Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido in New York City and New Jersey
The foremost weapon of the Samurai was the Japanese sword or nipponto. Iaido is basically the drawing of the sword to deliver a counterattack, following up and returning the sword to its scabbard. These techniques are taught by means of prearranged solo exercises of great precision called kata. Iaido is a pure martial art in that there is little sport or competitive aspect to it.
The Nichibukan teaches various Japanese sword arts but its primary focus is upon iaido. The styles of iaido practiced at our dojo are the Seitei-gata Iaido of the Iaido section of the All Japan Kendo Federation and the Muso Shinden Ryū, which is a Ko-Ryū or old style of Iaido.
For more information, please read our practice guidelines:
JSS is a member of the Greater Northeastern United States Kendo Federation (GNEUSKF) and the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF), which is a member of the International Kendo Federation (FIK). All Iaido ranking is done through this link.
The Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) decided in the 1960s that post-war kendo-ka were too far removed from how real swords were used that the old skills were not being passed along to the next generation. This was mainly a legacy of the Occupation, which had banned most Budo as being anti-democratic and militaristic. The kendo-ka were able to win shiai but knew nothing about cutting. A committee was formed of very senior sensei to develop a set of iaido kata to be used as a standard set to teach the younger kendo-ka. Since, everyone would know the same set of kata, they could be used as a standard for shinsa (testing for rank). In the mid 60s the committee issued the first 7 kata of the standard iaido kata that are now called the Seitei-gata Iaido of the ZNKR. These kata were either adapted from kata of a ko-ryū (classical old style school of Budo) or developed in the spirit of kata from several ko-ryū. In 1977 the committee added 3 more kata. Of course many of the members had changed in 10 years. In April of 2001 the ZNKR approved 2 more kata to be added to the existing 10 this brings the Seitei-gata Iaido of ZNKR to an even 12 kata.
The kata are divided up into 3 types: Seiza no bu, Tatehiza no bu, and Tachi no bu. The first section of 3 kata is done from the Seiza sitting position. The fourth kata is the sole kata of the second section, which is done from the tatehiza sitting position. The rest of the kata are done from standing position. The 12 kata of Seitei-gata Iaido of ZNKR are:
|Seiza no bu (Seated Set)
|1. Mae (To the Front)
|2. Ushiro (To the Rear)
|3. Ukenagashi (Take and give back)
Tatehiza no bu (Half-Seated Set)
|4. Tsuka-ate (Strike with the handle)
Tachiwaza no bu (Standing Set)
|5. Kesa-giri (Diagonal cuts)
|6. Morote-tsuki (2 handed thrust)
|7. San-po-giri (3 direction cuts)
|8. Ganmen-ate (Strike to face)
|9. Soete-tsuki (Companion hand thrust)
|10. Shi-ho-giri (4 direction cuts)
|11. So-giri (Many cuts)
|12. Nuki-uchi (Draw & Cut)
The roots of the Muso Shinden Ryū go back to the Sengoku-jidai (whole country at war era) in the 16th century. But, Muso Shinden Ryū itself is not too old. The credit for developing iaido or iaijutsū is given to a samurai by the name of Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu or Jinsuke Shigenobu (both names were used by the same man) who lived 1546-1621. He developed the idea of using the drawing of the sword and cutting down an opponent in one moment as a form of swordsmanship in itself and not a minor adjunct to kenjutsū. The simple explanation of the difference between iaijutsū (iaido is a much later term) and kenjutsū is that if the sword is still in its saya (scabbard) when you attack as opposed to having it already out, then it is iaijutsū. Iaijutsū would also be referred to as Batto-jutsū.
The teachings of Hayashizaki passed down through many masters who all added their own ideas and experience. There was, as is natural in the lives of men, many who split off and formed their own schools. By the 19th century there was several claimants to the legacy of Hayashizaki. The 20th century has not seen any improvement in this. But, most of the older generation of Japanese swordsmen does agree that Nakayama Hakudo was someone special—a kenshi of the highest skills. Nakayama Hakudo (Hiromichi is another way to say Hakudo) was born in Meiji 2 (1869) the cusp of the transfer of power from the bushi back to the kuge and ultimately to a modern form of government. When he was 7, the wearing of swords was banned and the samurai as a class disenfranchised. The decline in prestige and use for kenshi did not deter Nakayama. He studied with many different masters and became the master in several different Ryū-ha. He merged many different ideas into his own style, which he tended to call Nakayama-ryū and later was called Muso Shinden Ryū. He was a major link between the Edo-jidai kenshi and us. He passed on in 1958.
Once in the mid 50s, just after the Occupation ended, Nakayama Sensei gave a demonstration at a Kendo shiai. One witness to that demonstration was a young kendo-ka. He relates that he was amazed at how strong this little old man in his 80s was. That to this day he has but to close his eyes and he can still see that demonstration. When it was over, his own sensei remarked that Nakayama was not as strong as he used to be. The young kendo-ka could not imagine how he could have been stronger than what he saw that day.
Also about that time, a young policeman in Tokyo asked to study with Nakayama Sensei. He was accepted and shown the first kata, shohatto. Nakayama Sensei then read the newspaper for a year while the young policeman struggled with that kata. Nakayama Sensei then showed him a little more just before he died. That young policeman was named Mitsuzuka Takeshi. He went on to study with senior students of Nakayama Hakudo and to master the Muso Shinden Ryū. In August 1976, Mitsuzuka Sensei came to New York City for the first time and gave a 2-week seminar. He has done much to promote iaido in America over the years through his many trips. It is now 25 years since that first trip—it seems like but a dream.