The Chiba-Dōjō of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō is now looking back on over 165 years of history. It was founded in Edo (nowadays Tōkyō) in the Kaei era around 1848-1849. It was founded by the samurai and master swordsman Chiba Sadakichi Taira no Masamichi, the younger brother of the Kaiso (Founder) of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō, Chiba Shūsaku.

Chiba Sadakichi Taira no Masamichi

Chiba Sadakichi opened the doors of the Chiba-Dōjō widely to all who wished to study the Hokushin Ittō-ryū regardless of their social status. Therefore, the disciples were not only composed of higher and lower ranking samurai, but also of merchants and peasants, even children and women were accepted as students. Considering the time and its social norms, this was an absolute novelty and quite progressive. Through this open-door policy the Chiba-Dōjō enjoyed great popularity, which led to an enormous growth of students. Soon, the premises of the Chiba-Dōjō became too small and Chiba Sadakichi decided to purchase the next door Tōjōichidō-Juku (an old private school) which was recently closed. In that way he extended the Chiba-Dōjō extensively. Due to the many capable swordmaster brought out by the Chiba-Dōjō, it quickly became one of the most famous Dōjō all over Japan. Because of this, many people from all social classes travelled from across the country to Edo in order to learn the Hokushin Ittō-Ryū at the Chiba-Dōjō. In 1853 the famous samurai and revolutionary Sakamoto Ryōma from Tosa was sent by his clan to the Chiba-Dōjō in Edo to study the Hokushin Ittō-ryū under Chiba Sadakichi and his son and successor, the 2nd Sōke, Chiba Jūtarō. Two years later in 1855 the big Ansei-Edo earthquake destroyed vast areas of Edo. The Chiba-Dōjō itself burned down in a fire caused by that earthquake. Nevertheless, Chiba Sadakichi was able to rebuild the Chiba-Dōjō in Okemachi in Edo only one year later in 1856 and the teaching there was continued.

In the Meiji era the so-called Chiba-Gekikenkai, which was realized in the Chiba-Dōjō by the 3rd Sōke Chiba Tōichirō, enjoyed great popularity. In this gekikenkai, public shiai (duels) were fought with wooden or bamboo weapons. There actually exist a few woodblock prints by the famous artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) which depicts the Chiba-Gekikenkai. The print below shows the third Sōke Chiba Tōichirō sitting on a chair in the lower right corner observing a duel between naginata and sword. The person who wields the naginata is Chiba Sana, the daughter of Chiba Sadakichi. She had the nickname “Chiba no Onikomachi” (demon beauty of the Chiba family). This name is based on her extraordinary skills with the sword and the naginata and the fact that she defeated every challenger who visited the Chiba-Dōjō in a duel despite her being a very graceful woman.

Woodblock print of the Chiba-Gekikenkai at the Chiba-Dōjō of the Meiji-period

The Chiba-Dōjō was moved to Yotsuya in Tōkyō by the 4th Sōke Chiba Tsukane during the Meiji period. It was later closed closed in the Taishō period since it could not be sustained by the number of students anymore. With the modernization of Japan, the interest in classical martial arts declined. Also, the rise of modern kendō made many people lose interest in the old ways of fighting and many only kept on training in this modern sportive version of swordsmanship abandoning their old traditions. The student numbers of many koryū declined in those years often dramatically and many teachers couldn’t manage their dōjō fulltime or couldn’t even pay for the upkeep. The Chiba family started an acupuncture clinic to make a living, but for two generations they did not teach the school publicly. Chiba Tsurutarō, the son of the 4th Sōke Chiba Tsukane, and his son Chiba Akira learned the school but did not pass on the teachings. The teachings and techniques of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū have been transmitted via different Shihan lines until today. The 5th Sōke, Chiba Hiroshi Masatane, decided at the beginning of the 21st century that the school should be unified under an active Sōke once more and therefore appointed on July 1st in 2013 Menkyo-Kaiden holder Ōtsuka Yōichirō Masanori and head of the Shinmeikai-Dōjō in Tōkyō as the 6th Sōke of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō. Together they re-opened the Chiba-Dōjō once again.

Ōtsuka Yōichirō-Sōke led the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō over three years as the 6th Sōke. In this time to school flourished greatly and was spread worldwide. Dōkōkai (training groups) in different countries and continents were established under his guidance. In 2014 his foster-son Ōtsuka Ryūnosuke Masatomo managed to rent own facilities in Munich, Germany for the Chiba-Dōjō.

On the 26th of March 2016, Ōtsuka Yōichirō-Sōke handed over the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō to his successor and Menkyo-Kaiden, Ōtsuka Ryūnosuke as the 7th Sōke. Therefore, the Chiba-Dōjō in Munich became the Honbu (head Dōjō) of the school worldwide. Of course, the Chiba-Dōjō in Tōkyō is still active under the direction of the 6th Sōke, but the Honbu-Dōjō of the school is now based in Munich under the direction of the 7th Sōke, Ōtsuka Ryūnosuke.

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