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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

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‘DŌJŌ KUN’ 道場訓, or ‘RULES OF THE DŌJŌ’ (Better thought of as ‘RYÛHA KYÔKUN’ 流派教訓 or ‘Moral Lessons Of The Traditions’)
by Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda
戸田真龍軒正光, 1830-1912

一、忍耐は、先ず一服の間とぞ知れ
1) Nintai Wa, Mazu Ippuku No Ma Tozo Shire (Know that patience begins with taking a moment’s pause.)
二、人の道は、正義也と知れ
2) Hito No Michi Wa, Seigi Nari To Shire (Know that the path of humanity is justice.)
三、大欲と楽と依怙の心を忘れよ
3) Taiyoku To Raku To Iko No Kokoro Wo Wasureyo (Forget feelings of deep desire, longing for comfort, and reliance.)
四、悲しみも恨みも自然の定めと思い、唯だ不動心の悟りを得可し
4) Kanashimi Mo Urami Mo Shizen No Sadame To Omoi, Tada Fudoshin No Satori Wo U Beshi (One must think of sorrow and malice as fates set by nature and strive only to inquire the enlightenment of imperturbability.)
五、心常に忠孝の道を離れず、深く文武に志す可し
5) Kokoro Tsune-ni Chuko No Michi Wo Hanarezu, Fukaku Bunbu Ni Kokorozasu Beshi (One’s heart never straying from loyalty and filial duty, one must deeply engage oneself in study and the martial arts.)

明治二十三年春 戸田真龍軒正光
Meiji-nijusan-nen Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu (Spring, 1890 – Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu)

SANKEN

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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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

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