The Iaido Journal  Apr 2010
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Ryuro Muge

copyright 2010 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved.


Author’s note:
My sincere thanks go to Ms. Satomi Matsuhashi for her help in translating this piece of calligraphy and for help in researching the meaning of this phrase. This article is much more her work than it is mine. Any errors in translation or misinterpretation of ideas however are solely my own.


In the book entitled “Itto Ryu Gokui” (“The Secrets of Itto Ryu”), written by Sasamori Junzo Sensei, the 16th headmaster of Ono-ha Itto Ryu, the book starts out with various calligraphy poems presented. One of them is this one:

Ryuro Muge
流 露 無 碍

(“Ryuro Muge” in Japanese

I showed this to my kendo colleague, Ms. Matsuhashi, and she was so intrigued that she promptly investigated and found some information about various ideas in Itto Ryu on some Japanese websites. Anyway, this is what it says in Japanese with regards to the concept of “Ryuro Muge”:

流 露 無 碍 を 志 す (りゅうろむげ) 一 刀 流 組 太 刀 の 技 の 稽 古 では 、 体 と技 の 凝 り 固 まり を ほどき 、 柔 らかく 大 きく素 直 に な る ことを 学 ぶ。
--When practicing Itto Ryu Kumitachi, you need to learn being flexible, big (swing) and honest by relaxing the stiffness of your body and techniques.

すなわち流 露 無 碍 を志 す ので ある。氷 を とか して 水 とな し、岩 を砕 い て は 粉 と なし、方 円 の 器 に 従 い、敵 の どん な 隙 に も流 れ 人 って滞 り が ない よう に する。
--That is “Ryuro muge”. Making water by melting ice, making powder by breaking rock, like a round dish, you need to be smooth and to make smooth movements within and/or between any attacks by your opponent.

敵 の 架 か (構 え) の 働 き に 従 って 打 ち 出 す 大 刀 の 向 う の 勢 い を 流 しそらし 、われ から 進 んで 柔 らか に 勝 つ の で あ る。
--Along with opponent’s stance, by shifting the energy of its strike, we gently move forward to win.

もしわれ が 勝 気 を 強 くし、日 を 剥 む き 肩 を い か ら し て 、 た だ 敵 を 打 とう 、 われ は 打 たれ まい と カみ を出す と、わがなす ことは 兎 角 とか く の 色 に 出 で、敵 に 取 り 付 いて 心 が 動 き、角 張 って 閊 つ か え 行 き 詰 まり、そこ を 敵 か ら 乗 ぜ られ る。
--If you present your wish to win by stiffening shoulders and/or attacking your opponent, as well as trying to avoid getting attacked, then your mind will be distracted too much and your opponent will take that opportunity on you.

だからすべ て 敵 に 取 り 付 か ず 居 付 か ず、 無 為 無 心 と な っ て 一 刀 を 滞 り な く 繰 り か え し 繰 り か えして 打 ち 流 し、丸 く柔 らかく遣 い 馴 れ る こと で ある。
--Therefore, do not get distracted with your opponent, have nothing in your mind, focus on one sword and repeat this. Remember the circle and remember to be flexible.

そうすれば、われと敵とは 一 体 に なり、正 しく勝 つ べ き ところ に わ れ 勝 ち、流 儀 の 極 則 た る 流 露 無 碍 の 妙 域 に 達 す る こ と が で きる よ う に な る。
--By doing so, you and your opponent will become together. You will win when you have the right moment to win and reach to gain the secrets of "Ryuro muge".

* One of the Japanese sources: http://www.seikyo.ed.jp/contents/bukatsu/js_kendo/documents/shinki.pdf

Author’s post-script:

Some of the classic philosophical concepts of Japanese swordsmanship (and Zen Buddhism) re-appear here:
Many of them are about attitude and state of mind (i.e., being relaxed, being flexible, focusing, emptying the mind, etc…).

If we look at just the Japanese term “Ryuro muge”, the individual kanji are translated thus:

(ryu): style, method, school of thought; also current or flow
(ro): public, open; also dew (as in morning dew)
(mu): not be; without; -less or un-
(ge): interruption

* Finding a translation for “ge” was not easy since it is an archaic or rarely used kanji and not one of the 2000 kanji (known as Jōyō kanji) currently used in modern everyday Japanese. For more information on kanji and kanji reform, see: Jōyō kanji .

So we can translate the term “ryuro muge” as perhaps “flowing dew, no interruption”.

If we remember some of the key ideas from above, namely:
  1. “you need to be smooth…”
  2. “… to make smooth movements within and/or between any attacks by your opponent”
  3. “…by shifting the energy of its strike, we gently move forward”
  4. “… you and your opponent will become together“
then it makes some sense.

Flowing dew, no interruption…

A fascinating idea from Ono-ha Itto Ryu.


 Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at: dtong@tokumeikan.com

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