Yagyu Shingan-ryu

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Yagyu Shingan-ryu (??????), is a traditional school (koryu) of Heiho Japanese martial arts. Different schools of Yagyu Shingan-ryu, such as Heihojutsu and Taijutsu, assert different founders, but they all go back to Ushu Tatewaki (?? ??), referred to in some historical scrolls as Shindo Tatewaki, who taught a system based on Sengoku-period battlefield tactics, that was called Shindo-ryu.

The word shingan (???) is rooted in Zen philosophy, and was chosen to describe a fundamental concept of the style. Shingan means “mind’s eye,” or “heart’s eye,” and refers to the ability to sense an opponent’s thoughts or feelings via an inner sense.[1] Originally called simply Shingan-ryu, it was later renamed Yagyu Shingan-ryu, due to the influence of Yagyu Tajima No Kami Munenori’s Yagyu Shinkage-ryu.[2]

Yagyu Shingan-ryu was created to be a battlefield art with a large comprehensive curriculum of weapons, and grappling techniques for use both while armored and unarmored. The techniques of Yagyu Shingan-ryu were therefore designed to eliminate an enemy quickly and effortlessly.[2] In the early days, both the Yagyu Shingan and Shinkage schools were similar, [2] as both consisted of an array of armed and unarmed combat techniques. However, as the two schools evolved, the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu focused primarily on swordsmanship (kenjutsu), whereas the Yagyu Shingan-ryu continued as a comprehensive combat system, training several arts, including jujutsu, quarterstaff fighting (bojutsu), glaive fighting (naginatajutsu), sword drawing techniques (iaijutsu) and sword fighting (kenjutsu).

Takenaga Hayato (?? ??, dates of birth and death unknown), sometimes known as Takenaga Hayato Kanetsugu (Jikinyu), founded the Yagyu Shingan-ryu, which he taught primarily in what is now known as Sendai, Miyagi.[2] Before founding the Yagyu Shingan-ryu, Hayato studied Shindo-ryu (???) , Shinkage-ryu – Divine Shadow (???), Shuza-ryu (???), Toda-ryu (???) and (Yagyu) Shinkage-ryu – New Shadow (???).

Takenaga Hayato was clearly influenced by his studies of the Shindo-ryu of Ushu Tatewaki. Takenaga Hayato went to Edo, was employed by the Yagyu family and studied Yagyu Shinkage-ryu with Yagyu Munenori.[2] The name Yagyu Shingan-ryu was used after Hayato was directed to use the family “Yagyu” name in his art Shingan-ryu by Yagyu Munenori.[2] On return to his home in Sendai, Miyagi he taught the ashigaru until his death.

Following Takenaga Hayato the tradition was passed on to Yoshikawa Ichiroemon, thence Ito Kyuzaburo, then to Koyama Samon who traveled to Edo and became the headmaster of the Edo line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu. Koyama Samon in later years returned to his home where he continued to instruct Yagyu Shingan-ryu.

The Sendai Line of the Yagyu Shingan Ryu is under the guidance of Headmasters Shimazu Sensei (Soke ‘Chikuosha’) & Hoshi Sensei (Soke ‘Ryushinkan’).

Araki Mataemon (?? ????, 1594–1634) is credited as the spiritual founder of the Edo-line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu[1], later to become known as Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu. The Edo-line stems from headmaster Koyama Samon (1718 – 1800), who carried the art from Sendai to Edo. While Araki’s name appears on the Edo school’s historical scrolls, his actual influence on the tradition is unclear. For many, he is considered the spiritual founder of the Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu tradition. Yagyu Shingan-ryu has evolved over the centuries, with each headmaster refining the art. It is therefore plausible that Koyama Samon may have been influenced or inspired by Araki, which led to the differences in appearance and philosophy that exist today. Koyama Samon in later life returned to his home in Sendai.

Araki Mataemon was a practitioner of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, under his mentor Yagyu Munenori[1]. Legend states that Munenori drew his sword and attacked Araki unexpectedly. Araki defended himself using nothing more that a rolled-up piece of paper. After passing this final test, he was awarded menkyo kaiden by his teacher, Munenori. It is also said that Araki was Yagyu Jubei’s teacher. This is portrayed in the popular Japanese television series, “Three Generations of the Yagyu Sword.” Originally, Araki’s Shingan-ryu was known as “Araki-do.” The Edo-line legend states that it was Yagyu Jubei that granted permission for the use of the Yagyu name. Today, the Edo-line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu, under the guidance of headmaster Kajitsuka Sensei (Soke Arakido), practice the art of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu alongside Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu (Kajitsuka holds menkyo kaiden in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu).

There are two main lines of Yagyu Shingan-ryu, and a few off-shoot lineages.

The Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu (Sendai -line) is directed by Headmaster Shimazu Kenji (Chikuosha). Shimazu Kenji has studied both the Edo and Sendai line under Headmaster Aizawa Tomio (Edo line – Yorifuji den and Sendai line – Kano den) and the Sendai line under Headmaster, Hoshi Kunio (Sendai line – Hoshi den)[3]. The Yagyu Shingan-ryu Heihojutsu line under Shimazu Kenji is headquartered in Tokyo. Small but strong branches under the direct supervision of Shimazu Kenji exist in Australia (Philip Hinshelwood) and Sweden (Per Eriksson).

The Yagyu Shingan-ryu Heiho (Sendai-line) was headed by Hoshi Kunio (Ryushinkan) until his death in 2007. His grandson Hoshi Kunio II [born Hiroaki Kunio] was appointed as his successor; 18th generation headmaster [5th generation family descendant].