Asayama Ichiden ryu 浅山一伝流
Asayama Ichiden ryu is one of the many hundreds of Japanese schools of samurai martial arts which has no confirmed founding date or even founder. It was active all across Japan, with various versions practiced in just about every feudal domain throughout the Tokugawa period (1603-1868).
The most prominent theory about the school is that it was founded by a gõshi (a farmer/samurai) named Asayama Sangorõ Ichidensai (1610-87) in the early Tokugawa period. The story tells how the young Ichidensai was frustrated that he could not master the arts of warfare and, feeling that he would need some divine assistance, went to the Fudõ shrine in Tanba, in Asayama village (in todays Hyõgo Prefecture) to pray. He prayed to the Great Wisdom King Fudõ Myõ-õ, the Buddhist god of immovability, that he might receive enlightenment and attain the abilities of a great samurai. Fudõ Myõ-õ being the compassionate god that he is, blessed Ichidensai with enlightenment and the skills of a great swordsman. Asayama Ichidensai, according to some versions, may also have trained with Kamiizumi Nobutsuna of the Shinkage ryu and Okuyama Zaemon of the Taisha Shinkage ryu.
Another version of the founding of the school states that it was founded by Marume Mondo no Shõ Norikichi, also a gõshi, this time from Usui in Jõshu (present day Gunma prefecture). Marume had studied an earlier school named Ichiden ryu. Marume's student Kuniie Yashiemon went on to found a school called Kageyama Shintõ ryu. In this version Asayama Ichidensai is the third head of the school after Kuniie.
The second version is the one found in the Honchõ Bugei Shõden which is a rather reliable source on Tokugawa period schools written in 1716 by Shigetaka Hinatsu.
Later practitioners of Asayama Ichiden ryu went on to found derivative schools, such as Kaneda Ichiden ryu, Fuden ryu, Jishin ryu, Õhen ryu, Asayama Ichiden Shin ryu, Tsuda Ichiden ryu, Sakura Ichiden ryu, and Asayama Koryu.
Of note is that a typical kenjutsu kata of the Asayama Ichiden ryu known as A-Un was originally chosen by the Japanese police commission in 1886 to form a part of the standardised kata for what was to later become modern kendõ.
Up until the Meiji period (1868-1912) Asayama Ichiden ryu included methods of yoroi kumiuchi (grappling in armour), iaijutsu (fast sword drawing), kamajutsu (sickle), kenjutsu (sword fighting), torite (arresting and tying methods), shurikenjutsu (small throwing darts), bõjutsu (staff), sõjutsu (spear), dokugai (the use of poisons), shinobi no jutsu (espionage, otherwise known as ninjutsu) and taijutsu (grappling). All of these methods were eventually dropped from the school as the era of the samurai drew to a close, social circumstances changed and Japan progressed into the modern era.
The school is listed as a taijutsu and kenjutsu school in the Bugei ryuha Daijiten (Martial Arts Great Encyclopaedia)but is today considered simply a school of taijutsu.
Asayama Ichiden ryu was taught in many domains across Japan, with some branches favouring one section over another. In some domains the emphasis was on kenjutsu, in others iaijutsu, and in others only the taijutsu and bõjutsu were taught.
While the school was active in quite a number of feudal domains across Japan, with many branches forming under legitimate headmasters, the school only just survived the Meiji restoration through one line.
The line that has survived today comes from the Aizu domain (present day Fukushima Prefecture) and concerns itself mainly with taijutsu. In the curriculum there are fifty six techniques that are divided into five sections.
© James Kemlo