Hozoin Ryu Takada-ha Sojutsu



As in most Koryu (traditional, old martial school) is in line Hozoin Ryu passed on from generation to generation to the present Soke Ichiya Juno.

School history is well documented up to its founder Hozoin Kakuzenbo Inei. On the other hand, is there very few actual information about him. A little information that is not inconsistent or does not belong to the realm of legend. What is known is that Inei whose secular name was Iga no Kami was born in 1521 as the second son of a certain Nakamikado Tajima Tanenaga, who served as a combat monk at the Kofukuji temple, which was the most influential Buddhist temple in Nara. In 1533, the Inei became a monk in the sub-temple Kofukuji in Hozoin. Later in this temple he also became the prior or superior.

As a descendant of the family, where the main livelihood was “labor wars”, Inei of course firstly honed in the “family techniques” and weapons like the naginata and nagamaki, which were also typical weapons martial monks of the time. Inei also coached many other styles of martial arts. These included, for example Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu Ryu or Shinkage Ryu. Later he studied under Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Nobutsuna and also with the Yagyu Tajima no Kami Muneyoshi, who later founded Shinkage Yagyu Ryu. These two were really good friends until the end of their lives.

Based on current considerations, it is claimed that in 1553 Inei had a kind of enlightenment regarding the use of the sickle´s spear. And as the legend says, was probably also the inventor Kamayari. The legend says that Inei created Kamayari based on a moon´s reflection on the straight Suyari on the water-level of Saruzawa no Ike (lake before Kofukuji temple in Nara).

It is unclear whether the school curriculum was created just by Inei or by his successor Hozoin Kakuzenbo Inshun. Some argue that Inei created 15 forms and therefore additional configuration of school attributed to Inshun. This raises several questions because when Inshun came to the Hozoin temple in 1602 Inei was already at that time 81years old. So Inshun couldn´t be trained in Hozoin Ryu Sōjutsu by Inei, but probably by some another monk who was a direct disciple of Inei.

Another problem is that Inei banned in the temple training Sōjutsu one year before his death – August 26, 1607. This should lead to the demise of monastic line school. However, this does not happen, and fortunately Inshun after death of Inei resumed Sojutsu trainings in the Hozoin temple. The reason for this prohibition is likely to be that Inei wanted to expand this school beyond the Hozoin temple and Nara. For this reason he also personally taught pupils as Nakamura Ichiemon or Takada Matabe Yoshitsugu who were not members of the church community, but belonged to the warrior nobility. At this time was Inei around 65 years. In 1605, two years before the death of Inei, Nakamura received Inka licence. He was at that time 29 years old. About 10 years later, Nakamura also gave his first teaching license. This license was granted as the first from all to Takada. The most advanced Nakamura students made Nakamura after his death as the founder of Nakamura-ha.

Takada became a student of Nakamura when he was 14 years old and he was also a student of Inei. Takada was also assistant of Inshun of the second Soke of monastic line. In addition Sōjutsu Takada also studied sword, naginata and bow under many masters of martial arts and therefore added his gained experiencies to the curriculum of Hozoin Ryu and made a further 101 forms of this school. In addition, it is also said that he was author of a treatise dealing with strategy, psychology and art of fight in 50 chapters. But all these are uncertain information. Especially when you then read somewhere that Takada got a license directly from Inei when he was 14 years old and he was the only student of Inei, who taught him the above mentioned strategy and psychology. Numbers and facts are often in the history of Japan a little confused.

However Takada later founded Sōjutsu dojo in Edo – today’s Tokyo, where among other people he taught also Ogasawara Ukon Daifu Tadazane. This probably allowed him in 1623, to enter into the service of this clan. At the invitation of the Ogasawara Tadazane in 1637 he moved to Kokura (which was included the Ogasawara clan since 1632), and which is located on the island of Kyushu. Here then he took Hara Castle, which was held by the rebels during the Shimabara Rebellion, when he led successfully a group of spearmen against them.

At the same time whenTakada served to Ogasawara clan, also the second adopted son of Miyamoto Musashi served them. So it is not surprising that at the request of their lords, together Takada with Musashi sometimes fought. The results of these “sports games” again are often given contradictory. Some argues that won Takada, others that Miyamoto Musashi. For example as is described in Nitenki, in Musashi’s biography, written by one of his students in 1755. “Monk fought with a spear and Musashi with short wooden sword. Musashi won both matches, monk noone. Musashi’s skills were highly praised and was invited to the Hozoin temple, where he spoke until morning with Inei. “So it means that Hozoin Ryu was defeated by Musashi? According to the current Soke is very hard to believe someone who wrote this story 100 years after the death of Musashi. Whatever it was in any way, more important is the fact that both parties after the tournament brought together to share a meal and drink together and with the utmost respect until morning to discuss about the life and martial arts. In the meantime, Musashi often acted as a “beast” and in every fights he killed his opponents and quickly disappeared. But based on more sophisticated works of Musashi’s life, based on his paintings and his calligraphies became in a Hozoin temple in Nara turning point in his life. It is also one of the reasons why they were and still are grandmasters, masters and students of Niten Ichi Ryu and Hozoin  Ryu in very friendly relationship that was built by Musashi and by Inei Sensei of the founder of Hozoin Ryu.

Later, Musashi fought again with the master Hozoin Ryu and it was a founder of the current line Takada Matabe and it was in 1632 in Kokura. It was a time when the Ogasawara Takazane displaced in Kokura and Musashi, Ioiri (Musashi’s adoptive son) and Takada accompanied him. Ogasawara one day called Musashi and Takada and ordered them to be weaved together. Firstly, both rejected due to mutual respect, but Ogasawara insisted it. Takada therefore took bamboo´s Kamayari and Musashi took wooden sword. At this time, Musashi used only one sword. Musashi was in Chudan no kamae and Takada attacked him with his spear. Musashi repelled the first two attacks of Takada´s spear, but he slipped in the third and was struck in the thigh. Musashi immediately jumped up and said, “Nothing I did not expect. Matabe beat me”. To this, but Matabe humbly replied, “From my perspective, you let me win today”. Then he turned to disbelief staring Ogasawara and said, “Spear is long and a sword is short. But even if the spear has the advantage of length, I could not win in three steps. For this reason I say that who is holding here a long weapon is loser. Ogasawara Takazane was shocked by his response and with enormous recognition appreciated masterpiece quality of both fighters.

Takada students and three of his four sons then spread hozoin Ryu throughout Japan and made Hozoin Ryu as most famous and largest school Sōjutsu of Edo era (1603-1868), which numbered more than 4,000 students. When, where, and where then disappeared more than 100 school´s waza is another mystery. However, the curriculum of school with 50 Yari Awase techniques (spear against spear) was all what Yamazato Tadanori – 15th Soke of school taught in Kendo section at the Dai Ichi Koto Gakko (university) in Tokyo in 1918.

Return Hozoin Ryu back to the Nara began in 1974, when was Kagita Chuzaburo , who was the father of the previous Soke, elected mayor of Nara (his son and Hozoin Ryu Soke was also at one time mayor of Nara) . Mayor Kagita senior built in Nara large central Budo dojo, which was, inter alia, designed and constructed specifically for Sōjutsu trainings. At the inauguration of this dojo Kazuto Ishida – 18th Soke Hozoin Ryu Takadaha Sōjutsu and chairman of the Japan Kendo Federation (Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei) demonstrated techniques Hozoin Ryu Takada – ha Sōjutsu in their full glory. Then, at the request of the mayor Kagita, began to teach the art of a few students. Sometimes it is taught in Tokyo, occasionally in Nara. Among them, of course, Kagita Chube – 20th Soke and Nishikawa Gennai – 19th Soke of this school. That was in 1976 announced as the next Soke and successor of Kazuto Ishida. Therefore, the year 1976 is considered ad the year when Hozoin Ryu officially reverted back to the place of origin – in Nara. Kagita trained under Ishida Soke during his studies at Tokyo University and then replaced in 1991 Nishikawa Soke in the management of the school.

When Hozoin Ryu returned to Nara already contained a total of only 35 kata. 14 Omote, 14 Ura and 7 Shinshikake kata. The first two levels dating back to the founder of the school Hozoin Kakuzenbo Inei. The third level was added by the founder of Takada-ha, Takada Matabe Yoshitsugu.

Names of 14 techniques in Omote and Ura level have the same names, there is only different interpretations of fighting on the same topic.

In Hozoin Ryu uses two kinds of Yari. Kamayari (cross sickle spear), which has a length of approximately 270 cm and Suyari (straight spear). Which has a length of approximately 360 cm.

Kamayari is absolutely unique weapon and even among spears themselves. With kamayari we can do much more than just a stinging. With cross and crescent blade (kama) with blades on both sides, attacker can control, dominate and manipulate it in all directions, without losing control. You can knock the attacker to the ground, throw him to the side, you can let slide down sickle to the attacker weapon and cut off his hands away from it. Of course, that nowadays is no longer moving around the battlefield although advanced students even today practicing against each other Jiyukeiko (free combat training) in armor. Sōjutsu training is due to the low postures and weight of the spear very physically demanding. It teaches us a profound understanding of distance and timing with an unprecedented accuracy depending on the different length of the spear used in Hozoin Ryu Takada Ha Sōjutsu.

The main motto of Sōjutsu schools is simple phrases.
“If you do not know how to deal with a spear, you should not ever talk about the swordsmanship. And if you do not know how to use a sword, you should not ever talk about the spearsmanship. “

This is the curriculum that is currently practiced in Nara, Higashi Osaka, Nagoya and only official dojo in the world outside of Japan in Hamburg.

In Alster Dojo in Hamburg regularly for several years is held weekly training internship with one of the most advanced teachers of this school with Maeda Shigenori Sensei , who is one of the few holders of Menkyo Kaiden of Hozoin Ryu . The seminar is held regularly every fall and is attended by students from all over Europe including the Czech Republic. This currently only official dojo outside Japan is led by Jurgen Seebeck, who studied Hozoin Ryu several years during his long stay in Japan. His students are not only from Germany but also from many other European countries such as England, Romania and the Czech Republic. Dojo in Hamburg was visited in previous years also by the previous Soke Kagita who unfortunately suddenly died 2 years ago. However we are looking forward to the arrival of the current Soke Ichiya Sensei in near future.

If you are interested in trainings of this unique martial art do not hesitate to contact Filip Bartoš – filip@bujin.cz or +420 736 534 469, who is regularly studying Hozoin Ryu Takada-ha Sōjutsu in Alster Dojo in Hamburg under the direction of Jurgen Seebeck – Mokuroku, Maeda Sensei – Menkyo Kaiden and Soke Ichiya.