Iaijutsu (居合術), is the art of combative sword-drawing. The art of drawing the Japanese sword is one of the kobudo (ancient martial art) disciplines that formed part of the education of the classical Japanese warrior (bushi). Iaijutsu training comprises the development of martial awareness and being capable of quickly drawing the sword and either initiating, or responding to, a sudden attack.
The origin of the first two characters, iai (居合), is believed to come from saying Tsune ni ite, kyū ni awasu (常に居て、急に合わす), that can be roughly translated as “being constantly (prepared), match/meet (the opposition) immediately”. Thus the primary emphasis in ‘iai’ is on the cultivation of the psychological state of being present (居). The secondary emphasis is on the technique of drawing the sword and meeting and responding to a sudden attack as quickly and effectively as possible (合). Thus, the term Iaijutsu can be approximately translated into English as “the art of mental presence and immediate reaction”.
While Iaijutsu was considered a combative martial art, it should not be considered an aggressive art; Iaijutsu techniques comprise attacks, as well as defenses and counters against a surprise attack by an opponent.
Iaijutsu training seeks to preserve and promote an understanding of the combat techniques of feudal Japan. Practitioners study and practice how to position themselves and to quickly draw, perform an accurate cut and then quickly re-sheath the Japanese sword. Iaijutsu training comprises the study and repetition of physical exercises and drills, breath control exercises and solitary kata (forms), as well as forms performed against one or more imaginary opponents.
Today, Iaijutsu is considered a dynamic practice, which employs the study and practice of ancient training methods to preserve the art and to foster the development of physical coordination, balance, timing and breath control, combined with the cultivation of sharp mental focus and martial awareness, to enable the practitioner to move in a precise, yet relaxed and unforced way. Through training, the practitioner cultivates their understanding of the use of the weapon, while simultaneously conditioning and vivifying the body and mind.
RYUSHIN SHOUCHI RYU IAIJUTSU
Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Iaijutsu (柳 心 照 智 流) is a school of Japanese swordsmanship, a kobudo (ancient martial art) focused on Iaijutsu (quick-draw sword technique) founded by Kawabata Terutaka in 2006. The origins of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu can be traced to Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu, which was founded around the Eiroku era (1558 – 1570) as a branch tradition of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu. The curriculum of the school comprises over 60 Iai kata (dynamic solo forms) and Iai kumitachi (dynamic partner practices).
Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Iaijutsu is practiced by men, women and children of all ages, around the world (currently with affiliated schools in Japan, Europe, USA, Canada and Taiwan).
The essence of any Budo and especially Iaijutsu and Iaido, is the concept that the body, mind, spirit, and sword work together in harmony (“Ken Shin Ichi-jyo”). Through this practice one cultivates self-respect, courage, poise, and the ability to relax when facing difficult situations — to harness one’s physical action and mental concentration in a single effort, and in a “natural” and efficient manner — that of mindful awareness: being completely in the present moment and fully aware of one’s surroundings.
Iaijutsu is focused on cultivating the mind and conditioning the body through rigorous and focused training, with the objective of improving the self rather than preparing to kill an enemy. This objective can be summarized as the cultivation of fudoshin (不動心) (literally and metaphorically: “immovable mind” or “immovable heart”), a state of psychological and spiritual equanimity or imperturbability. This reasoning underpins the choice of the name “Ryushin Shouchi Ryu”.
Ryushin Shouchi Ryu is a branch tradition of Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu, a system specializing in iaijutsu and kenjutsu founded by Tose Yosazaemon Osamune (十瀬 与三左衛門 長宗, c. 1540 – c. 1600) around the Eiroku Era (1558 – 1570). Tose was a land-holding samurai from Hitachi province. While in his twenties he traveled to Katori Shrine to study Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu under the third headmaster, Iizasa Wakasa no Kami Morinobu. After five years of training he received a menkyo kaiden (license of mastery) and went on to continue his studies at Kashima Shrine. While there, Tose underwent a spiritual enlightenment experience and it is recorded that he received a catalog of techniques from via an Oracle, from Takemikazuchi, “Brave-Awful-Possessing” or “Thunder-God”) is a deity in Japanese mythology, considered a god of thunder and sword god). It was after this spiritual inspiration that Tose created the Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu school, taking the name “Tenshinsho” (true and correct transmission from the of deity of Katori Shrine- Futsunushi) from Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, and adding the term “Jigen” (self-power revelation) which had come to him after his spiritual experience at the Kashima Shrine. Tose would later travel to Satsuma where he would meet his eventual successor, Kaneko Shinkuro Morisada (金子 新九郎 盛貞, c. 1520 – c. 1585).
The third headmaster, Terasaka Yakuro Masatsune (赤坂 弥九郎 政雅, 1567 – 1594), was introduced to Kaneko at the age of 13 to begin his studies in swordsmanship for the purpose of avenging his father’s death. By the time he was 17 years old Terasaka had mastered the Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu style and at the age of 19 successfully avenged his father’s death. Shortly thereafter, Terasaka moved to Kyoto to become a monk at Tennenji Temple of the Soto Zen School where he took on the Buddhist dharma name Zenkitsu (善吉, also read Zenkichi).
Around 1588, Togo Shigekata (東郷 重位, 1560 – 1643) was recognized as Zenkitsu’s best student, mastering Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu style in less than a year. Togo Shigekata would go on to combine elements of Taisha Ryu, which he had previously learned from the founder Marume Kurandonosuke Tessai, and Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu, to create Jigen Ryu. According to tradition, the techniques of Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu remained a well-kept secret through Jigen Ryu and Yakumaru Jigen Ryu lineages, and was passed down from generation to generation through a series of dai (a line of headmasters not related by blood-line), for nearly 400 years.
Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu underwent a revival in the 1960s under the 27th headmaster, Ueno Yasuyuki Genshin (上野 靖之 源心, 1913 – 1972), when he began instructing in Asakusa, Tokyo. It was around this time that Kawabata Terutaka (河端 照孝, b. July 12, 1940) began training at the Sogo Budo Shobukan, which was founded in 1963 by his father and was then under the guidance of Ueno Yasuyuki Genshin.
After Ueno’s death, Kawabata continued training and teaching at the Sogo Budo Shobukan. Kawabata established the Seiseikan dojo in Akabane, Tokyo, in the early 2000s and this would become the headquarters dojo of Ryushin Jigen Ryu when it was established founded as a separate school in 2006. In 2008, Kawabata retired from active teaching and his top student, Yahagi Kunikazu (矢作 訓一, b. April 5, 1948), became the second headmaster of Ryushin Jigen Ryu.
In 2011, to clarify the purpose of the school in the cultivation of the mind and conditioning of the body through rigorous training, the original name of the school, Ryushin Jigen Ryu, was changed to Ryushin Shouchi Ryu. Ryushin (柳心) means “Mind or Heart of the Willow tree,” and invokes the image of a tree which does not lose its leaves, even in winter; while Shouchi (照智) can be translated as “shining wisdom.” Together, these characters convey the meaning of “establishing in the world an immovable wisdom and everyday mind, by means of a strong yet flexible body and spirit.”
Today, Ryushin Shouchi Ryu is practiced around the world, with schools in Japan, Europe, United States and Canada. The current Headmaster, Yahagi Kunikazu, based in Japan, travels extensively to conduct training courses abroad, guiding a growing number of practitioners and instructors in this dynamic style. The Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Headquarters dojo also takes part in an Annual Kobudo Dedication Demonstration (Kobudo Hono Embu Taikai) at Katori Shrine each year; an event that has been taking place for more than 25 years.
(Sources: Wikipedia and Personal Communications)
Mountain Coast Aikikai is affiliated with Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Canada and Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. The dojo offers Ryushin Shouchi Ryu instruction and hosts periodic training intensives open to individuals interested in studying this dynamic and historic style of Japanese swordsmanship.
HOW TO START IAIJUTSU TRAINING
If you are interested in Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Iaijutsu, you are invited to visit the dojo to observe a class and learn more about the training.
Prospective members are welcome to observe any scheduled class at Mountain Coast Aikikai, either by making an appointment via email, in advance of the class, or by arriving at the dojo 10-15 minutes before the start time of the class you wish to observe. Click here to visit the current class schedule and events calendar.
For more information about Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Iaijutsu training at Mountain Coast Aikikai, please click to get in touch, via the contact form.