent of variability in the throw can be
decreased through training, to the point where it becomes a constant. When the throw becomes
constant, the only variable facing us in hitting the target is distance, which we can learn to adjust
to through regular training at different distances. It is very difficult for the mind to be able to judge
and adjust to 2 variables at the same time, so by making 1 of these become close to a constant, it
makes the task of judging 1 variable easier. The principles are very similar to the game of golf. In
golf, there are also two variables, distance and swing. The variability of distance is compensated
for by changing between heavier and lighter clubs, it is the swing that has to be refined so it
becomes constant. Once the swing is mastered, its variability has been reduced to close to
constancy, and the trick becomes choosing the right size club according to the distance.

In shuriken, once the throw has been mastered, and thus becomes constant, minute changes in
technique can be made to adjust to changes in distance, thus creating a more controlled and
accurate throw. To achieve a constant throw, great attention must be paid to practice of the form.


The Breath is very important to the throw, one must coordinate their breathing pattern with the
physical movements of the body for the technique to become natural and effective. Due to the
physiology of the body, power cannot be generated as effectively on the in-breath as it can on the
out-breath. This is because generation of power in a strike is an outward force, as is breathing
out, whereas breathing in is an inward force. Breathing in as one exerts force tends to sap power
from the body, and severely limits physical performance. Therefore, it is important to understand
the physical movements, and the type of breath that should be associated with these movements.

In Japanese swordsmanship there is the concept of "In-Yo", probably more widely known as "Yin-
Yang". This concept describes how all things in the universe can be represented by two opposing
yet inter-related sets of alternating polarities, that combine to form the whole of things that we
perceive. In our body we have In-Yo, it is found in our footwork: step with the left foot, step with
the right foot. With our breathing it is: Inbreath - Outbreath, in cutting with the sword it is raise and
lower. If we take certain movements to be related to In, and other movements to be related to Yo,
and combine them, we can through an understanding of this concept, unite various groups of
movement into a unified whole, thus making our overall performance much more harmonious,
and efficient.
In the ultimate form of throwing a shuriken, Koso no I (see below), there is only two components,
the raising, and the lowering of the arm. Thus the in-breath is coordinated with the raising of the
arm, and the outbreath is co-ordinated with the lowering of the arm, or the throw.

Observing and judging the strike

At the end of each throw there is a moment of stillness. At this point, one must hold their intent
with the feeling of zanshin, or readiness and observation. At this point one concentrates on the
feeling at the end of the throw, and observes the result of the throw. In simple terms, one
examines the position of the blade in the target, and how close to or far from perfect it is, then
observes or remembers how they felt during the throw. One can then judge how their body
influenced the blade and its flight, then assess what postural and other adjustments need to be
made for subsequent throws.

Observing the position of the blade in the target can tell you a lot about the throw. Not only can it
tell the weaknesses in the throwers technique, it can also give an indication of the psychological
state of the thrower. On an individual throw, its position can tell you about the throw itself. If 3 or
more were thrown in a row, the grouping, and the relationship between each blade in the target
can tell you about the state of mind of the thrower at the time. If the positions of the blades are
observed over a whole session of throwing, details of the throwers technique and their general
state of mind can be observed. In effect, the results of throwing a blade can be a good barometer
for measuring the mental state of the thrower.


In the Negishi and Shirai Ryu, there are 3 basic types of throw; to the front, to the side and to the
rear. Front throws involve 3 forms
1. Koso no I,
2. Jikishin
3. Uranami.

Side throws consist of also of 3 throws:

1. Hon-uchi
2. Yoko-uchi
3. Gyaku-uchi

Rear throws consist of ura-uchi

Front Throws

The Basic Form, Koso-no-I

The method of learning the front throw, indeed all throws, is by first going through a series of
steps from basic form to advanced form. The method employed to begin learning the basic form
of Koso-no-I is called Manji no kata, and is practiced for the first 6 months without holding a
blade. It is a simple set of 8 movements which form the essence of the constant throw, and
cannot be neglected. The reason why it is practiced without a blade is to prevent the mind from
becoming attached too early to scoring a hit, which would otherwise distract one's concentration
from the form.

For any throw, there are several steps one must go through, in order to set up the conditions for
an accurate hit, and this kata, or form, drills the body through these steps. Even though the form
looks very rigid and the movements seem superfluous, this is necessary as it causes the body to
succumb to the form, and allows the correct throwing movement to dictate how the body moves
during the throw, rather than have the untrained body upset the movement of the blade during
throw. Click here for a picture sequence of the Manji - no - Kata

Once the 8 movements of the form have been absorbed by the body and become familiar, the
form begins to control how the body moves, and at this stage the student is ready to hold a blade
while practicing the form. Manji no kata then becomes an 11 step form, as it now incorporates
extra steps which involve passing the blade from the left hand to the right. The shuriken are
carried in the left hand, tips pointing to the rear as you step up to the throwing position. This is an
inoffensive gesture, as having shuriken in the throwing hand would be seen as offensive action.
Between step 2 and 3 of the sequence above, 3 further steps are added. 1. The left hand is
raised, holding the shuriken, to the front of the hara, tails pointing to the right. 2. The right hand
raises to meet the left, the thumb goes behind the blade while the fingers cover the blade, thus
hiding the blade from view. The grip is transferred to the right hand. 3. Both arms drop to the side

The second level of Koso no I (see fig. 24) is called Toji no kata, and simply involves a shortened,
or abbreviated number of steps to the Manji no kata form. The swastika shape, or manji is
subtracted, and the arm is raised to shuriken no kamae (step 5) behind the right ear from the side
as though raising a sword (shomen uchi movement in Aikido). This arm movement is the same
movement used in Jikishin Ryu, although the Jikishin grip of the blade is different, and the right
foot does not step forwards during the throw.

Figure 24. The Toji no kata form.

The third level of Koso no I (see fig. 25) is called chokushi no kata, which involves a further
shortening of the form. The holding of the right arm by the side is subtracted, making the
movement go directly from "passing the blade" (step 3) to shuriken no kamae, (step 5). The arm
moves in a round movement, travelling past the side to the rear, then raises to the position behind
the ear (yokomen uchi movement in Aikido).
Figure 25. The Chokushi no kata form.

The final level called Koso no I, is really the essence of the front throw movement. Over years of
training, the shape of the throw becomes more natural, free and smoother, even appearing
casual, yet the core movements, the Koso no I, remain internally, even though the large, rigid and
superfluous movements have gradually been whittled and trimmed away. The posture is such
that the throw is available immediately, without having to adjust before cutting down with the right
arm. It is pure readiness. The ultimate goal is to be able to simply look at the target and strike it
with a shuriken.

Figure 26. The Koso No I of Shirakami Eizo

Image temporarily unavailable

Figure 27. The Koso no I of Satoshi Saito Sensei, current head of Negishi Ryu


The second form of front throw, Jikishin is really a simplified form of Koso no I, but its emphasis is
on surprise and speed. It is used for short distances, and uses a different method of holding the
blade. (see fig. 28)
Figure 28. The Jikishin grip.

This method of holding the blade facilitates a quick is a simple yet natural grip; the right
hand can reach for and take the blade in one movement quite quickly and easily, and can be
thrown as quickly as one can raise their arm, however, the grip does not facilitate a long distance
throw. As with all other grips, the hand is light and relaxed, as if holding a swallows egg. The arm
movement on the throw is as though one is cutting with a sword. Click here for a picture
sequence of the Jikishin Kata


The third form of front throw is called Uranami, and is the more difficult of the 3. It is like a softball
pitch where the arm swings at the right side, from the natural, downwards pointing position,
forward to a horizontal angle facing the target. It is the underhand version of the Jikishin throw, as
it utilises a right forward step as the blade is thrown. As with the Jikishin throw, it is fast,
immediate, and a surprise. Click here for a picture sequence of the Uranami throw

Side Throws

Side throws also involve 3 forms, 1. Hon uchi (the basic over-arm throw), 2. Yoko uchi (side-ways
throw) and 3. Gyaku uchi (under-arm throw). In practice, these throws can be done from standing,
"tachi uchi", or sitting in "za uchi", in the traditional Japanese style of sitting on the knees and
ankles (see below).
Figure 29. 1. Hon uchi, 2, Yoko uchi, 3. Gyaku uchi (4. Ura Uchi)

Figure 30. Hon uchi, yoko uchi and gyaku uchi from standing posture (tachi uchi)

The first form, Hon Uchi

Hon uchi is the basic throw, yoko uchi is more difficult, and gyaku uchi being the most advanced.
The latter two are not usually practiced until the hon uchi form is mastered. Mastery of hon uchi
requires practice at various levels of performance, which starts with Manji no kata, which
progresses to Toji no kata, then to Chokushi no kata, leading to the final form Koso no I. This final
form is the essence of all levels of the over-arm throw, which is done completely naturally and
without thought, and consists of only 2 movements; raise and throw. Click here for a picture
sequence for Hon Uchi

The second form, Yoko Uchi

The action of hon uchi focusses on the bending of the elbow, and is not a powerful throw, while
the second form, yoko uchi, (see fig 29-30 above, fig. 31 below) will produce more power and is
quicker. The lesson in this form however is the change in hand movement to allow a fast and
powerful throw sideways, either right of left. In the second and the third form, most of the
technique is an extension and variation of principles of the first form; if the first form is mastered
first, these will be easier to attain, despite them being more difficult throws.
Figure 31. Yoko uchi.

The illustration shows to basic form, where one steps as the blade is passed to the other hand,
then the throw is made from a static posture. The more advanced form is one movement,
stepping and throwing together. From shizentai, the blade is passed hands, the right arm raised
to the chest, and swung out and towards the target, as one steps sideways. The moment the right
foot is placed on the ground, the right hand is just completing the throw.

Figure 32. The end of the yoko uchi throw by Shirakami Aizo.

Click here for a picture sequence of Yoko Uchi

The Third Form, Gyaku Uchi

In gyaku uchi, the throwing action comes from the shoulder, and is more difficult than hon uchi or
yoko uchi. The arm raises with the palm down until it points towards the target. At this point, the
hand stops raising sharply, and the blade is allowed to depart the hand. This throw is different
from Uranami, as the hand raises from the front of the body, and the palm is face down in gyaku
uchi, whereas Uranami comes from the side, and the palm faces to left at right angles to the
Click here for a picture sequence for Gyaku Uchi

Rear Throw, Ura Uchi

Ura Uchi uses a similar throwing action as Gyaku uchi, but it is aimed at the rear, and the palm is
not facing flat to the ground, but vertical. Elevation in this throw is gained by leaning the body
more forward, and angling the hip more sharply at the end of the throw.
Click here for a picture sequence for Ura Uchi

Methods of gripping the shuriken

Bo shuriken

Both Negishi Ryu and Shirai Ryu hold the blade in the same way, with a few variations depending
upon the type of blade, and other schools follow suit, with a few variations of their own. It is held
in the hand by forming a guide with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers. The little finger gives extra
support and the thumb holds the blade in place. The feeling of the hand when holding and
throwing is said to be gentle, like holding a swallows egg so as not to break it. (see fig. 1).

Shirai Ryu

In Shirai Ryu, the blade is held with the point outwards towards the target, or inwards to the palm,
depending upon the distance to be thrown.
Figure 1. Holding the shuriken of the Shirai Ryu

Fig 2. A variation in the hold of Shirai Ryu, for long blades. (Used with permission,© Robert C.

Gripping the blade in Negishi Ryu

In Negishi Ryu, the blade is always held with the tip pointing forwards, and much like the method
of Shirai Ryu, it is held in the hand with the fingers acting as a guide, and the thumb locks it in
place.(see fig. 2)

Figure 3. Holding the shuriken of the Negishi Ryu

The Jikishin grip

Not much is known about Jikishin, and it is suspected that this is a variation in style of a precursor
to Shirai or Negishi Ryu. Kashima Shinto Ryu has a particular method of throwing the shuriken
with a step of the right foot forwards and a rapid raise and drop of the right arm for the throw, and
as the Jikishin method involves the same specific method, it is possible that Kashima Shinto Ryu
has in fact preserved the jikishin throw. The major difference to the above throws is in the way the
blade is held (see fig 4). The 3 smaller fingers are curled, while the index finger points out
straight, as though making a gun shape with the hand. The blade sits with its butt in the palm and
the thumb applies slight pressure from above, downwards, holding it in place on the side of the
curled middle finger, and holding the tail down as it leaves the hand. The index finger then rests
on the side of the blade, providing support. The throw is a simple raising and lowering of the arm
from the side as a step is taken forward, the arm cuts down as if it were a sword.

Figure 4. Holding the shuriken in the Jikishin grip

The grip of "kanime" see Advanced techniques

Figure 5. Gripping the shuriken in preparation for "kanime"

"Chinese Fist Method" Chugoku Genho

This method of holding and throwing a blade is mentioned in Douglas Hsieh's "Ancient Chinese
Hidden Weapons", and is also discussed on, which appears to be run by a
practitioner of the NInjutsu arts. It appears this method of holding and throwing is peculiar to
Teihozan Ryu, and/or Mou En Ryu (said to have originated in China), yet this is to be confirmed.
In the Chinese arts, a blade of 9-12 cms is used, but the Japanese arts which utilise this type of
throw use a longer blade.

The butt end of the blade is placed in the centre of the palm, which pushes the blade out through
the fingers on the throw. The thumb, index, middle and ring fingertips clutch the sides of the
blade, forming a kind guide through which the blade exits. The hand flicks forward to the target.
There are two methods of throwing, called "positive" and "negative" hand, where the hand is
either held in a low position with the palm upwards and throws at targets at above horizontal, or
held in a high position with the palm downwards, throwing at targets below horizontal. The
"negative" hand (shown in fig. 6 below), is regarded as a "metsubushi" (sight remover) attack, as
it targets the eyes. The path of the blade, as it leaves the hand is direct, or straight, thus creating
a very small profile as it could only be seen from in front of the tip. This makes it difficult to see,
as opposed to the Shirai or Negishi Ryu basic throws where the blade is thrown from above the
head like a sword cut, therefore making it an ideal metsubushi waza. It is interesting to note that
film footage of the late Isamu Maeda Sensei of Negishi Ryu, senior of Satoshi Saito Sensei, who
appeared in the NHK documentary on Negishi Ryu shuriken jutsu featuring Yoshinori Kono
Sensei, shows him distincly throwing blades in this "Chinese Fist" method.

Figure 6. Holding a shuriken in the "Chinese Fist" method

Concealing blades in the hand

As mentioned previously, part of the tactical advantage of the shuriken is it's small size and
unobtrusive shape, meaning that it can be concealed quite easily, not only on the body for
carrying, but also within the hand as a surprise tactic before throwing in battle. Opponents make a
visual judgement of each other before engaging, and the tactics one uses are based upon what
one is able to perceive. Shuriken can be quickly drawn and deployed, and this surprise change to
the battle situation could gain one a valuable few seconds advantage in timing, and thus swing
the balance of power in an altercation. This idea follows the fundamental principle of Sun Tzu's
Art of War, that of "deceit"; ie. "Attack the enemy where he least expected and prepared"
(Chapter 1. V4.)

The hands are very expressive parts of the body, they are used in many human activities, and the
shape and movement of the hands can often unconsciously betray our intentions. Experiments
have shown that an observer relies heavily on the shape and position of the hands in relation to
each other and the body when trying to determine the intended activity of a subject. These same
experiments have also shown that covering the back of the hand and fingers with a flat, dark
material not only masks the shape of the hands, but also makes it difficult for the observer to
recognise what a person is doing.
When we carry objects in the hand, our hand naturally takes a shape and position about the body
that we can readily recognise as being the shape used for carrying. The fingers close into a fist,
the skin goes a bit whiter than the rest of the parts of the body, due to the contriction of blood
from tightening the muscles that are doing the holding. In this way we can see how the body can
betray our intentions.

When the arm hangs by the sides of the body without carrying anything, the muscles are relaxed,
the fingers loose and open, and there is no whitening of the skin. In order to carry something in
the hand without giving anything away, one must project the illusion that the hand is empty, using
these small facts we know about the way we unconsciously do things.

Example 1a Example 2a Example 3a

In the 3 examples above, the hand shapes and position do not give away the fact that a
potentially dangerous weapon is being carried, however, in the 3 examples below, the hand is
turned to reveal the weapon and the method of holding it.
Example 1b Example 2b Example 3b

In the immediacy of an engagement at battle, we need to make quick decisions based on what
we immediately perceive, and when situations are changing rapidly, we don't have as much time
to think or rationalise, so we rely more on signals given by our subconscious. Our body follows
familiar paths of perception, judgement, decision and action, that is, under stress we act more on
instinct or unconscious signals than through carefully thought out decisions. Much like a magician
performing sleight of hand, we can hide a shuriken in plain view, thus giving us a tactical
advantage over an opponent.

Hira shuriken, or shaken

The star and cross shaped shuriken, known as hira shuriken, or shaken, use an entirely different
principle in flight than do the bo shuriken, as they spin at a rapid rate, and have multiple points
which can make contact with the target. There seems to be some dispute over the method of
throwing. Dr Hatsumi, current Head Master, or 34th soke of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu, shows
throwing the shuriken as one would throw a small "frisbee", that is, the blade is held horizontally,
parallel to the ground, between the thumb and first finger. The wrist makes a flicking action
forward as the arm straightens out in front of the thrower's stomach. Several shuriken are held
cupped in the left hand like a stack of coins, and are passed to the right hand in rapid succession.
Shirakami Eizo however, states that this method is wrong, and that the blade is held and thrown
vertically, in much the same way as a bo shuriken. (see fig. 5, below)
Figure 5. Holding a hira shuriken of the Ninjutsu schools. (1) shows an incorrect method

Both types of throw are feasible, however, the latter method can generate much more power. See
here for more details on throwing shaken.

Figure 6. Note that the thumb grips the centre of the blade, holding the blade firmly against the
This ensures that the blade remains under control during the throw, thus removing another
variable from the blade's travel to the target.

Throwing Shaken
As mentioned in the introduction, there are two reported methods of throwing shaken. I haven't
had any instruction in throwing the way Hatsumi Sensei described, that being from horizontal, so I
won't discuss that method. The throw of the other method, holding the shaken vertically, is similar
to the throw with bo shuriken, it is an over-head throw, where the arm moves in a vertical
downwards and forwards movement. It is important that the shaken is thrown perpendicular to the
ground, and to the target. If it leans over in the throw, air resistance will create an aerodynamic
effect against the blade, and it will curl off and raise slightly in its path off target. Even if the
shaken is held upright, but is turned sideways in the throw, that is, not in line with the flat plane
between thrower and target, air resistance created by its forward movement will cause the blade
to angle off line and drop quickly. (refer to diagram)
Figure 7..

Only when the blade is vertical, and perfectly aligned with the line of throw to the target, will you
be able to control the throw with any degree of accuracy.

Another cause for inaccuracy with shaken is an asymmetricity between the two sides of the blade
itself. Shaken have sharpened edges that are sloped much the same way as a knife blade. If the
amount of surface area on the sloped edges of each side of the blade are not equal, then there
will also be an aerodynamic effect when the blade is thrown.

Figure 8.

So if your blade seems to veer off from straight, even though you are sure of holding it vertically
to the ground, and perpendicularly to the target, the next thing to do would be to carefully check
the edges of the blade for symmetricity.

Throwing the blade in Negishi Ryu
Adjusting to distance

When adjusting to the variation in distance while throwing in the Negishi Ryu, one cannot make
the same simple adjustments possible in Shirai Ryu, where one just needs to turn the blade in the
hand. In Negishi Ryu, the hand grip is constant. To make the adjustment to different distances,
slight postural changes need to be made, both in the way the hand is held, and the leaning of the
body at throw.

1. Leaning the body "When close to a target, lean back on the throw. When far from a target,
lean forward on the throw"

On close throws, as the arm sweeps down, pull the torso back at the last moment to add turn to
the throw. This causes the shuriken to straighten earlier in the shorter distance, thus allowing a
more direct hit. It also has the added benefit of pulling the head back from target slightly, in case
the blade miss hits and bounces back.

On distant throws, leaning forward on the throw adds the body weight, creating a more powerful
throw, necessary to cover greater distances. It also has the added effect of intensifying the
concentration forward, giving the psychological advantage by creating the illusion of being closer
to the target.

2. Timing the release "For close targets, release later, for distant targets, release earlier".

When the arm is raised in Koso no I, the blade is pointing upwards. In its flight towards the target,
the tip tilts forward and straightens in relation to the target, so it is in line with the angle of
trajectory at the moment of, or just before, striking the target. So when closer to the target, the
shuriken has less time to tilt in flight, so a late release means that the shuriken is more horizontal
as it leaves the hand (see fig 33). When further from the target, the shuriken needs to align with
the trajectory just before striking the target, because of this tendency to tilt, so an early release
will compensate for this tilt.(see fig 34-35)

Fig. 33. Late release, and turning the palm, for close targets.

Fig. 34. Mid release for mid-range targets

Fig. 35. Early release, and facing the palm, for distant targets

3. Turning the hand "Face the palm for distant throws, turn the palm for closer throws."

The shape of the hand is very important for the trajectory of the blade as it leaves the hand, as
this is the last contact with the body to have influence over the blade's flight. Not only does the
blade need to be gripped lightly, as though "holding a swallows egg", the hand must facilitate a
clean, smooth, and even departure called hanare, from the hand. Early and late releases have
different effects on the position of the blade in relation to the trajectory, and earlier releases have
a less controlled hold, so their departure tends to be more variable (see fig.35). By turning the
hand so the palm faces the target on early release, there is more weight and support behind the

For a late release, the blade has already developed velocity, so the grip then tends to require
more gentle guidance. By turning the hand so the palm faces to the left in relation to the target,
the hand is really only offering a straight pathway for the blade to depart the hand. The thumb
catches on the butt end of the blade as it departs, preventing the blade from turning excessively
before reaching the target (see fig 33)

In training, one should start at a close distance, and practice late release with the turning of the
palm, as basic technique (as shown above in Manji no kata). As the student becomes more
proficient, the distance is increased, and the blade releases earlier in the throw, while at the same
time, the hand is still facing more to the target. For a long distance throw, (see fig 35), the blade
releases when the arm is still quite high above the head, and the fingers actually seem to stroke
the shaft of the blade as it leaves the hand. As it does so, the blade is pointing upwards, so that
during its travel to the target, the head of the blade "falls" forwards, so that by the time it is about
to align with the trajectory of the throw itself, it strikes the target. If it aligns with the trajectory
before striking the target, it will continue "falling", and when it strikes the target, it will have
become a dead hit already.

Note: The "stroking" of the shaft as it leaves the hand is actually a method of applying power to
the forward momentum of the blade in the throw, but it has to be done skillfully else it will upset
the smooth flight. It seems that the feeling of stroking has less of an upsetting effect, but also it
creates a drag effect on the tail as it releases, causing the blade not to turn so much. This is why
there is the practice of wrapping the shafts with thin twine, then coating it with laquer. It creates a
"grippy" surface on the tail end of the shaft, which will enable more pressure to be exerted on the
stroking action on the release.

When aiming at the target, the basic shape of the aim is to have the tips of the blades in the left
hand in line with the eyes and the target (see fig.26, above). However, on a more advanced level,
the idea is to try and take aim with the navel, rather than take aim with the eyes. By looking at the
target, our focus is outside the body, and our thoughts are with striking the target. Rather, we
should feel the target, by placing our awareness in the navel, and try to feel some sort of
connection between our centre (the tanden) and the centre of the target. Mr Shirakami relates a
story of how his teacher felt confused by this concept, and mentioned this to his teacher,
Tonegawa Sensei. The two of them went to the dojo at night, and began to throw shuriken in the
dark. The first blade made the sound of piercing the target, then the second blade made an
unusual sound. Apparently it had hit the tail of the previous blade.

This story illustrates how one can learn the perception of the target by feel, rather than by relying
in sight alone.

Variations in Training

Training can be made more interesting, or to focus on particular skills, by varying the training
method. One of the basic forms of variation is to train on the knees. In several traditional martial
arts, training in a number of techniques, called suwari-waza, is still done on the knees. This form
of training builds up necessary strength and stability in the hips, and also teaches the body
movement to be more precise. The seated form of the throw is called za-uchi, (see fig. 36) and
can be done directly facing the target, as in a) - b) or in the stance called tachihiza, c) where the
left knee is forward and the foot on the ground, and the right knee is back and placed on the

Fig. 36. Za Uchi, or seated throw.

Figure 37. Here the toji form on the knees in tachihiza, is illustrated .

The side throws can also be performed in seated posture. Note that the front throw is performed
in either seiza, (full seated posture), or tachihiza with the right leg back, whereas sideways throws
are made in tachihiza with the left leg back. (see fig. 37)
Figure. 38 Hon uchi, yoko uchi and gyaku uchi from kneeling posture (tachihiza)

Throwing from a "still distance" and from a "moving distance"

There are training methods for throwing the blade while running, jumping and turning, and also
lying down. When the basic form is practiced, the distance is set, and training progresses
incrementally from 1 step and beyond. At each step, we throw repetitively until that distance is
mastered, then we take the next step back. So arises the desire to be able to throw one step
further away. However, we are bound by the throw from a static position, which is a constraint
preventing us from being able to throw at any distance. The tendency when throwing at greater
distances is to unconsciously add more power to the movement, which in fact adversely affects
the technique. Mr Shirakami writes of his teacher Naruse Sensei that even when he was throwing
at great distances, his movement was relaxed and appeared as though he was throwing only a
close distance, yet the blade flew powerfully and struck firmly. To be able to achieve this, we
must overcome our thoughts about distance as being an obstacle.

Figure 39. Multiple throwing can also be practiced while walking.

Note: 1 - 3 shown from the front, 4 - 5 are shown from the back. The action is a continuous
stepping to the throwers right side.

Figure 39 shows a method of multiple throwing in time with the stepping of the feet.

The training method of throwing while running, either forwards or backwards, is another such
method. Training at Sei no Maai, or "still distance" lays the technical foundation for Do no Maai,
or "moving distance". By training at static distances, one learns the mechanics of the form. When
we count the steps and throw, the concept of distance is always at the back of our mind. By
training during movement, one is using the form. At each distance, one must make minute
adjustments in their technique to have the blade strike effectively, and while static, we have
plenty of time to think about the distance and achieve this. But when moving while throwing, at
the moment of departure of the blade, our posture and movement has to be adjusted quickly and
precisely to allow the blade to strike effectively. This form of training cuts down the time we think
about distance, thus decreasing the obstacle that is always at the back of our mind. Eventually,
we lose the concept of distance entirely, and merge with the target at the moment we think of
throwing, enabling us to throw a blade and have it stick at any distance without thought.
Rapid throwing.

There is a certain posture with a technique developed for rapid throwing, where the left hand is
held above the left eye (see fig 40,), so passing the blade from left to right hands could be done
with the raised throwing arm. This allows for the rapidity of throwing blades in succession. There
is a phrase from olden times that says "Ikki Goken", which means to throw 5 blades in one
breath. A strong or prepared adversary may be able to receive the first blade (ie. deflect or
ignore), so it is sometimes necessary to be able to throw several in rapid succession. Before the
1st blade strikes, the 2nd blade should be on its way, closely followed by the 3rd, and so on.
When we practice the basic form, we are taught to pause and observe momentarily, in zanshin or
readiness. This is because we are learning the throw. But we have to be detached from the
throw, and to be able to continue our movement without caring if the blade strikes well or not. The
art is in being able to detach ourselves from the throw immediately after the blade has departed
the hand, and throw the next, or commit ourselves to the next action.

Figure 40. Posture for rapid throw. (Used with permission,© Robert Gruzanski)

Throwing the blade during a sword cut

There are also techniques that involve throwing shuriken while holding a sword. Because the
throwing position of the right hand, and the throwing action of the right hand is the same as the
position and action of the right hand as it holds and cuts with a sword, the two weapons can be
blended in such a way that they do not adversely affect the movement of each other. There are 5
forms in a kata called Tojustsu Kumikomi no Kata, (see fig. 37) where the sword is held as normal
by the left hand, and the right hand is held in Koso no I. The throw is made, then the right hand
returns to the sword, gripping the handle.
Figure 41. Some of the postures of the Tojutsu Kumikomi no Kata

Image temporarily unavailable

Figure 42. Satoshi Saito Sensei demonstrating shuriken throwing with the sword.

The idea is that one develops the ability to throw shuriken quickly while one is drawing and
cutting with the sword. Most swordsmen trained only in the sword know only the rhythm of the
sword, which has a certain timing, due to the weight and size of the weapon. The shuriken, being
smaller and lighter, can be drawn and thrown much quicker than a sword, so it can be said that
you can attack inside the rhythm of a swordsman's attack. Thus one could be able to launch 1 or
2 shuriken at the opponent before they are in sword distance, giving you an advantage already.

Receiving a blade, yadome

An advanced level of training involves not throwing a blade, but having a blade thrown at you.
This stems from the days of the Samurai where a swordsman would defend himself against
attackers throwing or propelling objects at him, such as a shuriken, or an arrow. There are stories
of famous encounters where swordsmen could deflect the flight of arrows and shuriken in battle,
though this is generally thought of as being the stuff of legends. However, within the arts there
are training techniques designed, called yadome, to develop this ability, so we should not
discount the possibility that an individual can perform this sort of feat. Mr Shirakami tells of his
experiences where he asked his student to shoot arrows at him, while wearing fencers protective
face gear. He was able to develop the ability to deflect the flight of an arrow but cutting at it with a
sword as it was fired at him..

The key seems to be in the mental attitude one takes when faced with such an attack. Rather
than wait to see the path the arrow is taking, then react to it by trying to block it, the idea is to
move at the same instant, with the same feeling as the attacker, and cut the arrow down. I believe
this feeling is the same as awase training with sword, in Aikido. Here the idea is to match your
feeling and movement to that of the attacker's without the thought of reacting to their movement.

The shooting of an arrow, or the throwing of the blade is seen as being like the cutting of a sword.
There is the moment in the attackers mind where they commit to action, then the body follows,
acting out the mind's intentions. So by using awase, the idea is to unify yourself to this moment,
to cut as the attacker cuts, and providing the sense of timing in awase is correct, it does not
matter whether the weapon attacking your centre is a fist, a sword, an arrow or a shuriken,
correct performance of the technique will protect your centre, thus deflecting the attack.

Wrapping the blades with paper, varnish and string - updated

There is mention of some Negishi Ryu shuriken being wrapped in paper, string and lacquer
(Interview with Saito Sensei in Skoss, 1999), which is for reasons different to that of attaching
pigskin hairs to the end of the blade. Some people have suggested this is to adjust the balance of
the blade so it is perfectly centred, but this appears not to be the case. The practice of gluing
pigskin to the end of the blades with the hairs pointing backwards, is to assist in the smooth
departure from the hand, and create drag in flight for a straight trajectory, however this seems to
serve a different function to that of wrapping the blades. In the interview Saito Sensei makes
vague mention of this in conjunction with the balancing of the centre of gravity of blades to
accentuate close or distant hits, however it is not at all clear.

After further discussion by email with several people who are training in shuriken, it appears that
this practice of wrapping the shaft of the blade in paper, laquer and/or string is a way of creating a
rough surface on the shaft of the blade, in order to apply a small amount of friction as it leaves the
hand. This is because the technique of throwing involves a slight flicking or twisting of the hand,
as well as a simultaneous downward movement of the hip, which applies a slight amount of
pressure to the tail end of the blade just before it completely departs from the finger tips. This
effect hinders the natural rotation of the tail end forwards, thus creating a more straighter flight
before striking the target. If one were to throw a clean blade, with no string or paper wrapping, the
smooth metal surface of the shaft would slip easily from the fingers, and therefore generate
excess rotation. This is also one of the reasons Mr Otsuka believes the Negishi Ryu shuriken
were hexagonal and octagonal, because a flat surface allows more grip on the shaft as it leaves
the hand, whereas a rounded shaft will allow less grip on the shaft as it leaves the hand.

The principle of "Kanime no Daiji" (eyes of a crab) - Using the shuriken as a striking

There is another method of using the shuriken, and that is holding it in the hand and using it as a
striking implement. The tip targets vital areas of the body, but uses the power of the arm and
body to create the strike. The grip is similar to that of Jikishin, but the postioning of the thumb and
first finger are reversed (see illustration fig. 42).
Fig. 42. Holding the shuriken in order to strike the target with the hand

The thumb presses down hard on the top of the blade, pushing the tip into the target. To do the
strike, the tip is held slightly up with the arm bent at the elbow, as shown in the photo on the left.
As one strikes, the arm is straigthened and the thumb pushes forward, and the wrist extends
forward, as shown in photo on the right. Mr. Shirakami discusses this strike at length, saying that
this technique came from a secret Negishi Ryu document titled "Kanime no Daiji", and was
Master Naruse's final, secret instruction to him. The technique is to be used as a final resort. That
is, the distance has closed between you and your opponent, so you can no longer throw the
blade. When you can see the opponents eyes bulging, like "the eyes of a crab", meaning, that
you have entered and caught the opponent by surprise, then you would be victorious. The targets
for this strike have been listed as the eyes, and the depression in the throat just above the collar

Chikatoshi Someya Sensei, in his book "Shuriken Giho", demonstrates a wide variety of
apparently secret striking techniques where the shuriken is hidden in the palm, with the blade tip
protruding in various ways. The techniques appear to be karate-like striking movements, but the
focus of the attack is to pierce the opponent in vital areas with the shuriken at close range. He
illustrates methods of holding 1 and 2 blades in the hand, and demonstrates methods of holding
that can conceal the blade from onlookers, without raising suspicion.

Tipping the shuriken with poison

Mention has been made of the use of poison being applied to the tips of shuriken, thus giving
them lethal capability. There are two traditional poisons I know of used for this purpose, one is the
extract of Wolfsbane, or Aconite (Aconitum japonicum), which contains highly toxic and extremely
fast acting alkaloids, for which there is no specific antidote. Substantial doses of Aconite cause
almost instantaneous death (2, 3). The active constituent Aconitine causes neuro-muscular
paralysis and contractions, affecting the heart and respiration. As a side note, there is a variety of
Aconite in Japan called Aconitum Aizuense, an interesting connection to either the Aizu area, or
the Aizu clan...

The second poison is not so fast acting, but nevertheless lethal. Death is caused by severe and
fast acting infection from a mixture of horse manure, chicken's blood and oysters, which together
contain the broadest spectrum possible of infectious bacteria, making it almost impossible to
treat. This poison was not strictly limited to shuriken, but also used on many types of edged
weapons, particularly among Ninjutsu schools.

Mention has been made by some that the poison from the fugu, or Japanese Puffer fish may
have been used for tipping blades. I am not sure this is correct, as fugu poison is neutralised by
oxygen after 24 hours. There has been extensive research into fugu poisoning, and it has been
found that one can survive its paralysing and fatal effects if one submits to an artificial respiration
machine for a period of 24 hours. That is, the effect of the poison wears off after 24 hours.

2. Selwyn L. Everist "Poisonous plants of Australia" Australian Natural Science Library, Angus &
Robertson, 1974 (back)
3. Hsu, Hong-yen "Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide" Oriental Healing Arts Institute,
Long Beach, 1986

The notes on this page in relation to the shuriken throwing art are more theoretical and
intellectual, and are not necessarily so important for learning the technique of throwing a blade,
however if one wishes to study the art more deeply there could be something of interest here to
think about.

Distance with various weapons

Some martial arts teach weapons after one has mastered empty-handed forms, others teach
empty-handed forms after one has mastered weapons forms. In Iwama Aikido, the development
of hand techniques is seen as a progression from sword techniques. Morihiro Saito Sensei, the
current head of Iwama dojo, teaches sword, staff and empty-hand techniques as being 3
essential components of Aikido training. Less well known is that he is also a master of Negishi
Ryu, and was once quite famous among the local gangs as being a person not to cross. It is also
reported that Sokaku Takeda, the teacher of Aikido's founder, O-Sensei, was also a master of the
shuriken, although it is not known which style. I found it interesting that shuriken is part of the
technical repertoire of these masters of empty-handed and sword techniques.

Various weapons have various effective ranges, and when one looks at how the ancient warrior
was required to master a range of weapons to deal with a range of situations on the battlefield,
one can see there is a well organised and logical plan behind the choice of weapons that a
warrior learns. With mastery of techniques comes the control of distance. If one has mastered
hand techniques, then one is able to control an opponent who is in close enough range to hit you
with their bare hands. If one has mastered the bow and arrow, one can control attackers at a
great distance. But outside, or within the ranges of those weapons, if one has not had the proper
training, one will not be able to control the distance beyond or within the range one has trained in.
Therefore, by learning various weapons, one also learns to control various distances. In real
terms, the closer the opponent the more of a threat, the further the opponent the less a threat.

In Aikido we have techniques trained in 2 forms, kihon, and ki-no-nagare. Kihon involves training
in a strong, static form where one is already gripped. Ki-no-nagare training is a flexible, moving
form which involves the opponent taking one step towards you to attack. These forms of training
gives one the control over the closest combat distances, the ones with the most immediate
danger. Training in empty-handed techniques usually begins with the left foot forward, as the
weaker left hand is used for defensive maneuvers leaving the stronger right arm free for counter-
attacking and controlling maneuvers. Training in sword is usually done one step back with the
right foot forward, and adds another step's distance to the effective range of control, as the blade
can hit an opponent who is further than 1 step away. Training in jo, or staff, is usually done with
the left foot forward, and this is an extra step in distance away from the opponent, making the
effective range of the staff a step greater than the sword.

Perhaps it is by no coincidence that the next step beyond the staff's effective range is covered by
the minimum effective range of the shuriken, with the throw of Jikishin. The maximum practical
effective range of a shuriken is 15-18 paces, which is half the minimum range of a bow. Weapons
such as the bow, the spear and the halberd were battlefield weapons, thus were not used
indoors. This leaves the shuriken to control the distance indoors.

By supplementing your Aikido, and other martial art training with shuriken, one effectively adds
the potential for control of greater distance.


Finding a "Live Blade"

Mr. Shirakami makes mention of the practice of finding live blades in his book on Shuriken-do.
Just as a batsmen may feel more comfortable, even perform better using certain bats, or billiard
players preferring certain cue sticks, so one will find that some blades feel, fly and stick better
than other blades. Shinto mythology of Japan holds that all things are imbued with elements of
the spiritual, and tools and weapons do not escape this idea. There are swords in museums and
collections in Japan that are so historically valuable they have become designated as national
treasures, and aficionados report that such blades emit a presence and power that can be felt
when handled. Whether or not events in the past have given these blades any particular power
perhaps can never be determined, but such ideas have a great influence on the mind of an
individual, and these psychological influences can seriously enhance or decrease a persons
physical performance.

So when making, or finding and throwing blades, be mindful of which blades tend to feel more
comfortable, or tend to fly and stick better in the target. While there may be no physical markings
or signs to differentiate between the blades, there may be differences in their performance, so
one must judge and choose by feel. If a blade feels more comfortable to handle, and seems to
strike properly more often, and with greater and unusual ease, then this blade is said to be a "live
blade", and should be kept as one's own special blade that no-one else handles. One builds up a
collection of live blades by discarding the "dead blades".


The Philosophy of Making your own shuriken

I noticed on the Internet there are a number of commercial sites offering beautifully made yet
expensive blades. In a number of ways, I feel this is not the true spirit of shuriken. If one looks at
how the blades were made historically, one can discover a new dimension to the shuriken art that
I think many people overlook, particularly these commercial sites. Shuriken are just pieces of
metal, fashioned into a throwing implement, and they were adapted from items that were freely
and cheaply available in Japan at the time. For example, the senban shuriken, which are the
lozenge shaped blades, are shaped the way they are because they were fashioned from the
simple metal washer that fitted under the head of a construction nail. Because they had a shape
which was already close to a comfortable and practical design for throwing, they were simply
sharpened and used. Similarly, the square and triangular bodied bo shuriken are so because they
were adapted from nails and other materials. It was this attitude of looking around at what was
available, finding something suitable for the required task, then doing the minimum amount of
work to get it functional that was also a part of the martial spirit, rather than the expensive and
aesthetic extravagance of perfectly fashioned and beautifully looking blades. This commercialism
goes against the Japanese idea of simplicity, adaptablility, surviving by using one's wits, and
doing only what is necessary, without excess, to achieve the best results.
Secondly, I think one gains much greater satisfaction by constructing the blades oneself. I am
sure the ancient ninja, ronin and bushi made their own such weapons, rather than purchase them
at a shuriken smithy or similar. Part of the development of one's technical skill is in researching
different materials, different shapes, finding out which is better, and modifying and refining one's
own design to suit oneself. Constructing the blades by yourself also causes you to develop a
deeper appreciation for the weapon and the art. Looking at the incredible variety of blades that
were used, we can see that there is no real "perfect design", rather, anything that was easily
obtained, easily fashioned into a sharp and practical, concealable, and an effective implement
that flew well with a bit of practice, was the idea at the time.


Achieving Higher Accuracy

It is natural for us to want to have good accuracy, as that is the impressive thing about throwing a
blade. Yet to throw with the desire of achieving an accurate hit is detrimental to actually achieving
an accurate hit. What we should be striving for is to achieve accuracy without trying to be
accurate. Accuracy comes as a result of employing the principles of the throw correctly, rather
than of trying throw an accurate blade. To achieve this, there are 2 things to consider. First, is
experience, which is on the physical level, and second is our attitude when throwing, which is on
the mental level..

1.The Physical Level

When you have just completed an excellent throw, where not only did the blade strike the target
beautifully, but your throwing action was effortless and natural, the feeling one experiences is
indescribable. To develop accuracy, all one need do is count averages. As a beginner, you may
experience 1 perfect throw out of 100 unsuccessful throws, however over time, this ratio gradually
increases.. Rather than judge your accuracy by your best throw, one must judge accuracy by the
average of all your throws. The idea is to raise your average of perfect throws per throw, so that
you reach 100%. This of course is theoretically possible, but practically impossible, due to all
sorts of factors Nevertheless, our aim should be to increase that average.

We must remember that perfection in the dojo does not equal perfection in the real world. The
dojo is a controlled training environment, and therefore our performance is somewhat contained
by this environment. The real world does not have this controlled atmosphere, thus rendering all
situations unique, variable and potentially dangerous. Our performance in the real world is only
going to be a fraction of our performance in the dojo. For this reason, we cannot judge the level of
our ability by how well we may have once performed a technique. Because of the pressure of
situations in real life, we may not be able to recall that singular moment when we performed the
technique perfectly in the dojo, and thus when the time comes, it is likely that we will perform

If we measure our ability by a percentage of perfect techniques per techniques performed, then
we have a much more reasonable estimate of our ability in the real world. And by concentrating
more on raising the percentage of accurate and perfect throws in the dojo rather than improving
the accuracy of an individual throw, then we can effectively increase the potential effective
performance of technique in the real world. This obviously requires a long time of repetitive
training. So in effect, training to develop accuracy, on the physical level, should be geared
towards repetitive practice, and our focus should simply be to increase the percentages..

2. The Mental Level

One of the intriguing aspects of shuriken is that the reason for throwing a blade is to make it stick,
yet the best way to make the blade stick is to have no desire to achieve a good hit, so in effect,
the reason for throwing a blade is in fact not to make it stick, however the best indication that you
are employing the principles correctly is that you can actually make it strike well, and often. This
paradox reflects the Zen outlook on life, to act without desires, do something without doing it.

It is when we develop and refine a physical activity so highly and precisely that we begin to
experience the effect the mind has on our body and physical function. When performing simple
activities that require little motor skill, our body tends to act somewhat predictably and reliably.
But when we impose strenuous conditions on the body, such as developing fine and complex
motor skills to a high degree of accuracy and reliability under situations of stress, the body often
tends to act less reliably and capably. One of the reasons for this is that our body has not had
sufficient physical training in the required activity, and this can be covered by technical
development in training on a physical level.

Another factor that influences this hindrance to our physical ability is our "mental state". It is all
very well to theorise about the connection of the mind and body, but there appears to be little in
the way of instruction on this in everyday life. And when the teachings of a martial art begin to
discuss this area, too often it gets passed off as religious dogma, and therefore largely ignored. If
we can make the leap of faith in agreeing that the body and mind are indeed connected, and can
and do influence each other, then we can begin to learn what these teachings may have to offer,
and perhaps gain some of the benefits they purport to bestow upon the student.

When we require of our body the performance of actions that utilise fine and complex motor skills,
as well as a resistance to stress, distractions and external conditions, our ability to perform is
greatly affected by our mental state. Just as our body chemistry is regulated by hormones
produced by various mental states, so too are our actions regulated by our mental state. There
appear to be a number of mental triggers that enable our body to perform to great levels of ability,
and although the methods by which these operate may not be fully understood, they nevertheless
seem to work in the individuals who apply these principles in their training.

Almost of all these philosophical teachings I believe are designed to improve the utilisation of the
hip in the body's movement. As most martial artists will already know, the centre of our power and
movement is in the hip, as the hip both controls the stability of the legs, which in turn provide
support for the hip itself, and the upper body. as well as controls movement in the upper body.
The hip is also the centre of the body's weight and mass, thus is called the centre of gravity. The
closer the centre of gravity is to the ground, the more stable and solid a person, and with stability
comes speed and power. From a physical point of view, having a lower centre of gravity is a great
advantage. The philosophical teachings of martial arts appear to be methods of drawing the
attention away from the upper body and bringing it down to the hip. Meditation and abdominal
breathing bring the minds focus on the body's centre of gravity. By focussing on the "hara", or
"tanden" the breath becomes abdominal, thus lower, rather than in the chest, or higher. Many
teachings also require the stilling of thoughts and desires, which tend to raise the heart rate, thus
bringing the feeling of focus up into the chest. Once the hip is physically identified as the major
factor in improving body movement, one has to learn how to control this new-found ability, and
the secret appears to be the ability of the body to relax. Stiffness and rigidity are looked upon as
being detrimental to natural physical movement, as stiffness usually means a contraction of the
muscles, which severely limits flexibility and ability to move quickly. By being relaxed, the body is
able to quickly change direction and to fluidly react to changes in its environment, but it is also the
physical state in which one can better perceive the condition of one's own body. If you are
relaxed, it is easier to listen to what's happening with the body, hence you are in a better position
to make the necessary changes, which are now easier to do since the body is relaxed.

So by instituting rules which govern the activity of the mind, we are able to subtly control the
activity of the body. Over the long term, as we utiltise these mental tactics to trick our body into
what we believe is better performance, the body begins to react to this new method of control,
and physical performance can increase. Once we see this increase in physical performance, we
begin to realise the benefits of such mental states as being relaxed, stilling the mind of thoughts
and desires, of breathing abdominally and focussing the mind on the centre, and accept them as
a valuable mental state to cultivate. Long term exposure to this type of mental state begins to
influence us on a deeper and more psychological level. Since the body and the mind are very
adaptable organisms, this influence can effect an adjustment in the psychological makeup of a
person, and cause great changes in the personality. In the long term, training in traditional martial
arts can have a great beneficial effect on the student.

Shuriken training is the perfect vehicle for such mental processes to be experimented with.
Because the basic movement of the throw is such a simple and gross utilisation of the body, and
the ability to achieve a high level of accuracy depends upon a great deal of refinement of this
physical process, the influence of the mental state over the body is easily observed in this
movement. If your mind is unsettled, distracted or unfocussed, the effects of this can immediately
be seen in the results of your physical movement, in this case, the shuriken's strike of the target.
To be able to consistently throw accurate and controlled blades, not only must one have
mastered the technical aspects of the physical movement, one must also be able to relax, settle
the breathing from the chest down to the abdomen, empty their mind of thoughts and desires,
focus their attention on the centre, and develop a feeling of oneness and unity between their mind
and the surroundings.

In this way, proper shuriken training can offer great benefits in not only physical, but also mental
and spiritual development.


The Way of Shuriken

In their summary of Negishi Ryu in "Sword and Spirit", Meik and Diane Skoss mention an abstract
teaching called shichi, or "Four Knowledges", those being the exponents ability to correctly
understand a) the situation, b) other people's intentions, c) principles of the art, and d) the "Way"
itself. Unfortunately I haven't had exposure to those teachings, but I have had instruction in
something which sounds very similar, so I will write about it here. It wasn't explained to me as
being 4 types of knowledge as such, rather it was on how to make the transition from basic and
varied principles from within the dojo to a realistic application and understanding in the real world,
something like moving from "practice" to "doing".

1. Training

When training is still at the stage of learning technique, it is said to be "shuriken-jutsu", or the
method of shuriken. When training is at the stage of doing technique it becomes "shuriken-do", or
the way of shuriken. "Jutsu" is practiced in the dojo, "do" is done in the real world. This means
that in the dojo, we are learning and practicing techniques and principles etc, that we intend to
apply later, at some given stage, rather like having a skill developed and fine tuned. Our
consciousness is molded, governed and protected by the rules and atmosphere of the dojo itself,
as it is a centre of learning. When we leave the dojo and go about our regular business, we are
faced with the real world, or have come back to reality, and are faced with the rules of that reality.
In the real world we need all our skills for survival, and thus all that we have learnt, in the context
of education, now comes to use. When we apply our skill and knowledge to the outside world,
then methods have become ways. Likewise for shuriken, when we use shuriken in our daily life, it
becomes "shuriken-do".
From the perspective of Budo, or the Martial Way, reality contains two parts, Wartime, and
Peacetime. This is all the person of Budo is concerned about. Wartime is not necessarily an
official declaration, but rather the point at which the peaceful fabric of our personal world
becomes threatened so much so that it requires the use of Martial Skill in order to protect it.

During Peacetime, one continues practice of their Martial Art, and one reaps the benefits of such
physical, mental, and spiritual training. For example, after one has studied in the dojo one also
continues practicing at home, on a daily basis. The practice becomes a part of the daily routine,
and the benefits such practice has to offer begin to shape our experience of the world outside the
dojo. In effect, one is "doing" shuriken, or one is living the "Way" of Shuriken. During Wartime,
one uses the shuriken for self defence, and again, one is "doing" shuriken, or living the "Way".

To live the way during Peacetime, daily practice of shuriken is a method of controlling both the
consciousness as well as the physique. The mental focus and concentration, as well as the
physical and mental relaxation required for proper flight of the blade (as mentioned above in
"Philosophical Considerations") affects the consciousness that in turn affects one's experience of
reality in the real world. Thus training in shuriken is having an effect on one's life in this way. For it
to have such an influence, the practice must be regular, and held with equal importance as other
daily activities.

During Wartime, the shuriken is used as a form of protection of Peacetime, the techniques one
has learned are used in order to achieve a return to the state of peace. In order to achieve this
return to peace, the rules of War come into effect and take over the decision making processes,
until the state of peace has been achieved, then the rules of Peace take over. Chapter 57 of the
"Dao De Jing" says: "Use the orthodox to govern the state, use the unorthodox to wage war".
Peacetime has its own rules, as does Wartime. In the dojo we learn the rules of War, and that is
how to engage the opponent. Understanding these differences between Wartime and Peacetime,
and how to apply our shuriken Art to them, is the Way of Shuriken.

2. Engaging the Opponent

In the dojo, one has learnt specific techniques and principles that govern the use of the shuriken.
At some stage, one must learn how to apply this knowledge in Wartime. While an individual's
ability to defend themselves when faced with an opponent is greatly enhanced by the study of a
Martial Art, the final outcome of the engagement rests solely on the actions of the individual.
Practicing technique can only take one to a certain stage. Elsewhere in an individual's
consciousness, decisions have to be made, and realisations achieved in order to prepare the
individual for engaging an opponent.

Shuriken has largely been taught as part of a "koryu" or a traditional system that involves a
number of arts, such as sword, staff, empty-hand and other weapons. Satoshi Saito Sensei also
will only take students who have been studying another martial art. It appears that the reason for
this is that shuriken is a supplemental art that "piggybacks" on the basic principles and
techniques of a major Martial Art system, typically kenjutsu, and that one can take the principles
regarding engaging the opponent from that Art, and apply them to a certain extent, at some level
in the shuriken Art. Therefore, the instruction on this topic I received was very general, and did
not touch upon the specific use of techniques. It was suggested that I take the principles of
engagement from the Art I was studying and by following a given set of guidelines, apply them to
the use of the shuriken in developing my own method of dealing with an opponent. In my case,
the main art is Aikido, which involves empty-hand, sword and staff techniques, and I have
developed my understanding of the application of shuriken based upon my understanding of the
martial principles of Aikido.

The basic guidelines are simply

1. Assess the level of threat
2. Decide upon what outcome and its consequences
3. Decide which actions to take to best facilitate that outcome.

1. Assessing the level of threat.

In assessing the level of threat, 5 things about the opponent must be observed immediately.

1. Distance
2. Angle
3. Momentum
4. Nature of attack
5. Intention

These 5 things are determined through an understanding of the main art.

"Distance" is determined by number of steps away the opponent is. As the opponent takes steps
closer, they are closing the distance, but also shortening the reaction time, and increasingly
limiting defensive options, thus increasing the level of threat.

"Angle" is determined by the relationship between the opponents centre and that of of one's own,
by drawing an imaginary line between the two. Certain angles, such as rear attacks are harder to
defend than, say a side attack. Various techniques of the various main arts will have varying
levels of threat assigned to the various angles of attack.

"Momentum" is the speed of the opponent's oncoming attack, but it is also the weight or power
behind the physical movement that is counted as well. If an opponent is attacking quickly, but
their structure is not well grounded, the level of threat is less than a similar attack from a stronger
structure, which would have greater application of power than an attack from a weaker structure.

"Nature of the attack" is the weapon, and the target. The weapon is the type of weapon being
used to attack, and thus has a variety of threat associated with each weapon. One's own body
has areas which are more and less defensible than others, and are more or less vulnerable to
certain types of attack than others. An understanding of the vital areas of one's own body is just
as important as an understanding of the potential damage various weapons can cause.

"Intention of the opponent when attacking". Even though the opponent may be at a close
distance, at a dangerous angle, with considerable momentum towards a particularly vital area,
the level of threat may not necessarily be so great if the opponent does not intend to attack.
Likewise, if a relatively distant opponent is showing non-aggressive signs by turning the body,
focussing away from your centre and not moving, the level of threat can be dangerously high if
the opponent intends to harm you. One must be able to look into the opponents soul and
determine if they intend to attack or not, if so, with how much intensity, and with how much
capability. This is a very intangible ability that is entirely up to the individual and their application
of their training, it is not something which can be taught systematically.

2. Deciding Upon the Outcome. Understanding of how things work - worldly knowledge

All actions have consequences, both short term and far-reaching. Much of human suffering is
derived from the consequences of negative actions, so to allay suffering, one must choose
actions that do not lead to such negative consequences. One must observe the world and
develop an understanding of how consequences derive from actions, then one will be in a better
position to know the consequences of their own actions. At this point, the individual must take a
stance, or make decisions based upon a form of morality or philosophy, where they choose what
they are prepared to do, and are not prepared to do. Is one prepared to kill or to injure in order to
protect oneself, or is one resolved to preserve life at all costs, no matter what the situation is? It is
here that the individual's integrity, honour and responsibility are tested, yet it is here that the
individual is judged as a human being.

However, the individual is also part of a society, or culture, and there are both written and
unwritten rules that prompt and inhibit action, behaviour and recourse to the law. Within this
culture, there are certain expectations one is expected to abide by, and these can be limiting
factors in making decisions. Very often the social situation or the cultural setting will call for
particular types of action, and here there may be conflicts with one's own morality, but there also
may be opportunities for action. One may be able to act while protected by the requirements of
the situation, or one may be forced to act against their principles. How one follows, breaks or
stretches the interpretation of the rules of society will determine the social standing of the
individual within society

So in determining how one wishes the threatening situation to turn out, one must consider these
two factors.

3. Deciding Which Actions Best Facilitate that Outcome

This is a logical decision based upon the assessment of the level of threat, what kind of outcome
you desire, and the technical understanding of one's art. All one is required to do, once the choice
of actions have been made, is to commit to them fully, to act to the best of one's ability, and to be
prepared to accept the consequences.


Attaining Mastery

The final goal of shuriken-do, indeed with any art, is to attain mastery. Not having much
experience with being a master, I can only speculate on what mastery really is, so I offer my
thoughts on the matter here, taken from a structural - linguistics viewpoint.
"Attaining Mastery: Using Linguistic Principles to Define a Path of Learning within an Art."

I have had quite a few enquiries about my shuriken, what I use, what they look like, how they
were made, and how can people make their own, so I include here for reference the ones I have
and/or presently train with, and a bit of information on manufacturing them..

Hira shuriken, or shaken, Click image image2 for larger view

These were my first ever shuriken, given to me in 1982 by an old friend "Scriv" who
keen weapons enthusiast. He made them himself in metal shop at college, to, acco
him, authentic dimensions. They are just 3mm coated plate steel with the 4 pointed
pattern scribed from a template then cut out. The circular holes were then drilled wit
13mm bit, then the triangular heads ground and polished to an edge. The silver one
really nice and I use it more often than the others, so it is more worn.
Bo shuriken of the Negishi Ryu Click image for larger view
These were given to me by Mic Marelli Sensei, one of my Aikido teachers of many y
and a shuriken practitioner himself. These were professionally made on a lathe in a
shop, to the exact size and dimensions of a set of Negishi Ryu shuriken given to him
late headmaster of our style of Aikido, Morihiro Saito Sensei. Saito Sensei was an e
the Negishi Ryu, who continued training until late in life, and by all accounts was a
formidable exponent of the art.

The Negishi Ryu shuriken shown above, but with handles wrapped in twine, as is n
done, to provide friction against the fingers as the blade is released from the hand.
the action of retarding the blade's natural tendency to turn in flight, thus allowing the
hit method of throwing to fly over gresater distances without turning. Another metho
providing a friction surface was to soak paper in lacquer and wrap the shank of the
with several thickness of material.
It is mistakenly believed that these two methods are employed to adjust the balance
blade for throwing either short or long distances, but this is not the case, as it was th
manufacture of the blade itself that decided whether it would be for throwing shorter
longer distances. Click here for a larger view
I rewrapped them in jute twine, a rougher and courser material which creates good
the fingers for the throw. Click here
Bo shuriken of the Shirai Ryu Click image for larger view
These I made myself a few years ago, modelled on a Bo shuriken given to me in 19
Ryo-kun, a Japanese working-holidayer who was working with me at my teachers c
It's 6mm rod steel cut to 16cm lengths, tip ground and end rounded by stone. I tried
treating the tip, but it didn't get any harder - I think I needed a much higher tempera
what I was producing. Currently researching good heat-hardening methods.

Bo shuriken of the Ikku Ryu Click image for larger view

This is a protoype of the double tipped Bo shuriken devised by Shirakami Eizo, the
the shuriken book mentioned at length on this site. It's 20cm in length, ground down
8 inch railway sleeper nail, given to me years ago by my friend Scriv. Where he got
nails, I don't know, but the metal is very hard and heavy, and difficult to work with. I
of these nails in various stages of completion. This one is the most complete, but I s
needs work, its too heavy and bulky, but it goes through just about everything I thro

Authentic Japanese Bo shuriken of the Chishin Ryu View large

Yet to be officially appraised as true historic pieces, this and the following 2 shurike
to be authentic, handmade blades made from the heavy, black tamahagane, or Jap
traditionally smelted metal. They were generously given to me by Robert Gruzanski
late father, Charles, had as a student, obtained these from his teachers, Masaaki H
Sensei and Yumio Nawa Sensei, both famous collectors and proponents of the shu
arts. All 3 blades exhibit very interesting and unusual surface markings, suggesting
authentic origin. I offer my own detailed description of these 3 blades in a personal
Authentic Japanese Bo shuriken of the Ikku Ryu View large
As I mentioned elsewhere, Ikku Ryu is a 20th Century name coined by Mr Shirakam
style of shuriken art, however, there are examples of double pointed blades that ap
predate Mr Shirakami, so this needs some research. This blade is 18.5cm long and

Authentic Japanese Bo shuriken of Shirai Ryu View large

This blade has a square cross section, unlike the circular section characteristic of th
school, however square ones were common, it is just dependent upon the material
round were from needles, square from nails.This example is 21 cms long, which is a
upper end of the range that Shirai Ryu blades are found in

Modern Day Bo Shuriken of Meifu Shinkage Ryu View large

A generous gift from the current headmaster of Meifu Shinkage Ryu, Yasuyuki Otsu
Sensei, this set of 5 bo shuriken is the standard package that new students acquire
commencing training. Note the Meifu Shinkage stamp on the paper packaging. The
15.1cm long, 6mm thick, with a very sharp, 26mm tip. It appears that the tip end ha
heat hardened before filing to a point, note the darkened area below the tip. The Ja
must know their heat hardening, because these blades have still retained their tip, e
when thrown into timber targets.

Authentic Katori Shinto Ryu Bo Shuriken View large

Also a gift of Otsuka Sensei, this appears to be a relatively modern handmade blad
industrially produced metal stock. The butt is gently rounded and squared off, the
lengthwise edges have a very slight 45 deg. bevel to remove the sharpness, and th
slight increase in the angle of the taper in the last 7mm of the tip. Overall length 16.
thickness at its widest point: 7mm. This blade has a very nice, comfortable feel abo
throws very well.

Modern shaken from Japan Click image for larger view

An example of the type of shaken available today in Japan. Very nice, clean, with a
symbol embossed on one side. This was given to me by Chihiro Negishi san as mo
symbolic gift than one for use. I am not sure how authentic its design and dimension
compared to traditional shaken, but very cool nonetheless.
Custom made shuriken from a smith in the US.
This, and the next several examples, are handmade shuriken by Jeff Adams, a blad
and thrower in the US who very kindly sent me these to showcase his craft. They ar
well made, in a tough metal with a nice Parkerised coating, finished with a light san

Jeff Adams Ovoid Thrower

This particular design is a creation of Jeff's, and is a brilliant blade. It is simple to th
very well, and sticks in the target with almost uncanny ease. I am not sure how Jeff
for it to be thrown, but I use it in this grip, and throw in the turning method. Being a d
ended blade, it will stick every two paces distance from the target. The thumb is pla
the hole to maintain consistency of the balance, and for distances within or outside
step increments, placement of the thumb above or below the hole compensates for
changes in distance by changing the balance point in the grip. A very easy blade to
throwing with.
View large

Jeff Adams "Chishin Ryu type" Bo shuriken

These 12.5cm blades with 8mm diameter, and hexagonal section are very difficult b
throw. They are thrown in the Negishi Ryu style, chokuda-ho method (direct hit), an
states that he can throw these successfully at 30ft (10m), but I cannot get them to fl
properly or stick in target at all. I can get them to stick when thrown in the turning hi
method, but I believe this blade type was not designed for the turning hit. View large

Jeff Adams "Shirai Ryu type" Bo shuriken

These are 18cm blades, 6mm square in thickness. The 25mm taper is slightly conv
curved, to strengthen the tip. It is a good, solid, relatively heavy blade that flies very
both Shirai Ryu and Negishi Ryu styles. These are my main practice blades at the m
(My son Adrian has commandeered for himself the ones Otsuka Sensei gave me) V

Jeff Adams "Tsugawa Ryu type" Teppan shuriken

This blade is only 16cms in length, and therefore a bit shorter than the traditional Ts
Ryu blade length of 19cms. Proportionately it appears to have the correct dimensio
would hazard a guess that Jeff was working off a photo to produce these, and was
to accurately judge the scale of the photographed blade. I am not sure how this blad
thrown - I do not have much success with it, but I imagine it is thrown in a similar fa
(knife grip??) to the ovoid blade. View large.

Jeff Adams Negishi Ryu blades (View large)

Very nice, clean and simple lines, these 3 are not quite identical. The lower blade to
has a square cross section, the other two hexagonal. The blade resting in top has th
octagonal sides following through the entire length of the blade, whereas the lower
blade has an offset hexagonal profile on the tip, thus giving a more factted appeara
These blades are 12.5cms long and 10mm thick at the widest point, again, a bit sho
thin for my liking; traditional blades are around the 17-18cm mark. These blades ha
taper narrowing to the rear, which means they are better suited to attaching the tuft
pigskin and hair into a tassel shape, as opposed to wrapping in twine as with the ex
Jeff Adams Phurba Prototype (View large)
This blade is an experiment of Jeff's, with design elements taken from the Tibetan r
daggers called 'Phurbas", which he collects. The 4 indented rings along the shaft pr
very good friction against the fingers, enabling a reasonable direct hit method throw
blade is only 12.5cms in length, a bit short for my liking, but Jeff finds the shorter bla
easier to throw. This example has 10mm thickness, with circular cross section, and
to a square, 4 sided point.

Jeff Adams Rope Dart (View large)

I didn't really know what this blade was until I recently saw the DVD of the Martial A
demonstration at Meiji Shrine in Japan in November 2004. It is attached to a thin ro
about 12-18 feet in length, and swung like a lasso, both horizontally above the head
vertically beside the body. When the speed of the swing increases, the rope is let g
the blade shoots forward in whatever direction one chooses, and the rope prevents
blade from escaping the control of the person swinging it. The blade is sharpened to
edges, thus giving it cutting ability at any point of contact in the swing, as well as pie
ability. An awesome weapon when used skillfully! The weapons is known as a "Chin
Rope Dart", but it appears its usage has been introduced into Japanese Martial Arts
Not sure of the Japanese name. This example is 10cms long, 11mm thick, with a he
cross section, and triangular blade tip.
Jeff Adams Ovoid Thrower Set (View large)
More of the above mentioned blades, stacked and carried together as a set. The fla
compact shape of these blades permits them to be conveniently secreted in a numb
places, as opposed to the difficulty of carrying a set of longer Shirai Ryu blades.

The example in the pic has not yet been lightly sanded with oil, so the Parkerised fin
still fresh.

Jeff Adams Shirai Ryu bo shuriken set (View large)

These blades are the same as the Shirai Ryu type above, except the tapered tips a
straight, rather than curved. For the pouch I adapted a mini Maglite belt pouch. This
it safe and comfortable to wear inside the clothing without piercing yourself.

Bo Shuriken by Hozan Suzuki of Mumyouan

Made from 8mm hexagonal stock steel, tips machine lathed to a long taper. Black tw
been wrapped around the tails, and two have also a leather sheath tightly wrapped
glued with a resinous lacquer made from the Japanese Urushi plant. The lower one
brass casing wrapped around the tail, each example providing both weight and a fri
surface that aids in retarding the spin as the blades leave the hand. Very nice blade
feel right, and they fly well.
The shorter blade is 17cms long, the other 3 are 21cms. (View large)
Mumyou Ryu Heavy Weighted Bo Shuriken by Hozan Suzuki
These blades are specially designed by Hozan to be suited to the beginning studen
shuriken jutsu. The butt-end is hollow drilled to affect the weight balance. They are
easy to throw. My first throw with this at 3+ metres, was a perfect direct hit that flew
and true. Subsequent throws at greater distances were just as easy. I am very impr
with these. The only downside is these are big and heavy blades; they are 21cm lon
12mm thick and weight 160gm...difficult to carry many in concealment, but for pract
are ideal. Hozan believes that a larger and heavier blade makes it easier for the beg
learn the difficult "direct hit" method, and I find myself in agreement. More info here


On this page is information regarding the process of making a blade. It is a work in progress, so I
will add to it as I progress in the craft. Most recent additions are at the top.

July 5th 2004.

My first attempt at a Katori Shinto Ryu blade. I

made this one to 18cms length, so I could
compare the way it flies to a more trad. one of
16cms length.

Made from 8mm square bar, soft mild steel.

Took roughly 5 hours.
Comparison of same blade with a traditional
Katori Shinto Ryu blade.
I know what improvements to do for the next

I need to find about rust protection and heat

treating now.
has some good info

stock for
a Negishi
blade. I
used the
bar, and
used a
grinder to
file the
bar. Took
about 3
My first
set of 3
made to
and 8mm
each. I
quare bar
stock to
the basic
using a
them off
with an
to get the

DESIGN - for plans of shuriken from the various traditional schools

MATERIALS - information about metals, both sources and chemistry etc.
MANUFACTURE - the craft of making shuriken; tools, the process, techniques and skills, as well
as examples of the finished product..



These plans are based upon information from a number of sources, including "Shuriken Giho" by
Chikatoshi Someya, "Shuriken-do" by Mr Shirakami, from photos kindly supplied by Robert C.
Gruzanski, and other generous visitors to this website, as well as blades from my own collection.
More will be added as information comes to hand.
Mou En Ryu
I don't have much information about this style yet. Someya Sensei in his book only briefly outlines
details about the blade itself. The example shown in Someya Sensei's book is clearly triangular in
section, however Otsuka Sensei is quite certain it is square, and said that there are no triangular
blades extant, and that triangular blades are very difficult to throw. I feel loathe to argue with
Otsuka Sensei, but the photo in the book is quite clearly triangular.

Chishin Ryu
The dimensions shown here follow Someya Sensei's information, although other photos show a
couple of variations in overall length, and proportion of straight shaft length to taper length.
Consistency appears to be in the squareness of shaft, and greater thickness in proportion to
length as compared to other styles, and the pyramidal finish to the end of the shaft. Chishin Ryu
blades are sometimes called kugi-gata shuriken, as they are historically made from the Japanese
nail, wakugi.
View enlarged photo of Chishin Ryu shuriken [1]

Meifu Shinkage Ryu

Someya Sensei mentions two sizes, 6mm thick X 16.5 long, and 7mm thick X 17.5 long. Just to
confuse matters, the examples shown in Robert's photos have the longer blades as thinner than
the shorter. The only consistency being that they have a straight, square shaft. The blade
depicted in Someya Sensei's book has the tapered tip squared off to the tip, but the examples
shown in Robert's photos show the taper as rounded.
View enlarged photos of authentic Meifu Shinkage Ryu shuriken [1] [2]
Shirai Ryu
There seems to be great variety in length of blades in this style, and also a thinner version,
almost like a needle or dart, which may suggest connection or derivation to the earlier Chinese
piau. Notable feature of this style are blades with round shaft, which must have required
considerably more work to produce than the square or octagonal blades. Whether this
demonstrates a higher refinement of technique, a particular historical pedigree, or utilisation of a
different source material is not clear.
View enlarged photo of an authentic Shirai Ryu shuriken. [1]

Katori Shinto Ryu

As with Shirai Ryu blades, there also appears to be considerable variety in the basic shape of
blades in this Ryu. There are variants of this shape that have a thicker shaft with the rear-end
taper either a) shorter and closer to the tail (and triangular cross section), or b) longer and closer
to the middle of the blade. In the case of a, the blade also has a triangular cross section, which
may suggest it is a variant of the Mou En Ryu blade (above), although the tail end in that style
does not taper, a feature which this variant retains.
View enlarged photos of authentic Katori Shinto Ryu shuriken [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Below is variant a, with the thicker part of the shaft to the rear. Photos of Katori Shinto Ryu blades
have included this shape among them, as have with variant b, so it is assumed they belong to the
katori school, but this needs to be confirmed.
Below is variant b, with the thicker part of the shaft towards the tip. This variant notably has a
hexagonal cross section, a feature exhibited by Negishi Ryu Ryu blades, although those blades,
which do not have a widening taper towards the tail tend to have an attachment such as a ring, or
a hole through which thread or a tassle or animal hair is attached, so it is possible this blade is
not of the Negishi Ryu. As a point of interest, there is mention in the Negishi Ryu of taping the
blades to make the balance either forward or back, changing the centre of gravity of the blade to
make them more suitable for longer or shorter distance flight. If these three blades are found to
be all of the Katori Shinto Ryu, then it may follow the same logic in that the weight of these 2
variants is further back (a) or forwards (b), making them conducive to longer distance or short
distance throws, respectively. Will have to confirm this.

Variant c. Mention has also been made of Katori Shinto Ryu blades being square hashi, or
"chopstick" shaped, and the only such blades I have been able to find are the design below, often
associated with the Ikku Ryu variant a shown below. A Japanese shuriken retailer here has this
type listed as a Chishin Ryu blade. I think that a number of styles now use this blade, possibly
without knowing its origin. It is also said that Sokaku Takeda of the Daito Ryu also used a hashi
shaped blade, but it is thought that he demonstrated skill in Negishi Ryu shuriken.

Here is an accurate plan, supplied by a visitor to this site, of a Katori Shinto Ryu blade currently
available in Kendo supply stores in Tokyo. Note slight variation of dimensions.

Ikku Ryu
Although Mr. Shirakami states in his book that he developed the idea of a double pointed blade to
avoid the necessity of placing the blade either tip out or in the palm, according to distance, and
thus called his style Ikkyu Ryu, there does appear to be photo evidence of shuriken that pre-date
Mr. Shirakami's innovation, so I am hesitant to actually call the blades depicted below an example
of Ikkyu Ryu, because they may in fact be representative of another style altogether. There are
also a number of variations in the shape of this blade, sometimes called ryobari-gata shuriken,
primarily being the length of the straight central shaft in relation to the lengths of the tapers.
Figure 8 (bottom) , and example 2 below shows a blade with virtually no straight central shaft -
whether these are blades of different styles is not known at present.
View enlarged photos of authentic Ikku Ryu shuriken [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Variant a. Note that the tapering extends the full length of the blade, rather than having a straight,
parellel section of the shaft as above.
Enmei Ryu
Tanto-gata are shuriken that are adpated from the short knife, tanto, thus retain some of the
shape. Tanto are classed as blades under 30cm, over that length they are classed as kodachi, or
short swords. The hole in blade is the hole for the retaining pin that attaches the handle and
fittings to the blade. Some pictures of tanto-gata show string and tassles attached to the hole -
whether this is a fortuitous use of the hole or by design is not certain.

Negishi Ryu
There are many variation in shape and dimension between shuriken of Negishi Ryu. It would be
an exhaustive effort to record them all, so I include ones that I can vouch for. This first one is
what is currently available in martial arts stores in Nagoya. They are rounded, rather than the
characteristic octagonal, probably due to ease of manufacture on a modern day lathe. Note that
this type of blade should be wrapped with either laquered paper or string around the tail shaft,
extending from the butt to about 7cm up the shank towards the head.

Below is my own Negishi Ryu shuriken, an exact copy of those used by Saito Sensei and
students of the Iwama Dojo in Ibaraki Pref., Japan. Note that the bulb and tail are equal
thickness, and the butt is rounded off on a more acute angle.

Tsugawa Ryu
Rather large, long flat blades, with the appearance of a double pointed knife.
They are of the type called "teppan shuriken", which simply means shuriken
made from flat plate metal. It is thought they are adapted from certain parts of the
traditional Japanese armour, however this needs confirmation.



Traditionally, shuriken were fashioned from pre-existing metal implements, rather than being
specially made to design, a fact which quite probably greatly influenced the overall shape of
blades within each particular style. In pre-Meiji Japan, metal was scarce and its use devoted
predominantly to conventional weaponry, (swords in particular). Metal smelting technology was
imported to Japan from China via Korea around the 8th Century, and refined over the subsequent
millenium. Japan was not a great source of iron ore, so what little they did have of the low grade
satetsu, or "iron-sand" required a lengthy and ingenious smelting process (called tatara), which
produced a black slag of varying (and low) carbon content, called tamahagane. This product was
a black, rough pig-iron that needed further refinement to become the great swords Japan is
famous for. One may notice that many older metal weapons, such as shuriken, jutte, manriki-
gusari, as well as many other metal implements such as furniture fittings, all exhibit a rough,
matte black appearance. The metal was heavy, easy to work with, and relatively easier than the
sword metal to produce, however it suffered in hardness and tensile strength. I guess that is why
this Ikkyu Ryu shuriken example #5 has broken points.

I have heard that specific construction methods, particularly in the Negishi Ryu, have been kept
secret, and since there appears to be no historical documents extant today on subject, this
information remains unclear. Micheal Finn, in his 1983 book 'Art of Shuriken Jutsu" writes that
shuriken were fashioned in a similar way to that of Japanese swords, ie. they were folded and
hammered over a furnace, however I am yet to confirm this.

Since shuriken were fashioned not by design, but by opportunity from pre-existing metal ware, it
seems that what was required was a cheap and easy-to-make weapon, one that appeared
harmless in that it looked like either a tool, construction or carpentry implement; crude, simple
and dispensable. Nowadays, there is a great variety of metals produced, each with varying
combinations of physical properties such as hardness, tensile strength, heat resistance and
conductivity etc.. So rather than attempt to imitate the traditional blade to the point that we use
exactly the same metal, the spirit of the art requires that we use whatever is cheaply, practically
and effectively available to us. For this reason, I think it proper to search for everday items which
can, with little effort, be adapted to create a throwing and piercing weapon that can be concealed
in the palm. Providing that it follows the principles defined by the art which determine their use,
such as size, shape, balance etc., the source of the metal for the shuriken is of secondary

Objects such as 8 inch railway nails, old carpenters files, chisel blades etc., can all be easily
obtained, easily worked into shape, and yet provide an excellent source of metal, far superior to
the pig-iron traditionally used for such things. Grinding, polishing and heat treating technology is
more efficient and available to us these days, so why not use a bench grinder and a gas torch to
achieve what the Japanese were striving to create?