September 1995:
History of Takagi Yoshin Ryu

by Peter Aelbrecht

Takagi Yoshin Ryu has very few similarities with the other schools in the Bujinkan. The Dai Nihon Bugei Ryu Ha says that a series of techniques, which were in future years to become known as the Takagi Ryu, were put together by a wandering Taoist monk called Sounryu in 1569. He lived in Rikuzen Funagawa, not far from Sanroku mountain. Takagi Ryu techniques were made up from Taijutsu, Bojutsu, and Shuriken.

Several generations later the Ryu passed to Oriemon Shigenobi Takagi, a Samurai from Katakura Kojuro in Fukushima prefecture. He was taught by Ito Sukesada from the age of 16 years, and was given the Menkyo Kaiden when he was 20. Oriemon was born on 2nd April 1625 and died 7th October 1702 (?). He revised and improved the techniques and put them together into what was known then as Takagi Ryu. It was also for this reason that the Ryu was named after him. The Yagyu Ryu were the sword instructors for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1600s. It is also possible that they were ninja. Takagi arranged several matches with them and being successful, put the Takagi Ryu on the Japanese martial arts school map in the 1600s.

The school passed on to Umannosuke Shigetada Takagi. Umannosuke started to study under Orieman in 1671 when he too was 16, adding new techniques from the Taijutsu school Takauchi Ryu. He however taught the school as Takagi Ryu Dakentaijutsu, Bojutsu, Sojutsu, Naginatajutsu, and Senban Nage. In 1695 he was recognized by the Emperor as a high class martial artist. He also studied Zen with Gudo-Washo, a Zen monk from the Chzen temple. Some of these Zen attitudes where also introduced to the teachings of the Ryu. Umannosuke traveled extensively throughout Japan teaching his system of Dakentaijutsu. He died 26 April 1711.

Gennoshin Higeshige was the son of Umannosuke and changed his name to Takagi Yoshin Ryu Tutaijutsu. He taught in Hyogo prefecture. He was good at Dakentaijutsu, and he changed the name to Takagi Ryu Jutaijutsu. Ohkuni Shigenobu was an expert in Kukishinden Ryu, he was invited to stay and teach his system to the Takagi Yoshin Ryu by Gennoshin. These two Soke rearranged the two Ryu making Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu and Kukishinden Ryu Bojutsu etc. Gennoshin became ill and died on 2nd October 1746. He asked Ohkuni to continue the original teachings in the new way that they had created together. Ohkuni then renamed the school Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu. October 1841, Yagi Jigero Hisayashi, a retired Samurai from AKOH castle in Hyogo prefecture, opened a dojo in Hyogo prefecture in Akashi. He taught Ishitani Takeo Masatsugu. His son Ishitani Masataro also became the Soke of Kukishinden Ryu and Shinden Tatara Ryu (this was later to be called Shindenfundo Ryu). He learnt the later from Akiyama Yotaro. He made some changes and the Takagi Yoshin Ryu was founded, but the old line of Soke was not forgot, but continued with the new name. Ishitani taught Takamatsu Toshitsugu from 1903-1911.

In June 1952 Sato Kinbei Kiyoaki was taught by Takamatsu and later became the 17th Soke of this school, but this is not the Takagi Yoshin Ryu as taught within the Bujinkan System. It is called Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu. In November 1989 Shoto Tanemura the Soke of Genbukan Ninpo became the 18th Soke of Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu. With the death of Takamatsu, Masaaki Hatsumi became the 17th Soke of Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. There is a also another school in Japan called the Hon Tai Ryu Jujutsu. Three different schools exactly the same, but with different Soke, but now creating their own history.

Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu takes its techniques further than Judo or Aikido, who allow their opponents to breakfall or roll out of the techniques. Instead the techniques applied make as difficult as possible for the opponent to escape by rolling or breakfalling. In the past, these techniques were used in battle were Samurai would be wearing armor and punches and kicks would have little effect. Therefore it is more effective for the opponent to be dropped or dragged down by their own body weight. The basic techniques of Takagi Yoshin Ryu are as follows: breakfalls, blocks, and counterstrikes. These also included holds and releases. Followed by levels of SHODEN NO GATA, CHUDEN NO SABAKIGATA, CHUDEN NO TAI NO GATA, OKUDEN NO GATA, ERI SHIMEGATA, MOGURI GATA.

Following these there are techniques for dealing with armed attackers. Takagi Yoshin Ryu has a variety of ways for taking down an attacker which include nerve points, chokes, kicking the legs away, and throws.

This article originally appeared in NinZine Number 3. E-mail: peter.aelbrecht@intec.rug.ac.be for more information or if you have any comments on this article.

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