Kenjutsu is a military art form which was created in Japan in the 15th century. It was primarily designed to prepare samurai, as well as ordinary
soldiers for combat on the battlefield. The main emphasis of kenjutsu centers around the practice of swordsmanship. But in
some styles the practice of other battlefield-related weapons is also an integral part of their curricula. At the simplest
level, it can be viewed as a collection of combat techniques for various weapons, most notably the sword. At a more complex
level, it can be considered the study of the strategy both large-scale and small, offensive as well as defensive. It was natural
for the samurais to practice everyday with their sword.
To the samurai the sword was their foremost weapon and privilege - other groups in the society was forbidden to bear swords.
Furthermore the practice with the sword was much more than preparing for battle.
Around the japanese sword grew a
whole philosophy. It has many names, as ken, katana, tachi, and to.
The traditional teachings of this school include:
kenjutsu (sword art)
iaijutsu (sword-drawing art )
naginatajutsu ( halberd art )
bojutsu ( staff art)
sojutsu ( spear art)
We teach in the traditional way. Since we train under the eye and care of the god(s)
who, as legend has it, created this style, the dojo and the practice are considered sacred. Due to this, and the nature of
this art, discipline and the correct spirit are expected to preserve the dignity and the well-being of the dojo and its practitioners
Kenjutsu is an art concerned with accurate and realistic sword technique applications,
learning to fight with the sword in a real-life context
is a term referring to old styles of Japanese swordsmanship, most of which were created
in the 1400-1600's
uses wooden swords, real swords, or bamboo swords, depending on the style
can involve study of a variety of weapons which may include: spear, staff, short sword
short, halberd, short staff, etc.
targets are any targets of opportunity, but certain styles have preferences for specific
targets like the head, wrists, etc.
grew out of the need for training samurai to fight on the battlefields and practical
concerns of battlefield fighting.
stances, techniques, and tactics used depend on the particular style.
movements can be linear or circular or any combination of the two, depending on the
curriculum consists mainly of training in kata (pre-arranged patterns of movements with
or without a partner) and cutting practice.
some contend that kenjutsu is the art of winning real fights with real swords.
the goal is victory over opponents
Japans greatest and most famous swordsman was born in the late 1500's. He had his first
duel when he was 13, using a 6-foot wooden pole to defeat and kill an excellent swordsman of the Katori style. At the age
of 21, he went to Kyoto to challenge the Yoshioka family, a family renowned for producing excellent swordsman. He was late
for the first fight with Genzaemon, the head of the family but soundly Genzaemon with his wooden sword. The younger brother
Denshichiro then challenged Musashi to a fight with real swords to regain the family honour.
Again, Musashi was late, having overslept. He came to the field and immediately dispatched
Denshichiro.. The family was in dire straits so they persuaded Matashichiro, Genzaemon’s son, to fight Musashi but this
time, a band of loyal retainers would lay in waiting to ambush Musashi when he came. While they in wait, chattering loudly
to each other, Musashi jumped up out of his hiding place and slay the surprised Matashichiro as well as half the retainers
before escaping. After this extraordinary series of fights, he would travel the country for the next 8 years looking for worthy
opponents. When he retired from this journey at the age of 32, he would have an impressive record of more than 60 victories
in life- and- death duels. For the rest of his life, he would devote himself to investigating the true essence of swordsmanship.
At the age of 60, Musashi would then retire to a cave were he would write his famous treatise, the Book of Five Rings, shortly
before his death.
Musashi created a number of styles during his travels through Japan. There are some that survive to this day, like Niten Ichi Ryu among others, but they fail to capture
the salience of Musashi’s teachings, have been run by his disciples, good swordsman but not of genius caliber. The best
outline of Musashi’s style is recorded in his book.
Musashi believed that man-man fights were just like battles between armies. Strategically,
there is not much difference. It is only a matter of scale. Tactical concepts that applied in duels had a similar applications
in large scale battles. He also believed that fights to the death, whether in duels or on the battlefield, were the same.
To him, no tactics were unfair.
But his greatest contribution to the field of swordsmanship is his belief that a fight
is won tactical, statically, psychologically, and spiritually. It is won through shrewd analysis of the strengths and weakness
of the opponent and finding the means to capitalize upon and exploit those weaknesses.
While not a formalized style, Musashi’s ideas deserve careful study. His ideas
go beyond mere mechanics or tactical cunning. It requires an observant and analytical mind, one which can process a vast array
of information, dissect the tactical and strategic conditions, and devise solutions and counter-measures. His ideas are a
study in tactical and strategic thinking.
Kenjutsu (the art of the sword)
Kenjustu is usually recognized as combative. It always begins with the sword already
drawn with an agressive intent. The first recorded historical systematic teachings of the Japanese long sword began about
800 AD. Since that time, over 1200 differnt ryu (schools) have been documented.
Many exponents of kenjutsu began
to question if a higher understanding could be achieved through practice and study with the sword. These kenshi (swordsmen)
developed the art of the sword (kenjustsu) into a way of the sword (kendo). To signify their advances, they coined the name
kendo. This divisive move began around the middle of the 14th century.
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). Classical
kenjutsu ryu (schools) tend to be quite secretive of their techniques, being very closed to outsiders. Classical kenjutsu
ryu are the closest to classical warrior training in the modern world. Examples are Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, and Tenshin Shoden
Katori Shinto Ryu.
Kenjutsu wear is traditional, 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).
(prearranged forms or exercises) are the usual way of learning the intricate motions required. Initially one practices solo,
but later pairs or multiple kenshi kata are performed. The standard practice tool is either a bokken (simulated wooden sword)
or an actual live blade. Actual cutting, and thrusting of the blade against water soaked rolled mats and bamboo poles, called
tameshigiri, give the more advanced exponent practice in actual impact of the live blade against a target.
KENJUTSU is the art of samurai swordsmanship; Kenjutsu schools proliferated from the
9th century onward. Many of the seryu appear repeatedly in the chronicles of bujutsu. By the end of the Tokugawa period (1600-1867),
there were more than 200 active kenjutsu schools.
Notwithstanding the policy of strict secrecy adopted by various
masters, the methods and techniques practiced in each school of kenjutsu were usually influenced by those popularized in other
fencing schools. There was perpetual effort on the part of hundreds of experts to discover and perfect new methods in swordsmanship.
Out of this effort grew a habit that was perpetuated to modern times:
When a warrior had mastered one system
of sword-play, he set himself to study all others by traveling through the provinces, fencing against other experts and, in
the event of defeat, constituting himself the victor's student.
Competition was merciless, since defeat often
meant ruin. A kenjutsu master with a well attended school and a substantial income from the lord of a fief stood to lose everything
in an encounter with an itinerant expert. Victory, on the other hand, meant opportunity, income, and a prestigious position.
Many a kenjutsu student risked his life repeatedly to establish a reputation that would enable him to become the leader of
his own school. Naturally, there was a noticeable reluctance on the part of established sensei to partake in direct confrontations
with other fencing teachers or with the wandering champions who were always ready, if not eager, to issue a challenge at the
mere mention of a reputation.
Gradually, legislation was enacted to curb the bloodshed in these personal contests
of fencing skill. Training with live blades in the dojo of pre-Tokugawa Japan had already been restricted to inanimate targets, such as the makiwara, made of rice straw, or to controlled kata
performances-still employed in schools where kenjutsu with a live blade is practiced.
The main phase of kenjutsu
was training with the katana, the regular sword. Ancient sword techniques appear to have been first systematized in 1350 by
Choisai and Join. Techniques were generally divided into two groups, the first comprising cutting (kiri) and thrusting (tsuki)
used in attack and counterattack, the second comprising parries used in defense. Targets were clearly identified.
to orthodox laws of fencing, no warrior was proud of wounding an enemy in any manner other than established by strict samurai
code The long sword was to be directed at only four points: the top of the head, the wrist, the side, and the leg below the
knee. Stern warnings issued by many sensei concerning the degrading use of certain practices, would seem to indicate that
observance of the code was by no means a general phenomenon. Unpredictable cuts, thrusts, and parries directed against any
available target; psychological ploys; and reliance upon tactical surprise were all said to have been so widely employed that
they appear to have been the norm rather than the exception. Almost every student of kenjutsu fancied himself the possessor
of a secret, unique, and irresistible method of penetrating every other swordsman's defense. Sensei were constantly devising
new strategies for the katana, alone or in conjunction with other weapons, which accounts for the many styles associated with
A warrior also learned the techniques of other, minor specializations of kenjutsu. He could usually
fence equally well with the wakizashi (short sword) or the intermediate sword (chisa-katana), and explored in detail the efficiency
of the nodachi, the long sword generally worn on the back with the handle jutting out behind the shoulder. Kenjutsu reached
heights of beauty and efficiency with the simultaneous use of two blades-the katana and the wakizashi, or chisa-katana-in
the two-sword style made famous by Miyamoto Musashi in his school, nito-ryu. Immensely difficult were those techniques which
called for the use of one or two swords against several opponents armed with swords or spears. Gliding pivots and spins predominated
in such exercises.
Today, of the ancient kenjutsu and all its specializations, there are only a few, strongly
modified forms extant in Japan, many of which are embodied in the highly ritualized kata of kumi-tachi. Bouts with wooden swords,
called bokken, are also staged between students of ancient sword disciplines. Kendo is the most popular modern derivation
of feudal fencing. Kendo has its own weapons, techniques, ranks, and purposes, all of which are heavily impregnated with the
traditions of ancient Japanese swordsmanship.
FORMS OF KENJUTSU :
JIGEN RYU Aggressive style of kenjutsu founded by Togo Bizen no Kami in the 16th century;
the foremost martial tradition for the Japanese warriors of Satsuma.
kenjutsu school dating from the 16th century under the patronage of the Nanbu clan.
The keikogi's color denotes
grade. There is less emphasis on rank here than in other martial arts. A white keikogi indicates the lower kyu (grades), beginning
at 6th and progressing to 1st. A black keikogi denotes the higher den (rank), starting at 1st dan and working up ultimately
to 10th. From 4th to 6th dan, a kendoka may be awarded the title of renshi (polished expert); and from 8th to 10th that of
hanshi (master). Contest ability, mental discipline, and technical knowledge take a practitioner to 6th dan, after which advancement
is obtained through teaching ability and service to the art.
The study of Ken-jutsu is more
than merely wielding a sword. One not only learns the Kihon Dachi (basic stances) and attacks with defenses, there is much
more to the study of the art of the Samurai. Any butcher can swing a sword but to be a master you must develop the mental
and spiritual aspects of the art as well as the physical.
Shin-Ku-I (Body, Mouth,
Mind) or more accurately Action, Word, and Thought is how the Samurai were evaluated. What makes
the difference between a swordsman and a master is Ken Shin Ichi Nyo, or Sword and mind as one. One must train as if the sword
was a part of them, if it is looked at as a separate entity you will never develop the skill to master the art.
The sequence of training in Ken-jutsu is as follows:
Develop the techniques
Add power to the techniques
Increase your speed
in the techniques
Perfect the techniques so that the power is derived from the speed and no longer requires strength.
Saigo Made Einoku Suru - persist to the end - NEVER GIVE UP.
This is true for both the practice of the art and the attitude in combat.
Yudan Nashi - Never off guard
motto of the Samurai was Shinu Kikai O Motomo, Looking for the opportunity to die. This was not a defeatist attitude. The
Samurai held life in great esteem and were very selective on what "cause" they would lay their life on the line for. It is
easy to kill a man when you yourself are willing to die.
Carrying the Sword (Teito)
The sword should be carried in the left hand with the thumb over the Tsuba. The sageo
or strings should be secured between the index and middle fingers to prevent them from dragging. The Ha should be toward the
floor in a natural drawing position.
Rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru (Everything begins and ends with respect)
Bow of Respect (Hairei)
When bowing into the dojo or to the alter,
the sword should be transferred to the right hand with the Tsuka toward the rear and the Ha toward the ground. This is a sign
of deepest respect and trust since holding the sword in this position makes it impossible to draw.
Wearing the Sword (Taito)
The katana is worn on the left side with the Ha facing upward. The Sageo
are tied into the Obi of the hakama. The end of the Tsuka should be directly in front of the naval.
Cut (Nukit Suke)
Koiguchi no kiri kata - Opening the Koiguchi. The thumb of the left hand should push
against the Tsuba slightly to advance the sword approximately ˝ inch from the saya (scabbard). The middle knuckles of the
right hand should rest on the bottom side of the Tsuka. As you draw the sword forward from the saya with the right hand, the
left hand should be pulling the saya to the rear. Do not think of drawing the sword and cutting your opponent - think only
of cutting your opponent. Drawing the sword is merely a means to the end and both the drawing and the cutting are the same
Chiburi (Blood removal)
There are three main ways to perform
Chiburi. They are as follows:
Kasa no Shizuku Oharao - After the cut is made, twist the wrist so that the Tsuka
is now in front of the head. Swing the katana in a circular motion over the head and snap the blade by twisting the wrist
as it is pointing to your right.
Katana O Kaesu - Loosen the grip with the left hand except for the little finger.
Flick the right wrist out while pulling the back of the Tsuka to the left with the little finger of the left hand.
no Shizuku O Otosu - Tilt the blade to a 45 degree angle and rest the tip on the right outer thigh and allow the blood to
run or drip off.
When replacing the Katana, circle
the sword in front of you, bringing the mine to rest on the koiguchi. Slide the mine along the koiguchi until the Kissaki
drops into the opening. Raise the Tsuka rotating the Ha upward and slide the blade into the saya with the right hand as you
slide the entire saya forward with the left hand.
Distance and Timing (Ma
Ken-jutsu requires an extreme awareness of distance and timing. Unlike unarmed combat, where an accurate defense may
result in an opponent contacting with a strike or kick, in Ken-Jutsu, the same mistake could result in death. Distance and
timing is what makes great martial artist great. No matter how strong the attack, if you are not there when it arrives, the
attack is ineffective.
Knowing when and from where to attack is paramount. An ill-executed attack is just as
deadly as an ill-executed defense. Faking an attack against an experienced swordsman is useless. He will see through your
fake and avoid it, launching his counter-attack before you have a chance to recover.
Unlike the movies, actual
sword-combat last only for a few passes. A spectator may not realize what has happened before the combat has ended. In training,
a great deal of time is devoted to distance and timing. There are multiple drills the student must work on to build these
Metsuke (Eye Contact)
Where should your eyes be focused
during combat? There are many different schools of thought on this question. The best advice is to look at the level of the
solar plexus with Enzan no Metsuke, or Distant mountain site. This allows you to see the entire body all at once. If you watch
only one portion of the body you can be fooled by a master swordsman. All parts of the body cannot fake a movement at the
Kokyu (Breath Control)
When practicing kata, take three
deep silent breathes attacking on the third breath. Think positive thoughts with each inhalation and disperse negative thoughts
with every exhalation. The breaths should enter the nostrils, circle the crown of the head and settle to the Tan Tein.
Bokken is a wooden sword, also called bokuto. The wodden sword has the
same alleviated deflection and proportions that the real sword, but it is more roundish instead.The best material for a bokken
is oak or something just as hard. Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary samurai from the 15th century, fought many of his duels
with bokken instead of a real sword. The wooden sword is a very useful weapon itself and it is much nicer than the sharp one,
but when you train with your bokken you should handle it as if it were sharp - otherwise you don't learn the true sword art.
A training sword made of steel is called iaito. It is not a real handicraft,
but it is much cheaper. When you practise iaido it is a good thing to buy an iaito as soon as possible, in order to better
acquaintance yourself with the sword. When you buy an iaito it is not nessecery to buy one of the most expensive ones; that
would just be a waste of money. Furthermore, if you don't feel adventurous don´t buy a sharp sword. You shouldn't buy a sword
from a souvenier shop either.
The real, handicrafted sword is
called katana. These things are really expensive and a senseless investment if you don't have iaido as a passion. A katana
must be treated very carefully; you have to clean it everytine you´ve used it, otherwise it will stain. When you practise
with your katana you should be aware of its sharpness and if a less capable person uses it, it could be dangerus. Even the
most skillfull iaidokas cut themselves on their swords.
Iaido is the gendai bujutsu (modern martial art) form of iaijutsu, the Japanese art
of drawing and cutting simultaneously with the blade. The name iaido first appeared relatively recently (in 1932), but the
art itself is as old as some of the oldest koryu (old schools) of the Japanese sword arts. Jinsuke Shigenobu (c. 1546-1621
A.D.) is traditionally given credit for inventing the art. It is said that when he was about 25 years old (around 1560 A.D.),
he went to the Hayashizaki shrine in Okura village, Kitamurayama-gun (modern Yamagata prefecture)
in Oshu (the modern Tohoku area). There he prayed to Hayashi Myojin and received divine inspiration for his own system of
drawing the sword. He then renamed himself Jinsukeshingenobu Hayashizaki in honor of this inspiration and called his art battojutsu
and named his system Shimmei Muso-ryu, although his students renamed it Shimmei Muso Hayashizaki-ryu.