Negishi Shuriken

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Figure 15. Some disc or star-shaped shuriken from various Ninjutsu schools.

From top left, examples 1,3, and 4 are shuriken of the Koga and Iga Ryu. 5 and 6 are from Kobori Ryu, 7 is from Yagyu Ryu, 8 from Koden Ryu or Shosho Ryu, 10 is from Yagyu Ryu and Koga Ryu.

Koga Ryu Ninjutsu
Figure 16. Some throwing stars from various schools and sources.
Throwing Star Collections
Figure 17. A Variety of hira shuriken, or shaken throwing blades from the collection of Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, current Head Master of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu.

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 33rd 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 shurikens are held cupped in the left hand like a stack of coins, and are passed to the right hand in rapid succession. Shirakami Ikku-ken 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. 18, below)

Holding The Hira Shuriken

Figure 18. Holding a hira shuriken of the Ninjutsu schools. (1) shows an incorrect method

Figure 18. 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.

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.

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 purpose.

As mentioned above, shuriken were also worn as hairpins.

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 endeavoring to begin practice by purchasing or making one of their own, they should check the laws of their area.

Modern Shuriken
Figure. 19. Wearing the shuriken

Shuriken in the Modern World

It is difficult justify to the authorities the ownership and use of shuriken, 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, honor and integrity as well as techniques of self defense.

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 injury.

Shirakami Ikku-ken 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 and 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 astray to a focused and worthwhile path in life.

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 food.

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  • silke
    How to throw a bo shuriken?
    8 years ago

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