RYUSHIN SHOUCHI RYU
(Sources: Wikipedia, New York Budokai and personal communications)
Ryushin Shouchi Ryu (Japanese: 柳心照智流) is a school of ancient Japanese swordsmanship specializing in iaijutsu (quick-draw sword art), 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 Ryushin Shouchi Ryu (RSR) is derived from an ancient style of Japanese swordsmanship which originated in central Japan (Kanto region) around the Eiroku Era (1558- 1570) and branched out to the southern island of Kyushu and other provinces.
The current RSR curriculum consists of approximately 60 formulations of iai movements/techniques (kata) and includes: Solo forms (kata) practice, 2-person paired practice (kumitachi), Bogu practice (full contact practice in traditional Kendo protective armour with leather-wrapped bamboo swords (fukuro shinai), and Tameshigiri (target test cutting).
The curriculum of RSR is based on, reflects, and preserves, the elements of swordsmanship that were developed several hundred years ago. While it is extremely difficult to pass on these skills accurately, since so much time has gone by, RSR has retained the essence of the old style – as it was wielded by those who actually fought with swords in the times of war and revolution.
The current headquarters of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu (formerly Ryushin Jigen Ryu) was established by the first headmaster, Terutaka Kawabata, who received hidden formulas of ancient swordsmanship at the Shobu-kan Dojo in Asakusa, Tokyo, in the 1940s. Since then, Headmaster Kawabata has been dedicated not only to further developing his own skills, but on preserving, promoting and teaching this style of Iai in Japan and overseas, including in the US, Hungary, and Austria. In 2006, Headmaster Kawabata established Ryushin Jigen Ryu as a separate school and opened its first school (dojo). In 2008, his disciple Kunikazu Yahagi became the second and current headmaster of Ryushin Jigen Ryu.
In 2011, Ryushin Jigen Ryu changed its name to Ryushin Shouchi Ryu to clarify its emphasis on the training of both mind and body, through the practice of iai. The name: Ryushin Shouchi means “let your mind and body be strong and flexible, like willow that does not lose its green leaves even in the midst of winter; lead with a steady mind and unfettered wisdom and help the world”.
The forms transmitted by this style distill the wisdom, discipline and determination of a great many masters and accomplished swordsmen, acquired over hundreds of years. It has been both extremely challenging and vitally important to transmit these forms correctly and accurately, generation after generation.
Fortunately, in the forms of this style transmitted by President Kawabata and Yahagi Soke, much of the ancient content has been preserved – closely resembling the fighting techniques of the samurai – from the period of Warring States through the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The philosophy of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu parallels that of many modern forms of Japanese budo (such as: Kendo, Judo, Iaido and Aikido) and entails cultivating the mind and conditioning the body through rigorous and focused training for the purpose of improving the self, rather than for the purpose of killing an enemy. This concept is known in Japanese martial arts as the cultivation of fudoshin (immovable mind). Fudōshin ( 不動心) refers to a state of psychological and spiritual equanimity or imperturbability (literally and metaphorically, “immovable mind”, “immovable heart”, “steadfast mind”, or “unwavering heart”) – an internal dimension of training and concentration which contributes to the effectiveness of the advanced practitioner.
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.