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Monthly Archives: August 2010

In the practice of warrior bujutsu, many weapons were used.  Although some historians relate that the bow and the sword were  the more popular weapons, the study of the spear was also very  important. As with the arrow, the spear can be thrown. As with  the sword, it can stab and can also cut, including the yari used by  ninja. In fact, use varied depending on the situations encountered  on the field of battle. Aside from ninjas who used the yari (spear)  for unorthodox methods, the spear was the weapon of warriors of  high rank. These men did not join in on the melee during an  assault by the warriors of lower class that fought on the front line,  the Ashigaru.


The yari was widely used during the Sengoku period (1480-  1570), when the Bafuku (Military government) was only  exercising its power, and with difficulty, in the limited area of the  capital and its immediate surroundings. Indeed, an aspiration of  the masses for self-government came to light and  daimyo principalities were formed. They fought fierce battles to  conquer Kyoto in an attempt to obtain a total hegemony. But the religious and cultural particularities between these principalities maintained division and thus produced constant fighting. The spear was used extensively during these battles. It was later abandoned because it proved too cumbersome for the bushi.


The basis of the practice of the yari is ninja taijutsu. As all bujutsu of the time, the art of moving is the keystone of practice for a weapon. The Ninja uses the spear as other weapons such as the bo, the jo, the hanbo or the sword. Yarijutsu is the union of the art of striking with kosshijutsu, koppôjutsu, the art of taihenjutsu (art of moving in, depending on the environment) and finally the art of Bôjutsu (with an in-depth knowledge of the saber, daito, katana, the shinobigatana, and the kodachi).

All the many forms of spears invented by the ninja were created with the loopholes of standard defenses in mind. But, in a very short period of time, they could become most useful work tools or farm tools. Thus the kamayari and shinobiyari also served as tools for fishing and climbing, or the transportation of goods. Yarijutsu must bring together a knowledge of distance and angles of attack, essentials for survival. The yari measured 12 feet on the battlefield and those used for the practice were 6 feet.This length allowed one to create a vacuum around oneself and could also be used to unseat a rider, or attack from a distance. But such a length, in the hands of the naive, becomes a serious handicap. Therefore ninja’s ‘kyojitsutenkan’ cultivated the art of interchanging truth and falsehood and vice versa, using optical illusions.

It’s not that simple but  requires intense technical adaptability, mobility, and openness. So, the ninja  excelled in taking advantage of their errors by turning them against the enemy … The surprise no longer surprises! They had a thorough knowledge of kenjutsu (art of sword) and kumitachi to fight against enemies armed with sharp weapons.

In ninjutsu, how to give a ‘tsuki’ with the yari is something special. Indeed, to pierce armor, it must be either very strong or use a specific technique that involves hitting two or three times in the same place. It is neither supported nor even a prolonged strike. It is a technique  exclusive to ninjutsu and that comes from kosshijutsu and koppôjutsu. (Use of fingers and extremities for impacting bone and bones nerve centers). Practiced in conjunction with the kyôjutsutenkan this striking method allows one to hit two or three times while a single shot was given. The technique is called sanshin-no-kata of gokkyô-ryu. Another technique that is unique to ninjutsu is walking sideways (yoko-aruki or aruki-ashi) of the Togakure-ryu school, also found in the Koto-ryu and Kukishinden-ryu.

Hatsumi-sensei said that when he practiced the spear, the first thing Takamatsu-sensei had him do  was seize the spear from an attack. There is, indeed, during the attack, a moment where one can grasp the blade without cutting. However, as with the manner of a blacksmith, one must enter the Kukan. The Kukan is a breach in time, a moment where everything is possible. A space-time in the time itself and it is less mysterious than it seems. Indeed, in the long run, what happens there for those who attack? One who knows how to control the Kukan has understood the essence of the struggle … and life. You can even add that the weapon, plus the extension of the body, is of the mind because it alone commands oneself. A gokui of ninjutsu, taught by Takamatsu sensei, reflects the infinite number of techniques that emanate from a single principle: “The color of water is the color of its vase.” That is to say that whatever the weapon or form of combat, the principle is unique.


In the event that the spear is cut, the battle does not stop. One then used the techniques of unarmed disarmament (Mutôdori, shinkenshiharadome juttejutsu). But, the ninja possessed multiple spears. One of them, te-yari, was very widespread. Although shorter than the yari (1.75m), it offered many variable uses and adaptations. It could be thrown like a javelin (Yarinage), it could cut (Ryobi – both sides of the pike were edges) as a sword. The kamayari was mainly used by the ninja pirates (wako or kaisaku) which, from antiquity to the Edo period, infested the coasts of Japan and the mainland Asia. The kamayari served by boarding a ship, it allowed one to catch a sword blade with the hook, as well as mowing, disarming, fishing, catching the side of a boat, etc. Deriving from the kamayari, the shinobiyari (with double hooks), also known as the stealth spear, was a formidable weapon. It served as a grappling hook among other things. Hattori Hanzo, the famous chief of police of the Tokugawa shogun, leyasu, excelled in the art of handling these different lances, in conjunction with a sword, a shuriken, a kodachi, or a jutte. This may suggest that the technique of two swords developed by Miyamoto Musashi could be used with any weapon,whatever the length. The most important thing is the how one uses the body and spirit in battle. Movement should become spontaneous, natural, and unimpeded.


During the Edo period (1603-1867), the status of the ninja changed. They were responsible for protecting the shogun in his castle in Edo. The juttejutsu, the torinawajutsu, the shibarujutsu were used to capture the bandits without killing them. The ninja were, in essence, highly adaptable. The ninja is a ninja since he can create something of consequence from something simple, where it can evolve constantly and stay creative and surprising.

Spears, they also experienced new functions. The susumata, the môjiri, sôdegarami were adapted by the police. One was captured without being killed, intimidated and frightened without causing a stir among the other bands of robbers. Spears, deadly at first, would find themselves transformed into symbols of order and security. With susumata, the police could dismount a bandit from his horse. He could entwine the  nails of the spear into the kimono of the offender and capture the enemy. He could stop the trajectory of a sword and stab with the other tip of the weapon. These new uses are gradually led to specific techniques in the infinite arsenal of ninjutsu. Apart from a few pre-ryu cities, what remains of ninjutsu are some forms, devoid of possible progression. The kata reformulated, can no longer find the original body of movement.


Faced with such a history, so intimately intertwined with the history of any country, what relevance can such a practice hold in  the year 2000? The weapon itself is not nothing. It allows one to explore another dimension of the technicalities of taijutsu, namely whether the union between body, mind and the weapon is perfected (bo tai ichijo). One can also check if one’s movement is unhindered. To check if one has practiced the art, give him a weapon. If one is a practitioner of ninjutsu, he must be able to use any weapon without restriction of style.