Most people are aware of the two swords of the samurai, the long sword (katana) and the short sword (wakazashi). Up until now I had only ever trained with the bokken, in other words the wooden version of the long sword; first in aikido and now in TSYR. The way the bokken is used in my line of aikido is to enhance taijutsu technique by applying correct body alignment and positioning. The weapon work informs the empty hand waza. This could also be said to be true in TSYR except the attitude behind the sword work differs greatly. Aikido is about conflict resolution where both the attacker and defender are given the opportunity to reconcile their differences. In TSYR the philosophy is very basic – kill your opponent. These attitudes effect the kenjutsu. Aikido operates in large circles and attempts to place both the attacker and defender out of harm’s way. TSYR kenjutsu is far more direct and quick. The emphasis is on small deflections, direct strikes and one obvious loser. The thing is, TSYR technique is very circular or made up of spirals as well, but the movements are small, sometimes just a matter of millimetres. Now imagine the mental intensity this creates. After an hour of kenjutsu training in TSYR I get a good sweat going. Not because of the physical demand but because of the intense concentration that it requires. Attacks have to be strong and committed, deflections and counter attacks have to be timed well and precise.
Needless to say it has been a challenge switching mind-sets from one art to another for the sword work. Now our sensei has been exposed to some of the kata using other blades; the tanto (which we train with already), the O-tanto, and the wakazashi. With the introduction of these other weapons I get a feeling that we are really delving into an obscure, ancient tradition. Aikido has tanto practice, but nothing like the kata I’ve experienced in TSYR. I haven’t had the opportunity to see all the kata with these weapons but the rationale behind them appears to be that ultimately a warrior wants to fight with his long sword. However, there will be times when he has been disarmed or caught without his primary weapon and needs to know how to defend himself with the shorter blades.
The curriculum of TSYR appears to be vast, in fact it has some 135 kata, and things get complex. It is exciting to be venturing into this unique world where a person is assessed by their ability to maintain their posture and composure under ever-increasing physical and mental challenge.