Essays From The Master

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Legend of the Komuso Ninja

Legend of the Komuso Ninja


Every ryu has its story, its myth with which it links its self to the primal forces it draws upon. Often these legends have links with history while at other times these legends are the dreams and visions of the founder of said ryu. This legend stems from a meditation on the scroll of the Komuso Ryu and while it touches on two historical Japanese families it should be understood that this legend is not part of the larger mythology of Japan rather it conveys in symbol and metaphor the major themes of the Komuso Ryu. It like all legends has truths to impart if the reader chooses to invest in said legend. Research on the symbols and names in the legend will bring the reader to the actual history of the Komuso Ryu and the Koga Clan from which it stems. There will be those who decry what is revealed herein as “not being a genuine Japanese myth” but this type of response is based on a misunderstanding of what this legend is and more simply that this legend’s context exists within the Komuso Ryu.



During the Tenkyo period (10th century) the famous or infamous Koga Clan was founded and came to be composed of up to 53 families. The Koga Clan was and is the source of one of the two main forms of the Silent Way; the other main source was and is the Iga Clan. Ninja ryu or schools often allied themselves with families of the Bushi or warrior class as a means of having an “in” into the ruling class as well as a patsy if one was needed because of the activities of the ryu. After the Koga battle against Nobunaga one of these Ninja/Bushi alliances broke down as after the battle the Ninja aspects of the Yamashiro changed their names, some to Sato and others to Akutagawa. At the end of the so-called “golden age” of Ninjitsu it is held that a monk of the Fuke sect, a Komuso monk, sat meditating on a scroll that bore the images of the Kami Susano and the dragon Orochi in battle, the monk’s mind came the understanding that power was overcome and can be manipulated through deception, just as the mind and body can be tricked by the use of energies and images to transcend what is normally possible. The monk realized that this “sleight of mind” could be applied to all things and that through exploring the cosmos one can come to understand one’s self and through one’s self all things which are not one’s self.


Fueled by his revelation the monk sought out those who were masters in trickery, in life, in war, and in government. This led to a life that cost the monk his status but this the monk endured for the sake of the truth he had discovered. Now an outcast, one of the so-called henin which meant inhuman the monk traveled and in his journeys the monk applied what he had found and learned those skills that embodied the new found truth. In the travels of the monk he learned from Chinese street magicians who often were burglars and in time found himself in the region under the now scattered Koga Ninja. In the lands of the Koga the monk met what he thought was another of his former sect. It was a shock when the fellow “monk” revealed himself as a ninja master and that the master had been sent to slay the monk in that the monk’s activities were attracting the attention of anti-ninja elements in the government. The master had been sent to slay the monk for the Clan but the master saw something in the monk and so at risk of his own life chose to train the monk in the arts of the ninja.


The monk was far older than other ninja students but his time as a monk and on the street as an outcast aided the monk as he was made to relearn the use of his body, mind, and will as a ninja would and not as a monk. The skills of the monk’s time among street magicians found a home among the ninja skills the monk was learning as did the practices of his former life as a monk. In the ascetic skills of the monk the ninja master saw the roots of the esoteric skills used by the ninja. Working as a team as much as student and teacher a new tradition of the Silent Way began to evolve that made much use of genuine spiritual skills and sleight of hand as a means of making the legends of the ninja had by the masses a reality. At the end of the monk’s training on the day he was to be initiated there was an eclipse which the master took as an omen. An eclipse of a black sun and a red moon was the emblem of the Koga Clan, for the night and blood that were the sacraments of ninja combat among other things too esoteric to tell here. To the crest of the Clan the monk turned ninja added the elements of a silver star and a violet moon to form another eclipse. The dual eclipse image had a final element added to it, the Kanji of the title Komuso. Initiating the monk and endorsement of his student’s new style had been the master’s last act. Anti-Koga forces discovered the encampment used by the master and his apprentice and the master was slain.


The new ninja survived and endured his skills were honed not in any dojo but through use avenging the death of his master. The Komuso Ryu founder worked his vengeance not through martial attack only but also as a spiritual adviser or magician. The Ninja appeared to those higher in station than those of his targets and later used his skills to see foes appear as traitors and assassins. Then in his advisor guise the ninja revealed the “treachery” of his targets to those whom he advised. At some point the Ninja became the target of suspicion as his accuracy became legend. The ninja revealed to his employer that a demon warrior was coming to reveal the enemies of the house for which the ninja acts as advisor. Some time later the prophecy was forgotten by most and the adviser became more of an amusement than a political factor. Some years later on the night of a lunar eclipse the ninja and his students, trained in secret, struck using poison and more traditional ninja methods. One month long did the “shadow war” go on and at the end all the enemies of the Komuso Ryu founder had been slain.


Armed with the skills of Komuso Ninjitsu the ryu organized and created ciphers with which it concealed its lore. Working more loosely than most ryu of the Koga who had begun to go even more underground, the Komuso Ryu became less a remembered sect than a legend about the ninja as a whole being sorcerers. Time flowed on and the ninja were used less and less, the Iga became somewhat incorporated into the secret police of the Meiji government. In the late 1960’s the last publicly known member of the Koga Clan is believed to have died. In secret the Koga Clan preserved there skills using mudra and an oral tradition more so than scrolls to pass down there lore. In the late 1970’s a modern master of the Koga tradition known to the world as Ashida Kim began to publish some of the Koga lore in the hopes that the truths of the Silent Way would make the world a better place. At grave risk to himself and his family Grand Master Kim dared reveal the outlines of the Silent Way. Within the lore master Kim put forth was hidden the symbols and cues of the Komuso Ryu that allowed the I Ching to be a record of the Komuso Ryu’s teachings.


Among the students of Master Kim there was one who followed the subtle clues hidden in the Black Dragon ryu (Hai Lung Ryu) that led to the lore of the Komuso Ryu and in that way the Komuso Ryu began anew….. The legend revealed here is indeed a history but told in such a way as to protect those who need such protection. This like all history is as much illusion as it is revelation.  



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