Ogasawara Nagakiyo founded Ogasawara-ryu more than 830 years ago as a school of archery, mounted archery and etiquette. The Ogasawara family served as instructors in these disciplines for generations of shogun. Ogasawara-ryu etiquette was taught to warriors across Japan as appropriate behavior for those of samurai breeding, and became the foundation for martial arts etiquette.
The secrets of Ogasawara-ryu have been passed down from father to son throughout the centuries, and are preserved by the 31st-generation current head of the school, Kiyotada Ogasawara.
“In Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868), the samurai received education in both military and literary arts, as was expected of the ruling class,” says headmaster Ogasawara. “They also undertook comprehensive studies of mounted archery, the use of swords and spears, and other martial arts, which are all collectively referred to as budō. By studying these arts diligently, warriors attained the mental attitude and disposition representative of a true samurai. Following the example of samurai culture, the people of Japan came to accept and adopt the dogma of rei (etiquette, propriety, politeness). Budō was a vehicle by which this ideal was developed and demonstrated through action rather than theory.
“Although it is said that budō (martial arts) begins and ends with rei — respect and propriety — only Ogasawara-ryu practices the true protocols of rei known as reihō,” Ogasawara continues. “Reihō is different from the standard interpretation of decorum or manners. The foundations of reihō are established through physical training and unremitting self-discipline. “Other forms of budō focus on kata and perhaps winning matches,” he continues. “However, in Ogasawara-ryu we aim to train the mind and body through mundane but extremely difficult actions such as constantly maintaining exemplary posture.”
Yabusame is a traditional martial art in which an archer fires at targets from a galloping horse. As a religious ritual in which peace and the well-being of Japan are prayed for, it has been performed at Shinto shrines since ancient times.
Three targets are lined up at 70-meter intervals on a 250-meter riding course, and the archer fires at them while riding at a full gallop. A fast horse can run up to 60 kilometers per hour, so the release of arrows must be achieved in just 20 seconds. As the archer shoots, he shouts “In’yo, in’yo, in’yo” to call upon the universe and the deities. The strong legs and excellent posture needed to skillfully shoot arrows from a galloping horse are created by incorporating proper etiquette into daily life.
Based on excerpts from the book “Budo: Japanese Martial Arts,” published by Nikko Graphic Arts Co., Ltd. For more information, visit nga-publication.com.