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Blinding Speed (Dec 1986)

Mahoutsukai DOJO

By Masaaki Hatsumi

Translated by Masaru Hirai
In the course of carrying out his secret mission, the ninja agent took great care to see that he was well- armed for any encounter that threatened to prevent his success or thwart his escape. If he (or she) was discovered or faced with possible capture, more often than not the agent was probably outnumbered by the enemy. In order to “equalize” the odds, the ninja had to develop a method that would provide him with time, even if it was only a fleeting moment, so that he could bring into play other ninjutsu techniques that would ensure his safety. Under such conditions was the unique art of metsubushi created. The technique of metsubushi (sight removers) involves a very wide range of eye blinders, not just powder-like substances thrown at attackers: dirt, mud, gravel, sand, pebbles, stones, ashes, ground pepper, nettle hairs, oil, water, poison liquids, smoke and explosives are just some of the many ingredients that may be used. Equally wide- ranging and diverse are the containers which these sight removers were carried in: hollowed-out egg shells, nut shells, handheld cannons (sodezutu), bamboo guns (dokudeppo poison gun), scabbards, loaded shuriken and so forth. One particularly interesting and ornate container is called the sokutoku. Often worn around the neck like a decorative pendant, it would not arouse undue suspicion; but in an instant it could be a most effective means of subduing an enemy with a single breath. The hollowed device is usually filled with ground pepper then plugged with a pencil-thin stopper attached to a thin line. When attacked the ninja merely brought the sokutoku to his mouth, removed the plug and blew hard into the mouthpiece. A cloud of hot pepper would then spew forth into the assailant’s eyes. During the relatively peaceful Tokugawa period in Japan this device was often used by “police” forces to subdue lawless citizens because its contents would not permanently damage their eyes, yet was more than enough to stop them in their tracks. The object of metsubushi is to make the attacker hesitate, to “take away his sight” however briefly. And in that brief moment — which to the accomplished ninja is more than sufficient time — the ninja has the option of counter-attacking or escaping. The latter option often created or reinforced the legendary “mystical’ ’ abilities of the ninja to “disappear”. The metsubushi techniques can be found in taijutsu (emptyhand defense), goton no jutsu (five ways of escape and concealment) of Moku, Ka, Do, Kin and Sui (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water), the Ten- Chi-Jin sanjupo no jutsu (thirty methods of Heaven, Earth and Man) and other ways of taking advantage of sight or weak points of attackers. These would include methods of head-butting your opponent, poking your finger or snapping a towel in his eyes, or the use of neko te iron claws. Even reflecting the sunlight off a drawn sword blade into the enemy’s eyes is a part of this. To be versed in a variety of these techniques, the following photographs and explanations will be of great help. However, you are strongly advised never to put these techniques into use unless your life is really at stake, because thoughtlessness often leads you to real danger. The true key to your mastery of these techniques is to follow as good a teacher as possible of the ninpo taijutsu. It seems to me, however, that there have been very few teachers in the true sense of the word in the United States. Therefore, I am willing to answer any questions addressed to me here in Japan in future issues of NINJA magazine. The main reason I continue to write for NINJA magazine is that I hope to give you a proper orientation in your training of ninjutsu and prevent any kind of injury or accident from happening. Now, let’s learn what the metsubushi techniques really are by referring to some of the pictures I have provided.
Metsubushi can be thrown in many ways: Forward with the palm up (1), forward with the palm down (2), backward with the palm up (3) and backward with the palm down (4). Spraying an area with blinding powder is achieved with an arcing motion of the hand (5).
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Hand-held cannons, or sodezutu, were used for long range deployment of blinding smokes and powders against several attackers at once.
A ninja deploys metsubushi from his sword scabbard.
Neko Te, fingertip weapons, can be wielded easily, with devastating results.
The word metsubushi (literally to crush the eyes) brings to mind a technique requiring the practitioner to take the enemy’s eyes right out of his head and crush them. Actually, such a technique does exist in ninpo’s taijutsu. One night, my teacher, Mr. Toshitsugu Takamatsu, told me this story about such a technique: “When I was in Shanghai many years ago, word was out that a big man had been hovering around the wharves robbing the passers- by. People in the area were so scared by his presence that they completely avoided that area. Full of youth, I immediately made up my mind to subjugate this big highwayman. I lost no time in heading for the place where the mugger would most likely make his appearance. Soon after my arrival, he appeared — and how big he was! His being as big as a professional wrestler, I tried to keep out of his way as much as possible, but the narrow street made the confrontation inevitable. With his arms stretched out, he stood in my way and demanded money. Immediately after my response of, ‘I’ve got no money to give you,’ I saw his hammer like fists thrusting at me. I dodged his attack skilfully, but this seemed to further infuriate him and suddenly he was jumping at me. I flung him down with gyakutenage (reverse hand throw) so powerfully that he hit the ground with a resounding “Yipe!’’ It was then that I noticed that there was some¬thing warm in my hand. Somehow, during the short struggle, one of the man’s eyes had been plucked from his head. I applied the art of resuscitation and he soon came to his senses, but the discovery of his lost eye had him crawling away on his hands and knees. I later sent him a bill for 20 yen for doctor’s services rendered.’’ When putting taijutsu into practice, the ninja may sometimes unconsciously grab a vital area of his opponent’s body. This sort of natural reaction is common in the martial arts,- making them different from a sport or game with rules. Here is another story my teacher told me: One night when I was having an uneasy sleep in my room, I suddenly sensed someone watching for a chance to attack me. Making use of ankoku-toshi-jutsu, one of the ninja techniques of seeing through the darkness, I recognized some silhouettes with long swords and large dogs against the moonlight. Without a moment’s delay, I made a mock figure of a man lying in futon bed by utilizing kettles and books and then hid myself in the dark corner of the room. Then I heard something being broken. No sooner had the burglars broken into the room than they began to assault the mock figure repeatedly with their long swords. There was no response, however, except the clashing of kettles against their long swords, which surprised them very much. Then, yelling at the burglars, I got up and snatched a long sword from one of them and began dropping them one by one. Just after knocking down five of the burglars, I was jumped from behind by one of their big, growling dogs. It kept on growling with its paws on my back. When dogs are growling, one must be cautious. Under such a situation, one mustn’t move an inch. I tried rivaling the dog with grim determination. Ha-ha! When dogs are about to attack a person, it is no good for him to stir. When the dog seemed to be fed up with competing with me mentally, it suddenly stopped growling. Taking advantage of this occasion, I struck it on the muzzle with shito-ken (thumb strike) and gave it a heavy kick. With a few sharp yelps, it was knocked down flat on the ground.” This is also a story of metsubushi in that striking the dog on the muzzle caused tears to run out of its eyes and made it dizzy. It includes a mixture of several other ninjutsu techniques such as kinton- jutsu (metal hiding technique) of using kettles, koei-no-jutsu (shadow technique) of hiding oneself in the shade, jinton-no-jutsu (man hiding technique) of using futon to make a mock figure of a man. Metsubushi is generally known as one of the techniques in which ninja physically fling blinding powders into the faces of their attackers. However, there are other techniques beyond just blinding your attacker’s eyes. As a Japanese proverb says, “the eyes are the windows of the mind;” to cloud the mind can be another important way of blinding the eyes. I would like you to know that it is the core of the metsubushi techniques to make the eye stop working.
Standing with his arms crossed, concealing the metsubushi against his chest (1), Dr. Hatsumi is attacked with a front kick which he sidesteps with his whole body (2). Striking the knee with his fist, Hatsumi releases the metsubushi — blinding his assailant (3).
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After defeating one attacker using taijutsu, Dr. Hatsumi as-sumes the hoko posture against the remaining two swordsmen, concealing the metsubushi in his hand (1). As the men move in, Hatsumi releases the powder and begins a dive roll between the confus-ed attackers (2).  Rising behind the attackers, Hatsumi delivers quick, decisive hand and foot strikes (3) and moves away to safety (4).
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As Dr. Hatsumi is grabbed by the wrist (1), he  quickly moves under his attacker’s arm (2) and locks the arm behind him (3). Using the leverage he has created, he throws the enemy away (4)  and deploys a handful of metsubushi (5).
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Blinding Speed (Dec 1986)

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