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Traditional Japanese Shurikenjutsu - Part 2

Commonly referred to as a "ninja star" by Hollywood and the general public. The shuriken was not exclusive to ninjas or ninjutsu. The shuriken was also used by samurai and other fighting classes.

Although this documentary is in Japanese, I think you will find the footage to be truly amazing. This is for people that are interested in classical Japanese martial arts and for people that have no More.. idea what it is. This is a three part documentary.

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.

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 stage.

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

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Added: Jan-4-2009 Occurred On: Jan-4-2009
By: sprayer5
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Tags: shurikenjutsu, shuriken, Japan, Japanese martial arts, budo, ninjutsu
Views: 5720 | Comments: 7 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 5 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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