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Ise Saburo was one of the four attendants of the prince Yoshitsune. While Yoshitsune himself was considered an expert in ninjutsu, Ise no Saburo Yoshimori was in fact one of the leaders of shinobi bands near Ueno region. Depicted in many theater plays and renowned by Yoshitsune Monogatari, Yoshimori represents an example of a devoted samurai vassal, yet also skilled in ninjutsu.

It is considered that Ise Saburo had been born in Zairyo or Iga– a place in Ueno area, whence the pronunciation of his name as ‘Saburo’ comes; another name of his was Yakeshita KorokuYoshitsune Monogatari says that Yoshimori clan came from some other place and faithfully served Minamoto clan. But Ise Saburo, raised without a father, headed a band of bandits, laying claim to ‘his’ territory – upland near Iga.

Kumande Bear Claw

However, after meeting Yoshitsune, Ise Saburo returned to serving his lord, just as his ancestors did. His loyalty and martial skills made him one of the prince Minamoto’s first generals. But that fact doesn’t understate his combat skills – in battle Ise Saburo demonstrated remarkable techniques, killing and capturing enemies no less than any other of Yoshitsune favorites did. His skill in using the ‘bear paw’ (kumade, a special instrument used by ninja and other warriors as a grappling iron or hook) is mentioned. Ise no Saburo Yoshimori faced his death together with his brothers-in-arms, protecting their lord in a last stand. Being severely wounded, he could not continue the fight and committed ritual suicide.

Yet his wisdom and knowledge did not pass by the succeeding generations. A collection of poems (tanka) on ninjutsu and ninja strategy supposedly authored by him has remained. As these were collected 500 years after his death it is doubtful that he truly wrote them. A few of them were included in Bansenshukai ninja manual under the title ‘A Hundred Poems About The Ninja’.