The History of Yagyū Shinkage Ryū
2-1. The Birth of Shinkage-Ryū
During the Warring States Period, about 500 years ago, Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Fujiwara Hidetsuna (later Nobutsuna) from Jōshu (currently Gunma Prefecture) familiarized himself with many schools of the sword and spear at a young age. Among them, he learned Kage Ryū (Shadow School) from its founder Aisu Ikosai, and then created Shinkage Ryū (New Kage Ryū) after discovering the principal which he called “marobashi”.
Yagyū Sekishūsai Munetoshi was a famous swordsman in the Yamato region (currently Nara Prefecture). On the way to Kyoto, Ise-no-kami met with Yagyū Sekishūsai by introduction of Kitabatake Tomonori, the lord of Ise domain, at Hōzōin, a branch temple of Kōfukuji Temple, under the presence of Hōzōin Inei. After losing a match with Ise-no-kami, Sekishūsai became his disciple in order to thoroughly master Shinkage Ryū. “Sekishūsai learned from Ise-no-kami and made his own development, mutō-no-kurai (the concept of “no sword”). After approving Sekishūsai’s mutō-no-kurai, Ise-no-kami made him the second headmaster of Shinkage Ryū.”
Sekishūsai and his fifth son, Munenori, later demonstrated Shinkage Ryū before Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. Due to that meeting, Munenori was employed by Lord Ieyasu, and became a teacher of heihō(swordsmanship) for 2nd and 3rd Tokugawa Shoguns, Lord Hidetada and Lord Iemitsu. As a result, the name Shinkage Ryū became well known throughout the entire country. Munenori became the founder of the “Edo Yagyū”. However the “Edo Yagyū” lost the Yagyū family bloodline in the time of Yoshikata, the great-grandson of Munenori.
The tradition was passed from Toshitoshi, the 3rd headmaster of Shinkage Ryū; to Tokugawa Yoshinao the first lord of the Owari Tokugawa Domain; to Yagyū Toshikane; to Tokugawa Mitsutomo, the second lord of the Owari Tokugawa Domain. Until the Meiji Restoration, the lineage was passed down by eleven heads of Yagyū family and seven lords of Owari Domain (one of the seven lords died before ascending to the lordship).
2-2. Yagyū Shinkage Ryū in Modern Era
Even though Japanese swordsmanship had great difficulty surviving after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the 19th headmaster, Yagyū Toshichika, and his assistants continued their activities with great effort throughout the Meiji Era to preserve the tradition of Shinkage Ryū. From 1913 to 1921, Toshichika and Toshinaga taught Yagyū Shinkage Ryū at the Saineikan Dōjō of the Imperial Household, in accordance with the Meiji Emperor’s will to permanently preserve Yagyū Shinkage Ryū. Unfortunately, the mission ended due to the reorganization of the Imperial Guards in 1921.
The 20th headmaster, Yagyū Toshinaga, based Yagyū Shinkage Ryū in Tokyo. At the Hekiyōkan, built by Yagyū Fusayoshi and his son Kazuyoshi, and at the Kongōkan built by the Owari Yagyū family after the closure of the Hekiyōkan, he made an effort to spread Shinkage Ryū further. He was the master instructor of the Imperial Guard Officers Organization and also taught seminars at the Butokukai (martial arts training academy) branch schools through Japan. The Hekiyōkan was donated to Enkaku-ji Temple in Kamakura and now it is used as Zen Dōjō Kojirin.
During WWII, the Nagoya Dōjō, which had existed since the days of the 3rd head master Hyōgonosuke Toshitoshi, burned down. Shinkage Ryū again faced difficulties in continuing its activities.
In 1955, Toshinaga established the Tokyo Yagyūkai with the support of Ishida Kazuto, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, among others, and resumed his activities to preserve Shinkage Ryū.
He wrote “Shōden Shinkage Ryū”“The correct transmission of Shinkage Ryū”(Published by Kodan Sha in 1957, later republished by Shimazu Shobō) to record the history and theories of Shinkage Ryū.
The 21st head master, Nobuharu Toshimichi took over the leadership of the Yagyūkai in 1966. He began holding lectures at the Yagyūkai Tokyo Getsurei-kai (monthly meeting) in 1969 and spread the Yagyūkai to branches in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.
We began using the name Yagyū Shinkage Ryū Heihō instead of simply Shinkage Ryū in April 1988 to make clear that Shinkage Ryū has been passed down by the Yagyū family.
Nobuharu Toshimichi passed away in May 2007 and the 22nd headmaster, Kōichi Toshinobu became the 16th head of Yagyū family.
Currently, the Yagyūkai continues its activities of maintaining Yagyū Shinkage Ryū under the supervision of the headmaster at regional Yagyūkai in Nagoya, Tokyo, Kansai, Anjo, US and Hong Kong.