Gyokko-ryū kosshijutsu (玉虎流骨指術) is the oldest of our nine martial arts traditions and is the basis for all of them. The prefix “kosshi” means “bones of the fingers” but can also be interpreted as the “backbone” for all forms of martial arts, not just the Bujinkan’s nine schools. Other historical name of this method has been Shitōjutsu (Science for using the fingertips; 指頭術) and hichōjutsu (Science of the Leaping Bird; 飛鳥術).
Dr. Kacem Zoughari demonstrating gyokko-ryu Ichimonji-gamae
Kosshijutsu is often translated simply as “approach to soft tissue and nerve points, consisting of oblique movements” or something similar, but this just scratches the surface.
Another, deeper, interpretation is that kosshijutsu is a dynamic process in taijutsu (Sciences of the body; 体術). In the process, we mean the one that understands the chains of posture-movement-displacement and this leads from foot to head, through the lumbar vertebrae, and to act in concert. There are more guided movements where the optimum number of muscle chains interact and produce the desired motion. They strive to use offsetting muscle groups in both directions to achieve the relaxed and functional movements. When kosshijutsu was founded, there were not terms that described the more guided movements or “muscle chains”, but instead this was described as meridians and it was noted that the body was crossed by eight such meridians. Our Ryūtai undō is based on stretching these meridians and is a way to reset the body into a natural state, which is a prerequisite for kosshijutsu and our other biomechanics.
The functionality of kosshijutsu is defined by Gyokko-ryū‘s three basic concepts:
- Fūsui 風水 — Wind and Water — feng shui (Environmental Psychology)
- Jūryoku 重力 — Gravitational force (use of body weight)
- Jiryoku 磁力 — Magnetic force (balance of tension)
This forms an implicit structure of movements that give an impression of “volatility” and refers to the origin of which was quick and nimble movements for “avoiding arrows” — yachigai (Arrow Avoidance; 矢違).
According to a legend Gyokko-ryū was systematized according to an ancient book about warfare called Sanryaku (Three Strategies; 三略). This book originated from China and is over 2000 years old, it has been known in Japan since the Heian period, and consists of three chapters; Jōryaku no maki, Chūryaku no maki, and Geryaku no maki, ie, the same breakdown as Gyokko-ryū‘s kata.
 NOTE by Luke Crocker: In fact, the first scroll of Gyokko-ryū (Jōryaku no maki; 上略之巻) directly quotes the first scroll of the Sanryaku (also Jōryaku). The original quote is as follows:
“The soft can counter the hard, the weak can counter the strong. Being soft at the appropriate extent can be a virtue, being inappropriately hard can be a menace. The weak is what the people will help, those that pretend to be strong is what people will resent. Soft, hard, weak and strong, to each has its appropriate place, and one should combining these four and use them where it is most appropriate. When neither the beginning nor end is visible, no one is able to gain full understanding. Heaven and Earth, like the myriad of things, also changes and transform. Thus the commander-in-chief should make changes and not be constant when situation depicts. He should change and transform in response to the enemy.
He does not precede affairs; when the enemy moves, he immediately follow up with it. Thus he is able to formulate inexhaustible strategies and methods of control to secure victory, sustain his gains, bring tranquility and order to the whole land, and settle the Nine Barbarians. Such strategist is a teacher for an emperor.
While in Gyokko-ryū it states,
“Nurture the heart (心) without making the first move, the “In” secret is emotional strength (force of will) without making the first move, To cease an advantageous situation change to the form of “Yō“. When confronting “Yō“, control with “In“, the strong is controlled by the weak. Your own power is not enough, victory by means of your opponent’s power, your own power appears spontaneously…”