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What´re the technical differences of kendo and Itto ryu?
I read that modern kendo is derived basically from Itto ryu, i want to know about the relationship and differences between them ?
By the way, thank you for alllll your replies...just kidding
08-28-2000, 06:02 PM
i would think a reasonably simple place to start when comparing modern <i>kendo</i> practice to classical training at such a school as <b>itto ryu</b> or just about any other traditional ryu would be the weapons used for daily training and thier effect on the techniques taught and how they'd be employed.
many, if not most, schools of kenjutsu employ the <i>bokken</i> in training. the blade is not sharp and so it can't cut, yet the weapon still has some of the weight of a live sword because of its solidity, and the curvature is usually pretty accurate too. you can go from using a bokken to using a live blade without really noticing a difference, if you use both frequently enough.
techniques of the itto ryu concentrate on cutting, in a gerneral sense, with katana.
in modern kendo class you find a weapon called the <i>shinai,</i> a practice sword of sorts made of pieces of bamboo tied together around... well, something. i don't know because i've never used one myself. the shinai also has no curvature, therefore generating totally differing techniques from those one would use when handling a katana or bokken for learning to cut.
i'm of the understanding that the shinai is generally lighter and maybe a bit shorter than bokken, and since there's probably no plan of ever using live blade in a modern kendo class, the techniques you'd learn there would be for striking rather than cutting. while the movements and such found in kendo today are undoubtedly based on the techniques originally taught by such schools as itto or yagyu ryu, over time the purpose of those techniques has changed.
ahhh... i've digressed. i dunno how to follow up.
Thank you very much for your reply. Perhaps i didn't answer the right way.
What i meant was : i read that kendo(not precisely modern)was based mostly in Itto ryu .What is lost in the transition from a classical school of kenjitsu to the practice of first gekken and later "classical"/modern kendo ?
Thank you again
08-30-2000, 02:52 PM
The differences between modern kendo and koryu-style swordsmanship are not due so much to the equipment; other styles use similar equipment. The fact that shinai are straight and light (compared to shinken) does not have that much effect on waza, though obviously those techniques which rely either on the curvature of the blade, or the fact that a real blade is much narrower than it is "deep" can't be done with a shinai.
BTW, standard shinai for adults are substantially longer, not shorter, than most swords, particularly in the tsuba. They're also not that much lighter than most bokuto, being at least 500g for the standard size for adults. Oh, and there's nothing inside a shinai, other than a little metal square in the hilt and a rubber piece in the tip.
Kendo waza are different from "battlefield waza" because kendo waza are optimized for winning shiai under a specific set of rules. Being able to "ignore" cuts to the shoulders, upper arms and elbows, armpits, etc. because they don't earn a point; or being able to negate an opponent's cut by messing up the distance (but still letting him hit you); not having to worry about legsweeps or grappling, knowing that your going to be on an even hardwood floor; knowing that even if you do get hit, the worst thing that'll happen is you'll get a welt; &c. have much more to do with kendo's differing from "real" swordsmanship than the equipment involved.
I know this doesn't answer Nelson's original question, but I thought I'd throw it in.
08-30-2000, 03:06 PM
well, as i said before, i know little about the subject of kendo. the main reason for any interest i've had in it arose when reading through some literature on the curriculum of different schools and i read that one school incorporated practices of iaido, kendo, and tameshigiri into a full day's training.
kendo practice's obvious purpose would be to improve focus and the speed of cuts in succession, i suppose? thanks for throwing in some new info. =-)
08-31-2000, 12:39 AM
originally posted by Matthew Kelly
kendo practice's obvious purpose would be to improve focus and the speed of cuts in succession, i suppose?
Kendo and early judo have a lot in common. The overall length of the shinai are very close to sword techniques used early on in judo and by Prof. Kano. Also, shiai is not necessarily the point of either, only if you wish to compete.
Kendo grappling is not seen much in the West but it certainly has a history. There are ways of bringing your opponent down, and even utilizing the men and other parts of the kendogi in choking an opponent out. However, I would say that kendo is great practice for one type of cut, kirioroshi, or "downward cut" which can be seen in pictures of this waza in judo.
One thing of particular note concerning kendo shiai, is that they are the best tournaments these days I have ever seen. The general "wa" is outstanding, and with the awards being in the area of equipment instead of medals or trophies, they do have value.
You now have my entire repetoire of kendo and sword techniques.
09-07-2000, 03:55 PM
On 08-29-2000 gato (Nelson Sanz) wrote:
What i meant was: i read that kendo(not precisely modern) was based mostly in Itto ryu. What is lost in the transition from a classical school of kenjitsu to the practice of first gekken and later "classical"/modern kendo?
This is a difficult and complicated topic. Since it deserves to be much better known I will attempt to provide a brief (yes, this is brief) outline of some the major historical issues. First, I will give an overview of Ittoryu. Then I will discuss some of the ways that gekken (gekiken), kendo, and shinai kyogi were or are "based mostly in Itto ryu."
"Ittoryu" is a vague designation that has been used to name many different phenomena. I believe most Westerners and modern historians would tend to identify "Ittoryu" with the curriculum of kata first formulated by Ono Jiroemon Tadaaki (1565--1628). Today, people who practice Ittoryu swordsmanship usually assert that they practice that same kata curriculum. Ono Tadaaki became extremely well-known as the official swordsmanship instructor to the Tokugawa government, a post that his descendants also occupied. The name "Ittoryu" refers back to Ito Ittosai Kagehisa (1560--1653?), the man whom Ono Tadaaki regarded as his teacher.
The special status that the Ono family enjoyed as the official instructors to the Tokugawa government gave the name "Ittoryu" a special prestige. Throughout the Tokugawa period (i.e., until 1868), therefore, many other "Ittoryu" appeared as other instructors wanted to cash-in on this name recognition. Some of these new Ittoryu were formulated by outside students who had studied under members of the Ono family, but many others were created by teachers who just assumed the name. Writers sometimes differentiate among the various Ittoryu by adding a branch (ha) prefix to their names, such as: Onoha Ittoryu, Mitoha Ittoryu, Nakanishiha Ittoryu, Mizuguchiha Ittoryu, Joshuha Ittoryu, etc. There are also various Ittoryu that are eschew the "ha" (branch) designation (e.g., Kogen Ittoryu, Itto Soryu, Shinbu Ittoryu, Hokushin Ittoryu, etc.). There existed many more Ittoryu in addition to the ones just named. Most Ittoryu probably were so small and obscure that today no one remembers anything about them.
Identifying Ittoryu with the kata curriculum of the Ono family instructors is somewhat problematic. First, the Ono family kata curriculum evolved. According to texts such as *Ittoryu hitsuji* and *Ittoryu mokuroku seikai bengi gokuhitsuron,* the Ittoryu kata curriculum was changed by each of the first four generations of the Ono family before becoming standardized. Even after it became standardized, the ways that it was taught and understood much have changed over time. Second, any kata curriculum involves much more than just physical actions. Ono family tradition included many sword rituals based on Daoist magic and other religious practices. Both the martial sword and magical sword practices were analyzed and explained in terms of Neo-Confucian theories of cosmology and mental training.
Suppose that someone living today still physically practices the same martial kata, but rejects the magical sword rituals and no longer attempts to understand them by studying Neo-Confucian texts. One can legitimately ask if that person is really learning the Ono family curriculum or not. The problem is that each individual element within a curriculum acquires meaning and significance from its relationship to the other elements within that curriculum. They all depend upon and reinforce one another. Unless one attains complete initiation into the entire doctrinal system (ryugi), then one has not really learned any of it. The same issue applies to the various other Ittoryu. The ones that derived from Ono family traditions usually incorporated some elements from the Ono family kata curriculum, but they also modified those elements to create a new identity (i.e., a new ryugi). Over time, some of those modifications were incorporated back into Ono family teachings. For these reasons it is very difficult to identify with precision the contents of the kata curriculum of the Ono family at any given historical time.
2. Ittoryu contributions to gekken (gekiken), kendo, and shinai kyogi
(1) Neo-Confucian theory:
The prestige and popularity of various Ittoryu during the Tokugawa period insured the existence of a wide audience for anything written about Ittoryu teachings. Various study guides were published that offered simplified overviews of how Neo-Confucian concepts are applied to Ittoryu kata training. Works such as the *Ittosai sensei kenpo sho* (Notes on Master Ittosai's Swordsmanship, 1664) by Kotoda Toshisada were repeatedly represented during the Tokugawa period and can be found in modern collections of martial art texts. Whenever present-day Kendo instructors proclaim the virtues of Kendo as a form of self-discipline and mental training, consciously or unconsciously they usually describe concepts and approaches first popularized by these guidebooks to Ittoryu Neo-Confucian teachings.
(2) Daoist techniques of embryonic breathing:
The Nakanishiha Ittoryu developed a curriculum of Daoist breathing techniques that they called the Tenshin (Heavenly True) transmission. Tenshin (Chinese Tianzhen) is the name of the Daoist deity who first discovered the techniques for preserving life by embryonic breathing, that is by circulating the breath-energy (ki) among the cinnabar field (tanden) in the lower abdomen. Shirai Toru Yoshinori (1781--1843), a fencer in the Nakanishiha Ittoryu, wrote detailed instructions for these practices in a book titled *Heiho michi shirube* (Guide to the Way of Fencing). This work circulated privately during the Tokugawa period and was published several times in the early 1900s. Today whenever any martial artists in Japan discuss the cultivation of ki, proper breathing techniques, or the projection of ki, they usually describe the methods developed within Nakanishiha Ittoryu.
(3) Zen and the martial arts (?):
Actually, it is unfair to lay the blame for this misconception on the Ittoryu. I have written a long article (not yet published) in which I discuss this topic at length. Here I would just like to point out that in 1897 the chancellor of the Japanese consulate in London gave a public lecture in which he attempted to use the example of Yamaoka Tesshu (1836--1888) to demonstrate that the educational methods advocated by Herbert Spencer (1820--1903) in his *Principles of Psychology* (1855) already have been mastered in Japanese Zen. (Yamaoka Tesshu, of course, was a fencer in the Nakanishiha Ittoryu who gained fame as government councilor and as a chamberlain for the Meiji emperor.) Ironically, Yamaoka's involvement in Zen was the exception, not the norm among other swordsmen during his lifetime. Nonetheless, this lecture in London subsequently was cited by Western authors in textbooks on Japanese history and culture who wrote that there exists a psychological unity between Zen and Japanese martial arts. (Note: this psychological interpretation of Zen allows "Zen" to be interpreted as almost anything.)
(4) Popularization of dueling with shinai and protective gear:
Various types of flexible (i.e., "shinai") bamboo sticks had long been used as a training aid in Japanese swordsmanship. During the Tokugawa period there also appeared protective gear that allowed shinai to be used much more freely. The *Shigei enkakuko* (1831) describes a 3 stage process of development. First people began wearing bamboo masks to protect their eyes. Later they added padding for head protection (atama ni futon wo tsuke) and padding for arm protection (te ni wata wo irete). Finally, they developed lightweight bamboo body armor. Traditional histories say that Nakanishi Chuzo Tsugutake (d. 1801) of the Nakanishiha Ittoryu popularized the use of shinai and protective gear when he introduced "bamboo stick competition training" (shinai uchikomi keiko) to the samurai living in Edo (modern Tokyo) during Horeki (1751--1763) period.
Recent scholars have questioned this traditional account. Certainly it is true that Nakanishi Chuzo Tsugutake wrote essays in which he advocated shinai competition training as a means of developing timing, speed, and power. And it is very likely that Nakanishi Chuzo Tsugutake was the first instructor in Edo to adopt these training methods. Outside of Edo, however, it is a different story. Shinai competitions probably developed first among peasants in rural areas who wanted a fast and safe way to test themselves against one another. The popularity of martial arts among peasants can be documented by studying records of martial art competitions that survive from the 1840s and later. Professor Watanabe Ichiro has shown that fencing contestants during the late Tokugawa period in the area of what is now Saitama Prefecture consisted of about 80 per cent commoners and only 6 per cent *samurai* (i.e., high-ranking government officials). The vast majority were affiliated with the Shindo Munenryu, Kogen Ittoryu, or Ryugoryu --- three rural sword lineages whose members consisted primarily of peasants.
Regardless of the actual role of Nakanishi Chuzo Tsugutake in the development of shinai competition training, once he introduce this practice to Edo it became extremely popular --- and extremely profitable. Shinai competition allowed many students to practice against one another simultaneously without the instructor having to supervise each one. (Traditional forms of kata instruction, in contrast, always would consist of one-on-one training with the instructor.) Instructors were able to accept many more students at one time and earn much more money. Martial art academies in Edo multiplied in size over night. Many began to recruit townsmen (chonin; i.e., wealthy merchants and landowners) as students. Fencing began to acquire features of a popular pastime, not just military training or Neo-Confucian discipline.
In this environment martial art academies in Edo that offered shinai competition training became popularly known as "Ittoryu academies" regardless of their actual lineage affiliations. In other words, "Ittoryu" became a slang designation for all styles and schools of shinai competitions. Eventually shinai competition became popularly known as "gekiken" or "gekken" (battling swords). Thus, the popular imagination linked Ittoryu to gekken.
(5) Systematic techniques for dueling with shinai:
After shinai competition training became popular people began to evaluate martial art academies on their record in producing students who could perform well in competitive shinai matches. Fencing instructors began to abandon kata training and the techniques emphasized in kata training. Instead they devoted attention on developing new techniques and training methods designed to help students excel in shinai competitions. Winning became all important. Any and all techniques were allowed. (Interesting, many instructors pioneered new techniques for one-handed thrusts delivered with long, thin shinai in a manner similar to Western styles of fencing.) In this new competitive environment no instructor was a successful as Chiba Shusaku Narimasa (1794--1855) of the Hokushin Ittoryu. The *Higashi asobi nikki sho* (Diary of a Trip to the East) by Katoda Heihachiro describes a series of matches that Katoda and his traveling companions participated in at the training hall of Chiba Shusaku Narimasa. Katoda and his companions were soundly defeated by Chiba's students, many of whom used shinai that were more than 6-feet long to sweep opponents off their feat (ashi barai). The success of Chiba's students was not due entirely to their long shinais. Chiba Shusaku Narimasa had developed a curriculum of 68 specific techniques for dueling with shinai. Many versions of this curriculum were written down by Chiba's students and distributed as the *key* to successful competition. In this way, Chiba's list of 68 shinai techniques set the standards for mastering shinai competition from the 1850s to the 1920s and beyond.
(6) Group drills suitable for instruction of children in educational institutions
In 1868 the Tokugawa government came to an end and Japan adopted an official policy of modernization and industrialization. All aspects of society changed. A nationwide system of compulsory education was instigated in 1872, military conscription of peasants began in 1873, and the wearing of swords in public by civilians was prohibited in 1876. Except for gangsters, police, and military personnel, duels with swords no longer were a realistic contingency in the lives of most people.
For bamboo stick competition to survive, it had to meet the needs of people living in this new world. Specifically, it had to acquire new methods of group drill instruction, exercises for balanced physical development, principles of hygiene, rules barring illegal techniques, referees to enforce rules, tournament procedures that would insure the safety of weaker contestants, an ethos of sportsmanship, and an ideological agenda that would serve the political needs of the new state. Many people were involved in this modern transformation, but the one who exerted the greatest influence was Takano Sasaburo (1863--1950) of the Onoha Ittoryu. Takano was an instructor at the Tokyo Shihan Gakko (Tokyo Teacher's College). The president of the college was Kano Jigoro (1860--1938). It housed the first department of Physical Education in Japan and was the first school to train martial art instructors for public schools. Takano Sasaburo took the 68 shinai techniques of Chiba Shusaku Narimasa and pared the number down to 50 techniques, which he then revised for use by school children equipped with relatively short (but still longer than most steel swords) shinai. Takano Sasaburo explained this teaching curriculum in a series of books: *Kendo* (1915; reprinted 1984), *Nihon kendo kyohan* (Japanese Kendo Teaching Manual, 1920), and *Kendo kyohan* (Kendo Teaching Manual, 1930; reprinted 1993). As indicated by their reprint dates, Takano's textbooks are still studied today.
(7) Sport forms of shinai competitions:
After Japan's defeat and occupation in 1945 by the Allied Powers public instruction in Kendo was banned because of its involvement in wartime indoctrination. It was not rehabilitated until 1953 after the Korean War had begun. At that time it was initially renamed "bamboo-stick competition" (shinai kyogi) and permitted to be taught only if (in the words of the Ministry of Education) it is taught "not as a martial way (budo) but as a physical education sport in exactly the same manner as any other physical education sport." For this purpose it was necessary once again to develop new training methods, new rules barring illegal techniques, new tournament procedures, a new revised sense of sportsmanship, and a new ideological agenda that would serve the newly democratic political needs of the postwar era. No single individual dominated these postwar developments in the same way that Takano Sasaburo had during the prewar period. (In fact, modern Kendo techniques largely consist of the same 50 techniques that Takano adapted from Chiba Shusaku, although they were systematized, renamed, and taught in new ways). Nonetheless, it is probably safe to say that few people were as influential as was Sasamori Junzo (1886--1976) of the Onoha Ittoryu. Sasamori, a Christian, graduated from Waseda Univ. in 1910, served as a Japanese representative to the Washington Peace Conference in 1915, and then studied at Denver University. (Denver U. awarded him a Ph.D. in 1927.) In 1946 Sasamori was elected to the first postwar Japanese government --- an event which indicates that his ideological background had received a stamp of approval from the occupation authorities. In 1950 Sasamori founded and served as the president of the Zen Nihon Shinai Kyogi Renmei (All Japan Federation for Bamboo Stick Competition). Throughout his postwar career in government and in higher education Sasamori championed sport Kendo as a socially beneficial exercise that is compatible with democracy. Apart from his numerous books on Kendo, in 1965 he wrote *Ittoryu gokui* (Ultimate Secrets of Ittoryu) in which he presented a detailed (albeit "official") account of Ittoryu history and teachings. This is a book that anyone interested in Japanese swordsmanship should own. It was reprinted in 1986.
3. Is or were gekken/gekiken, kendo, and shinai kyogi "based mostly in Itto ryu"?
Today some people still belong to Ittoryu lineages and still practice and teach traditional Ittoryu kata curriculums. Some (a majority?) of those same people also practice competitive (i.e., sport) forms of Kendo. Those people are the ones most qualified to address this issue. Speaking in their place, I can unequivocally answer:
(1) Yes: Above I have listed seven connections between popular forms of Japanese swordsmanship and Ittoryu.
(2) No: None of the seven connections listed above are based directly on the kata curriculum first formulated by Ono Jiroemon Tadaaki (1565--1628) and subsequently developed by members of the Onoha Ittoryu and adapted by other Ittoryu. If the kata curriculum is not taught, then the ryugi (teachings of the lineage) are lost. Without the ryugi there can exist no meaningful connection between the older traditions and modern practices.
09-07-2000, 04:56 PM
professor bodiford, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! =-)
you certainly have your facts and history straight, and that was a most wonderfully illuminating post. i'd like to keep in touch so that when your piece is finally published i can read it in its entirety.
if you can give me any news about this, please email me, any time: email@example.com
thank you again.
Thank you very much for your replies.
WOW! Mr. Bodiford , that was "THE" post.I certanly have things more clear now .
Yes!...a fine example that information is power
Give us some please
Thank you again
Hi, Professor Bodiford! In your post, you cited the following book by Junzo Sasamori:
in 1965 he wrote *Ittoryu gokui* (Ultimate Secrets of Ittoryu) in which he presented a detailed (albeit "official") account of Ittoryu history and teachings. This is a book that anyone interested in Japanese swordsmanship should own. It was reprinted in 1986.
This may be a rather naiive question to ask, but has this book been translated into English? And, how does one go about obtaining it? The internet retailers I've tried list typically only Sasamori's "This is Kendo" book with Warner, and not the one you cited.
Thank you so much for your kind help!
Chih Ming Tan
04-23-2004, 09:11 AM
Thank you very much, William. May I plagiarize some of your post to update the history sections of the JSA FAQ?
04-23-2004, 09:21 AM
Originally posted by matthew kelly
i know little about the subject of kendo
Than why attempt to answer the question?
kendo practice's obvious purpose would be to improve focus and the speed of cuts in succession, i suppose?
The purpose of kendo practice is to improve your kendo. The goals for each person differ. Speed of cuts in succession is a not an important one for most people, but some people think that way. More advanced people are generally focussed on trying to create an opening in order to make a single clean attack. The point is the exclamation mark on a fight that is already won.
As to the original question - as Professor Bodiford explained, the techniques we use with shinai are descended from Itto-ryu but no longer resemble that school very much. We practice paired kata with bokken, of which there are 10 forms. Those forms were put together by committee but I believe the bulk of them come from Ona-ha Ittoryu. As he explained, it's just the shell of koryu but at least kendoka who practice the kata gain some sense of real swordsmanship.
At any rate, kendo like other gendai budo has mutated over the years into something which has value in and of itself but is no longer very close to its roots. If you practice kendo because you want to be a samurai badass, you are in the wrong place. If you think you know a lot about real swordsmanship because you have some skill with kendo, you are deluded. But by the same token, if you criticise kendo because it isn't the same as koryu, you're missing the point. Kendo may have been reinvented several times and worked over by committee, but it is still very deep and still a rewarding way to invest your time.
04-23-2004, 09:44 AM
Originally posted by W.Bodiford
Suppose that someone living today still physically practices the same martial kata, but rejects the magical sword rituals and no longer attempts to understand them by studying Neo-Confucian texts. One can legitimately ask if that person is really learning the Ono family curriculum or not.
Nonetheless, it is probably safe to say that few people were as influential as was Sasamori Junzo (1886--1976) of the Onoha Ittoryu. Sasamori, a Christian, graduated from Waseda Univ. in 1910,
Dear Professor Bodiford,
Have there been anything written regarding how Sasamori sensei's faith affected his practice of Ono-Ha Itto-Ryu?
04-23-2004, 10:13 AM
Just a few thoughts:
Maniwa Nen ryu utilizes shinai duels as a supplement to kata training, and I believe this practice extends back well before Edo times (as further support of Dr. Bodiford's comments).
The curvature of the training weapon is not that critical to kata practice. Yagyu Shinkage ryu utilizes a straight fukuro shinai in much (but not all) of its practice (its bokuto are curved), but Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage ryu utilizes a rather massive, straight bokuto in its kata forms (they also use a straight shinai in later forms, but these shinai are longer than the Yagyu shinai).
And of course, some of the highest forms of these arts perform kata with habiki. So there is no real correlation that I've noticed between the curvature of the training weapon and classical Japanese sword traditions.
04-26-2004, 09:04 PM
Is Defense !
Kendo is not.
Modern kendo was starting from BAKUMATU.Edo period last stage.
Many schools are the same. Not only Itto ryu.
After WW2,Kendo is prohibited. Sasamori sensei negotiate and got back kendo
as a State Minister.
Sasamori sensei was doing kendo and Itto ryu.
His Itto ryu is perfectly Koryu. His pupils who has a menkyo,
teaching the same way as a Sasamori Junzo sensei is showing.
Sasamori family was samurai in tsugaru-han.
when Sasamori sensei was a boy, ther's still some samurais in Itto ryu dojo. with their original hair. They never cut the hair until they die.
04-27-2004, 07:56 AM
Interesting, Singh! Domo!
04-27-2004, 01:44 PM
Dr. Bodiford! If you're anywhere near here, can I ask you a follow-up question?
In this rather excellent post, you wrote that shinai competition became very popular among peasants and other types of people, and that shinai competitions were popular. Then you state:
For bamboo stick competition to survive, it had to meet the needs of people living in this new world. Specifically, it had to acquire new methods of group drill instruction, exercises for balanced physical development, principles of hygiene, rules barring illegal techniques, referees to enforce rules, tournament procedures that would insure the safety of weaker contestants, an ethos of sportsmanship, and an ideological agenda that would serve the political needs of the new state.
I'm confused. If it were already popular, why did it "need" new methods of instruction and idealogy to survive? Wouldn't it have survived on its own simply because it was a fun, useful, elevating or otherwise worthwhile pastime?
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