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Swords, Cutting and Military History

A quick look at Tenshinryu iaido, the quick-draw of a very long blade

A quick look at Tenshinryu iaido, the quick-draw of a very long blade

photo by Goooder

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Tenshinryu Hyouho (兵法, school of complete martial tactics, strategy) is listed as one of the koryu (historic and traditional) martial arts of Japan.  Historically, it is considered to be have been founded around 400 years ago, during the Keicho Period, a Japanese era which lasted from October 1596 to July 1615.

As a hyouho, a wide variety of arts were taught, including : kenjutsu (sword), battōjutsu (combat form of iai), sōjutsu (spear), naginatajutsu (glaive), kusarigamajutsu (chain-sickle art), jujutsu and jumonji-yari-jutsu (use of the cross-shaped spear).

One branch of Tenshinryu studies includes the art of battojutsu / iai, the single-hand quick-draw and cut with the katana.  In this study exceptionally long swords are used, averaging 30 inches / 76cm / 2 shaku 5 sun (source), rather than the more normal 26-28 inch lengths (that’s 66-71 cm, or 2 shaku to 2 shaku 3 sun)  seen in other Japanese iai styles .  This was likely a strategy to give the user the advantage in reach.  Such long blades do make one-handed draws extremely difficult, but as the video below shows, it can be done with both speed and grace.

Particularly interesting in this video is the appearance of iai kata made from the anza (cross-legged) seated position.  Quite amazing… the section dealing with anza kata starts at time mark 4:30.

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