The sickle-spear of the Hōzōinryū (7)

Hozoinryu inei Miyamoto Musashi Takada Matabee

Von Kagita Chūbee, 20. Sōke der Hōzōinryū

Musashi and the Hōzōinryū

The Hōzōinryū was the largest Sōjutsu school during the Edo period, but that its name ist still known nowadays presumably is due to Yoshikawa Eiji's1 novel "Musashi"2.

Portrait of Miyamoto Musashi.But what was the real Musashi3 story? After, at the age of 21, he had completely destroyed the Yoshioka clan4 in the fourth year of Keichō (1604) in the fights at the temples Sanjūsangendō and Rendaiji and at the pine tree at the temple Ichijōji, all in Kyōto, he immediatly went to Nara and visited the Hōzōin. At that time Inei was 84 years old and Inshun 16. Whether due to the old age of the first headmaster of the Hōzōinryū or due to the youth of his successor the man who met Musashis challenge was Okuzōin Dōei. What happend at that time ist written down in the "Nitenki"5. The "Nitenki" is a biography of Musashi that was compiled by a member of his school long after Musashi's death at the age of 62 in the year Shōhō 2 (1645) in the year Hōreki 5 (1755). There is written: "The monk fought with a spear, Musashi with a short wooden sword. Musashi won both bouts, the monk none. Musashi's skills were praised and he was invited to stay at the temple where he was entertained and talked all night long (with Inei) until the morning dawned. Then Musashi left the Temple." So the Hōzōinryu was defeated in two bouts? I don't give too much significance to this report given by one of Musashis disciples more than 100 years after Musashis death. Much more important is the fact that after the contest both parties acknowledged each other, shared food and drink and discussed life and the martial arts until dawn. Until then Musashi usually behaved like a wild beast which after killing an opponent simply took flight. The turning point in Musashis life that easily is dedectable in his accomplished literary works, paintings and calligraphies of his later years surely occured in Nara at the Hōzōin. For this reason the headmasters and all the members of the Nitenichiryu which was founded by Musashi are still on friendly terms with the Hōzōinryū. This historic relationship over four centuries really makes me happy.

Later on in his life Musashi challenged the Hōzōinryū one more time. That was in Kokura in the Province of Buzen6. This fight is depicted in detail in the article "Takada Matabee"7 written by the late local historian Matsubara Hideyo:

"(Takada Matabee, founder of the Hōzōinryū Takadaha Sōjutsu) fought Musashi only once. This contest happend in the year Kanei 9 (1632) in Kokura, because Lord Ogasawara Tadazane8 had been transfered to Kokura in Buzen and Musashi, Ioiri9 and Matabee had followed him there. Ogasawara Tadazane called for Musashi and Matabee and ordered them to compete. At first both declined with due respect, but Tadazane insisted. So finally both had no other choice than to fight, Matabee with a Jūmonjiyari made from bamboo10, Musashi with a wooden sword. At that time Musashi used only one sword, not the short and the long sword simultaneously. Musashi held his sword in chūdan and was fiercly attacked by Matabee's spear. He could parry the first two thrusts but the third slipped somewhat and hit him between his thighs. Immediately Musashi declared: "I have expected nothing els, Matabee. I am defeated." Humbly Matabee answered: "From my point of view you let me win today." Another tradition says that the fight went back and forth without any of the competitors gaining an advantage, when suddenly Matabee dropped his spear with the words: "I surrender." To his unbelieving lord he explained: "The spear is long and the sword ist short. The longer weapon is in advantage by seven to three. But even so it could not win in three bouts. For this reason I, who wielded the long weapon, lost." It is said that Tadazane was very content with the mastery of both fighters."

(First published in the Nara town magazine Ubusuna on July 5th 2009)

1. 1892 - 1962
2. Japanese title: Miyamoto Musashi.
3. Miyamoto Musashi, 1584 - 1645, born as Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Genshin.
4. Until then the Yoshiokas lead one of the most famous schools of sword fighting in Kyōto.
5. Literally: Records of the two heavens. But the meaning is: Records or memories of Two Swords or Musashi.
6. Today partly Fukuoka prefecture and Ōita prefecture.
7. Puplished November 11th 2002 in the special edition "Miyamoto Musashi" of the historical magazine "Rekishi Dokuhon" of the publishing house Shinjinbutsuōraisha.
8. 1596 - 1667
9. Musashi's adopted son.
10. Probably a wooden spear with a crossbar made from bamboo, like the training spears still used today.

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