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History and description of Koga-Ryu/Koka-Ryu Ninjutsu

Koka-ryu  literally “the Koka School” and originally pronounced Koka-ryu) is a school of ninjutsu. It is one of the most well-known schools of ninjutsu, along with Iga-ryu. It originated from the town of Koka, modern Koka City in Shiga Prefecture.

While the town of Koka was under the jurisdiction of the Rokkaku (lit. "hexagon") clan, it was a kind of autonomous municipality composed of peasant unions, then called so . All important decisions in the municipality were made by a majority vote from the union representatives. This kind of system was very uncommon for the period in question.

Members of the Koka School of shinobi were trained in disguise, escape, concealment, explosives, medicines and poisons. They were trained in techniques of unarmed combat and in the use of various weapons such as shuriken and ninjato swords. Ninja swords were shorter than the katana worn by Samurai. The ninja used scaling hooks for climbing and supposedly used special "water-walking shoes" and the famous ninja tabi's.

The ninjas of the Koka-ryu were divided into three classes: high ninjas (Jonin), middle ninjas (Chunin) and low ninjas (Genin).


Near the end of the Muromachi period, Sasaki Rokkaku of Omi Province, using the castle of Kannonji as a base, started to steadily build up military might. He made light of commands from the Ashikaga shogunate, and eventually began to ignore the shogunate altogether. In 1487, General Ashikaga Yoshihisa. Ashikaga mobilized daimyo from several provinces in the castle of Kannonji, the headquarters of the Rokkaku; as a result, Rokkaku Masayori and Rokkaku Takayori (Masayori's son) were forced to flee to the castle of Koka. The factual accuracy of their escape is debated and it is likely that they gave up the town to avoid a direct confrontation instead. Ashikaga then moved his base to Anshiyoji of Kurita District and attacked the castle of Koka. Koka fell, but the Rokkaku duo escaped and ordered the Koka warriors who followed them to mount a heavy resistance against Ashikaga using guerrilla warfare. Exploiting their geographical advantage in the mountains, the Koka warriors launched a wide range of surprise attacks against Ashikaga’s forces, and tormented them by using fire and smoke on Ashikaga’s camp during the night.

The guerilla warfare prevented a final showdown, until Ashikaga died in battle in 1489, ending the three-year conflict and sparing the lives of the Rokkaku duo. The elusive and effective guerilla warfare used by the Koka warriors became well-known throughout the whole country.

As a result of this victory, the local samurai in the 53 families who participated in this battle were called "the 53 families of Koka".

This also marked the first time that the ninja of Koka were drafted as a regular army by their lord. Previously, they were only mercenaries and it was not uncommon to have warriors from Koka on both sides of a battle.

 Current status

Only Fujita Seiko listed below is generally accepted as the last Koga-ryu ninjutsu master. He died in 1966 and did not leave a successor to his style, therefore ....Koga-Ryu is a dead style.

The rest of this list is VERY suspect!

  • Banke Shinobinoden group [6]; Teach Koka and Iga Ninjutsu in Japan. Soke Jinichi Kawakami and his top student Yasushi Kiyomoto claim to be the last practitioners of Kawakami-Ha Koga Ryu Ninjutsu and Banda-Ha Koga Ryu Ninjutsu.
  • Koga Ryu Wada Ha; Taught by Fujita Seiko- the 14th headmaster of Koka-ryu Wada-ha ninjutsu. Fujita was a respected martial artist and instructor at the Nakano spy school during World War 2, even being sent to China on a mission. His death in 1966 ended the tradition. <Fujita Seiko by Phillip Hevener ISBN-10 1436301769>
  • Koka Ryu Kurokawa Ha; School Founded by Yoshiro Kurokawa, brought to Brazil by Kawamura Saiko. Ebio Cleser Borges the headmaster of Koka-ryu Kurokawa-ha ninjutsu.
  • Koga Ryu Tomo Ha (Tomo Ryu); Currently taught by An-Shu Christa Jacobson, a World Martial Arts Hall of Fame winner. The only female non-Japanese Menkyo Kaiden in Tomo Ryu. With over 6,000 students in over 15 different countries Anshu Christa Jacobson is regarded as having the largest authentic koga ninjutsu organizatrion in the world taught under the school banner called Budo Ryu Ninjutsu Dojo link title.
  • Shorinjin Ryu Saito Koga Ninjutsu; a Yamabushi based system, meaning it has a strong tie to the Chinese based Lin Qui (The Lin Kuei of Mortal Kombat are based on this clan), which is why there are a lot of Chinese concepts in the art. This art is currently taught by Shannon Kawika Phelps.
  • Koga Ryu Yamashiro Ha (Sato Ryu); Taught by the late Soke Toshitora Yamashiro, who was also known as Kenneth Sato, passed his art onto his American adopted son Soke Yo Sato (Japanese name given by his adopted father). Soke Sato's real name is Jason Dale Hamilton, and he has two major schools, one is in Colorado, the other is in Washington. There are numerous other schools in USA, Europe, the Middle East, and in Latin America.
  • Mugai Ryu; Currently taught by Kimimaro Sato, this ryuha started in the Shiga prefecture, but then moved the school to Edo. Mugai Ryu is a mix of Jigyo Ryu Dakentaijutsu, Yamaguchi Ryu Iaijutsu/Kenjutsu, and Hontai Yoshin Ryu.
  • Genbuken; Founded by Soke (Tsunehisa) Shoto Tanemura. Even though the organization holds many Iga related Ninjutsu schools, there are a few Koga Ryuha found within, and that are freely taught by the Menkyo Kaiden who know them. They are Koga Ryu Takeda Ha, Hontai Kukishin Ryu, Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Gikan Ryu, and Bokuden Ryu.
  • Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei; this art was founded by William Durbin, so in itself it is not a Ninjutsu based art, yet the following Koga Ryuha are found within the art itself. Ninpo Karumijutsu Koga Ryu, Hichojutsu Koga Ryu, Koppojutsu Koga Ryu.
  • Koga Ha Kosho Ryu; is a Ryuha that has been preserved and added to what is now known as Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo of Nimr Hassan and James Masayoshi Mitose. Even though, the school itself is not Ninjutsu, the name as well as the art of Kempo as was passed on by James Mitose have traces of the Koga Ryu within the system.
  • Sei Ryu; taught by Juan Hombre, who is the only authority of Koga Ryuha based in Europe. Juan Hombre is a student of the Genbuken as well.
  • Ten Ryu; a type of Koga Ryuha taught by the Toushinkai Society by way of Sensei Rodolfo Turolla. Sensei Turolla received his teachings by Soke Shunichiro Yunoki of Koga, Japan, who is also the owner of the Koga Ninja Village.
  • Bufukan Ninpo Bujutsu Dojo; This school claims to teach both Iga and Koga methods of Ninpo, and they claim to specialize in Wada-ha Koga Ryu as handed down by Soke Seiko Fujita. The entire art was passed on from Fujita to Haruo "Harry" Oyama who was the 15th Soke of this Ryuha. Upon the death of Soke Fujita from liver disease, Master Oyama chose to pass the art to the current 16th Soke David D'Antonio, who created the Bufukan (house of the warrior wind) to honor the teaching of both Fujita and Oyama. The art is currently headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. 
  • The Nindo Ryu Bujutsu Kai; is a martial arts federation founded in 1979. This federation has a Gendai Ninjutsu division under the direction of Dr. Carlos R. Febres, (former student of Shoto Tanemura, T. Higushi and current student of both Ronald Duncan & Bo Munthe). Nindo Ryu Gendai Ninjutsu works around modern application of Koryu (old style) & modern interpretation of Takamatsuden, Koga (Koka)& Eclectic schools.
  • Way of the Winds Martial Arts System; a Modern day ninja style created by Professor Ronald Duncan after many years of training in martial arts such as: Hakko Ryu Jujitsu, Dai-nippon Jujitsu Ryu, Sosuishi Ryu, Kin Dai Gakko Ryu, Aikido, Aiki-Jujitsu, Kempo, Kobujitsu (weaponry), and Koga Shinobino-jutsu (popularly known as Ninjutsu), and Judo. His teachers were Charlie Neal, Ernie Cates, Tatsuo Uzaki, and Donn Draeger. His Ninjutsu background come from Tatsuo Uzaki and Donn Draeger.

 Arts of the Koga Shinobi

The Koga Ninja practiced many of the same arts as their Iga counterparts. The Koga had separated the arts so they could practice solely on what was needed for certain situations. Instead of mixing all the teachings, separating them allowed them to focus, yet they used them together in a lethal combination. Some of these arts were taught among the Samurai, but because the Koka Ninja were drafted as mercenaries or a actual army, they were taught some of what the Samurai knew as well.

  • Goton-no-jutsu: Five elements escape methods
  • Dakentaijutsu: Striking Body Art
  • Taihenjutsu: Moving Body Art
  • Jutaijutsu: Flexible Body Art
  • Koppojutsu: Striking Bone Art (Form of Dakentaijutsu)
  • Koshijutsu: Striking Muscle Art (Form of Dakentaijutsu)
  • Kyushojutsu: Vital Point Art
  • Dakentaijutsu Gokui Atemi Sakkatsuho Zukai: Secret Killing Strikes Art
  • Kenjutsu: Sword Art
  • Iaijutsu: Sword Drawing Art
  • Kukushi Bukijutsu: Hidden Weapons Art
  • Kyujutsu: Archery Art
  • Bojutsu: Staff Art
  • Jojutsu: Short Staff Art
  • Sojutsu: Spear Art
  • Naginatajutsu: Staff Blade Art
  • Kusarigamajutsu: Chain Sickle Art
  • Hojutsu: Gunpowder and Fire art
  • Suirenjutsu: Water Survival Art
  • Suijutsu: Swimming Art
  • Bajutsu: Horsemanship Art
  • Hensojutsu: Chameleon Art
  • Shinobi-irijutsu: Stealth and Entering Methods Art
  • Intonjutsu: Escaping and Concealment Art
  • Hojojutsu: Rope Tying Art
  • Shruikenjutsu: Throwing Weapon Art
  • Ninpo Karumijutsu: Body Lightening Art
  • Hichojutsu: Jumping Art
  • Angou: Signaling
  • Jouhou Kaishuu: Information Gathering
  • Kyuba: Mounted Archery
  • Boryaku: Military Strategy
  • Choho: Espionage
  • Tenmon: Meteorology
  • Chimon: Geography
  • Seishin Teki Kyoko: Spiritual Refinement
  • Zanshin: Clear Mental awareness