Kukishinden ryu is a martial system from Japan that has connections to the Kuki family. This family, who are still active today, have a long, and often considered complicated, history. The Kuki family are very invested in religious practices, but not much in martial arts. Along with training in the martial system that bears their name, I’ve spent some personal time putting in research about the Kuki family, primarily because I find their story (and some of the odd and hard-to-explain points in the Kuki history) intriguing.
There is website called “Sengoku Busho no Kamon”1 which has a good amount of background information about this family’s beginnings, history, and events representatives of the Kuki family were involved in. Below is an insert from this site in Japanese, followed by my own English translation.
“The characters used in the name “Kuki” originally stood for cliffs or peaks. Thus, this name made reference to cliffs, mountains, and valleys. On a different note, it is stated that the ki of “Kuki” had the meaning of fortification (柵2), with roots stemming from where fortresses were built upon.
The Kuki family is known as a reputable clan from Kii Province, as descendants of Shinto priests from the Kumano Hongu Taisha (one of three grand shrines in the mountain region in Kumano). From a different angle of their story, Kuki Takazane, the Kumano Betto (head priest) of Kumano Hongu Taisha, was able to expand his family line successfully through Kuki Ura3, located in Muro Valley, Kii Province. Along with this, Takayoshi, the son of Takazane, set his residence in Shima Province and was able to expand the Kuki line to this area.
In the Kuki records, it is mentioned that the Shingu family, who were one of eight manor owners that made up Kumano Hasshouji, are a branch of Betto Takazane’s Kuki line that belongs to the “Kumano Sanzan” (3 grand shrines in the mountains of Kumano)”.
Key points to take from this:
① The “Kuki” name has, possibly, been changed several times. There are indications that the Kuki name once referred to the type of area they lived at, such as around cliffs and mountains.
② As history goes, they have roots deep in religious practices. Part of their line does get into military/martial/piracy practices, but in the end religion is an integral part within the Kuki lineage.
③ Kuki Ura is a location on the eastern shores of Owase city in Mie Prefecture. Along with Kuki Ura, other areas such as Kuki Mura (Kuki Village), Kuki Zaki (Kuki Peninsula), and Kuki Jinja (Kuki Shrine) were established. What is interesting about these areas is that their Kuki name was also written as “九木” (9 Trees) at some time.
④ There was once an influential family in Kii Province who had control over an area called Shingu on the eastern edge of Kumano Wakayama prefecture (not to be confused with Shingu City) from Nanbokucho period to Sengoku period (between 1300s to ending of 1500s/early 1600s). This family took the name “Shingu”. What was their original name, and how they are connected to the Kuki line needs some further verification.
⑤ The Kumano Hasshouji is a collection of fairly large land areas called manors that were once owned by retired imperial and aristocratic families. These manors help those in their religious studies and pilgrimages to the many shrines around the Kumano area. While some had other several usages over the course of history (i.e. supporting military causes), today they serve to promote tourism.
⑥ Kumano Sanzan refers to the 3 grand shrines found along the mountainous region of Kumano in Wakayama Prefecture. These are the following: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha.
This is first of several posts that are geared towards topics concerning Kuki history not normally touched upon. On another note, those interested in more about the Kuki family, especially related to their religious practices, check out “The Spiritual Influence of Ninjutsu”, written by Don Roley. You can find this, and more of his works, under “Books for Sale” at the link below:
1) Site can be accessed here
2) The character “柵” has the “ki” pronunciation.
3) The “Kuki” of Kuki Ura was written as “九木” (9 Trees).