Kukishin Ryu originally "Nine Gods Spirit School" (also translated as "Nine Demon Gods School" by many modern groups) is a Japanese martial art allegedly founded in the 14th century CE by Kuki Yakushimaru Ryushin (Yakushimaru Kurando). It is a sogo bujutsu, meaning that it teaches several different weapons/arts such as taijutsu, bojutsu, naginata, kempo, hanbo,sojutsu and heiho. Kukishin Ryu and its founder are listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten or "The Encyclopedia of Martial Art Schools", a record of modern (gendai) and old lineage (koryu) Japanese martial schools.
The Legend of Kukishin RyuRyushin Yakushimaru, the founder of Kukishin Ryu, was born to Doyu Shirohogan at Kumano-Hongu in Wakayama prefecture on January 1st, 1318. He was born into one of the most influential clans in Kumano, who were the descendants of the Fujiwara clan who served for generations as Betto, or “Shrine Supervisors." The family eventually entered into the Taira-Minamoto War and commanded the Kumano Navy. Ryushin's mother was Chigusa-hime, whose brother was Suketomo Dainagon Hino, a member of the Southern Imperial court. Because Chigusa-hime had difficulty in conceiving she made a pilgrimage to Enryakuji temple at Mt. Hiei where she prayed to the Yakushi Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru-Vaiduryaprabha) for help. Soon after, she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, which she named Yakushimaru after the deity.
Ryushin learned the martial arts and military sciences (Shinden Fujiwara Muso ryu) handed down in his family from his grandfather Dojitsu and Shingu-Betto Ariie. After learning shugendo (mountaineering asceticism) from his father Doyu, Ryushin then went to Kyoto where he learned esoteric Buddhism from the Buddhist monk Joukai at Sanmakuin temple. He also trained in martial arts at Mt. Kurama and was said to be master of Kuji-hiho and Onmyo-do.
In 1335, when Ryushin celebrated his coming of age, he joined the Northern Court under Takauji Ashikaga in a war against the Southern Court. In June, 1336 Ryushin and his vanguard led an attack on the Southern Court's fort on Mt. Hiei. The fort eventually fell and the Southern Court Emperor, Godaigo, and his loyal vassals were captured and kept at the old palace of former Emperor Kazanin. Takauji's treatment of the prisoners was so abhorrent that Ryushin was quoted as saying "It is possible to loose the emperor from the harsh treatment he receives. I will plot his rescue." With other conspirators Ooe Gyobu Daiyu Kageshige, Bessyo Saburou Takanori (Kojima Takanori), Hiyoshi Iga Nyudou and Kissuin Soushin Hougen, Ryushin broke into the palace of Kazanin and escaped to Yoshino with Emperor Godaigo.
Tadayoshi Kuragari-Toge, the younger brother of Takauji, was alerted of the escape and sent an army of about ten thousand men in pursuit. The army caught up with Ryushin and the conspirators at Kuragari-Toge, a mountain pass situated on the borders of Osaka and Nara prefectures. It was here that they made a stand against the army, each choosing a weapon they were proficient with. Kageshige took a sword, Takatoku a bow and arrow, and Ryushin a halbred (naginata). As the army outnumbered them completely, it was a battle of strategy and evasion; eventually the blade of Ryushin's Naginata was cut off. So Ryushin used the remains of his naginata to knock down enemies near him and put enemies at bay by swinging the staff in the air, drawing out the kuji-kiri as he did. It is said that the Bojutsu in Kukishin Ryu was later devised on the techniques Ryushin used on this occasion.
Reinforcements from Yoshino eventually arrived and they could safely took the Emperor Godaigo to a small temple-like hut located at Mt. Kinpusen. Ryushin also succeeded in re-capturing the “Three Treasures of the Imperial House” which he had concealed in a scripture-warehouse at Yokawa in Mt. Hiei. The Emperor Godaigo praised Ryushin's dedication and inquired about his secret techniques. Ryushin answered, "It is a secret technique passed on in my family. It is The secret art of Kuji." The emperor then made an announcement as follows: "God knows your loyalty. You shall change your surname Fujiwara to Kuki." The "Ku" of Kuki stands for "Ku" or “nine” in Japanese. "Ki" can be pronounced "Kami" if the character is pronounced in the Japanese way, meaning "Oni-gami"(holy spirit) as opposed to "Oni" (evil spirits). "Ku-ki" is therefore actually "Ku-kami." However, it has been customarily pronounced Kuki since the Edo period.
After the war Ryushin's mother Chigusa Hino, whose family belonged to the Southern Court, lamented over the fact that Ryushin took the side of the Northern Court. She traveled to Musashi (modern day Hino city in Tokyo,) where the Hino family still lived and she passed away despondently. After his mother's death, Ryushin created the Kukishin Bojutsu in honor of his mother which he called "Juji-Roppou-Kujidome" devoted and himself to protecting the Emperor Godaigo
The records of the Kuki family are kept in scrolls and transcriptions which have been rarely shown, but which have been seen and accounted for by scholars. These ancient documents came to be known to the public when Miura Ichiro published A Study of the Kuki Archives in 1941. The scrolls are known for containing supplementary records concerning the mythological age, complementing the Kojiki and the Nihonsyoki, the two major ancient documents in Japan. Volumes on Ko-shinto, martial arts and Kumano Honzan Shugendo were accounted. Until Miura's publication, the only mention of the scrolls was in volume two of Sontoku Okina Yawa that detailed Kuki Takahiro, the 24th head of the Kukis, giving "ten volumes of books concerning Shintoism" to the scholar Ninomiya Sontoku. After Miura's publication came Kuki-shinden-zensho by Ago Kiyotaka, a leading figure in the study of ancient history, detailing some of the contents of the scrolls, including the origins and history of Kukishin Ryu.
There is a strong relationship between the Taijutsu of Kukishinden Ryu and Takagi Yoshin Ryu. According to Takamatsu Chosui, the story of blending of Takagi Ryu Taijutsu into Kukishin Ryu (and Kukishin Ryu bojutsu into Takagi Ryu) is as follows:
The untimely death of inheritor Sadataka Kuki left Kukishin Ryu without an heir. Therefore the eldest son of Yoshitaka Kuki, named Kihei, became the successor. During the time of his inheritance, Kihei's health was very poor and he was bedridden. Eventually he grew stronger and was able to head the ryu properly, even becoming a mountaineering ascetic and traveling far across Japan. During one of his journeys Kihei happened to meet the son of Gennoshin Takagi in Akou (present day Hyogo Prefecture), who was named Umanosuke. During their visit together, they compared the acumen of their two ryu. Whereas Takagi exceeded in Taijutsu, Kihei's Bojutsu was superior. So in agreement, they altered the basic format of the two ryu. Since this time the basic Taijutsu of Kukishin Ryu is Takagi Ryu while the Bojutsu, Spear and Naginata techniques have remained Kukishin Ryu.