MJER image index about contact Takeuchi-ryu links

The Seifukan dojo practices Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu. Our club's history in the ryu and the ryu's history is kind of a tangled web. Iai or iaido describes a system of swordwork that focuses on drawing and cutting at the same time, practicing with a "real" metal sword. This is in contrast to what are classified as kenjutsu ryu, which focuses on swordsmanship with the sword already drawn and ready for combat.

The Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu is a system that has many different organizations and factions. One large group is affiliated with the All Japan Kendo Federation and its overseas kendo groups. Other MJER practitioners belong to two other, separate iaido umbrella organizations in Japan, and individual MJER groups. There are some stylistic differences between the organizations and between individual teachers, leading to a hodge podge of technical quality, in my opinion.

In any case, there is not much known about its founder, Hayashizaki Junsuke(or Jinsuke) Shigenobu. He lived circa 1546-1621. Some people credit him with being the "founder" of iai but more properly, he is called in Japanese the chuuko no so of iai; what could be roughly translated as the person who reinvigorated and firmly established an already existing art form. There were other martial systems with iai already in existence before Hayashizaki's time, such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, Tatsumi-ryu and Takeuchi-ryu (see Gordon Warner and Donn F. Draeger's Japanese Swordsmanship Technique and Practice for a decent historical overview).

Hayashizaki is reputed to have performed shugyo (ritual austerities) for 100 days at the Hayashizaki Myojin shrine (now called the Iai Jinja) in modern day Kitamurayama-gun, Yamagata Prefecture. He received a divine inspiration that led to him developing his own particular take on iaijutsu. Originally, he named his style Hayashizaki Muso-ryu, the "muso" meaning "inspired in a dream."

When he performed before the regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi, his style was given the new characters for "Muso," which now meant "without peer."

He gathered many students who went on to develop their own styles, including Katayami Hoki No Kami Hisayasu (Hoki-ryu), Tamiya Hyobei (Tamiya-ryu) and so on. Part of the reason why Hayashizaki's teachings spread far and wide is that he apparently traveled a lot, as a kind of itinerant teacher.

The seventh headmaster, Hasegawa Chikaranosuke Eishin, added the Omori-ryu iai system to the style, which became the basis for the Shoden or Seiza No Bu section of kata. He also renamed the system Muso (without equal) Jikiden (direct transmission) Eishin-ryu. The art become part of the Tosa province warrior's training as an otome waza, an art not to be taught to outsiders. This remained a private art until the modern era, when it was popularized due to the efforts of several teachers, mainly the remarkable kendo master Nakayama Hakudo and Oei Masamichi. They helped to spread the Tosa Eishin-ryu among the wider populace of martial arts practitioners in the early to mid-20th Century. What Hakudo taught was a variation that eventually became known as the Muso Shinden-ryu. Oei Masamichi kept the name Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu.

According to my main MJER teacher, Ohmori Masao, the lines were not clearly drawn between Muso Shinden-ryu and Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu before World War II. It was just accepted that different teachers had different takes on what was known as "Eishin-ryu iai." It was only after the War that hard lines of demarcation formed.

I began iai training in Hawaii under a teacher who taught mainly Muso Shinden-ryu, Chuuichi Furuyama sensei. In 1984 I went to Kyoto, Japan, where I studied Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu (MJER, for short) at the Kyoto Butokuden, in the Rakutokai organization, under the late Ohmori Masao sensei, for a year.


Me at the Butokuden, circa 1984. I was a lot skinnier with more black hair then.

Ohmori sensei studied under Oei Masamichi and Yamauchi Toyotake. Yamauchi sensei was from the Yamauchi family of daimyo lords that once ruled Tosa Province. Yamauchi sensei's style of MJER was characterized by large, elegant movements that represented his former station as a very upper class samurai, so the nickname for his rendition of ia, the Yamauchi-ha MJER, was called "Tonosama No Iai" (the Daimyo lord's iai).


The late Ohmori Masao sensei (photo courtesy of Ken Maneker).

The Rakutokai organization was part of the Kyoto Kendo Federation, so we learned the kendo seitei iai first in order to be ranked through the All Japan Kendo Federation's iaido section. Upon my return to Hawai'i, I would return frequently to Kyoto for further training and ranking.

When Ohmori sensei passed away, for inexplicable (to me) reasons, I was (along with other former foreign-based students) no longer welcome to train at the Rakutokai. At about the same time, the local Hawai'i Kendo Federation's iaido section head also informed me that our club and our members were no longer welcome to their iai workshops and seminars. The reasons given sounded really odd and illogical but I don't wish to cast aspersions. Things like this happen all the time in martial arts politics.

Our club was cast adrift for a while until I met up recently, in 2011, with a sempai, Ken Maneker, seventh dan and head of the Canadian Shin Ken Kai organization, and his wife Katherine (who is also highly ranked in iai). Ken had faced similar problems. To make matters worse, he was much higher ranked than me and much more connected, yet he faced the same odd ostracism from his former organizations. Ken eventually found his way to a different iaido umbrella organization and a different teacher in Japan, and is happily teaching and training in iai without all the previous hassles or personality conflicts. I trained with Ken for a short while and he allowed me and my club to have an informal relationship with him and Shin Ken Kai. As we continue our friendship and training, I hope to formalize the relationship a bit more. Maneker sensei studied with Ohmori sensei, as I did, and he also spent a lot of time studying with the renowned Iwata Norikazu sensei of Shikoku. Both Ken and I also studied under the late Konaka Hiroyuki sensei in Kyoto of the Hoki-ryu, who taught us mostly seitei iai. Ken is currently also teaching and studying Hoki-ryu under Kuze Takashi sensei.


Katherine, Wayne and Ken at Kapi'olani Park playing with sticks.



blue line