RYUSHIN SHOUCHI RYU
(Sources: Wikipedia, New York Budokai and personal communications)
Ryushin Shouchi Ryu (Japanese: 柳心照智流) is a school of Kobudo (ancient martial art) specializing in Japanese swordsmanship, specifically: iaijutsu (the art of drawing and cutting with the Japanese sword). Established by Kawabata Terutaka in 2006, the origins of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu can be traced to the 16th century, to the Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu school, a branch tradition of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu.
The philosophy of the Ryushin Shouchi Ryu parallels that of most modern forms of budo, (i.e. kendo, judo, and aikido) and entails cultivating the mind and conditioning the body through rigorous training for the purpose of improving the self rather than killing an enemy. This concept is more commonly known as fudoshin (不動心 – immovable mind), which refers to a state of psychological and spiritual equanimity. The name Ryushin Shouchi Ryu, selected by the founder Kawabata Terutaka Sensei (河端 照孝), means “cultivate firm and yet flexible spirit and body of the Willow tree,” which does not lose its leaves even in winter, and contribute to the world through a calm mind and unfettered wisdom” (Shouchi can be translated as “shining wisdom”). Ryushin Shouchi Ryu is based on a traditional swordsmanship that originated in the Kanto area but then spread to Kyushu and other areas of Japan. It is composed of Iai (60 数本), Bokuto kumitachi, Iai kumitachi, Tachitori, and Tantotori. The forms transmitted by this style distill the wisdom, discipline, and determination of a great many masters and accomplished men over hundreds of years, and it has been both extremely challenging and vitally important to transmit these forms correctly generation after generation.
Born in Tokyo in 1940, Kawabata Sensei has had an interest in Japanese swordsmanship since his early childhood. He’s made several significant contributions to both the study and practice of Japanese Swordsmanship. He began his formal training in 1963 in the ancient sword style Sogo Budo Shobukan, founded by his father. He also studied under the Uneo Yasuyuki Genshin (1913 – 1973), the 27th headmaster of Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu.
In addition to training in kenjutsu, Kawabata studied and cultivated a deep knowledge of the history of Japanese swords and their accessories, eventually becoming an executive of the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK) (Society for the Preservation of Japanese Swords), where he is regarded as one of their foremost experts on the subject. Kawabata also contributed to the foundation of the Nihonto Bunka Shinkou Kyokai (the Foundation of Japanese Sword Culture for the purpose of public interest). He continues to spread his knowledge of these ancient arts through the International Martial Arts Congress (Kokusai Budoin) and the International Martial Arts Federation (IAMF).
In 1975, Kawabata taught at the NRC (currently the Nihon Zaidan) dojo in Akasaka, and also trained many students at the ANA Haneda dojo and the Yokohama Municipal Fire Station. Kawabata founded the Seiseikan dojo on the ground floor of the Sankei Indoor Sports Akabane at Akabane Minami, Kita-ku, Tokyo in the early 2000s.
In 2001, Kawabata Sensei established Ryushin Shouchi Ryu as a formal kobudo school, for the purpose of preserving and continuing the study of Japanese Swordsmanship while cultivating the mind and conditioning the body through rigorous training.
In 2008, Kunikazu Yahagi Sensei became the second headmaster of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu. In addition to his Ryushin Shouchi Ryu training, Yahagi continues his studies in Kendo and currently holds the rank of Kyoshi 7 DAN from the All Japan Kendo Federation. In his view, the wisdom and technique embedded in the Ryushin approach – which has been cultivated over centuries by successive sword masters – enhances his Kendo practice. Today, Ryushin Shouchi Ryu is practiced around the world and the organization counts multiple affiliated dojos in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. Yahagi Sensei makes official trips abroad each year to conduct training courses and provide guidance to a steadily growing group of dedicated international students.
ABOUT KAWABATA TERUTAKA
Kawabata Terutaka was born in Tokyo in 1940. His interest in Japanese swordsmanship began in his early childhood when his grandfather gave him a sword. Throughout his life, Kawabata has been recognized for his significant contributions to both the study of Japanese swords and the practice of ancient Japanese Swordsmanship.
Kawabata began his sword training in his early twenties at the Sogo Budo Shobukan, which was founded in 1963 by his father and was under the guidance of Ueno Yasuyuki Genshin (1913-1972) the headmaster of the Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu at that time. Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu is a school of swordsmanship which has its origins in Katori and Kashima, dating back to the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period).
Kawabata became well recognized for his extensive knowledge of Japanese swordsmanship and would join the International Martial Arts Congress (Kokusai Budoin) and the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) (Kokusai Budo Renmei). Under the auspices of the IMAF, Kawabata travelled extensively to Europe and the United States to instruct and share this school of swordsmanship, and served in the successive posts of director and vice-director, and as the sectional chief of the Kobudo division of the IMAF. From 1975 on, Kawabata taught at the NRC (currently the Nihon Zaidan) dojo in Akasaka and also trained many students at the ANA Haneda dojo and the Yokohama Municipal Fire Station. In the early 2000s, Kawabata founded the Seiseikan dojo on the ground floor of the Sankei Indoor Sports Akabane at Akabaneminami, Kita-ku, Tokyo.
An example of Kawabata’s proficiency as a sword master was demonstrated in 1987 when he appeared on the TBS television program Chikyu Roman Yomigaeru Hiken/ Sengoku Kabutowari. In this program, Kawabata cut a gash measuring 12 cm. (nearly 4 sun) through a steel helmet called oki tenugui gata (a helmet with almost vertical sides and top plates which are extended rearwards) using a sword made by Yoshihara Yoshindo. The helmet-splitting technique had not been performed successfully since Sakakibara Kenkichi, the hanshi of the Choku Shinkage Ryu, demonstrated it before Emperor Meiji in the autumn of 1886, over 100 years before. It was around this time that Kawabata also received the Martial Arts Meritorious Award (Budo Korosho), considered the highest honor in the world of martial arts.
In addition to his training in swordsmanship, Kawabata also specializes in the collection and study of Japanese swords and their fittings. He subsequently became an executive of the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK) (Society for the Preservation of Japanese Swords) and is known as one of their experts. Kawabata also contributed to the founding of the Nihonto Bunka Shinko Kyokai (Association for the Promotion of Japanese Sword Culture), an organization whose intention is to perform various activities to promote and generate public interest in Japanese art and culture.
Kawabata currently serves as the head of the Seiseikan and adviser to the soke. He continues to serve in an active role in various fields, and has been awarded the Medal of Honor Yellow Ribbon (awarded to individuals who, through their diligence and perseverance while engaging in their professional activities, became public role models) and the Medal of Honor Blue Ribbon (awarded to individuals who have made significant achievements in public welfare or public service) by the Government of Japan for his contributions.
ABOUT YAHAGI KUNIKAZU
Yahagi Kunikazu, the second soke (headmaster) of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu, was born in Kastsushika-ku, Tokyo in 1948. As a child, Yahagi was inspired by his grandfather, whom he visited regularly, and who had 2 sets of antique kendo bogu (armor) on display in his home.
Yahagi was introduced to kendo by his uncle at the age of 10 and commenced his kendo training in elementary school. He also trained in Judo from the age of 12, an art in which he later went on to earn the rank of 2 DAN at the Kodokan. He would continue his martial studies through his formative years, and at the age of 30, he entered the NCR dojo (now the Nihon Zaidan Building) in Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, which was then under the authority of Kawabata.
After nearly 30 years of diligent training under the tutelage of Kawabata, Yahagi was licensed by the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) as a Kobudo Hanshi 8 DAN and later became a director of the IMAF. This marked the beginning of Yahagi’s international career as an instructor of Japanese Swordsmanship.
In 2008, Yahagi was named the second headmaster of the Ryushin Shouchi Ryu, a role which holds today.
In addition to his training in Ryushin Shouchi Ryu, Yahagi is a long-time student of Kendo, currently holding the rank of Kyoshi 7 DAN from the All Japan Kendo Federation.