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Miyamoto Musashi (1584-June 13 1645)
Miyamoto Musashi is considered one of the greatest samurai of all.
Said to have fought over 60 duels and participated in a number of
battles, never once being defeated, Musashi created his own sword
styles, gained fame as a painter, calligrapher, wood and metal
sculptor, writer and strategist.
Musashi was born Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin,
with the childhood names of Bennosuke or Takezo, in the village
of Miyamoto in Mimasaka, Harima Province. His mother died soon
after he was born, and he was raised by his father, Shinmen Munisai,
an accomplished swordsman and expert in the jitte, a baton like
instrument with a side protruding hook used for blocking, deflecting
and trapping swords.
At a young age, Musashi was sent to live with his uncle at a temple,
where he was taught basic reading and writing skills.
According to Musashi’s Book Of Five Rings, the “Go Rin No Sho“,
Musashi had his first duel at the age of thirteen. His opponent was
Arima Kihei a wandering swordsman from the Shinto-Ryu school. Musashi’s uncle tried to stop the fight
on account of Musashi’s age, however moments into the bout, Musashi threw Arima to the ground and
hit him with a wooden staff. Arima Kihei died vomiting blood.
At 17, Musashi joined the army of Ukita Hideie fighting for the Toyotomi loyalists in the Battle of Sekigahara
in October 1600. Following the battle, Musashi roamed Japan perfecting his fighting skills, enduring hardships
and duels in an effort to better himself.
Duel With The Yoshioka Clan
Arriving in Kyoto, the 21 or 22 year old Musashi fought a series
of duels against the famed Yoshioka Clan, respected instructors
to four generations of the Ashikaga Shogun and founders of the
Yoshioka style, one of the eight major sword styles of kenjutsu
created around 1532 by Yoshioka Kempo.
The first duel was against Yoshioka Seijuro, then head of the
Yoshioka family and school and took place March 8, 1604,
outside the Rendai-ji Temple in Northern Kyoto. It was to be
fought with a bokuto (wooden sword) with the winner declared
by a single blow.
As a part of his strategy, Musashi arrived late. Angered by this
disrespect, the overconfident Seijuro lost his temper, and his
concentration. In an instant, Musashi struck at Seijuro with his
wooden sword, breaking his left arm. Having lost the duel to a
“nobody”, Seijuro retired from samurai life and became a monk.
Yoshioka Seijuro’s brother, Denshichiro, then became the head of the Yoshioka clan.
Denshichiro was said to have been an even more able swordsman than Seijuro, and to avenge his brother
and restore family honor, another duel was arranged. The second bout was staged at the Buddhist temple Sanjusangendo, in Kyoto’s Higashiyama District. Musashi, armed with a bokuto once again arrived late,
and again was the victor, killing Denshichiro instantly with a single blow to the head.
This further angered and embarrassed the Yoshioka Clan and their followers, who issued the next challenge
in the name of Yoshioka Matashichiro, the 12-year old head of the clan. The Yoshioka honor and reputation
was at stake, and so the school arranged for the following duel to be fought below the spreading pine tree
on the slopes below the Ichijo-Ji Temple in the north of Kyoto.
The Battle at the Spreading Pine of Ichijo-Ji
This time Musashi arrived at the designated area well ahead of time and waited in hiding. He was not
surprised to find the young Yoshioka leader dressed in full battle armor and surrounded by a large contingent
of retainers armed with swords, bows and matchlock guns. Musashi waited patiently as the boy took his
position under the great pine tree and his men set the ambush.
He emerged in the very middle of the Yoshioka trap, and cut the boy down, instantly ending the Yoshioka
School. Within moments, the Yoshioka disciples were falling over each other in an effort to cut down their
single enemy. Greatly outnumbered, Musashi fought his way out of the ambush in a manner unseen by the
samurai of the time. He held his katana long sword in his right hand, and companion sword, the wakizashi,
in his left, and so used both swords to cut his way out of the Yoshioka throng.
It was a style based on his fathers’ teaching with the Jitte, using the short sword to block the opponents
blade, allowing a decisive cut be made with the main sword. This style was to be known as Enmei Ryu,
later the Nito-Ryu and Niten Ichi style of swordsmanship.
Related Article of this Post
- 2013.05.11 CULTURE Japanese Martial Arts, Kendo
- 2013.05.07 PLACES Miyamoto Musashi’s Birthplace, Mimasaka
- 2013.05.03 HISTORY Site of Miyamoto Musashi’s greatest Duel, Ganryujima / 厳流島
- 2013.05.02 HISTORY Miyamoto Musashi
- 2012.08.06 INTERVIEW #005 Traditional Martial Arts Master; KATO ISAO / 尾張貫流槍術・加藤伊三男さん_03
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