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Grandmaster Yasuyuki Otsuka Trains on Japanese Shuriken Throwing

" Yasuyuki Otsuka, the visiting Grandmaster of the Meifu Shinkage Ryu school of shuriken (small Japanese hand weapon) throwing art, trained the members of the Chicago Keikokai Meifu Shinkage Ryu at the Japanese Culture Center on April 9 and 10.
" Meifu Shinkage Ryu carries on the technique of throwing  bo-shuriken, a stick-shaped weapon with one pointed end. Easy to carry and hide in the sleeve of a kimono, it was used by samurai to attack enemies preemptively by throwing it from the distance too far to use traditional weapons such as a sword or a spear. The common image of shuriken throwing  a ninja quickly throwing numerous cross- or star-shaped shurikens from his palm  is a product of dramatization, according to Otsuka. It was bo-shuriken that was typically used in reality.

The Shapes of Shuriken

" Cross- and star-shaped (five and eight blades) shurikens do exist outside the imaginary world of ninja movies. They are larger and heavier than we imagine  4 to 5 inches in diameter, more than 0.2 inches thick and weigh more than 3.5 ounces. It is easy to see that they are not made for holding in layers in the palm and throwing consecutively in quick, slicing motion.
" The correct way to use shuriken  both stick-type and otherwise  is to swing one up and throw it downward (called  shuriken striking ). While it is easier to use the cross- and star-shaped ones, which have a higher rate of hitting the target thanks to their multiple blades, the technique of using them have not been established as an art. Today the martial art of shuriken throwing usually means that of bo-shuriken.

" The optimal range for shuriken is 3 kens (17.7 feet) to 4 kens (23.6 feet)  with a distance more than 3 kens, traditional Japanese weapons can t reach you and shuriken works better. From such a distance, you can  strike shuriken down in a flash and then immediately draw your sword to prepare for full-fledged attack.
" But it s not easy to hit the target 17 to 23 feet away with a bo-shuriken. After it flies off your hand, the shuriken falls toward the ground following a parabolic path. The thrower is required to calculate the distance to the target and the path the shuriken will follow so it will hit the target in the right angle; only repeated training will enable the thrower to make such a decision on the spot.
" To teach such technique is not easy, Otsuka says. While the shape of shuriken and how to hold it can be shown in images and explained verbally, the actual know-how of throwing shuriken can t be easily taught through a visual or verbal method. Meifu Shinkage Ryu currently has branches in 17 countries, and Otsuka visits them to teach the method in person.

" Otsuka and Art of Shuriken

" Otsuka says he knew how to throw bo-shuriken since he was a boy without being taught. He did it by holding one between his fingers, with his thumb pressing down the end of the shuriken in order to prevent it from spinning. By the time he was a junior high school student, he was throwing his modified paring knives and paper knives at the target board. He continued the practice well into adulthood. In 1980, he read the book  Introduction to Shuriken Jutsu by Chikatoshi Someya, original founder of Meifu Shrinkage Ryu, and found in it what he had been practicing without being taught.
" Someya, after having learned the Katori Shinto Ryu School, created his own art of shuriken throwing and founded Meifu Shinkage Ryu. Otsuka became his student in 1985 and about 10 years later became a master. After Someya s death in 1999, Otsuka became Soke, the Grandmaster of this school, in 2009.

" As the Grandmaster, Otsuka worked toward the reestablishment of Meifu Shinkage Ryu while employed as a computer graphic designer, training students, attending seasonal sessions, and setting up a website on the Internet. Increasingly his name and Meifu Shinkage Ryu became known across the media and the world, as he accepted interviews and inquiries from all over the world. With more branches opening in Japan and overseas, the existence and operation of the school had been securely solidified by 2006 and into 2007.
" However, the busy schedule as both a computer graphic designer and a shuriken grandmaster forced Otsuka to overwork and he suffered a mild stroke in January 2010, which made him resign his day job and dedicate his life to teaching and spreading Meifu Shinkage Ryu. His English book,  How to Learn Meifu Shinkage Ryu, which he wrote in the wake of the stroke, has been translated into Spanish by the Spanish branch head, and, subsequently, into German. In that year, he visited the United States, Finland and Spain as the Grandmaster.

" Otsuka says he has always been asking himself why he was attracted to the shuriken art so much. He claims that he had the knowledge of how to hold shuriken as an  old memory. That memory also included an image of martial art tournament in the shogun s castle and life in a samurai house. A psychic once told him that he was  one of the masters of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu and was born in the Edo residence of the Yagyu Domain. After investigation, Otsuka identified Yagyu Toshiakira, the 10th lord of the Yagyu Domain, as his most likely former life. These are explained in his book,  Shuriken jutsu to Watashi (Shuriken jutsu and Me).

" Meifu Shinkage Ryu branches and training clubs existed in only a few countries prior to 2010; by March 2015, they grew in number to 30 locations in 17 countries, including Finland, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Germany, the United States, Russia, and Thailand.

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" The Chicago Keikokai of Meifu Shinkage Ryu was initiated by William Seiyo Shehan and formally founded in January, 2016.
" When Shehan was young, he was impressed by reading The Book of Five Rings written by Musashi Miyamoto. After he retired as a sniper in the U.S. Army, he studied Buddhism with Rev. Gyomei Kubose in the 1990s. After Gyomei s death, he continued to study it with Rev. Koyo Kubose and received an ordination. He has served as Buddhist chaplain at the veterans hospital and had a close relationship with the Buddhist Temple of Chicago and the Midwest Buddhist Temple.
" One day, Shehan found a book by Otsuka in Amazon and began communicate with Otsuka. He started Meifu Shinkage Ryu shuriken jutsu with some of his friend under the direction from Otsuka. He decided to form a formal Keikokai in 2015 and opened it last January, one year after he received a certificate from Grandmaster Otsuka. Shehan possesses the third dan (three-black belt) in Meifu Shinkage Ryu


Soke Yasuyuki Otsuka with the member of the Meifu Shinkage Ryu School of Shuriken


Soke Yasuyuki Otsuka


Different size and shape of shuriken