Historically, it is one of the most important martial arts practiced in Japan. It involves learning how to use a sword and comes from around the 15th century. Even though the sword had previously been of great importance, the preferred weapons on the battlefield were the bow and spear. It was only during the period of division that the sword gained importance, as its universality and the fact that it was practically always at the samurai's side, even indoors, were appreciated.
Initially, kenjutsu covered all aspects of using a sword, but over time, the art of drawing a sword called "iaijutsu" emerged from the mainstream. From then on, the term kenjutsu referred to the techniques of using an already drawn sword.
Kenjutsu was a widely practiced art in many martial schools until the mid-19th century, when the Meji Restoration overthrew the shogunate rule, abolished the samurai class and banned wearing swords in public.
Among the oldest war schools teaching, among others, kenjutsu, the following schools stand out:
– Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū
When was kenjutsu created?
The period when the above schools were founded dates back to the 14th - 15th centuries, of which the best preserved school to this day is Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū. On the basis of these three schools, hundreds of other smaller schools were established over the years, many of which have survived to this day. For example: the Kashima Shintō-ryū school, known and still practiced today, comes from the Katori Shintō-ryū school, and the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū from the Kage-ryū school.
Ways of teaching
The way of learning and training kenjutsu varied depending on the school, but the "kata" forms were very popular. These are formalized sequences of movements intended to teach various techniques of using the sword in combat. In kenjutsu, they are most often practiced in pairs, in which one person is the "student" and the other is the "teacher". The role of the student is to perform given techniques in order to understand them, while the role of the teacher is to ensure that the student can perform the technique so that he or she can understand the meaning and application of the technique. Kata can vary greatly from school to school. In some schools, one kata consists of several techniques, and in others, one kata may consist of a sequence of a dozen or even several dozen techniques.
Kenjutsu in Katori Shintō-ryū
Katori Shintō-ryū techniques are intended for use on the battlefield for fully armed combat. Wide and stable positions were to enable confident movement on uneven terrain and ensure adequate cutting power. Unlike a sports fight, the target of each attack are places not protected by armor (gaps in the armor, so-called female dogs).
Learning at the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū school begins with kenjutsu kata. They are the absolute basis of the school on which further learning of other weapons is built. The school's program includes four basic kenjutsu kata, each consisting of a dozen or so techniques. A beginner starts by learning the student's side, each of the four kata in turn, and then moves on to learning other weapons and the teacher's side of the above kenjutsu kata. The school also teaches five advanced kata and three secret kenjutsu kata.