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Hosokawa Heiho

The Military Arts

Hosokawa Ryu Hombu

Hosokawa Hiroshi

Founder of Hosokawa Ryu.

Director of F.A.S.T. Combative, Japan

Rodney A. Ortiz

Founder of F.A.S.T. Combative.

Director of Hosokawa Ryu.

The military arts, Bugei, have a long and complex history, one befogged by myth and legend and made further inaccessible by documentation that was either never produced, has not survived, or was made deliberately obscure. Military training in Japan predates recorded history. Between the Heian and Sengoku eras, the samurai's role in Japanese society grew. Tactics, weaponry, and training evolved with them. But the most fundamental changes took place during the early modern period, when both the samurai and their Bugei adapted to peace.  


Until then, the samurai had been warriors before all else, men whose livelihoods were made in battle, and the Bugei were first and foremost arts of war. The Tokugawa-imposed peace turned most samurai into ruling aristocrats; and as the samurai ceased to be just fighting men, the martial arts were able to survive the demise of the warrior class and remain a part of Japanese culture. The classical Bugei still practiced today are bits of living history that continue to propagate the philosophies of the samurai that disappeared over a century ago. 


By studying them, we can recover much about the manner in which the warrior class acquired key values, convictions, and physical abilities, as well as the attitudes and skills. A better understanding of the Bugei enriches our knowledge of late medieval and early modern Japanese warriors and affords us new insight into the samurai culture.

Military Arts in the Sengoku Period

Classical Bugei like the Hosokawa Soken Heiho are bits of living history, abiding indelible expressions of the culture of the samurai who forged them. The seeds for this warrior class came from a shift in imperial court military policy that began in the middle decades of the eight century. For a quarter of a millenium the members of this new order obediently fought the court's battles for it, until Minamoto Yoritomo laid the foundations for a warrior rule in Japan with his creation of a military government in Kamakura at the end of the twelfth century.

Under its successor regime, established in 1336 in the Muromachi district of Kyoto, the Hosokawa Clan grew strong capturing great importance as it got positions as deputies to the Ashikaga shoguns and in many respects became the true rulers of Japan until the middle of the sixteenth century.

In the middle 1400s, some fifteen years before the country would suffer nearly a century and a half of nearly continous warfare as feudal barons (daimyo) contested with one another and with those below them to maintain and expand their domains, the martial art genious Iizasa Choisai Ienao worked for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa and deputy (kanrei) Hosokawa Katsumoto as Bugei instructor. Iizasa was a strong disciple of the local Bugei of Eastern Japan where he lived, the Kashima Shinto Ryu. A decade later he founded his own style of martial art, the Tenshin Shoden or Katori Ryu as the local people of Sawara town called it.

From that event Kashima Shinto Ryu became the main school of martial art within the Hosokawa Clan. According to what is told by members of the Hosokawa family, the swordsmanship of the clan was built upon strategies and techniques from several major martial art traditions; the Kashima Shinto Ryu (taught by Iizasa Ienao to Ashikaga Yoshimasa and Hosokawa Katsumoto in the 1440ths), Kashima Shinto Ryu (taught to Ashikaga Yoshiteru and Hosokawa Fujitaka in the 1550ths, Ashikaga Yoshiaki and Akechi Mitsuhide in the 1570ths), Shinkage Ryu (taught by Hikita Toyogoro to Hosokawa Tadaoki in the 1580ths), Yagyu Ryu (taught by Uji Yashiro to Hosokawa Tadatoshi in the 1620ths) and Niten Ichi Ryu (taught by Miyamoto Musashi to Hosokawa Tadatoshi in the 1630ths). They are carefully preserved to our days in Hosokawa Soken Heiho.

Sword Masters in the Edo Period

The history of the Hosokawa lineage of Shinkage Ryu is the same as the history of Higo Shinkage Ryu of Kumamoto. Yagyu Shinkage Ryu was taught to the daimyo Hosokawa Tadatoshi in the very beginning of the Edo period by Uji Yashiro. Thus the founder of the style would be a swordsman called Hikita Toyogoro (1537 – 1606) who in the years of 1580 to 1601 was employed by the Hosokawa clan.

Hikita Toyogoro was a nephew and student of the Shinkage Ryu founder Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Hidetsuna. Shinkage Ryu was one of the major traditional schools of swordsmanship in the Sengoku and the Edo periods. Hidetsuna studied and synthesized Katori Shinto Ryu, Nen Ryu and Kage Ryu to develop Shinkage Ryu. Hidetsuna had many pupils and one of his most outstanding was Toyogoro. He was a samurai commander and distinguised himself in battles with Hidetsuna since he was young. Toyogoro mastered the essence of Shinkage Ryu and worked for the feudal Hosokawa in Higo domain (Kumamoto prefecture) in later years. He is known to have introduced Shinkage Ryu to retainers of the Hosokawa clan.

A few years later the master swordsman Yagyu Sekishusai, also an outstanding pupil of Hidetsuna, who worked under the shogun family introduced the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu to the Hosokawa clan. Toyogoro, together with his uncle and the swordsman Jingo Muneharu and Nobutsuna’s son, travelled around Japan on a Musha Shugyo during the 1560’s. At the Hozoin temple Toyogoro met Yagyu Sekishusai in a duel with bamboo swords and defeated him three times. Toyogoro is sometimes credited with the invention of the fukuro shinai, which at that time was called hikihada shinai. Toyogoro later founded his own style of swordsmanship based upon the Shinkage Ryu and called it Higo Shinkage Ryu. As an extremely gifted warrior, he served as a retainer and sword instructor to Hosokawa Fujitaka and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

After Hikita Toyogoro left the Hosokawa clan, Ueno Somanosuke became the official teacher in Shinkage Ryu. The Ueno family became its shihans of Shinkage Ryu for many generations. Leading practioners were Ueno Wada, Ueno Hayami, Ueno Yokota, Ueno Hayashi and Ueno Tonami, referred to as Shinkage-goke. Shinkage Ryu of the Toyogoro lineage in the Hosokawa clan was the most influential ryuha in the Higo domain from the early Edo period to the Meiji era.

Present Days Swordsmanship

From the Meiji period to the World War II traditional Koryu was in steady decline, and adding to the great loss of genuine information  numerous instructors were killed in wars and documents and dojos vanished in flames of fire.

The Higo Shinkage Ryu is still active today in several dojos. It also teaches Niten Ichi Ryu. There is another ryuha, the Hosokawa-ke Niten Ichi Ryu, also a ryuha with its main dojo in Kumamoto, who teaches the Niten Ichi Ryu of the Hosokawa line. All the original military arts of the Hosokawa Clan are also preserved in Hosokawa Soken Ryu Heiho. The head of this tradition is Hosokawa Hiroshi Soke.

Nancy Otero

General Secretary of Hosokawa Ryu.

Fitness and Nutrition Director.

International Dojos

Hosokawa Dojo Japan

Hosokawa Hiroshi, Soke.

Founder of Hosokawa Ryu.

Head of Hosokawa Soken Ryu Heiho.

Director of Hosokawa Dojo Japan.

Hosokawa Dojo Puerto Rico

Rodney A. Ortiz, Dai Shihan.

Director of Hosokawa Ryu.

Director of Hosokawa Dojo Puerto Rico.

Hosokawa Dojo Romania

Genc Ogun, Dai Shihan.

Director of Hosokawa Dojo Romania.

Hosokawa Dojo India

Vasudev Kulkarni, Dai Shihan.

Director of Hosokawa Dojo India.

Hosokawa Dojo Brazil

Humberto Trevellin, Dai Shihan.

Director of Hosokawa Dojo Brazil.

Hosokawa Dojo Sweden

Alf Roslund, Saiko Shihan.

Director of Hosokawa Dojo Sweden.

Hosokawa-ke Niten Ichi Ryu

The History of Niten Ichi Ryu

The founder of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, Miyamoto Musashi, originally studied Enmei Ryu and Tori Ryu, which were ryuha founded by his grandfather Miyamoto Musashi no Kami Yoshimoto and his father Miyamoto Muninosuke respectively. Musashi eventually focused in the Kenjutsu and Nitoken and developed his own style. 

Around 1640, Musashi intended to pass on his art to three successors, Terao Magonojo, his younger brother Kyumanosuke and to Furuhashi Sozaemon. He considered Magonojo to excel in technique but to lack in reflection, while Furuhashi excelled at reflection but lacked technique. Magonojo received the treatise, the Go Rin no Sho. Hosokawa Mitsuhisa made two copies – one for Furuhashi and one for himself, which he transmitted under the name of Ihon go rin no sho. The best known edition today is this Hosokawa copy.

Magonojo then yielded the role of successor to his younger brother Kyumanosuke who had received the Hyoho Sanjugo from Musashi. It was Kyumanosuke who transmitted this document to his students with seven added instructions called the Hyoho shiji ni kajo. Shortly before his death, Musashi also wrote the Dokkodo. It seems to be a list of rules that one should try to follow in life steeped in Buddhist precepts.

Terao Kyumanosuke had received the complete transmission of the School of Musashi, with certification and Musashi's two swords. He at first refused to teach and sent what he had received to Musashi's adopted son, Iori. Iori refused the succession, since the honor had not been bestowed upon him. With this, Kyumanosuke then agreed to take over as head.

Succession in the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu does not follow a hereditary pattern. It is attested to by the bestowing of two artifacts: a scroll on which is written the name of the techniques and the approach to them that must be transmitted if the school is to be perpetuated truly and a wooden sword that Musashi made himself  with which he trained and used as a walking stick during the last years of his life, today in possession of the city of Usa's Shinto Shrine.

The Teachings

The techniques of Niten Ichi Ryu, Two Heavens One School, are sophisticated, objective and strong, seeking efficiency above all. There are no exaggerated, flashy or unnecessary movements. The real beauty lies on the fact that Miyamoto Musashi used these very same techniques to win his more than sixty duels. The Niten Ichi Ryu was not conceived by theoretic development, but as result of the direct experience of a man whose life was dedicated to achieve the perfection.

Famous by the use of both swords simultaneously, the Niten Ichi Ryu also contains techniques with Tachi, Kodachi and the Bo.

The teachings of Miyamoto Musashi is still practiced in Japan in several dojos, among them the Hosokawa-ke Niten Ichi Ryu.

Some time after entering the service of Hosokawa Tadatoshi in Kumamoto, Musashi wrote the Hyoho Sanjugo Kajo, (35 Articles on the Art of Swordsmanship), at his lord's request. This book is considered the prototype for Musashi's final work, Gorin no Sho, (The Book of Five Elements). Although written in a seemingly unsophisticated style, it is difficult to understand without deep knowledge of swordsmanship. Paradoxically it is the seeming simplicity which conveys the tremendous skill of Musashi.

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