Roald Knutsen: Tengu and the Warrior Traditions

Tengu (天狗 or ‘heavenly dogs’) will already be familiar to many interested in Japanese culture. One of the best known yōkai or ‘monster-spirits’, they are associated with Shinto, Buddhism and particularly the ascetic practice of Shugendō. Tengu are most often represented as birds of prey with human characteristics, the most notable feature being a beak or unnaturally long nose.

In folklore, throughout the medieval period tengu range from comical to mischievous figures. However, modern studies have revealed an almost completely hidden meaning where tengu play a much more serious role in the understanding of Sonshi military tactics and strategy for medieval generals (daimyō), particularly through the Muromachi period. Amongst these daimyō were certainly Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu. This lecture will show that these tengu transmissions were, and in many cases, still are jealously kept secrets in many of the surviving traditions.

Roald Knutsen has spent more than fifty years studying tengu and Japanese military traditions, reaching some surprising conclusions based on his long association with classical bugei and following the yamabushi paths so beloved by many swordsmen. He holds a high rank in kendō and menkyo-kaiden in one tradition of iai-jutsu that still contains many forms derived from tengu transmissions. He has published several books with Global Oriental on these traditions including Japanese Polearms, Tengu and two collections of short stories, Tales of the Samurai.

Date: Monday 17 September 2012 (6.45pm)
Venue: The Oriental Club, Stratford House, 11 Stratford Place, London W1C 1ES

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