“Gyokko-ryû Kosshijutsu is a very important school. You have Gyokko-ryû Koppōjutsu and Gyokko-ryû Kosshijutsu. This is actually one part of the scroll. It reads “koppô” of Gyokko-ryû Koppôjutsu. There is also Gyokko-ryû Daken (striking with the fists; 打拳) and Gyokko-ryû Torite (grabbing with the hands; 捕手). It was all dependent on the master of the time, the area, the expertise, and what he liked. Some people are sometimes better in one area then another, just as some are only right handed, some are only left handed. Some are ambidexterous. Some have very good balance. And, the some of Gyokko-ryû could give it the name he wanted, the name of the discipline that he was focused on; could be Koppôjutsu, Kosshijutsu, Daken, etc. It was dependent on the process of his practice. Some had a specialty with iai, some with spear, with the bō, etc. So, there is Koppôjutsu and Kosshijutsu. Some have said that there are no weapons in this tradition. This is not true. This tradition was born from using the spear, longsword (tachi; 太刀), iai (居合), shuriken, the kusari (chain; 鎖), and a way of using the kodachi (small sword; 小太刀). It is a very deep and very old tradition. In the first level, for instance, there are 12 techniques, however, it shouldn’t be looked at like this. There were 28 masters, so for each technique here were many variations. You can even mix the techniques together and find more variations. Toda sensei used to say to Takamatsu sensei, “Shôden wa okuden nari” (初伝わ奥伝なり – the first transmission is the highest transmission). So you need to practice the first level like it is the highest level, the deepest level. The highest level came from the first level; the highest technique came from the basic. You push yourself to rise in quality not in quantity. It’s not about being good or being strong, it is to do it correctly.”
✧ DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI
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
SANKEN (三見), which translates literally as ‘the three glances’, is a term that was used by various highly-skilled swordsmen of the Yagyû clan in Japanese history. It indicates the three-fold action of vigilant and highly focused observation of the enemy’s mental state, physical posture, and method of initial engagement, the moment when weapons are crossed in battle. The way in which the enemy holds his weapon is one facet of this intense observation and gives immediate insight as to whether the opponent is nervous, composed, weakened, strong, highly skilled, or inexperienced. Thus, one gains an edge on the engagement and can therefore take the proper initiative and course of action in combat.
✧ KACEM ZOUGHARI
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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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