The Life of Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto no Shigenobu

His sword became one with the god’s; the most supreme battōjutsu, which would shine throughout history was born.

During the Muromachi period lived a man who would go on to change the art of swordsmanship forever. The legacy he left survived nearly half a millennium, a legacy larger than that of any martial artist in his wake.

On the 12th of January 1542, a boy known as Asano Tamijimaru was born into a warrior family in Hayashizaki, a small village in Tateyama, Dewa Province (modern day Yamagata Prefecture, Murayama City).
His father was Asano Kazuma no Minamoto Shigenari. A retainer to the Mogami family branch in charge of the southeastern part of Dewa, he served Mogami Inaba no Kami Mitsuhide, the sixth Mogami Lord and overall fifteenth Lord of Tateoka Castle, in the Kitamurayama District of Tateoka City (modern day Yamagata Pref. Murayama City). Asano was known as a gentle and outgoing individual, earning him the trust of his lord.
Tamijimaru’s mother, Sugano, was the daughter of the Takamori Household in Tateoka. She was once a handmaiden to the princess of Yamagata Kasumi Castle and was an intelligent woman with a strong sense of determination, excelling in many arts.

At the age of five* Tamijimaru’s family was struck by tragedy. In 1547 Tamijimaru’s father was brutally murdered by Sakagami Shuzen (also known as Ichiunsai or Sakagawa Unsai), a fellow retainer of the Mogami Clan.
Serving as a martial arts instructor to the clan, Sakagawa bore a strong grudge and sense of envy towards Asano due to the way he performed etiquette within the castle.
One night, blinded by his resentment, Sakagawa ambushed Asano on his way back from visiting his family grave at Hayashizaki Daimyōjin Shrine. Sakagawa violently murdered him and fled into the dead of the night.

Tamijimaru and his mother Sugano, deprived of their breadwinner, were thrown into poverty. It is said from the moment his father was murdered, his mother spent years praying to the deity of Hayashizaki Daimyōjin Shrine with one single wish—retribution for her husband’s death.
With infant in her arms, Sugano prayed every day at the shrine, all the while waiting for her son to come of age and enact her husband’s vengeance. After eventually hearing from his mother that his father was murdered by a man called Sakagawa Shuzen, Tamijimaru took his first step towards justice and began his martial arts training as his mother instructed.

When he turned seven years old, Tamijimaru began studying Kyō Ryū Kenjutsu Heihō under Higashine Jirō Dayū, a chief vassal and kenjutsu instructor to the Mogami Clan his father served. (Kyō Ryū is also known as Kyōhachi Ryū. This style of swordsmanship was founded in the Heian Era, and legend states that all other kenjutsu schools to this day were born from this style. The famous Yoshioka brothers who Miyamoto Musashi defeated were said to be practitioners of this school.)

At twelve years old, Tamijimaru decided to retire to Hayashizaki Daimyōjin to begin training in earnest. However, his spirit and technique were not one and developed very little during his time training.
At fourteen years old, Tamijimaru went once more to the shrine to perform 100 days of prayer, this time pouring his entire soul into his training. On this occasion, his dedication shone through, with his spirit and technique harmonising. Then, one night, the deity of the shrine appeared to him in his dreams. During this epiphany, Tamijimaru received the innermost secrets of the most superb swordsmanship from the god.
At this moment, his sword became one with the god’s; the most supreme battōjutsu, which would shine throughout history, was born. This was the birth of Musō Shinden Jūshin Ryū.

Among the secrets of battō that were bestowed to Tamijimaru from the god of the Hayashizaki Daimyōjin Shrine was “Kesa no Hitotachi no Seishin”, the mindset of Kesa no Hitotachi:

Do not draw, do not force others to draw.
Do not cut, do not force others to cut.
Do not kill, do not be killed.
Even if one encounters the greatest of sinners, one should kindly offer sermon and steer them onto the righteous path.
If the worst occurs and they do not heed one’s sermon, then without hesitation apply Kesauchi and send them to Buddha.”

It taught the young Tamijimaru that above all, one should avoid violence at all costs, favouring steering your opponent onto the righteous path of peace and morality rather than simply cutting them down. He learnt that it was better to create a great man who in turn would create more great men, instead of just killing.
It was only as a last resort that one should turn to violence, and this was only to prevent others from being subsequently killed by that opponent. This was known as katsujinken, the life-giving sword.

In order to attain this state, Tamijimaru would have to cut away the Three Poisons from within himself: Don, Shin and Chi. “Don” referring to the Buddhist Rāga or desire, “shin” to Dvesa or rage, and lastly “chi” being Moha or ignorance. After detaching himself from these poisons, he finally achieved serenity, thus wielding a “Sword of Compassion” and represented the god of the shrine itself.
He also received the secrets of wielding the sanjaku sanzun katana (long sword with a one-metre blade) and the kyūsun gobu wakizashi (a short sword with a roughly 29 cm-long blade).
One should use the long sword as if it were short and the short sword as if it were long. Destroy your opponent’s distance and timing by smothering them in close quarters while still being able to draw the long sword; overcome tremendous distance, utilising every inch of one’s body and the short sword.

In 1559 upon turning seventeen, Asano Tamijimaru changed his name in light of discovering his new self, a practice very common for Japanese warriors.
He henceforth went by the name of Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu. He chose Hayashizaki after the name of his village, Jinsuke after his father’s infant name, and Shigenobu by utilising the first character of his father Shigenari’s name.
Soon after this, Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu received the inner secrets of Kyō Ryū Kenjutsu Heihō from Higashine Jirō Dayū. He travelled back to the shrine where he received his epiphany and vowed to the god that he would avenge his father’s death, simultaneously praying for success on his coming journey.
He requested leave from his mother and his teacher to begin musha shugyō, a warrior pilgrimage and set out onto what would later be known as the Nakasendō Road (one of the five main roads of the Edo period), leaving Hayashizaki Village on the path of vengeance.

While walking the Nakasendō, Hayashizaki found himself in Shinshū (modern day Nagano Pref.). While here, he found lodging at the residence of Kitayama Hanzaemon, a member of a powerful local clan. During his stay, however, the Ibaragumi, a group of nobushi turned bandits, attacked the residence. In an incredible feat, Hayashizaki drew his sword, and in one swift, continuous movement, he dispatched the leader in a flash and easily finished off the remaining enemies. Talk of this amazing act spread like wildfire, acting as a lightning rod drawing many warriors who were so impressed they requested to be his students.

After his stay in Shinshū, he headed out onto the Tōkaidō Road, heading south in the direction of Bishū (modern day Nagoya), where eventually he reached castle grounds. After Bishū, he later settled in the former city of the Heian Emperor, Kyōto. Along the way on his journey, he trained with many skilled martial artists and attracted numerous students, who would subsequently go on to create their own schools of swordsmanship.

In April 1561, the nineteen-year-old Hayashizaki took part in a martial arts competition held before the thirteenth Shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate, Ashikaga Yoshiteru. Among the spectators were several local daimyō military leaders, including Matsunaga Tanjō. During his duels, Hayashizaki spectacularly defeated Nitta Yoshiaki, a master of Suwa Ryū, and was awarded a famous sword made by the Nobukuni family of sword smiths. This event was another turning point for Hayashizaki’s style and further added to his already growing reputation.

Not long after his success, Hayashizaki’s life was in for a dramatic turn of events. In May of the same year, he learned that the man who murdered his father, Sakagami Shuzen, the man he had been so desperately searching for all of those years, was living in Fushimi, Kyōto, hiding under the alias Rozan Daizen Toshitaka.

Upon hearing that the killer was residing in the same city, he immediately proceeded to Matsunaga Tanjō, whom he had met at the competition the previous month. Matsunaga was acting as the local shogunate security officer, and he was able to acquaint Hayashizaki with Miyoshi Nagayoshi. Miyoshi was the daimyō holding authority over the region, and his authorisation would be essential for Hayashizaki to carry out his mission. He proceeded to contact Miyoshi and requested permission to confront Rozan. Impressed by Hayashizaki’s martial prowess and dedication to his father, Miyoshi gave Hayashizaki his official stamp, signifying his consent for Hayashizaki to confront his father’s killer.

Filled undoubtedly with anticipation and determination, Hayashizaki began his reconnaissance on Sakagawa, carefully observing his movements and awaiting the opportune chance to take justice. It was finally on the 17th of May that Hayashizaki was ultimately able to confront his father’s killer at Tanbakaidō. Drawing his Nobukuni blade, Hayashizaki clove Sakagami’s head clean from his shoulders in the perfect embodiment of iai and sending him to Buddha. At last, Hayashizaki was able to avenge his father, decisively putting an end to his family’s years of grief. After performing the Buddhist rites, Hayashizaki prepared Sakagami’s head and set off on the long journey back to his hometown. Almost immediately, ripples were felt through Kyōto, as the story of Hayashizaki’s dedication echoed through the streets.

Upon arriving back in his hometown, Hayashizaki told his mother and teacher of his achievements on his pilgrimage and proceeded to lay Sakagami’s head atop his father’s grave. He prayed that his father could finally rest in peace, and he went once more to the shrine where it all started. The local village held a festival in his honour to celebrate his bravery, devotion and martial prowess at the shrine. With his mission complete, Hayashizaki offered his Nobukuni sword to the shrine, where it remains to this day.

Sadly the following year in 1562, after many years of hardship, Hayashizaki’s mother passed away due to illness and Hayashizaki was orphaned. With no more reason to stay in Hayashizaki Village and keen to further improve his swordsmanship, he set out again onto his second musha shugyō. Hayashizaki headed south to Yonezawa before then proceeding on towards Aizu (west of modern day Fukushima Pref.). There he took temporary residence in Akai Village, Wakamatsu, overall spending three years in southern Tōhoku. During his brief stay here, Hayashizaki took on many students from the surrounding area, training them in iai, and further spreading his style.

Come 1565, Hayashizaki travelled further south into the Kantō region of Japan and onto Kashima in Ibaraki Pref. While travelling around Kashima, he spent his time practising and studied Tenshinshō Shintō Ryū for around three years before setting out to his next destination. During this time, Tsukahara Bokuden was also studying the style from his adopted father.

At twenty six, Hayashizaki took residence with Matsuda Norihide, a direct vassal of the Hōjō Clan. He instructed the clansmen in the martial art he had spent so many years refining. The following year in 1569, Takeda Shingen’s forces attacked Suruga (modern day Shizuoka Pref.), storming Kanbara Castle. Under the service of Matsuda, Hayashizaki took part in the subsequent battle of Kanbara Castle. Despite massive losses on both sides, Hayashizaki demonstrated his phenomenal skills and even presented two heads he had claimed from Shingen forces following the battle.
After exhibiting his prowess on the field, he received a direct invitation from the Hōjō Clan asking him to return to continue instructing martial arts to their soldiers. Over the next few years, he continued training and amassing students.

In traditional pilgrimage fashion, it was time to depart once more. On the 10th of May 1595, Hayashizaki continued on his path South to Ichinomiya (modern day Ōmiya, Saitama Pref.). He lived on the grounds of the local Shintō Shrine, where he would spend three years developing his art further and searching for internal harmony.

After many years of wandering, he found himself arriving in Kawagoe City on the 18th of February 1616. During his time in the city, he stayed with Takamatsu Kanbei.

The following year he took his leave of Kawagoe, finally heading off in the direction of his home village, only to vanish into the sands of time. His whereabouts after this period, his place of death and the location of his grave are unknown, though a humble wooden plaque remains in Kawagoe, signifying his final known resting place.

It is very rare for someone with as much influence as Hayashizaki to have so little recorded of them. However, his life and legacy took place amongst long periods of civil upheaval; the fall of the Ashikaga Shogunate and a move towards decentralised government and the daimyō system, this subsequently cast Japan into the Warring States period. Finally, the country would arrive at a time of national unification and peace, the Edo period.

Throughout this turmoil, it is thought most records were lost amongst the rise and fall of governments. Along with the death of his students in war, many records were lost when they changed hands. But despite this, he amassed many students who would continue his legacy, create their own military fighting methods, and some who were already famous in their own right.

These students include but are not limited to:
-Takamatsu Kanbei Nobukatsu, Ichimiya Ryū (Takamatsu Line)
-Higashi Shimono no Kami Motoharu, founder of Shinmyō Musō Higashi Ryū
-Tamiya Heibei no Jō Shigemasa, founder of Tamiya Ryū and second generation Jūshin Ryū.
-Nagano Muraku Nyūdō Kinrosai, founder of Muraku Ryū and third generation Jūshin Ryū.
-Ichimiya Sadayū Terunobu Kōshin, founder of Ichimiya Ryū, fourth generation Hayashizaki Shin Musō Ryū (Ichimiya Ryū Tani Ha).
-Sekiguchi Yarokuemon Shinshin Ujimune, founder of Sekiguchi Ryū.
-Katayama Hōki no Kami Hisayasu, founder of Hōki Ryū.
-Sakurai Gorōzaemon Naomitsu, teacher of Mima Yoichizaemon Kagenobu, founder of Suiō Ryū.
-Ashikaga Shōgun Yoshiteru
-Hōjō Ujinao
-Date Chikuzen
-Katakura Kojūrō
-Uesugi Kagekatsu
-Iwanari Chikaranosuke
-Takikawa Sakon
-Senshi Yamashiro no Kami
-Nitta Ichirō
-Sakuraba Hayato
-Matsuda Samanosuke
-Daitōji Suruga no Kami Masashige
-Amakasu Ōmi no Kami
-Utsunomiya Mikawa no Kami
-Nagano Shinano no Kami
-Matsudaira Shuzen
-Okudaira Kuhachirō
-Torii Hikoemon

The swordsmanship passed on to a boy of only fourteen has continued for almost 500 years, still prospering to this day. No one knows exactly why the god of the shrine chose a young boy to receive the secrets of divine swordsmanship. Perhaps it was a moment of compassion by the god, looking down on a boy struggling to survive with his mother. Or even possibly Tamijimaru was destined to be the mouth of god in order for divine iaijutsu to prosper. It may even have been the plan of a God of War, hungering to carve its way through a country in civil turmoil. Maybe it was the wisdom and devotion needed for man to live through a country in chaos. The only thing that can be certain is that mere men will never understand the workings of gods.

Timeline of Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto no Shigenobu’s life:

1540: Parents Asano Kazuma no Minamoto Shigenari and Sugano were married.

1542: Born on 12th of January.

1547: Father murdered by Sakagami Shuzen.

1549: Entered into Higashine Dōjō to study Kyō Ryū.

1554: Prayed at Hayashizaki Daiyōjin to improve swordsmanship, mind and technique were not ready.

1556: Performed hundred day prayer at Hayashizaki Daimyōjin and this time received the secrets of iai in an epiphany.

1559: Changes name to Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu. Masters Kyō Ryū, sets out on musha shugyō

1560: -Arrives in Kyōto.
-Awarded Nobukuni sword.
-Defeats Sakagami Shuzen on Tanbakaidō.

1562: Loses his mother Sugano to illness, sets out on second pilgrimage.

1563: Travels from Yonezawa and recruits students at Akai village in Wakamatsu, Aizu.

1565: Studies Tenshinshō Shintō Ryū alongside Tsukahara Bokuden.

1568: Enters into the service of the Hōjō Clan as a martial arts instructor.

1569: Fights in the battle of Kanbara Castle.

1595: Settles onto sacred grounds in Ichinomiya

1598: Leaves Ichinomiya to continue on pilgrimage.

1616: Stays with Takamatsu Kanbei in Kawagoe.

1617: Sets off on final journey back to his hometown, never to be heard of again.

千早振る 神の勲功我受けて 萬代まで傳え残さむ

*Many sources cite Hayashizaki’s age as six, and subsequent ages a year older. This is due to the kazoedoshi tradition in Japan of being classed as one year old at birth, and aging one year at New Year’s.

**Many sources claim he received the secret of utilising a long hilt for iai but this is a mistake. The mistake was born from Higashi Shimono no Kami Motoharu having of a student of similar name: Hayashizaki Jinsuke Katsuyoshi. He was a practitioner of a Shintō Ryū Kenjutsu which purports the benefits of a longer sword and hilt. Tamijimaru inherited the secrets of the longer sword, and the hilt was longer simply for balance purposes. His focus was on instantaneous reaction from the scabbard. Tamiya Heibei no Jō Shigemasa was also a practitioner adept with a sword with a long tsuka to gain distance over your opponent (but not a longer sword).

Author’s comment:
This article was originally intended to be the first article on this website. However, it took a lot longer than expected (and a lot longer than planned!) to write. Many problems with dates and places and a complete lack of information made this article a challenge to write, hence why it took so long.

I have tried my hardest to make this as historically accurate as possible, cross-referencing the dates of Hayashizaki’s life across numerous sources and researching the historical events happening at the same times. A lot of time researching and translating was spent on this article. Sadly, however, his life was surrounded in mystery, and many legends exist.

Despite this, I humbly consider that this article is currently the most detailed account of his life in the English language, condensed into one article, with most anomalies and inaccuracies removed.

Should anyone wish to use the information within this article, I would be flattered but request that I be contacted first and properly cited.


林崎明神と林崎甚助重信 林崎甚助源重信公資料研究委員会
林崎抜刀術兵法 夢想神傳重信流 伝書集及び業手付解説木村榮壽
天の剣 小野蓮山
詳解 田宮流居合 妻木正鱗
無双直伝英信流居合兵法 地之巻 政岡壹實
居合道の理論-英信流後藤派入門 後藤美基
京都山内派無雙直傅英信流居合術 山越正樹
詳解居合 無双直伝英信流 三谷義里
古流居合の本道全解 岩田憲一
無雙直傅英信流居合道入門 江坂靜嚴
無双直伝英信流 加茂治作
夢想神伝流居合 紙本栄一
居合その理合と真髄 壇崎友彰
居合の研究 夢想神伝流 上・下巻 松峰達男
夢想神伝流居合道 山蔦重吉
写真で学ぶ全剣連居合 剣道日本編集部

Kenpitsu Issho: The Pen and Sword as One

The stroke of the brush is ultimate, just as the stroke of the sword…

A question was asked on a Koryū Networking Group the other day asking about any links or influences between Budō and Shodō, Japanese Calligraphy. The question caught my attention on a personal level as I have always made the connection between the two due to my own practices in Calligraphy and Iai, and personal frequent analogies of the similarities between the two. After receiving such warm feedback I felt I’d expand on it and make it into a brief article. I hope this is of as much interest to others, as it is to me.

Japan hasn’t always been a literate culture. Originally only the spoken word existed until the introduction of characters by the Chinese around the 6th Century AD. Upon receiving the means to use written words the Japanese were very keen to use this new discovery as much as possible. Centuries later they had become arguably the most literate culture on the planet, recording births, deaths, incomes etc wherever possible. Over the evolution of the written Japanese language numerous different scripts were created for women, scholars, foreign words etc showing just how important writing was to the Japanese as a people.

The same phenomenon existed in Western Europe, China and the Middle East, however the Japanese Martial Arts more than others made excellent use of written media in order to keep their arts alive. By the Edo Period, arguably the Golden Age of Martial Arts, it had become common practice upon entering a Dōjō for one to sign a contract upon entering the school. Your name was then added to the school’s record books, or a small wooden plaque, a Nafudakake (名札掛け) added to the roster. After years of practice you may have been lucky enough to receive a Makimono containing some of the techniques. Various Mokuroku syllabus scrolls and levels of Menkyo, certificates enabling you to teach certain aspects of the art yourself, were handed down from Sensei to Deshi, and were handwritten reproductions of the scrolls the Sensei themselves had received from their teachers. There is more often than not a traceable paper trail showing record of a Ryūha’s evolution from creation to succession.

It is natural then for the Japanese Martial Arts to gain such synonymy with the brush. Not only due to practitioners being so literate, but also the similarities in the physical structures of both Budō and Shodō. I would like to stress that this article so far and especially the content below is drawn from my own (very limited) experiences in Calligraphy and the Sword Arts, and by no means ultimate fact.

The majority of Japanese Sword Arts are broken down into sections, whether Shoden, Chūden, Okuden and Hiden, or Omote, Ura, Gokui etc. The same can be said for Shodō.
In Shodō, the first things one must attain are the tools. A brush, the ink, the paper, the stamp etc are all required tools of the chosen art. The same of Swordsmanship. Without a sword, the attire, the correct instruction etc there is nothing but someone waving a stick. One must then learn to hold the brush, and hold correct posture and technique when practicing, just as with Iai. One must be able to manoeuvre the brush freely to attain the various strokes required in any individual character, as one is required to hold the sword correctly in order to cut efficiently and in the manner required of said technique.

In Shodō, one is first required to study the Kihontenkaku, a collection of basic strokes: Tate, Yoko, Harai etc which build up every Kanji in existence. Just as in Iai one is required to learn the basic Kamae of the school, the various cuts from different angles: Shōmen, Shamen, Kiriage… We then put these individual strokes together to form one Kanji, or one Kata in Swordsmanship.

The basis of calligraphy is Kaisho, the block characters. This is the standard, basic way of writing a character where each individual stroke will look the same in each Kanji. Each individual stroke is performed smoothly and crisply until it becomes a natural movement, slowly allowing an increase in speed of the strokes as they become second nature. This is the Style which one has to perfect first. In other words the Shoden techniques.

Once perfection of the basics is achieved one can move onto Gyōsho, the running script. In Gyōsho the individual strokes begin to flow together. Three strokes may become two, or two can become one long stroke. Although more connected and a more rounded Kanji than Kaisho, the basic Character still forms the heart, and can clearly be seen within it. This is where the Chūden of our sword work is visible. Our techniques should hopefully roll together more smoothly, although seemingly more complex, a firm grasp of the Shoden means that simple adjustments of the individual aspects, go on to form the Chūdengata. In Musō Jikiden Eishin Ryū for example, there is a practice known as Hayanuki, where all Chūdengata are performed as one long smooth Kata, where controlled deceleration and acceleration connect separate movements into one. This is our Gyōsho, where even the gaps between strokes are connected by invisible lines.

Upon perfection of the Gyōsho we’re able to break down the characters, and learn the correct Kuzushikata to write Sōsho, grass style. The Kuzushikata, or how to break down Kanji can be easily learned from just watching. The shape maybe similar, but the essence will be different, however. Only through vast knowledge of strokes and individual Kanji can one start to appreciate Sōsho. This is also where the individual’s roots can be seen. Each character has numerous ways of being broken down for the cursive form, depending on the School, teacher and individual experience of the practitioner. This would be our Okuden. Often with numerous techniques existing, but again each being broken down to the bare essentials. The Okuden techniques tend to appear the most simple, but contain vast amounts of hidden workings gained from years of experience. They flow together into one long, continuous movement, just as Sōsho allows a Kanji to become one long, continuous brush stroke. You can also tend to see who someone’s teacher is or lineage by which version of a technique they perform, just as a Kanji can be recognised as being a certain style of writing.

There are also other ways to write characters such as the Imperial script, Oracle Script or Ancient Scripts (among others). These are not often considered the basic three forms of Shodō. They are supplementary, often more traditional or former arts/ additional styles to aid and deepen understanding of the current standard. This can be seen again in Iai. In Musō Shinden Shigenobu Ryū, there are a vast amount of supplementary arts such as Shin Tamiya Ryū, Itabashi Ryū which aid the understanding of the art as it stands today. Along with a plethora of older or different versions of individual Kata, which now exist as Kaewaza or Henkawaza.

Many famous sword masters such as Nukata Hisashi, Nakayama Hakudō and Yamaoka Tesshu were all very skilled penman, with Yamaoka Tesshu having numerous works published. Perhaps most famous of all is Miyamoto Musashi, writer of the Gorin no Sho, and also a very skilled painter.

I hope this very short analysis is of interest to fellow Budōka and Shodōka alike, and I hope you may even try your hand at one or the other yourself someday.


The Universal Principles of Budō


A plethora of Martial Arts exist in Japan. From arts dealing with  the sword, some the spear, the bow or empty hand, to those dealing with shouting your opponent to their knees or how to swim in armour. However, within all of the arts which fall under the title of Budō, Bugei or Bujutsu, exists the basic principle “Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki” 「一眼二足三丹四力」.
Arguably four individual aspects, they unite to form the fundamental structure necessary to becoming an accomplished Martial Artist.

Now many may wonder why this article was chosen to be uploaded to a site dedicated to Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu and Iai, but the principles which will be discussed are especially important within Iai, and can indeed be applied to all arts descendant of the original Hayashizaki style. Secondly this article was inspired by a lecture given by Kawaji Toshihiro Kyōshi Nanadan, a practitioner of (Hayashizaki Battōjutsu Heihō) Musō Shinden Shigenobu Ryū, one of the arts with a direct lineage to Hayashizaki JInsuke Shigenobu and with Densho leading back hundred of years. Finally, a number of the succeeding arts of the original Hayashizaki style, including the aforementioned, are/were full systems not just composed of Iai, but Ken, Yawara, Yari, Naginata, Bō etc.

Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki, one principle composed of four aspects, each being exceptionally important, however they hold a key order in the development of effective Martial Arts. The phrase itself is quite long for non-Japanese, so it will be broken into its individual aspects and expanded on.

Ichigan: 一眼 First, eyes. The use of the eyes in the Martial Arts is the most important step for beginners and masters alike. It should be developed correctly at an early stage  in one’s training. In the early stages of contact arts and arts with two-man Kata, the eyes are obviously used to look at the opponent, and focus on where one must strike. However the ultimate aim of the artist is to not look at the opponent, but to see them. The physical movement of the eyes gives your intentions off to the opponent, allowing them to read your strikes and move your targets out of striking distance. Seeing your opponent without faltering your eye line is the ultimate goal of Ichigan. The eyes can also be used to take advantage of the opponent. Feign a strike to the arm and the opponent is likely to move their arms, thus opening up the neck. Furthermore, the eyes are used to intimidate and pressure the opponent. Ganzeme眼攻, pressuring/attacking the opponent with the eyes. In other words intimidating them into apprehension and an early defeat.
In those arts based on single-man Kata, the eyes can be argued to play an even more important role. Not only must the above be applied, but the fact there is no physical opponent must also be considered. The eyes have to visualise the opponent whom is not there, and keep fixed on them in order to begin to be able to achieve focus, Ganzeme, Tsukekomi etc.

Ichigan, first master the eyes.

Nisoku: 二足 Second, feet. The use of the feet in martial arts is quite obvious. Incorrect footwork creates poor balance, weak posture, and further weakens the hips and upper parts of the body. The science of this however is paramount. Correct footwork creates a strong grounding and good balance, allowing the practitioner to more smoothly and freely in avoidance, and between strikes. Though when striking, it is the feet leading into the legs, the hips, then Hara etc which provide the power in the strike. Kinetic linking of musculoskeletal groups is started by the feet being in contact with the ground and pushing down. This power is then passed up the legs to the fist/tip of the sword allowing little effort to achieve phenomenal power. Even such arts as Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō Ryū and Takenouchi Ryū both contain sword strikes from mid-air, and the latter Yawara techniques, too.  This is achieved as the power has already been passed into the legs and carried to the Tanden by effective footwork.

Nisoku, second master the feet.

Santan: 三丹 Third, Tanden. The Tanden丹田 is the point in the lower abdomen where correct breathing is said to be controlled by, and where true power is said to be created in Martial Arts. One of the Chakra points in meditative techniques, it was passed to China from India, becoming know as the dāntián丹田 in Gongfu(Kung Fu), and then onto Japan from China. The Tanden is used to develop correct breathing techniques carrying the power from heaven in the air into the body to be combined with the power from the earth draw from the feet to create Ki for strikes. Scientifically speaking modern Martial Artists will tell you that this deeper Tanden breathing allows inhalation of more oxygen thus enriching the blood to bathe the muscles, reducing fatigue and possibility of lactic acid build up. The muscles surrounding the Tanden, the abdominal, gluteal, pelvic, lumbar and dorsal muscles all link together to create an effective, powerful strike with little effort. Utilising the Tanden to initiate this generation of power is the goal of all Martial Artists.

Santan, third master the Tanden.

Shiriki: 四力 Fourth, power. The character 力(riki.ryoku) can be interpreted as meaning strength, but this is not what is need in true Martial arts. Strength implies exertion. Effort mirroring strength, more effort, more strength. This is incorrect in the Martial Arts. To create strength through great effort takes time to build the power into a strike. Time, which allows the opponent to strike you first. Real power is created from through mastery of the above three points. By utilising the eyes to pressure the opponent, the feet draw power up into the Tanden where it is concentrated into power and transferred into the necessary location to deliver a strike. Most high-ranking swordsmen will say “Don’t cut with the arms…”, of course implying that you don’t need massive muscles to hammer the sword down into the target, but by using the Tanden to create power with little effort and achieving a beautiful, yet deadly cut.

Shiriki, fourth master power.

All combined in order, Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki can be seen to be separate, yet completely intertwined aspects which build up into what all students of the Martial way aim to achieve. I hope this shallow article has proven to be of interest, and may some day even help in your training.

Master first the eyes and suppress the opponent, then the feet to become as swift as the wind, utilise heaven and earth in the Tanden to unleash true power unto the opponent