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Follows some basic introdustory information to Sword Arts which you may be interested in learning;

Iaido

Introduction to iaido About

Iaido can claim a solid lineage of about 450 years, making it one of the oldest martial arts, along with some forms of ken-jutsu and iai-jutsu. As with these other styles there are many schools, and they are all related in their teachings, however the fundamental idea consists in countering an unforeseen attack, with a given striking which does not leave any chance to the adversary to be defended and gain.

History

The birth of Iai is assumed to go back to the Heian period, and it is a technique invented at the birth of the two handed daith that came into heavy use at the Sekgoku period, during the civil wars. From the fifteenth to the seveneenth century over seven-hundred different schools and styles of swordsmanship were created. A lot of these styles have been handed down from generation to generation as with other martial arts. Iai, moreso than Ken, focuses on the actual draw of the sword, and the techniques (both spiritual and physical) that allow these sudden strikes. Often there was and still is no distinction between Iai and Ken, however it is acknowledged in many literary pieces that Iai was originally one of the only sword techniques in existence. It was only in the Meiji period that Iai began to seperate from Ken-jutsu. The "Hai-to-rei" law prohibited Samurai wearing arms in public, and thus began the death of Iai in society. Kenjutsu only remained taught very occasionally at the more traditional Kendo schools, as Kendo began to see an increase in interest. The man who saved the art was the founder of modern Iai, Nakayama Hiromishi. Thanks to his involvement Iai became gradually active again, although another blow was struck with the end of the second world war, when the occupying forces imposed the confiscation of all antique blades and the abolition of the tradional martial arts. As Kendo was resurrected in 1957, Iai has slowly began to creep back into existence, with an estimated 10,000 people worldwide practising.

Iaido Today

As Iaido is so scarce it is very hard to find a school that teaches the more traditional forms. Ideally Iaido should be taught with some Ken/Iai/Batto-jutsu, however with Kendo being in the publics eye many schools use less traditional methods. It really depends on the style of sword art the student wishes to partake, and more often than not simply what is available. Iaido is taught through kata, which consist of iai (drawing the sword from a seated or kneeling position), tachiai (drawing the sword from an upright position such as standing, walking, and running), nukitsuke (the simultaneous draw and strike); which may be followed with furikaburi (bringing the blade around); and a killing blow such as kirioroshi (cutting downward). Follow-up actions include some form of chiburi (removing the blood from the blade); and noto (resheathing the blade). Often students will learn using bokken, then progress to iaito. Only when the student has been practising for a number of years will a live blade be allowed.

Equipment

Bokken = Heavy wooden sword
Iaito = Aluminium practice sword
Daito = Two handed sword (katana)
Obi = Sword belt
Hakama = Pleated trousers or skirt
Kendogi = Standard Kendo top

Kendo

About

Kendo is the way of the sword, and has a fair amount in common with fencing. It is estimated that 10 million people across the world practice kendo reguarly, and it is taught as part of the high-school PE curriculum in Japan.
History

Kendo has a very long history. The Japanese sword that we refer to as a "katana" came to be in about the year 940. Until these swords were created battles often centered on mounted warriors in armour weilding single handed swords. By the Edo period the techniques of warefare had completely changed, and the battles centered more around footsoldiers with little to no armour using a two handed sword. This change began in the Heian period, when more sophisticated techniques with regard to the new design of sword began to appear. This is (to the best of our knowledge) the birth of most of the modern sword arts as we practise them today. From the fifteenth to the seveneenth century over seven-hundred different schools and styles of swordsmanship were created. A lot of these styles have been handed down from generation to generation as with other martial arts. Eventually a logical theory to unify these different schools was created and developed as an important part of a Samurai's training. This theory combined bushido (the warrior philosophy) with Kendo, the art of Japanese swordsmanship. It is a way of live designed to contribute to personal self development. Ideally through Kendo training a student will not only strengthen their body, but also their mind, developing their spiritual self. Later in Kendo's evolution, training with real steel swords and hardwood swords caused so many unnecessary injuries and deaths, harmless bamboo practice swords were created in the 18th century. Around 1740, Japanese sword masters and Japanese armors improvised chest and head protectors as well as heavy gloves. The original bamboo practice swords and protectors were quite primitive and of simple construction. Over the centuries, these were refined by Japanese armors into the attractive and practical Kendo equipment as seen today in Japan.

Kendo Today

In modern society, especially the western world, Kendo, as with other sword-arts, is frowned upon. To make matters worse, the governing body of Kendo (the International Kendo Federation (IKF), often bow to the demands of society, meaning modern Kendo has little in common with its historical form. Kendo has little in common with many martial arts, more in common with sport. In most schools only two types of attack still exist, strikes and thrusts. Strikes are limited to certain areas of the body (the top of the head, the right and left sides of the body and the forearms). Thrusts are only permissible to the throat. Unlike western fencing Kendoka stand facing each other. Match rules are simple, the first person to two points wins, however points are often only awarded if the attacks are completed with correct technique with good control and a yell, or kiai.

Equipment

Shinai = Bamboo practice sword
Bougo = Armour
Kote = Hand protection
Men = Head guard
Do = Chest and abdomen guard
Tare = Hip and groin protection
Hakama = Pleated trousers or skirt
Kendogi = Standard Kendo top
Introduction to kenjutsu
About

Kenjutsu is a military art form which was created in Japan in the 15th century. It was primarily designed to prepare samurai, as well as ordinary soldiers for combat on the battlefield. Kenjutsu centers around the practice of swordsmanship,but often other related weapons are taught as part of the curricula.

History

Kenjutsu dates to the Kamakura period, when Japan was involved in a large series of civil wars due to the influence of the Ashikaga Shogunate waning and local warlords fueding for power and control of their respective hegemonies. In this environment the martial arts began to blossom, as people felt the need to prepare for the up-coming combat. Kenjutsu was one of six arts that were studied by warriors, the others were archery, jujutsu, gunnery, horsemanship and spearmanship. Kenjutsu quickly eclipsed all of the other arts as the most common and most popular. The actual study of Kenjutsu originated in Shinto shrines, with the oldest known school being Katori Shinto Ryu. One of the most famous swordsmen in Japanese history, Tsukahara Bokuden, who was never defeated in over 100 duels and fought on the battlefield 37 times, trained in Katori Shinto Ryu in his youth and at the age of 37, created both Kashima Shinto Ryu and Shinkage Ryu.

Kenjutsu Today

As with all sword-arts, Kenjutsu is often frowned upon, but Kenjutsu schools are so hard to find due to a number of factors. The major contributary is the fact that Kenjutsu, as with Iaido and Iaijutsu, is goverened by the International Kendo Federation (IKF), and as with Kendo they attempt to turn things into a more socially acceptable sport, or attempt to disseminate its knowledge. Indeed, Kenjutsu is becoming somewhat a "black art" as it deals with the forms and styles of using the sword in war, to kill.

Equipment

Bokken = Heavy wooden sword
Daito = Two handed sword
Naginata = Halberd
Bo = Long staff
Jo = Short staff
So = Spear
Hakama = Pleated trousers or skirt
Kenjutsugi = Standard Kenjutsu top
Battojutsu Battojutsu - The Basics Battojutsu An art as old as Kenjutsu, Battojutsu is essentially the art of drawing and cutting in the same motion, thus avoiding a prolonged duel. All swordsmen know that speed is often to prefer over pure strength, and the katana, the weapon of choice for all swordsmen in Japan, is well suited for fast drawing. Due to the curvature of the blade, it can be drawn faster than a straight sword, and also can begin its arc of cutting already as it is leaving the saya, the scabbard, thus making it a lot easier to perform a cut from the position of having the sword in the scabbard. The word Battojutsu means, literally, sword drawing techniques. They were vital to the samurai and kengo, swordsmen, of the era in Japan where your skill with your sword proved your worth. Basics - The Way of Drawing and Cutting The basic strategy of Battojutsu is simple; if you draw your sword fast enough, there is no fight. However, such a quick action as drawing your sword and cutting, something done in less than a second, takes many years to master. First of all, a student of Battojutsu must learn the normal ways of the sword. Battojutsu is often practised together with traditional sword arts (usually Kenjutsu) so that one learns to handle the sword before entering the world of Battojutsu. When a student then has reached the skill where his teacher feels that he is ready, they begin to go over the basics of drawing and cutting. First, in most cases of Battojutsu, you shift the sword from its position on your side to make the blade lie with the edge out from your body - this is for when cutting horizontally. You then use your thumb to flick the sword slightly out of the saya in order to make sure its not fastened - this would seriously hamper any effort of drawing it quickly - and place your hand in contact with the tsuka, the handle of the sword. Note: Depending on the art and situation, you usually place your hand below the tsuka, to ensure that an pre-emptive attack from the opponent does not cut your hand - however, many arts put their hand around the tsuka immediately, and some draw without first placing their hand there at all Now the most important part of Battojutsu comes into focus; distancing and speed. Distancing is very important, and good distancing could not be stressed enough. No matter how fast and hard you cut, if you miss by an inch it wont help much. Therefore a lot of practice goes into learning how to distance your self properly. This is an action that must not take more than a split second - otherwise you may have already lost your initiative. But when you feel that the time to cut is now - you have a target, you know youre properly distanced and the path of your blade is free - you cut. Now speed and, above all, technique comes into the equation. The following action is known as nukitsuke, simultaneous draw and cut. You use the fact that your blade is curved to draw as fast as you can, ensuring that the arc of the blade makes the edge cut the target where you want it. All cuts in Battojutsu are in straight lines - they may be diagonal, horizontal or vertical - but they are always straight, just like in Kenjutsu, Kendo and Iaido. A cut that does not go straight will cause a faulty cut, a deadly mistake in a situation of life and death. However, if your cut is true, you will probably have killed your opponent before he is able to react. After nukitsuke, you may want to follow it up if the opponent still seems to pose a threat to you. You may follow it with furikahuri (bringing the blade around) and then performing a killing blow such as kirioroshi (cutting downward). Once your opponent is dead, however, you end your attack by performing some form of chiburi (removing the blood from the blade); and noto (resheathing the blade). This can be made in many different ways, and is different from style to style. There are two different kinds of Battojutsu, the one performed from a sitting or kneeling position (known as iai) and the one from any standing position (known as tachiai). The difference is basically in small changes of technique, as you obviously cannot cut in the same way from a sitting position as you could cut were you standing. Training - To Learn and Teach When training Battojutsu, one must always try and follow the code of bushido, the way of the warrior. Focusing on nothing else than training is a must - remember, when wielding a sword that easily cuts a nice deep wound if you lose concentration, its best not to. The training of Battojutsu is usually very formal - as with most Japanese sword arts. Traditional clothing and old standards are upheld in the dojo, and ensures that the traditions are carried on to the next generation. Just grabbing a sword right away and practising sword-swinging in your garden will never improve your technique very much, and the spiritual side of the art will always be lost for you - therefore, if you have an interest in for example Battojutsu, you should contact your local Budo organisation.