Obata Toshishiro Kaiso is the founder, director, and chief instructor of the International Shinkendo Federation, an organization dedicated to teaching authentic Japanese swordsmanship. The Shinkendo system emphasizes very traditional and effective swordsmanship, which with serious training, can provide practical ability as well as an insight into classical martial arts. Shinkendo is steeped in the traditions of the samurai, in such ways as heiho (strategy), reiho (proper etiquette), and philosophy.
Historians confirm that the core of the majority of Japanese feudal warrior’s martial education was that of swordsmanship. Shinkendo is a comprehensive reunification of what the samurai once used and relied upon for survival, and can be classified as a combination of the founder’s own technical and structural innovations and an amalgamation of several traditions of Japanese swordsmanship that have evolved and splintered over time. Unified, Shinkendo is a historically accurate and uniquely comprehensive style of Japanese swordsmanship.
Sword training revolves around our structure of “Gorin Goho Gogyo” (five equally balanced interweaving rings that symbolize the five major methods of technical study). This includes Suburi (sword swinging drills), Tanrengata (solo forms), Battoho (combative drawing methods), Tachiuchi (pre-arranged sparring), and Tameshigiri/Shizan (cutting straw and bamboo targets).
Students typically train using a bokuto (wooden sword), and later advance to training with iaito (or mogito, non-sharpened sword) and finally shinken, or ‘live blade’. At more advanced levels, the student begins to test their acquired skills through test cutting practice on tatami omote makiwara (rolled up tatami mats, previously soaked in water), and eventually Nihondake or Mosodake (Japanese or Chinese bamboo).
While Shinkendo requires rigorous physical training, depth of coordination, and intense focus, one of the most important aspects of Shinkendo is the emphasis on spiritual forging, which inspires “Bushi Damashii” (the samurai/ warrior spirit), a quality that we feel is as relevant now as it was hundreds of years ago. Proper practice of Shinkendo should provide one with not only a strong body and mind but also a calm, clear, and focused spirit.
Written by Fred East, Somerset Budokai
Visit www.shinkendo.com for more details.
My website for the South West of England is www.fredeast.org.uk/budokai.htm and a number of videos are there as a taster (being updated all the time). The clubs here are under the Somerset Budokai umbrella and all details are shown there. There are only three clubs teaching Shinkendo in the UK two of which are in Somerset run by myself and one of my students and one in Northampton.