View Full Version : Kenjutsu/Iaido/Battojutsu??What are they?

S.C. Falken
8th September 2000, 04:58
I've been dreading having to ask this question, but a man can only swallow his own ignorance for so long...

What exactly -are- Kenjutsu, Iaido, and Battojutsu?

Iaido/jutsu is the specialization of drawing/striking/sheathing the sword, correct?

Kenjutsu is a system of employing the sword in
combat? Usually practised with bokken. Correct?

I have -no- idea where Battojutsu falls.

Someone take mercy and lift the veil of ignorance.

Your humble servant,

Steven C Falken

8th September 2000, 18:54
Hi Steven,
I have a couple minutes, so I will try and give you the quickie answer to your questions. You are basically correct in that iaido/jutsu is drawing, cutting, resheathing the sword. In modern U.S., there is generally a distinction between iaido and iaijutsu. Iaido is a self improvement art that is generally done solo. Iaijutsu generally has a more combative bent and usually involves some paired training as well as actual test cutting. I say generally alot because there are ALWAYS exceptions!
Kenjutsu can generally (again) be thought of as sword practice after the sword is drawn. Drawing is iai, dueling is kenjutsu. Kenjutsu generally have kata as iaido does, but also usually have a paired component as well. Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu generally are practiced together (you have to draw that sword in order to use it!) As for battojutsu, that is the same thing as iaijutsu. batto is the original way of pronouncing the kanji for drawing sword (approximately, I'm no expert on kanji!) while iai is a new development for referring to sword drawing (hence iaido). There are plenty of people here who could give you a much more in depth answer than I, so if you still have questions, keep them coming!

Paul Smith

JD Porter
8th September 2000, 20:02
I thought there was a difference between Iai and Battoh -- Iai being something like draw, cut, clean, resheath and Battoh being cut while drawing, clean, resheath? Or is that cheap crack I've been buying?


8th September 2000, 22:37

Your question is asked often enough that I have a standard answer which I post here from time to time; so, please excuse the repeated quote near the end. My explanation does not cover kenjutsu -- which most people believe is any sword activity that takes place after the sword is drawn. "Hyoho" and "heiho" (same kanji, by the way) means "strategy;" however, they are used as substitute names for "kenjutsu" in some schools.

Batto vs. Iai

They really mean the same thing -- to draw a sword. However...

1. Batto.

The original term for sword drawing is "batto-jutsu" and was used by Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu (ca. 1550), the "historic" founder of "iaido."

The kanji for "batto" is made up of 2 characters: nuku/batsu and to/katana [don't be confused by the multiple pronounciations for 99% of all Japanese kanji]. This term literally means "extract/pull" "sword" [to].

When making a kanji-compound and the first kanji ends with ~tsu and the second kanji begins with a consonant, then the consonant is doubled.

For example: batsu + to = ba-tto [there is a slight pause prior to the "explosive" consonants]. This is why it is important to understand the actual words when reproducing a foreign language. As a beginning student of Mr. Obata back in 1982~3, I couldn't understand why it was wrong to write "bato" instead of "batto" ... it seemed the same to me. But now I know.

2. Iai.

I do not know who coined the term "iaido," but it was popularized in the early 20th century by Nakayama Hakudo (d. ca 1958) -- one of the masters of today's Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (he is credited with being 16th headmaster of the Shimomura-faction of MJER). I've seen a "name register" done by Nakayama sensei in which he writes the Chinese characters as "Batto-jutsu" but he uses phonetics in the margin to sound out "iaido."

[Note: the phonetic "helpers" are called furigana; they are a type of "subtitle" to assist Japanese with reading the character.]

I do not know *why* "iai" is used for "sword drawing" because it literally means "the merging of existance/being." "I" ["ee"]means "to exist" and "ai" [aye] means to "blend, come together, or merge" -- it's all very cryptic. Perhaps Nakayama sensei wanted the art to represent a "coming together of one's existance" since the techniques were no longer being actively taught for combat?? To better one's ego.

In 1925 the Rikugun Toyama Gakko contacted Nakayama sensei and asked him to standardize a set of sword exercises to be easily taught to groups, easily remembered, and functional "on the future battlefield" (quote from the 1939 edition of the Academy's [b]Kenjutsu Kyohan Shoukai manual of fencing. The person acting on behalf of the Academy was Lieutenant Morinaga Kiyoshi, later to become the Director of Fencing in 1939 as a colonel.

The 1935 edition of Kenjutsu Kyohan Shoukai (Tokyo: Rikugun Toyama Gakko) is pretty much a compilation of previous editions. The section on iai has a note preceeding "Toyama Ryu Iai" stating it was "...codified in 1925 to address the needs on future battlefields..." or some such verbiage. Because the chapter is "Toyama Ryu Iai" and *not* "Gunto no Sohou" (like it was in 1940), I think this would be a direct reprint of the 1925 manual -- leading me to posit that the term "iai" was actually used as early as 1925.

> > Anyhow, there's no clear *definite* term, just a general consensus to call the art of sword drawing nowadays Iaidô for conveniences sake; as with many other expressions, the Japanese don't care as much as we Westerners do when it comes to naming historical and cultural subjects.<<

That is a fairly accurate picture. Except that Nakamura Taizaburo sensei is pretty "vocal" as far as his dislike of the term"iai" is concerned. He has championed for the return to "batto" instead of "iai" *because* of the clarity of the meaning of "batto."

Interestingly enough, if you say "iaido/~jutsu" to the average Japanese (maybe 95%?), they will have*no clue* as to what you mean. You get pretty much the same reaction if you say "battodo/~jutsu"-- just a blank stare. Then if you write out the kanji (at least for batto) then they will say, "OOOOOhhhh...iai-nuki! Now I understand." Well, "iai-nuki" is sorta like saying "boz-n-arroz" to describe archery -- it's a bit, uhmmmm "low class."


S.C. Falken
9th September 2000, 08:35
I begin to see....
Thank you all for providing this information. I'll have to sit down and think about this, then come back armed with even -more- questions, heh. One further question regarding Toyama-ryu. Let me see if I can ask this in a respectful manner.. is the Dojo in Orlando, run by Bob Elder-sensei authorized/certified by the Controlling Body(is there one?) of Toyama-ryu? Dont really know another way to ask that particular question, as I always hate coming off as disrespectful when I ask such a question. However, I now find myself in the Tampa Bay area, within commuting distance of that Dojo, and it was recommended by several people. My previous background is in Kyokushin-Kai Karate-Do only, I know zero about swords, but have been interested for quite some time, and now have a chance to explore it. Respectfully, thank you for any help.

Steven C Falken

Joseph Svinth
10th September 2000, 00:37
Before asking more questions about Toyama Ryu, make sure that you have read and absorbed what Guy has listed on his website. The URL is listed in his signature block.

Mr. Elder's URL is http://www.ecmas.com . Google tells me that "This page uses frames, but your browser doesn't support them" so I can't tell you what his site says.

10th September 2000, 15:53

Bob Elder is indeed "authorized." There are many governing bodies in Japan and Bob is affiliated with the Zen Nippon Toyama Ryu Iaido Renmei (All Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation). And although Bob is an authorized teacher of Toyama Ryu (4th dan as of this writing), he and I are not officially connected; we're from different organizations.

Bob's taikai is under the auspices of the Zen Nippon Battodo Renmei -- Both these federations were founded by Nakamura sensei who has served as kaicho on many occasions. Currently, Nakamura sensei is kaicho (chairman/president) of the International Battodo Federation (his current founding) and the All Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation.

By the way, I've met Bob's teacher in Machida back in 1990 right after I was assigned to Japan. Hataya sensei teaches at the Tenman-gu Shrine.

You should attend the taikai and get a first-hand impression of Toyama Ryu. Be advised, although there are tameshigiri (test cutting) competitions, kata is most important in Toyama Ryu. Many people come away with the idea that all we do is tameshigiri -- a perception that Nakamura sensei wants changed.


[Edited by ghp on 09-10-2000 at 10:58 AM]

carl mcclafferty
11th September 2000, 00:07
Bob Elder a good martial artist, businessman and friend. I'll be flying in for the Tai Kai from Texas, some of my students will be there from Florida and Michigan to support him, even though we are not affiliated. Hataya Sensei visited my house with Bob two years ago, he is also a gentleman. Look forward to meeting you, be sure to introduce yourself.

Carl McClafferty

11th September 2000, 15:28
I was thinking as I read this string that there is a wealth of information here that I will probably want to copy down and chew over with my Guem-do master. In the Korean art of Guem-do we do not have the emphasis on drawing and resheathing that was produced in the Japanese culture. There are some special techniques for drawing in the use of the short sword, but these are readily eclipsed by the knife techniques.I think this is most likely because there is no real institution for the carrying of a Korean "Daisho" or two-swords,( though historically this has been identified off and on among the aristocracy down through the ages and probably reflects the cultural results of Japanese/Korean commerce over the years. Practically speaking the rapid deployment of a knife may have been much more common than a sword among the Korean warriors.

I thought that I would like to comment, however that there is some sensitivity to the manner in which the shin guem (Korean long sword) is drawn and perhaps this may have some parallel tothe batto-jitsu techniques mentioned. Though in traditional guem-do we do not focus on drawing and cutting much as a single technique, we continue to be as concerned as our Japanese cousins with being able to deploy the sword without damage to the sheath (or our hands if it comes to that). For this reason, the ability to draw a sword whether carried with the edge up, or edge down (our Hyung cover both carries) requires at least a passing understanding of that curious "cork-screw" patterned draw which allows the sword to ride on its side or spine during the draw. Again, this is not practiced as a separate art, but as an integral part of regular combat training.

Having said all that, let me now tell you that the opening moves to one of the oldest and most revered Korean sword forms BON KUK GUEM BOP is generally interpreted as beginning with a 180 degree turn in an ready position followed by swift step into an elongated stance accompanied by ---what else---a simultaneous draw-and-cut.

These crazy MA. Go figure. :-)

Best Wishes,
Bruce W Sims