A Different Path of Koppojutsu

In Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, one of the hand-to-hand martial systems taught is called koppojutsu1. Koppojutsu that we study comes from certain ryuha inherited by Masaaki Hatsumi, such as Koto ryu, and has a history of originating from China and being brought over to Japan by a group of soldiers and monks. While many practitioners are familiar with that which is taught in the Bujinkan, there are others in Japan that claim to teach a form of koppojutsu with a completely different history.

There are actually a good number of schools in Japan that claim to have their own version of koppojutsu. Some are of a modern invention, usually by an individual who either presented this new style after studying for years in a similar style (i.e. Bufu ryu Koppojutsu, developed from Koto ryu Koppojutsu by Nobuyoshi Takenouchi), or claims a legitimate inheritence, but proven to be otherwise (i.e. Kenkagei Koppo by Seishi Horibe). Few have been discontinued and are no longer in practice (i.e. Shinto Sakkatsu ryu Koppo Taijutsu of the Nanjo family). Then there are those that claim a historical background, but with very little concrete info to go by. Here is one such case I will talk in depth about, a system called “Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin ryu2″.

Let’s start off with current information and how it still exists today. Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin Ryu seems to be part of a bigger system, like a sogo bujutsu3 type of format under the organization “Nihon Koshiki Budo Kyokai – Kentokai”, where other arts such as karate, jujutsu, kenjutsu, many weapon arts, etc. are taught. It is a fairly big organization involved with an even bigger organization called “Dai Nippon Butoku Kai4″, where many martial arts schools and systems join forces to preserve and represent the true budo spirit of Japanese martial arts. I won’t touch on this too much, as it is not the focus of this post. I will say this, while the structuring of these organizations is very business-centric, and is completely fine, I am personally interested in the different martial arts systems, such as how this Koden Koppo Taijutsu is sustained and transmitted.

The honbu dojo (or main branch) of this organization is called “Kensei Kai Karatedo Renmei”, which is located in Osaka, Japan. It was created by the late 17th soke, Tanaka Tenshin. The history of Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin ryu that this organization claims goes according to the following below5:

“江戸時代末期の中興の祖14世宗家・巴天心が自流のルーツを調査研究し、その時流儀名を古伝骨法体術源流孤流天心流と名付けたとされる。その後、現在の流儀名”古伝骨法体術源流天心流”になったとされている。”

Here’s my translation of the text:

“In the late Edo period, Tenshin Hamon6 (14th successor of a martial arts system he was trying to revive7) investigated and researched the roots of his family style. At the time, it went by the name of “Koden Koppo Taijutsu Koryu Tenshin ryu8″. The name was then changed to “Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin ryu”, as it is known by today.”

There are no known scrolls or manuscripts for Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin ryu. It is possible that, being a family style of martial arts, it was taught through Isshi Soden9. However, as Japan moved into peaceful times in Edo period, a generation or two may have been missed as the need to fight and carry on the tradition was on a decline. Thus Tenshin Hamon’s attempts to revive this system. As this is a hypothetical guess on my part, it could very well be wrong. One thing that stands out similar to the koppojutsu of the Bujinkan is that Koden Koppo Taijutsu’s “koppo” originates from the martial teachings of India and China.

Now, you may notice that the system in discussion uses the word “Koppo Taijutsu” instead of “Koppojutsu”. An explanation of this follows below10:

“骨法体術とは、古伝骨法術・古流唐手(尚手)・柔術・武器術などその他様々な武術が融合しており”

And here’s my translation:

“Koppo Taijutsu is the combination of many different fighting arts, such as Classical Koppojutsu, Koryu Karate11 (shoushu), jujutsu, and weapons”

In essense, Koden Koppo Taijutsu isn’t solely koppojutsu, but a fusion between koppojutsu and other older systems. Possibly it retains the principles of “koppo”, but merged with other methodologies.

Let’s look again at how Koden Koppo Taijutsu is presented at  Kensei Kai Karatedo Renmei. It is not the main art, but taught in conjunction with others. One of the influences on Koden Koppo Taijutsu included in a sogo bujutsu-type of format today is based on a decision made by the 16th successor, Tenshin Koga. It is written that after inheriting Koden Koppo Taijutsu, he traveled around Japan and took part in many cultural exchanges between him and many different martial arts experts around Japan. Thus, Koden Koppo Taijutsu being an option of study alongside with other martial systems.

Is this tale of Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin ryu true? Difficult to say. History-wise, it is quite possible, as there are many family-style martial systems that died out over time, and it is said that this system was revived. Furthurmore, its koppojutsu is mixed with other martial systems, thus it isn’t truly a koppojutsu-centric system…it just retains its koppo. In ending, I share a video demonstrating koppo taijutsu by two students of Kenshin Kai. Kenshin Kai is run by the 18th successor of Koden Koppo Taijutsu Genryu Tenshin ryu, whose name is Kenshin Mori. The demonstration starts from the beginning up until the 2:20 mark.


1) Generic translation, “Techniques of the Bone Method”

2) Loosely translates to “Tenshin Style of the Original Method of Classical Koppo Taijutsu”

3) “Combination of Different Martial Systems”. Or, in a sense, can be defined as mixed martial arts.

4) http://www.dnbk.org/

5) From Wikipedia here

6) Not 100% sure on the pronunciation of the kanji “巴” to be “Hamon”. This is an old name that is no longer in use. “Hamon” is but several possible naming conventions.

7) It is not an unusual scenario where a family-style martial system may became lost or forgotten a few generations when a suitable successor cannot be found or the system is of no use anymore

8) “Transmission of knowledge between parent and child”

9) Loosely translates to “Tenshin Style of the Traditional Methods of Classical Koppo Taijutsu”

10) See #5

11) “Traditional Method of The Chinese Fist”. This karate (Chinese Fist) is not the same as modern karate (Way of the Empty Hand).

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