Understanding the No-sword with no teacher: A practical attempt to read The Illustrated Catalogue of the Shinkage-Ryū Martial Arts with the help of Yagyū heihō kadensho
The Illustrated Catalogue of the Shinkage-Ryū Martial Arts (新陰流兵法目録書; shinkage-ryū heihō mokuroku), drawn by Yagyū Munetoshi, the founder of the Yagyū shinkage ryū, in 1601, is a classical catalogue of the style’s techniques. Munetoshi painted the scroll as a present to a friend of his, a noh actor. When looking at it one sees the clear calligraphy explaining the techniques, helping anyone who reads to get a grasp of the depicted techniques. Yet these explanations were added in 1707 over one hundred years after the scroll was painted. The explanations themselves sometimes directly seem to quote from the heihō kadensho (“A Hereditary Book on the Art of War”) written around 1632 by Yagyū Munenori, the son of Munetoshi, which can be considered the central text of the style. Despite being written at different times, can the depictions, descriptions and the text together function as a mean to learn the techniques? Is it possible to extract the embodied knowledge embedded in the text by combining the scroll with the commentary and the book? To answer these questions a practical experiment in learning the techniques was undertaken.
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