Tetsujin ryū, an Offshoot of Niten Ichi ryū?

Lately, I’ve been browsing through books and other sources regarding martial systems that specialize in the Japanese sword. Unlike Sengoku period, there are many of these during Edo period, most of which were created during this peaceful era. Just as there are more than one can possibly hope to remember, there are equally many that died out, Sifting through different sources tends to introduce new information. It just so happened that one of the sources mentioned a sword style I’ve never heard before, which is Tetsujin ryū (鉄人流). It has a very strong sounding name, plus seems to specialize in dueling with 2 swords.


Tetsujin ryū’s full title is “Nitō Tetsujin ryū” (二刀鉄人流). If we break down the title,  we get the following:

  • Nitō/二刀: Two swords
  • Tetsujin/鉄人: Iron man, strong man
  • ryū/流: style, manner, school of thought

This was a martial system that used the method of two swords. It was mainly taught in the far western region of Japan in Saga domain, Hizen province (present day an area divided between Saga prefecture and Nagasaki prefecture). The founder of Tetsujin ryū is tricky to discern based on current sources. On one hand, credit is given to Aoki Kyūshin Ienao (青木休心家直). From what I can understand, there is no birth date or year of death presented for him, but it is estimated that he lived during the early part of Edo period. On the other hand is Aoki Jōuemon Kaneie (青木城右衛門金家), who is the grandchild of Ienao¹. While his exact years are also unknown, it is stated that he was born in Kawachi province (present day eastern part of Ōsaka prefecture). Both claim tuteluge under the master swordsman who created Niten Ichi ryū, Miyamoto Musashi², in available documentations. In fact, Kaneie went by the nickname “Tetsujin”³.

Is it possible that they both were students of Musashi? This is uncertain, but could somehow be possible. It can be agreed that, with both Tetsujin ryū and Niten Ichi ryū being dual sword styles, it would make sense there being a connection. However, there are doubts about Ienao and Kaneie ever studying under Musashi, where for the latter it may have been under a completely different person⁴.

A chart that shows the branching connection between Shinmen Muni and those who studied under anyone connected to his martial lineage. Number 1 (red) indicates Aoki Ienao, who’s connected to Miyamoto Musashi (green). Number 2 (red) is Aoki Kaneie, who’s connected directly to Muni (blue), then has an additional branch to Miyamoto Musashi. From the book “Zusetsu – Kobudōshi”.


Here’s what is known about Tetsujin ryū. This martial system utilizes daishō (大小), which means a pair of swords consisting of one daitō (大刀, larger sword such as a katana) and a shōtō (小刀, shorter sword such as a wakizashi). This is the same for Niten Ichi ryū. From what I’ve been able to uncover, there is a list of dual sword postures, that feature both illustrations and short descriptions. In comparison to Niten Ichi ryū, there are a lot. Furthermore, the naming convention is complex and not easy to decipher.

Looking at Niten Ichi ryū first, we see that there are a total of 5 postures where dual swords are used⁵, which are the following:

  • Chūdan no kamae / 中段の構
  • Jōdan no kamae / 上段の構
  • Gedan no kamae / 下段の構
  • Migi waki no kamae / 右脇の構
  • Hidari waki no kamae / 左脇の構

These are standard posture names used in many kenjutsu systems, and are easy to understand their usage. For example, Chūdan no kamae is a “middle posture”, where the swords are positions slightly above waist height, while Jōdan no kamae is “high posture”, where both swords (especially the daitō) are held much higher.

If we look at Tetsujin ryū, sources indicate that there are a total of 16 stances. Here is, based on my understanding, how the names are read:

  • Tōgō Kiri / 當合切
  • Utetsu / 右鐵
  • Satetsu / 左鐵
  • Chūdō Bassatsu / 中道縛殺
  • In Bassatsu / 陰縛殺
  • Yō Bassatsu / 陽縛殺
  • Yōtetsu / 陽鐵
  • Intetsu / 陰鐵
  • Sōken / 總捲
  • Hitōken / 飛刀劔
  • Yō-i / 陽位
  • In-i / 陰位
  • Shin-i / 眞位
  • Jitte Dori / 實手捕
  • Kōmyō Shinken / 光明眞劔

While there are descriptions about how to assume the postures within the scroll that is public, it’s mentioned that there isn’t much else. The first 6 postures are indicated as the main ones, whereas the other 10 are more advanced postures. How each one is used and when is a mystery. On top of this, the posture names aren’t as clear as to that of Niten Ichi ryū in terms of how they are used. While some names do provide hints when tied to an illustration, such as Utetsu (right iron) and Satetsu (left iron)  indicate body orientation, other names leave alot to the imagination.

Since this martial system is shitsuden (失伝, no longer actively maintained by a successor), there are no vids or pics that’ll give us a clear presentation of it in action, unfortunately. If it is true that one of the two Aoki members did learn under Musashi, why are there many differences, both visually and descriptively, between both martial systems? Unlike today’s standards where many koryu bujutsu (traditionally transmitted martial systems) are organized to preserve the teachings across different generations, centuries ago it was not mandatory to retain the style name. Depending on one’s situation, many practitioners either kept partial of the style name but added another title (i.e. their own name) to it, or renamed it completely if they received a master license. On top of that, it was not unusual to reorganize the contents if what they learned, or even add to it. This could be the case here with Ienao/Kaneie and Tetsujin ryū.


As mentioned before, Tetsujin ryū is a sword style that existed during the Edo period. In fact, it lasted for the majority of this time period. It can be said that Tetsujin ryū is a reflection of the times; as society was governed by one ruling power, groups followed standardized rules as opposed to territorial customs & standards during an unified Japan in Sengoku period. Many martial artists began focusing more on the katana, which was shorter than the battlefield-centric tachi. This was in part due to battlefield weapons being banned by the Tokugawa rule, and the fact that katana became standard amongst warriors at the time. The usage of dual swords (katana & wakizashi) was made popular especially through the efforts of Miyamoto Musashi during the mid 1600s. Being a dual sword style, Tetsujin ryū certainly seems to be a product of Niten Ichi ryū, and openly owns up to that claim. However, there are other martial systems that similarly have dual sword techniques in their curriculum, whether they have a connection or not. Examples of this include the following:

  • Ryōken Tokichū ryū (offshoot of Tetsujin ryū)
  • Tendō ryū
  • Katori Shinto ryū
  • Musashi Enmei ryū
  • Shinkage ryū

There’s not much in terms of how Tetsujin ryū was used in actual combat or competition. There are, however, tales that highlight certain individuals. The first is “Aoki Jōuemon: Tetsujin ryū Gensō” (青木城右衛門 鉄人流元祖). This is a novel-style telling of Aoki Kaneie’s history. From this is where we learn a great deal about his life in Kawachi, and his path to becoming a martial artist, including his tutelage under Miyamoto Musashi. While considered historical text, there is no telling how much is actually truth, and what is fictional/exaggerated for the sake of storytelling.

The second is an actual diary of a Tetsujin ryū’s practitioner’s fighting experience. Entitled “Shokuni Kaireki Nichiroku” (諸国廻歴日録), it is an account of Muta Bunnosuke, who received complete licensing in Tetsujin ryu while living in Saga domain. Afterwards, from 1853 he traveled around Japan to further his skills for 2 years. It sounds like he may have been one of the last people involved with this martial system, so Bunnosuke’s diary is held in high regards. This story sounds interesting, and I personally would like to read more on it.


That wraps up my small research on Tetsujin ryū. While it is seen to have a connection to Miyamoto Musashi, Tetsujin ryū apparently was valid enough to exist on its own worth for about 2 centuries. It is an example of one of the many gems in martial arts from the past.

1) To be specific, sources say that Kaneie is Ienao’s older brother’s grandson. Guess that would be the same relationship between the 2 as well…?

2) It goes much further for Kaneie, as it is said he studied first under Shinmen Muni, Miyamoto Musashi’s father, and learned the techniques of the jitte (十手, short truncheon with a hook for capturing swords). Afterwards, he would study under Musashi.

3) Kaneie may have later changed and called his systems “Enmei ryu” and “Enmei Jitte ryu”

4) Kaneie also created his own style for utilizing the jitte, called “Tetsujin Jitte ryu”, which is thought to have come from his studies under Musashi’s father.

5) There are more, mainly in the form of variations of the initial five. Plus, there are postures for when wielding one sword.

Looking at Miyamoto Musashi’s First Treatise

Many people are familiar with Miyamoto Musashi’s famous treatise called “Gorin no Sho” (五輪の書), or commonly called “Book of 5 Rings” in English, which was written in 1645. However, in 1641 he compiled another treatise prior to this called “Heihō Sanjūgō Kajō” (兵法三十五箇条), or “35 Rules of Martial Combat”. Being an expert martial artist in the way of the sword, Musashi wrote this upon the request of Hosokawa Tadatoshi, who was a lord over Kumamoto Domain, Higo Province (present-day Kumamoto Prefecture). Believed to be the first recordings of what would later be Musashi’s self-made style “Niten Ichi ryū” (二天一流), the Heihō Sanjūgō Kajō was preserved in the densho of a kenjutsu school called “Enmei ryū¹“, which Musashi himself had a hand in starting.

Recently, as I was reviewing my copy of Gorin no Sho, I decided to also look through the Heihō Sanjūgō Kajō as well. When comparing both documentations, there are similarities as well as differences. There are those that consider the former a “draft” of the Gorin no Sho, and would sign it off for the sake of the more renown version. Some of the reasons behind this include the following:

  • Gorin no Sho is a much longer documentation with more philosophical commentary.
  • Gorin no Sho possesses much more detail on both taking up the part of a martial artist, and the techniques that are related to Niten Ichi ryu.
  • While the Gorin no Sho directly covers Musashi’s self-made style Niten Ichi ryu, the Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō, which is related a great deal, has more of an association with Enmei ryu.

However, I believe that is a premature viewpoint, especially if you are not familiar with the history behind the first documentation and which audience it was written for. Being a treatise on both fundamental and advanced techniques that can benefit a martial artist, Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō would benefit anyone who has interest in this field, even if just as an addition to one’s collection.

Looking at the similarities between both documentations, some of the rules in Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō are also included in Gorin no Sho. However, take note that the wording and/or approach expressing these differ abit between both. Furthermore, although older, Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō contains some interesting perspectives by Musashi. Let’s evaluate this with a snippet from rule #2. I will present below the Japanese, along with my English translation.

② 兵法之道見立処之事   



② Analyzing the Path of Martial Combat 

The path of martial combat is the same throughout, from the militaristic system used for large armies, down to the individualistic combative skills.

In this writing I will use individualistic combative skills as an example for the comparison. Such as, one’s head (mind) is equivalent to the commander, the hands & feet are like close subordinates such as retainers. The torso is like the foot soldiers. If, through this idea, one trains the body as if to take over a country, then the path of martial combat is, without a doubt, the same on all levels.

This is an overall comparison of the discipline for the individualist skills honed by a martial artist being the same as that needed for an army to work well and succeed. It’s an interesting one, as it may directly explain how the mindset and approach to martial combat transitioned from the battlefield to individual skirmishes during the Edo period. Take note that rule #2 of Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō is said to be related to the Earth Scroll chapter of Gorin no Sho, yet this doesn’t mean that this is a direct copy of words from one text to another. Anyone who’s familiar with both will notice that while Musashi makes references regarding the discipline of the martial artist is the same as in all professions in that particular chapter, he primarily makes that comparison using carpentry.

The following rules below are a few that offer new and unique perspectives of Musashi’s philosophy. That is, by how they are worded, as they don’t definitely fall into any of the chapters found in Gorin no Sho. Along with the original Japanese and my English translation, I will follow up with my interpretation of the meaning behind the following rules, as best as I understand. Of course, being my interpretation, this doesn’t mean that it is 100% perfect.

⑦ 間積りの事


⑦ Making Space

There are many points to this, along with needing to be there in the moment and having a presence of mind, in regards to making space around yourself. To explain this clearly hear, you must not have your mind elsewhere or on other matters. Like all paths, in order to achieve this you must have knowledge. The big picture here is to strike the opposition with your sword. To achieve this, one must have the mind of not being struck even by another person’s sword. When you do make the attempt to strike down someone, you must forget about yourself. This takes knowledge and lots of training.

For this, you control enough space around yourself, allowing room to deliver strikes, as well as avoiding any incoming ones from an opponent. When you do go forth with your attack, you must also commit to it and not hesitate, for that will leave the door open for the opposition to react.

⑳ 弦をはづすと云事


⑳ Releasing the string

To achieve this is to grasp on both the thoughts of you and your opponent. You pull yourself off line of an attack through your body, sword, legs, and mind. You will understand how to evade based on your opponent’s thoughts. This requires lots of training.

This rule is talking about being able to read what your opponent is trying to do. Simply put, one reacts accordingly to each of your opponent’s actions if you can grasp what he/she is planning next.

㉖ 残心放心の事


㉖ Freeing one’s Attentive Spirit

This is a method for you to allow things to take their natural course for some time based on the situation at hand. With our sword in hand, our attentive spirit is released as if things are normal, while our mind stays active. Or, as you strike down an enemy in a timely manner, you rest your mind, while staying attentive through intent. There are many points to be aware of when analyzing this. There is much information to gain from this.

In Japanese martial arts a fundamental skill reiterated a lot is zanshin (残心), which can be interpreted as staying attentive when a conflict has been ended. For the rule above, this goes beyond that, where one relaxes mentally yet stay attentive through intent, or vice versa.

㉛ 扉のおしへと云事


㉛ Teachings of the Door

This is about being like a tobaso (戸臍 or 枢, swinging door), where when getting close to the opponent, you quickly make yourself wider in appearance. This creates a distortion regarding enemy’s sword, and the body. It makes it that everything is exposed within the space between you and your opponent. Or, you make yourself a slim form as soon as possible as you propel your shoulder towards your opponent’s chest.

Musashi is describing how to change your body’s orientation, and uses the image of a hinged door as an example. In theory, squaring up with your opponent can be effective in many ways, including psychologically, as it gives the idea that you are a bigger target. Yet, if the enemy strikes, you turn sideways so the attack sails by, which allows you to deliver a counter strike.

Here concludes our discussion on Miyamoto Musashi’s first treatise. While the Gorin no Sho is truly the more popular one worldwide, the Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō is still an active rule set used in certain Japan martial schools that follow in the lessons of Musashi. On top of that, there are publications on this, as well as plenty of websites that cover this in detail in Japan. While a smaller read, I would recommend those serious about martial arts to read the Heihō Sanjūgo Kajō, even just once.

1) Also known as Musashi Enmei ryu (武蔵円明流).

Final Chapters of Kyohachi ryu: Yoshioka ryu

We have finally arrived to the last post regarding Kyohachi ryu. So far, I have covered not only numerous points of mystery for both Kyohachi ryu and the martial schools tied to it, but how they are elevated to supernatural heights due to these points in stories and literature. Yoshioka ryu, the martial system being discussed about today, follows in suit just like the others. What makes this martial school special is that not only the details concerning the techniques of this kenjutsu school are nowhere to be found, the family who developed this system left little traces of their existence other than what others had documented about them.

A stone sign with the words “Miyamoto Yoshioka Kettou no Chi” etched in it. It is a marker in Ichijouji Sagarimatsu, a location made famous by tales of the final showdown between the Yoshioka clan and Miyamoto Musashi. From Wikipedia.


During the 1500s to mid 1600s, there lived a family by the name of Yoshioka in the former Capital city (present day Kyoto Prefecture). Through their connection with the Ashikaga shogunate, gained a prestigious reputation. Taking advantage of their current situation, they created their own martial system called Yoshioka ryu, which bears their family name. Interestingly, the strength of Yoshioka ryu on the battlefield doesn’t appear to be documented. However, with claims of its techniques based on the teachings of Kiichi Hogen, not only is attention drawn to this family martial system, but its excellence was sealed on the same level as legendary. However, on what grounds does Yoshioka ryu stake its claim as having roots in Kyohachi ryu? Let’s take a look back at how this art started.


The Yoshioka clan’s exploits begin with their military career. This history starts, as far as it is recorded, with Yoshioka Naomoto. He was employed as a sword instructor for the Ashikaga shogunate sometime during the early-mid 1500s. Years later, his brother, Yoshioka Naomitsu, would also follow in the same footsteps and take up the same position. To gain such a position in the service of the shogun is a great honor, and possibly a testament to Yoshioka ryu’s strength as a martial system. Between the two, however, it is recorded that Naomoto actually saw combat on the field and earned merits for it. Naomitsu, on the other hand, established the family dojo in Imadegawa (in the western part of Kyoto not too far from the Imperial Palace) while still serving the shogun. This family dojo, called Heihoujo1, is where he and future generations would teach Yoshioka ryu.


In Yoshioka ryu’s lineage, Naomoto is recorded as the 1st successor, while Naomitsu is the 2nd successor. The 3rd successor, Naokata, continues with maintaining the family dojo in the late mid 1500s. He would continue the family’s tradition and work as a sword instructor for the Ashikaga shogunate, albeit part time. In certain books such as “Nitenki”2, Naokata is described as “the best swordsman in the land”3, implying that he made a quite a reputation for himself. With such a label, one would expect he must have faced many challenges against other swordsmen. There isn’t much info regarding this, save for one. It’s a duel he had with an individual by the name of Shinmen Munisai.

Screenshot of the many graves found in Rendaino.

Shinmen Munisai, a seasoned warrior and master of his own style called “Touri ryu”4, came to Kyoto and had a match arranged between him and Naokata. It was scheduled to happen on the outskirts of Kyoto at Rendaino, a large area of land where parts of it was used for vegetation, and burying the deceased. Many witnesses were there, including the shogun himself. Both men pit each of their style’s techniques against one another using bokken, and through 3 exchanges, Munisai came out as the winner as he won 2 of the exchanges. The shogun not only declared Munisai the winner, but also endowed him with the title “Unrivaled warrior in Japan”5. While considered a significant piece of the puzzle in Yoshioka’s history, it is a shame that there are no detailed descriptions on how the match progressed, or the techniques used that define Yoshioka ryu.

For Naokata, to be bested in competition in front of the shogun was probably a major blow. This doesn’t mean the ending of the world for him or Yoshioka ryu, for in defeat opens the door for growth and improvement. This defeat possibly cost the Yoshioka family their position as sword instructors for the Ashikaga shogunate, unfortunately, for there is no more talk about the future generations doing such work. One thing to point out on behalf of Yoshioka ryu, is that during the duel Naokata won the 1st exchange. To his credit, if this were a fight to the death Naokata would’ve been the sure victor. A nod in favor of a martial system representing Kyohachi ryu, perhaps?


Possibly the most talked about member is Yoshioka Genzaemon Naotsuna. Featured in many Japanese programming, books & novels, and games, Naotsuna can be considered the face of the Yoshioka clan. While his birthdate and time of death are listed as unknown in official documents, it is estimated that he lived from the last quarter of 1500s to early-mid 1600s. In “Yoshiokaden”6, it states that Naotsuna assumed the role of 4th successor of Yoshioka ryu and, through reviving this martial system7, takes charge in running the family dojo in Kyoto. Through his efforts, he launched the reputation of his family style by winning several duels, some to the death. It is even stated that he claimed the title “Best Swordsman in the Land”8.

Faith would have it that Naotsuna’s new found fame would be put to test by another who wanted to make a name for himself, who so happened to be Miyamoto Musashi.  Traveling throughout Japan at the age of 21, Musashi arrived in Kyoto in 1604 and, learning about the Yoshiokas’ reputation, sought out their residence and issued a challenge to Naotsuna. What makes this an encounter of faith is that Musashi is the son of Shinmen Munisai9, the same man that defeated Naotsuna’s father, Naokata, in a duel in front of the Shogun.


The highlight of Yoshioka ryu is the the famed duel(s) between the reputable Yoshiokas and the ambitious young swordsman named Miyamoto Musashi. This encounter was recorded years after the incident in numerous written sources by different writers, each with varying views depending on which side of the combatants they were most loyal to. Due to this, none of them are considered 100% factual since certain details10 and outcomes vary based on which source declares which side the winner. In the end, this point in the Yoshioka history is where they are most remembered, as this story is revisited in novels, movies, TV series, and comics for years in Japan despite them all telling it from differentiating viewpoints. Here’s a quick summary of two of the more well known versions, with one supporting Musashi’s side11, and the other supporting Yoshioka’s side.

Poster for the movie “Zoku Miyamoto Musashi Ichijouji no Kettou” that debuted in Japan in 1955 by Toho Studios. Tells a version of Miyamoto Musashi and his duels with the Yoshioka clan. From Wikipedia.

MUSASHI’S SIDE: Musashi and Naotsuna have their duel at Rendaino using bokken. During their exchanges, Musashi deals Naotsuna such a devastating blow that knocks him cold. Waking up later at his residence after being carried home by his students, Naotsuna is filled with grief from his defeat that he gives up walking the path of a warrior. His younger brother, Mataichi Naoshige, issues a challenge to get revenge on Musashi. Meeting at the Sanjuusan Kandou, a famous building due to its long design, Naoshige waited inside brandishing a very long bokken12. Musashi, seizing the right moment, wrestles the long bokken away and in turn beats Naoshige to death with it. A third challenge is issued by the Yoshiokas to take place at Ichijouji Sagarimatsu in Kyoto, this time with Matashichiro, the son of Naotsuna, put up for the fight. Matashichiro is only a kid, however, and would most likely be no match for Musashi due to inexperience. This fact is what the students of Yoshioka ryu were hoping to make Musashi drop his guard, as around 70 of them lie in wait around the area, wielding various weapons with intent to murder Musashi. However, Musashi caught on to this plan and, proceeding to the location unnoticed, not only cut Matashichiro down swiftly, but fought off the many students before making his escape. Thus the extermination of the Yoshioka family and the ending of Yoshioka ryu.

YOSHIOKA’S SIDE: Accepting the challenge, Naotsuna and Musashi arranged their duel to take place in front of the Kyoto Shoshidai, a government administrative building. Both using bokken, they battled intensely. At some point both men struck at each other, with Naotsuna’s bokken cutting into Musashi’s eyebrow and leaving a big bloody gash. Since stopping the blood flow was an issue, the duel had to be concluded as a draw. Naotsuna later requested another match in hopes to finish their duel appropriately, but Musashi insisted that, instead of Naotsuna, he could pit his might against the next senior of the dojo. This happened to be Naoshige. Accepting the new challenge, Naoshige and fellow students of Yoshioka ryu made their way to the designated location for the duel. They waited all day, but Musashi was a no show. In the end, Naoshige was declared the winner.


Whether the Yoshioka family truly battled with Miyamoto Musashi is still up for debate. If such a thing took place, discerning the true winner is another task difficult to approach. One thing that is certain, however, is that the Yoshioka family did survive this event and Yoshioka ryu was still active during the rest of the 1600s. There are written accounts of their later engagements, still being tied to Yoshioka ryu. I will list them in order according to dates.

In this woodblock print entitled “Honcho Kendo Ryakuden Yoshioka Kanefusa”, Yoshioka Matasaburo Kanefusa is shown fighting with the local authorities. Drawn by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and published around 1846.

① In 1614,  some members of the Yoshioka family were part of a public attendance for a sarugaku performance at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto13. One of the members got into an altercation which later got the palace guards involved and, by drawing out a hidden short sword, escalated the matter into a fight. This rash action ultimately leads to his death. There are several versions of how the commotion was started, but they all end the same way.

Most sources say that this member was Yoshioka Kiyojirou Shigekata, who was the younger brother of Naotsuna and Naoshige. Despite being a criminal act within the Imperial Palace, it didn’t mean the end of the Yoshioka family; it was only one member who fought the guards, while the others weren’t involved. Whether it’s because they didn’t know what was happening or realized the severity of accompanying their fellow brethren in a losing battle, it isn’t made clear.

② During the winter of 1614, some of the Yoshioka clan members participated in the Osaka no Jin (aka Seige of Osaka). Sources say that they were Naotsuna and Naoshige. Joining the Toyotomi forces, they assisted in protecting Osaka Castle against the army of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ultimately Osaka Castle was overtaken, forcing the Yoshiokas to withdraw from the battlefield. Returning back to Kyoto, it is said that the Yoshioka clan left the life of bujutsu behind, and instead turned their full attention to their dye business. What is this dye business and why would they get involved in such a labor all of a sudden? More on this later.

③  In 1632, there was a bujutsu competition called “Kanei Gozenjiai”14 that took place in the Edo castle. Being a friendly competition, many representatives of various martial schools participated to demonstrate their style’s strength against others. Yoshioka Matasaburo Kanefusa, a reputed kodachi expert, participated in this event as a representative of Yoshioka ryu. There are few details about this competition, and whether it really happened is still up for debate. Still, the fact that Kanefusa is even mentioned is a positive nod to Yoshioka ryu still being an active system past the point most believe it to have died out.

⑤ Speaking of Yoshioka Matasaburo Kanefusa, he appears to be a legendary figure within his clan. He been featured in various works, primarily solo from his other well known siblings…that is if he truly bears any relations with the main Yoshioka family line. For example, Kanefusa appears in a woodblock print drawn by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (shown above). There is also a book on his adventures called “Kodachi Meijin Yoshioka Kanefusa Matasaburo” (小刀名人吉岡兼房又三郎), which was published by Hogyusha Toko in 1897. In it, Kanefusa is described as a master of Yoshioka ryu Kodachijutsu (short sword techniques).

④ In a book called “Mukashi Banashi”15, a Yoshioka Kahei16 is featured in one of the stories.  It is here where Kahei explains that he is a descendant of the Yoshioka clan, and discusses abit about Yoshioka ryu Kenjutsu. No other distinguishing details about Kahei or his family.

⑤ Along with martial arts, the Yoshioka family had a separate business, where they produced a unique dye. This dye, which is called “Kenpo Iro” (Kenpo Color), is a special dark-brown color that only the Yoshioka family was able to produce for many years. It is written that one of the students of Yoshioka ryu, who was originally from China17, was very talented in producing this special dye. A dye production shop was started at Shijou Nishidouin18 in Kyoto around the mid 1600s. Today, there are few shops that have the ability to reproduce Kenpo color. There is a particular shop owned by Yoshioka Sachio who, despite bearing the same family name and sharing tales of the Yoshioka clan, claims no blood relation. You can visit Sachio’s website here.


This sums up the chapter on Yoshioka ryu. There isn’t much detailed documentation about this system, other than being a representative of Kyohachi ryu, and recollections of the incidents the Yoshioka family were involved in. Are there any scrolls, manuscripts, or training equipments that can be considered as relics of this lost art? If there are, they have not been disclosed. At this point, we can only imagine what type of kenjutsu was developed that made the Yoshioka family famous.

With this post ends my discussion on Kyohachi ryu. It is indeed a legendary methodology of kenjutsu and combat that is hard to concretely pinpoint its form and lessons. In a sense, the tales surrounding Kiichi Hogen and the 8 martial systems have lasted much longer than the techniques believed to be unbeatable.

1) 兵法場

2) 二天記. This was written by Toyota Kagehide (豊田景英) in 1776.

3) The original statement, found in the Kokura Hibun (小倉碑文), is written as “fusou daiichi no heijutsu Yoshioka” (扶桑第一之兵術吉岡). Fusou (pronounced as Fusang) is an ancient name used in China in reference to Japan.

4) 当理流

5) 日下無双兵法術者. Literal translation would be “Unrivaled warrior under the sun”. The sun reference is two-fold: 1) Japan is known as the “land of the rising sun” and 2) anything under the sun is where mortal beings (such as humans) reside, whereas “divine beings” (aka certain gods and spirits in Asian lore) live above (up in the heavens). Depending on interpretation, the phrase paints Munisai’s skills as unbeatable on a human level. However, this is only in Japan.

6) Yoshiokaden (吉岡伝) is a biography of sorts that recollects historical details of the Yoshioka family. It was written in 1684 by Fukuzumi Doyu. Certain details, however, have abit of fantasy to it, so its contents are difficult to accept as 100% trustworthy.

7) Some questions arise with Naotsuna’s claims. For starters, it indicates that Naokata had at some point retired from life as a swordsman, most likely at an early date. Books such as ” Kokura Hibun” claim that he had given up on kenjutsu after his loss to Munisai. However, due to the writters’ affiliaction with the winning side (being Miyamoto’s adopted son, Iori) there is a possibility of bias in this statement. It is abit unusual to claim reviving a martial system in Naotsuna’s case, especially since he is the next immediate generation. Maybe the real meaning is that Naokata, at some point, wasn’t actively teaching publicly. It is a possibility, but if this is the case, at least Yoshioka ryu wasn’t so inactive that it needed to be recreated.

8) 天下の兵法者 (Tenka no Heihosha). Apparently, this statement is made in Miyamoto Musashi’s book “Gorinsho”, and not by Yoshioka Naotsuna himself.

9) Historians over the years have had disagreements over discrepencies concerning Munisai’s relation with Musashi. It stems primarily on when Munisai died, who Musashi’s mother was, and the correctness of his identity. Some sources, based on a gravesite, say he died in 1580, which means he died a few years before Musashi’s birth. Others claim the date of death is incorrect, and that Munisai was alive during Musashi’s conception. Next, Munisai married twice, bearing children with his first wife. Some sources say that with his 1st wife they had a daughter and a son (Musashi). Others say that it was actually two girls, while a third child, being a boy, was adopted from another family. This boy is said to possibly be Musashi. Lastly, Munisai’s true surname is Hirata (平田), whereas Shinmen was adopted later. Apparently Munisai changed his name due to his friendly associations with a certain Shinmen clan. Identifying him to be the same can be tricky, for he may be known under one during important historical events, but then go by another later on.

10) It is not really clear what Musashi and Naotsuna used. For example, in the book “Korou Chawa” (古老茶話), it mentions that they used shinai (bamboo sword). In other sources, however, it is mentioned that bokuto (wooden sword) were used.

11) Possibly the biggest issue are the names used for the Yoshioka family in the works that support Musashi’s version. For example, Naotsuna’s name is written as “Seijurou” (清十郎). Why use different names? The reasoning is never given, thus the difficulties in learning what really happened between Musashi and the Yoshioka family. In any event, I am sticking with the names used by default for the Yoshioka family in this post for the sake of consistency and to avoid confusion.

12) The length of the bokken is stated as being 5 shaku (1 shaku = 0.9942 ft). In kenjutsu standards, this is not a normal sword size. Utilizing this bokken would be similar to that of an oodachi or nodochi, 2 types of Japanese long swords that saw more usage on the battlefield.

13) Sarugaku (猿楽) is a theatrical performance once valued in the old days of Japan. Note that normally the public are not granted entrance into the Imperial Palace to watch this, or for any event, unless on special circumstances.

14) 寛永御前試合

15) 昔咄. This book on various stories of old was written by Chikamatsu Shigemori sometime in the 1700s during Edo period.

16) 吉岡加兵衛

17) The name of this student is Li San Guan (李三官).

18) 京都四条西洞院

Musashi Versus Matabei

Miyamoto Musashi is a famous individual not only within the pages of Japanese history, but around the world through pop culture, books, and movies. Born around 1583-84, Musashi made his fame by forging himself into a skilled & fearless warrior, winning many duels, engaging in battles, and devising his own martial system called “Hyoho Niten Ichi ryu”. While one of the more prevailing images of him is claiming victory in mortal combat against other warriors like Sasaki Kojiro1 and Shishido Nanigashi2, it’s interesting to note that Musashi has won matches without spilling blood. One of those matches I will write about is against another famous individual by the name of Takada Matabei3.

A self portrait of Miyamoto Musashi by artist of the same name. Property of Shimada Museum, used from Wikipedia under their Terms of Use.

First, let’s start off with some background information. Miyamoto Musashi has been well documented for decades, so I will refrain from writing his details. Takada Matabei, on the other hand, deserves an introduction, for he is not well known as Musashi in English texts. Takada Matabei was born in 1590 in Shirakashi Mura, located in Iga Province, Japan. He trained in the martial system of Hozoin ryu, and was especially fond of yari (spear) techniques. After receiving inka4 in Hozoin ryu, Matabei would later train with other martial schools to gain further insight, and later created his own style called Hozoin ryu Takada Ha Sojutsu5 after mastering all that was taught about the yari. It is documented that Matabei didn’t care much for competition, but instead saw value in real conflict, which prompt him to take part in actual battle, such as Shimabara no Ran6. By engaging on the battlefield he became recognized for his skills as a bushi, especially when wielding the yari. His system is still taught today in Japan, being one of the well respected martial systems on the Japanese spear.

Now, for the tale about Matabei and Musashi’s encounter. There is little detail in English, other than the actual duel. In Japanese, there are slight differences in how the duel played out; sources like the Tanjihoukin Hikki7, Heiho Senshi Denki8, and Suhaku Sensei Den9 have varying perspectives from the details of the warriors’ actions to the words exchanged. However, in a recent historical publication called “Miyamoto Musashi Kokou ni Ikita Kensei”, there is a pretty extensive write up10 on both warriors’ background, first encounter, and their duel (along with some other historical details). It also appears to take details from the other Japanese sources and incorporate their points more cleanly, and presents a “complete” story.

In around 1633 A warlord named Tadazane Ogasawara (Lord Ogasawara from here on) was relocated11 to Kokura District in Buzen Province, where he was sent to rule over. Matabei was Lord Ogasawara’s vassel, and as expected was with him in this area. It just so happen that Musashi, along with his adopted son Iori12, were residing in Kokura District at the time. Matabei met them both and, training together on a regular basis, developed good relations with them.

One day, being aware about how well the 2 renowned warriors like Musashi and Matabei got along, Lord Ogasawara decided on the unexpected. He requested a friendly match between Musashi and Matabei. Although Matabei refused, Lord Ogasawara’s insistence for the duel proved to be too much to go against. In the long run Matabei had to obey his master and prepare for the match. Musashi was called to Lord Ogasawara’s castle, for the match was to take place in his presence.

Since it was a friendly bout, no live weapons would be used. Instead, training weapons were to be used to avoid bloodshed. It will follow a point system based on the person scoring a “clean” hit, whether physically or theoretically. Matabei chose a bamboo jumonji yari (in English, a cross spear), which has padding on the tip of the spear head, and a small strip of bamboo inserted about a foot under the spearhead through the shaft to act as the crossbar. Musashi, on the other hand, picked a single bokuto13, a much shorter weapon than his adversary. Due to the varying lengths of the weapons, it would play out more as an irimi shiai14, where Musashi had to get pass the spearhead of Matabei’s yari in order to beat him, while Matabei had to tag him before that happens.

Both warriors square off, with Lord Ogasawara and a small group of observers as witnesses of the match. Musashi stated that he will end the duel in 3 exchanges, claiming victory from a chuudan posture15. From a distance, Matabei also took up a chuudan posture and attacked Musashi with a thrust. Musashi, in return, evaded the attack and got pass the offense in order to close the distance. This would be considered a point to Musashi. In the second exchange, Musashi successful evaded again Matabei’s assault to close the distance. Again, a point that should be awarded in favor of Musashi. The third exchange progressed differently, where Matabei’s jumonji yari dipped down and inadvertently slipped in between Musashi’s legs. Musashi sold the idea that Matabei struck his thigh for a clean hit before he could close the distance, so he sat down onto the ground and complimented his opponent on besting him this round. However, Matabei (along with other observers) saw it differently, and believed that Musashi gave him the point. Matabei humbly replied to this, with one example as written in “Miyamoto Musashi Kokou ni Ikita Kensei” below:


Which I translate below:

“I guess I won this round, thanks to you.”

Before the duel could continue on, Matabei suddenly called for the duel to stop, put down his weapon and gave up. There are a few examples what was said, such as this below:


Which is a more romantacized version from “Miyamoto Musashi Kokou ni Ikita Kensei”. My translation of this quote below is as follows:

“The spear is a long weapon, compared to the sword, which is a shorter weapon. Despite having a considerable reach advantage, I was not able to claim victory in 3 exchanges. In the end, I am bested while wielding my long prized possession.”

It is written that Lord Ogasawara, satisfied with the display of skills from both warriors, concluded the duel at 3 exchanges and called it a draw. Possibly this was done in respect to both warriors, or to not have bad blood between both men. This isn’t clear, although most accounts agreed that Musashi was the better out of the two. The number of points claimed in the 3 exchanges also varies between sources depending on from which side the writer is loyal to, for both fighters apparently didn’t physically hit each other. Some say that Musashi got all 3, but gave the third to Matabei before he could fully close the distance. Some say that it was one a piece. There are others that say no man scored a point, thus Matabei calling quits. It is agreed, thought, that Musashi and Matabei remained friends after the duel.

This concludes the duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Takada Matabei. Hope this helps to give a clearer image of Miyamoto Musashi, one that show that he, historically, did engage in many battles, but not all ending in the death of his opponent.

1) Sasaki Kojiro is said to be a famed bushi renowned for his sword skills with an exceptionally long sword called. The popular lore is that Musashi defeats Kojiro in mortal combat on Ganryu Island, although the exact details are sketchy and vary amongst the numerous historical sources on Musashi’s life. One of the more “accepted” interpretations is this: to gain the advantage, Musashi used certain psychological tactics, such as arriving very late to infuriate Kojiro, carving a long bokken out of his oar to match Kojiro’s long reach with his sword, and taking the duel out into the ocean tides. With all these tactics in place, an enraged Kojiro attacked carelessly, giving Musashi the opening needed to strike him down.

2) Shishido Nanigashi (at times, referred to as the character Shishido Baiken from “Vagabond”, a manga about Musashi and his battle-intense lifestyle) is believed to be a famous swordsman from Iga Province in Japan. Nanigashi was especially proficient with the kusarigama, which was the chosen weapon to battle against Musashi. In the long run, Musashi bests Nanigashi using his Niten Ichi ryu, which incorporates a tachi in one hand and a wakizashi in the other. This episode is mentioned in the “Nitenki”, a biographical book written about Musashi’s adventures by Toyota Kagehide. However, most of the tales written there are based on heresay and have little evidence to back their validity.

3) Birth name is Takada Yoshitsugu (高田吉次). He is commonly referred to as Takada Matabei (高田又兵衛), where “Matabei” is a nickname.

4) Old fashioned certification stating complete transmission of a martial system has been learned.

5) Loosely translates to “Takada System of Spear Techniques, of the Hozoin Style”

6) Translated as “The Rebellion at Shimabara”, the uprising and rebelling of peasents, ronins, and Christians due to overtaxation, famine, and the persecution of followers of Christianity in the Southwestern part of Japan. This happened from 12/11/1637 to 4/12/1638.

7) A book on the life of Miyamoto Musashi written by Tachibana Houkin in 1727. He was the 5th successor of Chikuzen Niten ryu, a branch of Miyamoto’s martial system.

8) Another book on Miyamoto Musashi written by Niwa Nobuhide in 1782. He was the 7th successor of Chikuzen Niten ryu, and the grandson of Tachibana Houkin.

9) An autobiography written by Matabei, under the pen name Suhaku.

10) The writeup is entitled, “Musashi to Taiketsu Shita Sannin no Bugeisha Houzoin Ryu Takada Ha Sojutsu Takada Matabei”, written by Matsubara Hideyo, and published by Shinjinbutsu Ouraisha in 11/11/2002.

11) The word used in Japanese is tenpuu (転封), which means a forced relocation of a feudal lord from one area to another, mandated by the Shogun. In Lord Ogasawara’s case, it is the same situation. Despite how rough it sounds, the feudal lord is paid by the Shogunate for this relocation, so it’s not so bad a deal.

12) His real name was Sadatsugu prior to being in the care of Musashi. One of the 2 adopted sons of Musashi, the other being Mikinosuke.

13) It is said that at this time, Musashi hasn’t fully developed his “Niten Ichi” method, thus using only a single bokuto.

14) Meaning of this phrase can be interpreted as so: “to engage in a competitive match of getting inside the opposition’s weapon and closing the distance”. In the case of weapons, usuaully referring to the individual who is pitted against a spear wielding opponent. When practicing against the yari, the underlining principle is to get in the space anywhere between the wielder and the spearhead, thus neutralizing its threat of being stabbed so to attack safely. In defense, the spearman keeps the opposition out by maintaining distance so to strike successfully.

15) Translates as “middle level”, the weapon is held up and pointing forward around midsection height.