Kumamoto: Back from Brink of Extinction, Local Fighting Style Marks 450 Yrs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Swordsmen demonstrate Taisha ryu at Aoi Aso Shrine in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Sept. 17.

HITOYOSHI, Kumamoto — A sword-fighting style that originated in the Kyushu and was once on the verge of extinction has celebrated 450 years since it was first developed.

Hyoho Taisha ryu originated in the Hitoyoshi and Kuma regions of Kumamoto Prefecture and is known for its combination of sword fighting and martial arts techniques.

The actual 450th anniversary was in 2021, as Taisha ryu originated in 1571, according to old records, but the celebration had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

A demonstration to commemorate the anniversary was held on Sept. 17 at Aoi Aso Shrine in Hitoyoshi.

The demonstrators showed off their skills and agility with a variety of techniques, such as slowly getting closer to the opponent, swinging a wooden sword to stop it right at the other person’s throat, thrusting the sword toward the opponent’s body and leaping into the air to strike the other from above.

The number of Taisha ryu students had declined over time, and about a decade ago, there were only two students. Since then, Taisha ryu masters have steadily attracted more students by holding demonstrations nationwide, speaking at seminars overseas and accepting students living abroad through online instruction. Currently, the sword style has about 200 students.

At the event, 200 students from Taisha ryu and 17 other schools demonstrated their skills.