Kendo Nippon Article on Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu
This is a free translation and adaptation to English from the article published in the September 2007 issue of Kendo Nippon Magazine.
The translators don’t have neither English and Japanese as primary language and ask for any commentary to help to improve the text.
Budo no Michi: The Martial Path
The satisfaction to undergo
Yoshimoti Kiyoshi・Ishii Toyozumi (Oita Prefecture)
Returning to their home town of Usa, they follow in the path of their teacher, continuing the unbroken practice and inheriting the techniques of the koryu Bujutsu schools – Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu and Sekiguchi Ryu – that were taught to them in their childhood.
[Yoshimochi Kiyoshi］- Born in Usa city, Oita Prefecture, in the year Showa 23 (1947). In the 4th grade of elementary school learned from his father, Master Gosho Motoharu, the techniques of Sekiguchi Ryu iai and kendo; in high school learned the techniques of Hyoho Niten Ichi ryu. In the year Heisei 6 (1994), received Menkyo Kaiden (initiation in all the mysteries and secrets of an art) in Sekiguchi ryu; in Heisei 10 (1998), in Niten Ichi ryu; in Heisei 19 (2007), he was inducted as 12th generation successor of the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu. He also holds the rank of Iaido 7th Dan and Kendo 4th Dan. Works at the Oita Tsutsumi metalworks.
[Ishii Toyozumi］- Born in Usa city, Oita Prefecture, in the year Showa 28 (1952). Started kendo in elementary school; in middle school started practicing kendo and Sekiguchi Ryu with Gosho Motoharu Hanshi. Has a degree from the Oita Dentistry School. At the age of 37 started a business with the United States company Dental Lab. In the year Heisei 3 (1991), representing Oita Prefecture, won 3rd place at the All-Japan Iaido championship, 5th Dan division; 2nd place the following year. In 1995, now in the 6th Dan category, won second place. He holds Iaido 7th Dan and Kendo 4th Dan.
The two heirs of the great master Musashi
The Kyoto Taikai 1, which takes place every May at the Kyoto Butokuden, opens with a traditional demonstration of Bujutsu schools, with the representatives from each school demonstrating paired kata according to type: Kenjutsu, Kusarigama, Jojutsu, and so on.
Yoshimochi Kiyoshi-san and Ishii Toyozumi-san have represented the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu and Sekiguchi Ryu at the Butokuden since the year Heisei 15 (2003). Today they are 58 and 54 years old, respectively. Since their childhood they have received the teachings of Gosho Motoharu, Hanshi2, first in Kendo, then in this classical styles.
More than half a century ago, in Kumamoto, master Gosho learned these techniques directly from master Aoki Kikuo (deceased in Showa 44 - 1967), Soke (headmaster) of both Miyamoto Musashi’s Niten Ichi Ryu and Sekiguchi Ryu Iaijutsu. “Gosho-Hanshi trained us and strengthened the conviction that to practice kendo, even children should learn Iai and Kenjutsu”, they say.
At the Kyoto Taikai demonstration this year they represented the Niten Ichi Ryu, demonstrating the Nito Seiho3, with Yoshimochi-san as Uchidachi and Ishii-san as Shidachi.
Yoshimochi-san declares: “Although the Seiho of the Niten Ichi Ryu is defined as kata, this doesn’t just mean to do pre-defined movements. When Uchidachi’s blade is about to strike you, dodge at the last moment and, at the same time, strike him. If you don’t practice in this way, you won’t be able to understand the spirit of Kenjutsu”. Ishii-san says: “O-Sensei always tells us during the practices: ‘Put your all into it!’”
To Ishii-san, the Sekiguchi Ryu works this way too: “The essence of Sekiguchi Ryu is to draw the sword fast, and cut fast; a mortal technique. There can be no hesitation! When you draw, cut immediately.” Yoshimochi Sensei agrees: “My father tells us to think that the swords don’t exist... in reality they exist, but anyway when you draw, cut! That’s it!”
Years ago, again at the Kyoto Butokuden, Gosho Motoharu impressed spectators with the techniques of the Sekiguchi Ryu, showing the explosive Kiai, the leaping footwork, and the sharpened magnificence of the sword. Yoshimochi, who grew up watching him since childhood, still remembers the time when he was in primary school and was taken by his father to the Kiyomasa shrine, in Kumamoto, where he witnessed a ceremony followed by an Embu (Budo demonstration) and met with master Aoki. As he tells us: “My father, who had been fighting in the southern front lines, returned to teaching in Usa and was invited by Kiyonaga Tadanao-Sensei, a kendo mate, to become a disciple of the Soke of Niten Ichi Ryu and Sekiguchi Ryu iai, Aoki-Sensei from Kumamoto. I believe that was when I was three. Kumamoto is far from Usa, and in those days the trains weren’t as convenient as they are today; even so, my parents went to Kumamoto every Sunday. When kendo practice resumed after the war, my father founded a kendo club when I was in first grade and opened the dojo to youngsters. Thatvs where he began teaching me the iai of Sekiguchi Ryu. At that time, Kiyonaga-Sensei and my father did a Kobudo demonstration during the summer festival at Usa Shrine4. In December of the year Showa 33 (1958) a tournament was organized to commemorate the return of the Akashi Bokuto, Musashi’s legacy that Aoki-Sensei left in the care of his disciple in Taiwan when [Japanese troops] withdrew after the defeat in the war. At the competition a picture was taken. I was there too.”
Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu and Sekiguchi-ryu Iaijutsu
When Aoki Sensei was Soke, the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu was practiced in Kumamoto, as it had been since the time of the Hosokawa clan.
The disciples of master Aoki in Usa faithfully followed his instructions: “Those who practice this style, study Sekiguchi-ryu Iai too!”
When teaching Sekiguchi Ryu iai to children who practice kendo, they have also performed Tameshigiri (test cutting with the sword). The Usa group held Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu and Sekiguchi Ryu demonstrations at local Youth Kendo Tournaments, and since then, the young kenshi of Usa have felt the close ties with Kobujutsu.
Ishii-san was one of the youngsters who started practicing in elementary school. He had Gosho-Hanshi as sensei during primary school, as he tells us: “Sensei didn’t have us use a replica sword, but one of his own katana which he had shortened. The Sekiguchi Ryu is a style that moves from a static point, with cutting performed during jumps. If you start practicing during adulthood, the lack of training makes it difficult and destabilizes the movements, while for us kids, we could assimilate the movements with the body, as Sensei instructed us during practices. Any time Gosho-Sensei was transferred to a new school, the Kendo Club there would become strong; but, regardless of the school or the club, he always made them practice iai. With the seitei iai of the Japan Kendo Federation spreading, that was practiced until students reached 2nd Dan, whereupon the students started learning Sekiguchi Ryu. Many young people from Usa participated in these classes. We were always impressed when watching them. But when they finished high school most of them moved away from Usa to go to college or to start their careers. That was my case as well”.
In the year Showa 42 (1967), the 『Seishin Chokudo no Hi』, a monument to the succession of generations of the Niten Ichi Ryu was erected at Usa Shrine. Master Aoki passed his position as Soke to Kiyonaga, and Gosho-Hanshi became Shihan (teaching master) of the 9th Generation. However, just before retiring, Kiyonaga died suddenly due to an illness. Gosho Hanshi was stretched to his limit, busy with being a ZNKR Iai and Kendo instructor, while also teaching Sekiguchi Ryu and Niten Ichi Ryu to the children in Usa. Imai Masayuki, a disciple in Usa, became the 10th generation Soke; The 15th generation of the Sekiguchi-ryu was entrusted to Yonehara Kameo-san from Kumamoto.
The duties of Soke suddenly assigned; preserving the old traditions to the present day
At the end of the Showa period (1990), after some time away from Usa, both men returned to their home town.
Ishii-san started to attend Gosho-Hanshi’s dojo at the Nagisa pre-school.
After a while, when children started to attend the practices at the club, Yoshimochi-san began to oversee training. The iai, as usual, was also observed by Gosho Hanshi, who taught the students one-on-one. The training schedule was determined according to what was convenient for the students. Sometimes there were two or three practices in one day. As they had in their childhood, Yoshimochi-san and Ishii-san continued making demonstrations at the New Year’s and Summer festivals at the Usa Shrine.
During the time when the two were away from Usa, Gosho-Hanshi was worried that kendo itself was progressing, but there was a lack of interest in [the techniques and spirit of] kobudo. He wrote in his notes: “Aware of the imperfection of my own training, I hereby set forth this record of the Niten Ichi Ryu.” At the time the two returned to training, he had completed a booklet entitled “Explanation about Sekiguchi Ryu Iaijutsu”.
“When there were people with a lot of enthusiasm to learn Sekiguchi Ryu and Niten Ichi Ryu, my father made me go with him and be their training partner. As for the techniques taught to me in my childhood, my father transmitted only thought short instructions and chin movements. As my schedule wasn’t compatible with Ishii-san’s, we usually trained separately. As he practiced ZenKenRen Iai a lot, he became the prefecture’s 5th Dan representative at the national iaido tournament in Heisei 3 (1991).”
In his first outing, Ishii-san got third place; in the next year he placed second in the Tokyo tournament. After earning 6th Dan the next year he competed across Japan for 3 years and entered the 3° tournament in Kumamoto, where he won second place. Noting the performance of the young Sekiguchi Ryu practitioner, many older Hanshi told Gosho-Hanshi: “You are creating a fine disciple!”
At that time Yoshimochi-san and Ishii-san started practicing Niten Ichi Ryu together.
“I always observed the Niten Ichi Ryu techniques and participated in some training sessions. After the Kumamoto tournament I got sick and did not compete; however in Heisei 12 (2000) I became 7th dan, and that year Oita hosted the All-Japan Tournament, where my colleague and fellow Sekiguchi Ryu student Kubo Jun’Ichi won first place. I think that since then, sword techniques based in real combat, like Sekiguchi Ryu - with its Kesagiri (diagonal cut) from a kneeling position, the Fumichigai (foot switch) and Tobichigai (jumping footwork), where you cut using the body and using the hips - are getting more attention.”
In Heisei 15 (2003), while the broadcast of the popular NHK drama “Miyamoto Musashi” was inspiring a Musashi “boom”, the Soke of the 10th generation of the Niten Ichi Ryu announced the succession to the 11th generation. Three people were to be entrusted: Kiyonaga Fumiya, son of Kiyonaga-Soke of the 9th generation; Iwami Toshio, direct disciple of the 10th Soke; and the Taiwan disciple of master Aoki.
“The succession to the 11th generation had nothing to do with me, so I just continued practicing together with Ishii-san. It was enough for us to carry on the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu and the Sekiguchi Ryu as practiced in Usa, with the goal to carry on my father’s teachings, as usual. However Kiyonaga Fumiya, to whom the legacy was transmitted, passed away suddenly due to an illness, the same way his father had died. When we least expected it, a direct disciple of Kiyonaga in Nakatsu and his disciple in Brazil asked to visit Gosho Sensei. That was, even for me, a great surprise.”
The Usa City Kendo Federation was concerned about the future of the Kobudo of the Niten Ichi Ryu and Sekiguchi Ryu. The federation talked to the wife of the deceased 9th Soke Kiyonaga, and with the disciples of 10th generation Imai Soke and Kiyonaga Soke of the 11th generation. Yoshimochi-san was chosen, by request of the Kendo Federation of Usa City, in April of this year as ”Legitimate successor of the 12th generation of the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu” (Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu Seito Dai Junidai).
Yoshimochi Sensei says: “In the same way as we have done until now, I demonstrate Embu with Ishii-san, I teach and I don’t miss a practice. I just continue teaching Kobudo in Usa, as my father does.”
A short time ago, on a Sunday in July, there was a kendo and iaido seminar sponsored by the Usa Kendo Federation. In the afternoon, Yoshimochi-san and Ishii-san taught Kendo Kata and Sekiguchi-ryu to beginners and Yudansha (dan holders). In Yoshimochi-san’s group, among the adults, there were 3 junior high school students. When the class finished, the only ones with enough energy left to do nukitsuke and vigorously yell “IYEI!” were these three. Some in the veteran group commented that they hadn’t practiced enough. With a smile, Ishii-san showed his techniques. That was a harmonious class.
1 - The Kyoto Taikai is one of the most import tournaments in Japan, where the most ranked Kendo masters compete.
2 - Hanshi is the highest Shogo (titles) given to Kendo and Iaido master.
3 - Nito Seiho is the Niten Ichi Ryu’s set of techniques with two swords. It’s composed by 5 katas described in the Book of Five Rings (Gorin No Sho)
4 - Usa Shrine, located in Oita Prefecture, was built in the 7th century and is famous as the head shrine of the Shinto god of war, Hachiman.