Founded in the middle of the 16th century by the Buddhist monk Hōzōin Kakuzenbō Hōin In’ei the Hōzōinryū is the oldest school specializing solely in the use of the spear that has survived until today.
The Hōzōinryū Takadaha (Takada branch of the Hōzōin school) was founded by Takada Matabee, 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 jūmonji 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 dōjō there are dōjōs in Higashi-Ōsaka, Nagoya and in Hamburg, Germany.
Today 35 kata (forms) are taught, learned and practiced in Hōzōinryū Takadaha Sōjutsu. In these kata the suyari (straight spear) always confronts a kamayari (sickle spear), the weapon that has made Hōzōin 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 free sparring in armour has been permitted by the 20th sōke a couple of years ago 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 Hōzōinryū Takadaha Sōjutsu.