Yagyu Shingan Ryu

Yagyu Shingan Ryu (柳生心眼流), is a traditional school (koryu) of Japanese martial arts. Different schools of Yagyu Shingan-ryu, that is the Heihojutsu and Taijutsu although related should not be confused and assert different founders, but they all go back to Ushu Tatewaki (羽州 帯刀), referred to in some historical scrolls as Shindo Tatewaki, who taught a system based on Sengoku-period battlefield tactics, that was called Shindo-ryu.

The classical tradition of Yagyu Shingan ryu as a whole is an ancient tradition of Heiho (Strategy and Tactics) founded by TAKENAGA HAYATO during the early Edo period (circa 1600). The Heiho of Yagyu Shingan ryu emphasises old customs, various weapons and kacchu yawara (grappling in armour) and has a reputation for its lethal intent. Currently, it is practiced predominately in Japan, but there are authorized branches in both Australia and Northern Europe.

The word shingan (心眼) is rooted in Zen philosophy, and was chosen to describe a fundamental concept of the style. Shingan means “mind’s eye”, or “heart’s eye”, and refers to the ability to sense an opponent’s thoughts or feelings via an inner sense. Originally called simply Shingan-ryu, it was later renamed Yagyu Shingan-ryu, due to the influence of Yagyu Tajima No Kami Munenori’s Yagyu Shinkage-ryu.

Yagyu Shingan-ryu was created to be a battlefield art with a large comprehensive curriculum of weapons, and grappling techniques for use both while armoured and unarmoured. The techniques of Yagyu Shingan-ryu were therefore designed to eliminate an enemy quickly and effortlessly.

In the early days, both the Yagyu Shingan and Shinkage schools were similar, as both consisted of an array of armed and unarmed combat techniques.

However, as the two schools evolved, the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu focused primarily on swordsmanship (kenjutsu), whereas the Yagyu Shingan-ryu continued as a comprehensive combat system, training several arts, including jujutsu, quarterstaff fighting (bojutsu), glaive fighting (naginatajutsu), sword drawing techniques (iaijutsu) and sword fighting (kenjutsu).

History: Sometimes still referred to as Shingan 心眼 (heart’s eye) ryu 流 (school) this classical tradition was founded by the bushi (warrior) TAKENAGA HAYATO 竹永隼人兼次(直入・金次・勝廣)and was based on battlefield principles (Heiho) developed during the later half of the Sengoku period. Whilst developing the Yagyu Shingan ryu Takenaga was clearly influenced by his studies of the Shindo ryu 神道流 of Ushu Tatewaki Katsuyoshi (Shindo Tatewaki). As a result of his influence Ushu Tatewaki is acknowledged first in the genealogy within the development of the Yagyu Shingan ryu.

Takenaga also studied the Shuza ryu 首座流, 1Shinkage ryu 神影流, Toda ryu 戸田流 and he received the gokui (secret teachings) of the 1Yagyu Shinkage ryu 柳生 新陰流 from Yagyu Tajima No Kami Munenori (1571 – 1646). As far as we can ascertain it was during Takenaga Hayato’s service and studies as a disciple of Yagyu Munenori, he became the first person outside the Yagyu family directed to adopt the name Yagyu 柳生 in his tradition, and thus the Yagyu Shingan ryu 柳生心眼流 was founded.

Later he returned to his home in the remote countryside of Sendai where he taught the farmer/warriors (Ashigaru) until his death. His teachings becames so popular that many became disciples of the tradition. Although his date of birth and death is not known to us, it is thought Takenaga Hayato existed during the early Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600) and the early Edo period (1600-1868).

Takenaga Hayato acquired a place where he could live in peace and changed his name to JIKINYU. Until the end of his life he worked instructing the martial spirit of the Shingan ryu in the Sendai domain where he lived in seclusion.  An inscribed stone memorial tablet, erected several centuries ago in honour of the founder, depicts in detail ‘Master Student Service’. The memorial is located a short distance from the estate of Takenaga Hayato which has also been recorded for historical purposes by the Momo Cho Education Committee (see gallery).

Shimazu Kenji Sensei in Yoroi

Three generations later, Koyama Samon (1718-1800) left his home in Sendai and travelled to Edo where he founded the Edo line of the Yagyu Shingan ryu.  In later life he returned to his home in Sendai.  Later the Edo line was to become known as Yagyu Shingan ryu Taijutsu.   Although related, Yagyu Shingan ryu Taijutsu should not be confused with the Yagyu Shingan ryu Heiho.  It should be noted by researcher’s that Yagyu Shingan ryu Taijutsu diverted somewhat technically from the older Yagyu Shingan ryu Heiho and  there is no evidence of any connection between Takenaga Hayato and Araki Mataemon.  Araki Mataemon is recognised as the spiritual founder of Yagyu Shingan ryu Taijutsu.

Takenaga Hayato was a warrior of inspiriation and his teaching’s have been recorded and transmitted to this day in the Yagyu Shingan ryu ‘Chikuosha’ of Headmaster Shimazu Kenji. The tradition has been closely guarded and since survived down through the generations to the present day.

Takenaga Hayato: Takenaga Hayato (竹永 隼人, dates of birth and death unknown), sometimes known as Takenaga Hayato Kanetsugu (Jikinyu), founded the Yagyu Shingan-ryu, which he taught primarily in what is now known as Sendai, Miyagi. Before founding the Yagyu Shingan-ryu, Hayato studied Shindo-ryu (神道流) , Shinkage-ryu – Divine Shadow (神影流), Shuza-ryu (首座流), Toda-ryu (戸田流) and (Yagyu) Shinkage-ryu – New Shadow (新陰流). Takenaga Hayato was clearly influenced by his studies of the Shindo-ryu of Ushu Tatewaki.

Takenaga Hayato went to Edo, was employed by the Yagyu family and studied Yagyu Shinkage-ryu with Yagyu Munenori. The name Yagyu Shingan-ryu was used after Hayato was directed to use the family “Yagyu” name in his art Shingan-ryu by Yagyu Munenori. On return to his home in Sendai, Miyagi he taught the ashigaru until his death.

Following Takenaga Hayato the tradition was passed on to Yoshikawa Ichiroemon, Ito Kyuzaburo, Koyama Samon, who traveled to Edo and became the headmaster of the Edo line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu. Koyama Samon in later years returned to his home where he continued to instruct Yagyu Shingan-ryu. He was known as “The Restorer”.

The Sendai Line of the Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu is under the guidance of Headmasters Shimazu Sensei & Hoshi Sensei.

Araki Mataemon:
Araki Mataemon (荒木 又右衛門, 1594–1634) is credited as the founder of the Edo-line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu, known as Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu. The Edo-line stems from headmaster Koyama Samon, who carried the art from Sendai to Edo. While Araki’s name appears on the Edo school’s historical scrolls, his actual influence on the tradition is unclear. For many, he is considered the spiritual founder of the tradition. Yagyu Shingan-ryu has evolved over the centuries, with each headmaster refining the art. It is therefore plausible that Koyama Samon may have been influenced or inspired by Araki, which lead to the differences in appearance and philosophy that exist today.

Araki Mataemon was a practitioner of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, under his mentor Yagyu Munenori. Legend states that Munenori drew his sword and attacked Araki unexpectedly. Araki defended himself using nothing more that a rolled-up piece of paper. After passing this final test, he was awarded menkyo kaiden by his teacher, Munenori. It is also said that Araki was Yagyu Jubei’s teacher. This is portrayed in the popular Japanese television series, “Three Generations of the Yagyu Sword”. Originally, Araki’s Shingan-ryu was known as “Araki-do”.

The Edo-line legend states that it was Yagyu Jubei that granted permission for the use of the Yagyu name. Today, the Edo-line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu, under the guidance of headmaster Kajitsuka, practice the art of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu along side Yagyu Shingan-ryu (Kajitsuka holds menkyo kaiden in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu). Branches:  There are two main lines of Yagyu Shingan-ryu, and a few off-shoot lineages.

Sendai line: The Yagyu Shingan-ryu Heiho (Sendai-line) was headed by Hoshi Kunio until his death in 2007. His son was appointed as his successor; 13th generation headmaster [5th generation family descendant]. The Sendai line is known for its armored routines and hard, thrashing strikes and pressure point attacks.

The Yagyu Shingan-ryu (Sendai-line) has three primary levels within the curriculum, Omote, Ura and Kage. It has a broad focus (Weaponry, Jujutsu, Kappo) and has been practised in Sendai area for several generations.

The Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu (Sendai -line) that has spread overseas is directed by Headmaster Shimazu Kenji (Kyodensho Chikuosha). Shimazu Kenji has mastery of both the Edo and Sendai line under Headmaster Aizawa Tomio (Edo line – Yorifuji den and Sendai line – Kano den) and the Sendai line under Headmaster, Hoshi Kunio (Sendai line – Hoshi den). The Yagyu Shingan-ryu Heihojutsu line under Shimazu Kenji is headquartered in Tokyo. Small but strong branches under the direct supervision of Shimazu Kenji exist in Australia (Philip Hinshelwood), Sweden (Per Eriksson).

Edo line: Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu (Edo-line) is directed by Kajitsuka Yasushi (11th Lineal Headmaster). This lineage stems from headmaster, Koyama Samon. The Taijutsu school is known for its close quarter jujutsu techniques. The techniques are based on body physics rather than brute strength. Some of the trade-mark maneuvers include pole-driving (dropping an opponent on his head), back breaking, and neck snapping. Although this style does not employ the wearing of armor during practice or exhibition, the techniques are clearly designed for combating an armored opponent. The style includes the usual array of weapons forms, but is distinguished by its unique staff (6ft) and odachi kata.

Unlike modern Japanese budo, which was created for the masses and is largely sport oriented, kobudo (“ko” being short for koryu, meaning traditional or old) was designed for the warrior, whose sole purpose was to kill or be killed. Many of Japan’s modern budo have their roots in the Yagyu schools of combat[citation needed]. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, was a student of Yagyu Shingan-ryu. He received the rank of Shoden from a Shihan of the Edo-line of Yagyu Shingan-ryu (stemming from the sixth lineal-headmaster Goto Saburo — hence the name Goto-ha). Likewise, Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, trained under the seventh lineal-headmaster of the Edo-line (Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu), Ohshima Masateru.

Yagyu Shingan-ryu Taijutsu (Edo line) is primarily located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The official site of the Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu indicates a keikokai now exists in Brisbane, Australia (Paul Keen).