SK NINJA-TŌ  [Version 1]  [Version 2]  [Version 3]  [Version 4]





















One of the coolest things about the 1980s ninja craze was the seemingly endless number of ads in martial art magazines selling ninja weapons.  Perhaps sensing that every ninja movie fan, enthusiast, and practitioner would soon want weapons just like the ones featured in his upcoming film REVENGE OF THE NINJA, Sho and his partner Mikio Sankey incorporated SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES INC. on July 9, 1982, with Sho as President and Mr. Sankey as Executive General Manager.

A full-page ad printed in the July 1982 issue of Black Belt magazine revealed that some of the initial items being sold and distributed exclusively at that time by K. Inoda Company, Ltd., included a couple of weapons specially designed by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES INC.: a 45" Hardwood 4-sectional 3 blades 6 sided SHIKOMIZUE, and the very first version of the SK NINJA-TŌ (listed simply as "Ninja Sword") modeled after the ones that would be seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA the following year.  Also to be seen in the film and included in the ad were the original version of the SK NINJA BELT BUCKLE (listed as "Shuriken Belt Buckle") and a pair of SHINBO, as well as a NINJA FAN with cloth on one side (rather than the double-sided ones featured in the film).

Exactly 2 years later, Martial Arts Supplies Co., Ltd. ran what appears to have been the first ad selling the second version of the SK NINJA-TŌ (based on its depicted components as opposed to the "As featured in..." tag) in the July 1984 issue of Karate Illustrated.



SK NINJA-TŌ (SK忍者刀) Sho Kosugi Ninja Sword



As seen in the first ad in July 1982, the first version of the SK NINJA-TŌ appears to have been exactly like the ones in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.  Unfortunately it's a little difficult to tell from the small B&W photo exactly what the 10 built-in devices were, but by blowing it up it appears that there was a SK Ninja Knives-like bō shuriken included (seen above the sword-less saya), and that a few small senban (moon shuriken) may have been included (seen at the bottom of the photo).  The tsuka (handle) also had a removable cap with a kakushi (hidden needle) attached to it.

What is clear is that the original SK NINJA-TŌ featured the same unique elements seen on the ones used in REVENGE OF THE NINJA, including the small black matsuba-gata (pine-needle shape) bō shuriken menuki under the ito (handle wrap) and the same extra-long-but-STANDARD-width saya (scabbard).  Interestingly, as would be seen in every subsequent version manufactured and sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, the pointy saya tip was removable, however the small kozuka-like knife on this original version appears to have been attached spear-like to the saya rather than to the removable pointy saya tip.  Also unique to the swords in the film and present on this replica, the ito wrapping was done in the standard samurai style, unlike the subsequent versions.



SK NINJA-TŌ (SK忍者刀) Sho Kosugi Ninja Sword



As previously discussed, the second version of the SK NINJA-TŌ, first seen in THE MASTER in January 1984 and NINJA III: THE DOMINATION in September 1984, differed quite a bit from the first version.  As evidenced by the great photos below, posted by the owner on Facebook and sent to me by another fan, the official replica/retail model available from SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES featured these changes along with some extra components not seen on screen.

Specifically this included the new ninja style ito wrapping, the extra-long-and-WIDER-width saya which featured an inner breathing tube/blowgun, and a small kozuka-like knife attached to the removable pointy saya tip.  Also present was the new chrome plated alloy-metal blade with a distinctive hamon line and a large smooth brass habaki.  The awesome small black matsuba-gata menuki was replaced with a more common/generic silver or brass dragon menuki.  It appears that the only exact carry-over from the first version was the removable cap kakushi (hidden needle) attached to the tsuka (handle).








SK NINJA-TŌ (SK忍者刀) Sho Kosugi Ninja Sword



Whereas the differences between the first and second versions of the SK NINJA-TŌ were quite substantial, there were very few changes between the second and third retail versions.  As can be seen in the great photos below from an awesome photo album posted on flickr by a member of the fan club in the 1980s, the only major differences appear to be blade related.

The most noticeable change in the third version SK NINJA-TŌ was to the habaki which instead of being smooth, now featured a raised half-moon/crescent design over a textured/lined surface.  Less noticeable but nonetheless different was the ratio difference between the width of the blade at the habaki and at the yokote (dividing line near the blade point).  Interestingly, not only was this third version featured for the first time in PRAY FOR DEATH, but the removable hidden kozuka-like saya tip was seen for the first time in that film.  Prior to this all of the saya used in Sho's films and TV shows were solid and did not featured a removable saya end like its retail counterpart.









SK NINJA-TŌ (SK忍者刀) Sho Kosugi Ninja Sword



The fourth version of the legendary SK NINJA-TŌ manufactured and sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, is virtually identical to the third version.  It's so close in fact, that at first I classified them both as SK NINJA-TŌ [V3], and even now it could be argued that they were the same (except for one minor cosmetic difference), and there's even evidence to suggest that they were made and/or sold at the same time.  In any event, the only difference between them is the habaki design and possibly its size.  Whereas the habaki on what I've classified as the third version featured a half-moon/crescent design, the fourth version had a zigzag design instead.

As seen in these great photos of a retail SK NINJA-TŌ displayed on a cool custom display stand and supplied by a fan named James from the U.S, everything else on this sword, originally purchased by a friend of James' in 1987 through the official Sho Kosugi Ninja Fan Club (and sent to his high school no less!), appears to be completely identical to the third version except for that slight design change in the middle of the habaki.








Although the SK NINJA-TŌ was by far the most well-known weapon offered by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES INC., as we saw in that original July 1982 ad, it was definitely not the only one.  Far from it, as we will soon see.  As a member of the fan club in the 1980s, I received a 1986 catalog which featured many other replicas of weapons from Sho's films, TV shows, and other productions, along with some other cool ninja, samurai, and kobudo weapons.  Although I didn't buy any of these weapons due to a number of factors including having little money as a kid and because some of the weapons were prohibited where I lived, I did get an official Sho Kosugi Ninja Uniform, a patch, posters,  and some other items.
For this article I scanned the entire 1986 catalog and price list (available in PDF format here), but since this section is focused exclusively on weapons, let's dive right in and see what amazing ones were offered by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES in 1986.



As the banner above states, a number of limited edition replica weapons were manufactured and sold.  A total of 14 individual weapons from 8 listings were featured under the banner SHO KOSUGI COLLECTORS ITEMS across 2 pages in the catalog.  These weapons were limited to members of the Sho Kosugi Fan Club only.



This simple but very cool hidden cane sword came in 2 variations: one with a chain and one without a chain.  As stated in the ad, a SHIKOMIZUE without a chain was indeed used in THE MASTER, specifically in what I consider to be the very best episode in the series, "KUNOICHI", where said "Kunoichi" (doubled by Alan Amiel) battles "The Master" (doubled by Sho).



Of course, this wasn't the first SHIKOMIZUE sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, as seen in this blown-up picture from the ad in the July 1982 issue of Black Belt.



Although I can't say with absolute certainty that the bamboo SHIKOMIZUE sold in that original July 1982 ad (and apparently no longer available in 1986) and the one used by Okasa (Sho) in the "HOSTAGES" episode of THE MASTER were exactly the same, they definitely look very similar.




Although this unique SK NINJA KUSARI-GAMA featuring a hidden TANTŌ was never seen in any of Sho's projects, you probably recognize its similarity to the fan-owned one that was featured in the previous ORIGINAL PROP WEAPONS section.



These two different styles of hand claws are instantly recognizable.  The standard TEKAGI was of course seen in many of Sho's ninja projects, while "THE MASTER" TEKAGI (TEKKŌ-KAGI) made its unforgettable appearance in the aforementioned "HOSTAGES" episode of THE MASTER.

Additionally, as seen earlier, Sho posed with both of these great weapons in some fantastic promotional photos.





Although earlier versions of these SK NINJA KNIVES were seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA, of these 4 specific models only #782 Kataba ultimately made it to screen, appearing in PRAY FOR DEATH.




Even though neither of these 2 cool GRAPPLING HOOKS ever appeared in any of Sho's projects, I always loved their design (especially #791) and wished I had them, but all I could ever find were those large ninja 4-prong foldable ones that were in every martial arts magazine.



As we saw, TETSUBISHI like these were indeed used in many of Sho's ninja projects, including REVENGE OF THE NINJA and THE MASTER.




Although Sho did use a KYOKETSU-SHŌGE in ENTER THE NINJA, it looked quite different from this one, which was actually a replica of the one that Sho used in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.





Along with the weapons listed under the SHO KOSUGI COLLECTORS ITEMS header, the 1986 Catalog also had another 17 listings of weapons that were seen in Sho's various projects.  These were listed and grouped together in no real discernable order under MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING WEAPONS, NINJA TRAINING WEAPONS, NINJA ACCESSORIES, ACCESSORIES, and even MISC. ITEMS.  For this article we will disregard these random catalog groupings and look at each of these weapons in product # order.  Additionally, because some of these exact same weapons were also sold in various martial arts magazines, some of those ads will also be included alongside the ones from the Catalog.



The SK NINJA BELT BUCKLE (#120) is probably the most well-known replica weapon after the SK NINJA-TŌ.  It was frequently listed for sale in martial arts magazines (along with a number of knock-offs, usually made of brass as stated in the 1986 Catalog listing).  Unlike the July 1982 ad in Black Belt magazine, which offered the first version SK NINJA BELT BUCKLE, the one pictured in the 1986 Catalog ad above was actually the second version as it featured "NINJA" engraved across each of the 4 points on the shuriken, just like the one seen in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.



Interestingly, REVENGE OF THE NINJA and NINJA III: THE DOMINATION director Sam Firstenberg also showed off one these second version  SK NINJA BELT BUCKLES in a 2017 video interview for MTV by RA The Rugged Man entitled RA FILM SCHOOL WITH SAM FIRSTENBERG.





Additionally, there was a third version SK NINJA BELT BUCKLE featuring a pointier shuriken.  Here are a few side-by-side photos of second and third version models illustrating the slight difference between them.




Here are some more pictures of the third version, which came with different colored engraved kanji and lettering.





Finally, here's a side by side mockup showing the actual original (first version) prop from NINJA III: THE DOMINATION alongside the second and third version models.  As you can see, although the moon shuriken changed across the three versions the buckle itself remained exactly the same.




The SK NINJA FAN (#127) is another weapon that had a number of similar looking knock-offs for sale in martial arts magazines, but as correctly stated in the 1986 Catalog listing, it was at the time the only one with cloth on both sides.  The first appearance of this cool fighting fan was of course in REVENGE OF THE NINJA where it had no white graphics on it, while this second version with graphics was first featured in a cool promotional photo for THE MASTER.



Sho also demonstrated the use of the SK NINJA FANS in the SHO KOSUGI: MASTER OF EXOTIC NINJA WEAPONS article in the March 1986 issue of Inside Kung-Fu Presents Masters of Ninja Combat Techniques, and in its own NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI segment.




These next 2 weapons, SAI (#160, #161, #162) and OKINAWAN NUNTE (#166), may appear to be pretty generic versions that you could have bought anywhere, but these are the exact same versions seen in episodes of THE MASTER.



Sho also likely wielded a pair of these SAI in a segment of the aforementioned "Ninja Boom, Landing in Japan" episode of WIDE SHOW 11PM, shot in his home dojo in California in late 1986 or early 1987.





Also listed was the NINJA SAI, which was one of the absolute coolest weapons and one I definitely wish was still available now.  It was of course used by Sho in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.



I had always assumed this variation on the MANJI SAI was created by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES for use in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA, but much to my surprise, as I started gathering up information and looking through old martial arts magazines, I discovered that it was actually part of a series of amazing Chameleon Sai that were featured in various martials arts magazines starting in 1984, including the February 1984 issue of Black Belt and the September 1984 issue of Inside Kung-Fu Presents The Master Ninja.




This next weapon, the YARI, is the one I most associate with ENTER THE NINJA, and has always been one of my favorites.



Although we only have a drawing to go by in the Catalog, one of these replicas was most likely the same type that was used in the 8th episode of THE MASTER, "The Good, The Bad & The Priceless".




This SHINBO (#170) appears to be the same one seen ever so briefly in Braden's weapons' stash in REVENGE OF THE NINJA and listed in the original July 1982 Black Belt magazine ad.



This SHO-SHIN-BO (#171), appears to be the same one featured in the color ad for the Chameleon Sai featured in the February 1984 issue of Black Belt magazine (see above).  With a wide variety of interchangeable ends, this appears to be a slightly different version of the one seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.


Presumably, with some additionally-created mini-kama ends, this was also the one featured in NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI.




Next up we have 2 types of TONFA that on the surface may seem common, but once again what makes them noteworthy is that some just like these were seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.




Next up are 2 different types of KUSARI-FUNDO (aka MANRIKI-GUSARI) that were often seen in martial arts magazine ads in the 1980s.



Although the swivel ends one (#191) never appeared in any of Sho's projects, the one with metal ends (#190) was featured prominently in episodes of THE MASTER and in the NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI segment about it.




As previously mentioned, although this aluminum bladed KYOKETSU-SHOGE (#198) didn't appear in any of Sho's projects during the 1980s, one of these was recently shown and discussed by Sho on YouTube.




As weapons go the NINJA HAN-BO (#213) is obviously as simple as it gets, but once again it's noteworthiness comes from the appearance and use of these in Sho's projects, including REVENGE OF THE NINJA and THE MASTER.




Fans of THE MASTER will no doubt recognize this TANTO as the "Shinobi-tanto...a beautiful weapon".  I can't count the number of times my ninja buddy and I quoted these words spoken by Okasa (Sho) in the "Kunoichi" episode of THE MASTER.  Although there were 2 versions listed in the Catalog ad, it was the Black & Gold one seen in that episode that we both wished we had as it was indeed "a beautiful weapon".



Sho also wielded the Black version and demonstrated its use as part of the SHO KOSUGI: MASTER OF EXOTIC NINJA WEAPONS article in the March 1986 issue of Inside Kung-Fu Presents Masters of Ninja Combat Techniques.




This SAMURAI SWORD SET featuring a Daito and Shoto Katana, is, I believe, the one featured in the Osaki dojo in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.



Both swords from this SAMURAI SWORD SET were wielded by Sho and Kane during the opening credits for PRAY FOR DEATH.



The Daito (long sword) KATANA was also wielded by Alan Amiel's character in RAGE OF HONOR.



It was also one of these Daito KATANA that Sho wielded in his spectacular cameo in BLIND FURY.



It also appears that a Daito KATANA was given to director Sam Firstenberg by Sho as seen in RA FILM SCHOOL WITH SAM FIRSTENBERG.



Sho also showed one of these Daito KATANA in a recent YouTube video segment.



Additionally, 2 Shoto (short sword) KATANA (aka WAKIZASHI) from this set were sold at auction in October 2019, and a Daito KATANA, along with 2 additional Shoto KATANA, were reportedly sold by Sho / LIP INC. in September 2020.




The yellow with black stripe PLASTIC NUNCHAKU (#194) was first used by Kane in REVENGE OF THE NINJA where it had been painted silver.  By the time Kane used it in THE MASTER and 9 DEATHS of THE NINJA, the silver paint had partially peeled off, revealing the yellow underneath.  It's worth noting that this yellow PLASTIC NUNCHAKU was modeled on the one wielded by Bruce Lee in "Game of Death".




It also appears that Sho and his two sons Shane and Kane wielded this BALL-BEARING FOAM NUNCHAKU in a segment of the aforementioned "Ninja Boom, Landing in Japan" episode of WIDE SHOW 11PM in 1987, shot in front of their home in California.





The last replica weapons from Sho's various projects sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, were, as stated in the banner above, not available through the mail and therefore no pictures or other details were included in the catalog.  As metal SHURIKEN were and still are prohibited in many states in the U.S. and many countries around the world, these were only available in the store and so it's unclear which of the various types featured in Sho's projects were available for purchase.

Nevertheless, all is not lost because with the exception of a few SHURIKEN specifically designed by Sho, most of the shuriken seen in his various ninja projects were identical or indistinguishable from ones sold by a number of different companies in numerous martial arts magazine ads.  This is particularly true with chrome-plated shuriken, particularly those featuring a Dragon engraved in the center.

As seen in the various ads below from Asian World of Martial Arts (AWMA), these Chrome shuriken are exact facsimiles of the ones seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, THE MASTER, 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA, PRAY FOR DEATH and RAGE OF HONOR.





Other companies like Dolan Sports also sold eight-point shuriken like the ones seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA and 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.



The Ninja Warehouse also sold these 2 chrome-plated shuriken, most notably seen in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA and PRAY FOR DEATH.



With the possible exception of the "Moon Shuriken" or the "Ninja Dragon Shuriken", the most popular and sought after shuriken from Sho's films and TV shows has to be the "Master Shuriken" (so named after its frequent appearances in THE MASTER).  Many fans have lamented that this was the only shuriken not available for sale from anyone during the 1980s ninja craze.  This is only partially true as there wasn't one identical to it (with pointy tips) for sale, but there were some with the inner-curved rounded tips (also seen on THE MASTER) that were available.

The first of these were sold by Mantis Supplies as seen in these first 2 ads in the October 1980 issue of Kick Illustrated and the August 1984 issue of Inside Kung-Fu, and by Original Martial Arts Supplies in another ad in the August 1984 issue of Inside Kung-Fu, where it is referred to as a "Practice Throwing Star".



Another company called Sakura Dragon Corp also sold this same shuriken with chrome plating, as seen in this ad in the March 1986 issue of Inside Kung-Fu.



Another shuriken seen in THE MASTER (albeit only briefly inside The Master's case of weapons) was also sold by East Wests Markets Exchange, as seen in this first ad in the August 1984 issue of Inside Kung-Fu, as well as by Ninja Warehouse, as seen in the two ads in the February and November 1985 issues of Inside Kung-Fu and Inside Karate.



Although many of the shuriken featured in Sho's projects were clearly purchased and used as is, some shuriken were specially designed by Sho.

I believe that one of these specially designed shuriken must've been inspired by the "Folding Blossom Shuriken", seen in these 2 ads in the November 1982 and January 1984 issues of Black Belt magazine.  Although obviously much smaller, the folding nature of this shuriken had to have been what led Sho to design to the 2 extra-large folding cross shuriken that were used in THE MASTER and 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.



As previously discussed, another specially designed shuriken that clearly took inspiration from some pre-existing shuriken is the spectacular one from RAGE OF HONOR, which I've called the "Three Lights Spearhead Shuriken".  This amazing shuriken was actually a merging of two shuriken.  Specifically, someone decided to attach a three-point Sanko Shuriken (三光手裏剣) like the one seen in the Musashi Martial Arts "Ninja Stars" ad in the March 1986 issue of Inside Kung-Fu, to a "Spear Throwing Dart" like the one depicted in the Brendan Lai's Supply Co "Throwing Dart w/Tassel" ad in the October 1985 issue of Inside Kung-Fu below, thus creating a shuriken that is even cooler than the sum of its parts.





Every so often some of these vintage shuriken show up for sale on Ebay, including this really nice lot which featured 5 that were identical to ones seen in Sho's ninja films and TV shows.



Although shuriken are prohibited in many countries and states, some of these shiny chrome shuriken are still being sold in Japan.







This next weapon was not included in the 1986 catalog so it's not clear if it was ever sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, but ads selling it were frequently featured in martial arts magazines in the 1970s and 1980s.



This OCTAGON SWIVEL-CHAIN NUNCHAKU was of course used very memorably by both Sho and Franco Nero in ENTER THE NINJA.



This NUNCHAKU featured Dolan's Sports' own patented swivel-chain and was one of a number of models manufactured and sold by them.



Anyone who had this NUNCHAKU back in the day had an exact facsimile of the one used by Hasegawa and Cole in ENTER THE NINJA.



This NUNCHAKU was also sold by Century Martial Art Supply, Inc., as seen in one of their catalogs from the mid-1980s.





Similar to the NUNCHAKU, this KUSARI-FUNDŌ WITH WOOD WEIGHTS was also not included in the 1986 catalog, so it's not clear if it was ever sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, but it was sold by Ninja Warehouse via ads in various 1980s martial arts magazines.



This distinctive KUSARI-FUNDŌ was seen in number of episodes of THE MASTER and in PRAY FOR DEATH.






Along with the Sho-inspired replica weapons covered so far, the 1986 catalog also contained listings for 12 additional Japanese martial arts weapons.  Since none of these were seen in any of Sho's films, TV shows, or other projects, they will simply be presented in product # order for the sake of completion.



The KUBOTAN is a self-defense keychain weapon developed in the late 1960s by Takayuki Kubota, one of Sho's martial arts teachers.








This cool NINJA THROWING KNIFE was also available under different names in various martial arts magazine ads.





Finally, SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES also offered a number of toy ninja weapons that were safe for Sho's youngest fans.  Some of these even included cool bonus accessories like posters and even a replica of the tsuba eyepatch worn by Sho in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION.



Sho's sons Kane and Shane both wielded SHO KOSUGI PLASTIC NINJA SWORDS in PRAY FOR DEATH.




These final ads are the two sides of a separate flyer that came with either one of the fan club newsletters or some other correspondence.




Another cool "Ninja Boom" segment in the March 1987 WIDE SHOW 11PM episode featured a visit to someone who was clearly a huge ninja enthusiast, and based on the numerous SHO KOSUGI FAN CLUB and SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES items and weapons, a big Sho fan with an impressive collection of ninja weapons prominently displayed in his home.

The first SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES weapons that I noticed in this interview segment were the 2 SK NINJA FANS (#127 in the catalog), one on the wall between the two men and the other on the coffee table on the right behind the Sho photos/mini-posters.



Subsequent closeups of this lucky fan's amazing wall of ninja weapons revealed these other official SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES weapons, 2 SK NINJA-TŌ with different sayas (#300 in the catalog), a KUSARI-FUNDŌ (#190), a pair of SHO-SHIN-BŌ (#171), and a pair of TONFA (#184).



And, although a little hard to make out at first, this crisscross of weapons featured two more official SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES weapons: The claw-like GRAPPLING HOOK (#791 in the catalog) and a pair OKINAWAN NUNTE (#166 in the catalog).