Ono-ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu

Swordsmanship is the premier martial art of Japan. Over 1,000 years of research, study, and refinement have been dedicated to this complex and esoteric form of combat. Generations of swordsmen devoted their lives to the exploration of every possible application of the Japanese sword. Not satisfied with mere variations in technique, the old masters of Japan also examined the strategy and philosophy of the sword in an unending quest for knowledge.

Ono-ha Itto Ryu is recognized as the oldest of many kenjutsu schools that developed from the original teachings of Ito Ittosai Kagehisa. Ono-ha was founded by Ono Jiroemon Tadaaki (1565–1628), the immediate successor to Ittosai and a renowned swordsman who went on to become an instructor to both the second and third Tokugawa shoguns. According to Takeda Tokimune, Ono-ha Itto Ryu was one of the styles of swordsmanship practiced within the Aizu clan since the founding of the clan in the mid-17th century. His father, Takeda Sokaku, mastered the art at the Yokikan dojo of Shibuya Toma in Aizu Bange-cho during the late Edo-period. Tokimune formalized the swordsmanship passed on to him by his father as Ono-ha Itto Ryu Sokaku-den, and awarded menkyo to just a few persons, including Okabayashi Shogen in 1985.

Our kenjutsukai trains as a study group under the guidance and authority of Rodney Uhler and Mitsuko Hashimoto, both senior students of Okabayashi Sensei. Uhler Sensei received an Itto Ryu menkyo from Okabayshi Sensei in 2009, prior to moving back to the United States after having lived for 16 years in Japan.

In our training, we study the use of the long sword (tachi) and the short “companion” sword (kotachi). The primary curriculum focuses on paired practice with wooden swords (bokuto), while we include as supplemental study solo practice of forms and test-cutting (tameshigiri) with live blades (shinken).

Students must acquire a Japanese sword or iaito, approved for use in class, in order to participate in this training. Fortunately, there are now a wide variety of sources for proper katana of modern manufacture, some of which are modestly priced but authentic in design and entirely acceptable for use in training. We can provide recommendations.

Specific uniform and equipment requirements exist, as well — new students are provided a detailed list to be used to order from www.ninecirclesusa.com.

The practice of kenjutsu is particularly suited to those students seeking the depth and sophistication of weapons arts, students who are ready to pursue precise, demanding and intellectually challenging training.

Persons interested in the study of kenjutsu should understand that expectations of students are high, particularly with regard to the amount of practice that must be accomplished on one’s own time outside the dojo. The expense of training is also considerably greater than is the case for aikido, due to the cost of uniforms and equipment, and fees in addition to regular tuition for weekend intensive training sessions that are scheduled approximately quarterly with our teachers.

Kenjutsu practices are held Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The Monday evening practice is preceded by a one-hour, “open-mat” period, during which students can practice on their own or receive individual assistance and instruction. Persons applying to train in swordsmanship must be aged 16 years or older. 

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