comments by Karl Friday, Georgia.
I was reading the biography in Harris' translation of gorinnosho yesterday, when I noticed some
strange things. Harris says several times that Tokugawa was fighting the Ashikaga at Sekigahara
and the Osaka siege. I thought the Ashikaga disappeared from politics before the sengoku period
(after they started the bloody mess). Toyotomi Hideyoshi got adopted by the Fujiwara I think,
not the Ashikaga. The text also implies Hideyoshi was Shogun, which he was not. It also says
Ieyasu closed Japan after the Shimabara (shimawara? shimahara? can somebody explain this
changing consonnants thingy to me?) incident, I thought he was dead by then and it was Iemitsu
who closed Japan. Am I mistaken? If not, how credible can the 'facts' of Musashi's life as
related by Harris be? (When was the Karl Friday translation going to come out again?)
Eli Steenput, Belgium.
You're right about Harris' mishandling of facts. The Ashikaga shogunate remained in place through the end of the sengoku period, although it was essentially an impotent symbol after the Onin War of 1467-77. Oda Nobunaga's entrance to Kyoto,
ostensibly as the champion of Yoshiaki, a rival claimant for the shogun position, is generally
cited as marking the start of the early modern era. Nobunaga deposed Yoshiaki in 1573
marking the end of Japan's second shogunate.
Neither Nobunaga nor Hideyoshi ever took the title of shogun, although Nobunaga was
considering an offer from the imperial court to accept the title when he was killed by Akechi
Mitsuhide. Instead, Hideyoshi arranged to have himself adopted in to the Fujiwara, qualifying
him for the post of Kampaku (a regent or advisor to the emperor--the same post that the
Fujiwara exploited in pre- and early medieval times to dominate the court and Japanese
politics) and used this as the centerpiece of legitimacy for his regime.
The battle of Sekigahara was fought between pro- and anti- Ieyasu factions, the latter led by
Ishida Mitsunari; the Ashikaga had nothing to do with it. The Winter and Summer Sieges of
Osaka castle in 1614 and 1615 were waged against Hideyoshi's son and heir, Hideyori--again,
no Ashikaga. The Shimabara Rebellion in 1637 *was* a major contributing factor to the
shogunate's decision to kick the Portugese out of the country, but Ieyasu had nothing to do with
this, since he had been dead since 1616; as you noted, Iemitsu was shogun at this point. (BTW,
"Shimabara" is the usual reading for this place name; the second character in the word can be
read as "hara," "bara," or "wara" depending on the circumstances, which is why you might
sometimes see "Shimahara" or "Shimawara.")
Harris' abysmal command of the general facts of Japanese history points to the heart of the
criticisms I've leveled at all existing translations of bugei texts (other than those by John
Rogers): the translators don't know enough about either the historical period they're working in
or the classical bugei to avoid important errors. Even so, Harris' translation of *Gorin no sho*
is about as good as any that are out there--although I prefer the Cleary version, because Cleary is
a bit better versed in Japanese religious vocabulary and concepts, and because his book also
includes a translation of Yagyu Munenori's *Heiho kaden sho*.
Having said that, it's only fair to point out that, Harris's mishandling of macro-history notwithstanding, his treatment of Musashi's life per se is about as good as anything you're likely to find, even in Japanese. It compares well with similar mini- biographies in Japanese books and with Sugawara Makoto's in *Lives of Master Swordsmen*. All such bios are drawn as much from legend as fact. The problem is we just don't know much about the real Musashi. The best and most analytical treatment of Musashi and *Gorin no sho* that I know of in English is G. Cameron Hurst's "Samurai on Wall Street: Miyamoto Musashi and the Search for Success" (UFSI Reports, #44 ). The article features a good bio on Musashi, but Cappy was mainly addressing the *Gorin no sho*-as-Japanese-business-bible craze of the early '80s. (The working title of this piece was "Miyamoto Musashi and the Bull**** of Business as Bushido.")
1997, ed. Diane Skoss, Koryu Books. ISBN 1-890536-04-0. $19.95 plus shipping.
Review by Kim Taylor
Diane Skoss was kind enough to ship me a galley proof of this book for review, something I've
never received before as editor of the JJSA, and something that propelled me to jump the book
to the head of the line for review. Actually that's a bit of a lie, I glanced through it and never
put it down. I am rather attracted to books with this kind of information density.
As far as the conception and layout of "Koryu Bujutsu" is concerned, I can only say that the
apple never falls far from the tree. Coming off a long stint as editor of the Aikido Journal,
Skoss has put together a book which is more journal than novel. The book is a series of articles
by a group of researchers / students, someone once called, rather affectionately, the
"Draegerites". There are articles from Hunter B. Armstrong, Meik Skoss, Diane Skoss, David
A. Hall, Liam Keeley and Ellis Amdur. All students or acquaintances of Donn F. Draeger. In fact
the book is dedicated to Draeger sensei and it certainly shows his influence, especially his
theories on koryu, bujutsu and budo.
That said, I found it very interesting to compare Hunter
Armstrong's views on the Bujutsu vs Budo definition to those held by Kato Takashi, headmaster
of the Tatsumi-ryu in the interview with Liam Keeley. The book does not shy away from
presenting different viewpoints on Draeger's theories. This is to Skoss' credit, and shows a
healthy attitude toward scholarship.
Hunter Armstrong is a strongly "orthodox" proponent of Draeger's work, and presents his views
well in the first chapter entitled "The Koryu Bujutsu Experience". In it, Armstrong explains the
difference between the Koryu Bujutsu and the more modern Budo arts, using the example of the
batto (sword drawing) arts of the koryu against those arts calling themselves iaido.
Meik Skoss takes the next chapter and presents a conversation with Sawada Hanae, a Hanshi in
the All Japan Naginata Federation and a teacher of Tendo-ryu naginata. This type of interview is
absolutely vital information for those of us in the west who have little access to the Japanese
senior instructors, and it is even more valuable when someone like Skoss is asking the right
questions. Sawada sensei's metaphor of a student and an instructor looking at a cup was
especially insightful. The student looks up at the bottom of the cup, the instructor down so she
can see the top and the bottom of the cup. The student can tell certain things about the cup but
the instructor, through a better vantage point, can tell so much more. Several other important
points follow dealing with practice today and in the past.
Diane Skoss then gives a small list of notes and photos on several koryu schools. She promises
to continue this "Field Guide" in the next book, should there be one. I hope she will. The list is
reminiscent of a small booklet put out by the International Hoplological Society, the next
edition of which is long overdue in my humble opinion.
David Hall takes a somewhat rambling run at Marishiten and other Buddhist influences on combative behavior. I say rambling because he goes off into background explanations several times on subjects like the physiological effects of combat, Csikszentmihalyi's "flow state", European schools of fence, and the experience of Vietnam War Vets. This is not to say the article is hard to read, although a background in the
International Hoplological Society's distinctive jargon would help, rather that it requires a bit of concentration to follow. Pick a quiet place to sit while reading this chapter.
I thought of this article while reading a review (by Joseph Svinth in the latest Journal of Asian
Martial Arts,) of "On Killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society" (Lt
Col Dave Grossman). It might be interesting to read that book and then David Hall's article
again to compare the two views on training the warrior for combat.
In chapter five, Meik Skoss gives a very thorough historical analysis of the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu
jujutsu school. This school is of course, one of the roots of modern Judo.
The next chapter is an interview of Kato Takashi, headmaster of the Tatsumi-ryu, president of
the Society for the Promotion of Classical Martial Arts, and a member of the board of
examiners of the Chiba Kendo Federation. It is here that I had to smile when Kato sensei stated
quite categorically (and more than once) that the goals of kenjutsu and kendo, of classical and
modern budo were ultimately the same, and that the personalities and attitudes of the
practitioners were also not different. This after reading the carefully constructed distinctions of
Hunter Armstrong in the first chapter. Kato sensei did state that the modern budo have an
emphasis on physical education and competition, while the classical traditions focus on the
undiluted and authentic transmission of techniques as they were originally designed, to be
effective in combat.
It was quite interesting to read this book, renewing the ideas of the Hoplological Society in my
head, and then to read J.J. Donohue's article "Ideological Elasticity: Enduring form and
changing function in the Japanese martial tradition" in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts
(6(2):10-25, 1997). I suspect Kato sensei would have no difficulty with Donohue's views on the
changing function (while retaining relatively static form) of martial arts in society.
The last chapter of the book, by Ellis Amdur, (Donn Draeger is his aunt... really... read the
book), is worth the price of the book on its own. Titled "Koryu Meets the West", it should be
read by anyone with pretensions toward practice of the classical arts, anyone searching for the
place of the Koryu in the West, and anyone who may have spent a decade or two in Japan
immersed in the Koryu who is now wondering what to do with the skills and knowledge
acquired. I think this lovely little article will calm more than a few "disquieted souls" and I
thank Amdur for writing it.
Overall this book is a "must-have" for anyone who is serious about the study of the Japanese
Martial Arts, classical or modern, bujutsu or budo. Let's hope Koryu Books follows up with
efforts just as strong as this first one.
The book can be ordered as follows:
Via toll-free phone: 1-888-ON-KORYU (665-6798) via fax to 1-405- 949-5646 via e-mail to
email@example.com or P.O. Box 76262, Oklahoma City, OK 73147. Koryu Online:
(1997) Karl Friday with Seki Humitake. U. Hawaii press. ISBN 0-8248-1879-2. Paperback,
Review by Kim Taylor
This is an important book for scholars of the Japanese martial arts, and it is from a true "voice
of authority". Dr. Karl Friday holds a PhD in Japanese History and teaches at the University of
Georgia. He is also a menkyo kaiden in the Kashima Shinryu, the immediate subject of this
book. In his own words, the menkyo kaiden can be considered a PhD degree in this particular
school. Friday's collaborator/co-author is Dr. Seki Humitake, a Professor of Microbiology at the
University of Tsukuba, and the current shihan-ke (the 19th generation headmaster) of the
The book was written to fill a critical gap in academic study of the Japanese Samurai class.
According to Friday, most scholars have neglected the martial training of the samurai, yet this
was a major part of their class mandate throughout much of Japanese history. By using the
specific example of the Kashima Shinryu, Friday attempts to show the importance of this
martial training to the spiritual, physical and moral education of the samurai. Although the
examples are specific to the Kashima Shinryu, of which I have very limited experience, I had no
trouble understanding them. The Kashima Shinryu is, after all, a Japanese martial art and many,
if not most, of the concepts are common to all those arts.
Dr. Friday has attempted to format the book so that we examine first the general philosophy and
purpose of the Kashima Shinryu (and by extension, other schools of martial training), and then
work down to the specific methods of training used in this school. This is the reverse of the way
the student would have been, and currently is, taught. The student begins with the particular
techniques and then slowly absorbs the more general principles underlying the techniques
themselves. This literary reversal of process gives a new perspective which is quite useful in
the consideration of what constituted a ryuha, the martial school.
Just what is a ryuha or a koryu bujutsu? This has been debated in the press, by letter and over
the internet quite a bit in the last few years. This book goes a long way toward answering that
question. I believe I could even say it's the best treatment of that subject in English at this
moment. Right from the first chapter Dr. Friday offers a historical analysis for definitions
which seem eternally contentious. He argues from historical sources and a broad experience
with modern usage to provide a clear understanding of such terms as "budo and bujutsu"
"bushido", "bugei and hyoho or heiho". In the epilog he sums up the arguments on "jutsu and
do" once more and explains how training in a martial art could possibly be a spiritual pursuit.
The book is written in three sections, the history of the samurai and their schools, Kashima
Shinryu in particular; the philosophy and science of combat, specifically the conceptual
framework of Kashima Shinryu; and finally the methods of teaching used in the ryu. At each
stage Friday tries to show the omote (public face) and the ura (hidden side) of the subject. On
page 104 Friday breaks the essential knowledge of any ryuha (school) into three components he
calls hyoho (strategy), te-no-uchi (skill or application of skill) and waza (techniques or tactics).
He goes on to explain how these three levels are functionally inseparable, with hyoho being
manifest in and by waza through te- no-uchi. This suddenly confirmed something I had
suspected since my third year in Aikido, that the philosophy is contained within the practice of
the techniques and this is how the student must learn them. The great secret then? Keiko,
practice, practice and more practice.
I was going to use some other specific examples from the book and discuss their applicability to
other arts but I really don't think that would be useful here, suffice it to say that just about
anyone studying the Japanese martial arts will find much of use in this book. The ethicist will
delight in the discussion of detachment and responsibility for violent actions on page 67.
Aikido students should appreciate the discussions of spiral vs linear vs circular motion
beginning on page 72. Those in the Japanese sword arts can flip the book open at just about any
page and find something to think about.
I am impressed by this book. Dr Friday has attained his stated goals and has tied the martial
training of the samurai firmly to their general education. I don't believe western scholars will be
able to ignore this aspect of samurai life any longer. I am further impressed that such a scholarly
work is such an easy read. Rather than fighting my way through the often intimidating jargon of
academia, I found myself carried along by a natural and easy style of writing which provided the
information clearly and concisely. That said, I think I'll be reading it more than once in order to
extract all the juice that is there.
Legacies of the Sword would be on our "most highly recommended list", if we had such a thing.
I finished Karl Friday's book a while back, but leant it to a friend, so never wrote anything on it,
not wanting to say anything without it in front of me. I still haven't gotten it back, but here goes.
First, everyone go out and buy this book. It is in my opinion the best English language text about
a specific ryuha. Period. The historical sections are a little dry for non professionals like
myself, but had enough interesting tidbits to let me get through the whole thing. What I liked
about the book was that it explained Kashima Shinryu in terms of its principles, allowing me to
get a good "sense" of what it was about, how they think about fighting, etc, as opposed to other
styles. (for example, there is no 'go no sen' in Kashima Shinryu). Most books I've seen about
martial arts tell you about the history of a style and some of its salient features, but nothing much
that will distinguish it from other styles. Karl's book is welcomely different in that regard. He
also talks about some advanced topics you don't find often mentioned, which was pleasantly
Reviewed by Raymond Sosnowski, NH.
Anyone engaged in the pursuit of a Koryu, Bujutsu or (Japanese) Kobudo, is acutely aware of
the general lack of any sort of written documentation, be it historical, descriptive or
instructional texts. Japanese texts, if they do exist, are generally hard to come by (and then
*you* have to do the translation), and English texts, if they do exist, can come in a wide range
of quality; and even some modern Budo are not immune -- consider the dearth of
English-language Kendo or Atarashii Naginata texts compared to the number of Aikido and
Katate-do texts. This situation has been made a little less bleak with the publication of
"Legacies of the Sword" by Prof. Karl Friday of the History Department of the University of
Georgia (Athens) with Prof. Humitake Seki of the Microbiology Department of the University
of Tsukuba (Japan) and the 19th generation Shihanke (head-instructor) of Kashima- Shinryu
In addition to the Aiki-ken (and Aiki-jo) as transmitted by Mr. Morihiro Saito, since 1993 I have
trained in an unusual style of Aiki-ken, which is taught by Mr. Minoru Inaba, the chief Aikido
instructor of Shiseikan Dojo at Meiji Jingu (Shrine), Tokyo, and which is derived from KSR
Kenjutsu [transmission is through the late Mr. Masatake Sekiya of Tokyo, and, more recently,
Mr. Paul Smith of London, both Deshi of Inaba-sensei], which is how I heard about KSR in the
first place. [FYI: Mr. Inaba studied with Mr. Zen'ya Kunii, the previous (18th) Soke and
Shihanke of KSR, for a period of less than one year prior to the latter's death on 17 August 1966
at age 72.] I have also trained briefly but intensely with Prof. Friday at the Guelph School of
Japanese Sword Arts in July, 1996, where he presented an introduction to Kashima-Shinryu, and
we have kept in touch since May, 1996, via mail, e-mail and phone. I am familiar with his
writings in both the "Journal of Asian Martial Arts" and "Ryubi: The Dragon's Tail" [the
Magazine of Kashima-Shinryu/North America (KSR/NA)], and I have also read his first book
"Hired Swords: the Rise of Private Warrior Power in Early Japan" (1992, Stanford University
Press), which is derived from his doctoral dissertation. In addition, he is also a frequent
contributor to IAIDO-L.
I along with a number of other people have eagerly awaited the publication of this text since it was announced last December with an expected availability in March; my personal copy, ordered in early March, arrived in early August [the release date slipped twice due to publisher's problems]. Needless to say, expectations were running high on this one, and, I am happy to say, they were met (and if they weren't, I certainly would have said so and why).
The genesis of this book is Prof. Friday's initial efforts in 1979 to translate "Nihon Budo no
Engen: Kashima-Shinryu" (literally, Japanese Budo's origin/source/inception/beginning: KSR)
written by Seki-sensei and published in Japan in 1976; however, to make it accessible to and
understandable by Occidentals in English would required a large amount of supplementary
material. Over the intervening years, his overall perspective and efforts evolved to the point
where "Legacies of the Sword" is a cultural case study of the Samurai, that is, how one Ryuha
has been shaped in the course of Japanese history. One unique aspect of Prof. Friday's work is
that he had access to the original documents (or exact copies) while he progressed in his
personal study of KSR -- he has obtained the highest rank conferred in KSR, Menkyo Kaiden,
and the highest title (excluding direct succession), Shihan.
The contents of the book consist of:
2. Heritage and Tradition.
3. The Philosophy and Science of Combat.
4. The Martial Path.
In the Introduction, the shortest of the chapters, the author lays out where he is coming from and
where he's going to in the succeeding chapters. A minor quibble at this point -- I found the use
of *both* footnotes and endnotes to be distracting [one normally uses one or the other
exclusively, but, given the types of supplementary material necessary to help the reader along, I
can see why both footnotes and endnotes were used].
The bulk of the book, almost two-thirds, is contained in Chapters 2 through 4. It is fairly
evident in Chapter 2, Heritage and Tradition, that Japanese history is Prof. Friday's profession --
I found it to be academically rigorous enough without being dry or boring. Chapter 2 begins in
a general sense with a discussion of Ryuha and the origins of the Bugei including the concept
of Michi ("way," synonymous with the Japanese "suffix" -do, as in Budo). He then introduces
us to the origin and namesake of KSR, the Kashima Grand Shrine and its martial deity,
Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto, followed by the three founders, Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami Ki no
Masamoto, Kunii Genpachiro Kagetsugu, and Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Fujiwara no Hidetsuna.
At this point, we learn that KSR is a member of the Shinkage Ryu group of Ryuha, rather than the Shinto Ryu group (which is a source of confusion, since there is also a Kashima Shinto Ryu, which is considered to be the source of Mr. Morihei Ueshiba's Aiki-ken as passed down by Mr. Morihiro Saito). Another minor quibble at this point -- Figure 1, principal teacher- student relationships of KSR, has been compressed down so small to fit on two adjacent pages that it is bearly legible. Finally, we learn of the Shihanke ("instructor's house") and Soke ("founder's house") lines, how they have separated, joined and separated over the lifetime of KSR, and the implications for KSR as an organization.
Chapter 3, The Philosophy and Science of Combat, is the heart of this book in my opinion.
Also being a practitioner of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and having read many of the English translations of
the "T'ai Chi Classics" which highlight the principles of TCC [every translator also includes his
own set of commentaries], I found many similarities between the TCC principles and KSR
principles [in fact, the leadership of KSR/NA encourages its students to study the "T'ai Chi
Classics"]. The chapter begins with explorations into the terminology: Ryugi (the kabala or
"secret" doctrine), Shinbu ("divine valor," "true martial art," "spiritual martial power," "sacred
martialism" -- these translations come from the text) and its relationship to Budo and Michi
(the way), and Hoyo-doka ("acceptance and absorption," the essence of Shinbu) which has
several levels of Omote and Ura. The chapter then delves into the framework of the art, that is,
the Fivefold Laws and the Eight Divine Coordinations.
The Goko-no-Hojo (Fivefold Laws) read like Koans (Zen's illogical brain- teasers) as in "Offense
and Defense as One;" for anyone who has truly studied T'ai Chi Ch'uan, this principle is a given,
but to understand it to the point where it is executed without any conscious effort takes years of
training (compare this to the block-punch and block-kick training in Karate which can be
learned in just a few weeks or months). "Yin and Yang as One" simply describes the T'ai Chi.
In "Origination and Manifestation as One," we learn the importance of proper timing and the
application of techniques in time. We are introduced to the Kamae (postures) in "Stillness and
Motion as One." In "Emptiness and Reality as One", we are introduced to Sen-no-sen (an
un-countered attack) and Sen-sen-no-sen (a countered attack which becomes a counterattack).
[FYI: this usage is *different* than that of Kendo. In Kendo, Sen-no-sen is an attack initiated at
the same time as an opponent's attack, and Sen-sen-no-sen is an attack initiated prior to an
opponent's attack. In Kendo, there is also Go-no-sen, a counterattack, that is, a (successful)
attack launched *after* an opponent's attack -- there is no concept of Go-no-sen in KSR.]
Hasshinden (Eight Divine Coordinations) indicate the positions of the eight guardian dieties,
and determine the five basic vectors of spatial motion: Ho (perpendicular), Choku (direct),
Kyoku (diagonal), En (spiraling), and Ei (wedge or acute angle) -- En (spiraling) is ubiquitous in
KSR. The Ryugi also enumerates five fundamental combinations of these vectors that define
1. Kyoku henjite ho to naru ("A diagonal becomes perpendicular").
2. Ei henjite en to naru ("A wedge becomes a spiral").
3. Ei henjite kyoku to naru ("A wedge becomes a diagonal").
4. Ei henjite choku to naru ("A wedge becomes direct").
5. Ei choku kyoku choku ("A wedge is direct; a diagonal is direct)".
There are pictoral representations of each pattern taken from the Jujutsu curriculum of this
Ryuha. All tactics are derived from these five patterns.
Additional concepts covered include Mittsu-no-Kirai (three aversions, that is, three conditions of weight distribution to be avoided in stances), Te-no-Uchi (literally "palm of the hand") and Kiri-otoshi ("cutting down"), Sotai-no-Shime ("concentering the body"), Kiate ("striking with the ki" using Kiai), and Shikake (initiating techniques). Near the end of the chapter, we are presented with a very interesting juxtaposition of martial concepts: the maxim of Mr. Gichin Funakoshi (the father of Japanese Karate-do), "Karate ni sente nashi" ("There is *no* first strike in Karate") with the essence of KSR with respect to combat, "Shinbu ni sente nomi" ("There is *only* the first strike in Shinbu").
The final chapter, The Martial Path, is the longest in the book; here we are introduced to the
weapons of the Ryuha and the introductory set of Kenjutsu Kata. The chapter begins with a
general discussion of Kata [Kata in Japanese Bugei or Koryu and their modern derivatives
almost always implies pattern practice with at least *two* people] and its liabilities. The main
part of the KSR curriculum consists of Kenjutsu (including Batto-jutsu) and Jujutsu Kata.
Additional weapons include the Naginata, Yari (spear), Bo (6-foot staff), Jo (4-foot staff),
Shuriken (throwing darts) and Kusari-gama (sickle with weighted chain) [in training in recent
years, these last two weapons have been de-emphasized].
There are detailed descriptions of Kenjutsu training weapons, the Bokuto (aka Bokken or
wooden sword, which is straight, not curved, with a big wooden Tsuba or hand guard), and the
Fukuro-Shinai (leather-covered, bamboo mock-sword, which has the same shape and
dimensions as the KSR Bokuto). These descriptions are preceded by detailed descriptions and
accompanying figures of the principal Kenjutsu training, the five Kata of the Kihon-tachi
(sword basics) using the KSR Bokuto,
1. Kesagiri (cut along the line of the Kesa, that is, the line of the lapel of a Buddhist monk's robe), *the* basic cut,
2. Ashibarai-ukebune (literally "leg-sweep," which is the attack by Uchitachi and "floating boat," which is a rather poetic way of describing the defense by Shitachi),
3. Kiriwari ("cut divider"),
4. Warizuki ("dividing thrust"), and
5. Kurai-tachi ("occupying sword"),
and the principal Jujutsu training, Reiki-no-Ho, which resembles Kokyu-dosa (Kokyo-ho in
Seiza) in Aikido, but does not include the throw and pin.
The essence of the KSR Waza are contained in these basic, introductory practices; this is
*highly* unusual -- generally, the essence of a Ryuha's Waza is introduced bit by bit until one
achieves the full essence of the art when one masters the art after many years of diligent study;
in KSR, one is introduced *immediately* to the essence of the art, and further training simply
expands on those themes into a myriad of variations. The chapter continues with an elaboration
on texts and written transmission (including 18 instructional verses by Mr. Zen'ya Kunii, the
previous Soke and Shihanke of KSR, with translations by the author), and ends with a
discussion of meditation and the integration of body, mind and spirit [these last sections bear
The Epilogue recaps the use of KSR as an example of martial culture. We can tease some facts
from myth and legend, but, in the end, we are left with the paradox (or, in this case, the martial
Koan) that the ways of peace and personal development can be achieved by studying and
practicing the ancient arts of war.
The first three appendices are devoted to translations of historical texts. Appendix 1 is a
complete translation of the KSR Hyoho-denki, the oldest extant history of the KSR Shihanke
lineage (the Jiki Shinkage-Ryu maintains an almost identical document). Appendix 2 is the
Kunii-ke Keizu ("the geneology of the Kunii House"), complied by Mr. Zen'ya Kunii, the 18th
Soke and Shihanke, which covers the KSR Soke lineage along with the 12th through the 18th
generations of Shihanke [in the 12th through the 18th generations within KSR, the
responsibilities of both Soke and Shihanke have been performed by a single Kunii family
member per generation; it was Mr. Zen'ya Kunii who broke with tradition by splitting these
responsibilities in modern times -- the 19th Soke was his wife, Shizu, who was succeeded by
their son, Michiyuki, upon her death in December 1992; the 19th Shihanke is Prof. Humitake
Seki]. Appendix 3 is KSR and the Origin of Shinbu, which is the final section of the KSR
Menkyo Kaiden Mokuroku (certificate of mastery of KSR) and is a abbreviated history of the
Shihanke lineage that complements Appendix 1.
The last two appendices are devoted to the KSR Organization. Appendix 4 is the Constitution
of the KSR Federation of Martial Sciences (Japan), and Appendix 5 is the Constitution of the
KSR Federation of North America. Appendix 4 contains a list of the ranks and the associated
requirements for those ranks. These, however, are living documents, subject to amendments;
obviously, they are missing the associated revision numbers and dates (it's a minor quibble, but
one that should be noted in this litigious world of ours).
The [End]Notes, and the Bibliography of primary and secondary sources are extensive.
Photographs are confined to a short section with 15 plates; several old photographs as well as
parts of important scrolls are included (alas, none are in color).
One element that I found missing in this text is Kanji. I realize that including Kanji adds to the
expense of producing the book, but I have seen other texts that includes the Romanji with the
Kanji, arranged by chapter, as an appendix. Such an arrangement would keep the text in the
chapters as they are, while providing that extra block of information in a readily accessible
In conclusion, anyone with any connection with KSR *should* already own this book; anyone
with any interest in KSR should own this book; and anyone with any interest in Koryu and/or
Bugei culture should strongly consider adding this text to their personal library.
So, with this book out, many of us are now awaiting the announcement of the availability of *the definitive translation* of "Gorin no Sho" by an expert practitioner of Kenjutsu and a scholar of Japanese history.
Published by The East Publications, Inc., Tokyo. 1988. 260 pp. ISBN 4-915645-01-0. Available through Kinokuniya books USA.
Reviewed by Jeff Broderick, Guelph Canada
There are numerous books available dealing with various aspects of Feudal Japan, such as
"Arms and Armour of the Samurai", "Great Battles in Japanese History", "Samurai Warlords",
and so on. (The many other books by Steven Turnbull come immediately to mind.) There
seem to be very few books, however, which actually discuss the careers of famous swordsmen
of the day, making "Lives of Master Swordsmen" requisite reading for any iaido, kendo or
The book is divided into nine chapters, each of which deals with a famous swordsman,
beginning with Tsukahara Bokuden (1490-1571) and ending with Yamaoka Tesshu
(1836-1888). The author pays special attention in a long chapter to Miyamoto Musashi,
and devotes four chapters to the Yagyu school and its progenitors.
This book is of special value for a couple of reasons.. Firstly, it is one of the few
English-language sources for biographical information on the men who formed and influenced
the illustrious sword schools of Japan, many of which survive to the present. These include
the Niten Ichi Ryu of Miyamoto Musashi, the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu founded by Kamiizuma
Nobutsuna and Yagyu Muneyoshi, and the Itto Ryu, founded by Ito Ittosai Kagehisa.
Wherever possible, the book explains how events in the founder's life influenced the
development of his style, or shed some insight into his personal philosophy of Budo, and
this makes for fascinating reading.
The second value of this book is that it is a pure pleasure to read. The style is clear and
concise, and very entertaining. The text presents many anecdotes in the characters' lives.
Some are, without a doubt, apocryphal but serve to show how legends have grown up around
these fabled figures. Other incidents can be recognized as the inspiration for certain scenes in
samurai films; Tsukahara Bokuden's test of his three sons, and Yagyu Mitsuyoshi's duel
with an arrogant samurai both show up in "The Seven Samurai" but seem all the more vivid
here, since now we see them to be rooted in fact. Fans of this film will no doubt recognize
the following incident in the life of Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, who became Yagyu
"One day...in Owari Province,...[he] saw a crowd of villagers standing some distance
from a solitary cottage... When asked what had happened, the villagers replied that a
criminal had been hiding a child hostage since early in the morning... Nobutsuna said
to the villagers, "Don't worry. I will rescue the child in the cottage." Then he turned to a priest
standing within the circle of villagers and said, "Please shave my head and lend my
your robe." Even Nobutsuna's companions were struck dumb with amazement." (pp. 93-94)
Nobutsuna goes on to trick the bandit on the premise that he is a priest, gaining entrance to
the cottage and disarming and subduing the criminal, in a vivid story which has become part
of samurai lore. The style of the text is light and clear, with a minimum of Japanese for the
My only qualm with this book is that I couldn't seem to get enough! More detail would be
very welcome; only one chapter per swordsman leaves a bit to be desired. It may very well
be, however, that the author had only a limited amount of surviving information to work with.
Still, at the end of each chapter I found myself disappointed that it was over, and hungry for
As a bonus, the book includes maps of Tokugawa Japan, photos of important locales and
surviving portraits of the swordsmen discussed. It also contains a very clear translation of
'Fudochi Shinmyo Roku' (Record of Steadfast Wisdom and Divine Mystery) by the Zen priest
Takuan: a treatise requested by Takuan's friend Yagyu Munenori, concerning zen and the
martial arts. This section is an excellent complement to the main text. Furthermore,
there is a second appendix dealing with the katana, which serves as a good general
introduction to that enormous topic.
I strongly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the samurai, and
especially to kendo and iaido practitioners. Part of understanding what budo is today is
understanding its origins, and the people who created it. This book by Makoto Sugawara is
an indispensible source of that information, and no kendoka or iaidoka should be without it.