Budo World

New ryūha created, “Three Great Dojo of Edo”

Shinai-uchikomi kenjutsu soon prospered. It became very popular due to the possibility of sparring freely, which instigated the rise of competitiveness in swordsmanship. Also, because of the degree of safety conferred by kendō-gu, the ban on long-prohibited taryū-jiai (duels between different schools) was lifted, and the desire for competitive exchanges between ryūha became greater. As taryū-jiai used to be performed with live blades or wooden swords, serious injury or death was commonplace, and the Bakufu forbade it out of concern for reprisals. The ban was lifted during the Tenpō period because of the safety of using shinai and protective equipment, and it became more widespread as a result.

From the middle to the end of the Edo period, ryūha that excelled in shinai-uchikomi kenjutsu were the most prosperous; among them were the Shingyōtō-ryū founded by Iba Zesuiken Hideaki, the Nakanishi-ha Ittō-ryū founded by Nakanishi Chūta Tanesada, Chiba Shūsaku Shigemasa’s Hokushin Ittō-ryū, Kogen Ittō-ryū created by Henmi Tashirō Yoshitoshi, Fukui Heiuemon Kahei’s Shintō Munen-ryū, the Jikishinkage-ryū developed by Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori, and Momonoi Hachirōzaemon Naoyoshi’s Kyōshin Meichi-ryū.

From 1830 to 1860, many fencing salons opened in Edo. Martial arts, including kenjutsu, were originally practised by bushi only, but this rule started to weaken in the nineteenth century so that the common classes were also able to participate. Lower-ranked bushi with small income, or people not from the warrior class started to learn kenjutsu, and then taught it to make a living in what are called “machidōjō” or “town dōjō”. In Edo, there were three great machidōjō at the time.

Chiba Shūsaku’s Genbukan is said to have had 3,600 disciples, and among them some very famous swordsmen. Chiba Shūsaku studied the Nakanishi-ha Ittō-ryū and then he created his own style, the Hokushin Ittō-ryū. He was a massive influence in the formation of techniques that are used in modern kendo.

Saitō Yakurō’s Renpeikan was also one of the three great dojos. Saitō was a master of the Shintō Munen-ryū, and among his students were men who would become instrumental in the Meiji Restoration, like Takasugi Shinsaku and Katsura Kogorō.

Momonoi Sunzō Naomasa’s Shigakukan was the third significant fencing salon. Momonoi was from the Kyōshin Meichi-ryū. The Genbukan, the Renpeikan and the Shigakukan were thus considered to be the three great fencing salons of Edo. It is said that Chiba Shūsaku possessed sublime technique, Saitō Yakurō had immense power, and Momonoi Sunzō was extremely elegant. Also the Odani Dōjō, run by Odani Seiichirō (who would later become the kenjutsu instructor for the Kōbusho) from the Jikishinkage-ryū was very famous at the time.