, meaning "one-sword school", is the ancestor school of several Japanese
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

is a Japanese word that is used in association with the ancient Japanese martial arts. This word literally translates as "old school" or "traditional school"...

, meaning "the method, or technique, of the sword." This is opposed to kendo, which means the way of the sword. Kenjutsu is the umbrella term for all traditional schools of Japanese swordsmanship, in particular those that predate the Meiji Restoration...

 styles, including Ono-ha, Mizoguchi-ha, Nakanishi-ha, Kogen, Hokushin, and Itto Shoden. The style was developed by Ittōsai Kagehisa.

Ono-ha Ittō-ryū

is the oldest of the many Ittō-ryū styles which branched off from Ittosai Kagehisa's original art. It continues to be one of the most influential of the traditional kenjutsu styles today, exerting a major influence, along with Hokushin branch, upon modern kendo
, meaning "Way of The Sword", is a modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship, or kenjutsu.Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sport-like physical elements.-Practitioners:Practitioners...

's kata
is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practised either solo or in pairs. The term form is used for the corresponding concept in non-Japanese martial arts in general....

, tactics, and aesthetic.

Ono-ha was founded by Ittosai's immediate successor, Ono Jiroemon Tadaaki
Mikogami Tenzen
or Ono Jiroemon Tadaaki was a Japanese samurai of the early Edo period, who was renowned as a swordsman. He founded the Ono-ha Ittō-ryū style of swordsmanship after his teacher made him head master of the Ittō-ryū. He was one of two official sword masters for Tokugawa Ieyasu and his style, along...

 (1565–1628), from whence the name of the art is derived. Oral tradition indicates that Ittosai made Tadaaki fight a serious duel with another student, Zenki, in order to establish a successor to the style. Serving as an instructor to both the second and third shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

s, along with Yagyū Munenori
Yagyu Munenori
was a Japanese swordsman, founder of the Edo branch of Yagyū Shinkage-ryū, which he learned from his father Yagyū "Sekishusai" Muneyoshi. This was one of two official sword styles patronized by the Tokugawa Shogunate...

 of the rival school the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū
Yagyu Shinkage-ryu
is one of the oldest Japanese schools of swordsmanship . Its primary founder was Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, who called the school Shinkage-ryū. In 1565, Nobutsuna bequeathed the school to his greatest student, Yagyū Munetoshi, who added his own name to the school. Today, the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū remains...

, Tadaaki was able to continue to give his art wide exposure. It was said that Tadaaki was Munenori's superior in swordsmanship, but that his severe character led him to be the less favoured and respected of the two.

Known as a dueling
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

 style which focused upon the sword rather than a more multifaceted, multi-weapon, battlefield style, Ono developed a mock sword (see: shinai
is a weapon used for practice and competition in kendo representing a Japanese sword. Shinai are also used in other martial arts, but may be styled differently from kendo shinai, and represented with different characters....

) in order to reduce training injuries and allow more committed fighting practice.

From a technical standpoint this style consists of more than 150 techniques for both long
A Japanese sword, or , is one of the traditional bladed weapons of Japan. There are several types of Japanese swords, according to size, field of application and method of manufacture.-Description:...

 and short swords
The is one of the traditional Japanese swords worn by the samurai class in feudal Japan.-Description:...

. Kiri-otoshi, which translates simply as "cutting down", is still the defining technique, like that of its parent style. Characteristically, practitioners often feel that they have the ability to strike freely due to their technique of cutting down the centre-line during an opponent's cut in order to displace their attacker's sword and gain victory. The style adheres to a philosophy articulated in the phrase "itto sunawachi banto" or "one sword gives rise to ten thousand swords," meaning that a thorough understanding of the fundamental technique of cutting will lead one to understand the myriad variations.

Although formally established as a system for unarmoured fighting, the techniques maintained an awareness of the demands and tactics of armoured fighting, making the techniques adaptable to such circumstances.

The transmission of the system passed out of the Ono family briefly and was maintained by the feudal lord Tsugaru Nobumasa
Tsugaru Nobumasa
was the 4th daimyō of Hirosaki Domain in northern Mutsu Province, Honshū, Japan . His courtesy title was Etchū-no-kami.-Biography:...

. The second headmaster from this family taught Ono Tadakata, allowing the Ono family to continue preserving the line while the Tsugaru family continued their practice of the art, thereby having two families maintain the main line of the Ono-ha Ittō-ryū tradition thereafter. The Tsugaru family also taught the system to members of Yamaga family, and they worked together to preserve the line of their art.

Sasamori Junzo, a well known and high ranking kendo practitioner, took over the preservation of the system in the Taishō period
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

 and his son, Sasamori Takemi, is presently the 16th headmaster of the system.

Mizoguchi-ha Ittō-ryū

was founded by Mizoguchi Shingoemon Masakatsu, who was a student of the second headmaster of Ono-ha Ittō-ryū, Ono Jiroemon Tadatsune, before creating his own style, the Mizoguchi-ha.

Ito Masamori, a student of Mizoguchi's, visited the Aizu
is an area comprising the westernmost third of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. The principal city of the area is Aizuwakamatsu.During the Edo period, Aizu was a feudal domain known as and part of Mutsu Province.-History:...

 clan and taught Edamatsu Kimitada an incomplete version of the art. Ikegami Jozaemon Yasumichi, a student of Edamatsu, was sent by the daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 (feudal lord) to study the sword methods to be found in Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

 (present-day Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

). Combining methods learned there with the original teachings of Mizoguchi-ha Ittō-ryū, he created a distinct Aizu line of the Mizoguchi-ha school with many significant differences in technique. This is the line that survives today, as the original line has disappeared.

Watching a demonstration of the Mizoguchi-ha Ittō-ryū it easily distinguishable from its parent art, the Ono-ha Ittō-ryū, and the Nakanishi-ha and Itto Shoden Muto-ryū. The kata used in these styles bear a close resemblance to each other. The Mizoguchi-ha at times looks like an entirely different art rather than just a different branch of the Ittō school, although employing some similar tactics. Many of the kata seem more overtly instructive in their orientation, teaching tactics to the left and then to the right.

The curriculum consists of five long-sword and three short-sword techniques with omote (outside/surface) and ura (inner/more sophisticated) versions. Being a traditional school of the Aizu clan, which was based in Fukushima
Fukushima, Fukushima
is the capital city of Fukushima Prefecture in the Tōhoku Region of Japan. As of May 2011 the city has an estimated population of 290,064 and an area of 746.43 km².It lies about 250 km north of Tokyo and 80 km south of Sendai.-History:...

, it is currently maintained by the Fukushima prefecture and local kendo federations.

Interestingly, although Takeda Sokaku
Takeda Sokaku
was known as the founder of a school of jujutsu known as Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu.- Life :Born in the Aizu domain , Sōkaku grew up in a time of war and civil strife and was able to witness both first hand while still a young boy...

, the founder of Daito-ryu
, originally called , is a Japanese martial art that first became widely known in the early 20th century under the headmastership of Takeda Sokaku. Takeda had extensive training in several martial arts and referred to the style he taught as "Daitō-ryū"...

, claimed to maintain the traditional teachings of the Aizu clan, according to his son, Tokimune, the core of his approach to the sword, although modified, was based upon the Ono-ha Ittō-ryū rather than Mizoguchi-ha.

Nakanishi-ha Ittō-ryū

was founded by Nakanishi Chuta Tanesada who studied under either the 5th or 6th generation headmaster of Ono-ha Ittō-ryū, before establishing his own style. His son revolutionized practice by implementing the use of shinai
is a weapon used for practice and competition in kendo representing a Japanese sword. Shinai are also used in other martial arts, but may be styled differently from kendo shinai, and represented with different characters....

, a bamboo mock sword, in conjunction with bogu
is training armour used primarily in the Japanese martial art of kendo, with variants used for jukendo, naginatajutsu, and sojutsu. The name consists of two parts: bō meaning "protect" or "defend," and gu meaning "equipment" or "tool." A set of bogu has four components:: combined face mask and...

, a protective armor. (Shinai were already used in Shinkage-ryū, Nen-ryū, and Tatsumi-ryū by this time.) Using the equipment to allow swordsmen to practice techniques freely and engage in sporting matches, foreshadowing the rise of modern kendo, led to the rapid popularity of the Nakanishi branch of Ittō-ryū.

Stylistically the Nakanishi branch is said to more closely resemble its source, the Ono-ha Ittō-ryū, than do any other branches of the Ittō-ryū. The kata practiced on the surface appear to be identical in form but differ in such aspects as timing, breathing, and use of distance.

The Nakashima branch is marked by its wide stances and deliberate movements, which confer a feeling of power and dignity. This style, like the Ono-ha Ittō-ryū, employs the use of the heavily padded glove known as the "onigote," to allow forceful finishing strikes practiced as the denouement of each kata.

Many famous swordsmen have emerged from this ryū, some founding schools of their own. Some of the more prominent among them were:
  • Terada Gouemon (Founder of the Tenshin Ittō-ryū)
  • Shirai Toru (Successor to Terada)
  • Takayanagi Yoshimasa (Founder of the Takayanagi-ha Toda-ryū)
  • Asari Yoshinobu (Teacher to Yamaoka Tesshu)
  • Chiba Shusaku (Founder of Hokushin Ittō-ryū)
  • Takano Sazaburo (A key developer of modern swordsmanship).

Takano, as a well known educator, was able to introduce swordsmanship into the public school system in Japan and was instrumental to the development of the Nihon Kendo Kata.

Kogen Ittō-ryū

was founded by Henmi Tashiro Yoshitoshi, a student of Sakurai Gosuke Nagamase, who in turn was an exponent of the Aizu branch of Mizoguchi-ha Ittō-ryū

Hokushin Ittō-ryū

founded in the late Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 (1820s) by Chiba Shusaku Narimasa
Chiba Shusaku Narimasa
was the founder of the Hokushin Itto school of swordsmanship .-Origins:Shusaku was the son of the swordsman Koemon , who was originally from Myagi Pref. Born as the second son in Kesen-Mura , Shusaku was named Narimasa Taira...

 (1793 or 1794–1856). Another famous master is Ito Kashitaro.

Itto Shoden Muto-ryū

was founded by Yamaoka Tetsutaro Takayuki, better known as Yamaoka Tesshu
Yamaoka Tesshu
also known as Ono Tetsutarō, or Yamaoka Tetsutarō, was a famous samurai of the Bakumatsu period, who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration...

, an exponent of Ono-ha Ittō-ryū and Nakanishi-ha Ittō-ryū, in both of which he received a license of full transmission.
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