Jigen-ryu: Secret Swordsmanship of the Samurai

jigen-ryu kenjutsu kodachi
Jigen-ryu kata practice

Jigen-ryu Swordsmanship

Jigen-ryu is a style of swordsmanship unique to Kagoshima founded by a samurai named Togo Tobei Bizen no Kami Chui (1561-1643). Even today Jigen-ryu has a profound effect on the mentality and culture of Kagoshima.

Jigen-ryu has been passed down unchanged from father to one son over the past 400 years to the 13th generation headmaster, Togo Shigetaka. Jigen-ryu was designated mongai fushutsu (lit. not to pass beyond the gate) by the lords of the Shimazu clan and was practiced in secret only by samurai of the Satsuma domain.

In 1995, on the dying wish of the 11th headmaster, Togo Shigemasa, the Jigen-ryu Togo Foundation was created in order to preserve and promote Jigen-ryu for the benefit of future generations. The Jigen-ryu practice hall and museum of historical documents was completed in 1997 and private documents were made available for public viewing for the first time in the 400 year history of the school.

This is a rare opportunity to experience training in a traditional style of swordsmanship that was actually practiced by the samurai of the Satsuma domain.

watching Jigen-ryu
Watching a demonstration of Jigen-ryu

Watch a Demonstration of Jigen-ryu

Enter the Jigen-ryu dojo and make their way onto the stage overlooking the dojo floor. Two senior practitioners will show a demonstration of tategi-uchi – the basic striking practice where a tree trunk is struck powerfully on the left and right sides with a wooden sword, and kata using various weapons. The samurai of the past used to strike the tategi 3,000 times in the morning and 8,000 times at night. Some say that smoke would start to start to appear if the tategi was struck rapidly enough!

A guide will explain the history of Jigen-ryu and the founder Togo Chui, as well as some of the aspects of the training methods and meaning behind some of the kata being demonstrated. Pose questions directly to the teachers directly after the demonstration to find out more about the school and its philosophy.

Training in Jigen-ryu

Enter the Dojo

After the demonstration of Jigen-ryu, come onto the dojo floor and try tategi-uchi in a rare opportunity to be taught directly by masters of one of Japan’s most well known yet secretive schools of swordsmanship.

Learn the basic etiquette of the school before starting. Students only bow when entering the dojo and taking and replacing weapons. This is a major difference compared to other martial arts schools. Everyone in the dojo is seen as an enemy, and showing the slightest opening or weakness is not permitted.

Practice is carried out barefoot and in regular everyday clothing. The idea is that the practitioner should be ready for combat at any time – not only when wearing a special uniform. Space to change into easy to move clothing will be provided in advance.

Learn how to take and replace weapons, how to handle the wooden sword, the basic postures in Jigen-ryu, and how to strike with the sword. Once the basics have been reviewed, try your hand at the basic practice of tategi-uchi.

After the training experience is completed, try optional training in the esoteric Buddhist practice called Ajikan, which founder Togo Chui found useful in attaining the correct mental state for swordsmanship.

Historical Documents

Founder of Jigen-ryu, Togo Chui, used examples from Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto to explain the reasoning and psychology of his school based on his many years of hard training. Once training is completed take a look at some of the documents written by the founder over 400 years ago with an expert guide to gain deeper insight into the martial practices of the samurai. ⁣