Miyake Gunbei Gondayū

The only recorded match during Musashi’s brief stay at Himeji (though he probably spent much of his time in Hirafuku with his mother and his adopted son Mikinosuke) was with a certain Miyake Gunbei or Gundayū, a practitioner of the Tōgun-ryū, the Tōgun school of swordsmanship.

According to the Bisan hōkan, Gundayū was sent by Honda Tadamasa (1575–1631), the lord of Himeji castle, to test Musashi’s skill and see if he was suitable to enter his lordship’s service. It describes how Musashi makes the retainer wait in the anteroom of his house until he loses his temper and insists on a match. The same record claims that:

武蔵は木刀を揮って庭で試合した。軍太夫、敵する能わず、三宅は頭を下げて、武蔵の大言壮語、「日本第一」の号を自称するのも、当然だとして、帰って主君本多忠政に報告した。 

Musashi wielded a bokutō as they confronted each other in the garden. However, Miyake was no match for him and dropped his head in defeat. Thus he returned to Lord Honda Tadamasa, reporting that Musashi’s boastful claim that he was the greatest swordsman in the realm was only rightful.

Interestingly, the Nihon kendō-shi, published in 1925, also features Musashi’s meeting with a man with the surname Miyake, followed by a match in the garden of Musashi’s dwelling. In this version, however, the man’s given name is Gunbei, and not Gundayū. It describes how Gunbei opens the attack and Musashi gradually retreats until: 

丁度戸口を負つてはや下がるべき餘地がない。爰なりと軍兵衛は三太刀目は取込んで突きを入れようと、木刀を中取にして韋駄天の如く突かくるを、此時疾し、武藏は危ないと掛聲して、左の小太刀で軍兵衛の頬を突いた。鮮血が迸って、自分の直進の勢いにかえって身を傷つけられたのに、軍兵衛が閉口したのを、武蔵は微笑して、「まず、血を拭え」と控えて居る。

Musashi had his back against the entrance and had no more room to back away. Convinced he had Musashi cornered Gunbei now lowered his bokutô and drew the weapon back to run him through the third time round, when Musashi shouted, “Look out,” and stabbed him in the face with his short bokutō. Gunbei’s jaw dropped as fresh blood gushed forward from the wound inflicted by the vigor of his own thrust. Musashi laughed and held back saying, “First wipe this blood away.”


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