Our kenjutsu practice is focused around the practice of Kashima-shinden Jikishinkage-ryu as taught within the Hobyokai organization of Dr. David Hall. Mark Raugas has trained in the Hobyokai since 2008 and has permission from Dr. Hall to introduce the powerful art of Jikishinkage-ryu to those interested in understanding its approach to medieval combat. Dr. Hall has permission from the late Namiki Yasushi to share his knowledge of Jikishinkage-ryu with others. Mark is a member (nyumon) of the Hobyokai who now lives in Seattle, Washington and while holding no official rank in Jikishinkage-ryu, practices the full curriculum of the art as taught at the Hobyokan. His current focus is on internal body development using the methodology of Jikishinkage-ryu and exploring the art in free practice.

Below, we provide an overview of Jikishinkage-ryu and our approach to teaching that art in the broad context of swordsmanship.

Kashima-shinden Jikishinkage-ryu

Kashima-shinden Jikishinkage-ryu (鹿島神傳直心影流) is one of the most powerful forms of Japanese swordsmanship. It places emphasis on posture, breathing, focusing the mind and spirit (kiai), and developing a powerful cutting ability. It has a very austere character, with kata that are very strenuous to perform and develop a hard form of internal power. Jikishinkage Ryu regards itself as the "true" Shinkage-ryu. Its fourth headmaster, Ogasawara Genshinsai Minamoto no Nagaharu (小笠原源信斎源長冶, 1574–1644), spent 30 years in Beijing in the early 17th century, practicing Chinese martial arts, including the large and heavy kwan dao. Its 14th headmaster, Sakakibara Kenkichi (榊原鍵吉, 1830–1894), was bodyguard to the Shogun and keeper of Edo castle. Jiki contains a profound training regimen focused around the development of kiai (気合), which can be regarded as the active complement of aiki ( 合気 ).

Jikishinkage-ryu: Habiki

In Jikishinkage-ryu, the foundational practices of suburi (cutting drills) and unpo (walking practice) allow practitioners to begin to learn the foundational practice of Hōjō no Kata ( 法定之形 ) or "Four Seasons" kata. Hōjō is an extremely intense practice that develops posture, distance, timing, spirit, and power in a swordsman, and provides the proper foundation for learning the strategy and tactics of the system. The practice of Hojo was said by Yamaoka Tesshu to be as valid a meditative practice as zazen. Another famous practitioner of Jiki and student of Sakakibara was Sokaku Takeda, reviver of Daitō-ryu Aiki-jujutsu and teacher of the founder of Aikidō, Ueshiba Morihei. Once the body and spirit are developed sufficiently, the strategy and tactics of the art are taught as part of To No Kata, typically performed with fukuro shinai to allow for full power practice within combative range. These kata are practiced with spring kiai. Gekken can be introduced at this time, as well as henka waza that explore each kata fully. At higher levels of practice, a very aggressive set of kata with the small sword (kodachi) are taught, using summer kiai. Timing, distance, power, and balance are stressed, and the notion of kuzushi or off-balancing. Eventually, students are introduced to formalized paired practice with metal swords (habiki), using autumn kiai, that further develops internal principles in the practitioner and introduces key strategies of the art.

Partial Lineage Diagram of Kenjutsu Styles practiced by Mark Raugas.
Dotted lines indicate summarizing several generations.

The distinction between the Jiki lines of Shinkage-ryu and the Yagyu lines is clear, but they are likely driven by the same essence. The word "jiki" means "correct" or "true". The emphasis on kiai and dominant spirit in Jiki are an outward (omote) manifestation of some of the essences of Shinkage-ryu. Because Shinkage-ryu grows out of a deep study of and critique of Shinto-ryu by its founder (Kamiizumi Ise No Kami), it is said to contain the gokui or essence of Shinto-ryu in its foundational kata (empi no tachi). This kata is a core part of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu -- it was the first set taught by Kamiizumi to his students, and other kata were developed later to explain and elaborate on its principles. Empi is curiously absent in Jiki's formalism, but key elements of it can be found distributed throughout Jikishinkage-ryu, if you look hard enough. At the same time, Jikishinkage-ryu has far fewer techniques than other systems of kenjutsu. A valid question is whether it has been pared down too much over time. Up until the late 19th century, however, Jikishinkage-ryu was a sogo-bujutsu, and included in addition to tachi and kodachi the practice of bo, naginata, yari, and yawara (grappling) in its curriculum. A focus on shinai sparring by its 14th headmaster, Sakakibara, led to eventual loss of those additional practices. However, it is interesting to note that once experience is gained in Hojo and To no Kata, those same forms can be practiced with odachi, bo, and naginata without great modification. Additionally, the kodachi kata teach stability and kuzushi from tsuba zerai, and introduces ideas related to work at close quarters with edged weapons to the practitioner.

Because of the prior emphasis on shiai, and the condensing of Jikishinkage-ryu's curriculum, it is of great benefit to explore applications of To no Kata in free practice. By the late 20th century, the main line of the art did not practice shiai openly, so we as contemporary practitioners are left to explore applications of the kata largely based on direct experience in both kata and free practice and intuition driven from the practice or study of related arts.