History of Sōsuishi-ryū Jūjutsu

Sōsuishi-ryū is a descendant art of Takenouchi-ryū. The origins of this ryūha are shrouded in mystery. Takenouchi-ryū’s founder (Takenouchi Nakatsukasadaiyū Hisamori) was believed to have been visited by the god Atago, in disguise, who taught him a vast body of martial technique. Takenouchi studied what he was taught and in 1532 founded his school. Takenouchi-ryū is commonly considered to be the oldest Japanese jūjutsu ryūha still in existence.

Founded in 1650, Sōsuishi-ryū Kumi-uchi Koshi-no-mawari was established by Futagami Hannosuke Masaaki. He was a high-level practitioner of Takenouchi-ryū as well as his family art Futagami-ryū. A samurai of the Bungo-Takeda clan (which was located in modern-day northern Kyushu), he undertook a musha shugyō (武者修行) pilgrimage around Japan. Many samurai engaged in this practice, to test their ability against others, and to forge their spirit through ascetic training. Futagami crystallised his understanding following an enlightenment (satori) experienced during a 37-day retreat on Yoshino Mountain. The Yoshino region is referred to as the ‘cradle of Japan’ and home to the origins of Shugendō (修験道), a major pre-Buddhist indigenous religion. Futagami synthesised his understanding into a system he called Sōsuishitsu-ryū, named after the twin streams of the Yoshino River.

The Shitama family soon assumed inheritance, retaining the art’s relationship with Bungo-Takeda. Later, the Shitama clan served in the army of their provincial lord in Nogata for over 200 years, before serving Lord Kuroda. These places are in the modern-day Fukuoka Prefecture, northern Kyushu. The Shitama family has carried on the traditions of the ryūha through 16 generations, until the current era.

The lineage history of the Shitama clan is long and storied. Most notably, are the contributions of 12th Inheritor, Shitama Shingo Munetsugu and the Fourteenth Inheritor, Aoyagi Kibei Masanori.

Shitama Shingo Munetsugu – the 12th Inheritor, introduced Senbondori (千本取りの試練) – the ‘thousand-point challenge’ to the ryūha. He later gave his life, fighting in the ill-fated Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. This failed samurai rebellion was in response to the Meiji Restoration of 1868 which resulted in the abolition of feudalism, ushering in the modernisation of Japan. Upon his death, the 11th Inheritor, Yagoro Munetsugu Shitama, reassumed leadership of the ryūha, becoming the 13th Inheritor as well.

Kibei Masanori Aoyagi – the 14th Inheritor, was a close friend of Jigorō Kanō, Jūdō’s founder. Aoyagi Sensei introduced Jūdō to the Sekiryūkan Dōjō, where it has been practised alongside Sōsuishi-ryū jūjutsu ever since. When Kanō was formulating the formal kata of Kōdokan Jūdō in 1905 he invited the top representatives of the jūjutsu ryūha around Japan to contribute techniques from their schools. Aoyagi Sensei attended this meeting where Sōsuishi-ryū’s contribution was accepted. This makes Sōsuishi-ryu an ancestor art of Kōdokan Jūdō.

The 14th Headmaster, Aoyagi Kibei, back row, far left. Kodokan Judo Founder Kano Jigoro, front row, centre.

The 15th Inheritor, Shitama Shusaku, oversaw the expansion of the family art across the world. He accepted foreign students and established the Sōsuishi-ryū Jūjutsu Kai (SJJK) in 1963 to facilitate this expansion. He altered the pronunciation of the ryūha’s name from Sōsuishitsu-ryū to Sōsuishi-ryū. The kanji ‘執’ can be pronounced either way – ‘shitsu’ or ‘shi’.

The current Headmaster and 16th Inheritor is Shitama Manzo, Dai Shihan. He is continuing to carry out his father’s mission, while preparing his son, Shitama Shusaku Sensei to become the 17th Inheritor. The Sōsuishi-ryū Jūjutsu Kai has branches in the United States and Australia.

The headmaster of a ryūha literally IS the school. Full discretion in all aspects of the school sits in his hands and this is certainly true of Sōsuishi-ryū.

Sosuishi-ryu Lineage:

  1. Futagami Hannosuke Masaaki – Founding Headmaster from 1650
  2. Tashiro Seijiro Noritada – Headmaster from 1666
  3. Shitama Shinjiro Muneyoshi – Headmaster from 1683
  4. Shitama Kibei Munekazu – Headmaster from 1697
  5. Ono Yahei Munekatsu – Headmaster from 1718
  6. Shitama Sakugoro Munekado – Headmaster from 1725
  7. Enomoto Kyuemon Tadana – Headmaster from 1730
  8. Shitama Shichiro Munemasu – Headmaster from 1739
  9. Usuki Kujuro Munenao – Headmaster from 1774
  10. Shitama Shinjiro Muneaki – Headmaster from 1818
  11. Shitama Yagoro Munetsuna – Headmaster from 1834
  12. Shitama Shingo Munetsugu – Headmaster from 1861
  13. Shitama Bota Munetsuna – Headmaster from 1877 (this is the 11th Inheritor, who reassumed the position after his son’s death in the Satsuma Rebellion)
  14. Aoyagi Kibei Masanori – Headmaster from 1895
  15. Shitama Shusaku (Shuzo) Muneaki – Headmaster from 1929
  16. Shitama Manzo Munetoshi – Headmaster from 1965