Old Japanese Scrolls | Bokuden Matsugo-ryu

This is a reprint of an article I co-wrote that was originally published in Kendo World magazine issue 4.4 in 2009.

 

Bokuden Matsugo-ryū

The
 International
 Budo
 University
 in
 Katsuura,
 Japan,
 famous
 for
 its
 one‐year
 budō
 program
 created
 for
 foreign
 exponents,
 houses
 a
 well‐stocked
 library,
 a
 mine
 of
 information
 about
 martial
 arts,
 martial
 sports
 and
 budo.
 One
 would
 find
 on
 its
 shelves
 a
 broad
 variety
 of
 books,
 very
 old
 or
 new,
 magazines,
 journals
 dealing
 with
 martial
 arts,
 etc.,
 in
 Japanese,
 English,
 French,
 German,
 Spanish,
 Chinese,
 and
 so
 on.
 However,
 one
 would
 have
 to
 go
 to
 the
 small
 library
 of
 the
 Research
 Department,
 located
 on
 the
 other
 side
 of
 the
 university,
 to
 find
 the
 locker
 that
 contains
 the
 cherry
 on
 the
 cake:
 the
 old
 Japanese
 martial
 schools’
 scrolls.



Today,
 we
 will
 have
 a
 look
 into
 some

 scrolls
 from the
 Bokuden
 Matsugo
 Ryū
 (卜伝 末後流 ),
 a
 martial
 tradition
 which
 originated
 around
 the
 late
 16th century / beginning 
of 
the
17th 
century. 
Ishihara 
Ichibee
 Yoshiie 
signed 
the 
scrolls
 in 
the 
4th
year 
of 
Kan’ei 
(1627).


Not
 much
 is
 known
 about
 Bokuden
 Matsugo-ryū. This
 ryū­ha
 is now extinct, 
and
 to 
say 
the 
least,
sources
 are 
scarce. 
Our 
main 
reliable
 one
 would
 be

 Bugei
 Ryūha
 Daijiten (綿谷雪 山田忠史『武芸流派大事典』東京、高山本店、1978年),
 the
 encyclopedia
 of
 Japanese
 old
 martial
 traditions.
 Nonetheless,
the 
information
 available
 on page 764 
is 
patchy:


  • The
 entry
 states
 that
 Ishii
 Bokuoku,
 who
 was
 a
 direct
 student
 of
 the
 famous
 Tsukahara
 Bokuden 
(1489
 –
 1571),
 founded
 Bokuden
 Matsugo
-ryū
 in 
the 
Yonezawa 
Domain 
(actual 
Yamagata 
prefecture).



  • No
 date 
available.



  • Systems: 
kenjutsu, 
naginatajutsu, 
bōjutsu.


  • Headmasters:



    o Ishii
 Bokuoku
 (founder)

    o Ishihara 
Ichibee
 Yoshiie
 (2nd
 headmaster)

    o Ishihara
 Heinai
 Ietada
 (3rd 
headmaster)

    o ...
...

    o Ishihara 
Heinai 
(11th 
and
 last 
headmaster)


As
 we
 can
 see
 above,
 
Bugei
 Ryūha
 Daijiten
 says
 that
 bōjutsu
 (staff
 techniques)
 is
 part
 of
 the
 Bokuden
 Matsugo
-ryū’s
 curriculum,
 but
 the
 scrolls
 kept
 at
 International
 Budo
 University
 do
 not
 show
 any
 bōjutsu
 techniques.
 On
 the
 other
 hand,
 2
 scrolls
 are
 dedicated
 to
 sōjutsu (spearsmanship)
 and
 one
 to
 both naginata-jutsu
 and sōjutsu.
 The
 information 
contained 
in Bugei
 Ryūha
 Daijiten
 is
 thus
 far
 to
 be
 complete.
 We
 do
 not
 know
 anyway
 how
 many
 scrolls
 Ishihara
 Ichibee
 issued 
at 
that 
time. 
The 
nine 

scrolls preserved until now 
are:


  • Jitsuji
 Tendō
 Hiden
 Mokuroku.
 Secret
 teachings.
 The
 scroll
 is
 incomplete.


  • Jūmonji
 Yari
 no 
Mokuroku.

  • Jūmonji
 Omote 
Mokuroku.


  • Jū 
[...]
 Ken.
 The
 second 
character 
is 
missing, but this scroll features kenjutsu 
techniques.


  • A
 scroll 
dealing
 with
 naginata
 (incomplete
 – 
title
 unknown).


  • A
 second
 scroll
 dealing
 with
 naginata
 (incomplete
 – 
title unknown).


  • Tonomono 
Hyakkajō
 Kime
 Mokuroku.
 Shows
 naginata 
and
 yari
 basic stances (kamae).

  • A 
scroll
 dealing
 with
 nitō
 (incomplete).


  • Yagi
 no
 Mokuroku.
 This 
scroll 
is 
also 
incomplete. 
Kenjutsu 
techniques.




These
 scrolls
 show
 ink
 drawings
 of
 old
 sword
 or
 spear
 techniques.
 Only
 the
 Jitsuji
 Tendō
 Hiden
 Mokuroku
 contains
 words.
 Scrolls are
 read
 from
 right 
to 
left, 
start 
with 
a title 
and 
end 
with 

a signature.


Old Jumonji Yari Japanese scroll

The 
last
 part of 
each 
scroll 
shows
 the lineage and the headmaster's 
signature. 
From
 right 
to 
left:


  • Tsukahara 
Bokuden


  • Ishii
 Bokuoku


  • Ishihara 
Ichibee


  • Sōden 
nari 
(handing
 down)


  • Kan’ei
 yonen 
(4th
 year
 of
 Kan’ei 
– 
1627)


  • Gogatsu 
kichi-jitsu 
(a 
fortunate
 day 
of 
the fifth month)


  • Signature 
(kaō) of 
Ishihara 
Ichibee
 Yoshiie


Followed 
by 
the 
name 
of 
the 
recipient. The name is rather hard to read. Maybe "Isomichi 
Yukioshi 
Dono".

 

A closer look at the Jitsuji
 Tendō 
Hiden
 Mokuroku


 

As
 we
 already
 stated
 above,
 only
 the
 scroll
 Jitsuji
 Tendō
 Hiden
 Mokuroku
 contains
 words.
 It
 is
 however incomplete:
 the
 beginning
 is
 missing.
 
The
 first
 characters
 appearing
 are:


Japanese martial arts scroll

 

Isshō 
ichigan,
 written
 within 
a 
circle
 featuring
 the
 moon 
and
 the
 sun.


  • Isshō ->
 the
 universal 
essence.


  • Ichigan -> 
the 
ultimate 
truth.


This
 diagram
 can be also found

 in
 scrolls
 handed
 down
 by
 Iizasa
 Chōisai
 Ienao,
 the
 founder
 of
 Tenshin
 Shōden
 Katori
 Shintō
 Ryū
, and
 Tsukahara
 Bokuden
 to
 attest
 the 
divine 
origin
 of 
their 
teachings.


Japanese martial arts secret teaching

“Before
 defeating
 the
 enemy.”

“Whatever 
happens ,
if
 you 
believe 
in 
yourself, 
you 
have 
to 
throw
 your 
self 
away.
 Then, 
the 
world 
may 
be 
saved.”


(i.e. Be 
resolute,
 
step 
towards
 your
 opponent’s 
sword,
 only then
 you 
will 
secure victory)


 Japanese secret teaching scroll

“Even
 if
 you
 throw
 your
 self
 away,
 you
 will
 not
 be
 defeated,
 because
 you
 will
 have
 the 
blessing 
of
 the
 gods.”


Kenjutsu secret scroll


“Even
 a smallest
 negligence
 in
 the
 mind,

 will prevent you
 to
 take
 the
 initiative.”


“In
 everything,
 being
 negligent
 is
 the
 real enemy.
 Think,
 be
 patient
 and
 wait
 for
 an
 opportunity.”


old Japanese scroll

"Jitsuji
 Tendō 
Hiden
 Mokuroku.
"

Old Japanese scroll Tsukahara Bokuden

Lineage and signature.

4th
 year
 of
 Kan’ei 

(1627)
 on a 
fortunate
 day 
of 
the 5th month.

 

Secret kenjutsu teaching

 

A few remarks



We 
tried 
to
 find
 more
 about
 the 
school, 
but 
we 
could 
not 
get 
any 
significant
 information
 so far,
 neither
 in

 Japanese
 books

 nor
 on
 the
 Internet.
 Bokuden
 Matsugo
 Ryū’s
 line
 of
 descent
 died
 out
 with
 Ishihara
 Heinai,
 the
 11th
 headmaster
 of
 the
 school.
 Some
 sources
 state
 that
 Ishihara
 Heinai
 lived
 during
 the
 Bakumatsu,
 the
 turbulent
 period
 that
 saw
 the
 end
 of
 the
 Edo
 era.
 After
 the
 advent
 of
 the
 Emperor
 Meiji’s
 modern
 Japan,
 numerous
 martial
 traditions
 were thought
 “obsolete”
 and
 soon became extinct. 
Bokuden
 Matsugo
-ryū
 might 
have
 share that fate.



It is also possible that being from
 the
 Yonezawa
 Domain, Ishihara
 Heinai died during the Boshin
 War
. Samurais
 of
 Yonezawa

 joined
 those
 of
 Sendai,
 Aizu,
 Shonai
 and
 Nagaoka,
 under the
 "Northern
 Alliance"
 to
 fight
 against
 the
 imperialists. They were however defeated in 1869. That also could explain why the ryūha did not survive the end of the feudal era.

 

The nine scrolls are too large to be presented here, so I will post their contents on instagram in the coming weeks

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