Uncategorized, Articles, Interviews & People

Iaido – The Cutting Edge

 

Tribute to Fuji Okimitsu 1939 – 2017

FujiiSensei

Iaido came to England by various routes and mention should be made here of Fuji Okimitsu (Jikiden style) who was born in 1939 in Saga Prefecture which is the old province of Hizen, a mecca of Martial Arts, famous for the Hagakure (Samurai spirit), he started training at the age of 7yrs playing Shinai Kyogi wearing white trousers, T shirt and rubber shoes using Fukuro Shinai (bamboo sword split into 16 canes and covered with a canvas bag) as the Martial Arts were banned by the American GHQ.

Fuji Sensei was my Iaido teacher and a much loved and respected Sensei based in Dartford Kent for many years and will be fondly remembered by us all from a variety of disciplines as a real character and one of the most friendly Japanese Sensei that we have ever met.  In 1988 he named my association ‘Shi Kon’ and drew the kanji that still hangs on my Dojo wall.

He moved back to Japan returning to live and teach in Cornwall for the remainder of his life.  I will write a personal account of my training with him at a later date.

Below is a history of his Muso Jikiden Ryu of Iaido and when it branched off into Muso Shinden Ryu.

The warrior Hayashizaki Jinusuki Shigenobu was meditating at the shrine when the vision came….. born in the year 1543 in Tateoka Oshu (now known as Murayama – Shi, north of Tokyo), his father had been killed in a duel by Sakagawa Ichiunsai when he was very young, he had studied Budo assiduously until at the age of 19 he traced Sakagawa to Kyoto and avenged his father by defeating and killing him.

The vision became his inspiriation for Iaijutsu and laid the foundations for modern Iaido as we know it today.  Many technical skills in the Japanese arts of  Karate (particularly Wado Ryu), Ju Jitsu, Aikido, Judo, Ninjitsu and other Kobudo arts have their roots in this lineage, most Japanese warriors trained in the way of the sword primarily and their unarmed training was Tegatana (hand sword) adapting the same techniques that they used in sword training for other forms of combat.

Hayashizaki had the Ryu (style) named after him and it was also called Muso Ryu meaning “dream” or “vision”, two of the most popular styles of  Iaido in Japan and the rest of the world today, Muso Shinden Ryu (Muso meaning “vision” and Shinden, “shrine”) and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (the Kanji for Muso here being different meaning “unique and without equal” Jikiden meaning “transmitted direct” and Eishin is the name of the 7th Soke Hasegawa Chikaranosuke Eishin who became Soke in 1610 and made many changes to the style and was regarded a very skilled exponent).

Tamiya Heibi Shigemasa inherited the Ryuka and the main line for Jikiden and Shinden can be traced through him, Hayashizaki also had two other outstanding students, Katayama Hokinokami Hisayasu who founded Hokkiri Ryu and Sekiguchi Hachiroemon Jushin who founded Sekiguchi Ryu.

It was with the 9th Soke in 1675,  Hayashi Rokudaiyu Morimasa that Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu became firmly established in the Kochi area right through to the 19th Soke.  Hayashi was a retainer to General Yamanouchi with the Shogun Tokugawa, up until this time the Iaijutsu forms only incorperated Tachi Waza (standing)  and Tate Hiza (a way of kneeling wearing battle armour) as they were all that were required for battleground techniques, it was Hayashi’s Kenjutsu teacher Omori Rokurozaemon who invented Omori Ryu to incorperate into the style utilising Seiza techniques for an indoor situation.  He used Hakama Sabaki (methods of manoevering the Japanese traditional costume when moving), Metsuka (way of using the eyes), Nukitsuke (drawing and cutting in one flowing movement) and Chiburi (blood shake of the sword) all techniques that would not be required on the open battlefield.

The 11th Soke (1742), Okuro Motouemon Kiyokatsu had two outstanding students, Hayashi Masunojo Masatake, who became the 12th Soke in 1779, continuing the Jikiden line and Matsukishi Sadasuki who using the same style renamed it Muso Shinden Batto Jutsu which later became Muso Shinden Ryu.

Around 1910 Iaijutsu ceased to be confined to definite areas and various Ryuka became popular throughout Japan and at the beginning of the Showa period at around 1925 that  Iaijutsu became known as Iaido (Do meaning “the way” as in the Chinese Tao).

The Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Seitigata Iai came into being in 1969 producing at first seven forms, building them eventually to ten (reflecting the ten Kendo kata) categorising the basic movements of  Iai from the Shinden and Jikiden styles with some characteristics from the Hokki style.  The Seiti forms are used at gradings enabling practioners from all styles to grade together, it is a bit like Shotokan and Wado Karate practioners integrating the Pinan and Heian Kata producing a standard set of forms to reflect both styles and using them for grading purposes so that the other Kata reflecting the differences in their styles could still be practised!

The following is a list of the lineage for Jikiden and Shinden ryu:

  1. Hayashizaki Jinusuke Shigenobu
  2. Tamiya Heibei Shigemasa
  3. Nagano Muraku Nyudo Kinrosai
  4. Dede Gunbeinoje Mitsushige
  5. Arikawa Masaemon Munetsued
  6. Manno Danueimon Nobumasa
  7. Hasegawa Chikaranosuke Eishin
  8. Arai Seitetsu Kiyonobu
  9. Hayashi Rokudaiyu Morimasa
  10. Hayashi Yasudaiye Masataka
  11. Okuro Motouemon Kiyokatsu

Here the style splits into the two branches:

No. Jikiden Shinden
12. Hayashi Manonoso Masatake Matsukichi Sadasuki
13. Yoda Manzo Takakatsu Yamakawa Kyuso
14. Hayashi Yadayu Masataka Shimomura Ichisada
15. Tanimura Kamenoso Yorio Hosokawa Yoshimasa
16. Goto Magobei Seiryo Nakayama Hakudo
17. Oei Masamichi  
18. Hokiyama Namio  
19. Fukui Harumasa  
20. Kono Minoru  
21. Fukui Torao  

 

 

 

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Articles, Uncategorized

Translation Of Uke

Tricia Duggin 009

 

Translation Of Uke

“You win battles by knowing the enemy’s timing, and using a timing which the enemy does not expect.”

– Miyamoto Musashi

Iaido is the ancient samurai art of self-defence where you draw the sword immediately against an enemy’s sudden attack to win at the moment the sword leaves the sheath.  I was taking my weekly private lesson with Sensei and working on application to the basic Seiti Kata….

“Uke Nagashi!” Sensei called the name of the third kata.  Wearing a hakama requires quite a bit of skill.  Hakama sabaki is hakama (the Japanese divided skirt trousers) ‘skill’ and using the hands to part the legs as you kneel and not kneeling or standing on the edges of the hakama as you move are all required skills for performing Iaido kata.

I knelt down utilising those skills, straightened my head and back and opened my zanshin(awareness) in readiness for any attack.  I heard the whispering slide of Sensei’s sword as it left the saya(scabbard) and I knew he had raised his Iaito (practice blade) over his head and was advancing to attack in a downward cut.

There was just a hint of the gentle slide of Sensei’s feet as he used the traditional suri ashi (‘sliding step’) of the samurai swordsman as he entered my peripheral vision and began the downwards cut to my head.

I rose drawing my sword over my head to meet the oncoming cut, there was a ‘clang’ sound as the swords met and I spun to deliver the coup de grace cut to the side of Sensei’s neck and down to his hip with a satisfactory ‘swish’ as my sword cut the air.

Sensei had grown up in Japan after the Second World War, practicing Kendo in secret in the street with sticks until it was legally reintroduced to the country, when he trained with top masters in the Muso Jikiden Ryu system, he was ingrained with the skills and art of Budo.

He looked at me and grunted.  “Uke…” was all he said.

Hai Sensei!”  I replied thinking that I’d blocked his sword wrong.

We repeated the process again with another ‘clang’ and another terse “uke” from Sensei…

On the third occasion an exasperated Sensei asked “what do you think uke means?”

“Block Sensei,” I answered.  I had taken my original schooling in Karate where the word uke had invariably been translated as ‘block’ so jodan uke was ‘head block, and so on.  I had trained in many different Karate schools and had never heard it described differently

“Ahhhhh……. Now I understand why you keep hitting my iaito” he said.  “Uke means to ‘receive’ – the opposite to ‘block’…. With uke you invite the opponent in to your space to deal with them.  In fact you shouldn’t really even touch my blade, your blade is a guard as you turn under my cut and simultaneously cut me.

How could this happen?  How could this word be so mistranslated from the Japanese Karate Sensei that came to our shores?  The sad fact is that their English was virtually non existent and it was left to English instructors to give words to what they were shown, this mistranslation had now led to generations of people practicing the OPPOSITE to what was intended!  How many other terms have been given opposite or misleading translations?

Sensei’s voice broke into my reverie…..  “What do you think the other word in the title of the kata – nagashimeans?”

Feeling somewhat perplexed as my many years of understanding Japanese budo terminology from karate was turned on its head I embarrassingly replied “moving to the side?”

“No…….” said Sensei sounding just a little frustrated at my ignorance.  “If you placed a stone in the middle of the stream, the flowing water would meet it, flow around it at the closest point and return to the line of flow behind it, nagashi means ‘to flow’ in that manner, you should move closely around my blade and cut me behind it in the same way, thus the kata is called uke nagashi…..”

At that point I could have fallen on my sword, my interpretation was to block, move to the side and cut.  No wonder I was getting it wrong!

Sensei could not understand the astounding effect this lesson had on me.   Driving home it was like my mind was on broadband.  Jodan uke, to ‘receive and deal with an attack to the head’ NOT ‘block’ it!  I went through every uke I knew and my new found knowledge turned it on its head!

Luckily I’d also been training in Tai Chi and was ‘pushing hands’.  This I now knew was a form of uke, to meet, stick, follow, redirect and negate.  Whilst driving home that day and during a sleepless night that followed I devised a push hands system for the 4 karate uke’s introducing the principles of the 3 dimensional ‘wedge and ball’.

Funakoshi Gichin the Founding Father of Japanese Karate had said to “think of your opponent’s hands and feet as swords” and the full gravitas of that statement was just beginning to dawn on me…… What had we missed?

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Articles

No One Fights With Swords Anymore

SR Iai 7

I love the whooshing sound that a shinken blade makes as it cuts the air.  The soundless drawing of the blade as it unsheathes with the skilled use of both hands that allows it to slip seamlessly from thesaya, the rapid expansion of the body causing the blade to power through the air and the way that theIaido practitioner slides along the Dojo floor on knees or feet with the suriashi (gliding step) movement, utilising the hakama sabaki to prevent tripping over the divided trousers gives a beautiful feel to this deadly art.

It’s spellbinding watching Sensei practice, his perfect erect posture with straight back and hakama folded neatly around him as he sits in seiza.  The pregnant stillness before movement, the slight narrowing of the eyes as he identifies the opponent, the way he uses powerful thigh muscles to rise up with his head moving directly upwards as opposed to leaning forwards.  I love the explosion of movement with the nukitsuke as he draws and cuts with one fluid move, the contraction and expansion of the kirioroshi, the major cut, the different swish of the chiburi to shake the blood off the sword and the smooth co-ordinated noto to return the blade back to the saya.

The whole form is performed with varying levels of awareness known as zanshin and these can be clearly seen at a normal level at the beginning, to a higher level at the identification of the opponent, at a high level during the form and gradually reducing after the opponent has been killed, returning back to normal after thenoto.

A voice from one the students who had been watching Sensei practice came from behind me…

“It looks good Sensei, but what’s the point?”  Ken was definitely a pragmatist.

“What do you mean by ‘the point’?” Sensei asked.

“No one fights with a sword anymore,” Ken continued, and all that dressing up and cultural stuff isn’t even used in Japan anymore, so isn’t a bit pointless?”

“Depends on what you want from your training” replied Sensei.

“Surely everyone wants to learn how to defend themselves?” asked Ken.

“It still has relevance,” replied Sensei.

“How come?” asked Ken.

“Because you are training to the ‘Warrior Code’” answered Sensei.  “The regimen of training on a daily basis, taking care of your weapon, your clothing, having respect for yourself and others helps you to develop into a strong character.”

“That’s not enough though is it?”  It was more of a statement than a question from Ken.

Sensei hadn’t finished…..  “The training is arduous and builds a character with strength, resolve and determination.  The level of strength and fitness required is high and the mental requirements are that of a warrior.

By nature Iaido teaches satsu/katsu – life taking skills and life preserving skills, the reluctance to draw the sword is obvious at the beginning but when drawn, the sword is instantly used and highly effective.  The strategies taught are those of the warrior.

As a complete Art the Iaido practitioner will learn the Arts of the sword, plus the sport of Kendo and the related Art of Jodo (4 foot staff against the sword) – therefore his weapons use and skills will be varied.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just learn MMA or Self Defence?” asked Ken.

“Depends what you want,” replied Sensei.  “The problem with learning just fighting is that it doesn’t suit a lot of people and some are worried that they will turn into that which they hate.  Iaido is cultural, it is historical, but it’s an Art with a long history of warrior code and experience in developing the whole character that goes back beyond the 14th century, so it does have a long track record with value.”

“I see your point” said Ken, “not too sure whether I would do all that training for those results though.”

“Horses for courses Ken” replied Sensei – although I admire the tough sports like MMA, I wouldn’t want to do them either, that’s why the Martial Arts are a broad church with many ways for students to find their way through.  The way I am now certainly isn’t what I was like 40 years ago, in my youth I would have been ‘taking the mickey’ out of me now….. luckily I’ve grown wiser with age and training.”

“So it’s an old man’s training system” asked Ken cheekily.

“Maybe in my case one for an older and wiser person,” answered Sensei – “ but it has no age relevance, some people will just be attracted to Iaido and some to Self Defence or MMA, some to Karate and some toAikido or Judo – we’re all different and should appreciate that ‘one size’ doesn’t necessarily fit all.  We are all unique individuals – just like everybody else!”

I think the humour of the last statement escaped Ken…

“I’ve got to say that I’m not convinced it will be that effective,” said Ken..

“And that is why after club drinks and the internet are alive with endless discussion,” laughed Sensei.

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Poems

Death In Battle..

Dennis-Jones-sword

The  pennants fluttered in the breeze……… the red  sun  rose from  behind the snow capped mountains throwing fearsome  shadows among  the  warriors…..

Icy fear gripped  my  intestines,  the heaviness   of  death  chilled  everything,  the  horses   reared nervously,  snorting  out plumes of condensation  into  the  cold air…..

Today tempered blades would be severing many a spirit from incarnation and sending them back into the void…..The  generals sat motionless astride their mounts like  icons  of power,  their  eyes  narrowing  behind  ferocious   war   masks, maintaining a continuous growl of ‘Ki’ from their Tandens filling the  space  between  us and the enemy with  our  power,  claiming ground in spirit first…..

The  Gods of the Earth prepared the ground for  the  bloodletting and fallen corpses to rot into eventual rebirth……The  Gods  of  the Air prepared to  guide  the  wandering  souls, severed in battle to the Sun Goddess Ameterasu…..The  Gods  of  Fire  stood ready to fan  the  flames  of  battle, enacting change at Man’s desire….The Gods of Water were already wailing at the human condition and building  the wave of emotion for the aftermath, sending  ripples out to every relative of every person there….

The ‘growl’ of Ki was picked up by the ranks and built up into  a blood curdling scream, what had taken place on the spiritual  was now  about to take place on the physical…..  I  invigorated  my hairline,  sent  power through my spine and  projected  from  the Tanden  with a Kiai that joined life and death….

Thousands  of tempered bloodletters slipped effortlessly from their sheaths and took  on  a bloodlust of their own…..  The gap  finally  closed with a run to add momentum to the cutting power……

Time  stood still as once again human spirit joined  together  in mutual  sacrifice to create a space between the world of man  and the realms of the Gods where both survivors and victims learn how the joining of spirit and body is both tenacious and tenuous….

In  the  midst  of battle we stumbled over the  dead  and  dying, slipping  on  spilled intestines and  tripping  over  dismembered limbs,  my legs felt like lead, my arms were too heavy, my  chest and  shoulders  were heaving and I just couldn’t get  enough  air in………

Suddenly  I  was  facing  a dismounted  General  from  the  other side….    He  still looked immaculate and  calm…..  his  feet gripped  the  floor as he inched forward, with  hips  lowered  he raised  his  blood soaked katana smoothly to  ‘Jodan  Kamae’  and hissed  through his teeth behind the ferocious war mask……   I moved  forward with a feint to draw his cut and my intention  was to sidestep it and cut his neck, he didn’t react to the feint and as  I  rotated I could not help but open my neck to  his  waiting blade………

I  felt  no  pain….. only a burning sensation  followed  by  an intense  weariness……  as it got heavier and  heavier  I  felt myself  loosen  from  the  cloying  stickiness  of   incarnation, suddenly I was free and carried no weight…….

”Warrior…….”   The  tones  were  soft  and  silky  and   very familiar, they carried a clarity beyond incarnate hearing…

”Where am I?…. Am I dead?”

My guide laughed……”No  Warrior, because you are still incarnate elsewhere  learning from this experience…….”

”So I’m not dead?”

”Death is a creation of life……. so when you cease to be alive death also ceases to exist because you transcend duality…….”

”So how real was the life and death that I just experienced?”

”As real as the one that you are just going to.”

”Then which one is the illusion?”

”Both.”

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Articles, Poems

A Past Life….

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I paused in the clear night air to savour the moments before
death, I was lucky to know the time of the completion of this
incarnation so I was properly prepared, the icy fingers of fate
clawed inside my abdomen making me draw in the crisp air and
centre myself. When my family had been slaughtered and I had
been the only one to escape my fate had been sealed, I had
trained day and night with Sensei to be able to complete my Karma
the right way, tonight there was no win or lose…… only
completion.

Revenge powered my black heart into the next world……. I was
already dead, I could smell the sickly dying blood of this
family’s entire line just waiting for my blade to fulfil its
karma and release it from its suffering in this world…….

I no longer controlled my actions, destiny was fulfilling
itself….. I slid open the shoji and announced my presence and
my intentions, the eldest son grabbed his Katana and moved
forward unsheathing the blade at the same time…. I drew and cut
across his arms in one powerful, fluid, classic `nukitski’
movement, his eyes registered shock as he lost control of his
movements and blood spurted from the arteries in his arms, the
ice cold rage welling in my Hara powered my major cut from the
top of his head through to his lower abdomen…. releasing his
soul from this painful incarnation…..

Younger son had drawn his Katana but was looking at older son in
mortified horror…… I continued my major cut around into a
circular movement twisting my body and pulling from my Tanden to
cut him from the side of the neck through to the hip, taking his
sword carrying hand off at the wrist at the same time, he died
quickly convulsing on the floor…..

Father entered the room face contorted with hate, holding his
Katana in `Chudan Kamae’…. the `Tatami’ on the floor was now
slippery with blood and his sons intestines…… I slightly
tilted my pelvis forward, opened in the hips and knees and felt
the outer edge of my feet `root’ to the floor, I let my sword
drop loosely to my side in my right hand to `Mu Kamae’…… He
edged forward pointing the tip of the sword, the `Kissaki’, at my
throat…. then suddenly lunged with a resounding Kiai and
attempted a major cut…. but slipped on his sons intestines and
slithered helplessly onto my cross cut, I utilised the momentum
and the slippery floor to spin and remove his head as it came
forward from the cut to his middle……. he careered forward
through the shoji jetting his blood artistically over the white
screen and sending his head out into the awakening village…..

Time stood still…… three souls released into the next world
waited in anticipation…… the villagers aroused from their
sleep just stood outside knowing the final result…. there was
still wife and baby……..

I stepped over younger sons lifeless body……. his lack of
training and mental fortitude had cost him and his family dearly,
he had been the only one with the clear opportunity to kill me
and had failed because of his weakness….. I slid open the
shoji to reveal quivering Mother holding baby…… If she had
trained `Naginata’ she would have had a chance, but she too was
not adequately prepared for life or death…….

I quickly removed her head and in the same action killed the baby
before it touched the ground…….. my Karma was complete, the
family line was extinct. I wiped the blood from my Katana,
sheathed it and prepared for `Seppuku’… I felt gentle hands
remove the Katana from my grasp…… Sensei was preparing to be
my `Kaishaku’ (second)…. he passed me brush and paper, I wrote:

“My life was filled with blood and hate,yet still…”

I centred myself and felt the sharp blade against my skin…. I
powered my Ki into my final act and drove the blade into my left
side and pulled it across my abdomen following my bottom rib
along and then up into my solar plexus, I leaned forward for
decapitation……

“Why must I continually see this meditation?” I asked my `Voice
From The Deep’.

“To understand why you are here for this incarnation, what you
did there was not necessarily wrong for that time and place, but
the Karma has to be balanced this time, so your violent use of
the Martial Arts then has given you the energy to utilise them
for peace and harmony now. It is important for you to remember
the depth of feeling then to enable you to attain the depth of
balance now.”

“Does this mean that I should investigate my past lives?”

“No, reincarnation is not as you understand it, don’t waste your
life looking backwards….. everything you have done is carried
forward in your `wordless mind’….. just live true to your
feelings, if you need explicit past experiences, they will be
given to you without asking…… as you have just received.”

Only now did I understand the true meaning of `Giri’.

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