Toda Seigen 富田勢源 (戸田勢源)

The birth of Toda-ryu

Among the students of Chujō Nakahide (中条長秀) was Kai Buzen no Kami, who later taught Ohashi Kageyuzaemon Takayoshi.  Among Ohashi’s students was Toda (or Tomita) Kurōemon Nagaie, a bushi serving the Asakura family of Echizen.  Mastering sword and spear, and in particular, Chujō-ryu’s specialty, the short-sword, he received menkyo kaiden in approximately 1490.  He passed Chujō-ryu on to his two sons, Gorōzaemon (1519 – 1590) and a younger, named Jibuzaemon Kageimasa.  Although their teachings were essentially unchanged, this wing of Chujō-ryu eventually was called the Toda-ryu.

Although Gorōzaemon was a brilliant practitioner, he suffered from some kind of eye disease, and therefore, passed on the responsibility to maintain the Toda-ryu to his younger brother.  He also abdicated responsibility for the family line. Jibuzaemon later served the daimyo Maeda Toshiie, who later defeated Hōjō Ujikuni in 1590 in the siege of Hachigata Castle.

Jibuzaemon had only one son, who died early.  Perhaps his most brilliant disciple was Yamazaki Rokuzaemon (1564-1625).  Rokuzaemon learned sword and spear from Jibuzaemon, and became famous for a spear fight against Sasa Kuranosuke Narimasa.  Yamazaki became Jibuzaemon’s adopted son, after marrying his daughter, receiving the name Toda Echigo-no-kami.   He also served the Maeda as an instructor of military arts, receiving the munificent salary of 13,000 koku (bales of rice).  It is conceivable that either he or Jibuzaemon met Hōjō Ujikuni  during the last years of his life during the latter’s exile with the Maeda.

Toda-ryu kenjutsu is regarded as passing through Toda Echigo-no-kami.  It became an immensely popular and influential school.  Many powerful ryu descended from Toda-ryu, including Itto-ryu, the primary influence on modern kendo.

According to notes in Nitta Suzuyo’s records, Toda-ryu kenjutsu specialized in a chudan kamae (“middle posture”) with the tip of the sword aimed at the opponent’s nose.

One technique was known as ukifune (“floating boat”).  Sensing the rhythm of the opponent’s psychological “energy,” (iro o mite), one enters, and opening one’s arms, sweeps the opponent’s sword outwards and immediately cuts through to the center.

A second technique was called uranami (“trailing wave”).  One takes gedan kamae (“low posture”),  with the tip of the sword behind.  Move forward with the feeling of dragging a rope on the floor, with one’s left side exposed.  In an instant, twist to the right and strike.  (It is not described how one cuts, although a trained practitioner can think of several options with this description.)

Toda Seigen

Due to his eye disease, Toda Gorōzaemon became a Nyudo (lay priest), taking the name Toda Seigen (an ironic reference to his disease, Seigen meaning “pure sight.”).  Chujō-ryu was renowned for its short-sword technique, and several legends recorded in a scroll entitled Seigen no Shiai allude to this fact.  In Eiroku 2 (1560), Seigen went to Mino province as a guest of the lord, Saitō Yamashiro no Kami.  Among the most prominent of his warriors was one from Hitachi province, named Umezubō, a fearsome exponent of a form of Shintō-ryu associated with Kashima shrine.  Umezubō sent disciples to challenge Seigen, saying that he wished to see the kōdachi technique of Chujō-ryu.  Seigen replied that if Umezubō really wished to see the art, he should go to Echizen, but in any event, Chujō-ryu did not engage in shiai.  Umezubō took this as a sign of cowardice and claimed that no man in Echizen could match a man from Hitachi.  Because this was becoming an awkward incident, Saitō sent retainers asking that a match go forward, but Seigen again replied that Chujō-ryu did not engage in matches. Saitō reportedly appreciated his tact, given that, with enemies all around, one’s best retainers should not be fighting. However, Umezubō accused Saitō of being afraid of the outcome, and now a refusal on Seigen’s part would directly shame Saitō.  Seigen acquiesced to the duel.

The story varies somewhat in details, but apparently Umezubō appeared with a sword, and Seigen offered to fight him with a bokken. Nonplussed, Umezubō took up a bokken himself, at which point Seigen picked up a piece of firewood, about 1 shaku, 3 sun, bound some leather around the base and offered to fight him.  Umezubō struck at his head and Seigen deflected the blow downwards so that the tip of his bokken struck the ground.  Seigen stomped on the bokken, breaking it in two, at which point Umezubō drew his short sword and attacked him.  Seigen avoided the blow and struck him in the forehead, drawing blood.

Seigen is described as serving Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  He always carried a wooden sword of biwa wood (this is an elegant light pinkish wood from the loquat tree), with a blade length of one shaku, 8 sun.  He usually wore a naga-bakama (an absurdly long hakama which covered the feet), when he fought in challenge matches.  Using the short wooden sword and impeding his footwork shows an extravagant confidence in his skill, as well as a sense of playfulness.  Some accounts describe him fighting exhibition matches two foot soldiers, each armed with a sharpened bamboo spear.