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殺活楊心流 Sakkatsu Yōshin Ryū

The School of the Willow Heart that Takes and Spares Life.





By JT Weymouth

One must absolutely understand and bear in mind that the practice of dueling was not outlawed until about the date of 1890-1930, and that fatalities were commonly known. These mokuroku of the Yōshin schools are from the 1700 and 1800's. They are not modern self defense schools. These mokuroku are not recording techniques akin to modern self defense.

This is an address of one of the most important historical and traditional principles of the various Yōshin ryū schools. An address of the commonly encountered principle and idiom Sakkatsu Yōshin. This idiom is a teaching and principle which is integral and inseparable from all major forms of the school, whether the Takagi schools or the Akiyama and Miura schools of the Yōshin ryū. Any other forms of the school may exhibit it as well as it is so common to encounter that one even finds examples of it used as the name of the specific branch school itself, such as, for good example, the Sakkatsu yōshin ryū (殺活揚心流) the name means “the School of the Elevated Heart that Takes and Spares Life”. This address will help explain the various nuances of meaning as can be evidenced in the variety of historical terminologies that are part of the corpus of the meaning as applied among the Japanese.

The idiom 'sakkatsu' (殺活) “Taking and preserving life” is directly related to the martial arts principle well known from traditional Aikido, 'Shinmu fusatsu' (真武不殺) or "True budo does not kill" which is expressed as one of the core Aikido principle, namely of not truly injuring or killing the opponent. Aikido and many other arts have quite a bit of whatever form of Yōshin ryū jujutsu embedded in them. Two common expressions are encountered, coming from the traditions of Japanese swordsmanship and also expressed in general by the modern Japanese martial arts, these are:

殺人剣....Satsujinken....the Sword that takes life

活人剣....Katsujinken....the Sword that gives life

In these two common expressions, the term 'sakkatsu' (殺活) has both elements (satsu and katsu) separated and incorporated into the twin but separate concept names. These are said to have come from slightly older versions of the expression, of the same meaning, that being namely... 殺人刀 Satsunintō and 活人刀 Katsunintō. From the older Swordsmanship schools and Shinto-Buddhist sentiment and tradition these can instead be written in kanji and pronounced as 殺忍刀 Satsunintō and 活忍刀 Katsunintō. Respectively, as such they mean “Sword that perseveres in killing” and the “Sword that perseveres in sparing life”. It is sometimes the case that the two idiomatic expressions are combined as (殺活忍刀 Sakkatsu Nintō) “the Sword that perseveres by taking and sparing life”. Naturally this older idiom is one principle and definition to which the general idiom 'sakkatsu' that we are discussing actually refers to. But only one principle, there are certainly others.

This incarnation of the idiom 'sakkatsu' found in the form of Sakkatsu Nintō (殺活忍刀 Sword that perseveres by taking and sparing life) is stemmed out of the very very old and obscure Shinto Buddhist concept called (殺活忍法 Sakkatsu Ninpō) “Method of Persevering whether Life is Taken or Spared”. Of which one must not become confused with 'Ninja' and 'Ninjutsu' (it is not really very related, from some senses) since the idiom is a Buddhist term that means “Persevering as a Buddhist whether one lives or dies.” It is ultimately (in Shinto Buddhism) the concept of persevering as both a Shintoist and a Buddhist (hence, to remain Japanese no matter what.) Suffice to say that, in its incarnation as Satsunintō this means to protect oneself and (the right to remain Shinto Buddhist) by means of any such lethal force where necessary, and thus presumably having spared one's own life and suffering (making the Satsunintō an expression of katsunintō.) Old Chinese Buddhism contains the same concept by much the same name (some sources say that this idiom is of Chinese origin) and is said to be related to the Chinese Buddhist clauses against Tyranny. At it's heart this old concept (殺活忍法 Sakkatsu Ninpō) is really “to persevere as true to oneself, whether one lives or dies”. Whatever of suffering and of hardship that one must endure ('Nin' means “endure; persevere”) be true to oneself. Ergo the core of the concept of (殺活忍法 Sakkatsu Ninpō) was interesting to the various warrior and other manly classes, the Jujutsu-no-mono (practitioners of Jujutsu) among them. This because the rigours of military life (and indeed, the hardships of life itself, known to have been the case in former generations) make the concept very valuable. A shelter from the storms and dark clouds of life and the episodes of life that happen. Naturally this core concept is one principle and definition to which the general idiom 'sakkatsu' is in reference to. But, again, only one and there are certainly yet others.

This very old concept called Sakkatsu Ninpō (殺活忍法) “Method of Persevering whether Life is Taken or Spared” is extremely important to the core concept of 'sakkatsu' as expressed in the term we are discussing (Sakkatsu Yōshin). It is one of the main foundations of the usage of the term in the overall schools. Perhaps one could understand if I said that, as much as anything else, Sakkatsu ninpō means to spare one's own life, to live thereby and not die. Leading one to recognize the related idiom 'sakkatsu jizai' (活殺自在 ) “the power of life and death”, this idea includes the ability to protect one's own life and person from those whom would take it. Coming from a time period in history when territorial warfare and conflict was a standard fact of life and one's entire village or town might be attacked and all put to death, how to survive such episodes. How to cope with such unfortunate instance as might occur. Like a flexible willow tree, the heart like a willow that endures. That is Sakkatsu yōshin and also, of course, Sakkatsu ninpō.

Eventually, the idea expressed as Sakkatsu yōshin deteriorated somewhat in modern understanding, outside the Japanese themselves especially, and so modern Western Budoka are better acquainted with it's derived concepts expressed as Katsujinken and Satsujinken. Naturally it is possible to encounter extensions of the idiom 'sakkatsu' in such as 'Sakkatsu Budō' (殺活武道) “Budo that Takes and Spares Life”, especially in relationship to swordsmanship (kenjutsu) even outside the context of the various the Yōshin ryū schools.


Some of these are in necessary regard to the facts of Jujutsu and so that is perhaps how the various Yōshin ryū schools derive them (as may be obvious from the definitions and descriptions.) All of these examples, and the examples listed and explained above, are all integral to any mention of Sakkatsu Yōshin in any capacity whatsoever (inseparably.)

殺括....Sakkatsu....Kill by Binding”....-- One must notice that the second kanji is not the same but is instead the similar kanji 'katsu' () also pronounced 'katsu' or as a verb it is pronounced and means “to Fasten (up); Tie up; Arrest; Constrict”. In the Yōshin ryū schools it is one way to speak of the various techniques of joint binding and also of chain or rope-binding techniques. Best way to explain this is that 'killing' refers (here) to killing the intentions of an attacker by use of the techniques of jujutsu, preventing their injuring our persons, for example. Also, there are other ways to “kill the intentions” of an enemy or rival, such as by choking off their ability to enter our life or to assume any form of a position therein or there-over. Ergo, we see here, that “binding” means really to control things in such a way as to benefit ourselves and spare ourselves of much trouble. The two kanji used in both forms of the idiom 'sakkatsu' (and) look very similar but have different meaning. Many forms of the idiom 'sakkatsu' are like this (same word, different kanji with different meaning.) In our school and many others of the Japanese themselves, a part of this form of the idiom involves the kyusho vital points used to control by causing pain and injury. They are described as, for example, kasumi no goroshi (霞の殺し) “Killing the Kasumi Vital Point” or meishō no goroshi (明星の殺し) “Killing the Meishō Vital Point”. This sort of thing is often considered an integral part of Sakkatsu (殺括) “Killing by Binding” within any of the main forms of the Yōshin ryū schools whether Takagi, Akiyama or Miura... they all call it the same thing (but what each school calls the kyūshō, or tsubo, vital point may not agree.)

殺刮....Sakkatsu....Killing and Scraping Off”....-- Again one must notice the second kanji is not the same, only very similar. This particular incarnation of the idiom also shows up as the name of a katapattern” or “technique” of the various schools of jujutsu. Suffice to say that originally it implies the act of killing and scraping off the sword (a way of extracting the sword from the body after thrusting.) As a concept, largely speaking, based off this, it means to dispatch an enemy or rival (more specifically, it means to dispense with their intentions of harming you and to 'toss out' their hopes of going any further.) The kanji used is here in this form of the idiom is 'katsu' () also as a verb pronounced and also kezu.ruto Scrape or shave off”. As it is a direct relative of the commonly mentioned Japanese martial arts term 'kuzure' and 'kuzushi' (breaking the balance of the opponent). One can see it's similarity to the 'kuzure' (

殺勝....Sakkatsu /or/ Sasshō....Killing Victory”....-- Another extremely common form of the idiom, it may even show up in the various incarnations of the school's name such as 'Sakkatsu Yōshin Ryū' (殺勝楊心流) “the School of the Willow Heart that Kills the Victory (of the Enemy)”. Needless to say, in this incarnation it means as the name implies: methods and techniques to prevent another from overpowering you.

殺割....Sakkatsu....Killing and Splitting”....-- Also very common. Also shows up as the name of a katapattern” or “technique” of the various schools of jujutsu. It implies also splitting up a group enemy, dividing them in some way to help be free of them.

殺喝....Sakkatsu....Killing by Scolding”....-- Another primary but less common version of the idiom. It refers to scolding an enemy or rival. Kiai-justu is involved here as is Aiki-jutsu. It is one of the idioms used in Kiai-jutsu and means to kill the intentions of the opponent by means of shouts or shouting threats at them. In Zen Buddhism, the term used in this one, 'katsu' () is used to refer to exclamations used to scold practitioners (the scoldings of a Zen monk or priest.)

There are other examples, some of which are about as interesting, but this group listing gives a very good specimen of the wide range of idioms-within-the-idiom 'Sakkatsu yōshin' as it is applied throughout these schools. We should next examine some of the various ways that the word 'yōshin' is written, for much the same purpose of exploration. The name 'yōshin' goes through metamorphosis-of-meaning, according to what kanji it is written with. This is used also in the course of the idiom 'Sakkatsu yōshin' to make the words say even more yet, in line with the main concept itself.


陽神....Yōshin....the Male god; Chief deity; the Sun God” used originally in antiquity as much to denote emulation of the Divine in conduct and ergo one derives 'Sakkatsu Yōshin Ryū' ( 殺活陽神流) “The School [that emulates] the Deity in Taking and Sparing Life”. This would be a rather archaic instance but the fact is that the more traditional Japanese even today are still subject to look at it that way (Shintoism.)

The idiom is roughly the same echoed in the kanji construct Yōshin (楊神)Willow god” being that the willow tree is sometimes said to be a symbol of the deity or deities expressed as (陽神). The meaning of the school name yet again being a reference to emulation of the Divine.

Similarly the idiom when written Yōshin () “Willow Grove” in the sense of a sacred grove inhabited by the deity and also Yōshin () “Sunny Grove” in the same sense, of course. These rendering invariably “the School of the Willow Grove” and “the School of the Sunny Grove” and when attaching the idiom 'sakkatsu', chiefly “...that Takes and Spares Life” in emulation of the deity. Other idiomatic incarnations of the term, such as those listed above, of 'sakkatsu' may occur and change the meaning.


Various incarnations of the idiom Kappō, best known under the definition of 'Resuscitation Methods', are directly related to and wrapped up in the idiom 'sakkatsu'. Some are seen to derive in relationship to the above groupings and so one thinks they have direct relationship.

....Kappō....Resuscitation Methods”....-- Actually the idiom itself, and in the Jujutsu arts consequently, it is by far more than merely medical resuscitation methods and sometimes this fact is alluded to. The term actually means “Methods by which to (Make) Live”, if that tells you anything. It can be said to include the next several entries, really.

括法....Kappō....Binding Methods”....-- Jujutsu joint bindings, chain and rope bindings, magical spell bindings and several things besides.

勝法....Kappō /or/ Shōhō....Victory Methods”....-- One thinks this is rather obvious?

割法....Kappō....“Dividing Methods”....-- This one is commonly used to refer to cutting methods with a sword or similar implement, as well as to dividing an enemy and etc.