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Kenjutsu
(Katori Shinto Ryu)

Kenjutsu
History of Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu
Training In Kenjutsu
Organizational Affiliations and Kenjutsu Today


Kenjutsu

Kenjutsu is a weapons art consisting of the use of wooden practice weapons (wooden swords).  Sometimes very advanced practitioners will practice or participate in formal demonstrations using steel blades, although this is not generally recommended for normal practice. 

Kenjutsu is taught in many dojos as an adjunctive study to the main art form, such as Aikido.  The study of sword forms enhances both the understanding of physical principles of movement, distance and dynamic and mental focus.

Aikido has many forms of practice with a bokken (wooden training sword) but as a rule these forms are taught with the intent of increasing understanding of Aikido principles and improving posture, movement and coordination.  Many Aikido players therefore, study a ryu (or school) of kenjutsu separate and apart from their primary Aikido study in order to learn a specialized and dedicated form of fencing.

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History of Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu

The generic art form of kenjutsu was developed during the warring periods in Japanese history.  In Japan, as in many countries over the past several thousand years of the development of civilization, the sword was an essential part of the military, and of self defense.  Each country had a sword design and training methods that were at once unique but not dissimilar to those employed by other countries and civilizations. 

In Japan, kenjutsu essentially developed through the survivors of to-the-death combat, and what techniques were used to win the encounter.  Over time the principles behind how and why the technique worked were understood, with each succeeding teacher in a particular ryu or sword school adding additional ideas.  Each idea was "field tested" and was retained only if it gave the user and advantage over the opponent (i.e.; he survived the sword fight).  By some accounts over 800 distinctly different schools of kenjutsu existed in Japan over time.  Most of these have been lost to history.

Today, Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu is taught as a part of the Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo/Jojutsu systems.  The original form of this school of kenjutsu was developed by Iizasa Choisai Ienao about 600 years ago.  According to legend he spent 1,000 days in worship and meditation at a shrine, during which a vision appeared that revealed to him the secrets of the sword.  He then founded the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu.  

The style became linked to Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu due to Muso Gonnosuke's license from the original kenjutsu ryu.  No one is today able to estimate how the present kenjutsu techniques have evolved or whether or not they were developed by Muso Gonnosuke as the use of the jo was developed.  Most experts indicate the the Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu as taught within the Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo/Jojutsu system is different from the forms existing in the full Katori Shinto Ryu as it is practiced today.

The kenjutsu taught within the jodo/jojutsu school both gives the student an understanding and appreciation of the use of the sword, but also enhances their understanding of the use of the jo as well.

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Training In Kenjutsu

Today, kenjutsu is studied as an adjunct to the Jodo (and by extension the Aikido) that we teach.  This gives the martial artist a deeper understanding of martial arts concepts and principles which include movement relative to an opponent, distances from which to operate, and the coordination of feet and hands when holding and moving with an object. 

Practice sessions include kihon tandoku (basic strikes or techniques), kihon sotai (practice of basic movements with a training partner) and kata (forms practice with a training partner) in which the ability of both is stretched through practice of various attack and defensive movements.  The kata are designed to build proper reflexes to unexpected situations while imbuing the student with an intuitive understanding of the larger picture of combat including mastery and transcendence of technique. 

The kenjutsu as taught at the Aikibudokan consists in the main of 12 kata movements, each executed and demonstrated from a very upright posture.  The movements are large and circular and in many cases closely resemble techniques used in Shindo Muso Ryu with the jo.

Also part of practice is the reigei or etiquette.  The sword, often referred to as the soul of the samurai is a serious weapon, deserving of serious consideration of the consequences of its use and careful handling and needing serious mental focus.  The reigei is designed to imbue the practitioner with the correct frame of mind that builds respect for the weapon and the philosophy behind its use.

There is no competitive form of Kenjutsu.  The art is only studied as forms practice in tightly controlled environments at relatively slow speeds for safety reasons.  This is due to the power and destructive potential of the techniques.

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Organizational Affiliations and Kenjutsu Today

In the 20th century, Shimizu Takaji was the 25th Grandmaster of the Shindo Muso Ryu.   At his death in 1978, he had failed to name a successor.  As things would have it, or more specifically as martial arts organizations grow, mature and adapt to changing circumstances, the original organization splintered as students and dojos chose to affiliate with various teachers.  Today there are several groups, each descended from or led various of  Shimuzu Sensei' senior teachers.  Each of these groups remain active, continuing to teach and grow the art form.

The Aikibudokan teaches and promotes under the aegis of The International Aikido Alliance, an internationally recognized martial arts organization with member dojo in several states in the U.S., and an International Ambassador of Goodwill who represents The Alliance overseas.

Kenjutsu is not taught as a separate art form at the Aikibudokan.  Additionally, promotions are not granted in kenjutsu as a separate art from.  Instead, the kenjutsu is only  taught as an adjunct to the primary weapons art of jodo, and as an expansion of the Seitei Jo concepts and principles. 


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