Koshijutsu vs. Koppojutsu: A Comparison
by Jeff S. Mueller
Last month I covered some of the differences and misconceptions between the Jutaijutsu and the Dakentaijutsu. This month I will try to clarify some points regarding the differences and similarities between Koppojutsu and Koshijutsu.
To begin, many people state that the Koppojutsu and Koshijutsu are sub-divisions of the Dakentaijutsu. This is simply untrue. They are all different arts with different principles and concepts. The commonly stated differences are usually gross over-simplifications of the true differences. The typical answers to the question "What's the difference between Koppojutsu and Koshijutsu?" are: Koppojutsu is bone-breaking, and Koshijutsu is muscle and tissue tearing using the fingertips. Some people go on to describe that the Koshijutsu tearing is done to the kyusho (nerve point or vital point). Well, this is um, kind of true. Maybe. Let's take an look at the two systems on their true base levels. Let's begin with the Koshijutsu. The Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu is based on affecting the Kyusho at 45 degree angles by using the fingertips and STRIKES. The "muscle and tissue tearing" usually spoken of is a by-product of affecting the kyusho. But it is not limited to such action. There are many kyusho that are exploited in the Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu that don't tear tissue or muscles. The method for developing power in the Koshijutsu is a pivoting action around the spinal column, which creates a solid, snapping strike.
Now let's look at the Koppojutsu. It has been simplified to the extreme, usually being summed up in two words, "Bone Breaking." Well, let's start at the beginning, the Koppojutsu comes from the Koshijutsu. The Koppojutsu deals with the use of the skeleton structure, also known as Kohtsu Po (Bone Method). The whole body method in the Koppojutsu causes the attacker to commit when attacking and thereby stretching himself out. This allows the Koppojutsu stylist to strike with the entire skeleton and body weight to throw the uke of balance with the initial contact. This creates a solid, crushing strike. It uses the principles of striking the kyusho at 45 degree angles as well as an added method of "bone-breaking." This deals with striking the kyusho at 90 degree angles to break the bone or create the feeling of numbness that accompanies a broken limb. As an interesting aside, the kyusho names used in the Bujinkan today come from the Koto Ryu Koppojutsu.
Let's sum up. The Koshijutsu involves the striking and grabbing of kyusho at 45 degree angles. The power of these strikes comes from the rotation of the body and is generated by the limbs. The Koppojutsu involves striking the kyusho at 45 and 90 degree angles using the entire skeleton as the tool. They both involve striking the same kyusho, use the same method of 45 degree angle striking and grabbing. The difference is in where the power comes from and the added method of "bone-breaking" in the Koppojutsu. Now these are the differences as they apply to the Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu and the Koto Ryu Koppojutsu and to any other system of Koshijutsu or Koppojutsu. And please remember that this article was written on the base level of understanding that students should have concerning these two integral concepts of the Bujinkan. There are many other differences, concerning throws, joint-locks, etc.... I hope this once again clears up any over-simplification of these important terms.
Jeff Mueller is the Head Instructor at the Bujinkan Musha no Tomodachi Dojo in Bowie, Maryland. He has been training in Ninpo Taijutsu since 1988 and has traveled to Japan to train with Hatsumi Sensei and the other Shihan. He may be contacted via e-mail at: JeffM777@aol.com.