1 – History of Tatsumi-ryû heihô
Tatsumi-ryû heihô was founded more than 400 years ago by Tatsumi Sankyô in the state of Ehime, on Shikoku island.
Born in the Eishô period (1504-1521), Tatsumi Sankyô involved himself at a very young age to serious martial practice, like all the warriors’ sons (bushi) of that time. He became a war lord. Simply studying to develop a technical competence leading to win a combat was not satisfying for him. He devoted himself to the god Tsumayama Daimyôjin and underwent some intense physical and spiritual asceticism which allowed him to reach illumination (satori). Following this experience, he founded the martial tradition Tatsumi-ryû which has been perpetuated until today.
In 1670, Tatsumi-ryû was recognized by the Sakura clan (today in the Chiba state) as its official style (otome-ryû).
Nowadays, Tatsumi-ryû has been designated intangible cultural treasure (mukei bunkazai) of the Chiba state. This martial tradition is still transmitted within the city of Sakura. The head of this martial tradition, holder of the title and warrantor of its transmission, was awarded with the same award. During this event, Kato Takashi sensei (1913-2003), who had lead Tatsumi-ryû for numerous years, was publically cited as a person who achieved outstanding support in the field of education, culture and arts. His son and successor, Kato Hiroshi sensei, is the current sôke of this long-lasting tradition.
Announcement relating to rankings in Tatsumi-ryû.
The only person who can issue ranking in Tatsumi-ryû is the present Headmaster, Kato Hiroshi, 22nd sôke of Tatsumi-ryû. Rankings in Tatsumi-ryû issued by any other teachers or organisations are invalid and will not be recognised by the Headmaster. All ranking must come directly from the Headmaster.
2 – The Tatsumi-ryû heihô curriculum
The Tatsumi-ryû curriculum includes the study of the practice of numerous weapons and martial techniques. However, the sword is the main weapon of this school, and learning its usage within mortal combats (jissen) constitutes most of the curriculum of this tradition. This activity, which is called tôjutsu, can be divided in two parts: iai and kenjutsu.
Iai includes 3 levels:
1. Omote level : Jo, Ha and Kyû series
2. Kage level : Shoden, Honden and Betsuden series
3. Zengo Sayû level
One of Tatsumi-ryû characteristics is to show at the same time a very high degree of integration of both iai and kenjutsu, and a rather low number of techniques which may have a large span of applications. The necessary qualities to make a fighting system effective and efficient are the consequence of this synergy.
These 45 techniques are divided into 3 parts, subject to the posture of the potential opponents:
- Both practitioners are kneeling (igumi) ;
- Both practitioners are standing (tachi-ai) ;
- One is kneeling, and the other one is standing (kumi-ai).
These techniques include immobilisations (gyaku), kicks and punches (ate), projections (nage) and strangulations (shime).
Yawara also includes resuscitation techniques (katsu), as well as techniques to restrict the opponent’s movement by the use of binding methods (hojôjutsu).
2-4- Secondary weapons
If the sword is the main weapon of this school, some other weapons are also used in the practice. They are not practiced as main specialities, but rather as if they were used by potential opponents, so that the Tatsumi learner may understand their techniques and beat them. In the kata, the sword holder always wins.
1. Spear techniques (yari): sôjutsu
- yari awase : yari vs yari (6 techniques)
- tachi awase : yari vs tachi (4 techniques)
- kodachi awase : yari vs kosachi (4 techniques)
2. Stick techniques (bô, circa 1.8m-long and hanbô, circa 1.28m-long) : bôjutsu and hanbôjutsu
- bôjutsu : bô vs tachi (5 techniques)
- hanbôjutsu : hanbô vs tachi (3 techniques)
3. Halberd techniques (naginata)
- naginata vs tachi (3 techniques, each of them featuring 1 kage technique)
4. Shuriken, mankiri kusari, tessen, jutte techniques
- No kata exist, yet some best use instructions are provided
3 – Practicing the Tatsumi-ryû heihô tradition
3-1- Iai practice
On top of the repetition of the kata, Tatsumi-ryû iai offers case studies matching varied informal responses corresponding to special situations.
During this special practice, the practitioner of an advanced level executes several thousands of mukô and marui techniques, in the sôke’s (Dean of the school) presence. This practice requires a good stamina as its first step takes 8 hours to be completed.
This practice of real cut intends to test not only the sharp edge (kire aji) and the resistance (kyôjin) of a real blade, but also the ability to cut (udedameshi) of the advanced practitioner.
3-2- Kenjutsu practice
Kenjutsu is practiced through the following exercises and kata :
Kenjutsu curriculum includes a side practice through the following series:
- seiganzume ;
- teitô ;
- yoroi dôshi.