If we analyze the characters forming the words describing the art of fighting with or drawing a sword and examine the concepts attached to them we can come to grasping the essence of this art.
The art (jutsu/術) of meeting/facing/blending (ai/合) existence (i/居)
The art (jutsu/術) of drawing (batsu/nuku/抜) the sword (tō/刀)
夢想神伝流 (Musō Shinden Ryū )
The school (ryū/流)of the divine (shinden/神伝) vision, dream (musō/神伝)
The principles (hō/法)) of drawing (batsu/nuku/抜)) the sword (tō/刀)
The way (dō/michi/道) of facing (ai/合) ) existence (i/居)
Three main concepts merge: 1. Drawing of the sword (battō), 2. Survival tool (iai) of divine inspiration (musō shinden) and 3. Discipline (dō).
The terms jutsu (術), dō/michi (道) and hō (法) are close in meaning and relate to the concept of a lifelong study that will ultimately lead you to self-accomplishment. Dō meaning the “way” in a spiritual sense, can also be read michi, meaning the “way” as a road.
The character batsu (抜) used in the word battō, which means drawing the sword, is also read nu(ku), meaning pull out, unsheathe.
The character I (居) means to be, to exist (iru) and implies the “self” as a strong connection between the body and the mind. The character ai (合) implies a faculty of harmonization, the ability to blend with situations as they arise.
|Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei
As for me, I was first acquainted with iai-dō in France around 1972, shortly after starting training in aikido under Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei. During summer seminars, Tamura Sensei always included a few iai-dō classes. I was fascinated from the start and soon bought a mugitō, a practice sword made of some sort of unsharpened aluminum alloy. But my first encounter with the “real thing” was not to materialize until 1977 when, under the advice of Chiba Kazuo Sensei, Tamura Sensei invited Mitsuzuka Takeshi Sensei to teach iai-dō at the summer seminars.
Chiba Sensei, who until that time had been living and teaching in England, had met Mitsuzuka Sensei back in Japan, and had a very high opinion of this amazing man. Mitsuzuka Sensei had indeed studied for a few years under Nakayama Hakudō Sensei who was the founder of Ōmori-ryū, the iai-dō form that all Birankai (the group founded by Chiba Sensei) members are studying. Although Mitsuzuka Sensei only practiced a few years under Nakayama Sensei’s guidance, he seemed to have fully grasped his teacher’s intent. The word guidance does not quite evoke the way Nakayama Sensei was teaching. In fact, he was not teaching at all and, according to Mitsuzuka Sensei recollections, one literally had to “steal” his knowledge: Nakayama Sensei would train at night, in the darkness of the dojo, with all doors and windows closed, away from any witness’ eyes. The students would approach the dojo silently, put their ears against the paper doors, and try to figure out what the teacher’s moves were by listening to the resulting rustling and soft noises!
When I first arrived in Japan to train under Mitsuzuka Sensei, I was shown the full curriculum of Ōmori-ryū by none other than Mitsuzuka Sensei himself, and I would not have another chance to witness it for another twenty years or so.
Having met Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei and Chiba Sensei, I had only a slight idea of what Japanese martial arts teachers were like (at that time, Chiba Sensei was in his thirties, a very energetic and demanding instructor, not speaking a single word of French and pretty difficult to understand when he spoke English – in other words, a very scary person). Mitsuzuka Sensei was very different, quite open and smiling. During his summer visit to France, Mitsuzuka Sensei taught three or four seminars and I was given the task, together with one of Tamura Sensei’s deshi, to take care of him and his wife and to drive them around. Although Mitsuzuka Sensei did not speak any French or English, and at the time I had no inkling of Japanese at all, we managed to make ourselves understood. I had seen how Tamura Sensei showed his respect to Mitsuzuka Sensei and how deferent he was to him, so it never crossed my mind that this opportunity of being physically close to him made me in any way his friend or his pal. When fully dressed in his keikogi and hakama, his face adorned with a magnificent Meiji-style mustache, he was quite impressive and imposing.
|Mitsuzuka Sensei at Berkeley Aikikai, 1980’s, Uke : Chiba Sensei|
I arrived in Japan on October 4th, 1977, only one month after Mitsuzuka Sensei had returned from France, but I could not just show up at the dojo for I would not have been accepted. Chiba Sensei “introduced” me to Mitsuzuka Sensei and formally asked him if he would agree to let me train at his dojo.
No one conducted the class. Training started at a given time but would not end until Mitsuzuka Sensei said so. The training might last just the regular two hours or might go on for three or even four hours. There, I learned that no one would teach me. Mitsuzuka Sensei had shown me the whole Ōmori-ryū curriculum, and now I was on my own. But soon I realized that the other members of the dōjō, my sempai, were to become my guides and all I had to do was to copy them, imitate them, and emulate them, and once in a while, Mitsuzuka Sensei would look at me and shake his head, mumbling a hardly audible “dame” (not good) – keep training. It is also during these years that I started to realize what the iai-dō training was all about.
Iai-dō is a discipline that involves dedication and commitment. It involves physical training through practice of kata that should be conducted both under the direction of a teacher and alone, and a spiritual aspect which involves a search for self-accomplishment. This form of training is a lifelong quest that never ends because each accomplishment opens up wide, new fields of unexplored aspects.
Practice of the kata calls for the following points to be observed: :
Nukitsuke, or the drawing of the sword out of the scabbard.
Seme, or the physical and psychological impact on the opponent.
Furikaburi, or the raising of the sword.
Kiritsuke, or the cutting strike.
Chiburi, or getting rid of the blood on the blade.
Nōtō, or the sheating of the sword.
Metsuke, or the point where one’s eyes should focus.
None of these points is distinct from the others. They constitute one ensemble that must be brought to perfection through physical and mental control of oneself.
Battō-jutsu or iai-jutsu was the “warrior’s road” to live a long life, the sword being the instrument that would help you kill your enemies and thus stay alive.
And this is a very important point to always bear in mind in the study of the art of the sword: the sword was a weapon to be used on battlefields. When times changed and peace prevailed, the battlefields disappeared but the warrior spirit remained and was cultivated through practice. Today iai-dō is a way to pursue the cultivation of the fighting spirit through hard practice, not to give death but to build a string mind in order to face the struggles of life.
|Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu|
|Musō Shinden Ryū Iai-dō (lineage) 夢想神傳流居合系統|
|Foundateur||c. 1546-1621||Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu||林崎 甚介 源 重信||Shimmei Musō Ryū
-> Shin Musō Hayashizaki Ryū
|2nd||c. fin 1500||Tamiya Heibei Shigemasa||田宮 平兵衛 成政||Tamiya Ryū|
|3rd||dates uncertain||Nagano Muraku Nyūdō Kinrōsai||長野 無楽 入道 槿露済||Muraku Ryū|
|4th||dates uncertain||Momo Gumbei Mitsuhige||百々 軍兵 衛 尉 光重|
|5th||dates uncertain||Arikawa Shōzaemon Munetsugu||蟻川 正左エ門 宗続|
|6th||dates incertain||Banno Danemon no Jō Nobusada||万野 団エ門 信|
|7th||dates uncertain / born late 16e||Hasegawa Chikaranosuke Eishin (Hidenobu)||長谷川 主税 助 英信||Musō Jikiden Eishin Ryū|
|8th||dates uncertain||Arai Seitetsu Kiyonobu||荒井 勢哲 清信|
|9th||1661-1732||Hayashi Rokudayū Morimasa||林 六太夫 守政||Ōmori Ryū|
|10th||died 1776||Hayashi Yasudayū Seisho||林 安太夫 政|
|11th||died 1790||Ōguro Motoemon Kiyokatsu||大黒 元右エ門 清勝|
|12th||18e/19e||Matsuyoshi Teisukee (Shinsuke) Hisanari||松吉 貞助 久成|
|13th||18e/19e||Yamakawa Kyūzō Yukikatsu (Yukio)||山川 久蔵 幸雅|
|14th||19e||Shimomura (Tsubouchi) Mōichi (Seisure) Sadamasa||下村 茂市 定政|
|15th||19e/20e||Hosokawa (Gishō) Yoshimasa (Yoshiuma)||細川 義昌|
|16th||1869-1958||Nakayama (Hakudō) (Yūshin) Hiromichi||中山 博道||Musō Shinden Ryū battō-jutsu|
Musō Shinden Ryū Iai-dō today
The study of Musō Shinden Ryū Iai-dō today includes three levels as follows :
|Shoden||– First level, for beginners. All of the twelve kata but one start from and end with a Japanese seating position (seiza).|
|Chuden (Hasegawa Eishin Ryū)||– Second level, for advanced students. Ten kata starting from tatehiza (one knee up) seating position and ending in seiza seating position.|
|Okuden||– Higher level, for expert students. The Okuden level itself is divided in two parts: seating part (suwari waza) including nine kata, and standing part (tachi waza) including eleven or twelve kata.|
First level, Shoden
The first level twelve kata, Shoden are named as follows :
|Shoden / 初伝（しょでん）|
|Haga Junichi – Shoden Tchiburi|
Second level, Chūden,
The second or middle level ten kata, Chūden are named as follows :
|Chuden / 中伝（ちゅうでん）|
|Nakayama Hakudo – Chuden : Yonhon-me, Ukigumo|
Third level, Okuden
The third or higher level nine sitting kata, Okuden Suwariwaza are named as follows: :
|Okuden suwariwaza / 億伝 座業（おくでん すわりわざ）|
|Kyuhon-me||IROMAGOI (3 forms)||九本目||暇乞|
|Tatehiza seating position|
The third or higher level nine standing kata, Okuden Tachiwaza are named as follows: :
|Okuden tachiwaza / 億伝 立業（おくでん たちわざ）|
|Mitsuzuka Takeshi & Sylvain Paul, c. 1980s
Within the Sanshinkai organization that he created, Mitsuzuka Sensei also taught a style of Iaijustu called Shindō Munen-ryū. The style was reconstructed by Mitsuzuka Sensei from a makimono that described Hosoda Ryū in order to add a set of tachiwaza (standing) kata for intermediate students to the Sanshinkai curriculum.
The Shindō Munen-ryū/Hosoda Ryū all standing kata are as follows :
|Shindō Munen Ryū/神道無念流 (しんどうむねんりゅう)|