Arima Kihei

Musashi’s duel with Arima Kihei is the first recorded duel of the young Musashi, who by western reckoning was only twelve years old on a clearing along the Saho River near his stepmother’s hometown of Hirafuku. The little that is known about Kihei is recorded in the  Bushū denraiki, which describes how:

十三歳の時、新当流の兵法者で有馬喜兵衛という者が、播州にやって来た。浜辺に矢来を結び、金磨きの高札を立てて、試合を望み次第いたす旨、それに書き記した。

When Bennosuke had reached the age of twelve a man named Arima Kihei, a warrior of the Shintō school of fencing, visited the province of Harima. He staked out a bamboo fence on a vacant plot of land, and put up a gilded notice saying that he was keen for anyone who wanted to engage with him in a shiai.

Tough little is known about the man with whom Musashi fought his first duel, the same record describes the duel and its gruesome outcome at great length. According to the Bushū denraiki (which still refers to Musashi by his infant name):

辨之助來たり、やらひの戸を押開き、「喜兵衛とは其方か、さあ、試闘まいらん」と聲をかけ、走り掛て杖を以て打しくる。喜兵衛も立揚り、抜打に切しくる。然れ共、辨之助は走りかかり、喜兵衛は牀几を立揚り切リしけし故、身近く、双方疵しかずして、腕と腕げ肩にとどまる。辨之助、杖をすて、かひくぐりざま、肩にあげて、ましさかさまに落し、杖をし取、つづけ打に十四五打、即時に打殺す。

Bennosuke pushed open the fence and called out “are you Kihei, well, let’s duel,” upon which he ran up to Kihei and struck him with his cane. Kihei now rose and drew his sword and struck out at the young boy. Yet, as Bennosuke had ran up to him, and Kihei had struck the moment he had stood up from his camp stool, both were too close to inflict any wounds on the other and they remained locked in an embrace, their hands above each other’s shoulders. Bennosuke now suddenly dropped his cane, ducked to the floor, put his shoulders under his opponent, and toppled him head first to the floor. Then he took up his cane again, and killed Kihei with a succession of fourteen to fifteen blows.


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