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Hozoin-ryu

Spiritual: A hōnō-enbu (demonstration presented as an offering) is performed every year at Kofukuji, the temple where Hozoin-ryu was founded. | MASATOMO MORIYAMA
Spiritual: A hōnō-enbu (demonstration presented as an offering) is performed every year at Kofukuji, the temple where Hozoin-ryu was founded. | MASATOMO MORIYAMA

Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha Sojutsu is a school of spearmanship with a history of more than 460 years.

It was founded by the monk Kakuzenbo Inei for Hozoin, a branch temple of Kofukuji. The teachings of Hozoin-ryu were passed down to renowned spear master Takada Matabei Yoshitsugu, and continue to this day under Junzo Ichiya, the 21st head of the school.

Hozoin-ryu is characterized by the use of the kamayari, a “forked spear” featuring a cross-shaped head, which was devised by Inei.

Says Headmaster Ichiya, “In training, an ordinary straight spear called a suyari is also used, and this use of two types of spear is what makes Hozoin-ryu sōjutsu (spear-fighting art) unique. Practice is done in pairs, with one person holding a suyari and the other a kamayari. There are various offensive and defensive techniques, including thrusts, takedowns, shearing attacks, pushing attacks and disarming tactics.”

Headmaster Junzo Ichiya of Hozoin-ryu | MASATOMO MORIYAMA
Headmaster Junzo Ichiya of Hozoin-ryu | MASATOMO MORIYAMA

The kamayari was so versatile it was praised in poetry: “Thrust: It is a spear. Sweep: It is a pole sword. Pull: It is a sickle. Whatever the case, it never fails to hit the target.” Due to the weapon’s ease and freedom of use, Hozoin-ryu was adopted by most feudal clans in the Edo Period (1603-1868), and became the most widely adopted martial-arts school across Japan.

Inei studied Yagyu Shinkage-ryu with Yagyu Sekishusai under the tutelage of Kamiizumi Ise no Kami, and it is possible to find commonality between his teachings and those of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu. Both the etsugen (smiling eyes) teaching of Hozoin-ryu and the katsunin-ken (life-giving sword) concept of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu aim to force the opponent to move first so that he can then be overcome.

Based on excerpts from the book “Budo: Japanese Martial Arts,” published by Nikko Graphic Arts Co., Ltd. The new addition to the “I Know Japan” photobook series, the book delves into the tradition, spirit and authentic beauty of four of the most distinctive schools of Japanese martial arts, with stunning visuals and in-depth coverage. Available in English, French and German. Hardcover, 108 pages. For purchase, visit nga-publication.com.

For more insight into Japan’s culture, arts and lifestyle, visit int.kateigaho.com.

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