Kurama Yama Connection
Part 2 - Shugyo Discipline...
© 2003 James Deacon
the centuries, the Tengu became closely associated with the
or Shugenja (followers of the path of Shugendo) of
Kurama Yama. These ascetic mountain priests
part of an ancient tradition involving the practice of strict
and rigourous mystical disciplines often referred to collectively
[The original meaning of the kanji for shu was something
like ' sweeping away the dust that obscures a persons primal elegance',
however the kanji-pair shu-gyo is commonly now translated
as "austere training".]
Retreating deep into the mountainous regions, these practitioners
- a great many of them devotees of Fudo Myo-o, undergo harsh training,
and through the practice of rituals, fasting, abstaining
for drinking water, sutra recitation, meditation,
and sitting in misogi (spiritual
under waterfalls - the
Nachi Falls being
very popular), and the practice of 'sammitsu' (involving use of
incantation and mudra-like techniques), seek mystical states and
the development of powers including exorcism
often been said that the Tengu would instruct these priests in
sacred rites and magical knowledge. In legend,
the distinction between Yamabushi / Shugenja and the Tengu often
becomes blurred. It is said that
shape-shifting Tengu often take on the form of these mountain
priests, and in turn, the ascetic priests often take on the guise
of Tengu to deter the uninitiated from interrupting their seclusion.
Not surprisingly, considering their connection with the legendary
Tengu and with Fudo Myo-o, these ascetic mystics have always been
closely associated with the martial arts, and as long ago as the
12th century, a great many people came to train at the Kurama-Hachi
Ryu martial arts school which had been organised by the Yamabushi
of Kurama Yama.
After his Minamoto clan was defeated by the Taira clan, a young
man named Ushiwaka-maru (1159-1189) was ordered (by the leader
of the Taira clan) to enter the Kurama temple to become a monk.
However, Ushiwaka-maru, as well as learning the Buddhist scriptures,
also studied various martial disciplines. Legend says that he
learned swordsmanship and acquired other more unusual skills from
the legendary white-haired Sojobo, King of the Tengu.
The young Ushiwaka-maru (later known as Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune)
also became a master of tactical strategy, something which would
later help him defeat the Taira clan and and reclaim the Minamoto
A number of historical sites connected with him are still identifiable
on the mountain, including a monument to him, which is situated
to the side of the Tokobo temple, where he lived for nearly ten
And a simple shrine, the 'Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune Do' (Hall), is
located deep in the mountains some distance
above the Kurama Dera, at a place where it is believed
used to practice martial disciplines.
On September 15th each year sees a festival in which Ushiwaka-maru's
spirit is worshipped under yet another
childhood name, Shanao.
the 1920's, Morihei Ueshiba, founder of
Aikido, was known to retreat to Kurama Yama to undergo austere
Once a year, he would take several of his best students with
him and they would live on rice, miso soup, wild herbs &
Their routine involved rising at 5 AM to pray and undergo misogi.
This would be followed by swinging heavy swords five hundred
times, and then practicing footwork.
From 10 AM to noon they trained in body techniques. From 3 to
5 PM; the students would take turns acting as Morihei's partner
as he ran through series after series of techniques.
Evenings saw the students reviewing the day's physical and spiritual
training, with a midnight training session every third night.
And during the 1930's, determined to train his spirit as well
as his body, Gogen 'the Cat' Yamaguchi - possibly
the most graceful and exciting karate masters the martial arts
world has ever seen - often spent long
periods in training on Mt Kurama - undertaking ascetic exercises:
fasting, meditating and practicing a kata or training
routine known as sanchin.
Kurama Yama Connection Part 3
- The Kurama-Kokyo
sect & The Reiki Symbols...
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