About Jigen-ryu Hyoho
Jigen-ryu Hyoho is a style of swordsmanship founded by Togo Tobei Bizen no Kami Chui (1561-1643) that was unique to the Satsuma domain.
Chui began learning the martial arts formally at the age of 7, initially studying a school called Taisha-ryu. At the age of 13 he is said to have killed a thief using his dagger. In 1578, at the age of 18, Chui participated in his first battle, at Mimigawa, against the Otomo clan from Bungo province. He received a license of full initiation into the secrets of Taisha-ryu in his early twenties. In 1587 Chui accompanied the 16th lord of Satsuma, Shimadzu Yoshihisa, to Kyoto. While staying in Kyoto Chui met a Buddhist monk named Zenkichi, who was rumored to be an expert in a style of swordsmanship called Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu. After losing to Zenkichi in a duel Chui persuaded the monk to teach him, and spent the next six months training intensively. Chui received a license in Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu at the age of 28.
By 1589 Chui had returned to Satsuma. He spent the next three years in ascetic training alone at his villa. Chui repeatedly struck persimmon trees using a wooden sword as part of his practice, eventually killing off all of the trees in his garden.
The result of his training was a combination of the essences of Taisha-ryu and Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu. Word spread about this new style of swordsmanship, and many challengers came to test Chui’s skills. It is said he was undefeated in 46 duels.
At the age of 44, Chui was promoted to the position of instructor of swordsmanship for the Satsuma domain after defeating the previous fencing master. The 18th lord of Satsuma, Shimazu Iehisa became his patron, and Chui was instructed to change the name of his new style. A monk named Nanpo Bunshi based the name Jigen-ryu on the phrase “jigen jinzu riki” from the Lotus Sutra, retaining the phonetic reading of Tenshinsho Jigen-ryu, but changing the kanji it was written with. Jigen-ryu became an integral part of the training and mind-set of Satsuma warriors.
Jigen-ryu has been passed down unchanged from father to one son over the past 400 years to the 13th generation headmaster, Togo Shigetaka. A wealth of historical records also remain, documenting the inner secrets of the school.
The techniques and mentality of Jigen-ryu
Chui was asked what the essence of Jigen-ryu was by a student, and answered as follows.
The meaning of Jigen-ryu is to polish your and sharpen your beloved sword, then secure it firmly into its scabbard, say nothing rude, do nothing rude or offensive, always have correct manners, and never draw your sword.
One of the hand guards made by Chui has two small holes which could be used to pass a thread through securing the sword in its scabbard and making it more difficult to draw in anger.
One of Chui’s students was suddenly involved in a confrontation and remembering this teaching didn’t reach for his sword as the opponent approached. Just as he thought he was about to be cut down, he realized that his sword was drawn and his opponent was lying dead in front of him. The teaching “swords are not to be drawn” warns against unnecessary killing and that when in danger having no doubts and being in a state of munen-muso is the central teaching of this school of swordsmanship.
Training in Jigen-ryu
In many schools of swordsmanship practitioners bow to each other before beginning training, but in Jigen-ryu training partners are viewed as the enemy from the outset, and thus no courtesy is required. Jigen-ryu practitioners only bow when entering and leaving the dojo, and picking up and replacing weapons.
The basic posture of Jigen-ryu is tonbo-no-kamae, with the right hand raised high against the side of the head. Tonbo-no-kamae is difficult for beginners to get right, but it is the foundation for all of the techniques of the school.
Tategi-uchi is the fundamental practice in Jigen-ryu. Practitioners repeatedly strike a hard wooden post embedded in the ground using a wooden sword. The target is approached from a distance of around 9 meters, and then struck repeatedly on the left and right sides while screaming “Ei!” Tategi-uchi teaches distance, timing, correct grip, use of the hips, and speed.
In the Edo period Jigen-ryu adepts were instructed to strike the tategi “3000 times in the morning, 8000 times at night.”
Kata, or pattern practice is also a key method of training in Jigen-ryu. The first kata studied is called empi (swallow’s flight). Empi contains all of the fundamental movements of Jigen-ryu. The two roles in empi are called dashi and tsuke. Dashi is based on movements found in the Taisha-ryu school of swordsmanship, and is generally performed by the more experienced practitioner. Tsuke uses the techniques of Jigen-ryu to attack openings provided by the more experienced partner.
Ranking in Jigen-ryu
Jigen-ryu has four dan grades, and is thought to be the first school to use such a system. Before the dan grades there are two lower level grades called shodo and ryodo.
The kata learned at each level are;
*There is also an extracurricular technique called yaridome
Chui learned the twelve techniques from shodan to yondan from his teacher Zenkichi, and created the shodo and ryodo kata himself, feeling that the core of the school was too difficult for beginners to comprehend.
All practitioners of Jigen-ryu are members of the “Jigen-ryu Monyukai”.
Joining fee : ￥20,000 (paid only once on joining the school)
Day: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday