The Roots of the Willow:
A Concise History of Shinto Yoshin Kai Combat Jujutsu (新 道 楊 心 会 実 戦 柔 術)
James E. Smith – Sandan Shinto Yoshin Kai Combat Jujutsu
Part 2: Shinto Yoshin Koryu Jujutsu
Classical and Modern Jujutsu
The Japanese fighting arts are often divided into Koryu (古 流), or Classical, and Gendai (現 代), or modern; Jujutsu is no exception. Generally scholars and historians set the dividing line at the Meiji Restoration of 1868, with most of the surviving Koryu belonging to the relatively peaceful Edo era. Gendai arts were therefore not for fighting on the battlefield.[i] There is further distinction made between Bujutsu (武 術), or Martial Arts, and Budo(武 道), or Martial Ways[ii]. A very simplified way to think of it is that Koryu/Gendai denotes time and depth of tradition, whereas Bujutsu/Budo can denote the intent of training. Bujutsu is about fighting; budo is about self-improvement, although not everyone would agree with this distinction…
Shinto Yoshin Koryu
Katsunosuke Matsuoka was born in Edo on the 26th of December, 1836. He studied Muira Yoshin Ryu and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu, as well as Hozoin Ryu Sojutsu (Spear Arts), Hakushin Itto Ryu and Jikishinkage Ryu Kenjutsu (sword arts).[iii] In 1864, four years before the Meiji Restoration, Matsuoka created Shinto Yoshin Ryu (新 道 楊 心 流), meaning “New Willow Spirit School” combining the remnants of both Yoshin Ryu (Muira Yoshin Ryu and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu) and the various weapon schools in which he was proficient.[iv]
After being shot in the back in the battle of Toba-Fushimi, where he fought for the Shogun against the forces loyal to the Meiji, Matsuoka escaped to Ueno village. He took the name Ishijima from his wife’s family, who resided in Ueno village. Matsuoka opened a dojo, with an adjacent bone setting clinic that provided financial stability.[v] In 1884, he was given official permission to run his medical clinic and in 1887 was officially pardoned by the Meiji government. It was at this time that he established the Matsuoka Shindokan dojo, changing the meaning of Shinto Yoshin Ryu from “New Willow Spirit School”(新 道 楊 心 流) to “Sacred Willow Spirit School” (神 道 揚 心 流)[vi]. The Matsuoka Shinodkan became well known for the martial proficiency of its adherents. Matsuoka Katsunosuke, one of the last personal body guards of the Tokugawa Shogun, died in 1898.
Inose Motokichi became the 2nd headmaster of the main line of Shinto Yoshin Ryu. With modern, Western weapons quickly diminishing the practicality of classical weaponry of the koryu, martial techniques and methods were adapted to suit Japan’s new climate of modernity. Under Inose’s guidance Shinto Yoshin Ryu began to evolve with the times, taking on more of the newer Judo model and abandoning the military/sogo bujutsu methods of old. Inose’s methods appear to have worked incredibly well; dojo records indicate the large number of students attending classes at the Matsuoka Shindokan.[vii]
Students of Shinto Yoshin Ryu also trained in nearby Shimotsuma at the Genbukan dojo, under the direction of a licensed student of Motokichi named Nakayama Tatsusaburo.[viii] Nakayama granted a Menkyo Kaiden (免 許 皆 伝), or full teaching license, to Hironori Otsuka on June 1st, 1921.[ix] It is with Otsuka that we come to the beginning of modern Shinto Yoshin Ryu.
[i]. Serge Mol, Classical Fighting Arts Of Japan A Complete Guide To Koryu Jujutsu (Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International Ltd., 1970), p. 219.
[ii]. Donn F. Dreager, Classical Budo: The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan Vol. 2 (New York: Weatherhill, 1973).
[iii]. Toby Thredgil and Shingo Ohgami, “Takamura-Ha Shindo Yoshin-Ryu Jujutsu: History and Technique.”
[iv]. Serge Mol, Classical Fighting Arts Of Japan A Complete Guide To Koryu Jujutsu (Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International Ltd., 1970), p. 214.
[v]. Toby Thredgil and Shingo Ohgami, “Takamura-Ha Shindo Yoshin-Ryu Jujutsu: History and Technique.”
[vi]. Toby Thredgil and Shingo Ohgami, “Takamura-Ha Shindo Yoshin-Ryu Jujutsu: History and Technique.”
[vii]. Toby Thredgil and Shingo Ohgami, “Takamura-Ha Shindo Yoshin-Ryu Jujutsu: History and Technique.”
[viii]. Toby Thredgil and Shingo Ohgami, “Takamura-Ha Shindo Yoshin-Ryu Jujutsu: History and Technique.”
[ix]. Hironori Otsuka, Wado Ryu Karate, trans. Shingo Ishida (Tokyo, Japan: Masters Publication, 1997), p. 2.