Aikijutsu and Kenjutsu Since 1992

South Central PA’s Oldest Dojo of Classical Budo..

“In no other art is the concentration of a student so quickly focused...”

— F. J. Lovret

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Martial Arts of Japan

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Itto Tenshin-ryu Kenjutsu

The practice of Itto Tenshin-ryu kenjutsu is particularly suited to you if you are seeking the depth and sophistication of weapons arts, and are ready to pursue precise, dynamic, and physically challenging training that is also intellectually demanding. Derived from Itto-ryu (the style that was the greatest influence on modern kendo), Itto Tenshin-ryu is a relatively modern style of swordsmanship dating to around 1900, and differs from the older style primarily in its focus and the manner in which it is taught. Itto Tenshin-ryu training emphasizes the development of a strong and committed spirit, and practices are conducted in a structured, class format allowing students of vastly different levels of experience and ability to practice together, building a powerful sense of community and shared purpose.

Historically, the sword was not a primary weapon on Japanese battlefields during the feudal era. The bushi (warriors) relied mainly on the bow and spear, with the sword usually serving the same role as a sidearm for a modern soldier. Nonetheless, there is a long tradition of training with the sword as a study of conflict in microcosm, a source of insight to psychology, and a methodology for forging spirit and will. As we often say, “A swordsman is more than just a man (or woman!) with a sword.”

Elements of strategy that are applicable to multiple levels of warfare, commercial business, or even interpersonal relationships can be learned and practiced within the two-person, combative exchanges called kumitachi. Because there is real, physical and psychic risk inherent in the practice of kumitachi, personal strengths and weaknesses become apparent to the practitioner — as well as to his or her colleagues in the dojo. (This shared exposure, rather than being a negative aspect of training, is in fact an explanation for why relationships with one’s fellow members of the dojo are some of the most intimate friendships you’re likely to experience.) But one’s true, inner character is not static — the very nature of kenjutsu practice hones strengths and pares away weaknesses. These aspects and consequences of training are constant, everyday benefits.

But the benefits are not limited to the inner person. Much rarer, but still significant, are instances in which modern students of kenjutsu have utilized techniques learned in the dojo, successfully, against armed assailants. A knife employed in the manner an iaidō kata (sword-drawing form), or an aluminum flashlight applying a waza (technique) from bokken-jutsu (dueling with wooden swords) are examples experienced within our own organization. Enhanced awareness, greater recognition of distancing and vectors of attack, as well as refined posture and patterns of movement all contribute to the tangible aspects of self-defense.

The above considerations are excellent reasons to train, but one factor surpasses all others as the impetus for training extending over decades: Kenjutsu is an incredible amount of fun. To be engaged in something only a very few people around the world on any given day are doing is kind of cool. To experience yourself transforming as skills and understandings manifest in and out of the dojo is even better. This experience can substantially improve satisfaction in life. According to author James Clear, who writes extensively about self-improvement tips based on the latest scientific research:

“Working on challenges of an optimal level of difficulty has been found to not only be motivating, but also to be a major source of happiness. As psychologist Gilbert Brim put it, ‘One of the important sources of human happiness is working on tasks at a suitable level of difficulty, neither too hard nor too easy.’”

Kenjutsu is an ideal study for this purpose, providing inexhaustible challenge and reward, potentially for a lifetime.

In addition to practicing paired, combative forms with long and short wooden swords (bokken), as a student of Itto Tenshin-ryu you will enjoy an extensive curriculum of iaido, solo forms with live, steel swords (shinken), as well as supplemental study of other weapons of the samurai, including the yari (spear), naginata (halberd), and jo (four-foot staff). The style also incorporates a wide variety of jujutsu techniques for use by a swordsman to impede or disarm an opponent, or to regain the upper hand when an opponent attempts to grapple with the swordsman.

Persons desiring to train in Itto Tenshin-ryu must acquire a Japanese sword, approved for use in class. 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 you with recommendations. The required uniform and wooden weapons can be ordered through the dojo.

Training in swordsmanship is open to persons aged 16 years or older.

Call or email today for an appointment and come see for yourself — visitors are always welcome!

Kenjutsu includes iaido (solo forms with live blades).

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