26E. Jojo Etchu Ryu

After the great rescue the word went out about Yamana’s treachery. Hosokawa Katsumoto was irate. The Hatakayama factions temporarily pulled together but they were inevitably doomed by jealousy and mistrust as well as indecisive wars with contenders for the office of Kanrei. The country rocked back and forth by the heinous deeds of Yamana. Yamana pitted one clan against another for years in near constant wars, weakening them financially, politically and militarily.

Yoshimasa liked wine, women and song. He was married to Tomi-ko but had a house full of concubines. By 1464, although only 30 years old, he wanted to retire as shogun. Yoshimasa recommended his brother Yoshimi for the shogunate, but in 1465 Yoshimasa’s wife Tomi-ko gave birth to the first-born son, Yoshihisa. Who, then, was to be the shogun, Yoshimi who was recommended by the shogun or Yoshihisa who was hereditary first-son of the shogun?

Tomi-ko was irate that Yoshimasa still favored Yoshimi. She sought aid from none other than the infamous Yamana. Yamana maneuvered himself into something far greater than a battle between clans here; he was in the middle of a war of succession. Hosokawa with 85,000 men backed Yoshimasa and Yoshima; Yamana with a close 80,000 men backed Tomi-ko and the infant Yoshihisa. Hosokawa moved and started a war against Yamana’s men. The shogun declared Yamana a rebel and the terrible Onin War began.

Seisho (Kosho) was then 37 years old. Kihara Sensei had died at 85 years old in the early part of the Onin War. Jojo Sensei was still living but was also 85 years old. Much of her care went to Seisho and Ichi. They provided servants for her but daily made sure that Jojo Sensei’s needs were being met.

Hatakeyama Shigetada died in 1458 leaving his position to his elder son, Masashige (who was younger than Seisho but family power passed, even before the Tokugawa regime, from father to son). Yoshina was elderly and frail but was in the care of Masashige and Seisho.

One day Jojo Sensei called for a master woodcraftsman. Seisho and Ichi obeyed although they thought the request was odd. A master woodcraftsman was brought. Seisho and Ichi were dismissed from the room. Soon after the woodcraftsman left with a smile on his face. The women wondered.

A week later the woodcraftsman returned carrying a carefully wrapped bundle. He was escorted into Jojo Sensei’s room. Kosho and Ichi were again dismissed. The women wondered, again.

That night at the advanced training Jojo Sensei appeared at the dojo. She led the training in both armed and unarmed techniques. At the ending line-up Jojo Sensei spoke proudly but softly. In her discussion she said, “I am old. I started training in these arts when I was five years old. That is eighty years ago even before Lizasa Choisai Ienao-sama’s height. I have outlived my husband and several of my own children. I have enjoyed living but it will soon be time for me to leave this life for another. Before I go I wish to pass the power of the art onwards so that it may always prosper. I do not know what direction it will go, nor do I know what influences it will have, but I know that in my life it has been a force for good beyond my ability to explain.

“Today is a proud day for me. Today, I present to Ichi and Seisho a wooden plaque of Mokuroku Sensei. And, so, today I present to you Ichi-Sensei and Seisho-Sensei. I have said all.”

Three months later The Blowing of The Wind faded and died. O-Ichi Sensei and Seisho Sensei remained to confront the challenges of the times; the terrible Onin War and its ramifications in the outer provinces, the upkeep of their art, and the passing of the eclectic art onwards to the new and the young. They named their ryu Jojo-Etchu Ryu, knowing that only those who had experienced the Blowing of the Wind off Etchu Bay (Toyama Bay) would ever learn their secret.

Where were the men? Most of them died in the Onin War.

Who carried on the art into the next century in Etchu? O-Ichi Sensei, Seisho Sensei and their students.

Who trained with them? The children of the buke, from their own province, Etchu. And because of the ravaged ranks of male sensei in the outer provinces due to the war many of the children from the closer outer provinces of Echigo, Shinano, Hida, Kaga and Noto, were sent to Etchu and the now famous women duo.

What was the dojo gender mix? Unknown for it made no difference.

Who was Kosho’s favorite? Undeniably, Kimura Masaka.

What did these two women teach? “No hostility can be eliminated by hostility.”

And what was the curriculum of the eclectic Jojo-Etchu Ryu?

• ba-jutsu = horse riding techniques
• sui-jutsu = swimming with or without armor
• ken-jutsu = sword techniques including iaijutsu (drawing the sword)
• naginata-jutsu and yari-jutsu = spear fighting techniques
• bo-jutsu and jo-jutsu = stick fighting techniques
• kyu-jutsu = archery from standing, swimming and horseback
• ju-jutsu = unarmed combat
• go-jutsu = strategy including personal combat, stealth and military tactics

All of these were combined into one eclectic ryu and the predominantly female masters taught these in flurries of sorties.

Imagine, if you will, Seisho Sensei teaching the firing of arrows at targets along a river bank as she swam in the river maintaining the dryness of the feathers so the arrow flew straight; or imagine her trying to teach the intricate horsewomanship necessary to fire an arrow at a target while in full gallop; or imagine what it was like for her to teach the scaling of a castle wall at midnight to a fearful student; or imagine what it was like to be a sensei disarmed by brute force and to have to “teach the lesson” to the young buck upstart who thought he had the sensei in a bad place; or imagine the feeling Seisho Sensei had when she found that one of her prime deshi had been killed in the meaningless war she once postponed.

This was not a time to look at gender.
This was a time to learn to survive.
These were their lives.
What have we done to ours?

Do we not hide behind the cloaks of gender, age, times, places, languages rather than reach for the stars? What is it that separates us from the greats like Ichi Sensei and Seisho Sensei?

Ichi died in 1477 in defensive battle protecting her charge.

Seisho died in 1495 of natural causes.

They left their Mokuroku Sensei (equivalent to Menkyo Kaiden in this case) to Murashige Masaka, the married name of Seisho’s first daughter.

How long did their ryu last? Until the coming of guns to Japan in 1543 and the rising dominance of men grew again. The number of men in the martial arts and their influence had declined due to the Onin War. As their numbers increased their dominance in the arts again grew. Men took the ownership of guns and gunpowder. Then the Tokugawa regime gave their privileges to men only, eclipsing women from recognition (but not responsibility) in the martial arts. A good guess would be that Jojo-Etchu Ryu quietly vanished in about 1620 or was absorbed into a ryu of a different name.

That’s all I know.