Seal Martial Arts Shurikenjutsu
One of the most iconic weapons of the Ninja is undoubtedly the Shuriken (Hand Hidden Blade).
There are 3 main types of Shuriken:
- Bo Shuriken - Throwing Spikes
- Hira Shuriken - Ninja Stars
- Tantogata - Throwing Knives
Each have their own benefits and disadvantages in combat. For example you will penetrate deeper into the target with Bo Shuriken and Tantogata but you have to judge the distance to the target and throw accordingly whereas Hira Shuriken are easier to use but often will do less damage or bounce off the target. There are exceptions to this such as Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Juji Hira Shuriken which penetrate very deeply into the target for a Hira Shuriken due to their thickness and needle sharp points.
I have provided an example of some Shuriken below:
Contrary to popular belief Shuriken were not the Ninjas primary method of assassination as they were portrayed in 80’s Ninja movies.
Shuriken were more a tool for psychological misdirection and to assist in escaping when being pursued by enemies. The Ninja would throw the Shuriken at the enemy to make the Samurai of the time think they were being attacked by an invisible swordsman. They could also be thrown into the ground with the spikes protruding to act as a form of caltrops.
Shuriken could also be coated in poisons and excrement to cause side effects after being hit by one such as tetanus, sepsis and hallucinogenic effects. They could also be wrapped with fuse or gunpowder to set fires and cause chaos with small explosions.
Shuriken are extremely versatile and could be hidden all over the body. Conventionally the Ninja would carry 9 Shuriken stashed inside their Shinobi Shizoku (Ninja Uniform) that could be deployed at a moments notice should they be needed. They could also be used to aid with the Ninja Taijutsu (Unarmed Combat) by hooking and tearing at sensitive areas of the body.
So how does Shurikenjutsu differ to western knife and axe throwing?
I’d say from my personal experience in both styles the biggest difference is the mentality behind throwing. Western knife and axe throwing is for points and trying to get the highest score or trick shots. There are 3 main throwing techniques:
- Rotation Throwing
- Half Spin Throwing
- No Spin Throwing
All styles have their own benefits and disadvantages but western throwers tend to find what works for them and stick with that method.
Japanese Shurikenjutsu is focused on combat application and catching your opponent by surprise during a fight. The predominant throwing style is no spin throwing as you want the Shuriken to penetrate the target regardless of you distancing.
I also think Japanese Shurikenjutsu is far more comprehensive than western throwing which is good for fun/sport. To provide an example of what I mean i have listed the Japanese Shurikenjutsu techniques we cover below:
- Seiza Uchi - Kneeling Throws
- Tate Uchi - Standing Throws
- Aruki Uchi - Walking Throws
- Yoko Aruki Uchi - Side Walking Throws
- Shi Ho Ten Chi Tobi Uchi - Leaping Throws
- Kaiten Uchi - Rolling Throws
- Kage Uchi - Shadow Throws
- Ura Uchi - Ura Shuto Throws
- Omote Uchi - Omote Shuto Throws
- Ju Uchi - Free Throwing
- Ken To Uchi - Throwing Holding s Sword
- Bo To Uchi - Throwing Holding a Staff
- Iai To Uchi - Drawing Sword and Throwing
- Maru Tobi Uchi - Circular Leaping Throws
- Ne Uchi - Throwing Laying Down
- Gyaku Uchi - Cross Stance Throws
Western static throwing techniques:
- Static Rotation Throwing
- Static Half Spin Throwing
- Static No Spin Throwing
- Instinctive No Spin Throwing
- No Reload No Spin
- Speed Throwing
- Tomahawk Rotation Throwing
- Underhand Tomahawk Throwing
- Reverse Tomahawk Throwing
- SKANF Throwing
- Double Bit Throwing
The application of Japanese Shurikenjutsu is far more practical overall with the emphasis being on hitting the target from any position at any time.
It doesn’t actually matter if the Shuriken sticks into the target as nobody likes getting hit in the face with a bit of metal. It’s used to break up the rhythm of combat and launch a surprise attack, for example i might draw my sword and cut, throw a shuriken quickly and follow up with another cut. Alternatively i could be evading an incoming attack and while leaping out of the way throw a Shuriken to open up the opponents guard so that I can attack. You get my point, once your proficient with Shuriken they are an extremely versatile secondary weapon and you can throw them in at various opportunities during a fight.
However it does take a lot of practice to become really proficient with Shuriken. If your western throwing it won’t take you long to pick up rotation throwing maybe half hour, same with half spin throwing, once you understand your distances it’s fairly easy to judge the rotation. No spin throwing however is a different ball game all together! You have to learn to control the subtle movements of your wrist when throwing to control the trajectory of the Shuriken. Then once you have cracked no spin throwing it becomes all about no reload no spin throwing where you can throw multiple Shuriken from the same hand in succession.
This post isn’t about throwing styles though more the specific differences between western throwing and Shurikenjutsu. If you’d like to learn how to throw you can book a lesson with me in the Seal Martial Arts Lessons section of the website.
In conclusion Shurikenjutsu is an extremely comprehensive art with a wide variety of techniques developed for practical application in combat. Obviously you can’t go around throwing knives at people in modern times but historically having a couple of Shuriken could be a game changer in battle.
If your a student of the dojo don’t neglect this aspect of your training! It takes practice which is why we often get students started on Shurikenjutsu quite early but after a few months throwing a projectile will feel as natural as throwing a ball.