A very brief look at the formation of reiho used in todays kendo

Without taking your eyes of your partner, and at a distance of roughly 9 steps do a standing bow (ritsurei) of 15 degrees, move your shinai from sageto to taito, take three large steps in and “draw” your shinai in a largish arc up and diagonally down through to the center of your opponent while performing sonkyo. Your shinai do not touch at this distance. After a brief moment (in a shiai the center referee will call hajime) the bout starts.

This is an example of one of the standard methods of “reiho” or “etiquette methods” we use daily in our kendo practise. Its use is so common that you can see many people simply perform the actions with no or little understanding behind the purpose of the movements or – at times – even in an almost disrespectful manner. Thats not the purpose of this short article though: what I want to (very!) briefly discuss here is who were involved, and when modern-kendo’s reiho was standardised (or, at least, a small part of the story).

Continue reading A very brief look at the formation of reiho used in todays kendo

The Art of Drawing a Crowd

In budo circles today, it is not uncommon for students of swordsmanship to get angry or upset when they see attempts to make a profit from their chosen arts or turn them into spectacles of showmanship, especially when the person doing so is considered less than “qualified.” There are some exceptions to this, such as practitioners of traditional kenbu, or fight choreographers (tateshi, 殺陣師) who often are extremely knowledgeable and skilled in the budo arts. However flashy displays of vegetable cutting, outrageous choreography, sword spinning tricks and so on are generally the source of much bile, especially on internet forums. This is particularly pronounced in the West, I feel, due perhaps to the normal Japanese attitude towards things like this, which is to consider them irrelevant and ignore them.

However such use of the martial arts (and in particular that most alluring of weapons, the katana) in showmanship and salesmanship is nothing new. It didn’t start with the advent of television, or even with the advent of film. This practice has been very much in evidence for centuries, including those eras when samurai still walked the streets of Japan. In the Edo period, iai in particular was turned into a street performance that was used to draw a crowd of customers. Bizarrely enough, this tactic was most notably used by dentists. Here is a brief introduction to the curious and little-known world of iai-nuki. Continue reading The Art of Drawing a Crowd

The Swordsman and the Cat

The tale “Neko no Myojutsu” is from an old budo fable written by the samurai Niwa Jurozaemon Tadaaki (pen name Issai Chozanshi, 1659-1741) in 1727. To quote William Scott Wilson: “Little is known about the man.. but he was clearly acquainted with swordsmanship, philosophy, and art, and had made an extensive study of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto, and seems to have been familiar with the works of Musashi and the priest Takuan” (see references).

The story is a staple for those that study kendo/kenjutsu, or budo in general for that matter. I am sure most kenshi247.net readers would have read Yagyu Munenori’s “Heiho Kadensho” and Miyamoto Musashi’s “Go rin no sho,” but I’m not sure if many have studied this.

The narrative features a swordsman called Shōken who is beset by a pesky rat. After the neighborhood cats fail to chase the rat away, the swordsman himself tries his hand at getting rid of the rat. Failing miserably himself, he calls on the help of a cat “widely known for her mysterious virtue as the most able rat-catcher.” This cat catches the rat with ease, and that evening all the cats get together to discuss the days events and the art of fighting rats.

It is not for me to attempt to spell out what the the short narrative seeks to illustrate, nor what lessons lie therein, I simple present it here as is, leaving the reader to make their own mind up. Grab yourself a cup of coffee/tea and enjoy!

Continue reading The Swordsman and the Cat

Shindo Muso Ryu Koryu Jodo – A Lateral View

Authors note:

This article emphasises a “lateral” view in that I am by no means a master or even seasoned teacher of Jodo. I believe that insincere humility is as bad as arrogance and so I would not go so far to say that I am a rank beginner in Koryu Jodo either. I do consider myself to be an avid student of the art and suffice to say I have been fortunate to have been taught by some excellent teachers.

My personal lineage follows up the Tokyo-ha route of SMR Jodo starting with my own teacher Chris Mansfield Sensei 7th dan Renshi; Ishido Shizufumi Sensei 8th dan Kyoshi; Hiroi Tsunetsugu Sensei 8th dan Hanshi; Shimizu Takaji Sensei 8th dan Hanshi etc. I have also been very grateful to have had the chance to meet and receive instruction from Namitome Shigenori Sensei 8th dan Hanshi and Yano Shoichiro Sensei 8th dan Hanshi (both Fukuoka-ha) as well as many of their personal students.

However with all this in mind, the following article is based on my understanding and all mistakes or misinterpretations are my own.

I would furthermore like to thank all the people who over the years have inundated me with photos. I have lost track of who I have actually gained permission from to use their photos. Should you find one that belongs to you and would rather I did not use it please let me know.

Continue reading Shindo Muso Ryu Koryu Jodo – A Lateral View

The reality of seme

The following is the translation of some notes written by Furuya Fukunosuke hanshi during a kendo lecture at a Yoseikai gasshuku in Nara, 2001*. Furuya hanshi sadly passed away in 2008 but his teachings have been recorded by one of his top students – Uegaki sensei – and published in book format. The book is not on sale to the public but I hope to post other items from it in the future.

I’ll stress that I didn’t attend these lectures. Whats presented here are translations of notes found in the book. As such, I can’t impart any of the verbal teachings behind the words. Apologies in advance.

* 95% of the following is from a gasshuku in 2001, the other 5% are additions from a different gasshuku in 1999 using notes of with a very similar theme.

The reality of seme

* The main components of seme:

  1. Capture the initiative with your spirit (気)… by doing this you can create openings (隙) allowing you to execute various waza;
  2. Control the center (中心)… forcing your opponents sword tip from the your center line, break his center and strike;
  3. Develop your understanding of advantageous spatial distance (Maai 間合い)… by this I mean understanding the spatial distance between you and your opponent and using it to your advantage.

Continue reading The reality of seme