Skip navigation

Tag Archives: clan

IZU PAINTING

Around the Meiwa and Anei eras (1764 to 1780) of Japanese history, there was a man named Izu Kamitono. A master of many martial disciplines, he was legendary, among locals who knew him, in the secret art of ‘shurikenjutsu’. Translated literally as ‘palm weapon art’, shurikenjutsu was also sometimes referred to in those days as ‘sen-ken’. With his long gray hair pulled back, old man Izu was said to always carry four long sharpened needles hidden in his coiffure, two on each side of his head. As a aging warrior, who had survived many conflicts that required him to straddle the line between life and death, the honed edge of continuous heightened awareness and razor sharp reflexes had not dulled even slightly. Although he had found peace within himself in his years of late, he knew the world had not waned in its turbulence and episodes of utter violence. Once when visiting Shiba Palace in Edo, the residence of the Lord of his province, Izu was suddenly asked to hit four hooves of a horse standing under a cherry tree in a painting that adorned the Lord’s cedar door. Drawing the needle-like shuriken from his hair with lightning dexterity, he hit all four marks twice, without a miss. His lightning fast skill drew audible gasps from the aristocratic onlookers who had gathered to watch, as well as from his normally subdued Lord. Up until the day the Shiba Palace was destroyed by a fire over a century later in 1893, the painting and the needle marks from Izu’s test of skill remained on the palace wall and were still readily visible for visitor’s of the palace to see. As to Izu’s method of shuriken throwing, it is said that he left no disciple and that his gifted skill and method passed quietly with him.

✧ BRANDON ALVAREZ

 

ROAD

In the carnage and bloodshed of the Sengoku era of Japanese history, there lived three brothers, Takao, Seikō and Kirin, renowned masters of the Togakure-ryū method of combat, assassination, and infiltration, whose exploits are recorded in the surviving chronicles passed down in the modern day to Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi. They were the three men called upon by warlords when an operation was deemed either nearly impossible or considered a suicide mission. All three men were considered geniuses of combat with the rare and innate ability of ‘sui-eishin’ (水影心); the capacity to observe a movement within the chaos of battle, copy it, and improve upon it. It was this ability that made the men of Togakure-ryū infamous throughout the neighboring provinces with stories carried in whispers amongst the local populace.
In 1480, Takayori Rokkaku (六角 高頼) sent the vicious assassin Saburo Mochizuki to kill Seikō to avenge the deaths of several close clan members at the hands of Seikō during the Onin War. Feared for his deadly skill with the long sword, Saburo was also known for his unusual height, strength, and speed of movement in battle.
Aware of Saburo’s dispatch by Takayori by local operatives, Seikō left his residence and moved quickly to meet the deadly assassin at the border that straddled Ōmi and Iga provinces.
When the two assassins met on the lone border road, Saburo drew his sword and stalked Seikō, who mirrored his enemy’s moves with a slight smile.
The two men sized each other up in a glance, after which Saburo attacked ferociously, slashing in while moving with lighting-quick dexterity, his distance and guard morphing continuously.
Aware that he could not beat Saburo if he played into his tactics of constant movement, Seikō adopted a focus of ‘sutemi’.
Lowering his guard while slowing his own mirrored movement, Seikō suddenly gave the impression of losing stamina. At that moment, Saburo closed in for the kill.
In an instant, Seikō pinned Saburo’s foot to the ground with his own foot to stop Saburo’s movement. Then, in a flash, he thrust his katana through both his and Saburo’s foot, pinning his enemy to him.
Saburo shrieked in pain, losing his focus on the kill. In the seconds that followed, Seikō, his mind pushing through the pain, took advantage of the fleeting opening, stabbing Saburo through the neck with a hidden ‘tanto’ (knife). Then, withdrawing the katana from their feet, Seikō then took his head.
Unable to walk well for years, Seikō and his brothers, nevertheless, did not have any further attempts made on their lives by the Rokkaku clan. When Seikō had a young operative secretly deliver Saburo’s head to the entrance to Takayori’s residence, there was a note included that read ‘next time, it will be your head’.
Daimyo, despite their power, drew a good measure of caution In years that followed, whenever the name of Togakure-ryū was mentioned. For they were the men that could not be stopped. The men who could breach any stronghold. The men who could reach any warlord, no matter how well-protected. They were ‘kanja no mono’, the men in between things . . .

✧ BRANDON ALVAREZ