Boshiken- "the Spear Fist of Taijutsu"

By Don Houle

What do I remember most from my first Budo Taijutsu class? Well, I remember being excited about finally finding and training with a teacher who had studied authentic ninjutsu. I also remember having sore ribs for about a week after that first class. The cause of my pain was an interesting strike whose power I had underestimated - the boshiken.

The boshiken (also called shitoken) is an unusual striking method that is almost unique to the art of taijutsu as practiced in the Bujinkan Dojo. Formed similarly to a fudoken ("normal" fist), but with the thumb extended and supported by the outside of the forefinger, the boshiken is used to apply pinpoint attacks against the muscular and skeletal structure of the opponent.

Due to the unique shape of the fist, the taijutsu practitioner properly employing his body behind the strike channels a lot of power into a very concentrated point at the tip of the thumb. For this reason, it is important that one practices striking with the boshiken to ensure that the strike is applied with the correct alignment. When preparing to strike, the bones of the thumb should line up with the bones of the arm (specifically with the ulna).

It is also important to practice striking progressively more solid targets with both rights AND lefts. A good place to begin is with jumonji no kata. Several repetitions of this exercise will no doubt leave an "impression" on one's uke. Once the proper use of the weapon is learned, it's important to begin working on making a strong fist. I like to tell new students to begin by hitting with the boshiken into one's own palm and then moving on to padded targets like a punch bag or a foam pad. Only after several months of striking these types of targets do I suggest striking any harder targets. I used to use an old piece of shag carpet wrapped around the trunk of a tree as a target.

Many martial artists who train in more "mainstream" arts are surprised by the effectiveness of this intriguing weapon. Like me, they often walk away from a demonstration with aching ribs and a strong respect for the boshiken.