There are, or once were, hundreds of ryu-ha (styles or schools) of kenjutsu in Japan, most of which are descended from only three that were created during the sengoku-jidai (age of a country at war): The Shinto-ryu – founded c.1450, the Kage-ryu – founded c. 1490 and the Itto-ryu – founded c.late 1500’s.
The first and oldest of the three is the Shinto-ryu – full name: Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu (天真正伝香神道流) founded by Iizasa Yamashiro no kami Choisai (1387-1488)* and is still in existence.
The second, the Kage-ryu (陰流) which Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Nobutsuna mastered and from which he created his own version which he called the Shinkage-ryu (新陰流）meaning New Kage-ryu from which many well known ryu-ha sprang including the Yagyu-Shinkage-ryu as well as our style, the Taisha-ryu, was created by Aisu Ikkosai (1452-1538).
Aisu Ikkosai was from Ise province and is said to have been a pirate as well as a trader whose business/piracy saw him travelling to many parts of Japan and as far away as China where coastal towns were raided by Japanese pirates known as wakou (倭寇ーわこう). Not much is known for certain, but somehow, perhaps he was taught ,or maybe through trial and error on the job he became an adept swordsman but like many masters of his time he sought a deeper understanding of the nature of the sword and looked for divine revelation.
At the age of 36, in 1488, he came to the remote Udo Jingu in the province of Hyuga on the East coast of Kyushu to seek guidance from the gods. The shrine, located on the beautiful Nichinan coast, is in a cave battered by wave after wave from the ocean, and it was here that in a dream the kami appeared to him in the form of a monkey and imparted the secrets of the warrior arts with which he created the Kage-ryu.
When in Kyushu, Udo Jingu is one of many places in Miyazaki Prefecture worth a visit.
Click on photos to enlarge.
*No, that’s not a typo. He lived to be over 100 years old.
Sources and further reading:
Hurst, G. Cameron, III. Armed Martial Arts of Japan, Yale University Press, 1998
Friday, Karl F. The Kashima-shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture, University of Hawaii Press, 1997
Posted by David – 36号 逞毘道