The oldest swordsmanship school “Nen Ryu” 01


The oldest school of swordsmanship.

Kendo is now loved by many people all over the world. When Kendo was created, there ware many schools of swordsmanship that had an influence. And one of important them is “Nen ryu" style.

“Nen ryu" is the oldest known school of Japanese swordsmanship.

Present-day Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture.

Sword training for revenge.

“Nen ryu" was created by a monk named “Nenami Jion". He was born in 1351 in Oshu Soma (present-day Fukushima Prefecture). His childhood name was Yoshimoto Soma.His family was a very influential samurai, but when he was a child, his father was killed by enemy forces and his family was destroyed. He was rescued by his nanny and fled to a distant city.

Kurama dera Temple in Kyoto.

He became a disciple of a traveling priest and changed his name to “Nenami". He began training in swordsmanship while traveling with his master. And he received the method of swordsmanship at Kurama Temple in Kyoto. Kurama Temple is a sacred place for the legendary swordsmanship “Kyo Hachi ryu”.

Jyufukuji Temple in Kamakura.

After mastering the art of swordsmanship, he continued his journey of training, and received Shinden at Jyufukuji Temple in Kamakura. He then combined these techniques to create a new swordsmanship style at Anrakuji Temple in Tsukushi. He named his new style “Nen ryu".

The site of Anrakuji Temple is now the famous Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.

Become a master swordsman, he returned from a monk to Samurai to avenge his father’s death. He sought out his father’s enemy and fought and won. However, he felt emptiness in the battle for life and death. He returned to a Zen monk and passed on his experience, knowledge, and swordsmanship to many people.

It is difficult to explain the origin of the name “Nen ryu" in English. The character “Nen" has several meanings. However, I believe that what the Zen monk “Nenami Jion” put into the name was the spirit of “Where there is a will, there’s a way”.

He made many excellent disciples.

“Nenami Jion" traveled all over Japan again and trained many disciples. He had fourteen disciples who were particularly good. Among them, there were many who created famous swordsmanship styles that will remain in later generations. There are books that list the names of famous disciples such as ”Nagahide Cyujo” and ”Aisikosai”, who created the prototypes of the biggest schools of Japanese swordsmanship, but the authenticity of many of them is unknown, so I won’t write them here.

However, there is one person who we know to be a true disciple. His name was ”Akamatsu Shuso". He was “Nenami Jion" Sensei’s number one disciple in both swordsmanship and Zen. He inherited the second generation of “Nenryu" and raised an excellent disciple just like his master. About 150 years later, “Nenryu" was handed down to the Higuchi family living in Joshu Maniwa Village (now Gunma Prefecture). And even now, 400 years later, many people still practice “Nenryu" swordsmanship in Gunma Prefecture.

A book for physical education teachers in Primary school before World War II. The story of the birth of ”Nenryu is explained.