The only martial arts that teach the way of the Samurai originates in Japan. All other martial arts that claim to teach Samurai swordmanship is not authentic. If you want to actually learn the way of the Samurai sword, pick one of the martial arts below.
Gyms for these aren’t easy to find but if you do, don’t waste time and enrol. These martial arts, unlike Olympic Sports Martial Arts, are not for display or performance. These are a way of life.
Kendo literally means “the way of the sword”. It is an evolved form of Kenjutsu, the original discipline that teaches the three most important fighting techniques of the Samurai: sword fighting, archery, and horse riding. When the Samurai class slowly faded, some Samurai developed the discipline in order to keep the values and philosophies alive.
Close Affinity with Bushido, the code of the Samurai. Kendo emphasizes honourable living, peace with oneself, courage, and some of the philosophies of Zen Buddhism.
Kendo was briefly banned in 1946 but was allowed to return in the 50s.
Kendo has different schools:
- IttÅ-ryÅ« or one sword follows the principle that all sword movements come from one single move
- MutÅ-ryu or no sword promotes that the greatest weapon is the mind
- Munen MusÅ-ryÅ« or calm mind also promotes that the heart of Kenjutsu is the mind
- There is also the Kata which is the Kendo exercises and has been continuously refined
KendÅka, the person practicing Kendo, is immersed in many of the things that Zen Buddhism teach including the value of emptying the mind (mushin), unmoving mind (FudÅshin) which means one cannot go astray or be blinded by fear or anger. It also strongly opposes four negative emtions, anger, doubt, fear and surprise. It believes that these three emotions are powerful enough to push someone to make the wrong decision.
- Shiani – the bamboo sword
- BÅgu – the full body armor and helmet
Iaido is the more sophisticated and more controlled version of Kendo. It is emphasizes the proper drawing of sword, movement of the sword including striking an opponent, wiping the blood off the sword, and putting it back. New students use the bamboo sword but senior Iaidoka, Iaido practitioners, use sharp edged swords.
There are usually no competitions because they use weapons. They have Kata or forms. These are like “dances”. The Iaidoka performs these movements with an imaginary opponent. There are Katas that are done by two people without practicing the cutting techniques.
An essential part of the Iaido their “way of life”. This is termed nukitsuke. It is dominated by speed. They believe that if one is always fully present in every situation, they will be able to be aware of everything that has been happening and react quickly and correctly.
Their second priority is the art of drawing the sword. However, it still incorporates speed and presence of mind. They show this through the quick draw of the sword and putting the saya, the container of the sword, back to its position.
If you want to get promotions, you also need Seitei Iaido. This is the standardised Kata of Iaido and is recognized by the Kendo federations. Not all dojos teach this though.
Unlike the two previous martial arts, Ninjutsu is not centralized. There is no one organization that rules all dojos. There are many dojos that claim they are the true and only legitimate Ninjutsu dojo. It’s hard to settle that argument. However, many of these dojo teach the same philosophies, the way of the Ninja.
They emphasize 18 skills contained on the scrolls of Togakure-ryÅ«:
- Seishinteki kyÅyÅ (peace with yourself)
- Taijutsu (hand to hand fighting technique)
- Kenjutsu (way of the sword)
- BÅjutsu (fighting using sticks)
- SÅjutsu (archery and spears)
- Naginatajutsu (naginata techniques)
- Kusarigamajutsu (kusarigama techniques)
- Shurikenjutsu (way of throwing weapons)
- Kayakujutsu (disappearance and smoke technique)
- HensÅjutsu (using a different persona)
- Shinobi-iri (swift but quick movement)
- Bajutsu (riding hoses)
- Sui-ren (mastery of the water)
- BÅryaku (strategy and planning)
- ChÅhÅ (espionage)
- Intonjutsu (escape)
- Tenmon (reading signs from the sky)
- Chi-mon (knowing the environment)
All these teachings are all designed to give someone superior survival technique in times of war or battle. This is because it is a martial art for the spies. The art of spying started around 500 AD. That time, shinobis were spies and assassins for hire. They specialize in speed , deception, and art of escaping that allow them to carry out dangerous missions. As time went by, different techniques were slowly developed by different people based on their survival experience.
Ninjutsu uses many different materials:
- Tekko or brass knuckles
- Tessen or iron fan
- Shikoro, a small weapon that serves as a master key and also good for slashing
- Yumi and Ya or bow and arrow
- Katana or Samurai sword
- Tanto ro knife
If you are after learning the pure Samurai sword techniques, it is best to go for the first two, Kendo and Iaido. These two disciplines are very strict and sophisticated. They are more of a philosophy and a way of life than a sport because you can’t really use it for competition. Thus, your study of the sword is more a spiritual journey.
If, however, you want to study something that might be a bit more practical, go for Ninjutsu. You can at least use this as a survival technique. It will teach you how to look at your surroundings and know what you can and cannot use to help you survive situation. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t have an international organization that sanctions it. Different dojos, different rules.
Regardless of which one you choose, just make sure that you are aware of the fact that none of these martial arts are meant to be an offensive discipline. It is never for fighting. You may only use it to defend your life but never as an offensive too. It’s a way of life, a principle to live by, not a method to hurt people.