Founded in the middle of the 16th century by the Buddhist monk Hôzôin Kakuzenbô Hôin In’ei the Hôzôinryû is the oldest school specializing solely in the use of the spear that has survived until today.
The Hôzôinryû Takadaha (Takada branch of the Hôzôin school) was founded by Takada Matabê, a bushi (member of the warrior class), who had been a direct student of In’ei. Some 50 to 60 members of the art are still active worldwide practicing the art of fencing with the jûmonji kamayari (cross-shaped sickle-spear) at least once a week.
In 1976 the headquarters of the school returned to the city of Nara where it was originally founded. In addition to the Nara dojo there are dôjôs in Nagoya, Higashi-Ôsaka and in Hamburg, Germany (officially the Hamburg dôjô is a training facility of the Higashi-Ôsaka dôjô).
Today 35 kata (forms) are taught, learned and practiced in Hôzôinryû Takadaha Sôjutsu. In these kata the suyari (straight spear) always confronts a kamayari (sickle spear), the weapon that has made Hôzôin spearmen famous.
With the kamayari one can do much more than just thrust. Thanks to the sickles (kama), the two side blades of the spear head, the opponent’s spear can be controlled, dominated and manipulated in a number of ways. It can be struck down, or thrown to the side, the sickle also allows the blade to slide along the shaft of the opponent’s spear targeting the opponent's leading hand. An old poem illustrates this versatility:
Which can be translated as:
Thrusting it's a spear
Mowing it's a pole sword
It can scythe like a sickle
Ad it never fails to hit its target
Of course there is no ‘enemy’ or ‘adversary’ nowadays. And although some jiyugeiko in armour has recently been permitted kata training remains the core of the school. Katageiko is not antagonistic with suyari and kamayari cooperating to perform with the highest precision filling the forms with life. Spear training is physically demanding due to the low stance and the weight of the weapons. And it does develop a deep understanding of distance and timing, due to the different length of the spears used in Hôzôinryû Takadaha Sôjutsu.
You can access more detailed information on the history of the school, the equipment used, its curriculum, events and more via the appropriate links in the main menu to the left.
English translation with the help of Matthew Preston