Training with the Hizenhyohotaisharyu keikokai ( Taisha-ryu Saga study group)


When I first had the chance to see and practice with the Taisha-ryu in Yatsushiro in October 2012 there were less than twenty members. In April 2014, when I was accepted as a member I became member 36. There are now over sixty of us, most of whom are members of one of the three keikokai (study groups) in Japan. In the three keikokai outside Japan, there are just the two of us in Sydney, four in Italy and a few in Hong Kong.

Yamamoto-sensei and the shihandai regularly visit the three keikokai in Japan. I was fortunate enough to be invited to come with Yamamoto-sensei and Uehara-sensei to the Saga keikokai while I was in Yatsushiro two weeks ago. It was most interesting for a number of reasons – firstly, they have a unique dojo located in a theatre in a Ninja theme park called the Hizen Yumekaido, a space they can use because a few of them work there and also because both the parks owner and the local government support the study of Taisha-ryu because it was the style used by the Saga samurai in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) and they are keen to see the revival of its practice in the area.

The training shown in the photos was held the Friday before last and was divided into two parts – from 3:00- 6:00pm was Tankeshuchuutanren or intensive training with just a few members, and then from 7:00-9:00pm was the Teireikeiko or regular practice. For this we were privileged to have Sato-shihandai join to help teach after having driven over four hours from Kagoshima to attend the evening two-hour session.

I was very surprised to see how many members they have in Saga and was most impressed with their seriousness and enthusiasm. Hopefully we can create a similar situation in Australia.

Click on photos to enlarge,

Posted by David- 36号

Udo Jingu – some photos

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.

When you stand before the alter inside the cave at Udo Jingu you see your reflection in the holy kagami (mirror)

When you stand before the alter inside the cave at Udo Jingu you see your reflection in the holy kagami (mirror) looking back at you.

*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