Kenjutsu is usually defined as combat being engaged with the sword already drawn with the intent of cutting down the opponent. The first recorded historical systematic teachings of the Japanese long sword began about 800 AD.
Since that time, over 1200 different ryu (schools) have been documented, each with their own unique teachings, forged in the terrible conflicts which beset Japan until the Edo period, when Ieyasu Tokugawa finally brought long term peace. Most of the koryu (literally – “old school”) came into prominence in the early 16th century, such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto ryu and Kashima Shinryu.
The sword schools taught at our dojo are Katori Shinto ryu, Koden Enshin ryu iai and some Katsumishi ryu iai.
Kenjutsu is considered a classical bujutsu (art of war or martial art), having been well formulated prior to the Meiji reformation (the classical/modern dividing line).
Koryu tend to be quite secretive of their techniques, being typically selective for admission to outsiders, with teachings being handed down in a pure form over the ages. Often, there are induction ceremonies with the oath being sworn and (rarely these days) signed in the new member’s own blood! (the Keppan). Therefore, these kenjutsu ryu are the closest to classical warrior training in the modern world, with many techniques developed for use against traditional Japanese armour.
Kenjutsu wear is traditional and identical to that of iaido, consisting usually of hakama (split skirt trousers), keikogi (a heavy weight jacket worn tucked in) and obi (belt). As a rule, there are no belt colors in kenjutsu, but only titles; Deshi (student), Renshi (instructor), Kyoshi (teacher) and Hanshi (master) Menkyo Kaiden (master teacher) Soke (grandmaster). We wear a dark blue keokogi, black hakama with a dark coloured obi.
Kata (prearranged forms or exercises) are the usual way of learning the intricate motions required. Initially one practices solo, but paired practice is also required. We use a bokken or bokuto (wooden sword) for most practice techniques.
Written by Kiyoshi 8th Dan Teruhisa Nanno who was by both the 21st Headmaster Fukui Torao Seizan and by the 22nd Headmaster Ikeda Takashi Seiko of the Enshin ryu.
"Iaido is the traditionally handed down Japanese martial art of drawing the long sword. Once the sword is drawn from the scabbard, only one shall live and the other shall die. Iaido is a contemplation of life and death. Iaido is now used not only to teach sword techniques, but as a form of mental and physical discipline, emphasising correct techniques and form, meditation and character development. So Iaido paves the way for a peaceful life with self-confidence and self-control."
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