Shinkendo is a modern art, imbued with the ideals of Bushi Damashii (warrior spirit) and Budo (the “way” or code of the Samurai), created by Obata Toshishiro who is Kaiso (founder) and Soke (Headmaster) of the International Shinkendo Federation (I.S.F.). Students of Shinkendo learn practical, real combat, sword techniques passed down from centuries of battle-tested methods, as well as the history and traditions of the Samurai.
Being a modern art, Shinkendo is able to break down the walls between the different Ryuha (Schools) and reincorporate their teachings into one comprehensive form. This is the way Japanese swordsmanship was originally studied by the samurai.
Shinkendo samurai swordsmanship incorporates all five aspects of sword study:
1 – Suburi: “Sword swinging methods and basic movements.” In Shinkendo this term is used to define basic sword movements, correct footwork, and body movement practices. These fundamentals are crucial to proper training, and must never be neglected.
2 – Battoho: “Combative sword drawing and sheathing methods.” Shinkendo teaches how to draw the sword combatively, and re-sheath it safely. This training is called Battoho. Students begin practice with a wooden sword and learn to draw effectively in many directions. Advanced students later use an Iaito, or non-sharpened practice sword, and later use a Shinken, or real sword. Techniques done from a sitting position (Suwari Iai) are very common in other schools, but are not used in Shinkendo. These techniques are impractical and unsafe. Instead, Shinkendo draws are done from the traditional Fudo (standing) or Tachiaigoshi (crouching, or ready stance) positions.
3 – Tanrengata: “Main solo forms.” The term “Tanren” refers to the process of removing the impurities in metal when forging a sword. Shinkendo kata emphasize fluid movement, graceful balance shifting, and effective body/sword mechanics.
4 – Tachiuchi: “Partnered sparring.” Koryu kenjutsu is a form of partnered training that starts when both participants already have their blades drawn. Many koryu kenjutsu styles still exist in Japan today. Training is usually done with a bokuto (wooden sword), but some styles also use a fukuro-shinai (padded bamboo stick), to practice sparring techniques more safely. The important aspects of koryu kenjutsu are incorporated into Shinkendo as Tachiuchi, or two-person prearranged exercises. Kendo is a form of sparring that utilizes bogu (armor) and practice with a shinai (bamboo sword), that came into existence near the end of the Edo period. After WWII, modern kendo became more of a competition sport of hitting and thrusting, rather than true Budo. However, those valuable sparring tactics that are used in Kendo are incorporated into Shinkendo as variations in Tachiuchi.
5 – Tameshigiri: “Test-cutting.” Tameshigiri is the practice of using real swords and target material to test the swordsman’s accuracy and form. This requires a great deal of concentration and skill, and is usually done only by well-trained students under direct supervision. Test-cutting is only one aspect of swordsmanship training, and should not be viewed as the sole purpose of training, or done for entertainment or sport. The practice of cutting inappropriate materials such as fruit, water bottles or other ‘circus acts’ should be strongly discouraged. Japanese swordsmanship should always be approached with dignity and sincerity.
In Shinkendo, these five aspects of swordsmanship are like five interlocking rings which are all interrelated. This is the foundation of the comprehensive study of swordsmanship which allows students to view the techniques from a larger perspective and pursue them deeply.
For more information about Obata Toshishiro Kaiso and the I.S.F., please visit www.shinkendo.com
As part of the Kokusai Toyama Ryu Renmei, Shinkendo Athens students learn another form of Japanese swordsmanship called Toyama-Ryu Battodo.
Toyama-ryu Battodo is a sword-drawing art in which the sword is drawn from the sheath and used to cut or defend against an opponent in a single motion. The techniques are practical and effective, focusing on rapid deployment of the sword in multiple directions and against multiple opponents. Culled from several sword traditions, these methods emphasize proficient sword-handling, generation of power, and strong expression of energy. Originally developed in 1925 for the purpose of training the Imperial Japanese Army, Toyama Ryu has been preserved and refined over the ensuing generations, and is taught within Shinkendo as an adjunct art. As such, is not taught independently of Shinkendo, but considered part of the Shinkendo curriculum.