Toda-ha Buko-ryu was founded by Toda Seigen in the mid-sixteenth century. He and his younger brother, Kagemasa, were members of a famous family of Chujo-ryu swordsmen, and Seigen was especially noted for his ability with the short sword. Because of their outstanding abilities, their art came to be called the Toda-ryu. The name was changed, first to Buko-ha Toda-ryu and later to its present form, Toda-ha Buko-ryu, under its thirteenth headmaster, Suneya Ryosuke Takeyuki.
Although Buko-ryu was originally a comprehensive fighting system, a number of sets have been lost over the centuries, and the tradition now centers on two types of naginata, the straight or su-naginata, and a cross-barred kagitsuki naginata. These weapons are paired against sword, spear, and kusarigama, and there are also six-foot staff, representing a naginata with its blade broken off, and nagamaki techniques. A total fifty-one techniques divided into five sets have been transmitted directly (the honden) and there are three sets (betsuden) that have been recently reconstructed based on old descriptions and drawings. All of the techniques were done as if wearing battlefield armor; as a result the stances are low and the movements large and powerful.
Nitta Suzuo (female headmasters take masculine forms of their personal names) is the 19th headmaster. There are four levels of technical licenses--shoden, chuden, okuden, and okuden mokuroku--and two levels of instructional certification--shihan-dai and shihan. There are two shihan, with full teaching authority, presently residing in the U.S., Ellis Amdur and Meik Skoss.
Kamiizumi Ise-no-Kami, who had trained in both Kashima and Katori Shinto-ryu, created Shinkage-ryu based on Kage-ryu, which he learned from its founder Aisu Ikkosai. Yagyu Sekishusai began to train under Kamiizumi after being soundly defeated by one of his students. Together with his son Munenori, Yagyu Sekishusai introduced Yagyu Shinkage-ryu to Tokugawa Ieyasu, whereupon the school became the official school of the Tokugawa family, and Munenori became Ieyasu’s personal instructor.
Shinkage-ryu was probably the first school to use fukuro shinai, developed by Kamiizumi as a training device to allow full impact without injury.
In addition to the techniques of the honden, which descend directly from Kamiizumi, there are also gaiden techniques, added later by various masters. In the Owari line there is also a series of jo techniques known as Jubei no jo, as well as a more recently developed set of batto techniques, Yagyu Seigo-ryu battojutsu.
Yagyu Koichi is the 22nd headmaster. His predecessor, Yagyu Nobuharu, was the first member of his family to earn a living doing anything other than teaching swordsmanship. The New York Yagyukai is the only officially sanctioned group training in the U.S. at the present time.