Collage of Nitō-ryū from a 1661 Denshō document



Miyamoto Musashi's Hyōhō-no-Hyōshi.

Occasionally, I'm asked what in my view is the key emphasis or focal point in Musashi's Niten Ichi-ryū kata, and the real essence of his latent teachings that are left embedded within them.

First, I tend to point out that within the present-day Niten Ichi-ryū schools the only kata component of the syllabus which can truly be considered as directly from Musashi, with the absolute certainty of an original connection and taken as honden (main transmission), is the Gohō-no-kamae or Gohō-no-tachi; what is now called Nitō Seihō. Other components, such as the Ittō Seihō and Kodachi Seihō were, in fact, added later by other shihan and successors through the generational transmission of the school, and as such it's better to consider those as naiden (inner transmission) kata and teachings. Further, the Bōjutsu within Niten Ichi-ryū could rather be thought of as gaiden (outer transmission) kata that has now been incorporated into the school's curriculum [1].

That is not to take away or suggest that these other components or teachings are not a legitimate part of present-day Niten Ichi-ryū schools, or should be considered to be of any lesser value, as to do so would be a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of my actual view. Rather, it's merely stated transparently to clarify and ensure that my view, and its context, is clearly understood to be strictly limited to that of the Nitō Seihō or five two-sword patterns (Kata). And, that they alone can be said to be unequivocally connected to Musashi and contain the real echoes of his direct teachings. They also bear the true relationship to his writings within both Hyōhō 35 and Gorin-no-Sho.

In that regard, apart from the obvious simultaneous use of two-swords and the functional use of a long-sword with a single hand only, I tend to sum up that initial question as follows: Musashi, I feel, is ultimately seeking to guide and edify the fundamentals or essence of ‘Hyōshi’ - the cadences (the rhythmic flow in a sequence of movement / the flow or rhythm of events) - within individual strategy or combat methods (Hyōhō). And, the Gohō-no-tachi are the expressions or patterns that he left to primarily impart and explore this Hyōshi, and not just Nitō waza (dual-sword technique) as it might outwardly appear. The kata or patterns themselves are essentially the representative outlines of Miyamoto Musashi's Hyōhō-no-Hyōshi.

It goes without saying that, through these Kata, Musashi was also intending to impart the necessary aspects or skills of body movements and sword paths as well as the crucial states of mind and, in the end, the mastery of spirit required for real combat. But, in my opinion, it's the contrary or opposing cadence, which still remains within four of the five of these forms in both of the now separate mainstream Santō-ha and Noda-ha teachings, that is the real ‘essential fundamental’ of the practical base contained in the Gohō-no-tachi or Nitō Seihō. Not surprisingly, when familiar with the essence of what is represented within the kata teachings of the separate extant mainstream lines of the Higo-den Niten Ichi-ryū transmission, this crucial opposing cadence is actually contained in each and across all of the five Nitō forms when coalesced.

Of course, along with the contrary or opposing cadence, other cadences still remain latent within Musashi's Gohō-no-tachi too. Interestingly, clear practical advice on the need to master and employ the appropriate cadences in response to an opponent is purposefully located immediately following Musashi's description of the fifth and final form within Gorin-no-Sho.

Within the English-language translation of Kenji Tokitsu’s Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings [2], the relevant text is presented as follows:

Giving more details regarding these five forms is not necessary. Above all, it is through continuously applying the techniques of these five forms in their full depth that you will learn the whole of the way of the sword of my school, master the general cadences, and perceive the qualities of the sword of your opponents. At the time of combat against opponents, you will thoroughly and fully apply these sword techniques, and you will win, in whatever way, by employing various cadences in response to the intentions of your opponent. You must learn well how to see with discernment.

In relation to Musashi's particular teachings regarding Hyōshi, it is these essential aspects of cadence or Hyōshi that appear as a constant across and throughout every Gorin-no-Sho scroll. Within the Earth Scroll, located deliberately just prior to its postscript, Musashi elucidates and emphasises that important point about Hyōshi being contained in all of the scrolls, and its connection to the foundation of his Hyōhō. It is in the last and final article entitled: Cadences in Strategy [2].

The relevant text from Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings is presented as follows:

In strategy, different cadences exist. First it is necessary to know the concordant cadences and then to learn the discordant ones. Among the large or small and slow or fast cadences, it is indispensable for strategy to discern striking cadences, interval cadences, and opposing cadences. Your strategy cannot be sure if you do not succeed in mastering the opposing cadence.

At the time of strategic combat, you must know the cadences of each enemy and utilize cadences that they will not think of. You will win by unleashing the cadences of emptiness that are born from those of wisdom. In each scroll, I will write about cadence. Examine these writings and train well.

As a comparison, looking at Musahsi's earlier work of Hyōhō 35 - written around two and a half years before Gorin-no-Sho - we can find that Hyōshi or cadences are outlined in Article 22 of that document: 拍子の間を知ると云事 “Recognizing a Gap in a Cadence”. Contained within this single section are the teachings on each of the four Hyōshi that also appear in Gorin-no-Sho. However, within Gorin-no-Sho, Musashi has divided that section and separated each Hyōshi into a dedicated article section - namely Articles 14, 15, 16 and 17 of the Water Scroll.

一、敵を打に一拍子の打の事 “A Single Cadence for Striking Your Adversary”
一、二のこしの拍子の事 “The Passing Cadence in Two Phases”
一、無念無相の打と云事 “The Strike of Nonthought”
一、流水の打と云事 “The Flowing-Water Strike”

An important point to also note is where these four articles, regarding Hyōshi, are intentionally located; they appear immediately following the description of the five Gohō-no-tachi or Nitō Seihō, and the important follow-on admonishment of “Teaching of the Guard without a Guard”.

Musashi’s deliberate division or emphasis and placement in the location of these Hyōshi teachings, can be taken to further signify the importance of them and their inter-connection to the five Nitō patterns or Gohō-no-tachi. It should be noted that Musashi has re-named the “Delayed Cadence Strike” in Hyōhō 35 to the “Flowing-Water Strike” in Gorin-no-Sho, most likely to provide better visualisation of the actual principle or method involved.

Within the Ōgi (secret) teachings of the Seitō Santō-ha school of Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū, three of the four Ōgi Tachi Seihō are directly related to Hyōshi. Without going into the details and specific teachings of each, they're considered as follows [3];

一、敵を打つに一拍子の打ちの事 “A Single Cadence for Striking Your Adversary”
一、ニのこしの拍子の事 “The Passing Cadence in Two Phases”
一、流水の打と云う事 “The Flowing-Water Strike”
一、紅葉の打ちと云う事 “The Crimson-Leaves Strike”

Obviously, one of the four Hyōshi teachings that appear in Gorin-no-Sho is seemingly missing within the above-mentioned Ōgi - namely, “The Strike of Non-thought”. When we look deeper at “The Crimson-Leaves Strike” it can be found that a key aspect of its execution does, in fact, involve “The Strike of Non-thought” or “The Blow Like a Spark from a Stone”. Therefore, it could be said that, within the Seitō Santō-ha Niten Ichi-ryū transmission, the secrets of Musashi's Hyōhō really do involve all of these Hyōshi. As an interesting aside, within the Owari Enmei-ryū teachings, “The Blow Like a Spark from a Stone” is considered Ōgi in their line of transmission.

Musashi’s most crucial instruction regarding the mastery of Hyōhō can also be found within the aforementioned Cadences in Strategy; "Your strategy cannot be sure [certain] if you do not succeed in mastering the opposing [contrary] cadence“. As elucidated earlier, it is this specific aspect of Hyōshi that appears in each and all of the Gohō-no-tachi when considering the essence of the teachings in both Santō-ha and Noda-ha Niten Ichi-ryū.

Truthfully, in my own experience, only partial teachings and limited representation of the real depth in the original practical or technical aspect of Musashi’s Nitō-ryū remain within each of the separate koryū schools of today. Should one seek to acquire deeper insight into this aspect, it is necessary, unfortunately, to be exposed to more than one koryū transmission’s waza (techniques) and riai (underlying rationale).

With regard to Musashi’s Gohō-no-tachi or Nitō Seihō, I have come to recognise that, in striving to attain the depth and mastery of cadences, it is paramount that one acquire and explore studiously the waza of valid transmission line teachings of Musashi, and to always train with Hyōshi in mind. In my view, without continual and repeated exploration in the variety of waza and cadence alternatives, within the five Nitō forms through long-term training, it is unlikely that many present-era practitioners would progress beyond the superficial representations of the Kata as practiced today.

For this reason, within our particular school, we encourage practitioners to simply acquire the various Hyōshi within these five patterns as we initially transmit them. Then, at the appropriate time, we invite them to explore the transmission line variations we impart, including other Nitō waza and alternate cadences within the Gohō-no-tachi, rather than dismiss them due to dogma and adherence to the politics of authenticity.

It is potentially through applying this further exploration to the full depth with thorough training that a practitioner might garner a genuine understanding of the true breadth of the different and various Hyōshi within these five patterns. In particular, the situational aspects and rhythmical intervals within the tempo that provide the opportunity to disrupt or manifest a disturbance in the opponent’s cadence, to break their body posture and intent, as well as in reciprocally imposing one’s own various situationally appropriate cadences to decisively slash or cut the opponent without conscious thought and/or great effort.

Fundamentally, I feel the Gohō-no-tachi or Nitō Seihō have been left by Musashi so that we may first seek, and then attempt in a practical way, to undertake this paramount and crucial mastery of Hyōhō-no-Hyōshi.


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1. Within Kumamoto, alongside Niten Ichi-ryū, the Bōjutsu of Shioda Hamanosuke Shosai, a deshi and contemporary of Musashi, was transmitted as its own ryūha, called Musashi-ryū Bōjutsu (武蔵流棒術), in the Edo period. In fact, it is said that Musashi had suggested his disciples study this Bōjutsu directly under Shioda Hamanosuke believing it to be beneficial for them. The late Imai Masayuki sōke, the 10th headmaster of Seitō Santō-ha Niten Ichi-ryū, is on record as having acknowledged that the founder of the Bōjutsu within Niten Ichi-ryū was Hamanosuke. According to Inamura Kiyoshi, a long-term, pre- and post-World War II deshi, the 8th sōke, Aoki Kikuo, did not transmit Bōjutsu, and, according to another deshi, Gosho Motoharu, Aoki sōke also did not transmit Jutte during his time as headmaster of the Seitō Santō-ha branch. Therefore, it would appear that the Musashi-ryū Bōjutsu and Jutte were assimilated into Niten Ichi-ryū during the successorship of Kiyonaga Tadanao, the 9th sōke of that branch of the school. It is also the case, that the Noda-ha branch of Niten Ichi-ryū only ever transmitted the Gohō-no-kamae or five Nitō forms as the sole kata of Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū. However, the mainstream faction of Noda-ha has now also incorporated the purported Edo-period twelve Ittō Seihō (single sword kata) into their curriculum and syllabus. Following the unexpected death of Terao Kumanosuke’s 4th son and designated Hosokawa-han successor, Terao Nobumori (Shinmen Bensuke) in 1701, there have been inter-factional issues and competing claims of authenticity among the Higo-den line and branches, including sub-branches, of transmission within Niten Ichi-ryū that still exist to this day.

2. Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings by Kenji Tokitsu. Translated by Sherab Chödzin Kohn, Shambhala Publications, 2004, ISBN 987654321

3. 兵法二天一流の奥義太刀勢法 - Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū no Ōgi Tachi Seihō;「この奥義の太刀勢法を行うにはニ刀にて行う。即ち、打太刀は一刀、仕太刀はニ刀であります。」今井正之宗家 - 'To carry out this Ōgi Tachi Seihō, it's executed with two swords. That is, uchidachi has one sword and shidachi has two swords.' Imai Masayuki sōke: In other words, these Ōgi (secret techniques) are not Ittō Seihō, also commonly referred to as 'Tachi Seihō' - which might cause some confusion.


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