Koryū and Gendai arts explained.
Gendai budō, literal meaning “modern budō”, or Shinbudō, meaning “new budō are both terms referring to modern Japanese martial arts, which were established after the Meiji Restoration (1866–1869). Koryū are the opposite of these terms referring to ancient martial arts established before the Meiji Restoration. Using techniques that were genuinely used in battle or duelling.
Only martial arts styles that originated and are still run from Japan can be classed as actual budō forms.
An insight to iaidō
In my honest opinion iaidō, is grossly misunderstood and something I wish I had found much earlier in life. There are many iaidō instructors who have a pompous arrogant attitude that really puts you off martial arts, don’t be deterred as the wrong attitude is the person not the martial art. So after ten or eleven years of iaidō I think I have found the answer this martial art is the only true way of using a Japanese sword. The style of iaido (or iaijutsu if speaking historically) will depend on the geographical part of Japan in which it was used. Iaidō was only taught to those of samurai class, so if away on business or moving to other parts of old Japan for whatever reason then your sword and your skills went with you and it is only natural for people to talk, be sociable, exchange ideas or argue and fight so my belief is that there are similarities throughout the many styles simply because people did over a period of 600 years do what people do, hence the evolution of Japanese swordsmanship from the 1200’s to today.
To help you capture a feeling of what iaidō is, I have below written about the influence that iaidō has had on us already through old movies.
So, the martial art of iaidō involves a variety of techniques known as kata. Each kata is in a set of forms for either sitting techniques called seiza waza or standing techniques called tachi waza and each kata has a bunkai or meaning of the technique. One way of describing the feeling of iaidō is akin to the ‘showdowns’ in western movies whereby two people meet to shoot to the death in one quick draw of the pistol, one squeeze of the trigger and the re-holstering of the gun. This is exactly iaido, but no gun a sword is used instead. At great speed and with surgical precision we practice the fast draw of the sword, remembering the curved blade is anywhere from 27 to 30 inches housed in a soft wooden scabbard (called saya) only a few millimetres thick. This is one reason why everyone in this martial art trains with a blunt sword as it is possible to cut through the sheath and cut your left hand at the point of holding the sheath upon the draw. So you have to learn to draw at speed a curved two and a half foot heavy razor blade, in a straight line out of a curved soft wood sheath. Good luck with that, I am sticking to my blunt sword. Those who practice iaidō will understand this and at first it is very hard just to get nuk-iuchi the drawing and cutting of the target (or opponent) in one move exactly like a western showdown. Instead of the many ways of re-holstering the gun, maybe a spin around the finger or a slow placement whereby the cowboy is ready to shoot again, is something that is identical to the feelings associated to your kata. The quick fast draw of the sword, disabling your opponent’s right arm so they cannot draw their sword, in the effective time possible and ironing out all the wrinkles of useless body motion, your sword is re-positioned for the final cut. Just like you see in the cowboy showdowns, there are moments of pause before the re-sheathing of the sword is called noto. The re-sheathing of the sword is different among the martial arts of iaido but always slow in places in case your opponent is not dead and you may need to draw again. The cult western movies took all the feeling and detail of the famous cowboy showdown from old Japanese 1950’s and 1960’s samurai movies, so when you watch some of the classics western movies, which are understood to be how the west was actually may have inspired movie making of the modern modern western movies for example Back to the Future II plays off the old Clint Eastwood movies with the famous show down with a comedy twist. You are really watching upcycled Japanese samurai movies, when you are watching any western from the 1950’s onwards and to pay homage to the Japanese influence the 1971 movie Red Sun which starred Toshirô Mifune an already highly accomplished Japanese actor. Interestingly there is a scene in this movie showing the character portrayed by Toshirô Mifune as using bo-shuriken (throwing spikes) against Native American Indians further enforcing my belief that the film writers of the time were guided by the support and guidance of the Japanese masters who used traditional weapons then, than more recent movies seem to influence as mystical.
Akira Kurosawa started his film career in 1936, remembering this is pre-WWII when Japan as a culture still appraised its warrior history at social levels. It was his movies that inspired all the old westerns and Akira Kurosawa employed the services of many Japanese iaidō masters to help capture the true essence of the samurai and the battles for the big screen. There is no fooling the Japanese audience, as a people they only strive for perfection and the audience will most certainly be those who still considered themselves samurai or of samurai class/family. So it very much the correct thing to do, employ the services of iaidō masters and the most favoured was Sugino sensei a master of Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū iaidō. The most favoured movie being The Seven Samurai, being duplicated by Hollywood as The Magnificent Seven.
I think that trying to explain iaidō as a set varied kata using a sword is simply unjustified; at its very basic core root it is from the western understanding of cowboy movies that inspired you as a child to play cowboys or the office warrior that likes to shoot you at board meetings with his two fingers and thumbs. It is all because Akira Kurosawa captured his perception of iaidō and the samurai class then translated it into movies that have inspired many across the world without their knowing. With the many wonderful kata of iaidō and the other great martial arts we practice, repeatedly, we strive to improve and better ourselves. We gain attention and focus, we see so much more and remove the moments that are not required. We do not waste our time; in fast draw or duel when your opponent has incentive to kill you (historically speaking) you have not a nano second to waste. Your muscle memory already knows and instinct takes over – only the fastest person wins.
Kagami no sensei – mirror teacher, your reflection teaches you right from wrong.
I am still not doing you, the reader, justice in explaining iaidō. I have explained the feeling, the essence and the inspiration but the nuts and bolts are so much more. How to cut with a katana correctly is a whole new thing and when I first started in my thirties I was terrible. Now suffering from writers block in explaining iaidō I can fully understand why no dojo website have gone to such depths as to really explain to the canvass of the big world wide web.
The series of kata practiced are in Mugai ryu very old and just like other styles of genuine iaidō are practiced repeatedly the same as all genuine martial arts: practice makes perfect. For me as a teacher, I focus on teaching new students the correct way of drawing the sword, the execution of the cut and the re-sheathing along along with ashi subaki (correct footwork) which are your foundations. Everything is about the hips. While reading this I want you make a stance with your feet keeping shoulder width apart and your feet must be facing forward. Now move your left foot back about nine inches. You are facing forward; your feet are facing forward and your left foot is back a bit. Now making fists put your clenched fists on your hips and then point your index fingers out and forward, so you are facing forward and pointing forward. This is the sejusan, your naval is the middle and the direction of the attacking or cutting line for you. When cutting mako geri or kiroshi (straight down cuts) you must be in this skeletal position. Furthermore still standing in this position understand that your left hand will be where your sword will be worn and your finger is pointing in the direction of where you are to draw the sword and cut. Now keep looking forward with your fists on hips and fingers and feet pointing forward, with your left foot spin on the heel and turn your big toe anti clockwise from 12 o’clock to 9 o’clock keeping your right foot facing forward. Now look down at the direction of your fingers, you have changed in a very subtle motion your entire skeletal direction and you are now entirely facing 11 o’clock. Congratulations on your first lesson in iaidō. To be facing your enemy correctly, in the most efficient stance your hips, feet, shoulders and naval must all be facing forward. This is the same body frame work for ‘room clearing’ tactical pistol shooting, your naval faces forward as you bring the pistol up the middle of your body and extend your hands forward with the pistol facing the target aligned to the middle of your body. Now relax and stand, to build muscle memory place the palms of your hands and clap once as fast as you can, this simulates you wearing a sword and reaching for the draw but that is not fast enough for you to draw the sword, you need to be more accurate and faster.
There is much technical knowledge to acquire and understand before even having the ability to deploy your technique correctly, so rather than blow your brain box fuses with wonderful 400 year old kata let us start with just a few, three simple kihon basic kata and five sitting and five standing. If that is too much the teacher’s (my) responsibility to be your martial arts marriage counsellor, you are going to spend the rest of your life in a relationship that is going to at first mystify you, excite you, confuse you then wear you out mentally. So your relationship with iaidō will and should be very much a long term relationship, you must accept your good and bad days. We all have days like this in the dōjō. Iaidō is certainly a great method of escapism from the real world stresses, nothing matters other you moving a piece steel correctly, at the correct angle, the correct speed and the correct direction. Through kihon the three basic kata you will practice the drawing of the sword, the correct body posture and movement of your body as well as the correct cut, the hasugi (angular direction of the blade), how to stop the sword, how grip the sword and how to re-sheath the sword. All these motions are the same in every kata, it is just the kata that are different.
How fast you learn and improve is on an individual basis, for me it took much longer to understand and incorporate. This is simply because as a child I was beaten, whipped and brought up to never to speak up, talk up to anyone and told that I was stupid. So I personally found my journey difficult as I still lack the ability to understand new concepts or things only because I was programmed. Iaidō has very much helped un-stitch the nasty needlework of those sewing the fabric of who I am. There are no demons to face battle with only myself, as with all iaidō kata when you practice, your invisible opponent is you. Your height, your weight your speed – your mirror image. For that reason I feel iaidō certainly is a massive help as everyone should push themselves to do better, be better and stop and understand before a weapon is drawn. So for my own reasons I honestly suggest iaidō as a martial art to undertake to help you settle yourself when those around are fixed on unsettling. So back to the kata, which now seems so very simple, all you have to do is walk forward, draw the sword, cut the enemy and re-sheath the sword but it’s far from that simple and if it was easy it certainly would not be worth doing.
Having a good history already in iaidō myself, such as Muso Shinden ryu, Mugai ryu. Shinto ryu, as well as both Bujinkan and Genbukan ninjutsu (and I cannot forget one school of fake iaido that I fell for). Budō is translated as ‘martial way’, or ‘the way of war’ while bujutsu is translated as ‘science of war or ‘martial craft. In the western world both phrases are used to mean the same thing, although there is actually a very small difference between the two. Interestingly the word budō in the 1600’s meant the lifestyle of the samurai. Today this is misrepresented and misunderstood when martial artists comment on them following the path of budō.
Budō is not picking up any Japanese sword or spear or Okinawan weapon and using it in any style you like, and certainly has nothing to do with your lifestyle, as it only did in the 1600’s if you were of samurai class living in feudal Japan. So for this reason, I do not promote my teachings of martial arts in Southend as ‘following the path of budō‘. Just to avoid confusion.
Sensei David, an already highly accomplished iaidōka began studying Mugai-ryū in 2013. Regularly flying out to European countries to meet with various teachers and the Japanese sensei attending these seminars and was asked to open a dōjō in the UK in 2014. Firstly with the meishi-ha line under Grandmaster Niina Gosoke then in 2017 Sensei David chose to change to the Dai Nippon Iaido Kyokai (DNIK) under Soke Shimojo, of which teaches a more accurate lineage of Mugai-ryū iaidō. Our dōjō is under the UK directorship of Phil and Neil Malpas Vice President of the Dai Nippon Iaido Kyokai, both were awarded these titles by Shimojo Sensei in September 2019 (congratulations guys).
The Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto ryū connection.
Meifu Shinkage ryū of which I have been awarded the district of the South East of England by its current Grandmaster Soke Yasuyuki Otsuka. Meifu Shinkage ryū is a gendai budō form as it was founded in the early 1960’s by Dr. Chikatoshi Someya who passed away in June 1999. I am a direct student of the current Soke, Yasuyuki Otsuka, for the South of England.
Dr. Chikatoshi Someya refinded the shuriken kata making them faster and much more effective. As well as the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū shuriken, Dr. Chikatoshi Someya was also a master of other shuriken ryū-ha. Someya sensei left Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto ryū to establish Meifu Shinkage ryū in the late 1960’s. Someya sensei the founder of Meifu Shinkage ryū was a senior student of Yoshio Sugino a master of Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū.
Dai Nippon Buto Kai .
As an addition nanashi dōjō is also registered in Japan with the DNBK (international division). It is not required for any member of nanashi dōjō to join the DNBK as it has no connection to our governing Japanese body the Dai Nippon Iaido Kyokai. Nanashi dōjō students that are members of the DNBK are so by virtue of having friends to train once or twice a year within DNBK as this is a private members martial arts organisation.
In the Meiji Era, two of the most famous swordsmen in all Japan were Mugai-ryū iai jutsu masters, both being appointed to the grade of Hanshi by the Dai Nippon Butokukai. The two famous swordsmen were, Takahashi Kyūtarō (1859-1940) from Himeji region and Kawasaki Zensaburō (1860-1944) from Tosa region.