Essential Principles of Toda Ryû Naginata

August 2000 ed. & trans. with March 2003 converted & slightly revised by K. Tsai/Additional commentary in blue by Ellis Amdur, 2010

天, 地、人、三才之中氣。

Heaven (ten), Earth (chi), Man (jin): these three treasures, in harmony.  (Translator’s note:  This is a direct quote from the I Ching).


An ancient maxim says,  “For its roundness, head takes after Heaven. For its squareness, feet belong to Earth. Front to the south, back to the north, east on the left and west on the right — this is indeed the position of the man of virtue.” (Translator’s note: “This maxim may be of Japanese origin as I was not able to find anything similar, despite a search in the Scripta Sinica database).


Heaven has four seasons, Earth has four directions, just as Man, who has four limbs and finger joints.

These first three maxims all seem to offer classic neo-Confucianist ideology which asserts that human beings are a microcosm of the universe.  The second quote, additionally, seems to suggest that to be a person of virtue, one must properly align oneself in the correct position, sort of a feng shui of human existence.


One can turn pure or dirty through ki. Although there may be sages, wise men, fools, and wicked men, one may turn them upright with the potency of this jûji.

This may be an allusion to a form of mikkyo practice, specifically that of juji kiri.  It is possible that the idea here is that although one can develop one’s vital energy, this must be properly governed through the use of Shingon training to put this in proper order.  Otherwise ki is merely energy, an amoral force that can be exerted in any direction.


When one is fortified with this mind (kokoro), there is no skill (jutsu) that one cannot perfect. Likewise, when one has drunk this wisdom profoundly, there is no adversity his mind cannot overcome.


Rigidity () , pliancy (), weakness, strength— after the mind has experienced these four things, it becomes traceless and even more expansive. (Translator’s note:  “Expansive” signals a key concept in Confucian Philosophy.  The Kung-sun Lung chapter in Mencius has a discussion on pu-tung hsin (fudôshin), which he contrast with the superior “expansive ch’i” (kûzen no ki).

Such a discussion in Mencius, on one level, reflects politics.  Fudôshin is a Buddhist concept, something anathema to the neo-Confucianists, who saw it as a foreign religion with a quietist, non-political doctrine.  That said, the writer here suggests that the balance of forces creates something that cannot be “caught,” and more influential than any of the four elements that create it.  From a combative standpoint, a traceless fighter is unpredictable as one’s opponent cannot read anything from one’s kamae.


Those which employ this orthodox ki of high Heaven through the device of [life’s] continuous, imperishable cycle, all have ten bodies. One must not overlook them on account of their proximity. (Translator’s note:  I am rather lost as to the meaning of “ten bodies.” The translation above makes no sense.  The manuscript employs a variant for tai (“body”) here, but not the variant it uses elsewhere. As to the word “proximity” within this obscure phrase, it seems to mean that two or more concepts are so closely related and aligned that one may not catch the right meaning of all of them of one due to their similarity.)

馬上    口傳     Horseback   (Kuden)

息合    同     Harmony of breath (Same)

性體并形體    口傳     The body of inner nature or the body of kata (Kuden)

足踏大法    同   General principle of footwork (Same)

船軍    口傳   Naval application (Kuden)

試合問積    Critique of shiai

It is unclear if this chapter heading means a censuring of shiai or a discussion.  That the items that follow seem to indicate a discussion of a variety of types of situations that can occur in shiai, it is almost sure that the meaning is a discussion

具足上    口傳    In armor (Kuden)

劍試合    同    Ken shiai (Same)

槍試合    同     Yari shiai (Same)

同寸相構同試合    同   Shiai with matching kamae (Same)

長卷三道具    口傳    Nagamaki  [&] mitsu dôgu (Kuden)

男女指南差別    同   Differences between instructing men and women or The differences between male and female instructors (Same)   (Translator’s note:  The meaning is unclear).

息合    同    Harmony of breath (Same)

左右裹表拾貳形    一品    Left-right-front-back 12 kata  (One set)

體    口傳    Tai (Kuden)

The next page is a series of circular diagrams

[A Sketch with three items annotate an empty circle in the text.]  終 End  始 Beginning  一圓相 Picture of circularity  靈體 the sentient and efficacious body

[A Sketch with three items annotate a circle.  At the top of the circle is 天 Heaven, at the bottom 地  Earth. From Earth to Heaven is an arrow, in the middle of which is written  太極  The Grant Ultimate   人 Man

[The following is written as caption to the circle above]  一形萬物始  One form is the beginning of all matter

[A Sketch written as caption to a circle divided eight ways]  正理而備、四方中央配、 Prepared with orthodox reason [ri], the four directions commanded from center   故東西南北   Hence east, west, south, and north.

[A circle with two characters within]  正心  Orthodox mind

[A circle with a cross dividing it in four parts]  南 south  東  east  西 west  北  north  皆三才  are all three natural treasures.


To the right  is the enumerated essence of Heaven, Earth, and Man, as well as original body of this Toda-ryu.  Let this all be taught orally. Even so there will be many years before one may become proficient through practice.

山田篤三郎  Yamada Tokusaburô

慶應二寅年三月日   Keiô (1865) two, third month

(to) 佐藤春女   Satô Harumi