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Kenjutsu

Vicidian

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Huzzah! Today I went to watch part of a class for kenjutsu (I hope to become a student there). Anyway, I've always wanted to do something in Japanese swordplay. And with this I get some added bonuses. If I join, I would be tought in an art that not many schools practice in that I understand.

http://www.dojoofthefourwinds.com/about_kuroda.html

This is a biography on the great-grandson of the person to have started this dojo that these guys are a part of, Kuroda Tetsuzan. As I hear he is a famous person in the world of martial arts. Has anyone here ever practiced in the arts he teaches? What was it like?
 

Iron Chef

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The last year and a half I was in Japan I spent a lot of time learning about Kendo ("way of the sword"), Kenjutsu ("art of the sword") and Iajitsu ("quick-draw" technique). The first recorded teachings of Kenjutsu date around 800 A.D. I believe and since then hundreds of ryu (schools) have created variations of it. Kenjutsu is considered a classical bujutsu (art of war or martial art) and later refined by the Kenshi (Japanese swordsmen) around the 14th century or so. Unfortunately, classical Kenjutsu ryu tend to be pretty secretive about their techniques and often times restrict access to outsiders (especially foreigners). Nevertheless, if you are able to find the means to gain access to a reliable ryu then I highly recommend it. Kendo and Kenjutsu are actually very closely related although Kendo is generally considered to be more of a sport rather than a combatitive art. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a Kendo ryu only after dilligently proving I was serious in learning about it and not just another foreigner wanting to get his picture taken in a Dojo lol.

Kenjutsu wear is pretty traditional and consist of the following from what I understand (slightly different from Kendo): hakama (split skirt trousers), keikogi (a heavy weight jacket worn tucked in) and obi (belt). As a general rule, there are no belt colors in kenjutsu (same as Kendo), only titles. These are: Deshi (student), Renshi (instructor), Kyoshi (teacher) and Hanshi (master). Kata or prearranged forms or exercises, are the usual way of learning the intricate motions required (similar to Kendo). Initially one practices solo, but can graduate to learn multiple katas later on. The standard practice instrument is almost always a bokken or simulated wooden sword (as opposed to a shinai in Kendo) although in some cases an actual blade has been used (not for beginners heh). At any rate, it's great for both mind and body if you're serious about learning and have the dedication and commitment to see it through, I think you would enjoy it very much and I commend you for expressing an interest in what many consider a dying art 8-(.
 
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Vectorburn

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Ranks 'n such

I'm actually an avid student of Kendo (2 times a week + home practice, kendo barbeques, tounaments). And while the generic rank titles you mentioned apply in some sense, they are not what is used to destinguish specific ranked skill. As with almost EVERY other skill in Japanese society it has a rank based on the kyu and dan levels. Kyu, begining at at I believe, 30 (not entirely sure in the case of Kendo, as my first rank was 3rd kyu) and working up till 1st kyu. After 1st kyu, Dan ranks are given in positive order from 1 to 10. 1st Dan being "shodan", 2nd being "nidan", etc. 10th dan also being "This is all you've done all your life and you are more than likely about to die". Shodan rank is around the paper equivalent of "Black Belt", although I despise "Belt Rankings" altogether. They're just so cheesy, and arbitrary. A skilled player should be able to determine a person's skill based on the way they perform, not the color of cloth around their waist.
 

Iron Chef

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To quote myself, heh:

"As a general rule, there are no belt colors in Kenjutsu (same as Kendo), only titles. These are: Deshi (student), Renshi (instructor), Kyoshi (teacher) and Hanshi (master)."

You're right Vector but re-read my post and you'll see that my intent was to refer to the titles used in classical Kenjutsu and not Kendo, although I suppose my wording of the sentence before that one made it a little unclear. Thnx for pointing that out. Just so i can clear up any further confusion, the traditional system is as follows:

Kyu from 6 to 1 (sometimes start at 10 but not often): rokyu, gokyu, yonkyu, sankyu, nikkyu, ikkyu

then...

Dan from 1 to 9: shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, godan, rokudan, nanadan, hachidan, kudan (I don't really include judan as it is practically superhuman).

On the subject of Kendo though, do you still train regularly? Took me just over a year and a half after training rigorously to achieve Shodan but since returning to the States, i've not been able to keep it up as much as i'd like and hence have not since attempted Shinza. 8-( Unfortunately, there just doesn't seem to be the same level of interest here, especially in Michigan--although I do remember Kendo ryu as being semi-popular out on the West coast. Today, according to the top-ranked contemporary Japanese masters, the Kendo in southern California is supposedly some of the best in the world. I also think the Koreans really have an impressive grasp of the sport, and if you've ever seen them compete internationally then i'm sure you'll agree heh.

Btw, the highest Sensei i've ever seen actually compete in person was Rokudan although I did meet an elderly Sensei once who was Nanadan and had almost legendary prowess in his prime from what I was told. I've always wanted to see a Hachidan or even Nanadan master in ji-geiko action lol, too bad they are almost non-existant heh. From my understanding, every year in Japan about 1200-1500 Nanadan candidates try for their Hachidan exam with a pass rate of just under 2%, talk about difficult heh. It's always cool to see others take up and follow Kendo though and from my time there I only ever met one other person who was non-Japanese involved in the sport and he happened to be a member of Sweden's national team at the time. Glad to see another member who has an interest in Kendo.
:)
 
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Vectorburn

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I quite agree with discluding judan, as a matter of fact, earlier in my Kendo carrer, I believe I heard the rank was actually retired for the species had become extinct and could therefore not be judged.
On another note, pardon me for for stepping on your toes again, but it's my nature in this field. In what context are you using "ryu"? I see you have a grasp of the independent meaning of 窶板ャ, which is "form, or style of", by your prior use of it in reference to variations. But alone, it does not actually mean a school in the concrete context I believe you are refering to. For that sitiuation, one would use "ryuuha"ツ ツ(窶板ャ窶拮ツ).
I don't mean at all to pick, I'm just trying to help. :sorry:
 

Iron Chef

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Heh, i've longed since dropped all associated formalities with Kendo now that I am no longer actively training. But yes, you are right--the "proper" term is ryu-ha, nevertheless most people familiar with the sport would know my implied meaning when referring to a Kendo school as ryu and not in a "concrete context" since I did not go into elaborating on specific styles.
 
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Iron Chef

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Thought i'd add a list of most of the survivng Ryu (styles). Unfortunately there used to be many more, hundreds in fact, but since then many have died out with the exception of the following:

Abe Ryu
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu
Niten Ichi Ryu
Mugai Ryu
Jigen Ryu
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu
Omori Ryu
Katori Shinto Ryu
Kashima Shinto Ryu
Suio Ryu
Muso Shinden Ryu
Maniwa Nen Ryu
Takenouchi Ryu
Yagyu Shingan Ryu
Tatsumi Ryu
Shinkage Ryu
Muraku Ryu
Jikishinkage Ryu
Hoki Ryu
Ono-ha Itto Ryu
Hokushin Ryu
Nakanishi-ha Itto Ryu
Tamiya Ryu
Shindo Munen Ryu
Itto Ryu

Note: Itto Ryu is probably the most common and often times referred to as "modern" Kendo.

And a neat pic off the web just for kicks in case anyone reading the thread is unfamiliar with what the actual sport looks like:
 

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