Yagyū Toshiyoshi

Some of Musashi’s friendly bouts were the result of an invitation by a feudal lord to demonstrate his art of swordsmanship. One of the most high-ranking men to attend such a demonstration was Tokugawa Yoshinao (1601–50), the daimyō of Owari and master of Nagoya castle. The ninth son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Yoshinao had been only fourteen years old when he took part in the siege of Osaka castle, attending his father’s camp during the winter campaign and leading reinforcements during the Battle of Tennōji (1615). 

From a young age Yoshinao had taken a profound interest in the martial arts. Like his father he patronized the Yagyū Shinkage school of swordsmanship. His chief fencing instructor was Yagyū Toshiyoshi, the nephew of the famed Yagyū Munenori. In his youth Yoshinao had submitted himself to five years of intensive practice under Toshiyoshi’s guidance and had grown into a highly accomplished swordsman.

The Mukashibanashi describes how, sometime during the fall of 1632:

宮本武蔵がなごやへ来りしを召され、於御前兵法つかひ仕合せし時、相手すつと立合と、武蔵くみたる二刀のまゝ、大の切先を相手の鼻のさきへつけて、一間のうちを一ぺんまわしあるきて、勝負如此ニ御座候と申上し。

Miyamoto Musashi was invited to Nagoya to demonstrate his art of swordsmanship in his lordship’s presence, when his opponent suddenly opened the attack. But Musashi crossed his two swords, trained the tip of his long sword on his adversary’s nose, and steadily forced him backward until they had traced the circumference of the whole dōjō, and said “this is the way in which I fight duels.”


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