The kusari-fundo is a short length of chain with a steel weight attached to one or both ends. However, there are many variations on this theme. Each school of ninjutsu has its own name for the unique weapon: tamagusari or manrikzgusari, for example. The size, shape and weight of the fundo (weight) usually varies according to each school. The kusari (chain) has its different size and thickness as well. There are also various theories about the origin of the kusari-fundo.
1) Some argue that leather straps or ropes employed in stonethrowing techniques were replaced with newly invented chains.
2) Some say that it has its origin in the ninja’s shinobinawa no jutsu (rope techniques).
3) Others insist it was invented for the “police” in feudal days to arrest criminals.
It is difficult to say which, if any, is well-founded because there remains very little literature on the kusari-fundo which was handed down from generation to generation as a secret weapon. But let me try to find a clue to its historical background out of the existing literature.
There is a kind of kusari-fundo called the konpi (kon means “iron”, pi means “to fly”). According to a historical document the konpi was put into use as a weapon in the era of the Yoshino Court (around 1350 A.D.).As the times changed, so did the konpi. At one time it was converted into the weapon konpei. At other times individually devised kusarifundo were made, including gekigan,.tundogusari, sodegusari, tarnagusari, manrikigusari and kanarnari, each of which was developed into a certain art of its own. Naturally the names of these arts survived their founders. Among those that are on historical record are: Togakureryu, Gyokushinryu, Masakiryu, Hoenryu, Syuchinryu, Kinshinryu, etc.
Once a chain and bullet with an Iron hand or some device at the end of the chain was said to be combined for use as the konpi. As a weapon, a rope or stick was attached to the end of the chain.
The konpei has a hollow handle which allows the chain to run through freely. It also has the fundo (weight) at one end of the chain and the kakushi (a ring with sharp iron horns, also called kakude) at the other. Kaku means horn, te or de means hand, shi means finger. Wearing the kakushi on your finger and grasping the handle, you capture your attacker by throwing the fundo and entangling him in the kusari, then striking his vital area with the kakush
The length of the kusari-fundo is usually between 1.5 and 3 feet. Some schools, of course, use shorter or longer ones. Those with round shaped fundo are often called tamagusari or gakikan, while the ones with rectangular shapes are called fundo-kusari
We can rely on a certain historical record as the origin of the tamagusari:Nearly 300 years ago, at the time of the Genruku era, there lived in Oogaki, Mino (which was the fief of the Toda clan and was situated northeast of Kyoto) a master swordsman called Masakitarodayu Danno- shintoshimitsu (Masaki Toshimitsu for short) who held licenses of both Seniryu Halberd and Kotoda Ittoryu.
One day Masaki Toshimitsu stood guard at the Ootemon Gate of Edo (present-day Tokyo) Castle under orders of his lord Toda. He thought that, should he be confronted by ruffians in front of the gate and was obliged to kill them with his sword, the gate would bt defiled with bloodshed. This should not happen under any circumstances. (In those days blood was considered to be filthy.) What should he do then? How about borrowing a long wooden stick from an ashigaru, a samurai of the lowest rank on guard, to fight the ruffians with? His pride would not allow him to do this, however. So, Masaki went on thinking. Finally he hit upon a capital idea which would enable him to confront, without bloodshed, the ruffians or madmen who might rush the gate wielding their swords. That was the weapon “kusari-fundo” or, in this case, the tamagusari. It is said that Masaki worked out 24 arts of the tamagusari.
Later, hearing the rumor that the tamagusari, a treasured weighted chain of Masakiryu, could protect one from evil, many people visited Masaki’s home asking him to give them one. But Masaki gave his tamagusari to only a few select people, warning even them that wrong use of the weapon would be of little good service.
As was the case with any weapon, the samurai didn’t want them to be used for the wrong purposes. They used to offer their weapons on the altar, pledging to use them for the purpose of saving others or protecting themselves.
As an attacker throws a punch, Hatsumi grabs the attacking hand and strikes the offending wrist with the hand-held fundo (1). As a second strike is thrown, Hatsumi releases the chain over the incoming arm (2). Hatsumi then guides the attacker’s right hand over his left, sandwiching the chain between them (3). He now pulls both ends of the fundo taut (4), trapping and unbalancing the attacker (5). (Note: A koppjutsu bone breaking technique can easily be applied here.) Quickly moving under the attacker’s arms, Hatsumi braces the left arm on his left shoulder (6). From here he can apply a shoulder throw or this variation – pulling the arms down ,in front of him (7) driving the attacker to the ground.
One other story about Masaki Toshimitsu I think you might be interested in, although it does not involve the kusari-fundo: Masaki was extremely skilled in cutting down large pine trees with a long sword or large axe (ono or masakari in Japanese) and taijutsu as well. One day a sumo wrestler named Ayakawa came to his home demanding he have a strength contest with him. This would be a competition between sumo wrestling and taijutsu. Ayakawa, a man of muscle, lifted Masaki into his arms with ease and made ready to throw him down. However, he was also concerned about being struck at his vital parts the moment he would fling him away. Unable to find the right opportunity, and becoming exhausted from his efforts, Ayakawa was obliged to put his opponent down. A little while later, however, he made another attempt to lift Masaki with might and main, but to no end. He could not move him an inch. It was as if Masaki’s legs had taken root in the ground. Completely exhausted, Ayakawa admitted his defeat and became Masaki’s pupil at once.Meanwhile, seemingly making use of the art of kusari-fundo, ninja practiced their shinobi tenugui no jutsu (one of the ninjutsu techniques of employing a short towel as a weapon) by wrapping a stone into the end, the three-quarter mark or the center of the towel. The ninja carried this weapon by wearing it around his waist or concealing it inside his kimono.
Incidentally, it is said that this kusari-fundo is called sangiri in India.
I hope the following specially prepared photographs and instructions will be of good service to your training.
Zentai Martial Arts, Ft. Wayne Indiana