Tsukahara Bokuden

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Tsukahara Bokuden
Statue of Tsukahara Bokuden.JPG
Statue of Tsukahara Bokuden (Kashima City, Ibaraki Prefecture)
BornTsukahara Shin'emon Takamoto
c. 1489, first year of Entoku
Hitachi Province
Died11 February 1571(1571-02-11) (aged 81–82), Genki (era)
Kashima (now Kashima City), Japan
Native name塚原 卜伝
Other namesYoshikawa Asako (infant name) → Tsukahara Takami (塚原高幹?) → Buden (number)
ResidenceJapan
StyleKashima style of kenjutsu
ChildrenMikishige (幹重) son
Notable studentsAshikaga Yoshiteru; Kitabatake Tomonori; Hosokawa Fujitaka; Imagawa Ujizane; Kamiizumi Nobutsuna; Yamamoto Kansuke and more.
Japanese name
Kanji塚原 卜伝
Hiraganaつかはら ぼくでん

Tsukahara Bokuden (塚原 卜伝, 1489 – March 6, 1571) was a famous swordsman of the early Sengoku period. He was described as a kensei (sword saint). He was the founder of a new Kashima style of kenjutsu, and served as an instructor of Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiteru and Ise provincial governor daimyō Kitabatake Tomonori.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bokuden was born into the Yoshikawa family within the Hitachi Province of Honshu. The family was one of four Karō families serving the Kashima clan; one of the cadet branches of the Imperial House of Japan (descendants of the Imperial Prince Kazurahara (葛原親王, 786–853)). Bokuden was adopted by the Tsukahara family, an offshoot of the Kashima clan; he was styled as Tsukahara Bokuden Takamoto. Earlier in his life, his name was Tsukahara Shin'emon Takamoto.

Career[edit]

An ukiyo-e print by Yoshitoshi depicting the fictional encounter between Tsukahara Bokuden and the legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi

Bokuden learned the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū from his adopted father and later honed his skills by engaging in musha shugyō (warrior's ascetic training), traveling throughout Japan and training with most of the skillful and knowledgeable swordsmen of the day. Tsukahara Bokuden was the classic knight-errant; a rich nobleman, he travelled the Japanese countryside, often with a full entourage. 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 allegedly receiving a divine inspiration from Takemikazuchi no kami, the deity of Kashima Shrine, he named his martial system as Kashima Shintō-ryū. He also, for a brief period, called his system Mutekatsu-ryū ("winning without hands").

In one anecdote recorded in the Kōyō Gunkan, 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 on Lake Biwa 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". Bruce Lee was so fond of this story that in Enter the Dragon (1973) he teaches a bully a lesson about "Fighting without Fighting" when he offers to leave a junk and sail to an island.[2]

There is an anecdote that the young Miyamoto Musashi challenged Bokuden to a duel during a meal. When Musashi struck first, Bokuden parried the sword by using the lid of an iron pot he was eating from in the hearth as a shield (as depicted in a nishiki-e by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi). In reality, since Tsukahara Bokuden died 13 years before Musashi was born, they could not meet directly. Thus this anecdote is a myth.

According to Tokitsu Kenji, Tsukahara fought his first duel to the death at the age of 17 and won. Then, he duelled again 19 times and fought in 37 battles. He was wounded 6 times in total, but only by arrows. In total, his death toll seems to have reached 212.

Death and legacy[edit]

Bokuden died of natural causes in 1571. His grave at Temple Baiko of Suga (須賀の梅香寺) is in Kashima, Ibaraki. Those devoted to the art of Japanese sword-fighting, would make pilgrimages to the Kashima Shrine because it is considered the spiritual home of kenjutsu.

Subordinates[edit]

These are traditionally considered students of Bokuden:

In popular culture[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Shotaro Ikenami "The Last Journey of the Uden" Kadokawa Group Publishing, 1980
  • Yo Tsumoto " Tsukahara Uden 12th Game " Kodansha, 1983
  • Gishū Nakayama "Tsukahara Bokuden" Tokuma Shoten, 1989
  • Ryuichiro Mine "Nippon Kenkiden Tsukahara Uden" Shodensha, 1993
  • Shotaro Ishinomori "Tsukahara Bokuden" Shogakukan, 1996
  • Yukio Yahagi "Undefeated Sword Saint Tsukahara Bokuden" Kodansha, 2011

Movies[edit]

  • In Akira Kurosawa’s film, Seven Samurai, the scene in which the character Gorobei’s swordsmanship skills are tested is based on an episode from Tsukahara’s life.[4]

TV[edit]

  • "Tsukahara Bokuden" (October 2nd to November 13th, 2011, NHK BS Premium Performance: Masato Sakai. The original is the above-mentioned "Twelfth Game")

References[edit]

  1. ^ KASHIMA CITY/The Statue of Tsukahara Bokuden
  2. ^ "The Art of Fighting Without Fighting". www.snakevscranewingchun.com. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Kenzo Hotate, Encyclopedia of Ibaraki Prefecture, edited by Ibaraki Shimbun, Ibaraki Shimbun, 1981, pp. 706-707. "Tsukahara Bokuden"
  4. ^ Toho Masterworks. Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create (DVD) (in Japanese).

Bibliography[edit]