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Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū

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Title: Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū  
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Subject: Kanō Jigorō, Aikikai, Jujutsu, Morihei Ueshiba, Tessenjutsu
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Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū

Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū
Founder Iso Mataemon Ryūkansai Minamoto no Masatari
Date founded 1830s
Period founded Late Edo Period
Current information
Current headmaster Kubota Toshihiro
Arts taught
Art Description
Jujutsu Unarmed grappling art.
Ancestor schools
Shin no Shintō-ryū • Yōshin-ryū
Descendant schools
AikidoBartitsuJudoShindō Yōshin-ryū

Tenjin Shinyo-ryu (天神真楊流 Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū), meaning "Divine True Willow School", can be classified as a traditional school (koryū) of jujutsu. It was founded by Iso Mataemon Ryūkansai Minamoto no Masatari (磯又右衛門柳関斎源正足) in the 1830s.[1][2] Once a very popular jujutsu system in Japan, among the famous students who studied the art were Kano Jigoro, whose modern art of judo[3] was greatly inspired by the Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū, and Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.


  • Description 1
  • The sources of the art 2
  • Training methodology 3
  • Tenjin Shinyo-ryu Today 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6
  • Further reading 7


Essentially, Tenjin Shinyo-ryu is the amalgamation of two separate systems of jujutsu: the Yōshin-ryū and Shin no Shinto-ryu. The distinctive feature of this particular school is the use of atemi or strikes to disrupt the balance of the opponent as well as a more flexible and flowing movement of the body than seen in some older schools of jujutsu. The older schools employ somewhat larger and slower movements to mimic the use of armour in the battlefield. Tenjin Shinyo-ryu was developed after the period of civil war in Japan; thus, without armor, the movements emphasized were faster and more strikes were incorporated. The strikes were also primarily aimed at human vital points and meridians, which were exposed due to the lack of armor.

Like most koryu, the Tenjin Shinyo Ryu follows the bujutsu Menkyo ranking system, as opposed to the budo kyu/dan system.

The sources of the art

Shin no Shinto-ryu was created by a palace guard at Osaka castle named Yamamoto Tamiza Hideya who had studied Yoshin-ryu before implementing changes in the curriculum and paring down the system to 68 techniques.

Iso Mataemon Masatari (1787–1863) studied Yoshin-ryu under Hitotsuyanagi Oribe and Shin no Shinto-ryu under Homma Jouemon. He then went traveling and training throughout the country where he engaged in various competitions. It is said that he was never beaten. According to tradition he was once involved in a fight involving a hundred assailants and it was this experience that further solidified the importance of atemi-waza, or striking techniques, in his system along with throwing and strangling techniques common to other systems of jujutsu.

Iso created a composite system based on the techniques of the Yoshin-ryu, Shin no Shinto-ryu and his experience and founded his own tradition called the Tenjin Shin'yo ryu around 1800. "Tenjin/Tenshin" meaning that it was divinely inspired, "Shin" from Shin no Shinto and "yo" from the Yoshin-ryu. Iso became the jujutsu instructor to the Tokugawa Shogunate and his school flourished to become the most popular school of jujutsu of the time (1848–1864). Iso taught 5000 students in that time.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868 the study of jujutsu fell into decline generally and this affected the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu as well.

Training methodology

The training methodology, as with most koryu systems, is kata based or a form of pre-arranged fighting. Students learns the specific subtleties, or the more hidden meaning of the form, through the continuous repetitions of the katas. There are over 130 kata of this classical jujutsu, unarmed combat teaching from seated positions, standing positions, weapons defence, and also includes special healing methods and resuscitation (kappo).

Certain katas are subject to secrecy, due to the nature of lethal effects and subject of martial traditions. The kappo or resuscitation techniques, were a secret, however Kubota now teaches at Kodokan to the leading teachers at the seminars. The higher level of kata, not only relates to the aspect of physical movements, but the deeper inner meanings, or link between the philosophy, and mindset of the practitioner. Such kata are taught only to students with many years of commitment and experience.

Tenjin Shinyo-ryu Today

With the 5th headmaster, Iso Mataemon dying without designating a successor, the 4th headmaster passed the entire body of knowledge required for full mastery to three Shihans (menkyo kaiden's with impeccable moral character) that were identified and designated as such by the 3rd headmaster (the grandfather of the 5th headmaster), and a fourth as selected by the 4th headmaster to fulfill the "divine scheme" of transferring the school outside of the family lineage.

One of these Shihans, Torijiro Yagi, was able to complete and learn the additional teachings provided to them by the 4th headmaster, and as such is the one and only true and complete lineage of Tenjin Shinyo ryu today. Although there exist a number of individuals who received Menkyo Kaiden awards in the art from legitimate headmasters of the past, none of them have the final "keys" to be considered as having received the full transmission. Torajiro Yagi passed the full transmission of the body of knowledge to Fusataro Sakamoto, who in turn passed the full transmission of the body of knowledge to the one and only master of the ryu today, Kubota Toshihiro.[4]

As the leading active teacher is Toshihiro Kubota whose legitimacy in preserving the teachings of his teacher Sakamoto Fusataro is supported by senior exponents of other judo and Tenshin Shinyo ryu from his teacher Sakamoto he received his license in 1973. In his seventies, he still actively participates in the teaching of the art three times a week. Apart from locals, his students are from far ranging countries such as Australia, Germany, Israel, Sweden and England. In addition to Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu, Kubota Sensei holds a 7th dan in judo.

A second, although incomplete line of the Tenjin Shinyo ryu traces its lineage through Tobari Kazu who received her training from Tobari Takisaburo. Tobari had in turn studied under Isao Mataichiro, the younger brother of the fourth headmaster of the ryu. She maintained the dual traditions of Tenjin Shinyo Ryu and the Shin no Shinto-ryu until her death some years ago, running a small dojo in Osaka in which many of her students were strong judo players. As this line seems to have become inactive in recent years its survival is cast in some doubt.

Miyamoto Hanzo was a student of both Inoue Keitaro and Tozawa Tokusaburō (戸沢 徳三郎, 1848–1912). Tozawa is believed to have briefly taught jujutsu to aikido founder Ueshiba Morihei. In Miyamoto, who was also very well known as a strong judo man, once again we see the connection between this classical school of jujutsu and modern judo. Miyamoto taught Aimiya Kazusaburo, who himself produced a number of strong students, but after suffering a stroke he was forced to stop teaching the art. Of those students it seems only Shibata Koichi currently continues to teach the art albeit upon a very limited scale.

Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, studied Tenjin Shinyo jujutsu for several years under two leading exponents of the day, Fukuda Hachinosuke and 3rd generation headmaster Iso Mataemon Masatomo. The Tenshin Shinyo ryu, along with the Kito Ryu, played a role of seminal importance to the development of Kano's judo system. Although modified for safe sport use, the influence of the Tenjin Shinyo ryu can be seen today in many of judo's core throwing techniques such as seoinage (shoulder throw), haraiogoshi (sweeping hip throw) and osotogari (outer reap) to name but a few. The Itsutsu no kata, or the five forms, of Kodokan judo preserve techniques of an esoteric nature found in the Tenshin Shinyo ryu's "five teachings of the kuden" kata and techniques from the Kime no kata are said to show the influence of Tenjin Shinyo tactics. In this way while creating a modern sport Kano was able to preserve some aspects of the Tenjin Shinyo Ryu in his art and it is for this reason that contemporary judo participants tend to show such an interest in this particular koryu jujutsu form.

Currently there are only two shibu dojo of the Tenyokai outside Japan. George Marton (Menkyo) has a dojo in Sydney, Australia, and Paul Masters (Menkyo Kaiden) has a dojo in England. Both teachers were officially certified by Kubota Shihanke. After his promotion to Menkyo Kaiden, Masters was asked by Kubota Shihanke to head the international (i.e. non-Japanese) Tenjin community, and to this end the England dojo became the headquarters of Tenyokai International on the 1st January 2011. Besides Kubota Shihanke, Masters is the only living practitioner to be in possession of the complete syllabus of Tenjin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu, and has full authority to promote/rank students in the system as the incumbent Shihanke of Tenyokai International. Masters' son Lee was recently awarded his Menkyo licence after nearly thirty years of training under his father's supervision.


  1. ^ Thomas A. Green, Joseph R. Svinth Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation 2010- Page 122 "A fourth important system was Tenjin Shin'yo ryu (“Divine True Willow School”). This system dates to the 1830s. It was taught in clan schools throughout Japan, and at the Kobusho, the shogunate's official military academy, from 1856 to 1866."
  2. ^ Robert Hill World of Martial Arts 2010 "Kano then became a student in another Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū school, that of Iso Masatomo (c.1820–c.1881), who put more ... On the other hand, Kitō-ryū emphasized throwing techniques to a much greater degree than Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū." ... "Jujutsu was first introduced to Europe in 1899 by Edward William Barton-Wright, who had studied Tenjin Shinyō-ryū and Shinden Fudo Ryu in Yokohama and Kobe, respectively. He had also trained briefly at the Kodokan in Tokyo."
  3. ^
  4. ^ Summarized from the translation of the "Flag Book", the original body of knowledge passed to the three Shihan of the 3rd headmaster and written by Iso Mataemon Masanobu (4th Generation Headmaster). Confirmation of this information was provided by Mr. Kubota in response to a 2nd printing of the "Flag Book", authored by Chiharu Yoshida, the fourth Shihan to receive this body of knowledge and the first to validate its purpose. Moreover, Mr. Kubota speaks of this and other pertinent matters regarding the ryu in Nippon Jujutsu – Japan Book of Formal Military Ways, chapter 5.

External links

  • Info on history, genealogy, katas, characteristics and historic photos of Tenjin Shinyo-ryu

Further reading

  • Donn Draeger. 1974. Modern Budo. The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, 3. New York & Tokyo: Weatherhill.
  • Skoss, Diane (Editor). 1997. Koryu Bujutsu. Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Volume 1. New Jersey, Koryu Books. (Extensive article on Tenjin Shinyo Ryu)
  • Skoss, Diane (Editor). 1999. Sword and Spirit. Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Volume 2. New Jersey, Koryu Books. (For references to Yoshin Ryu)
  • Mol, Serge. 2001. Classical Fighting Arts of Japan: A Complete Guide to Koryu Jujutsu. Tokyo. Kodansha International.
  • Daigo, Toshiro. 2005. Kodokan Judo: Throwing Techniques. Tokyo. Kodansha International. (Despite being a judo text there are extensive references to Tenjin Shinyo Ryu, line drawings of the school's techniques from the 1890s and photographs of Kubata Toshihiro performing techniques)
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