History of Sōsuishi-ryū Jūjutsu

The origins of Sōsuishi-ryū lie in Takenouchi-ryū. This ryūha is shrouded in mystery with its beginnings recorded in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), Japan’s oldest historical record. Takenouchi-ryū’s founder (Takenouchi Nakatsukasadaiyū Hisamori) was reputedly 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, he undertook a shugyō (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 esoteric religion. Futagami synthesised his understanding into a system he called Sōsuishitsu-ryū, named after the twin streams of the Yoshino River.

The First Inheritor of Sōsuishitsu-ryū was another Bungo-Takeda samurai, Shitama Matahichi, who became a close disciple of Futagami. His family has carried on the traditions of the ryūha, through 16 generations, until the current era.

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.

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 rebellion pre-empted the Meiji Restoration of that same year which ushered 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 he invited the top representatives of the jūjutsu ryūha around Japan to contribute techniques from their schools. Aoyagi Sensei attended this meeting, which was held in 1905, where Sōsuishi-ryū’s contribution was accepted.

The 14th Headmaster, Aoyagi Kibei, back row, far left.

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 for ‘shitsu’ (執) can be pronounced either way – ‘shitsu’ or ‘shi’.

The current 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.