Nimpo Karumijutsu To Hichojutsu:
The Stealth Principle Body Lightening Art and Jumping Art

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

In the Buddhist temples of ancient Japan the monks, who had trained and learned in the temples of China, practiced not only the Buddhist austerities, but also other arts related to the teachings of Buddh ism that are not always known outside of temple life. Some of these arts were eventually passed on to Buddhist Samurai. Nimpo was a principle, which dealt with one of the most important aspects of religious faith. That principle which is a constant of all religions, is also considered one of the most important virtues of life, patience. Normally Nin is translated stealth and deals with skills, which can be used in regard to espionage and clandestine work. But the development of these abilities come from the lessons learned in the practice of religious patience.


          Nimpo came to stand for all of the auxiliary forms of training which could lead to spiritual enlightenment and had the side benefit of making a person's martial arts much more effective and efficient. One of the most useful and distinctive arts, which came to be practiced by both monks and warriors, was known as Karumijutsu, the body lightening art.

          The idea behind this art was to help the practitioner of Kempo lift their Ki that is their spiritual nature to a higher level, which was symbolized by their ability to move with lightened bodily movement. This was accomplished, according to the great temple Kempo master James Masayoshi Mitose, through the practice of what he called temple dance and escape arts. This type of training is believed to have been used by nearly all those who practiced some form of Ninjutsu as well, and has been intricately linked to many Kempo and Aiki styles. There has been mentioned in the writings of Daito Ryu and Kosho Ryu, the Odori, or dance, which seems to be the foundation form of practice for the development of Karumijutsu. Body lightening considered not only the physical aspect of the exercise, but also the mental and spiritual aspect. The physical aspect of the art was taught in several jumping patterns usually referred to as Hichojutsu, which literally means the leaping and flying art. It is sad that today many people either do not understand the art, calling it the climbing art, or are trying to misrepresent it to the public.


          Currently the Odori of Kosho Ryu is preserved in the teachings of the Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo system of Nimr Hassan, who trained with James Masayoshi Mitose in the seventies and was taught personally the Odori of Kosho Ryu Kempo in the backyard of Mitose's home, where most of his training was carried on. Before he died in 1981, James Mitose wrote a book called, What is True Self Defense?, in which he preserved the patterns which were used in the temple dance of his family art.

          Unfortunately, many people had no idea what was actually contained in that volume and only Nimr Hassan, who had trained in the patterns and learned the Koppo applications of the movements could actually interpret the message contained in the esoteric document. Within the book was the Ashisabaki, foot movement, of the patterns known as Ichimonji, Shikakkei, Sankakukei, Denkokei, and Hakkakkei; respectively, the straight line, the square, the triangle, the zigzag, and the octagon patterns.


          Karumijutsu, body-lightening art, is a method of mentally focusing a person's Ki to any area. Thus a person can make their body light, by raising the center of their Ki. They can also make their body heavy by lowering it. During this process it is best to practice these skills by performing the Hichojutsu, leaping techniques. In the concept of developing combat skills, the best pattern to practice in the beginning is the Shikakkei, in that through the practice of moving through a square you are practicing how to jump towards an attacker, sideways from an aggressor, or back away from an assailant. Once these skills are learned, then a practitioner progresses to the Denkokei, for actual training in applying the skills in an actual fight.


          It is important to learn the Denkokei moving both forward and backwards, Omote and Ura. This is practiced by a person in a singular pattern jumping back and forth over a line. This teaches the importance of moving at a forty-five degree angle, which in most systems is considered the most important angle of movement. The advancing movement is used for going towards an attack, which is part of the Shinobijutsu, actual stealth art. The retreating movement, was considered by the monks as the most important action, in that it allowed a monk to retreat from an attack, without causing injury to an assailant.

Hirateuchi and Koppo

          Once it became obvious that an attacker would not stop his attack, then the Nimpo trained fighter would switch to the use of the Hirateuchi, flat hand strike (slap), to attack the limbs of the assailant, hoping to cause enough pain that the antagonist would abandon the attack. If this did not work, the final Nimpo option would be Koppo, literally the bone method, but used in reference to breaking the bones of the aggressor. Special strikes, directed at a ninety-degree angle to the bones, were executed so that they would easily break. Each Nimpo Ryu, that taught Koppo, had their own special hand formation, which they used, with the closed fist, using the bottom edge, being the chosen technique of Kosho Ryu.

          If it became apparent that the person simply would not stop attacking, or was so skillful as to foil the use of the Koppo techniques, then the monk would switch to his Kempo skills to do what needed to be done to fit the situation. Koppo was used, specifically by the Kosho Ryu monks, to 'destroy the fort', which meant to attack the limbs, doing damage to them in order to render the attacker helpless, without having to kill them outright. It was actually hoped that the assailant would stop attacking once the monk used the Ashisabaki, to avoid and foil the attack of the aggressor, but once it was obvious that the person was too violent prone or intent on causing injury or death, then the intermediate skills of open hand striking was resorted to, and then the damaging skills of Koppo. And in the case of a multiple attack situation, or an extremely skilled opponent, then the Atemi, striking of vital points, using the rest of the Kempo techniques were applied. It was even then hoped that avoiding killing would be possible, but once a defender started attacking actual vital points, it was a clear possibility that the aggressors could be fatally injured.

Two Man Set

          To practice the Hirateuchi and Koppo skills, the practitioners of Nimpo and Ninjutsu would perform a two man set, in which one person jumped in retreat as another person jumped to attack, usually striking out with an open hand towards their partner. In the practice of the Hirateuchi, the defender would perform an open hand slap on the attacking limb. During this exercise the hit was made with full power, so that the arms would be strengthened. In those cases the strikes were definitely slaps, not heel palm strikes, which would also break bone when applied correctly. In the practice of Koppo, the defender would practice moving the arm into a ninety-degree position in contact with the forearm, making sure to pull the technique, so that the partner is not injured.

          Three of the most important aspects of Nin, from the stealth point of view, are speed, deception, and blinding. The idea is for the antagonist to see what you want him to see, rather than what is actually happening. In regard to the use of the Nimpo Karumijutsu or Hichojutsu skills when used in conjunction with Kempo, was for the person to be blinded to the actual combat situation of distancing. The Hichojutsu, jumping skills could be used to cover a greater distance, than would be realized by a person who trained in the normal stepping skills of Ayumiashi, walking step, and Tsuginoashi, following foot. Thus a Samurai who faced a Sohei, warrior monk, trained in Nimpo, would be deceived by the distance, thinking himself beyond the reach of the opponent, when with a single leap, the monk would be close enough to use his Kempo skills or in the case of war, his weapon of choice.

Today – Ima Ninjutsu

          Today the training of Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo majors on the practice of these patterns passed on from James Masayoshi Mitose to his personal student Nimr Hassan. And as is true in all combat systems, Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, as practiced by the author, also maintains the ancient tradition of Nimpo Karumijutsu and Hichojutsu, as part of the Kempo training. Ima Ninjutsu, meaning modern Ninjutsu, seeks to preserve the ancient forms of combat in the same fashion as the ancient warriors, which means with adaptability towards fighting.

          When one examines the actual ancient Ryu of Japan, it is found that the ancient skills of Karumijutsu were at the foundation of the many martial traditions. These were especially expressed in the Hichojutsu skills, which were many times merged with the sword techniques, giving the practitioner an advantage of deception in the application of combat skills. From the ancient system of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu to the modern preservation form of the Mitose family Kempo embodied in the Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo, it is discovered that these ancient skills form the foundation upon which all the other aspects of martial skill were based.

          From the Buddhist temples, practicing the Nimpo for the religious development of patience, to the stealth skills employed by the Sohei in their struggle to protect the religious freedom of their adherents, to the Goshi and Jisamurai, rural warrior and farmer soldiers, who learned the skills in their desire to help the temples of their choice, to the final development of Ninjutsu as an art of espionage, the auxiliary skills of Karumijutsu and Hichojutsu, provide a wealth of skills, strength, and ability, available to those who are fortunate enough to receive proper training in styles of Kempo which maintain such ancient and rare arts.

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