A brief review of Japanese Swordsmanship Art (Samurai)

Iaido or a school to control body, soul and mind

 

The swordsmanship art has an ancient background all over Japan. Based on archeological researches and the discoveries, we guess that its background goes back to the “yamato jidai” period before Christ.

In the past, swordsmanship art was called “tachi uchi”, a martial art that most military men were learning some of its techniques to apply in wars. From the year 800, feudal wars started in Japan and it took over 4 centuries. During this time, many humans died. On the backside of the experience gained from these battles, the Japanese sword found its real and today form and martial techniques developed. In 1334-1191, in the “kamakura” period, swordsmanship advanced to its extreme and became one of the popular martial arts of the time, so that this period was called “golden ages of Samurais”. On those years, the matches and practices were done by the real sword or with a wooden sword called “Bokuto” and this was bringing many damages.

Emergence of iaido

In the period of Moromachi (1397-1570), there were methods for applying the sword in different attack and defense states. Till someone named “Hayashizaki Jinzuke” (1546-1621) was a bushi from warriors’ family (Samurai) founded the first compiled and modern system called “iai”.

 

 

 

The only sculpture of Master Hayashizaki Jinzuke founder of iaido

 

Iai was the techniques for complete use of sword and at the beginning the movements were quick for defense or attack. By time pass and cease on interior wars, the masters observed rich concepts good for creating spiritual, mental and physical discipline of human being and this helped emergence of Iaido School. In Iaido, all movements of Samurai warriors were conducted to control the body, and balance of mind and soul. Although there were no wars and battles, the Iaido expert always imagines himself in the scene of battle and observing the war condition was among the obligations of this beautiful martial art. In this way, the school which at the beginning was created for cutting human beings in two pieces and victory in wars transformed to a way of correct decision making, analysis, reinforcing enthusiast and in other word it became a humanity and sublime school and in its shadow, many humans achieved high spiritual degrees which were inaccessible for ordinary people.

Important changes

As it was said before, the matches and exercises were done with the real sword (Katana) or the wooden sword (Bokuto). But, from the end of the half of 18th century, some changes happened in this regard and the practice and defense tools such as bamboo sword was created which was the base for important evolutions in swordsmanship and in this way, the war and battle found a sport form and was named Kendo.

 

 

But at the Meiji period, having sword for the Samurais was forbidden and the original art of Samurai became pale and all over Japan expect some “dojo” all schools were closed. This lasted for a long time till in 1877, Samurai masters created a show of this original art for Japanese society and culture by hard practice and they attracted the attention of people to their past customs. Following that in 1879, Japanese police in Tokyo established a course for training its staff and in 1911, Kendo became one of the important courses in the high schools of this country.

After many ups and downs, finally by omission of its cruel practices; Kendo found a modern form. In 1952, all the limitations implied in the past were removed and the integrated federation of that called All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) was composed. Today, due to its advantages for sublimity of thinking, soul and human body, Kendo exercises are important and it became one of the main courses in Japanese schools.

Concept of Kendo

Concept of Kendo is human discipline along taking advantage of Katana (sword) fundamentals.

Objective from Kendo exercises

Objective from Kendo exercises is to arrange mind and body

Achieving a powerful and lush soul via regular and serious practices

Taking efforts for advancement in Kendo art

Respecting human reputation

Taking effort for achieving sublimity degrees

And via this method, human is able to:

Love his country and community

Be effective in growth and development of his country’s culture

 And be propagator of peace and fortune among his people

The Shinai and armor used in Kendo

 

 

 

 

 

In this sport, the students try to attack special points of body of the competitor by bamboo swords (Shinai) wearing protective armors (Bogu).

Kendo has matches and in a Kendo match (Shiai), two Kendo player fight in a square shape ring, while three referees judge the match. The heats shall be entered properly and exactly on specified body points which is protected by Bogu. The first person who obtains 2 points during the match (usually 3 or 5 minutes) is the winner. Kendo matches (Taikai) are usually single elimination tournament and they are divided to degrees and age categories and not by weigh, height or gender.

 

 

Shihan Soleiman Mahdizadeh

Founder of Kendo and Iaido in Iran

President of Iran Kendo & Iaido Association