Interview: Kohei Shiozawa, The teacher of “Yakumaru-Jigen-Ryu"

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This month's interview was made thanks to my Japanese friend Yaoki Yashiro.
He participated in the Jigen Ryu training and experienced this martial art at first hand and translated my questions into Japanese and interviewed the teacher.
 
Kohei Shiozawa, teacher of the NPO-Yakumaru-Jigen-Ryu Kenshokai school in Tokyo, has been doing this martial art for 13 years. About 3 years ago, he took over the presidency of the school from Yasuo Yakumaru, 14th generation Yakumaru and the heir of Jigen ryu. Currently, there are about 30 trainee at his school in Tokyo. They perform in many events during the year.
Let's listen to the history of Jigen Ryu from the teacher:

“Jigen-Ryu was born in Satsuma, in the southern part of Kyushu, now known as Kagoshima. Since then, it has survived from generation to generation with the Yakumaru family. The Satsuma is known for the tradition of the "Spartan". The Satsuma Samurai, also known as Hayato, were the bravest fighters in Japan, and feared by everyone. Martial arts were also their most successful skills. There are many martial arts schools in Satsuma. The oldest Yakumaru-Jigen-Ryu school was in the Heian period (794-1192). ”
“Jigen-ryu is declared the official martial art by the Feudal lord of Satsuma in the second half of the Edo period. After that, students of the school begin to appear in many important events in Japanese history. The Meiji restoration, the modern revolution in Japanese history, was also led by several of the leaders of the Jigen Ryu school. That is why even now we say that Kagoshima was mostly led by the spirit of the modern revolution Jigen-Ryu.” says Kohei Shiozawa.

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We wonder and ask about the difference between Jigen-ryu and other swordsmanship schools. He starts his speech by saying “There are schools for more than 200 in Japan” and states that “The characteristic feature of Jigen-Ryu is in practice” and he continues
“We follow these rules:
1- We do not have any protection methods.
2- The priority of our skill is to “kill the enemy in one blow”.
3- Our training based on a scenario which takes place on the battlefield surrounded by enemies.
We do not have a complicated education method as we believe that repetitive basic education is the most effective way to prepare for real war mentally and physically.
We have a word called 薩摩 の 鞘 折 れ. (When the Satsuma Samurai break their sword sheaths when they pull their weapons.) This means once they pull their weapons, the Satsuma samurai fight to die.
Here is Yakumaru-Jgen Ryu with such a warrior belief.” 

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And he explains to us the unique educational system called "Goju-Kyoiko" in Satsuma. “Igoju-Kyoiku is a unique training system realized by the samurai class in Satsuma. The basis of this education is based on “no teacher”. Students living in the same area form a group. These are independent communities. People over the age of 15 are responsible for leadership and training in this community. They spend the whole day together. Subjects of the Trainings in Goju-Kyoiku are (Goju is the name of the region in Town);
1- Reading
2- Martial Art Training
3- Walking
4- Debate
This training was a very strict training for young children.
In Edo period, you know that samurai constantly carry swords in their belts, so it would be the most important lesson to use them in Goju-Kyoiku.
Especially since Yakumaru-Jigen-ryu Satsuma is a symbolic style of sword masters, every family had their own educational tools and they were trained every day. ”

As in many parts of the world, "bullying" is a problem in Japan. When we asked if martial arts like Jigen-Ryu can solve social problems like this in the world, we got the following answer:
“Some traditional martial arts are taught / promoted in Japanese schools today, like Kendo and Judo. Unfortunately, bullying has become a serious problem in Japan. By learning martial arts, people learn to respect each other and how to behave. I hope today's children can learn these traditional behaviors with traditional martial arts. ”

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We wonder if the Jigen Ryu practices have changed over time. “Today's Jigen-Ryu practices are the same as those of the old times.” says Teacher  Kohei Shiozawa. “I still think that our ancestors' practice methods are still the most logical and effective. In other words, if we change the method, we lose a lot of important things and this no longer be “Jigen – Ryu”. Of course, there is a lot of difference between now and old time. At the time of Edo, the daily training was the task of a Satsuma Samurai. We are now living a modern life. That's why we don't have time to practice every day, but we come together once or twice a week to train for 90 minutes. ”

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“By the way, there are female students in our school, although they are few in number. For example, the youngest is 6 years old! We also have a couple who get married and their child is also participating in the trainings. I think that women's participation in these exercises is an important factor for this martial art to last until modern times. ” says the teacher.
We ask if there is a ranking system in Jigen-Ryu as in other martial arts. "The original Yakumaru-Jigen-Ryu does not have a ranking system," he answers. "The teachers used to say they could graduate when they participated in a real war and killed the enemy."
“However, today there is a ranking system to motivate students. We give the title of “Kai-Den” to students who can complete 10 years of training. ” he adds.

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We want to learn how Jigen-Ryu schools, a non-profit organization, can be supported. “Yakumaru-Jigen-Ryu-Kenshokai has 2 schools. One is in Kagoshima and the other is in Tokyo. Some of the expenses are covered by the demonstrations and lectures we held at the events. However, many activities are based on students' volunteer work. Our policy is not to beg for help, but sometimes people can send us help in the form of clothes, and swords that we can use in training instead of money. We accept such gifts willingly. I think this is quite admirable because money is not important in maintaining such a tradition may lie in the behind of this thought. ” he says.

Finally, we ask, wondering where we can watch their performances. Even if they don’t have a Youtube channel, he talks about the movie "Vice Japan Project" they made for Google. And he shares social media account (https://www.facebook.com/yakumarujigenryu/) and website with us. (https://www.yakumarujigenryu.com/) and adds, “If foreigners want to participate in our education, they can contact us through our e-mail address, website or social media account. Almost all of our performances are closed to the audience, but we sometimes attend public shows. If there is such an event, we make an announcement on our page. We always want to see people who are interested in our tradition and events. If you have the opportunity, come and watch us! ”. 








You can read full interview from Yaoki Yashiro's blog (https://note.com/scaristory_eng/n/n7be12ebd4a1d)
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