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Shurikenjutsu: The Japanese Martial Arts of Shuriken Throwing

August 18, 2017

Shurikenjutsu: The Japanese Martial Arts of Shuriken Throwing

Japan has a long and rich history of martial arts. While kendo and kenjutsu are two of the most popular forms of Japanese martial arts, there are other, lesser-known styles, one of which is shurikenjutsu.

Overview of Shurikenjutsu

Shurikenjutsu is the Japanese martial arts of shuriken throwing. As you may already know, a shuriken is a small handheld weapon that typically features multiple blades (though some feature a single blade). It was used in feudal Japan as a throwing weapon as well as stabbing weapon.

With that said, the primary purpose for the shuriken wasn't for either stabbing or throwing. Instead, it was used for distraction. Throwing a shuriken could distract a samurai warrior's opponent, allowing him to strike with a more lethal weapon, such as a katana.

It's unknown when or how shurikenjutsu, though historians believe it dates back to the feudal era. Back then, it was taught in Japan as a supplemental form of martial arts to kenjutsu and other common styles.

Even today, shurikenjutsu is largely clouded in mystery. Over the past few centuries, different practitioners have pioneered their own techniques and strategies for throwing shurikens. Modern Japanese martial arts schools now use these techniques to teach students the art of throwing shurikens. However, there's no universal system or approach to shurikenjutsu.

Of course, one of the reasons for shurikenjutsu's decline is because it was outlawed during Japan's Tokugawa period. This essentially drove the art underground where students were forced to learn the art of shuriken throwing in secrecy. Following the end of the Edo period, shurikenjutsu was largely eliminated. According to some reports, there was once more than 50 different style of shurikenjutsu, though only a few have survived.

The 2 Designs of Shurikens

There are two primary designs of the traditional Japanese shuriken. The bo-shuriken, for instance, featured a four-sided design with a single-pointed spike. It is typically thrown by holding the bo-shuriken in the palm and releasing with either an overhand or overhand throw.

The hira-shuriken is the most recognizable style, featuring the distinct flat design with multiple star-like pointed blades. They are usually less 3 mm thick and feature between 3 and 20 bladed tips.

Additionally, there are several sub-types of the hira-shuriken, each of which has a unique design. These sub-types are usually identified by the number of points they posses as well as their shape. Nearly all shurikens produced today -- both hira and bo styles -- are made of stainless steel.

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