Every now and then the subject of "Sanada-ryu" ninjutsu comes up on the internet and in these forums. For some reason, the Sanada clan is virtually unknown in the Western world, and nobody seems interested in cracking open a book to find out more about them.
As such, I thought I would start a thread here to introduce a little of what is typically written about the Sanada clan in both English and Japanese.
The most well known players in the clan were:
Sanada (danjo-no-jo) Yukitaka (Aka: Sanada Ittokusai) - b. 1512 - d. 1574. One of Takeda Shingen's 24 Generals. Known for his skills in Senpo (guerilla tactics).
Sanada (gentazaemon-no-jo) Nobutsuna - b. 1537- d. 1575. First son of Yukitaka, and leader of the clan after his death. Died at the battle of Nagashino. One of Takeda Shingen?s 24 Generals.
Sanada Masateru - b. 1541 - d. 1575. Second son. Died at the battle of Nagashino. A General under Takeda.
Sanada Masayuki (Aka: Moto Kihei). b. 1544 - d. 1608. Third son of Yukitaka, and leader of the clan after
Nobutsuna's death. Builds Ueda-jo in 1583. A General under Takeda. Known for his skills in Senpo, and espionage (ninpo).
Sanada Yukimura (Aka: Sanada saemon-no-suke Nobushige)- b. 1567 - d. 1615. Second son of Masayuki. Sent as a hostage to Uesugi in Echigo. Very famous samurai, having fought for Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the winter and summer campaigns at Osaka Castle.
Sanada (izu-no-kami) Nobuyuki - b. 1566 - d.1658. Sent as a hostage to Tokugawa in Shizuoka. Succeeded as the han elder, living until 92. Fought against his brother Yukimura at Osaka under the army of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Following is some general information:
Sanada-machi (Sanada town) is located in Nagano. They still sell "Sanada-himo" (Sanada cordage) of which the area was famous for, and still have a Sanada gunnery troop. Sanadayama park in Osaka sits on top of the area where the Sanada-maru was built at Osaka-jo during the Sengoku period.Sanada Yukimura was the leader of a minor house (clan), called the Sanada-han. He and his father Sanada Masayuki were famous for being brilliant tacticians. Though their army was very small, they won many battles in which they were outnumbered.
At first Yukimura followed Ieyasu. However, Ieyasu later tried to seize his territory, so Yukimura betrayed Ieyasu. In the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, he followed Ishida Mitsunari to fight against Ieyasu. He also defended the castle of Ueda (built by his father Masayuki) in Shinshu from the vast army of Tokuyawa Hidetada, the son of Ieyasu. After the battle, his territory was seized by Ieyasu. But Yukimura gathered his army secretly, and raised it when the Winter Campaign of Osaka castle broke out in 1615.
Yukimura built a small fortress called Sanada-maru ("Sanada circle") in the southwest area of Osaka castle. This fortress was impregnable, and Ieyasu's army suffered many losses trying to over-run it. So Ieyasu gave up attacking the castle in this battle, and proposed a reconcilation to Toyotomi Hideyori.
Of course, this was Ieyasu's insidious strategy. He proposed a condition for the reconcilation, to destroy the outer moat of the castle. But when his envoy came in the castle, they destroyed not only the outer moat but also the inner moat. Osaka Castle was made defenseless.
Next year, Ieyasu gathered vast armies, and attack the castle again. This battle is known as the Summer Campaign of Osaka castle. Yukimura fought the army of Date Masamune on May 6. Though Yukimura's army was outnumbered, he succeeded to stop Masamune's army. And the next day, he and a few his soldiers assaulted to the camp of Ieyasu directly. He closed in upon Ieyasu, but killed at the last step.
A legend says Yukimura had ten heroic warriors, which were known as the Sanada Ju-Yushi ( Aka: Sanada Gundan). Its members were:
1. Sarutobi Sasuke
2. Kirigakure Saizo
3. Miyoshi Seikai Nyudo
4. Miyoshi Isa Nyudo
5. Anayama Kosuke
6. Unno Rokuro
7. Kakei Juzo
8. Nezu Jinpachi
9. Mochizuki Rokuro
10. Yuri Kama-no-suke
Sarutobi Sasuke and Kirigakure Saizo (and possibly Mochizuki Rokuro) are also known from ninja lore, and are said to have been famous ninja. It is said that these ten brave warriors played active parts in the battles at Osaka Castle, defending against Tokugawa Ieyasu's army.
Sarutobi Sasuke is one of a handful of names passed down through ninja lore. He was supposedly taught Koga-ryu ninjutsu by Tozawa Hakuunsai (supposed founder of "Gyokko ryu"). Because his foster father was a old subordinate of Sanada family, he also served Sanada Yukimura. It is said he died on action in during the Summer Campaign at Osaka-jo.
The Bugei ryu-ha Dai-jiten shows the following entries (pages 315-316):
1) Sanada ryu Gunpo [war tactics] - main listing w/ lineage. Takeda Shingen is listed as the founder, w/ Sanada Masayuki as the third inheritor (w/ three successive generations of Sanada to follow)
2) Sanada ryu Gunpo - less major art.
3) Sanada-ke ryu (hojutsu) - minor listing.
4) Sanada Yukimura ryu (dai-hojutsu) - minor listing.
5) Sanada ryu (gunba [cavalry horsemanship]) - minor listing.
6) Sanada ryu (gun'yo [military arts/use]) - minor listing.
7) Sanada ryu (ka [fire]) - minor listing.
8) Sanada ryu (jujutsu) - minor listing.
9) Sanada ryu (bojutsu) - minor listing.
10) Sanada ryu (shurikenjutsu) - minor listing.
Though there is not any mention of "ninpo/jutsu" in the BRDJ in regards to these ryu-ha, there WERE at least 10 known "Sanada ryu" listed.
The Sanada clan was a samurai clan that was famous for employing guerilla tactics and "beating the odds" through unconventional thinking (senpo, ninpo, etc.). Ninja were known to have been employed at Osaka castle, and fought in the Winter and Summer Campaigns. 2-3 of the 10 famous warriors under Sanada Yukimura are recorded in legend as famous ninja.
There may or may not have ever been a specific "Sanada ryu" of ninjutsu, but the fact is, ninja lore is associated to some degree with the Sanada clan in Japanese history texts, and the clan did exist, and did spawn a number of martial ryu-ha. I suspect that the "real" history of the Sanada clan and ninjutsu is about as sketchy as most clans believed to have ninja ties. So take it for what it's worth.
Regardless, the Sanada clan was a very famous, and very important clan in Sengoku period military history.
Hope ya'll find some of this interesting. The above is open to additions or corrections should anyone have any to offer.