Torite (continued 2) – The Founder of Toritejutsu in this World

In previous articles I have mentioned torite in relation to the history of Okinawan martial arts. I noted that the father of modern karate, Itosu Ankō, mentioned that historical karate was probably influenced by the teachings of Chin Genpin (1587–1674) in Japan and that the term used to describe the teachings of Chin was kenpō jūjutsu, referring to a historical Japanese martial arts systems with an initial Chinese influence which places emphasis – but not limited to – striking and kicking, i.e., on impact techniques.

I continued with an overview of torite as a classical martial art to capture an enemy with bare hands without killing him, and then turned to Chin Genpin and the once popular story of him being a founder of Japanese jūjutsu, which is erroneous and completely exaggerated.

This time I will turn to the founding of torite as a category and predecessor of what is now generally referred to as jūjutsu. The following mythical creation story is based on the Takenouchi Ryū Keisho Kogo Den 竹内系書古語伝, a document recording the history of the Takenouchi Ryū, a martial arts school established in 1532 and still extant (translation and occasional additions by Serge Mol, cf. Mol 2001:100):

In the mountains of Sannomiya [1], Takenouchi Hisamori prayed to the god Atago and submitted himself to severe training. For several days he practiced and perfected his skills, striking a big tree with his bokutō [wooden sword, which in his case had a blade length of 72 centimeters].[2] On the sixth day of his training, Hisamori had fallen asleep from exhaustion when suddenly a gray-haired yamabushi, who looked like the incarnation of the god Atago, appeared near his bedside. The yamabushi was seven feet tall and his eyes were open wide, giving him a furious look. Immediately Hisamori attacked him with his wooden sword; however, the yamabushi would not be defeated, and Hisamori realized that his adversary possessed superhuman strength. the yamabushi then taught Hisamori a number of techniques for swiftly overcoming an assailant. These techniques, five in total, are today called the “torite gokajō (捕手五ヶ条).

After this the yamabushi picked up the lengthy bokutō, which he felt was useless, and cut it in half, producing a shorter [36 centimeter] sword, which he called “kogusoku.” next the yamabushi showed Hisamori how to carry the sword in his belt and taught him a system of grappling with the sword coma consisting of twenty-five techniques. since then that system of kumiuchi using a short sword or dagger has been called “koshi no mawari” [around the loins]. At present these twenty-five techniques part of the Takenouchi Ryū’s kihonwaza, and are referred to as “kogusoku koshi no mawari omotegata.”

Taking off a vine and entwining a tree, the yamabushi subsequently taught Hisamori how to restrain and tie up an enemy. these restraining techniques were called “musha garami” [entangling a warrior], and according to this story gave birth to the technique of “hayanawa” [早縄, today also known as hojō 捕縄], the art of swiftly restraining an opponent using a 2.5-meter rope. Then the yamabushi disappeared in a mysterious way, with wind springing up, lightning flashing, and thunder rolling.

[1] The Haga Gō Sannomiya Shrine was dedicated to the god Hachiman, the guardian deity of Genji’s family, the Minamoto clan. Hisamori belonged to the Minamoto clan.

[2] The length of the blade is measured from the tip to where the habaki (the collar inserted just below the seppa [washer, spacer]) and the tsuba [sword guard]) locks the blade.

The oldest existing old-style jujutsu: Takenouchi-ryu thoroughly explained! (Gekkan Hiden DVD)

Moreover, school founder Takenouchi Hitachinosuke Hisakatsu demonstrated his skills in front of Emperor Go-Mizunoo, the 108th Emperor of Japan, and received the title Honishita Torite Kaizan 日下捕手開山, which means “The founder of Toritejutsu in this world/in Japan.” He was also granted the prerogative to use the color purple, which was the imperial color and the use of which by ordinary citizens was prohibited, for the ropes used in the schools tying arts. This event is recounted as follows (Mol 2001:103-4):

In the spring of 1620, Emperor Gomizuno’o went to view the cherry blossoms on Mount Nishi in Kyoto. On the way back two men appeared. The emperor’s escort asked, “Who are you?” One of the men replied, “Takenouchi Hitachinosuke Hisakatsu, Shihan of Kogusoku Koshi no Mawari, and his son Hisayoshi. We are studying very hard, and we would like to demonstrate our skill to the Emperor. Please forgive us this breach of etiquette.” The imperial escort tried to push the men away, but they wouldn’t move. At that time, however, the Emperor said he was willing to watch their performance, and thus Hisakatsu and his son demonstrated for the Emperor. The emperor was delighted with the demonstration, and the next day the Imperial Counselor Konoe dispatch a man to Hisakatsu to invite him to the Imperial Palace. It is said that the Counselor became a student of Hisakatsu, and even received menkyo kaiden [certification of full mastery in the art]. Later the Counselor recommended that the Emperor grant Hisakatsu the title “Hinoshita Torite Kaizan” – The Founder of Toritejutsu in this World. When Hisakatsu received his name, the Imperial Counselor remove the purple court from his kanmuri [ceremonial hat worn by high ranking officials], and gave it to Hisakatsu, saying that from now he could use it for hayanawa. thus began the use of purple cords in the school’s tying arts. [1]

[1] Translated by Serge Mol from: Takouchi Tōichirō and Jirōmaru Akio, in Shinden no Bujutsu, Takenouchi Ryū, pp- 57-58.

© 2021, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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