Jikishinkage Ryu

Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu often referred to simply as Jikishinkage Ryu or Kashima Shinden is a traditional school (koryu) of Japanese martial art of sword – kenjutsu.

Jikishinkage Ryu originated from old kenjutsu styles that evolved in the late Muromachi era (1337-1573) and at the beginning of the early Sengoku era (1467 – 1603) in Kashima shrine.

Jikishinkage Ryu is one of the schools of kenjutsu which is affected by a new method of execise called Shinai Uchi in which students are fighting with each other with shinai – bamboo sword in Bogu.

The school was founded Matsumoto (Sugimoto) Bizen No Kami (1467-1524). The direct predecessors of Jikishinkage Ryu were Shinkage Ryu and Kage Ryu. Jikishinkage Ryu came mainly from Kage Ryu kenjutsu founded by Aizu Iko in 1490. Matsumoto was a very talented swordsman and also known master Kage Ryu. He was also a terrifying warrior with Yari and stories says that he killed by this weapon 716 attackers. Later he founded his own style of kenjutsu which he named as Shinkage Ryu. He was also the founder of Kashima Shin Ryu. Matsumoto founded the basic exercise of Jikishinkage Ryu called HOJO. This is an exercise with special Hojo Boken which is heavier than normal boken and has a wider tsuka. For students it is difficult to use weight of boken because boken has no curvature and is not resemble to the true sword. However this weight represents the student’s knowledges. On the basis of extant scrolls visited Matsumoto Kashima shrine that there deepened his spirit and improved his knowledges of kenjutsu. The exact date of when he visited Kashima shrine is not known but probably it was between the years 1515 – 1521. In this sanctuary he also led several exercises of meditations. There is also a legend about Furibo – large suburito. One day Matsumoto meditated before shrine and was wondering how to increase his physical strength in kenjutsu. And as he thought, big thick branch had fallen from a tree. At that moment he realized that he should train with Furibo . In the Kashima shrine he had long prayed to Gods to show him the direction and let him look into the deepest essence of control of the sword. Finally deity answered him at one night and gave him a bundle of scrolls called Shinden Reiken (divine blessing through the spirit of the sword). Because Matsumoto received the blessing in the shadow of the gods of the sanctuary he named after his school as  Shinkage Ryu which means Divine Shadow. According to legend the scrolls contained the following 4 basic principles. These principles are Hasso Happa (starting at Hasso), Itto Ryodan (cut through one stroke), Uten Saten (turn right, turn left) and Totan Ichi Imi (basic of distance). These are also the basic principles of Hojo. According to the traditional scrolls Matsumoto founded in 1521 also Kashima Shinden Ryu (Divine tradition of Kashima). Matsumoto taught many students and one of his the best one was Kamiizumi Ise No Kami Nobutsuna (1508-1577), who then named his own school as Shinkage Ryu “school of new shadow” (same pronunciation as Matsumoto´s Shinkage Ryu but Kamiizumi use different kanji for it). Jikishinkage Ryu in turn means “the newest school of the old shadow.” Before his death Matsumoto gave scrolls to his successor Kamiizumi Ise No Kami Nobutsuna. With using of these scrolls he created his own basic exercises – “Sagakuen no Dachi,” which contained these following parts – Itto Ryodan, Zantei Settetsu, Hankai Hanko, Totan Ichi Imi and Uten Saten. It is interesting that Kamiizumi didn´t implement Matsumoto´s principle of  Hasso into his katas. Kamiizumi also created the most secret form of Jikishinkage Ryu which is called Marubashi. Legend says that one day during his travels Kamiizumi Ise no Kami came to chasm through which led only one way and that was across a fallen tree. While he was wondering if he will overcome the chasm over the fallen tree, came to the chasm the blind man who through his hole found the edge of the chasm and simply crossed a tree fallen over this chasm. At that moment the master realized that if we do not see the depth of the chasm we do not concentrate on it and so that´s why we ar not affraid of it. Like if we do not concentrate on the attacker with a katana if we keep only the wakizashi.

Marubashi is transmitted and taught only in oral form and it is usually known only to the teacher of the dojo. It was taught at the time when the best student was handed over leadership of the school. This kata was a symbol of the teacher. In peacetime was teaching methods little bit changed but it is still transferred only to a chosen few individuals. This kata is the materialization of philosophy of the school rather than applicable form to real combat. Kata is known for its soft and precise movements that are performed with maximum concentration. This is the reason why we call it Ritsu Zen – meditation in motion. If the concentration is not sufficient it is immediately visible on the movements. Kata is performed only with SHINKEN because students must learn to overcome own fear. The most important interpretation of this kata is that only spiritually and physically trained individual can overcome an attacker without killing him.

The most advanced student of Kamiizumi was Okuyama Kyukasai Taira no Kimishige, who later named his own school again as Shinkage Ryu (again used different kanji than Matsumoto and Kamiizumi but with the same reading).

Successor of Okuyama became Ogasawara Genshinsai Minamoto no Nagaharu who developed Okuyama´s Shinkage Ryu and subsequently named his school as Shin Shinkage Ryu. From Ogasawara Genshinsai also came Fukuro Shinai kata. At the beginning of the 16th century and later era of the Ming Dynasty Ogasawara traveled to China for study and also to teach swordsmanship. There he also acquainted with the work of Sun Tsu – the art of war. These principles he then influenced to the creation of Fukuro shinai kata. The master’s work is very important because thanks to these new techniques and principles was Shinkage Ryu really developed.

Fukuro Shinai kata is a combination of techniques that are usually practiced with fukuro shinai. Later, during the era of Yamada Heizaemon who gave the name of the current style, these techniques began to practice in Bogu. This has allowed students to experience the feeling of a real fight without fear. This kata is also very fast and energetic. In the scroll of Jikishinkage Ryu these techniques are not recorded as Fukuro shinai kata but are recorded separately.

Due to the already mentioned Chinese principles are these techniques very unique in this style.

In the old days was these techniques never trained together as a kata but they were learned individually. But because there were many injuries later they began to practice without bogu carefully and safely. Were reorganized into a kata and side of Uchidachi became defensive.

Ogasawara´s student and successor Kamiya Denshinsai Sadamitsu also created his own school which he called Shinkage Jikishin Ryu. Kamiya Denshinsai gave four basic principles of Matsumoto back to the original version and he started to train Kamiizumi´s added principles Zantei Settetsu and Hankai Hanko.

Successor of Kamiya became Takahashi Jikiosai Shigeharu who called his school as Jikishin Seito Ryu. Here I would like to mention that Jikishin Seito Ryu densho – Enren includes 2 new Kamiizumi´s principles next to four fundamental principles of Matsumoto. Takahashi also created a form called O Koryu. In densho is stated that to the four basic techniques is added Enren as a fifth technique. Enren has a great influence on the whole kata because it gives dynamism which we know for example from Fukuro Shinai kata.

Takahashi was a teacher of the first real founder of Jikishinkage Ryu Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori Yamada (Ippusai). Although Yamada Sensei is kept in the historical lineage as the seventh grandmaster of the school, is basically the first official Grand Master and founder of the school under the name Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu kenjutsu. Yamada Sensei refined and developed techniques that he learned from Takahashi Sensei and in 1683 founded a school of that name.

Names of founders and their schools including Japanese kanji

The original founder Matsumoto (Sugimoto) Bizen no Kami 松本備前守 – (1467–1524) – Shinkage ryu 神陰流

Second successor Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Nobutsuna 上泉伊勢守信綱 –  (1508–1577) – Shinkage ryu 新陰流

Third successor Okuyama Kyukasai Taira no Kimishige 奥山休賀斎平公重 (1528–1602) – Shinkage ryu 神影流

Fourth successor Ogasawara Genshinsai Minamoto no Nagaharu 小笠原源信斎源長冶 (1574–1644) – Shin Shinkage ryu 真新陰流

Fifth successor Kamiya Denshinsai Sadamitsu 神谷伝心斎直光 (1582–1663) – Shinkage-Jikishin ryu 新陰直心流

Sixth successor Takahashi Jikiosai Shigeharu 高橋弾正左衛門重治 (1610–1690) – Jikishin Seito ryu 直心正統流

Seventh successor Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori (Ippusai) 山田平左衛門光徳 (一風斎) (1638–1718) – Jikishinkage ryu 直心影流

Yamada was a samurai of Karasuyama clan (Karasuyama is now located in Tochigi Prefecture) and the servant of Nagai family. Yamada began his kenjutsu training at a very young age but it is not known exactly when and who was his first teacher.

At the age of 19 years he had a duel with a swordsman Ose Yahei. Both used bokuto and hurt each other very much so Yamada had to completely stop training kenjutsu.

At the age of 32 years he got a chance to know the school Jikishin Seito Ryu kenjutsu which used shinai and protective clothing during training. Yamada was fascinated by new and safe method of training and began to study kenjutsu under Takahashi Jikiosai Shigeharu who was the founder Jikishin Seito Ryu. Yamada trained so hard that eventually in his 46 years gained Menkyo Kaiden from Takahashi. At the same time he contributed with him to the development of protective clothing and personally stood behind the development of Men (head protection) and Kote (wrist protection). Yamada Sensei died on 9th February 1716 at the age of 78 years.

Jikishinkage Ryu then continued under Naganuma Kunisato Shirozaemon who was the third son of Yamada Sensei. Kunisato was born in 1688 and began studying kenjutsu as 8 years old under his father Yamada Sensei. At the age of 21 years received Menkyo Kaiden and opened his own dojo in Shita Atagoshita in Edo (today’s Minato-ku, Tokyo). Nagamura was extremely talented swordsman with character and technical aspects so that´s why many young people wanted to learn from him. At this time became Jikishinkage ryu very widespread and popular. Nagamura taught thousands of swordsmen and gave Menkyo Kaiden to 43 students. Nagamura Kunisato died on 24th July 1767.

The biggest credit of  Yamada and Naganuma Sensei was successful creation of a strong face protection from iron and other protective equipments so that´s why their students could hit a stinging in their training partners much harder and yet safer. Protective face – MEN – of previous Grandmaster Takahashi was made from bamboo and rattan which was less safe and weaknesses.

Most schools were initially very critical for Shinai Uchi training but over time this practice many schools have taken over. For example more than 40 years later the founder of Nakanishi-ha Itto Ryu Nakanishi Chuzo assumed it and other schools of kenjutsu followed him.

Naganuma Kunisato thereafter gave school to his son Naganuma Norisato who continued in development of the school of his father.

In the era of Naganuma Norisato occurred to the first big school´s dividing into two main lines. Naganuma Norisato passed the school to his the best student Fujikawa Yashiro Uemon Fujiwara no Yorihito and line was formed as Fujiwara-ha. Family lineage was passed to his son Naganuma Sukesato because the school functionated as system of Otome Ryu (literally means “school which flows, but stays at home”).

Currently Naganuma-ha line is considered as “extincted” although there are still some masters who learned this line from their masters, fathers or grandfathers as it is for example in the case of my Sensei – Suzuki Kimiyoshi who studied both lines – Fujiwara-ha and Naganuma-ha. But it is certain that Naganuma-ha has not publicly taught and those few teachers teaches it privately and only their most advanced students.

Naganuma Sensei also created the examination system of Jikishinkage Ryu with 4 licenses. They were Kirigami (Heiho Kyuri no maki), Mokuroku (Mokuroku Soejo), Menkyo and Meiken. Later Fujiwara dojo which was the largest branch of Naganuma Dojo added Reiken (license for beginners) and established a five-step licensing system which was subsequently taken over by other followers of Jikishinkage Ryu.

The successor of Fujiwara Sensei then became Akaishi Chikayoshi and then Danno Gennoshin Yoshitaka.

Jikishinkage Ryu was in Japan at the end of the Edo era (1603 – 1868) one of the largest schools of kenjutsu. During the Bakumatsu era (1853 – 1867) recorded kenjutsu another significant development. In June 1853 the fleet of Admiral Matthew Perry called “black ships” arrived from the USA to the shores of Japan to open diplomatic and trade relations. External pressures forced the Tokugawa shogunate to rethink national defense and therefore Shogunate founded in 1856 Kobusho (literally means a place or dojo where are taught martial arts). Kobusho became as public place of Tokugawa shogunate where mainly samurais taught martial arts such as kenjutsu, sōjutsu, hojutsu, kyujutsu and jujutsu.

Odani Shimosa no kami Nobutomo was Kenshi of Jikishinkage Ryu and the best student of Danno Gennoshin Yoshitaka and  he was named as president and kenjutsu shihan in Kobusho. Odani was born in 1810 and was the second son of Odani Chunojyo who was a servant of Tokugawa. Odani began studying Jikishinkage Ryu under Danno Gennoshin when he was a child. Odani was one of the best and most well-known swordmaster of that time. He was very good at Shinai Uchi so that´s why many samurais from other schools attended his trainings and studied under his leadership. His character was also very high and for this reason he was nicknamed as “The Saint of kenjutsu.” Odani died in 1864 a few years after his death was ended the era of real Samurais.

Also during the 19th century was a school of Jikishinkage Ryu kenjutsu one of the most popular school in eastern Japan especially in the area of ​​Edo. 14th Soke of school Sakakibara Kenkichi (1830-1894) was one of the most famous and best swordsman of his time, the personal bodyguard of the Shogun and the best student of 13rd Grandmaster of the school Odani Shimosa no kami Nobutomo. Sakakibara Kenkichi was born in the village of Otsuka (now part of Tokyo) as the first son of Sakakibara Masutaro. Sakakibara began studying Jikishinkage Ryu under Odani Sensei at age 13 and at age 26 in 1856 received from him Menkyo Kaiden. On the recommendation of his teacher Odani he was also an instructor in Kobusho. Sakakibara also defeated a well-known master of sōjutsu Ise no Kami Takahashi in a direct fight before the Shogun. When Kobusho was abolished in 1866 he became as  commander of Yugekitai (special security of Shogun composed from swordexperts  of Kobusho). Later he opened his own dojo in Shitaya Kurumasaka. After the Meiji reform in 1873 he organized Gekkikenkai where with the permission of the government was performed Gekkiken. It was a duel in protective clothing using fukuro shinai in the way of today’s kendo, where masters of all sword fighting schools could confront their skills. Sakakibara had during his life hundreds of students and many of them he gave Menkyo Kaiden and the title of Shihan. In the official list of followers can be found at least 20 Menkyo Kaiden!!. Under Sakakibara Sensei studied a large number of famous masters even if they didn´t reach the highest level of school. Among them it was for example Sokaku Takeda – founder of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu. Some historians also argue that historically known persons such as Muso Gonnosuke studied or were part of Jikishinkage Ryu. However often it is not true nor Gonnosuke never been part of the Jikishinkage Ryu.

Very talented student of Sakakibara Sensei was Yamada Jirokichi who continued after his death in the pure and direct line. In this time many students of Sakakibara Sensei built their own lines of Jikishinkage Ryu. In this period originated the lines as Odani-ha, Seito-ha, Kuun-kai Odani-ha, Hyakuren-kai Odani-ha, Daihonzan Chosen-ji, Nomi-ha and more. So it was the same with a very experienced students as Matsudaira Yasutoshi and Nomi Teijiro who same like Yamada Jirokichi studied traditional way of Jikishinkage Ryu. Nomi Teijiro was one of the oldest and most experienced student of Sakakibara Sensei, helped him to organize Gekkikenkai and came from a very famous samurai family Nomi. So that´s why he also subsequently opened his own line of Nomi-ha which was then passed on to his son Nomi Hamao and the later to Yokokawa Kintaro and Ishigaki Tatsuo who was a nephew of Nomi Hamao. Yokokawa Sensei was the oldest and the best student of Nomi Teijiro and then also of Nomi Hamao who were grandmasters of Jikishinkage Ryu Nomi-ha and while training partners of Yamada and Matsudaira Sensei at the time of the famous Sakakibara Kenkichi. Family line was passed later to Ishigaki Tatsuo (nephew of Nomi Hamao) and subsequently to his son Ishigaki Yashuzo who was good friend of Suzuki Sensei. The best student of Matsudaira Yasutoshi was Makita Shigekatsu. Makita came from a samurai family from Hokkaido and thanks to him Jikishinkage Ryu became very famous in northern Japan especially during the Japanese civil war in 1868. In addition to his fencing skills was Makita Sensei also an expert of Kyudo. Unfortunately however he fought in the revolution against the emperor and his side lost the battle. Caste of samurais was abolished and he had to flee. He returned home to Hokkaido where he opened his own dojo which he called Jikishin Kan Dojo. He taught here besides kenjutsu also other martial arts. His dojo was very popular in spite of the ban on the use of swords in 1876. After his death the village Atsuta erected black granite obelisk as a symbol of honoring his memory. This memorial can be seen there today. Family tradition then took the grandson of Makita Sensei Suzuki Kimiyoshi. However Suzuki Sensei studied kenjutsu only in childhood and only few years under Yokokawa Kintaro, because his grandfather died 20 years before his birth. Jikishinkage Ryu started to study in the age of 5 under Yokokawa Kintaro and because he studied only in his childhood, he never receive any technical degree. From high school he studied only Goju Ryu karate under renowned Yamaguchi Gogen and became his personal student. Between his training partners was also the famous Masutatsu Oyama and Suzuki Sensei helped him in the opening of his Kyokushin karate dojo. After many years of intensive trainings he received from Yamaguchi Gogen 7th Dan Goju Ryu karate. In 1959 he started studying aikido under Hiroshi Tada (9th dan Aikikai and student of Ueshiba Morihei). At the Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu he returned to retirement age after moving to Hungary.

The best student of Yamada Jirokichi was Onishi Hidetaka, who became 16. Soke of Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu in only one direct and pure line, which is situated under Kashima Jingu.The best students of Onishi Sensei was Ito Sensei, Watanabe Sensei, Akao Sensei and Honda Sensei who after death of Onishi Sensei continue all together in organization Hyakuren-kai. Its organization which was founded by Onishi Sensei to preserve this unique Japanese martial art, which is considered as the national treasure of Japan. All together, they join forces and maintain Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu in the purest form. This organization can be considered unique because it combines the three best students of Onishi Sensei, who teach Jikishinkage Ryu in Kashima Jingu shrine and also have the authorization of the Japanese government, as an organization for the preservation of national treasure. Between these important teachers we can count also Mori Akira Sensei, who is the only one holder of the title Menkyo Kaiden and Reiken-den.

So that why is great honor for us that we are the only one in the world, who has official authorization to practice and teach this school outside of Japan directly under the guidance of Mori Sensei.

If you are interested in trainings of this unique martial art do not hesitate to contact Filip Bartos – filip@bujin.cz or +420 736 534 469 who regularly studying Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu under the direction of Mori Akira – Menkyo Kaiden and Reiken-den. Filip Bartos is also only one official teacher of this school outside of Japan.