logo   t

Tanto-Jutsu in Taiho-Jutsu

In a previous article I wrote for Arresting Solutions titled, "Knife Fighting: Part of Taiho-Jutsu?", I examined the various factors involved as to whether or not knife-fighting should be taught as part of the Taiho-Jutsu course, and concluded that it should not be. It would not be appropriate, time effective, easily learned, poses too many risk factors, and could actually bring criminal charges against the law-enforcement officer using the weapon. The title of this current article is similar to the former, but very different in content. To elaborate, the previous article referred to the core Taiho-Jutsu course. This article speaks of the Taiho-Jutsu Kyu/Dan system. The previous article spoke of knife-fighting, i.e., the art and science of using the knife in military-style combat and defense. This article speaks of Tanto-Jutsu, the art of using a specifically designed knife, utilizing a different style of movement in line with Japanese martial arts, as opposed to styles and movements of knife-fighting systems from other countries and locales, e.g., Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America.

The tanto knife has a length of approximately 14" to 16", although this can vary slightly in either direction. There is usually a guard at the base of the blade to both protect the user's hand, as well as to assist in select techniques. Traditionally, the tanto was carried along with the full-size katana and the shorter wakazashi as a weapon to be used when there were space limitations for the larger weapons. It was additionally a concealed weapon carried by women to protect their honor and/or lives when the situated warranted. Further, it was used to commit hara-kiri/sempuku. The tanto is a part of the curriculum in some JuJutsu styles, particularly the Takeuchi-ryu and the Yagyu-ryu. What is seen in these styles are techniques which are practiced first from kata, as opposed to free-style tanto fighting. There are styles of Aiki-JuJutsu which devote much time to tanto techniques (in particular the Yanagi-ryu and the little known Ogawa-ryu). The techniques are indeed vicious, even when viewed from kata. In these systems, the defender counters an attack, armed or unarmed, with taisabaki, and briefly controls the attacker prior to killing him/her. (The tanto is also used in Tomiki Aikido, but in a manner of unarmed defense against the weapon). The movements and the techniques of the tanto are not easy to learn. Precision and accuracy are vital. It is not an art for beginners, or those of questionable character, or those simply and maybe genuinely enamored with wanting to learn a blade art. How does this fit in with Taiho-Jutsu


The body movements, particularly taisabaki, are most compatible with Taiho-Jutsu. The katas are done from both standing and kneeling positions. This would make it interesting for Taiho-Jutsu practitioners. What would strongly warrant its actual study and practice is the fact that knife-fighting in general is a current rage of the so-called "reality-based" combat taught by many. Sadly, the knife is now put in the hands of many who should not be handling the knife at all, but are learning its use in a systematic manner. It is for these reasons cited that that advanced practitioner of Taiho-Jutsu, officer or not, would be at an advantage to learn the evasions, body movements, defenses, and counters of tanto-jutsu if they are attacked. It would certainly enhance their safety in the "jungle out there".

A word of caution is in order regarding the training in tanto-jutsu. I have seen countless videos and read many books written by martial artists and non-martial artists on "tanto-jutsu". Some were self-created styles of Karate practitioners using flashy moves which could be categorized as ridiculous, reflecting no knowledge of what tanto-jutsu really is. Other "tanto-jutsu" systems were simply variations of World War II knife-fighting. There are even those who profess to teach "Deadly Ninja Tanto-Jutsu Fighting Techniques". The purpose here is not to critique the merits or lack thereof of what these people teach, but to point out that what they do not in fact teach is the Japanese art of tanto-jutsu. Tanto-Jutsu is not a generic term for any series of movements with a knife, but an art having very specific techniques for a very specific blade of a Japanese ryu. As mentioned above, these techniques and the accompanying body movements do indeed make it a most compatible art to be studied along with Taiho-Jutsu. For all of these reasons, I feel that Taiho-Jutsu practitioners holding Shodan or higher would fare well (and enjoy) learning this art as a complement to Taiho-Jutsu.

Return to Table of Contents