“In some ryu (traditions of martial arts teaching) this oath was a written one and the prospective member was required to sign his name in his own blood. This is the meaning of the word keppan: a blood oath. He pricked his finger or sometimes his inner arm and with the blood drawn, signed the pledge. The pledge itself is referred to as a kisho or a kishomon. The particulars of these oaths varied from ryu to ryu. Often they were secret, their exact contents a part of the vow itself. One, dating from the early 18th century, which has been published many times, though, is probably typical. The kishomon of the Shibukawa ryu of jujutsu reads: ‘Now that I will receive your training, I swear that without your permission. I will not demonstrate nor instruct, not even the most minor detail to anyone, not even to my own family. Should I behave in a way as to break this pledge, I am resolved to face the punishments of all the gods of the country, and to receive the anger of the great martial deity Hachiman.’”
Brian Kagen is an avid web researcher with a particular interest in martial arts. His training background includes both judo and aikido. He has contributed hundreds of article links over the years for AJ readers.