Ancient Powerhouse: Kyoketsu Shoge

By The Tai Chi Ninja
(a.k..a Kyle Connally)

One of the more exotic weapons in the ninja arsenal is the “Kyoketsu Shoge”, which literally translated means “to run about in the fields and mountains.” It comes in a wide variety of designs, but generally it features some sort of stabbing and slashing implement attached to a rope or chain with some sort of weight on the other end. It is so powerful that a skillful wielder could take down a Samurai or even and entire horse and rider in one blow.

The stabbing, slashing end of the Kyoketsu Shoge is thought to have its origin in a simple Japanese “spade and sickle” hand-held farming tool, but in some modern designs is replaced with a knife of some kind.

The flexible mid section of the weapon, usually a rope or chain, is about 12 to 18 feet long, and has a variety of uses, such as: climbing, ensnaring, striking, choking, and especially hojojutsu (Rope Arresting Art). Antique Kyoketsu Shoge have long lengths of braided hair in place of a rope or chain.

For the weighted end of the traditional Kyoketsu Shoge, a metal ring was attached to the rope, chain, or hair. While this weighted end of the weapon is usually a metal ring, it could also be any sort of metal weight. It can be thrown or swung around with a tremendous amount of centrifugal force in any of the three dimensional planes to control distance and timing. The striking force generated by the spinning weight can be equally effective at long or short range, and also allows for many deceptive striking and ensnaring options. In his book “Ninjutsu: History and Tradition” Sensei Masaaki Hatsumi, (an expert in historical combat methods of the ninja and samurai and also the founder of the Bujinkan organization), mentions specialized ninja uses for this weighted end such as tying on small explosives, and even poisonous snakes to be swung at the enemy as a distraction while the ninja would close the distance and dispatch the distracted enemy with their stabbing, slashing end of the weapon.

The Kyoketsu Shoge’s history is a bit murky and the true inventor of this weapon cannot be conclusively verified. Some sources believe that Tozawa Hakuunai, an early founder of Gyokko Ryu (Jeweled Tiger School), invented it. Other historians believe a warrior of the Gyokko Ryu lineage a generation before Hakuunai, named Nyudo Hachiryu, invented it and secretly taught the weapon to Hakuunai. The Kyoketsu Shoge is also prominently known in the ninja school of Togakure Ryu (Hidden Door School), which is reported to be the oldest ninjutsu school in Japan. One of the “eighteen essential skills” that make up this ninja school is knowledge of the chain and sickle weapon, a variation of the Kyoketsu Shoge called “Kusarigama.” Though this weapon has some differences from the Kyoketsu Shoge design, it does have many similarities, and similar principles of use.

Ninja Training TV has produced a video with 15th Dan Sensei Mark Roemke that simplifies this weapon’s functions and gives it a context for modern use. In this video he teaches how to gain familiarity with the Kyoketsu Shoge by bringing your attention to its independent parts one at a time, and by examining your body movements while using each part. Sensei Roemke details the various aspects that make the Kyoketsu Shoge unique, shows specialized drills, and demonstrates a variety of ways to use and apply this weapon to combat situations.

All weapons are to be felt as an extension of your body, but we must remember that this principle goes both ways. In mastering the Kyoketsu Shoge, the skills and tactics that make this weapon so unique will enhance your natural body movement, even while unarmed. There is a lot to absorb with this weapon and the bottom line is, it is a lot of fun to train with, so go out and make or buy a training Kyoketsu Shoge as soon as possible, and practice with the Ninja Training TV Kyoketsu Shoge Basics weapons video. Keep exploring, discovering, and making connections with the parts and principles of the Kyoketsu Shoge, and just KEEP TRAINING.