Kobori ryu Tosuijutsu
Katchu Gozen Oyogi
Systems: To-suijutsu (step swimming method)
Date founded: mid-Edo period (ca. 1700)
Founded by: Muraoka Idayu Masafumi
Present representative/headmaster: Koga Tadao, 11th Generation Shihan
Primarily located in: Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu
"The development of swimming in Japan dates from ancient times. When Izanagi no Mikoto came down to the province of Hyuga 700 years before the accession of the Emperor Jimmu to the throne, it is said that he bathed in water. From the time of the Gods through the Ancient Times there have been many myths concerning swimming. Later swimming became a kind of military art and was used in time of battle, in river and sea. Swimming was as natural to the Japanese as walking, because Japan is surrounded by sea, and in all quarters, there are many rivers, streams, lakes and swamps. In the Tokugawa period the ways of swimming in the river and in the sea became varied. The differences of depths and currents of rivers gave rise to distinct styles of swimming." - excerpt from Swimming in Japan.
As Mr. Sagita indicates in the section above, the combative swimming arts that developed in Japan were not as similar in methodology as one might think. There were a number of circumstances that a bushi (often times armored) might need to cross, attack, defend or signal while being partially submersed in water. For example, Mukai ryu and Iwakura ryu focused on combat while swimming, Shinden ryu specialized in swimming long distances, Kankai ryu was developed for use in the open sea, and the Suifu ryu was created to deal with the swift streams in Mito. It is logical to assume that a given suijutsu ryu-ha would have created methods to deal with the problems in their given topography. Other suijutsu ryu-ha include Kobu ryu, Suifu-Ota ryu, Koike ryu, Nogima ryu, Shinto ryu, Takeda ryu, Yamauchi ryu, Usuki ryu and Sasanuma ryu.
Kobori ryu was used in the province of Higo, and specialized in methods of crossing rapid streams. The "Tosui" aspect of Kobori ryu involves a circular leg movement technique that allows the proponent to tread water while keeping their upper body above water (while wearing armor). This enabled the Higo bushi, if necessary, to fight with swords, fire arrows (termed tachi oyogi shageki), and fire muskets while positioned in or while crossing a river. Kobori ryu is sometimes referred to as Katchu Gozen Oyogi, or, swimming in armor while in the presence of highly ranked officials or nobility, because it was this tradition that was selected to demonstrate suijutsu to certain officials based upon its established reputation as a refined and graceful art.
In hopes of promoting the dissemination and development of suijutsu, Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1810 called for a three day competition to be held in his presence between the prominent swimming schools of the time. The armor, weighing around twenty-five pounds, is one of the practical tests a student might use to asses their progress in the art.
Following is a short text written by the current headmaster, Koga Tadao Shihan, translated to English by Mr. Antony Cundy, and published by the Nippon Budokan Foundation and International Budo University as a supplement to their 14th International Seminar of Budo Culture in March of 2002.
PROFILE: Koga Tadao is the 11th Generation Shihan (Teaching Master) of Kobori Ryu Tosuijutsu. Born in 1945, Koga Shihan entered the tradition in 1958 and in 1993 received the 'Bosui no Maki', the highest level of recognition in the tradition. In 1994 president of the Kobori ryu Tosuikai (an organization for the preservation and promulgation of the tradition). He also received the level of Hanshi from the Nihon Suiei Renmei in 1990.
Koga Shihan recently provided a chapter on the Kobori ryu for the 'Nihon Eiho 12 Ryu-ha Soran', a comprehensive text on the extant swimming traditions of Japan published in 2001. Koga Shihan is presently employed as a professor at Yatsushiro National College of Technology.
SUMMARY: There is an order of education for the development of the warrior that reads 'Ichi: soku, Ni: sui, San: tan, Yon: Gei' (literally translated: One: legs, Two: water, Three: guts, Four: art). The first of these criteria suggests that the development of good health is paramount, the second that mastery of swimming should be achieved, the third that courage should be cultivated and the final criteria concerns the martial arts.
In Japan at the present time there are 12 classical traditions that are recognized by the All Japan Swimming Association. Collectively, they are known as 'Nihon Eiho', or the Japanese swimming arts.
It was the year after the third generation of the Hosokawa family Tadatoshi Hosokawa moved from the Kokura to the Higo province in Kumamoto, 1633, that the Koshu ronin Kawai Hanbei Tomoaki moved down from Edo, present day Tokyo, to instruct in swimming arts. He taught the warriors of the clan at the Hachiman Gulf on the Shirakawa [Shira River] and from that period onwards the warriors of the Hosokawa clan have practiced swimming arts as part of their martial training.
In around 1700 the founder of Kobori ryu Tosuijutsu, Muraoka Idayu Masafumi, founded his own tradition at the Tenjin Gulf on the Shirakawa. He was succeeded as teaching master at the Tenjin Gulf by his son Kobori Chojun Tsuneharu. This system of natation was practiced as part of the martial training of the clan's warriors at their purpose built educational facility, the Jishukan, right up until the Meiji Restoration in 1758 with a text on the handling of horses entitled 'Suiba Senkin hen'. These two volumes are the oldest treatise on swimming in the Japanese language. Chojun also later published 'Suiren Hayagaten'.
The 5th generation teaching master Kobori Seizaemon Hiroyoshi, usually referred to as Suio, experimented widely in swimming technique as well as defining the teaching system in order to promulgate swimming arts. It was said that over 10,000 students came from other clans to learn natation from him. In this manner his reputation as the rejuvenating influence in the middle part of the tradition's history is very high.
Furthermore, Suio's approach to swimming did not solely concern the teaching of physical technique, but also the psychological approach to and the development of the mind and spirit through swimming. He developed a set of ten teachings, which are called the 'Suigaku Gyodo'.
The 6th generation teaching master Saruki Muneyasu Munemasa succeeded to the position after the incident known as the Seinan no Eki, in which the insurrecting forces of the Satsuma and other Kyushu clans were subjugated by Imperial forces. He sent, as instructors, his brother Kobori Heishichi (later to become the 7th generation teaching master) to the Gakushuin School in Tokyo, his other brother Jyo Yoshizane (later to become the 8th generation teaching master) to the martial arts specialist school in Kyoto, the Dai Nippon Butokukai, and Nishimura Soke to Yamaguchi and Nagasaki. He also published a book on the teaching of swimming to groups in 1901 entitled 'Kobori ryu Tosuijutsu Yuei Kyohan'.
To this day training is held at the Gakushuin in Kyoto, Nagasaki and its home of Kumamoto. Furthermore, the tradition is an Intangible Cultural Asset of both the city and prefecture of Kumamoto. Even now practitioners travel from as far as Kyoto and Nagasaki to receive direct instruction from the teaching masters in Kumamoto.
Interestingly, the swimming system that was taught to warriors at the Hachiman Gulf from the time of Kawai Tomoaki was at some point discontinued. At the end of the Meiji period an attempt was made to resurrect the teachings by Numa Masanao. However, this too was discontinued.
The Kobori ryu is a highly practical system of natation, developed so that warriors might move freely in and on the water in order to be able to engage in work or to fight. It is a highly idiosyncratic tradition developed in the fast flowing Shirakawa.
Special techniques of the tradition include the fundamental techniques Taguri Oyogi [hand-over-hand swimming] and Tachi Oyogi [swimming upright], performed with a characteristic treading action. Further, as there is little amusement to be gained from the fundamental or practical techniques there are also techniques whose functions are for performance, but which still form an important part of training. These techniques are usually called Geioyogi (literally: performance/art swimming).
The major types of natation in the Kobori ryu are as follows:
Fundamental Swimming Skills
There are also techniques for shoving waves aside (Teishin nuki Oyogi) and techniques for catching rest while in the water (Yasumi Oyogi).
Performance Swimming Skills
There are also other techniques including Ippyoshi Oyogi, Soroi Oyogi, Katate Oyogi, Suisho (the practice of calligraphy while swimming), Haizen Oyogi (the presentation of food and drink whilst swimming), Sakenomi Oyogi (the serving of sake whilst swimming), Ukimi Sho (the practice of calligraphy whilst floating), Tachimochi Oyogi (swimming whilst holding a sword), Katchu Gozen Oyogi (the practice of swimming in the Gozen Oyogi style whilst in armor), Suijyu (musketry while swimming), Suiken (swordsmanship while swimming), and Suikyu (archery while swimming).
©2002 Tsuki Kage dojo