Musō Gonnosuke

Musō Gonnosuke was a renowned adept with the , or wooden staff. Gonnosuke had studied Iizasa Chōissai Ienao’s famous Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū under Sakurai Yoshikatsu. According to the school’s own chronicles his clan name was Yamamoto and that his given name, or imina () was Katsuyoshi, but other sources claim he belonged to the Hirano clan and that his common name was Gonbei.

Gonnosuke was probably a samurai in the service of Kuroda Nagamasa, the daimyo of the Fukuoka fiefdom in the province of Chikuzen, where his school of jōjutsu was passed on throughout the Edo period. It is believed that, during a period of meditation and abstinence of thirty-seven days on nearby Mount Hōman, he had a revelation in which he was approached by a young boy with the words maruki wo motte, suigetsu wo shire (丸木を以って、水月を知れ), “know your opponent’s weak points by means of the round wood.” After yet more meditation and study he went on to found his own school of jōjutsu, naming it  the Shintō Musō-ryū.

The Kaijō monogatari recounts how Gonnosuke visited Musashi at his yashiki in Akashi. After a lengthy argument Musashi finally gives in and 


Gonnosuke immediately charged with his staff, but each time Musashi stopped him with a few light parries of his piece of willow. Gonnosuke now changed the grip on his staff and struck out with a horizontal blow, touching the collar of Musashi’s haori just below his sleeve. He cried out in a loud voice: “I struck you! I struck you!” But Musashi said: “No! One cannot call that a strike. What good would such a strike do? Let me show you what a real strike is.” Gonnosuke grew red in the face as he concentrated on an opening in Musashi’s defense, but he failed to find one and suddenly found himself veering backward. Musashi had driven Gonnosuke into a corner of the room and had landed a fierce blow on his forehead, which immediately swelled red. Gonnosuke acknowledged defeat and, regretting his folly, became Musashi’s deshi.

The school’s own records claim that, following his defeat at Musashi’s hands, Gonnosuke withdrew to the ancient Kamado shrine on Mount Hōman for meditation and reflection. When he finally came out of his self-imposed exile, Gonnosuke is said to have challenged Musashi to a second match in which he did claim victory. 

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