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SAMURAI

Aisû Ikôsai, founder of the Kage-ryû (陰流) tradition of sword fighting, was born into the prominent bushi (“warrior”) Aisû family in 1452, and lived from the middle to the late Muromachi Period (1392-1573). This was one of Japan’s most turbulent periods. Ikôsai’s original name was Aisû Tarozaemon Hisatada, but he later took the name, ‘Ikôsai’. The Aisû family was a branch of the Kii clan of Kumano in the province of Kii, a powerful family, based in the Ise peninsula, in the center of the Kumano Bay area. They had been put in command of five castle areas by Shogun Morinaga Shinno (1308-1335) in the Nanbokuchô (Southern Dynasty) Period and were related to the Kitabatake clan with close relations to guerrilla fighters in the Iga area.
It is not clear where or from whom Ikôsai originially learned heihô (martial ways), but he was living during a period of great activity in fighting arts. Iizasa Ienao’s Tenshin Shôden Katori Shintô-ryû was active in the Kanto area, and Chûjô Hyôgono Nagahide had been spreading his Chûjô-ryû in Mikawa-guni (present day Aichi-ken) more than a hundred years earlier. As well, it is thought that in the Kyoto-Nara area, a core group of Nen-ryû of disciples known as the ‘Six Men of the Capital’ were spreading their art at the beginning of the 15th century.
Aisû Ikôsai had gained attention among Chinese military authorities when he and his fleet had raided both the Chinese and Korean coasts during that period. Using very long swords (tachi) and unorthodox methods of movement and weapon usage, they decimated Chinese and Korean troops that attempted to board their vessels or halt their raids. Obviously, though, the military authorities were impressed with the swordsmanship of these Japanese fighters and for years were at a loss as to how to defeat these rogue warriors whenever they appeared.
The story of Ikosai’s ‘ken-no-satori’ (sword enlightenment) is that in 1488, at the age of 36, after surviving a shipwreck while returning home from a pirating raid, Ikôsai, who already had been refining his sword skills for many years, decided to visit the temple of Uto Gong. There he prayed for purification and enlightenment, while making a vow to give up piracy, since his life had been spared from the shipwreck. After 7 days of incessant practicing and praying, a monkey-shaped god appeared to him in a dream and revealed the secrets of swordsmanship.
Deciding to reveal this knowledge to selected students, Aisû Ikôsai named his style ‘Kage-ryû’ (‘Current of the Shade’). Later, Ikôsai’s student, the renowned warrior and swordsman, Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Hidetsuna developed his Shinkage-ryû (“New Current of the Shade) based on the instruction he received from Ikôsai. Shinkage-ryû (新影流) thus includes the core techniques, such as Enpi, Enkai, Yamakage, etc., from Kage-ryû.
Aisû Ikôsai passed away in 1538 at the advanced age of 87 years old.

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SFR QUOTE

強弱柔剛あるべからず
Kyôjaku jyûgô aru bekarazu,

故にこの心から離れ
Yue ni kono kokoro kara hanare,

空という一字に悟り
Kû to iu ichiji ni satori,

体また無しとして之に配す
Tai mata nashi ni shite kore ni haisu

“You should not have only strength or weakness, suppleness or hardness.
Therefore, remove such thoughts from your heart.
Awaken yourself to the shape of the character Ku (void).
Rest yourself in the body that became Mu (nothingness).”

✧ FROM THE SHINDEN FUDŌ-RYÛ SHIRON (神伝不動流史論)

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TAKAMATSU-SENSEI

The term ‘battô-jutsu’ (抜刀術), or ‘nukutô no jutsu’, literally translated as ‘the art to extract the blade’, indicates the practice which consists of drawing the sword and to cross, avoid, or strike, all within in a single movement, without the enemy being able to see or feel one’s initial intention. Relations between the various traditions of battô-jutsu and the first three sword traditions of Japan (Nen-ryû, Kage-ryû, & Kashima-ryû), postulate that this art existed already within these three founding sword schools. Many chronicles describe such sword luminaries as Bizen No kami, Bokuden, Hidetsuna, & Muneyoshi, as well as their disciples, as excelling in the art of iaijutsu. However, the techniques were a collection of various and often vague principles for using the body that led to a freedom of interpretation. The first tradition which did specialize and codify this art into a precise methodology was founded by Hayashizaki Jinsuke (1542 -?) at the beginning of the Edo period. Hayashizaki transmitted his method to only three disciples. One would go on to become his successor and the other two would eventually found their own traditions. During second half of the Edo period, the schools resulting from Hayashizaki-ryû used the term of ‘iai’ (居合), rather than the term of ‘battô-jutsu’. There exists a score of terms which all are read as ‘Iai’, but are translated broadly as the action of ‘engaging and fighting an approaching enemy’. ‘Iai’ means ‘to link’ and ‘to be’, which can therefore be translated as ‘linking the intention and the movement in a moment when the technique must be carried out’. The large majority of the techniques of iai-jutsu, found in traditions born during the second half of the Edo period, were practiced starting from sitting positions, where the movements were extremely restricted.

✧ DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI

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STILL 4

Through the years many have questioned the validity of certain martial traditions, especially those related to the ninpō arts. When researched in depth, ‘walls’ are constantly hit when attempting to gather any viable information concerning events and solid historical facts on these ryū-ha and the men of their genealogy. Such abrupt ‘dead-ends’ of research efforts usually occur around the late Edo period of Japanese history (the mid to late 1800’s). This holds true also for any viable information on the past masters of these traditions. But why? When attempting such research, one must take into account the nature of the ryū-ha in question. Many traditions, especially those related to ninjutsu, survived due to an intense cloak of secrecy that was never compromised. This meant that the true name of the tradition was only known to the soke, or headmaster, and his eventual successor. Any name given to the public was a false name, used as a deceptive front and sometimes changed often. This still holds true today. Names such as Gikan-ryū, Togakure-ryū, & Shinden Fudo-ryū, for instance, are cover names used to hide the true title of the tradition. This explains why any research into the history of these given names ends up in utter futility on the part of the historian or researcher. This is also the case for past masters that are difficult to investigate. Names such as ‘Shinryuken Toda’ and even ‘Toshitsugu Takamatsu’ were ‘nom de plum’, or pen names, used to hide their true identity, past, and relations. Often, these men had several identities to help them maneuver quietly and undetected through dangerous times, such as the late Edo and early Meiji eras, for example. This protected not only the individual and the knowledge they held, but their families as well. Remember, these men were utter and true masters of illusion, disinformation, and psychological warfare. The proof of this is in the convincing of researchers or those of the ‘by the book’ mentality that the traditions and masters in question were either made-up or never truly existed, because no concrete evidence can be found to prove otherwise. Yet, as history has proven, just because evidence cannot be found does not mean that it does not exist. It simply is in the secretive hands of the headmaster of the tradition, kept safe from the hands of people of ill-intent, opportunists, deceptive con artists, and the public at large, and shown only in part to those who truly practice and sacrifice to help keep the tradition alive.

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ONMITSU KAGE

Onmitsu Kage Co. 隠密陰 is a paid monthly subscription-based video on demand feed of world-renowned ninpō-taijutsu scholar and practitioner Dr. Kacem Zoughari that you will not find anywhere else.

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http://www.onmitsukage.com

HAKONE

“The true historical stories left of the exploits of the ninja are shrouded in mythology and must be viewed from an altered perspective that peels away the layers of the apparent supernatural. There was a psychological method of writing down such rare records of events, in order to hide the truth of the ninja’s method and technique. For instance, one old chronicle explains how the ninja Daigaku Omori of the Ogaki Clan in Noshu (present day Gifu Prefecture) once had to pass through the Hakone guard station, but he had no pass for some reason. The chronicle says that he managed to pass through there by using the ninjutsu technique of ‘throwing a mist before the guard’s eyes’. The reality is hidden behind the metaphorical. Daigaku Omori passed through the guard station without being noticed because he made a strenuous and difficult detour of two days, without sleeping, hiking stealthily over the back mountains and deep valleys of the Hakone area. Perseverance and will are the ‘mist’ that the ninja Omori ‘threw’ before the guard’s eyes.”

✧ KEN-SAI BUYOU-KEN, 1916

FEB SEMINAR copy

YASUJI4

Yasuji Kuroda, (1897 – 1976), was the 13th Sōke of Shishin Takuma-ryū jujutsu, Komagawa Kaishin-ryū kenjutsu, Tamiya-ryū, Tsubaki Kotengu-ryū bōjutsu, Seigyoku Oguri-ryū, and Otengu (Daitengu)-ryū. Renowned and respected greatly for his rare skill by his peers and other swordsmen of the day, a number of anecdotes about the man have survived that paint a unique portrait of a rare warrior and master, the type that only seemed to exist in the civil war annals of Old Japan.

* As a child, Yasuji often went to a liquor store to buy alcohol. There was a large dog that would always bark fiercely at him and would give chase when he passed. One day, he opened the wooden door of the shop to hail the owner, the dog suddenly rushed upon him. He leapt face first into the danger, drawing his sword, and decapitated the animal.

* Once, he was attacked at gunpoint by a couple of violent thieves, as he made his way along a quiet road in town. With almost imperceptible speed, he drew his sword and cut the gun wielding attacker’s revolver in half.

* On one occasion, he cut two thick ‘makiwara’ cleanly in
half with one stroke of a blunt saber.

* Yasuji was also said to be capable of drawing and cutting
a ‘shinai’ (bamboo practice sword) that was sent into the
air.

* Once, a sword-weilding ronin attacked he and his friend in the country. When the ronin swung his sword, the blade broke away from the ‘tsuka’ (handle) and was sailing towards the head of Yasuji’s friend. Yasuji instantly, and with seemingly impossible speed, stepped in front of his friend and let the blade pierce his own shoulder to save his life. The entire incident took place in a tenth of a second.

#YasujiKuroda #martialarts #katana #budo #swordsman #Japan #ryu #Japanesehistory

TAKA1

“In the old days, the principle of ‘Ujin’, was adhered to strongly in Japan. This meant that, at the age of 15 years old, a young boy would go to straight to war after he had passed certain tests by his master to prepare him for battle. Men were sized up instantly then by other warriors by direct and simple questions; How many heads have you taken on the battlefield? Who are some of the warriors, of note, that you fought and killed and in what campaign? What actions and behavior during war and combat, while fighting with the enemy, led you to be alive today? Even then, the most dangerous and skilled men rarely answered such questions. A seasoned veteran of war could see it in the eyes of the man before him. It was a distinct look. The glint of a razor. A predatory calm behind the eyes. It is a trait essential to ninjutsu and one that men of words have never understood and will never obtain.”

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KURODA

Komagawa Tarōzaemon first learned Shinkage-ryū from Kamiizumi Ise no kami Nobutsuna. But even though he soon felt confident in his skills, Kamiizumi would refuse to give him the Shinkage-ryū menkyo, only saying that Komagawa had a “bad habit” in his movements. Komagawa felt wronged by his teacher’s constant rebuttals and decided to take the high road and impress Kamiizumi by getting a menkyo in many other kenjutsu ryū. Returning some years later with over a dozen menkyo, he tried to get Kamiizumi to give him his hard-earned Shinkage-ryū menkyo at last by showing him what he had learned. But Kamiizumi didn’t flinch a bit and stuck to his previous statement about Komagawa having something not quite right in his movements. Then something happened that made Komagawa change his outlook on his whole practice up to then. One evening, while Komagawa was deeply engaged in training, a pack of wolf sneaked up on him. He only had a wakizashi on himself at the time, but he still managed to drive off the pack by repeatedly using a single technique, technique which would later become the first tachi kata and the basis of Komagawa Kaishin-ryū’s whole curriculum. During the tense fight, Komagawa realized that he was left-handed and that this was what Kamiizumi referred to by saying he had a “bad habit”. Komagawa then rebased his whole attitude towards his teacher and changed his name to “Kaishin” or “renewed heart” to show that fact. After correcting his movements, he was finally given a Shinkage-ryū menkyo by Kamiizumi. Komagawa then taught under the banner of Shinkage-ryū. The name of the ryū was changed to its present name by one of Komagawa’s student, Sakurada Jirōzaemon Sadakuni (桜田次郎左衛門貞国). Sakurada also added the jutte kata to the curriculum.

THE MEIWA INCIDENT

In 1767 (Meiwa 4), a samurai by the name of Fujii Umon Sadayuki (藤井右門定之), real name Fujii Naoaki Yoshitarō (藤井直明吉太郎), was sentenced and executed for ‘lèse majesté’ towards the Tokugawa Shogunate along with his teacher, a renowned scholar of Confucianism and military strategy named Yamagata Daini. They were denounced by troublemakers on the public place thus forcing the shogunate into investigating the allegations, which were that they conspired to mount a revolt against the shogunate in an attempt to reestablish the Emperor as de facto ruler of Japan. Since the trials and subsequent verdicts were kept secret even though the accusations were first made publicly, both were in the meantime unjustly vilified by the public as traitors to the shōgun and disturbers of the peace. The vilification intensified after their executions, which were made in public, while the specific offenses under which they were condemned still remained secret. The reason to this secrecy may be that the shogunate wanted the rumours about their association with the restoration movement to continue, although the two men were ultimately not found guilty of advocating the restoration of power to the Emperor. It was true, however, that Yamagata criticized the Tokugawa regime in a published book, and so the shogunate felt they had to act rapidly. The students of Yamagata were thus almost immediately released, except for Umon who was directly implicated in the original allegations as he was the one who spurred the troublemakers. The student and the teacher were later executed, in all probability as a deterrent to the proponents of restoration, while the troublemakers were exiled.
At the time of this incident, Umon was the chief proponent of Komagawa Kaishin-ryū, going so far as to add a complete series of kodachi kata in the curriculum, a series that has been handed down to this day. As a consequence of the bad influence brought on the ryū’s name by Umon’s involvement in what was then seen by the public at large as an attempted revolt, many if not all fiefs closed down their Komagawa Kaishin-ryū school branches. Even in Toyama, the birthplace of the ryū, it has since then been publicly referred to by the name of its parent art, the Shinkage-ryū. The secrecy was so complete that even the grandfather of the current sōke, the 13th sōke Kuroda Yasuji, thought when he was young that he was practicing Shinkage-ryū. Only by comparing his techniques with practitioners of other ryū did the thought cross his mind that he did not actually practice Shinkage-ryū at all. He then asked his own father, the 11th sōke Kuroda Hiroshi Masakuni, who passed down this story about the concealment of the ryū’s real name and origins. Yasuji was thus the first to use the name “Komagawa Kaishin-ryū” outside of Toyama since the incident when he relocated to Tokyo at the start of the Taishō period.