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BUSHI

The importance of practicing the military arts as a means for character formation and practicing in military arts with a malevolent heart is perceived to be destructive; a mindset referred to as ‘the killing sword’. Practicing with the proper attitude, aimed at quelling hostilities and finding peaceful solutions, is referred to as the ‘life-giving sword’. The process of ‘musha shugyō’ is directed here at the practitioner’s awakening to the concept of ‘the life-giving sword’ and his fulfillment as a human being. Practice is aimed at gaining unparalleled superiority and strength over the enemy. However, it is a kind of strength that must not be revealed on the surface.
Similar interpretations of ‘the killing sword’ and ‘the life-giving sword’ can be found in the philosophies of later military arts traditions. However, preaching the ‘life-giving sword’ and putting it into practice are two different things. For example, the ‘Shintō-ryū’ provides an example of a military arts tradition which not only taught, but also uncompromisingly adhered to the principles of the ‘life-giving sword’ for half a millennium. There may have been others, but they did not endure and have been lost to history.
On the other hand, schools preaching that the final goal of one’s practice in the military arts lies in achieving a virtuous character (expressed in the ‘life-giving sword’ and consciousness), such as the famous ‘Yagyū Shinkage-ryū’, ‘Jigen-ryū’, ‘Maniwa Nen-ryū’, or ‘Ittō-ryū’, have left behind an extensive track record of duels, participation in wars, and killings by the order of ‘daimyōs’ (warlords / governors). For example, Tōgō Shigekata (1561-1643), the founder of Jigen-ryū, is said to have killed over ten people by the order of the Satsuma ‘daimyō’ while serving as the supreme teacher of swordsmanship in the Satsuma domain. Numerous duels and other feats of arms of the Yagyū family, which taught swordsmanship to the Tokugawa ‘shōguns’ for many generations, provide abundant material for popular storytelling and fiction. It is also suspected that the family was involved in the assassination of Noda Hankei, the famous swordsmith of the early Tokugawa era.
Moreover, we can find swordsmen of the pre- and early Tokugawa eras who, on the contrary, pursued only “the killing sword,” casting aside any humaneness under the pretext of ‘musha shugyō’. Such was the famous founder of the ‘Niten Ichi-ryū’ tradition (which also may be referred to as ‘Nitō Ichi-ryū’, ‘Emmei-ryū’, and other names), Miyamoto Musashi (1582-1645). He allegedly wrote that, by mastering ‘the virtue of the sword’, one masters the peaceful and orderly governance of a nation. Yet simulataneously, he is said to have murdered all his opponents in over 60 duels in a quest for victory over others.
To the critical eye, Musashi’s reckless striving for duels may be seen as a form of almost psychotic addiction to violence. However, uncritical academic and non-academic writers have raised Musashi to the status of an icon of the ‘bushi’, revering him as a ‘great master of swordsmanship’, or even a ‘saint swordsman’ (‘kensei’). This is without attaching any importance to the fact that he did not choose a means to engage in what he perceived as the process of self-perfection. Some scholars maintains that the Japanese cultural phenomenon of ‘musha shugyō’ reached its apogee in the life and career of Musashi. And, even though its authenticity is questioned, both scholars and popular writers have been preoccupied for generations with Musashi’s ‘Gorin no Sho’ (The Book of Five Rings, 1644), as well as with his personality, when considering ‘bushi’ moral values. Some argue that Musashi embodied the “Way of the Japanese people,”, even maintaining that ‘Gorin no Sho’, which is actually a treatise on the art of killing human beings, contains an image of a man that should serve as a model for people of the 21st century.
The impetus for the Musashi boom in Japan, and later overseas, was Yoshikawa Eiji’s novel ‘Miyamoto Musashi’ which was published as a newspaper serialization from 1935 to 1939. This serialization became a book in 1939, and it was also used for numerous theater and radio plays, TV and cinema films. The fictionalized image of Musashi has, through the process of repetition, become a historical reality in its own right. But, as Yoshikawa himself admitted, “there are almost no records about Musashi that could be trusted as true historical facts. If we are to summarize the truth about Musashi, it will take no more than 60-70 lines of printed text.” Apparently, few people know this and Musashi continues to be one of the most recognizable warrior figures in popular culture. His treatise on the art of killing has even become a manual for doing successful business among modern businessmen. Musashi has also been an object of reverence and commemoration in one of his supposed homelands in Mimasaka city, Okayama prefecture, where one can find a major practice center bearing his name. In Japan, modern ‘kendō’ tournaments are sometimes held in commemoration of Musashi.
It is necessary to establish an objective historical fact: Musashi did not kill his opponents in the righteous cause of, for example, defending his land against foreign aggressors, or fighting for his lord’s interests on the battlefield. His obsession with bloodshed was revealed through ‘polishing’ his sword skills by challenging others for individual duels. Musashi’s distorted notion of ‘musha shugyō’, or ‘self-perfection’, brought nothing but misfortune to his victims and their families. During his life he received ‘guest swordsman’ (‘kyakubun’) treatment from several ‘daimyōs’. However, his stipend was always much lower than that of other swordsmen in a similar position. He apparently sought to affiliate himself with the ‘Bakufu’ central government, but without success. This can be viewed as a social rejection of Musashi’s cruelty, which was regarded as excessive even in the early Tokugawa-era.

KACEM DENSHO

“Takagi Yōshin-ryū is a style of jūjutsu. Of course it’s not ninjutsu. That is obvious. Historically, the founder of this style, Takagi Oriemon, practiced a school called ‘Takenouchi-ryū’ (竹内流), one of the oldest and most famous traditions of ‘sōgō bujutsu’ (composite martial arts; 総合武術) of Japan. The reason why I say sōgō bujutsu is because you also have weapons. So, sōgō bujutsu in martial arts means ‘general martial art’ or ‘various martial arts’. From one point, a nucleus, they teach many, many weapons. Takagi Oriemon had learned this method with the second generation, but the problem with the Takenouchi family is that they never gave the inner movement, the deepest understanding, to someone from outside of the family. That was one of the main rules back in the 14th and 16th centuries. But he learned enough to create his own style. He received many things and, with that, he had many matches, fights, and duels with many people. He then went to learn ‘Yagyū Shinkage-ryū’, and from that point he created the school called ‘Takagi Yōshin-ryū’.
What you need to know is that what he created, was not all the techniques in this scroll. You need to wait at least four generations following his lifetime before you start to have something that is possible to pass on. Because in order to be a master, first you need to master something. Then, you need to be able to teach it, talk about it, give it to someone, and to explain to someone. If you can’t explain, you need to find someone who can explain for you. In the martial arts, this is very deep and very difficult. So we need to wait four generations, until the day that Takamatsu-sensei met Mizutani-sensei. And, before this, Takamatsu-sensei had already inherited seven traditions from his grandfather, Toda-sensei. So, already he was skilled in the way of observing and performing techniques in a very special way. Something unique to ninjutsu. Something different. Different in using the mind and different in using the body. So, when he watched and learned Takagi Yōshin-ryū, after only one year he was taught the top level techniques; the ‘gokui’ (essence of the tradition; 極意). He was only seventeen. Of course Mizuta-sensei had different students who received ‘menkyo kaiden’ (full license transmission; 免許皆伝). Both were menkyo kaiden, as it is mentioned in this history section of the scroll. Sometimes these things were bought because, of course, Mizuta-sensei sometimes needed to eat; since his only source of income was martial arts. So, sometimes a master would sell a certificate of transmission. This isn’t too different from nowadays, as well. So Takamatsu-sensei, as he had very beautiful handwriting and had learned Chinese, was the one who wrote the scroll. So. he wrote these scrolls by his sensei’s instruction, and sometimes Mizuta would say, “Write this, but don’t include this part.” So, step-by-step, for example the art of ‘iai’ (drawing the sword; 居合), the art of ‘kodachi’ (short sword; 小太刀), the art of rope, or the jō (approx. four-foot staff; 状), was lost or forgotten. Takamatsu-sensei, though, received the entire transmission of the school.
So you have many branches of Takagi Yōshin-ryū. They have the same name, the same principle, but the way of using the body is completely different. Why? Because, when Takamatsu sensei had learned this tradition, he already knew how to ascertain what was effective and what was not, using what is important and removing what is useless. Of course, this is ‘jūjutsu’. But, through the eyes of ‘ninjutsu’.”

✧ DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI

#ninja #ninjutsu #Bujinkan #KacemZoughari #shinobiwinds #SeishinDojo

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.”

#ninja #ninjutsu #shinobiwinds #shinobi #Bujinkan #SeishinDojo

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.

BATTLE

For warriors on the battlefields of the civil war era of Old Japan, the weight of armor and the constraints imposed by the various moving parts were not easily controlled. Loss of balance during combat was frequent. Here intervenes the art to fall or roll on the ground without being wounded. Most masters and founders of combat methods had lost balance more once during battle. However, how does one fall while wearing armor of which certain parts and the reinforcements of the helmet can be used against one by the enemy? It is not a question here to carry out a beautiful fall, as most people practice ‘ukemi’ (受身) these days, striking the hand to the ground as they tumble.
Arts such as Jûdô and Aikidô, which are practiced almost entirely on tatami, employ this modern method of ‘ukemi’. Yet, this is a far cry from the original methods used in life and death combat situations by warriors on the battlefield, who had to devise a way of using the body to fall without being wounded. It was necessary to be able to be able to counter a technique, to escape a technique, to even place an attack or a defense while falling on the ground. On the battlefield, it was impossible to use the hands to contact the ground and break a fall, because warriors were always carrying weapons. In the first traditions of jûjutsu like Takeuchi-ryû and the Shoshô-ryû of which the documents of the oldest transmission were compiled in 1585, there is mention of a type of fall or tumble developed where the head and hands did not touch the ground. It was named ‘kaiten’ (回転), meaning“to turn and reverse” one’s direction. In order to remain alive, warriors had to develop a razor-sharp and constant awareness to the quickly changing terrain surrounding them, while amid the fierceness of battle, along with an acute sense of body control and precision. This is the reason, unlike today, that ‘ukemi’ was not taught until the ‘okuden’ levels in many true combat traditions. It took a seasoned veteran of war or a master with decades of practice to hone such a refined control of the body. Only then, could one perform and demonstrate true ‘ukemi’.

– DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI

KURODA YASUJI

“In the beginning, as one knows nothing, one does not doubt anything. After having entered the study of combat, various things occupy the spirit; one is obstructed by it and all becomes difficult. Then, as soon as one does not wonder anymore about what one learns, the idea of rules does not have any more impact. Thus, one does not stick to them anymore to exert the techniques in the various ways. They emanate from oneself and are then naturally in true harmony with the rules. It is necessary to follow the way of combat, but one must understand this well. To involve oneself by learning the beginning weapon techniques, and all the rules, postures of the body, manners of perceiving, is to deploy the intellect. When one has gained control, these many rules disappear from the intellectual consciousness. Without conscious reflection, one finally reaches the heart of things. After having assimulated many rules, the merits of this approach accumulate. They reside within the legs, the arms, and the body. They no longer linger in the spirit. One moves away from the rules, but one conforms to them. In all circumstances, the techniques become spontaneous. Alone, thought does not stick to anything at this point and, thus, not even demons can disturb one’s being. It is to reach this stage that one practices. When the rules have been assimilated, they disappear.”

Yagyū Munenori
柳生 宗矩
1571 – 1646

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ICHIMONJI1

As with everything in ninjutsu and classical martial arts that have survived chaos and tides of the centuries. there is a perpetual depth to what is transmitted from master to student. Few often just scratch the surface in exploring what is being taught or shown to them. This is very evident in the case of ‘Ichimonji’. More than just a ‘posture’ in combat or a ‘line of one’. It is a mindset. A spirit attitude. It is direction of the heart. When all is in chaos around you, bring your heart, your spirit, into a singular force of ‘one’. Bring your will into a focus so strong and singular that nothing can sway you from rising through the chaos and into the vision you see for yourself, into the vision of surviving and beating the odds, no matter how bad circumstances may seem. As an infamous ninja and master swordsman once said, “The secret to victory lies in the ‘ichi’,’hachi’, and ‘jû’ (一, ハ, 十)”. In the Buddhist lexicon, this means channeling the hachi, which (when the kanji is turned on its side) can be translated as the ‘infinite’ spectrum of things (emotions, actions, experiences, thoughts) and the jû’, which can be represented by the ‘Ten Worlds’ in Buddhist lore (Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity, Heaven or Rapture, Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood), into one piercing dynamic; the ichi (一). When one achieves ‘ichimonji’ (一文字) or ‘Ichinen’ (一念) of the spirit in this manner, the body follows, as does victory over all that would seek to crush one.