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Tsukahara Bokuden

another great samurai. Tsukahara Bokuden (1489 - 1571)


Tsukahara Bokuden was a famous swordsman of early Sengoku period. He was widely regarded as a kensei (sword saint).

Bokuden learned the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu from his adopted father and later honed his skills by engaging in musha shugyo (warrior's ascetic training), traveling throughout Japan and training with most of the skillful and knowledgeable swordsmen of the day. He later systematized the teaching of the Kashima area's local martial arts, including such approaches to combat as Kashima no tachi and Ichi no tachi. After receiving a divine inspiration from Takemikazuchi no kami, the deity of Kashima Shrine, he named his martial system as Kashima Shinto-ryu. He also, for a brief period, called his system Mutekatsu-ryū (winning without hands).

Tsukahara Bokuden was the classic knight-errant. A rich nobleman, he travelled the Japanese countryside, often with a full entourage, in search of adventure. Of course he often found it.

In one anecdote, Bokuden was challenged by a mannerless ruffian. When asked about his style, Bokuden replied that he studied the "Style of No Sword." The ruffian laughed and insultingly challenged Bokuden to fight him without a sword. Bokuden then agreed to fight the man without his sword but suggested they row out to a nearby island to avoid disturbing others. The ruffian agreed, but when he jumped from the boat to the shore of the island, drawing his blade, Bokuden pushed the boat back out, leaving the ruffian stranded on the island. Bokuden explained, "This is my no-sword school."

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signed:J.J. Johnson III