Yamaoka Tesshu
also known as Ono Tetsutarō, or Yamaoka Tetsutarō, was a famous samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 of the Bakumatsu period, who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

. He is also noted as the founder of the Itto Shoden Muto-ryu
Itto Shoden Muto-ryu
Itto Shoden Muto-ryu is a school of Japanese swordsmanship created by Yamaoka Tetsutaro Takayuki, more commonly known as Yamaoka Tesshū....

school of swordsmanship.

Early life

Yamaoka was born 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...

) as Ono Tetsutaro, where his father was a retainer of the Tokugawa Shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 and his mother was the daughter of a Shinto priest
A , also called , is the person responsible for the maintenance of a Shinto shrine as well as for leading worship of a given kami. The characters for kannushi are sometimes also read jinshu with the same meaning....

 from Kashima Shrine
Kashima Shrine
Kashima Shrine is a shrine dedicated to the Shinto kami Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto , one of the patron deities of martial arts. Dojo of kenjutsu and kendo sometimes display a kakejiku emblazoned with Kashima Taishin...

. Yamaoka practiced swordsmanship from the age of nine, starting in the Jikishinkage Ryu tradition. Later his family moved to Takayama
Takayama, Gifu
is a city located in Gifu, Japan. As of July, 2011 the city has an estimated population of 92,369. The total area is .Takayama was settled as far back as the Jōmon period. Takayama is best known for its inhabitants' expertise in carpentry. It is believed carpenters from Takayama worked on the...

 where he began the Ono Ha Itto-Ryu style of fencing
Fencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games...

. When he was seventeen, he returned to Edo and joined the government's Kobukan Military Institute and the Yamaoka School of Spear Fighting
is the term for one of the traditionally made Japanese blades in the form of a spear, or more specifically, the straight-headed spear...

 under Yamaoka Seizan. Not long after Yamaoka had joined the dojo
A is a Japanese term which literally means "place of the way". Initially, dōjōs were adjunct to temples. The term can refer to a formal training place for any of the Japanese do arts but typically it is considered the formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style to...

, Seizan died, Yamaoka went on to marry Seizan’s sister in order to carry on the Yamaoka name. From an early age, Yamaoka showed dedication and talent in the practice of martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

. As he grew up, he became well-known for several things: his swordsmanship
Swordsmanship refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword...

, calligraphy
Japanese calligraphy
is a form of calligraphy, or artistic writing, of the Japanese language. For a long time, the most esteemed calligrapher in Japan had been Wang Xizhi, a Chinese calligrapher in the 4th century but after the invention of Hiragana and Katakana, the Japanese unique syllabaries, the distinctive...

, drinking, and sleeping.

In 1856, he became supervising instructor of swordsmanship at the Kobukan. In 1863, he became supervisor of the Roshigumi (a force of ronin
A or rounin was a Bushi with no lord or master during the feudal period of Japan. A samurai became masterless from the death or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege....

or "masterless samurai" serving as a mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

 auxiliary force to the Shogunal army). In 1868, he was appointed chief of the Seieitai, an elite bodyguard for the 15th Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Tokugawa Yoshinobu
was the 15th and last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He was part of a movement which aimed to reform the aging shogunate, but was ultimately unsuccessful...

. He went to Sunpu to negotiate with Saigō Takamori
Saigo Takamori
was one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history, living during the late Edo Period and early Meiji Era. He has been dubbed the last true samurai.-Early life:...

, and brought about Saigo's meeting with Katsu Kaishū
Katsu Kaishu
was a Japanese statesman, naval engineer during the Late Tokugawa shogunate and early Meiji period. Kaishū was a nickname which he took from a piece of calligraphy by Sakuma Shōzan. He went through a series of given names throughout his life; his childhood name was and his real name was...

, thereby contributing to the surrender of Edo Castle
Edo Castle
, also known as , is a flatland castle that was built in 1457 by Ōta Dōkan. It is located in Chiyoda in Tokyo, then known as Edo, Toshima District, Musashi Province. Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate here. It was the residence of the shogun and location of the shogunate, and also...

 to imperial forces. After the Meiji Restoration, he became an official of the Shizuoka Domain, followed by a posting as governor of the short-lived Imari Prefecture
Imari, Saga
is a city located in Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyūshū, Japan. Imari is most notable because of Imari porcelain, which is the European collectors' name for Japanese porcelain wares made in the town of Arita, Saga Prefecture. The porcelain was exported from the port of Imari specifically for...

. Later, he served in the court of Emperor Meiji
Emperor Meiji
The or was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death...

 as a chamberlain
Chamberlain (office)
A chamberlain is an officer in charge of managing a household. In many countries there are ceremonial posts associated with the household of the sovereign....

 and close aide. Yamaoka died at the age of fifty-three on July 19, 1888 of stomach cancer
Stomach cancer
Gastric cancer, commonly referred to as stomach cancer, can develop in any part of the stomach and may spread throughout the stomach and to other organs; particularly the esophagus, lungs, lymph nodes, and the liver...

. Prior to his death, he allegedly composed his death poem
Death poem
A death poem is a poem written near the time of one's own death. It is a tradition for literate people to write one in a number of different cultures, especially in Joseon Korea and Japan.-History:...

 first, then sat formally and closed his eyes, slipping into death.


Yamaoka studied the art of 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...

thoroughly until the morning of March 30, 1880, at the age of 45, when he became enlightened
Enlightenment (spiritual)
Enlightenment in a secular context often means the "full comprehension of a situation", but in spiritual terms the word alludes to a spiritual revelation or deep insight into the meaning and purpose of all things, communication with or understanding of the mind of God, profound spiritual...

 while in meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

. From this point on, Yamaoka worked to maintain a dojo for his style of combat known as "no-sword"- the point in which a samurai realizes that there is no-enemy and that purity of the style is all that is needed. He is famous for his range of Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 art works; during his lifetime it is estimated that he produced over 1 million works.

Appearance in Koan

Although he lived well after the "Golden Age of Zen", Yamaoka appears in a handful of modern koan. Three popular koan featuring Yamaoka are listed below.

Recommended reading

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.