The Sword of No Abiding Mind
"Throughout his whole career Chao-chou (Joshu, c. 778-897) taught in a simple manner with just a few quiet words. It is said that a light seemed to play about his mouth as he spoke. Dogen Kigen, who freely criticized many of his ancestors in the Dharma, could only murmur with awe, 'Joshu, the Old Buddha.' Forty generations of Zen students and more since his time, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and now people everywhere, have breathed his one word, 'Mu,' evoking the living presence of the Old Buddha himself.
Thus Mu is an arcanum--an ancient word or phrase that successive seekers down through the centuries have focussed upon and found to be an opening into spiritual understanding. When you join that stream you have joined hands with countless pilgrims, past, present, future.
In everyday usage the word 'Mu' means 'does not have'--but if that were Chao-chou's entire meaning, there wouldn't be any Zen."
--Robert Aitken, "The Gateless Barrier"
Part I: the Historical Mujushin--Sekiun and Ichiun
Mujushin kenjutsu is a style of shimpo kenjutsu--"sword skills of the mind"--founded by Sekiun Harigaya, sometime around 1640. (The spellings mujuushin and mujushin are interchangeable and equally correct.) One definition of mujushin is "spirit in continuous motion" like clouds in the wind, or flowing water. Bebop-aria and cowgirlnoir put it this way in their notes to Champloo episode #8: "The kanji are broken down as mujuu, 'temple without a priest'; shin, 'real sword' (as opposed to practice sword); and kenjutsu, 'sword technique'. By analogy, the name implies a precognitive or instinctual method of swordfighting, sometimes translated as 'the sword of no abiding mind'".
In actual practice it was a short-lived school, active less than a hundred years and with only three known headmasters in succession. But its reputation as a discipline, as the purest and most ethereal art of the sword, lasted long after the Mujuu itself, and fascinated a generation of swordsmen in a time when the once revered training of kenjutsu was slowly degrading into routine, empty form and eventual oblivion.
It's not hard to see why the Mujuu (as we will call it, Champloo style) never enjoyed widespread popularity. At a time when all other schools prided themselves on a distinctive style, it scorned even the idea of a style. When every other school of kenjutsu taught its students how to conquer an opponent by strategy, swift response, strength, or shrewd foresight--or any combination of these--the Mujuu taught that one should not even react to one's opponent; that to treat the art of swordfighting as a mode of combat was a corruption of its purity, a descent into crude bestiality. Kenjutsu in the Mujuu style is not at all about winning and losing, beating or being beaten, in fact is not about conflict at all: it's a flowing movement of breath, spirit and power. The last serious devotee of the Mujuu, passionate kenjutsu purist Toru Shirai, once told a student that the three things he must forget completely to fight in the true Mujuu form were his own body, his sword, and the existence of his adversary. To any hard-working samurai whose first responsibility was to defend his master with his life, this didn’t seem to have much practical application—to say the least. But as we will see, its real applications were more profound than that…
Sekiun Goroemon Harigaya --founder and first master of Mujushin kenjutsu Ichiun Odagiri --Sekiun's heir, second master Mariya-tsu Enshiro Gikyoku (a/k/a Mariya Enshiro, Mariya Enjiro)--third and last known master
Much of what we know about Sekiun Harigaya's early life comes from a collection of historical and philosophical writings passed down from Mariya Enshiro to his pupil Kawamura Yakobei, who compiled them into a single volume called the Zenshu. Kawamura writes that Sekiun Harigaya was born sometime around 1593, in the Ueno area, with the name of Goroemon. He remained a roshi [a ronin, or lordless samurai] all his life. Sekiun first learned Shinkage-ryû; when he came of age he learned the ways of Taoism and Buddhism, and studied kenjutsu on his own (he eventually studied some 12 different styles). In his later years he took the name Sekiun and lived, until his death by illness at the age of 68--approximately the year 1662--in the Hatchobori district of Edo.
He entered his martial arts career at a young age--12 or 13--and became one of the best pupils of Shinshinkage-ryu master Genshinsai Ogasawara. Ogasawara was considered one of the foremost swordsmen of the day, and was said to have studied directly under Shinkage-ryû founder Kami Izumi Ise-no-Kami Nobutsuna--a warrior much valued and respected by Jin's most illustrious probable ancestor, the brilliant 16th century warlord Takeda Shingen.
In his text Mujushin Kenjutsu Sho, Ichiun Odagiri (Sekiun's star pupil, and the second Mujuu headmaster) writes that Ogasawara was originally a hatamoto (retainer or aide) of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and following the fall of Osaka Castle, traveled to China for a year to stay clear of any reprisals sent by the new Tokugawa regime against Toyotomi's followers. While on the Continent he's said to have taught Japanese bujutsu to Chinese warriors, among them a descendent of the Han Dynasty tactician Choryo, from whom he learned halberd (naginata) techniques passed down from that master strategist. One of these, called hassun no nobegane, Ogasawara added to his Shinkage-ryû technique with great success, and after returning to Japan he could not be defeated, even by pupils of his own master Kami Izumi. Although the specific nature of hassun no nobegane has been interpreted in a variety of ways--one of them refers simply to a way of turning the body so as to give one's sword more reach--it has also been interpreted as a "mental technique", or kenpo approach, in which the swordsman imagines that the tip of his weapon extends about eight inches further than its physical length: that is, he concentrates his intention or feeling through the tip of his sword directly into his opponent's space. This is the most interesting and pertinent usage of the term for our purposes here, that is, how the Mujushin is used in Samurai Champloo, and it's intriguing that it allegedly came from China, as (I speculate) did the quasi-paranormal fighting skills we see in the series.
One can see the roots of the Mujuushin teaching in Sekiun's early experience with Shinkage-ryû. For the Shinkage-ryû swordsman, shin-kage, "heart-reflection," implies that one understands his opponent's intent perfectly, and creates a situation which will cause him to react in a certain way, which one then counters accordingly. In terms of actual combat, one must know the enemy and oneself; one must make the enemy conform to one's own will. At the same time, the swordsman's spiritual state should encompass both the serene benevolence of Zen and constant flexibility, enabling one not to become totally absorbed or attached to anything in this world. Kami Izumi Ise-no-Kami was the first to apply such Zen Buddhist philosophy to swordsmanship, and for this reason developed techniques for taking an assailant's sword away from him unarmed, without needlessly taking life. Cuts in the Shinkage style use only the tip of the sword, and are intended to never strike bone, so that the effect is of a single, never-stopped, flowing movement.
Kami Izumi taught that "the techniques of Shinkage-ryû are unbeatable; this arises not from the needless taking of life, but from the true courage required to avoid unnecessary conflict." He and his followers spread these principles everywhere they traveled, hoping that if enough warriors accepted and practiced them it would bring an end to warfare and the beginning of a peaceful society. Eventually, these concepts came to bear fruit under Yagyu Munenori, master swordsman to the Tokugawa Shogun, and resulted in three centuries of peace.
Sekiun Harigaya created Mujushin kenjutsu based on insights he gained when he was about fifty years old. By then he was an imposing, veteran warrior, a survivor of 52 battles, both formal duels and combat experience; tall (6 shaku, which is 180 cm or about six feet), physically powerful, and possessed of great courage and ferocity. A story is told in which his pupil, Ichiun, notes in surprise that the master carries an unsharpened sword; Sekiun replies that this is because he never knows when he may lose his temper and charge into a duel, and with his sword kept blunt he is more likely to simply injure his opponents than kill them. (He adds dryly, "Of course, I always kept a keen edge on my short sword, knowing that one day I might have to use it for my own seppuku.")
Although Sekiun had been one of Ogasawara's best pupils, the powerful, rough-and-tumble style of swordplay he had developed on the battlefield did not show much of the peaceful influence of Shinkage-ryû. Nonetheless, along with the changing times, even this fierce warrior began to reflect deeply on, and to question, the nature of his own swordsmanship.
Sekiun went about finding answers to his questions: he studied with a succession of Zen scholars and eventually placed himself under the tutelage of a Zen priest, Kohaku. He became both a devoted admirer and friend (Kohaku himself eventually presided over Sekiun's burial rites), and through the priest's teachings came to understand how to plumb the depths of his own mind and spirit for the knowledge he needed. It was Kohaku who suggested the name Mujushin Kenjutsu for Sekiun's new, enlightened style.
Yoshinori Kono wrote: "According to Ichiun Odagiri in the Mujushin Kenjutsu Sho, in the process of working through a dozen or so of Kohaku's koan [questions for meditation, often used in Zen training], Sekiun arrived at the conclusion that the techniques of all those who had gone before him, including the renowned Shinkage-ryu founder Kami Izumi no Kami Nobutsuna, and even the hassun no nobegane of his own teacher Ogasawara, were all delusion, unfounded on any of the natural workings and movements of human life. Such styles and techniques, he determined, were based on a beast-like spirit (chikushoshin) through which the best that could be expected would be to defeat one's inferiors, to be defeated by one's superiors, and to achieve mutual destruction or stalemate with one's equals. Based on this conclusion, Sekiun began to devote his every waking moment to devising a style that could move the practitioner away from such 'brute swordsmanship' (chikusho kempo). He purged his swordsmanship of various movements he felt arose from the bestial spirit exclusively, and studied how to achieve victory naturally, based on the capabilities and resources with which human beings are essentially endowed.
"Finally, in a flash of spiritual awakening, Sekiun was able to depart from the generally accepted principles of swordsmanship to clarify certain principles of achieving victory (particularly those taking advantage of essential aspects of the way people live) and breaking completely through all sword techniques he came to realize the secret he sought in the reality of the serenity of independence from the worldly.
"Thus enlightened, Sekiun began engaging in contests with swordsmen from various other traditions; and when he applied his new insights none were able to match him. Naturally he discussed his discoveries with his own teacher Ogasawara and the two arranged a match, but even Ogasawara's hassun no nobegane was annihilated in an instant--'like a sliver of bamboo in a raging inferno'--by Sekiun's newfound style.
"With this, Sekiun discarded completely all the movements and techniques he had learned from Shinshinkage-ryu and the rest of the styles he had practiced, and consolidating the fruits of his Zen experience he began to follow a style of swordsmanship entirely his own. Mujushin-ryu kenjutsu teaches that rather than concerning oneself with how the enemy will advance and trying to parry his attack, all that is necessary is to raise the sword to one's brow and bring it down again— in other words, it is a highly rarefied technical approach, a philosophy that rejects any and all so-called 'techniques'."
Side note: We cannot say for sure where the dojo was located in real life, but in Champloo, it is set in Kisarazu, then a small town across the bay from Edo. This location makes sense, as it's placed within close proximity of castles owned and built by both the Takeda and Mariya families. [See footnote for more on this.]
Sekiun's eventual successor would be Ichiun Odagiri, who had met him when Ichiun was 28, studied with him five years and attained the title of Shimenboku (true form) when he was 33. According to the Zenshu, however, there were very few others. Out of a reported 2,800 of Sekiun's original pupils, eighty-three received diplomas in Shinkage-ryu and of those he considered thirteen to be his best students. He undertook to train these 13 in his new school, but among these the Zenshu describes only four as "understanding the meaning of this style." This suggests that there were only three students besides Ichiun who ever truly understood Sekiun's Mujushin kenjutsu. One of these we know to be Ihei Hideyasu Kataoka, a retainer of Mimasaku Kuroda, but unfortunately the identities of the other two remain unknown.
The Mujushin kenjutsu style --as we've said--was only taught for about 70 years, and is nowhere recorded as an active school after the death of Mariya Enshiro, its third and final headmaster. As we said earlier, one of the reasons for its brief life may be that while a technically and spiritually pure style, it presents some problems in real-life use.
Kono writes: "Typical of shimpo or mind-oriented styles of kenjutsu, Mujushin kenjutsu rejects specific techniques entirely, suggesting instead that no matter how the opponent attacks, the only thing the defender need do is raise his own sword above his brow and bring it down again. [Insert: Note the line of Mujuu students we see drilling exactly this move in episode 25.] Such an approach may be adequate for self-defense, and it may work if you are able to position yourself in front of your lord; but when there are multiple attackers, when fighting conditions become confusing, or when the topography allows the enemy numerous other options for attacking, it can hardly be relied upon as a means to fulfill one's duty as a guardian. To put it another way, while such techniques may be appropriate to defend against someone attacking you directly, the moment you find yourself turning to pursue an attacker who disregards you and slips past you to cut down your lord from the flank, you have already abandoned everything that could be called Mujushin kenjutsu.
"In the transmissions of Mujushin kenjutsu it is written, 'When attacked by surprise or in the dark of night, grapple without drawing your sword if you are close enough, or, if you are slightly too far apart to grapple, then down your opponent with a kick; in any case, never attempt to fight with your sword in such situations.' Bushi, for whom protecting their lord was an extremely important responsibility, would undoubtedly hesitate to learn a form of swordsmanship so ill-suited to the exigencies of bodyguarding."
However, it is extremely interesting to note that it continued to exert a powerful influence. In particular, as the teaching of sword skills continued to become more corrupt and decadent, and more sensitive and purist students came to feel that much of value was being lost and forgotten, more than once it was the study of Mujushin kenjutsu to which they turned, to become reacquainted with the art of the blade in its purest and subtlest style. Probably the most notable of these later followers were swordsmen Muneari Goroemon Terada and his student Toru Shirai.
Part II: the Historical Mujushin--Terada and Shirai
Modern kendo using shinai (bamboo practice swords) and bogu (protective equipment) is generally believed to have originated during the Kyoho period [1716-1735] .Some suggest that the modern kendo shinai was developed by Tanetake Nakanishi, second headmaster of the Nakanishi-ha Itto-ryu (c. 1750-60?). Tanetake adopted the practice of uchiaigeiko--training through competitive matches between opponents equipped with shinai and bogu-- because he felt that kata training alone was a too difficult and time-consuming way to learn.
In traditional kata training, one's progress depends on one's grasp of the nuances and details of the kata, as well as one's ability to understand the kata's deeper meaning. In uchiaigeiko, however, a certain level of mastery may be attained by becoming accustomed to technique more than learning it--that is, by simply learning how to perform the movement and nothing more. Predictably, this simplified form of training appealed to many, and people flocked to enroll in the Nakanishi dojo. Despite the dojo's prosperity, Tanetake's decision to break with tradition and adopt uchiaigeiko was criticized, both within his own dojo and in the martial arts world in general. However, by the late Edo period, uchiaigeiko using bogu and shinai had become mainstream.
Muneari Goroemon Terada enrolled at the Nakanishi dojo when he was fifteen or sixteen years old, and was among those who questioned the new uchiaigeiko training. He soon withdrew from the school and enrolled in the Heijo Muteki-ryu of Nariharu Ikeda, a school heavily influenced by Zen and Taoist thought. Like Mujushinken-ryu (which was to influence Terada greatly later on), it was one of the schools known as "shimpo (mind) kenjutsu" because of its emphasis on the mental and spiritual aspects of swordsmanship [shimpo contrasts with giho (the technical/physical aspects) and includes things such as maintaining awareness of your surroundings and keeping your mind calm and free of obstructions].
(In Terada's rejection of the popular uchiaigeiko training method we see a real-life example of the same decline in the martial arts that Mariya-sama sadly describes to Jin in their conversation in episode 25--though Mariya only sees the beginning of the decline, some seventy years before Terada's time. Respect for and interest in the deeper meaning of kenjutsu was fading, and people--just as today--preferred a quick-and-easy method of learning to the hard, concentrated drilling and discipline that had always characterized sword training. Tanetake's "kendo for dummies" was making his dojo wealthy, but at the expense of the art.)
Terada set his mind on learning true kenjutsu and achieved a deep understanding of the school's teachings. He once told a student, "Heiho (tactics; strategy) consists of techniques for winning in a conflict, techniques that decide life or death. When you have thoroughly understood the principle (ri) of life and death, and when you are free from partiality, doubt, perplexity, and delusion, then your mind becomes calm and unfettered by thought and undue discretion. Then you can respond freely to your situation." In response to a question on training methods, he replied: "'There is one and only one way. That is to maintain a concentrated mind to free yourself from irrelevant thoughts and attain spiritual enlightenment. Competitive bouts only increase the viciousness of one's mind. Thus, you should always try to free yourself from evil thoughts." --Here he reminds one of Sekiun-sensei, who had similarly rejected his combative warrior experience.
Terada eventually returned to the Nakanishi itto-ryu school--after the death of the innovative Tanetake--and became certified as an itto-ryu master. Having thoroughly studied the densho (written teachings) of Mujushinken-ryu kenjutsu, he established his own form, which he called Tenshin Itto-ryu ("enlightened single sword"; tenshin literally means "aware of one's own divine nature"); his kenjutsu was sometimes referred to as shimpo kenjutsu. But it was probably Toru Shirai, rather than Terada himself, who became most deeply involved in Shimpo and could be called the last true devotee of the Mujuu.
Toru Shirai (1782-1843) had originally been a fellow-student of Terada's, and later became Terada's pupil. However, they were soon to fall out, since Terada never immersed himself as deeply in Mujushin kenjutsu as Shirai would have liked. Shirai had first learned of its existence from Terada, who most likely provided him with information on the style merely as a reference, but Shirai gained his high admiration of Odagiri and the Mujuu on his own, and eventually the style seems to have become for him the ultimate goal of his training. Although Shirai eventually became the second headmaster of Terada's Tenshin Itto-ryu school, he was never satisfied with it and consequently developed his own style, which he called Tenshin Heiho ("enlightened strategy"). He felt that from the perspective of someone like Ichiun Odagiri, whom he had adopted as his ancestral mentor, even Terada's Tenshin Itto-ryu would certainly fall into the category of the "brutish swordsmanship" that the Mujuu strove to be purged of.
As Kono points out, the differing orientations of these two swordsmen may have been at least partly attributable to their respective social situations, Terada being employed in the service of Matsudaira, the lord of the Takasaki domain, and Shirai enjoying the much freer status of ronin, or masterless samurai. We can suspect that Terada's consciousness of his responsibilities to his lord prompted him to maintain a certain distance from Mujushin kenjutsu. For Shirai, a ronin, bujutsu was not bound up in such loyalties to the same extent, and for him it became more of a spiritual foundation for life. Turning away from the harsh world of training in dojo style, he started down the path of shimpo kenjutsu and pursued that path with ever greater passion and conviction.
It's clear the intense purist Shirai felt that his master--though he had rejected the soulless uchiaigeiko method and continued to spurn it all his life-- had not lived up to his ideals, and that Tenshin itto-ryu was hardly different from any other form of this style. The kumitachi (basic moves) transmitted in Itto-ryu naturally involved movements and postures of receiving and parrying the opponent's weapon and other such techniques. This kind of kenjutsu, in which the swordsman observes his opponent's attack and responds accordingly, was in fundamental disagreement with the technical philosophy of the Mujuu, which Shirai was increasingly convinced represented the most rarefied form of Japanese swordsmanship. Shirai remained extremely uncomfortable with Terada's statement to the effect that "While rentan [rentan no ho, "abdominal training method"--a breathing and centering technique] must be practiced with an enlightened spirit, bujutsu [the "warrior's art"] is realistically a path of deceptive tactics and trickery by which to lure the opponent to defeat." Such doubts may have been what caused Shirai's kenjutsu to take on an increasingly esoteric or spiritual flavor quite similar to that of Mujushin-ryu kenjutsu—in other words, much more esoteric than Terada's kenjutsu had ever been. Shirai gradually set his sights on nothing less than attempting to restore the Mujuushinken-ryu.
By studying the purity of the simple movements of Buddhist priests in their temple devotions, and how competely their concentration in prayer and meditation surrounded and protected their bodies without any conscious intent, Shirai gained enlightenment and advanced far beyond the teachings of his teacher Terada. Meikei Tsuda comments in Itto-ryu Heiho Toho Kigen that Shirai had attained "secrets so deep that even the ancient masters had not known of them." The kata of Shirai's Tenshin Heiho were actually much closer to Mujushin kenjutsu in their extreme simplicity, being comprised primarily of movements such as "simply raising the sword above the brow to jodan and bringing it down again" and "simply thrusting." To his discoveries about Mujushin kenjutsu Shirai added practices such as rentan no ho to lend the tradition a fresh edge and a new flavor, and took it upon himself to become the reviver, restorer, and inheritor to a tradition for which no legitimate or direct successors remained by that time. His intentions are especially plain in looking over the books on sword training he wrote: Meidoron (Clear Path Discourse), Shinmyo-roku (Record of the Exquisite Divine), and Tenshin-roku (Record of Enlightenment). Tenshin-roku is in effect a Mujuu textbook: Shirai quotes the entire Tenshin Dokuro text of Ichiun Odagiri**, and adds profiles of both Odagiri and Mujushin-ryu founder Sekiun Harigaya. As such, the work could well be considered a new version of the densho, or transmitted traditions, of Mujushin-ryu kenjutsu, plainly suggesting Shirai was fully aware that he was restoring (or hoping to restore) that school.
Following Terada's death in 1825, Shirai succeeded as headmaster of the Tenshin Itto-ryu for a time. He hoped to pass it on to Terada's grandson Kisata, but Kisata unfortunately died young, shortly after Terada, leaving Shirai to continue as second headmaster of the school. Unfortunately, he was not at all interested in Tenshin Itto-ryu. Though the position of Terada's successor was one of great honor, he deliberately chose not to maintain it, and passed this position to one Meikei Tsuda while he himself went on to found Tenshin Heiho. Tsuda's swordsmanship, however, was probably not nearly the caliber of either Terada's or Shirai's, so the title was more nominal than real. Following Tsuda's death, his son-in-law, Meijo, became the fourth headmaster, but with Meijo Tsuda's death Tenshin Itto-ryu faded away completely. Eventually counting numerous daimyo and hatamoto among his students, Shirai became quite successful and his name spread far and wide. His fame continued to grow, but on November 14, 1843, he died suddenly, at the age of sixty-one. With his death and the passing of his Tenshin Heiho school, the Mujuu truly left the world...for about a hundred and sixty years...
Part III: the Mujuushin in Samurai Champloo--Mariya, Kariya, Takeda
** SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE PLOT, ESPECIALLY EPISODES 24-26, TO FOLLOW **
There is an ancient maxim that says a samurai's sword is his soul, and no samurai or ronin in the history of anime has taken this more deeply to heart than Jin does. His sword is his identity, his reassurance, the only thing he has left of his old life and stature, an extension and reflection of himself. "Those swords are my life," he says to Isaac in #6, and he means both "the total of my experiences" and "the thing that keeps me alive". Whatever school of kenjutsu he had been trained in, he would surely have upheld it with all the honor and dignity he is capable of—and that's been shown to be considerable. So why the Mujuu? Why was this strange, obscure discipline chosen as the foundation of Jin's heart and innermost nature? And how is that choice reflected in the series?
The first thing we were told about it was a typically contradictory statement by series organizer and head writer Shinji Obara, in the Sept. 2004 Newtype: "Jin uses a real style called Mujushin kenjutsu, but the way he moves is completely different from the actual mujushin kenjutsu." (...uh, thanks so much for clearing that up, Obara-san…) As we've already seen, this--on the surface--is an accurate statement: to the casual eye, Jin seems to watch and react to his opponent like a fighter trained in any ordinary school. The only clue to his specialized experience is his unbelievable skill in predicting an adversary's next moves--he is always there ahead of them--and, indeed, in correctly guessing virtually anything about anyone from the slightest clue.
As time passes in the series, we get more information --and more clues for speculation--on the intricate connection between Jin's nature, his history, and the subtle art of which he becomes the last master. We know, for example, that it's only by chance, not his own choice, that he came to study the Mujuu: he was enrolled in Mariya Enshiro's dojo after being orphaned at a young age. (It's a reasonable supposition that Mariya-san --unmarried and childless--is a distant relative, and adopted the child Jin as his son at the same time he accepted him as a student. This is borne out when we later learn that he intended to make Jin his heir and pass the dojo, and the Mujuushin, on to him; and when we see Mariya-san, in episode 25, wearing a montsuki bearing the same Takeda clan diamond that Jin wears.) It's an interesting kindness of fate, as the tranquillity of the Mujushin style gives the young orphan a balance for his suppressed anger and ferocity, assuring him with its Zen-based philosophy that calm of spirit and purity of skill are far more important than fighting to win. Just as Jin, though become ronin, upholds the principles of bushido as seriously as if he had never been cast out from its community, so he finds a way to remain mindful of the high principles of the Mujuu even though forced to fight daily for his survival and that of those he swears to protect.
One regrets to say that finding out Mariya Enshirou was a real person has not given us much more information on him than we could already have guessed. He was, as we've said, the third, and last known, headmaster of the Mujuu, the pupil and heir of Odagiri Ichiun. It's quite possible he met Master Sekiun in person, and even if not would have been deeply versed in his teachings, having been trained by his direct successor. A good deal of what we know today about Mujuushin Kenjutsu we owe to him, since his pupil Kawamura compiled his writings and notes into the Zenshu volume that --along with Master Ichiun's writings --became the school's legacy.
Merging real history with Champloo's plotline, we can theorize that Sekiun-sensei would have been headmaster from his creation of the Mujuu in c. 1640 until his death in 1662, Ichiun from 1662 to sometime in the 1670s, and Mariya Enshirou from then until approximately 1675, when he met his death on the sword of his star pupil and would-have-been fourth headmaster, Takeda Jin. --These dates would benefit from adjustment, since we do get the impression that Mariya was the master of Jin's dojo for Jin's entire life, which would argue that he came into possession of the Mujuu closer to 1660 than 1670. Perhaps Ichiun doesn't exist in the Champloo universe, and the rank of Mujuu hachidan sensei passed directly to Mariya from Sekiun himself. (Alternately, perhaps Sekiun-sensei passed the school on to his disciple earlier; there's room to speculate.)
Whatever is the case, we are sure that the teachings Mariya-san acquired were still in their pure form when he learned them, only two generations from their source, and this is seen in the highly rarefied training Jin has received; including as it does the ultimate Mujuushin technique, the simultaneous strike.
---This technique was the core of Master Sekiun's enlightened understanding of the use of the sword. [Much more about this in Parts I and II of this essay.] It alters the "brute" attitude of "ai-uchi"--in which the attacker, though he dies, preserves his honor by killing his adversary as well--to one of "ai-nuke", in which it's possible for both fighters to survive. The point is not to kill, but to force a draw between adversaries, in which exacting use of pure technique lets the swordsman rise above the mere animal need to kill and defeat, and triumph on a higher level. This is exactly what Sekiun intended the Mujuu to convey, and exactly what Mariya-san tells Jin to do --and he does--in his moment of greatest crisis.
Sekiun would, I think, be proud.
It may indeed be the Mujuu's very nature that makes it an ideal target for the Shogunate plot that unwinds in the series' final episodes, the course of events that ruined Jin's life, made him a fugitive, and set him on the road to vengeance and final understanding. Kariya Kagetoki, a gifted but poisoned swordsman (I have a feeling he's one of Sekiun's final thirteen but not one of the ultimate four--he has tremendous skill, but a deeply flawed sensibility), approaches Mariya Enshirou with an offer from the Shogunate: to take over the Mujushin and turn it into a training ground for assassins. Kariya is not only a swordsman of awesome speed and precision, he has apparently mastered an extreme form of hassun no nobegane, and can use his sword to extend a field of will-powered force far beyond his own reach. The assassins he has already presumably had a hand in training, such as Sara, show similar abilities. He believes the Mujuu, with its mind-centered philosophy, its detachment, its purity of technique, would be an ideal breeding ground for more assassins of such otherworldly skill.
[Note: It's my speculation--and only my speculation--that this plan of the Shogunate originated with their acceptance of the renegade samurai-turned-Shaolin-swordsman, Shouryuu, formerly Ukon. In the episode that tells his story, "Lethal Lunacy" (#10), we learn that when Shouryuu returned from China, filled with his new training and burning with desire to reform what he saw as a weakened and degenerate Japanese sword tradition, he went from dojo to dojo and was spurned at every point. Eventually he sought a position with the government, and then dropped out of human sight. It's my hunch that Shouryuu found that position, and taught his new techniques--just as in real life Ogasawara [Part I] returned to Japan with the hassun no nobegane he'd learned in China, and rebuilt Shinkage-ryû around it--to Japanese-trained shogunate fighters with deadly success. Thus, I think, we have a line connecting Shouryuu and his ki-based strike; Sara, whose blindness is no limit to her skill, and whose kama-yari cuts objects without touching them; and Kariya Kagetoki, who I suspect merged a high-level Mujuushin education with these fierce Chinese techniques to become the most feared swordsman of Champloo's time. Goroujuu says of him that he believes no living man could kill him, and he has gone into retirement, quietly gardening, because no one can offer him enough challenge to be worth fighting; he emerges only when he hears that the gifted Sara--judging by age differences, I suspect, his own pupil--has been killed by her intended target…
Kariya retired when he failed to seize the prize he desired the most keenly, the Mujuu. But he had missed, I think, the most basic point, and his effort was doomed to failure even had his plan succeeded, because his acquired training had corrupted his understanding of Mujushin kenjutsu. The essence of the Mujuu is to withdraw from all earthly reasons to use the sword, to use it for itself and its discipline alone. It could no more produce deliberate assassins than it could werewolves. It is a mark of Master Mariya's desperation, his belief that he will lose his dojo unless he makes this devil's bargain, that he even considers bowing to this perversion of the art. And Jin--the Mujuu's heir-apparent-- does not consider it, not for a moment. He is adamant that the Mujuu must not "walk the path of darkness," and his stern refusal marks him for terrible retribution. The Mujuu and Jin here stand together, representing the last stand of bushido, honor, pure and stainless fighting art, against the future that must take them all down.
And more deeply to the point: As we see in the teachings of Joshu, the syllable "mu" can mean "to not have". As shown in the illustration above, it can be rendered as "innocence," in the literal sense of something in its original state of purity, having never been changed or tainted by experience; as we've seen in discussions of Mugen's name, it can also be rendered "without" and "none" and "never." It is the essence of silence, it is is about what is not done, not possessed, not touched. It means clear, empty, uncorrupted; also, relating to nothing, eyes closed, moving in isolated stillness; a discipline in which you fight by withdrawing not only from your opponent but yourself as well. The Mujuu is not just Jin's principle: it is Jin himself, in every way that we see him: in his orphan childhood, his isolation, his loneliness, the terrible losses he has suffered, the ice-cold purity of his strike. It could not be more perfect. Had it never been, they would have had to invent it for him.
In the end, I think the final disciples of the Mujuushin kenjutsu may be neither Terada nor Shirai but our friends at Manglobe and Simoigusa Champloos, who at a remove of some 350 years have brought Sekiun's insights to life in a new form he could never have imagined. Who knows: its pure style, a haven and inspiration to students of the sword centuries ago, may be even more valuable today.
Description; The style is fast, flowing, and precise. It relies more on perception, adaptation, and efficiency than on raw power or fancy moves. The fluid grace with which movements are made and the precise training to enable the user to move in unexpected ways creates the illusion that the user is untouchable. When a strike is aimed at where the user is he/she is already moved on, when one tries to predict where they will go they find that they are wrong. At higher levels the user seems to be struck as the enemy strikes only to find that their eyes have been tricked into thinking the user was still there by the sudden and almost unpredictable movement. The style is all about efficiency and skill over raw power.
Mizukyuushuu (Water Attraction) Using Qui the swordsman swirls it around the blade, modulating it to attract the water vapor from the air around him and any immediately available water sources. The water gathers around the sword and is used for later special techniques. This technique does depend greatly on the environment; in a desert it would be useless while near the ocean it is quite strong. This technique its self has no innate value as an attack except that it is required for other attacks.
Usui Ken (Watery Blade) Using Qui to gather water around the blade and holding it there while rotating it in a specific manner the tiny droplets of water reflect and refract light which causes the image of the blade to waver. This makes it quite difficult to tell exactly what part is the blade and what part is distortion, thus making it more difficult to avoid or block.
Mizugufuu (Water Tornado) The user must be on, near, or in some way be able to create water for this technique. The user spins rapidly while attracting water to the blade like the other moves of this school. The user then raises and lowers the elevation of his blade rapidly to create a solid rotating wall of water around themselves and tossing away any nearby attackers. The user can also actively control the size and power of the sphere to suit the situation. This technique is only effective when rotating, since the chakra itself is not enough to stop a physical attack thus if they cannot rotate, the user becomes vulnerable.
Ryuusei Kire (Shooting Star Slash) The swordsman gathers water around his blade then swung and a line as thin as the sharpest point on the blade is launched towards the enemy, it is as long as the blade is long but thin and razor sharp with water vapor and Qui. The water vapor moves forward at increased speeds with the Qui having pushed it and knocks more water vapor forward and so on. There are 2 great benefits to this technique and 2 disadvantages. The advantages are that it has great penetration power and that it takes very little time to actually use. The problems are that because it's so thin it can be easily dodged if detected and that because it is made up of water vapor it leaves behind thin wispy contrails as it rapidly flies through the air to its target. As a side note this technique can also be used as a drawing technique if the water is gathered and the blade is then sheathed, this version is simply a matter of preference to the user.
Usui Enchou (Watery Extension) The swordsman gathers a very thin tendril of water to the edge of his blade and swirls water around the blade as well. This requires a much higher degree of control and causes the water attached to the edge of the blade to become razor sharp and almost invisible unless you look closely (but is further masked by the water droplets around it. The thin watery blade functions to slice into enemies who prove that they are able to see and dodge the blade by altering the blade with this technique.
Fuuchou Ryoujutsu (Tidal Hostility Technique) The user moves his sword in a circular manner at alternating speeds to cause a distortion in perception. Surrounding his blade in Qui the swordsman causes it to pulsate the air slightly. The target feels as if he is being relentlessly dragged towards his doom by the riptide of the undercurrent due to the distorted view of the swordsman and the uneven pulsing in the air. This has no real harmful effect as the user is not truly moving but if they were to take a step backwards they would find that the move is often used to set up another move, or to frighten off an opponent they would rather not kill.
Uzuryuusei Kire (Swirling Shooting Star Slash) This move can only be executed with the equivalent of 1 quirt of water and is executed exactly like a Ryuusei Kire but is done spinning rapidly in a circle and sending the Ryuusei Kire out in a 360 degree circle parallel to the ground.
Senjou Seiha (Battlefield Dominance) Just as the constant flow of a river cuts through stone that survived all of the greatest calamities the world has ever seen so does this technique cut down the enemy with constant pressure and relentless precision. This technique is not so much one of attack or defense but one of fighting in a continuous, uncompromising, and well balanced manner. One might go so far as to call this one of the principle foundations of the style. This technique permits the user to fight constantly for long periods of time with maximum efficiency and minimum loss of energy.
Shussui Shintai (Flood Body Movement) This technique is one of many facets and many meanings. "Shintai" means movement, advance/retreat, essence of a new truth, new style, and the body. This technique encompasses all of those meanings at once and utilizes them in a coordinated and cumulative fashion. The user releases on queue adrenaline, endorphins, and various other bodily stimulants that act as a rapid and short term accelerant. By adding a flow of stamina to this the user creates a short (1 action long) burst of intense speed that permits them to move the distance of a dozen steps in the blink of an eye. This does however leave the user drained. Using it to much will leave the user extremely fatigued, making this technique a "double-edged sword."
Akagufuu (Bloody Hurricane) This technique combines a rapidly rotating series of slashes with both spinning and rotational aspects. Essentially it creates a wall of blades around the user and turns him into a walking blender. The technique gets its name from the blood spilt by those who went against it, the spinning and rotations are so rapid and fluid that the blood actually stays in the air until the user stops the technique.
Zettai Reido (Absolute Zero)
This technique involves freezing the water vapors gathered from Mizukyuushuu to Absolute Zero: the lowest attainable temperature (0°Kelvin). This makes the blade freeze and appear more jagged/solid, and anything that it comes in contact with freezes immediately.
Tsurara Mai (Dancing Icicles or Icicle Dance)
this technique uses the water beneath the ground to form icicles that spring up from the ground. May be used as a defensive or offensive move. usually it causes a large number of small icicles to fly up from the ground, and the water in the atmosphere will cause these to produce more icicles that will rain down on the ground below.
Ensui Ranbu (dark water Boisterous Dance)
This technique consists of hundreds of quick straight-froward stabbing blows
Mizu Kugutsu (Water Puppet)
This technique is a defensive skill. Water from Ensui/Hyōma En takes the form of its wielder, deceiving the opponent and giving its wielder time to escape an attack or attack an opponent from behind. The clone has one-tenth of the original person's power. It can be used to perform tasks the user is unable or unwilling to do for themselves. The range of the clone is limited however, as it can not travel very far from the original body without losing control. If the water clones are injured enough they will revert back to normal water.
This is a forbiddened variation of Mizukyuushuu that uses wielders blood instead of water.
Mizunaru Hebi (Water-formed Snake)
water from Mizukyuushuu materializes as four spheres, symbolizing the four directions: North, South, East, and West. The four spheres then come together to form a larger ball, and the wielder strikes this ball with the blade to release water in the form of a snake.
Hyōnaru Hebi (Ice-formed Snake)
This technique is almost identical to Mizunaru Hebi, but this time the snake is made of solid ice instead of liquid water.
Tsuranaru Hebi (Icicle-formed Snake)
an attack that combinds Tsurara Mai and Mizunaru Hebi. after performing Tsurara Mai user stands near the icicles, and calls on the four corners with Mizunaru Hebi. Instead of slashing the sphere of water that forms out of the four smaller spheres, user stabs the ground, then calls forth a snake from the icicles. Unlike the Mizunaru Hebi which is made of liquid water, the Tsuranaru Hebi is made of ice, with icicles sticking out all over its body.
Tsurara Gaeshi (Icicle Return)
this technique works the same way as Tsurara Mai, but it creates just one large icicle instead of multiple smaller ones.
Tō Kekkai (Frozen Shield)
this technique covers one's body from head to toe with an armor made of ice