The full name of the style of Iaï-do that is the most widely practiced in central Japan today is muso jikiden eishin ryu, meaning “peerless, direct transmission, true-faith style of eishin.”
Eishin Ryu claims a lineage about 450 years long, making it the second oldest existant martial art form in Japan.
Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto Shigenobu
The founder of eishin ryu was Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto Shigenobu, who lived between 1546 and 1621 in present-day Kanagawa prefecture. Many of the historical details of Hayashizaki's life are suspect, since, like most famous martial artists in Japan, his story has been widely fictionalized,
but it seams clear that he grew up during a time of constant warfare in Japan, and was exposed to various sword fighting methods from an early age. It is said that he went to Yamagata prefecture to pray for guidance and receive divine inspiration for a new way of drawing the sword.Whatever the circumstances, at some point he established his own style of swordsmanship and called it shimmei muso ryu, “divinely inspired, unparalleled style”.
Hayashizaki's iaï-do has had many names since then. It is considered the foundation for the two major styles of iaï-do practised today: eishin ryu and muso shinden ryu. In each generation a headmaster, or soke, has been appointed to guide the practice of the art, and each soke has had his own influence on the development of iaido.
Eishin ryu claims an unbroken line of transmission from Hayashizaki Jinsuke through twenty two generations to the present-day soke, Ikeda Takashi Seiko, who was appointed by his predecessor Fukui Tarao soke. The names of all the headmasters from the founders time are as follows:
2 - Tamiya Heibei Narimasa
3 - Nagano Muraku Nyudo Kinrosai
4 - Momo Gumbei Mitsushige
5 - Arikawa Shozaemon Munetsugu
6 - Banno Dan-Uemon-no-Jô Nobusada
7 - Hasegawa Chikaranosuke Eïshin
8 - Arai Seitetsu Seishin
9 - Hayashi Rokudayu Morimasa
10 - Hayashi Yasudayu Seisho
11 - Oguro Motoemon Kiyokatsu
12 - Hayashi Masu-no-Jô Masanari
13 - Yoda Manzo Takakatsu
14 - Hayashi Yadayu Masataka
15 - Tanimura Kame-no-Jô Takakatsu
16 - Goto Masasuke Magobei
17 - Oe Masamichi Roshu
18 - Hokiyama Namio
19 - Fukui Harumasa Tekkotsu
20 - Kono Minoru Hyakuren
21 - Fukui Torao
22 - Ikeda Takashi Seiko
The current 23rd soke is Fukui Masato (son of Fukui Torao).
Most iaï-do historians agree that the inspiration for the name eishin ryu came from the name of the seventh generation headmaster, Hasegawa Chikaranosuke Eishin. Certainly the characters used in his name are the same as those used in the name of the style.
After the eleventh generation, the lineage split into two separate lines: one leading to Saito Iamau, the eighteenth generation soke of the muso shinden ryu, and the other to Ikeda Takashi Seiko, as shown above.
There are a number of others, less widely practiced forms of Iaï-do that grew out of Hayashizaki Jinsuke’s art.
Today, eishin ryu is practiced by two or three thousand people in Japan, and has exponents around the world. The administration of the system is primarily handled by the Eishin Ryu Traditions Association, led by the soke, and by the all Japan Iaï-do Federation, which oversees competitions and promotions in many different Iaï-do styles.