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Thread: Is Kenjutsu a Sword Art in Itself?

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    Darren Yeow Guest

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    Hi,

    I was just wondering, after reading numerous threads, as well as articles on Japanese swordsmanship, is Kenjutsu an actual art in itself, with a body of techiques, gradings, doshu, etc?? Or, is it just the general term for all sword related arts(eg. Iaido, etc), which I have been lead to believe?

    Thanks, DY

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    Kenjutsu is just a term for japanese swordsmanship. The way the sword is used differs from ryu to ryu, that's the reason, why there is not just one Kenjutsu (and BTW, Kenjutsu is also just one term, there are several others). You *can* use the term Kenjutsu to identify all related arts (Iaijutsu, Iaido..., after unsheathing your sword, some people say it's all Kenjutsu), but if you talk about Iaijutsu or Iaido it's better to use that terms.

    regards
    Ruediger Meier

  3. #3
    JohnRay Guest

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    Originally posted by Janty Chattaw
    Iaido is not a fighting art.
    Wow, you seem pretty clear on what iaido is not. I wonder if you could elaborate on what it is? Thanks.
    John Ray

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    Guys,

    Iaido, Iaijutsu, Kendo, Kenjutsu.

    I am probably a stickler on the general and historical differences between these terms but I appreciate where Sensei Ray is probably headed here.

    We all, regardless of semantics, need to accept the fact that unless we are going out and actually using these arts as "fighting" arts. (ie- using them in battle and really killing with them) that we are actually practicing these arts as a "do" instead of a "jutsu".

    Just my humble opinion.

    Tobs

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    Originally posted by Janty Chattaw
    No offense but Iaido is not a fighting art. It is mostly kata, are you going to use kata, with an aluminum blade against an opponent?
    I don't agree....My question to you is, what do YOU know about Iai, have you practiced it seriously? My guess is you haven't. If you had you would realize that kata is the teaching tool, and so is the aluminum blade.

    But it is not a fighting art like Kenjutsu is.
    Kata is also the basis of all traditional Japanese kenjutsu...what kenjutsu do YOU practice?

    Iaido came about after the warring ages, for harmonizing oneself with the sword, and learning proper form. It is not meant for duels, battlefield etc..
    Your making distinctions here that are not set in stone.. some Iai schools contain "kenjutsu sets" (eg. tachi uchi no kori (sp)). Some people are not interested in "harminizing" with oneself, they just want to learn how to draw and cut with a sword. In short, there are always exceptions to the rule, especially when the terms that you use are themselves poorly defined.

    I am junior to Sensei Ray (and many others)so I will defer to their correction, but to let you know where I'm coming from: (10 years in Iai and 5 in both Kendo and Jodo.


    [Edited by FastEd on 12-13-2000 at 09:59 PM]
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    Originally posted by Darren Yeow
    Hi,

    I was just wondering, after reading numerous threads, as well as articles on Japanese swordsmanship, is Kenjutsu an actual art in itself, with a body of techiques, gradings, doshu, etc?? Or, is it just the general term for all sword related arts(eg. Iaido, etc), which I have been lead to believe?

    Thanks, DY
    I apologize, I should have attempted to answered your question first. From my perspective (which is subject to correction from others)
    Without giving the literal translation of the term "Kenjutsu", it is probably more useful to discribe how the term is current used to differentiate between styles of MA's.
    -A simple stylistic classification could be, any sword kata that starts with the sword out of the saya is kenjutsu/kendo, anything that starts with the sword in the saya is iaijutsu/iaido.
    -In applying the term to a specific school, it becomes a bit more problematic. How do you define "do" vs "jitsu", some say there is no difference between the terms, othes say there is. You will certainly find exceptions to any hard classification that you try to develope. The "spiritual vs practical" distinction is not a functional classification because it depends on the individual, so where do you go from there...good question, better just to forget broad classifications.
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    Blanket statements about what does or does not constitute a "fighting art" are quite ill-advised and are usually the result of insufficient knowledge. As Toby says, and rightly so, in my opinion, it is hard to make the case that any archaic weapons system, of whatever provenance, constitutes a legitimate fighting art in the present day and age. Nobody uses swords, spears, naginatas, or bows and arrows (or boradswords or rapiers-and-daggers) to fight with nowadays. Today, if one wishes to learn how to fight, one should learn some proven hand-to-hand method and supplement it with pistol shooting and knife fighting (or other modern weapons techniques, such as motorcycle chain, pool cue, broken beer bottle, rubber hose, or blackjack). Learning how to properly gang up on someone and also how to ambush, sucker punch, and dry-gulch unsuspecting enemies would also probably be good additions to the modern warrior`s repertoire, (as they were in the past as well).

    That being said, however, it is a mistake, strictly from an historical point of view, to condemn iaijutsu/do out of hand as being useless as a fighting method within its proper historical context. This cannot possibly be historically correct, for the very simple reason that bushi wore swords, and were expected to know how to use them, up until the early part of the Meiji period. The question of whether or not these Edo Period bushi, most of whom had never been in a pitched battle, were as "good" as the ideal Sengoku Jidai warrior that everyone seems to hold up as the standard against which all else must be measured, is entirely irrelevant.

    It is true that modern iaido, as it is practiced by large numbers of people nowadays, has lost much of its martial vigor. I submit, however, that this is a function not of WHAT is being practiced, but HOW and WHY it is being practiced. This fundamental attitude changes everything. With combative intent, iai, of whatever type, is combative. Without it, it is not. Once combative utility is assumed as the objective, then the only question is whether the technique is effective or not. This, of course, is the main subject of discussion at any dojo that pratices with this frame of mind. (This never-ending discussion is also called TSWWD, short for "That Stuff Won`t Work, Dude.")

    Just for the record, regarding the original question about "kenjutsu", sword fighting can be referred to by any number of terms, kenjutsu being only one of them. For example, I am under the impression that the Maniwa Nen Ryu refers to its sword method as "kenpo" (sword method), and Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, which concentrates on the sword, is called "heiho" or "hyoho" (variant readings for the same characters which are normally translated as "strategy" but can also be taken to mean "military methodology"). I have also heard Yagyu Sensei refer to YSR in general conversation as "kendo", believe it or not. However, nobody ever mistakes it for modern kendo. Everyone realizes that modern kendo is something different.

    Also, the term "iai", which refers in general to the sword-drawing arts, can be called "iaido", "iaijutsu", "batto-do/jutsu", or, "iai heiho" which is the term that my teacher used to refer to his practice of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.

    Things are not anywhere as simple as a lot of people like to think.


    [Edited by Earl Hartman on 12-13-2000 at 07:30 PM]
    Earl Hartman

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    Does anyone out there know what "uchi mono" means? Bob Elder
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    oops

    [Edited by yamatodamashii on 12-13-2000 at 10:18 PM]
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    Originally posted by Earl Hartman

    it is a mistake, strictly from an historical point of view, to condemn iaijutsu/do out of hand as being useless as a fighting method within its proper historical context.
    [Edited by Earl Hartman on 12-13-2000 at 07:30 PM]
    Umm... I don't believe that anyone is saying that iaiJUTSU is not a combat art; it is iaiDO we are discussing. I trained in both iaido (All-Japan Kendo Federation) and iaijutsu (Bujinkan) while stationed in Japan, and I can attest that they are VERY different animals. Also, there ARE instances when sword skills might be used--I take my machete every time I go camping. Much more legal than a pistol in Missouri; much more intimidating than a knife.

    Originally posted by Earl Hartman

    Also, the term "iai", which refers in general to the sword-drawing arts, can be called "iaido", "iaijutsu", "batto-do/jutsu", or, "iai heiho" which is the term that my teacher used to refer to his practice of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.
    [Edited by Earl Hartman on 12-13-2000 at 07:30 PM]
    True; "aiki" also means the same thing whether you are talking about Daito-ryu, aikikai, or Sin Moo--but I think we can agree that there are significant differences between the syllabi of aikijutsu, aikido, and hapkido.
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    Originally posted by Janty Chattaw
    Ed we have had this conversation at Bugei's forum. There is a difference between a kenjutsu school, and an Iaido school.
    Ahh yes... Bugei...I believe James and I agreed to disagree. Shure there is a difference, ones in and ones out.

    I have trained under Yamazaki-sensei Ryobu Kai karate, where we trained in Iaido. A lot of the art was great, but it lacked something, which I didn't know untill I started training in the Bujinkan.
    Well thats "your experence", there are alot of other Iai schools out there, I've seen them and I've practiced with them. If your basing your opinion on only one experence, I think you need to do a bit more sampling before coming to that kind of conclusion.

    Untill you go train at a "kenjutsu" school you wouldn't know the difference.
    I have..(sorry, not meaning to be rude..) and I don't agree with you.

    I know many Iaido guys with many years under there belt who felt like rookies all over again the first time they pick up a live blade. This is due to the fact that the sword they practice with are geared toward being lighter, which equals less damage to the wrist from doing kata. No need to get mad, I merely am stating what I know from my 16 years training in the way of Budo.
    This statement does not add anything...its your experence (by the way,how many years doing Iai..?), which is not backed up by what I have seen.

    I'm not all that mad, just annoyed. Maybe you have only experenced poor Iai, thats too bad, but I would expect you to be a little more open too the fact that, like in Ninjitsu, there are many different groups out there, some better and some worse.
    If you state clearly that your generalizations about Iai are your own, and based solely on your experences at "such and such" dojo, thats a different matter.

    [Edited by FastEd on 12-14-2000 at 01:57 AM]
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    The point I was trying to make, which has been made by others but which seems to bear a little repeating, is that there is a good deal more flexibility in the use and definition of terms in Japan than we in the West seem to want to accept. This is partially a result of the strict differentiation that Drager introduced in his books. In any case, unless one is discussing specific ryu, making a blanket statement that "iaido" has no combative utility is taking things a little too far. One person`s iaido may be another person`s iajutsu, battojutsu, iai heiho, or whatever.

    That being said, if you want to make the statement that "modern Japanese iaido of the whatever-ryu, as taught by such-and-such a group, where they use aluminum swords, never cut anything, and constantly babble about spirituality is not a fighting art" then this is a specific point that can be discussed on its merits.

    I never said that learning how to use a sword does not have value. If I thought it didn`t I wouldn`t bother with it. Much of what is learned is applicable to a variety of things, and I am sure that swinging a sword will help a person how to use a machete. However, if the weapon available to you today is a machete, why not just learn how to use a machete? Learning how to use a Japanese sword because you may one day have to drive off an attacker with a machete seems like taking the long way around.

    Also, as far as phony swords, aluminum and otherwise are concerned, they`re just substitutes, meant to be replaced at some point during one`s development. A beginner would injure himself with a real weapon, and up until fairly recently real blades were prohibitively expensive.

    Re kata: they`re just training methods. Only an idiot would assume that the kata learned at the dojo represent the only possible ways a sword can be used and that they will always work in any given situation.

    [Edited by Earl Hartman on 12-13-2000 at 10:48 PM]
    Earl Hartman

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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by yamatodamashii
    Umm... I don't believe that anyone is saying that iaiJUTSU is not a combat art; it is iaiDO we are discussing. I trained in both iaido (All-Japan Kendo Federation) and iaijutsu (Bujinkan) while stationed in Japan, and I can attest that they are VERY different animals.
    I believe (correct me if I am wrong, please) that Mr. Hartman's point was that it depends on HOW you practice it.

    I don't doubt for a second that the ZNKR IAI set is probably different then what you practice, but you are being criptic....what kind of difference are we talking.
    Is it : ZNKR Iai is not as "combat effective" as compared to Bujinkan Iai? How can you possibly make the comparison, what are the criterion?

    The ZNKR set is designed to teach Kendoka something about Iai, giving them the chance to handle a sword. Its is also used as a competitive tool for ZNKR Iaidoka. It is ment to be very exacting and precise, with no room for improvisation. The techniques however have been derived from several old iai schools.

    [Edited by FastEd on 12-13-2000 at 11:07 PM]
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    Mr. Hartman--
    I would agree with you from that perspective, given that I have noticed that the Eishin ryu crowd is fairly liberal with "-do" vs. "-jutsu"; however, I PERSONALLY have not seen this elsewhere in Japanese arts. I do like to keep my Nihongo as Japanese as possible, so please let me know if there are other systems you know which do this?

    Also, I think you know that I don't study kenjutsu because I might someday have to fend off an attacker with a machete; obviously, I will simply be better able to defend myself with a machete, because I study sword arts.

    Originally posted by FastEd
    It is ment to be very exacting and precise, with no room for improvisation. The techniques however have been derived from several old iai schools.

    [Edited by FastEd on 12-13-2000 at 11:07 PM] [/B]
    I've been trying to think of some way to convey the differences in text only, and it just doesn't work. However, I think that the very fact that there IS no room for improvisation says something about combative application.
    Not meaning to be unfriendly, but the fact that it is derived from very old schools does not impress. ALL contemporary martial arts are derived from very old schools, and a whole LOT of them are useless in a fight.

    Given all of that--and please don't take this as hostility, it is simply curiosity on my part--I see no reason why anyone would bother to learn iaido (by MY definition of iaido, for simplification) rather than iaijutsu (with the possible exception of geographical difficulties).
    If you are going to take the time to learn the sword, why not learn to USE it?
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    Originally posted by yamatodamashii

    However, I think that the very fact that there IS no room for improvisation says something about combative application.
    So prefect technique is not one of your combative criterion..?

    Given all of that--and please don't take this as hostility, it is simply curiosity on my part--I see no reason why anyone would bother to learn iaido (by MY definition of iaido, for simplification) rather than iaijutsu (with the possible exception of geographical difficulties).
    If you are going to take the time to learn the sword, why not learn to USE it?
    No worries, I enjoy the exercise.

    Now for my rebutel:
    I'm not clear on what your definition of Iaido/Iaijutsu is, I'll assume it is the same as Janty's.
    If you accept Mr. Hartman's well written perspective then you have already answered your question. Whichever you study, Iai(do/jutsu)it is a personnel semantic distinction, not a technical one. Both will teach you HOW to use a sword.

    If you still disagree, I don't know what else to say....we can exchange video tapes??. I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours

    [Edited by FastEd on 12-14-2000 at 02:03 AM]
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