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Brief History of Jikishinkage-ryu


Jikishinkage-ryu is one of the kenjutsu ryuha or ryugi (style, school) which gained its influence of a new method of practice called shinai-uchi (shinai means bamboo sword, uchi means to hit), in which swordsmen with dogu or bogu (protective gears) actually hit and thrust each other with a shinai . Jikishinkage-ryu became very popular among young samurai in the middle Edo jidai.

The original founder of the school was Sugimoto Bizennokami Masamoto. Sugimoto was a very talented fine swordsman and named his style of kenjutsu Shinkage ryu. Sugimoto taught many followers and one of his leading students, Kamiizumi Isenokami Hidetsuna, named his own school Shinkage ryu (the same pronunciation as Sugimoto’s Shinkage ryu, but Kamiizumi used different kanji).

Then, Kamiizumi’s student Okuyama Magojiro Kimihide named his school Shinkage-ryu (also same pronunciation as Sugimoto and Kamiizumi’s Shinkage ryu, but Okuyama used another kanji). Okuyama’s Shinkage-ryu was succeeded by Ogasaawra Genshinsai Nagaharu. Ogasaawra also arranged and developed Okuyama’s Shinkage-ryu and named his school Shin-Shinkage ryu.

Ogasawara’s student Kamiya Denshinsai Sanemitsu called his school Shinkage-Jikishin ryu. Kamiya’s student Tahakashi Jikiosai (Danjozaemon) Shigeharu, who later became the teacher of Jikishinkage ryu’s founder, Yamada Heizaemon, called his school Jikishin-Seito ryu.


original founder        Sugimoto Bizennokami Masamoto          Shinkage ryu(神陰流)

the second                  Kamiizumi Isenokami Hidetsuna             Shinkage ryu(新陰流)

the third                     Okuyama Magojiro Kimihide                     Shinkage ryu(神影流)

the fourth                   Ogasaawra Genshinsai Nagaharu            Shin-Shinkage ryu(真新陰流)

the fifth                      Kamiya Denshinsai Sanemitsu                 Shinkage-Jikishin ryu(新陰直心流)

the sixth                     Tahakashi Jikiosai Shigeharu                    Jikishin-Seito ryu(直心正統流)

the seventh                Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori                Jikishinkage ryu(直心影流)


Founder of Jikishinkage-ryu

Yamada Heizaemon, the founder of Jikishinkage-ryu, arranged kata and developed the techniques he learned from Takahashi. Yamada established his own school and named “Jikishinkage-ryu” in 1683. After the age of civil wars (sengoku-jidai) samurai enjoyed a long period of peace and tranquility and by the time of Yamada, almost 100 years after the age of civil wars, most of kenjutsu schools practiced only kata and their training was away from actual fighting.

Yamada was a samurai of Karasuyama han (Karasuyama is today’s Karasuyama city in Tochigi prefecture, and han means a feudal clan) and a retainer of the lord Nagai family. He began his kenjutsu training when he was very young. It is unknown when Yamada actually began his training and who was his teacher.

At the age of 19, Yamada had a match with a swordsman Ose Yahei by using bokuto (wooden sword) and they were both badly injured so Yamada had to stop kenjutsu training. After a while, at the age of 32, Yamada had chance to know Jikishinseito-ryu kenjutsu which used a shinai (bamboo sword) and a protective gear for the training. Yamada was impressed by the new and safer training method, so he started kenjutsu training again under Tahakashi Danjyozaemon, the founder of Jikishinseito-ryu. Yamada trained hard and finally obtained a menjo, or also called menkyo (license) from Takahashi when he was 46 years old.

Along with his training, he kept on developing the protective gears and made men (iron made face guard) and kote (hand protector). Yamada died February 19, 1716 at the age of 78. Jikishinkage-ryu was succeeded by Naganuma Shirozaemon Kunisato, the third son of Yamada. Naganuma Kunisato was born in 1688 and began kenjustu training at the age of 8 under his father Yamada. At the age of 21, he obtained a menjo and opened his own dojo at Shiba Atagoshita, Edo(today’s Minato-ku, Tokyo). He was extremely talented swordsman both in character and kenjutsu skill so many young samurai rushed to his dojo to learn under Naganuma. Soon Jikishinkage-ryu became widespread. He taught thousands of swordsmen and brought up 43 students of menjo (menkyo).

Naganuma Shirozaemon died July 24, 1767.


Dogu (Today, the word Bogu is more commonly used)

The biggest achievement of Yamada and Naganuma was that they developed strong face guard which was made of iron and other protective gears so that their students could actually hit and thrust each other harder and safely. The former face guard used by Takahashi were made of bamboo or rattan so it was weaker. Although many kenjutsu dojo at that time were critical to shinai-uchi training, but about 40 years latter Nakanishi Chuzo Tanetake of Itto-ryu also adopted shinai-uchi, and more and more dojo started shinai-uchi training along with kata training.


Menjyo of Jikishinkage-ryu

Naganuma also arranged and put the grade of license in order. Naganuma set 4 levels of license. Later, Fujikawa dojo which was a big branch of Naganuma dojo also added Reiken for beginners and set 5 levels of license.


Naganuma and his branch dojo

  1. Kirigami (Heiho Kyuri-no-maki)
  2. Mokuroku

Mokuroku soejo

  1. Menjo
  2. Meiken


Fujikawa and his descended dojo

  1. Reiken
  2. Kirigami (Heiho Kyuri-no-maki)
  3. Mokuroku

Mokuroku soejo

  1. Menjo
  2. Meiken



Kata of Jikishinkage-ryu consists of Hojo (4 kata), Fukuro-shinai(or to-no-kata, 14 kata), Ko-shinai(or kodachi, 6 kata), Ko-ryu (4 kata), O-ko-ryu (4 kata), Maruhashi (5 kata), and Sayanouchi (or so called iai in other schools, 54 kata).


End of Tokugawa era

Jikishinkage-ryu became one of the biggest kenjutsu schools at the end of Edo jidai. During the bakumatsu era, kenjutsu took another major step in its evolution. In June 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry’s flotilla of “Black Ships” arrived from the United States to coerce Japan into opening diplomatic and commercial relations with the West. External pressure forced the Tokugawa bakufu to reassess the nation’s deffence, and  the Tokugawa bakufu established Kobusho (literally means the place or dojo to teach martial arts, it was a Tokugawa bakufu’s public dojo where samurai were instructed primarily in the arts of kenjutsu, sojutsu, hojutsu, kyujutsu, and jujutsu) in 1856.

Odani Seiichiro Nobutomo, a Jikishinkage ryu kenshi, was appointed to the President and the kenjutsu shian of Kobusho. Odani was born in 1810 as the second son of Odani Chunojyo, a retainer of Tokugawa Shogun. He started to learn Jikishinkage-ryu under Danno Gennoshin when he was a little child. He was one of the finest and the most famous swordsman at that time. He was very good at shinai-uchi, and many samurai including from other ryuha visited him to train with him. He was also a person of character and he was called the “Saint of kenjutsu”. Odani died in 1864, and after 7 years from Odani’s death, the age of samurai ended.

2011.07.14 – Sakai Kazuya (Naganuma-ha)