Seven scrolls (each 182 mm. high, lengths varying from 1950 to 5495 mm., including front endpapers), all with inner sides of endpapers with speckles of gold, silk brocade on outside, reverse sides with gold speckles, five of the seven with a surviving gold-paper label on outside with rather fanciful manuscript titles. [Japan]: “copied March 1819.”
Shinkage-ryū 新陰流, “new shadow school,” is one of the oldest traditional schools of Japanese martial arts, founded in the mid-16th century by Kamiizumi Ise-no-Kami Fujiwara-no-Hidetsuna (later, Kamiizumi Ise-no-Kami Nobutsuna 上泉 伊勢守 信綱, 1508-78). Shinkage-ryū is primarily a school of swordsmanship (kenjutsu) and is a synthesis of Kamiizumi’s studies in the century-older school of Kage-ryū (Aizu).
Kamiizumi introduced a number of changes to stance, posture, sword grip, and length of a typical sword. Equally important, he advocated the use of light body armor and created a practice sword made of strips of bamboo that would prevent injuries during training. The school changed its name to Yagyū Shinkage-ryū later in the 16th century when Kamiizumi bequeathed the school to Yagyū Munetoshi (柳生石舟斎平宗厳, 1529-1606). The Yagyū family became the official fencing instructors to the Tokugawa shogunate. Yagyū Shinkage-ryū exists today in Tokyo. Its techniques are taught in many countries and are regularly featured in samurai dramas and movies.
These seven scrolls contain invaluable textual and pictorial information regarding the Shinkage-ryū. Each scroll contains a family tree of the headmasters of the school, starting with Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, followed by Yagyū Munetoshi and his descendants, Arichi Genkatsu and his successors, and Miyake Shigehide and his successors, including the fourth-generation headmaster Miyake Hidekata, who gave the information in these scrolls to Sekiya Rokubei in March 1819.
As mentioned above, four of the scrolls contain 93 finely colored brush & ink illustrations, with occasional use of gold pigment, of swords and swordsmen in poses. A series of detailed illustrations demonstrates how to hold the sword, stances, and positioning. The poses are labelled in manuscript with rather poetic names. The fifth scroll features 12 images of the bird-like tengu, mischievous supernatural figures who were renowned as swordsmen. One of the tengu had a famous battle with Yagyū Muneyoshi, a headmaster of the school. The images of the tengu are particularly richly executed, with considerable use of gold.
The text scrolls provide historical information on the Shinkage-ryū, its philosophical and spiritual aspects, and necessary state of mind, achieved with controlled breathing and alignment. There are descriptions of perfecting a style of swordsmanship “freer” in its movements, yet more sparse and restrained. We are constantly reminded that this is private information, which should be guarded carefully.
Somewhat wrinkled and with a few minor defects, repairs, and worming.
Item ID: 9823