Sojutsu: The Art of the Spear
August 17, 1997 · 8:33am EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
Sojutsu (Yarijutsu) is a very ancient art. Japan was once called "the country of a thousand fine halberds", and the advancing armies of Shingen Takeda described as, "a sea of spears covering the land from east to west".

The spear was the common weapon of the ashi-garu (foot soldiers), but high ranking hatamoto were by no means strangers to the use of this weapon, which is also part of old mythological tales, and heroic legends of ancient Japan. The spear was, and is, part of many ryu, and its techniques and approaches to strategy are as diverse as the sword's. Some researchers support the theory that the spear actually had a greater range than the sword, in regards to styles, and was considered by some warriors to be the ultimate battlefield weapon.

Legendary swordsman like lizasa Choisai lenao, founder of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu; Nobutsuna Kamiizumi, of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu; and Soma Shiro Yoshimoto (Jion), a Zen priest who received his training at Kurama temple and from whose teachings several ryu emerged, were also sojutsu experts and gave equal importance to the sword and the spear. We should add that we use them only as examples for their renowned skills, but they were not exceptions. Many other names could be added to that list.

Hozoin Ryu founded by Hozoin Kakuzenbo, is one of the best known styles of spearmanship to aiki students, for its connection to the Aizu clan, and its relationship to technique and heiho. It certainly did not hurt its popularity that Eiji Yoshikawa included an account, imaginary as it might be, of Musashi Miyamoto's visit to the Hozoin temple, on Abura Hill, where the style was taught, and his meeting with Nikkan.

In regards to the Aizu clan, sojutsu was part of the formal instruction. Regardless of conflicting data, Harada Masanobu is credited with introducing Hozoin Ryu Takeda-ha to the clan. (Some researchers also credit a member of the Noya family, as well as accounts of outsiders teaching the art of the lance in Aizu at different times.)

Hozoin Ryu, however, is but one of the sojutsu styles of ko ryu bujutsu. Many others existed which taught great technique. Nowadays, we can experience them through the relatively few who have survived as independent ryu, or as part of the curriculum of other Bujutsu styles. Like Katori Shinto Ryu, Yagyu Shingan Ryu, Toda Ryu, Sawari Ryu, Koyama Ryu, Maniwa Nen Ryu, Kirako Ryu, Kurama Ryu, and Tendo Ryu, among others.

The training of sojutsu offers a budoka not just the richness of an ancient tradition, and techniques that add greatly to one's versatility and experience, but also a different approach to ma-ai, irimi-ho, and heiho in general. We do not encourage its practice for the sole reason of a list of "martial profits", nor endorse adding it to any ryu whose curriculum does not include it. But to those fortunate enough to have access to sojutsu training we do encourage them to appreciate it. For some warriors, that is all they had with which to face the enemy in battle, and it was, obviously, more than enough.


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