Amazing Stuff

Amazing Stuff

Post by Circle_Jer » Sun, 13 Feb 2000 04:00:00

Famous Duels of Miyamoto Musashi

Hozoin Kakuzenbo In-ei (Kofuku Temple, Nara. 1605)

Hozoin was both a Buddhist priest and a competent warrior. He had
trained under the famous Kamizumii Nobutsuna at the same time as the
founder of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Yagyu Munetoshi, and, while
undergoing a Musha-Shugyo, under the spearman Daizen Daifu Moritada.
Hozoins skill led him to found his own school - Hozoin Ryu, which
continues today and teaches spear (Yari) techniques.

In 1605 there was a supposed meeting and duel between Hozoin and
Musashi. I say supposed as I could only find one particular reference
to this so I cannot say with all accuracy that this took place. Anyhow,
it is said that although Hozoin was a superior spearman he was no match
for Musashi, who defeated him twice with his short sword. Musashi is
said to have stayed at the temple for a while learning the fighting
techniques of the priests.

Muso Gonnosuke Katsukichi/Katsuyoshi (Akashi, Harima province. 1605)

Muso Gonnosuke is another example of a warrior genius in the same mould
as Musashi. In his formative years he was to become an expert in both
Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-Ryu and Jikishinkage-Ryu. He too set forth
on a Musha-Shugyo and was to remain undefeated... that is, until he met

Gonnosuke met Musashi in 1605, suppposedly in Akashi in Harima
province. The first records of the duel is found in the Kaijo
Monogatari, written in 1629. What follows is a synopsis of that
article, copied verbatim from an article written by Wayne Muromoto of
Furyu Online :

There was a heihosha (martial artist) named Miyamoto Musashi. He
engaged in duels from the age of 16 and was in about 60 matches. In the
sixth month, in Akashi, Harima province, he met Muso Gonnosuke, who was
a six foot tall strapping warrior. Gonnosuke was armed with an odachi
(a long sword), a two layer overcoat with sleeves, and a haori with a
large hi no maru (rising sun). On his lapels were written: "The best
martial artist in the land" (heiho tenka ichi), and "Nihon Kaizan Muso

...Gonnosuke was surrounded by about six deshi followers who
accompanied him on a journey to Kyushu. He boasted to Musashi that no
one was his equal. In his travels, he had apparently encountered
Musashi's father, Shinmen Munisai, a master of the jutte (truncheon).

"I have seen your father's techniques, but I haven't seen yours," he
said, goading Musashi.

(Shinmen) Miyamoto Genshin Musashi was irritated. He was in the middle
of carving a willow branch and replied, "If you saw my father's
techniques, I am no different."

Gonnosuke pressed the issue, badgering Musashi to show his martial arts
off for the benefit of Gonnosuke's students.

"My heiho is not for display," Musashi snapped. "No matter how you
attack me, I'll stop it. That's all there is to my heiho. Do what you
will, with any technique."

Gonnosuke pulled out a four-shaku (a shaku is roughly equivalent to an
English foot) wooden sword from a brocade bag. (To draw a comparison,
the usual practice sword is but a little longer than two shaku.) He
attacked Musashi without any formalities. Musashi stood up from his
crouch. With what seemed to be very little effort, he forced Gonnosuke
back across the tatami mat room with his willow branch and, pressing
him against a wall, struck him lightly between the eyebrows.

As you can see - and contrary to Gonnosukes expectations - he lost.
Defeat in a duel for both a superior and confident Martial Artist must
be a trying and frustrating thing. Especially if you were undefeated
and the fight took place in an age where loss of a duel can lead to
serious social implications. Gonnosuke withdrew to Homangu, a Shinto
shrine at Mount Homan, and engaged in religious and mental
contemplation over the matter. After 37 days of this he collapsed with
mental exhaustion and was to have - as so many older Japanese Martial
Arts claim - a divine vision that would inspire his genius to new
heights. What transpired led to the creation of a new weapon - the Jo.
In his previous styles he had learned the use of the Bo which was a
long staff. The Jo, in comparison, is a shorter, slimmer and lighter
short staff... it was still, however, longer that a standard Katana. He
was to formulate new techniques for utilising the new weapon.

It is some time after this, however, where legend has it Gonnosuke was
to meet Musashi again (date????), this time Musashi would loose! This
is recorded in only one place - a document to be found at Tsukuba
Shrine in Ibaragi Prefecture - so it cannot in anyway be treated as
conclusive evidence. Either way, Gonnosuke was to enter the service of
the Kuroda clan in Northern Kyushu as a Martial Arts instructor.

In 1640 Gonnosuke would codify his new style, calling it Shinto (or
Shindo) Muso-ryu Jojutsu - The Heavenly Way of Muso's staff. The art is
still practiced today.

Shishido Baiken (Iga Prefecture... During his Musha-Shugyo of 1605-13)

This match was unusual in that Baiken was to fight Musashi armed with a
weapon called a Kusari-gama. This is a short sickle attached to a chain
with a weight on the end. This type of weapon is very difficult to
master but when used efficiently many people don't know how to react to
it. Musashi managed to defeat Baiken but did not rely on the Sword
alone - he had supplemented his usual armoury with a small knife which,
at the right time, he threw at his opponent. Musashi used this to
offset Baiken enough to do what he had to do.

Sasaki Kojiro (Ganryu) (Funajima, Kyushu. April 14th 1612)

After making a name for himself in an around the Kyoto area Musashi
traveled to Kyushu, the 2nd largest island in the Japanese archipelago
(Honshu being the main island). Musashi was staying with one Nagaoka
Sado, a retainer of the Hosokawa, Daimyo of the area, when he found out
that the celebrated fencer Sasaki Kojiro was also a guest of the

Sasaki Kojiro was famed as being the strongest swordsmen in Southern
Japan.. He was, at the time, 40 years of age and had created his own
fencing style - Ganryu Ryu. He was said to be a man of compassion and
integrity and, combined with his superior fencing talent, was thought
highly by all, including the Hosokawa.

Musashi saw this as an opportunity. Due to the fact that Ganryu was a
guest of the Hosokawa and Musashi was a guest of one of their retainers
things had to be handled officially and go through the correct
channels. This withstanding, Ganryu accepted and permission was granted
for the duel. The time and place were set to be the early morning of
April 14th 1612 on Funajima, a small island.

On the night before the duel, Musashi took leave of Sados residence
and got a room in an inn in the vicinity of the next days match. The
next day saw the area around Funajima filling up with a small flotilla
of boats full of spectators coming to see the soon to be infamous duel.

Ganryu arrived at Funajima at the appointed time - 8am - carrying a
fearsome and extra long sword made by the famous swordsmith Bizen
Osamitsu. Ganryu also dressed for the occasion wearing a crimson Haori
and formal Iga-Bakama. Musashi, however, was not there. When officials
found him he was still asleep! He was woken up and, despite
exclamations to the contrary, took his time breakfasting before setting
out towards the Island. Was this another example of Musashis
deliberate time-delay strategy (see the Musha-Shugyo section) ? Musashi
was wearing his normal clothing and the sword he was to use was a
wooden one carved, as is legendary, from a wooden oar on his way to the

The actual duel itself was to take legendary status. Here was the
older, more experienced and well thought of fencing instructor facing
off against a rough-looking and younger swordsman who was infamous yet
considered as something of an anomaly socially. Ganryu was dressed the
part, turned up on time and was armed with a highly-crafted weapon -
Musashi was dressed as normal, arrived late, and was using a rough
sword he himself whittled from an oar. This was an epic in the making.
As they faced of Ganryu was said to have thrown his scabbard onto the
beach. With this Musashi proclaimed Sasaki, you have sealed your
doom. Sasaki was nonplused and Musashi explained further : What
victor on earth would ever abandon his sheath to the sea? There was a
stand off- then suddenly both struck down at each others heads.
Musashis head band was cut in two whereas Ganryu staggered back.
Musashi has narrowly avoided death and at the same time had found his
mark. Ganryu was not yet defeated, but the next exchange of blows saw
Musashi as the victor; Ganryu was dead. Musashi bowed to the officials,
got back on board the boat that took him to the island, then left. He
never looked back.

Splitting Rice (While in Ogasawara service in Akashi, 1615-1627

This is more a one of those Musashi-Myths rather than a famous duel but
I think it serves a purpose in this section.

An Ogasawara retainer by the name of Aoki came to Musashi for fencing
lessons. This Aoki was a proud one, and flamboyant at that - he came to
class with a wooden practice sword and from the handle dangled
colourful cloth streamers! Musashi decided to teach him a lesson. He
ordered some rice and placed one grain in the head of a follower. To
the amazement of everyone around he proceeded to draw his sword and cut
down on the followers head; the man was not hurt and, on close
examination, the rice was found to have been cut in two. Musashi then,
incredulously, performed the feat twice more! At this he boomed at Aoki
about his ostentatious sword and poor mental attitude... Aoki jumped up
and fled the training hall.

Miyake Gunbei (While in Ogasawara service in Akashi, 1615-1627 approx.)

Soon after the incident described above and while Musashi was visiting
the province of Himeji, he was challenged by four retainers of the
Hemiji Daimyo. The first up was one Miyake Gunbei. Seemingly he was
both an experienced warrior and a good swordsman. It is not these
properties, however, that wrote his name in the record books - his duel
with Musashi was the first recorded in which Musashi uses Two Swords
(although Wooden) to defeat an opponent. The duel had been such that
not even Gunbei, an experience swordsman, could do anything against
Musashi's formidable new style... the match ended when, in desperation,
Gunbei ran at Musashi and impaled himself on Musashi's short sword.
Gunbei's three colleagues apologised to Musashi for ever having
challenged such a superior swordsman as he and left.

Sword Vs Fan (????)

Sometime after his duel with Gunbei - after he starting questioning the
essence of things - Musashi was supposed to have answered a challenge
to a duel by fighting with a steel Fan. Fans, while an unusual weapon,
are not unheard of in Chinese or Japanese fighting arts. Musashi was
meant to have utilised the fan as such whereby his opponent could not
best him... eventually the duel ended with the surrender of the
frustrated opponent. Neither were hurt. This example is usually cited
to explain the mindset behind the superior swordsman Musashi had
become - he understood the essence of swordsmanship therefore any other
weapon (or art, example = calligraphy) was an extension of this. See
the Kenjutsu section for a bit more analysis on this concept.

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