Nakamura Taizaburo with Guy H. Power & Takako Funaya
is a translation of an article appearing in the
25 March 1988 issue of Nippon Budo Monthly. (1)
am not surprised that iaido has become remarkably
spread and developed after World War II. Until the
end of World War Two Japan's national identity was
expressed through the Three Sacred Treasures--the
mirror, the jewel, and the sword. The sword represents
the spirit of the warrior to we Japanese; therefore,
it is only natural to me that today there is an
upsurge in the spirit of the Japanese Sword. This
new popularity tells me that iaido has naturally
spread among the Japanese. Before the war, not many
people studied iaido even though they may have owned
numerous swords. Those people had only owned swords
simply because they were entitled to do so. In fact,
kendo practicioners would say, "Studying iaido
will prevent you from improving in kendo.' This
attitude is attributed to the fact that iaido is
composed mainly of kneeling techniques. In this
sense, iaido has no relation to kendo, which contributed
to iaido's not having been spread as widely as kendo
in those days.
Until the end of the war sword techniques and forms
were prohibited from being shown even to the parents
and brothers of a practicioner; this way, the techniques
could be transmitted only to the direct students
of certain styles. However, one style made exception
to this policy--Jigen Ryu. The techniques of this
style were instructed to anybody within the Satsuma
Clan of southern Japan. In most styles, techniques
were transmitted only to those who were inducted
into a dojo. It is typical that documentation regarding
the densho (transmitted writings from generation
to generation) of those schools did not include
any exact methods of showing detailed descriptions
in order to keep techniques secret.
For instance, the Omori Ryu's densho reads very
much like the table of contents in a book. Only
the names of techniques are mentioned, such as "front",
"left, "right", "rear",
"multi-layered hedges", etc. The one from
Eishin Ryu uses such names as "side cloud",
"first step of the tiger", "lightning",
"floating cloud", etc. The techniques
these terms describe are impossible to understand
unless explained by the practicioners of these styles,
although nowadays techniques and forms are fully
explained by text and photographs in books circulated
on the market. The other day I had the opportunity
to talk with a certain martial arts expert. He stated
that even in today's society, "...the prearranged
forms of budo technique should not be revealed to
others, but kept only to yourself for your discipline."
He still carries through with his convictions. I
was so impressed, thinking of the disparity between
the present day and the olden times.
After the war I had the distinct honor on three
occasions to meet sensei Nakayama Hakudo(1).
He was from Ishikawa prefecture and told me that
in the year of Taisho five (1917), he traveled to
Tosa in Kochi prefecture to ask the Muso Jikiden
Eishin Ryu headmaster for permission to receive
instruction, only to be refused entry simply because
"he is from other prefectures."
However, later in his life they decided to initiate
him into the teaching, allowing him to present a
petition on the condition that he not teach what
he learned. The situation surrounding the transmission
of teachings was like this even during the Taisho
period (1912-1925). In short, without trying to
find fault with old techniques, the predecessors
of the old tradition of sword techniques (koryu
toho) should preserve the techniques as nontangible
cultural assets. The successors are, in my opinion,
responsible for passing the tradition of techniques
to the next generation.
Given such situations, once in a while I see strange,
"fishy" forms and techniques of some styles
during martial arts demonstrations and tournaments,
causing me to call their effectiveness into question.(2)
Before the Pacific war, around the time of the Manchu
Incident (1931) which brought Japan into the China
war, sensei Takayama Masayoshi, a Japanese Imperial
Navy kenjutsu master-teacher, maintained that one
cannot kill people with a sword using only kendo
training. He withdrew from the Butokukai(3)
to go to China where he experienced actual battlefield
After his return to Japan he codified these techniques,
named the style Jissen Budo Takayama Ryu Batto Jutsu,
and taught it at the Imperial Naval Academy; eventually
he had the chance to teach Prince Takamatsu-no-Miya.
Because of his sword testing in China(4)
Takayama sensei was later classified as a war criminal
and was sentenced to twenty five years confinement
in the mountains of Oita prefecture. Later I was
able to exchange ideas with Takayama sensei which
was significant in my establishing Nakamura Ryu
Happo Giri.(5) In relation
to this exchange, three parties of the Butokukai
belonging to the Army and Navy created logical(6)
systems of standing sword techniques based on their
battlefield experiences and extant old-school sword
Although the three fencing instructors could not
bring their systems into uniformity in terms of
prearranged forms, they taught their combat effective
standing techniques until the end of the war. However,
after the war they reverted to old-school sword
techniques, belittling the teaching called "Shu
cannot help but to feel regrettful for the iaido
prearranged forms training of the old-schools. Needless
to say, I am under the impression that these old-school
sword techniques seek development in artistic aspects.
In my view, there are distinct differences between
kendo and iaido, regardless of whatever logical
argument each may make, including the theory expressed
in the maxim "Kendo-Iaido, One Body".
Marking the new Heisei dynasty (1989), and in celebration
of my "Kijyu" (77th birthday), I decided
to consolidate my long harbored views about Japanese
sword techniques into the following 20 sections.
I am afraid that the article might include some
overlapping ideas and sentences due to my shallow
knowledge; however, I ask the reader to allow me
to be bold enough to present my observations.
I suppose it cannot be helped that the "art"
theory has become popular these days, merging together
with kendo. The martial ways are different from
sports in that they involve situations where a clear
distinction is made between life and death. Comparitively
speaking, hasn't iaido become an "artistic"
The similarity alluded to in the maxim "Kendo-Iaido,
One Body" is theoretical. Technically speaking,
sport kendo and the kneeling techniques of iaido
must be considered as separate entities. I do not
think there are any matching techniques between
Iai is sword-technique art, and is said to be sword
dancing. Because people outside Japan do not sit
on their knees, it is physically difficult for non
Japanese to study iai.
There is no possible reason for sitting erect on
the knees while wearing a long sword, although it
is correct to wear the short sword thus. When entering
any building it was always proper to remove the
long sword from the wearer's sash while at the foyer.
Drawing the long sword while in the formal kneeling
position is wrong in terms of etiquette and sword
employs a movement from the formal kneeling position
in which the practicioner steps forward in one move
by completely raising the right foot, in a stomping
manner, while simultaneously making a horizontal
cut to the front; the left knee maintains contact
with the ground. Because of having only one point
of balance, and due to the strong force generated
in actually cutting through an object, the practicioner
can lose balance and fall down. Instead, the practicioner
should glide forward by sliding the foot close to
When stepping forward while unsheathing the sword
from the kneeling position, your stride is automatically
two steps--this is technically not desirable. More
than one step is unnecessary.
Omori Ryu has ten kneeling forms and only one standing
form. Within these forms, all have downward vertical
cuts; however, none employ a right or left diagonal
cut. For this reason, I think this style lacks research
on its techniques.
Omori Ryu has a technique in which you pivot your
body to the left from the kneeling position while
making a horizontal cut. I am doubtful as to the
effectiveness of this technique; however, shifting
the body to the rear or right is fine.(9)
In 1951 I performed Omori Ryu forms within the earthern
entranceway of the country house of a well known
Omori Ryu teacher. Since this was on the bare earth
I decided to adapt the kneeling techniques to standing
techniques so as not to dirty my clothes. After
finishing, the teacher looked extremely disturbed
and said, "that is not Omori Ryu!" These
types of people are inflexible, obsessively sticking
to the old ways. As such, they are incapable of
thinking of practical applications for their techniques.
Modern iaido incorporates breathing methods into
its techniques; such as, "in front of your
enemy take two breaths, on the third, hold your
breath". I wonder from what style this descends--this
sword method really makes me call modern iaido into
One old-school rendition of the technique called
"nukiuchi" calls for the blade to be silently
and slowly drawn until only about three inches remain
in the scabbard.(10) The
practicioner then quickly slashs away in one motion
to strike the target. I believe this is an "artistic"
Attacking with the pommel of the sword's handle
is illogical; manipulating an enemy with the tsuka
(handle) is nothing but a contrived artifice.
In the old-school styles there are no withdrawing
techniques after a thrust has been executed. Hikinuki,
the disengagement of the sword after the thrust,
is technically the Zanshin(11)
regardless of whether it is in spear techniques
or bayonet fighting.
There are techniques in which the palm of the left
hand is placed along the back ridge of the blade.
These are ineffective and are a waste of time.(12)
The sword's angle of attack and arc path are not
discussed in the old-school styles. Based on my
own test cutting experience, I feel that these are
important in swordsmanship and must be studied.
Regardless of which art you are involved in, be
it iaido or kendo, unless you experience cutting
with a real sword, you will never begin to taste
true sword technique.
In Japan iaido has been refered to as "iai-nuki".
I dislike this usage since it was a term used among
street performers after wearing the sword was abolished.
It gives a bad connotation to iaido.
Most old-school styles do not know how to bring
a sword cut to a halt without the blade wavering
or trembling. The stopping action should be executed
precisely and crisply.
In terms of sword techniques, uke-nagashi (to parry
and deflect an overhead blow) is acceptable; however,
uke-tome (block and stop) is fatal.
The correct name for iai-do is "batto-do".
In the Muromachi period (1392-1572) the term "batto-jutsu"
was used; it was only from the middle of the Edo
period (1730s) that "iai-jutsu" began
to be used. The correct naming of iaido is a separate
issue to be addressed; I earnestly desire the adoption
of either "iai batto-do" or "batto-do"
as the official name.
response to the above musings and from my research
in test cutting over the years, I developed a logical
system of sword techniques in 1952 which I call
"Nakamura Ryu Battodo". The genesis of
my system is based on a hint I received from the
basics of calligraphy called "eiji happo"---the
eight rules for writing the Chinese character "eternal".(13)
My teaching is composed of the "Eight
Fighting Postures", the "Eight Methods
of Cutting", the "Eight Methods of Resheathing",
and contains eight forms. This is a logical system
based on my in-depth analysis of various swordsmanship
forms, as well as research I conducted in actual
test cutting; neither are enough, alone, to create
combat effective techniques. I expect that I will
receive criticism in my above reflections from iaido
and kendo lovers, as well as from seniors, masters,
Japanese sword is the spirit of Japan. The Life-giving
Sword trains and polishes Self; the road to cultivating
yourself and self-discipline."
THE AUTHOR. Nakamura Taizaburo, now 83, was
born in 1912 in Yamagata prefecture. He began his
study of kendo at the age of 15; when he joined
the Imperial Army in 1932 he was already 3rd dan
in both kendo and judo. After teaching kendo to
the officers and noncommissioned officers of his
regiment, Nakamura sensei was assigned to a boy's
military academy as a fencing instructor; during
this time he also studied Omori Ryu iaido. Later,
Nakamura sensei was selected to attend the Army
Toyama Academy where he became an instructor of
actual-combat swordsmanship, bayonet, and knife
fighting. He was dispatched to Manchuria as a "special
fencing teacher" and instructed members of
the select Yamashita Special Attack Force. During
the final days of the war he further conducted research
in test cutting by attempting to cut through the
necks of five bulls, which were then butchered and
fed to the regiment. Nakamura Sensei was the driving
force in renovating the Hayashizaki Shrine, the
only shrine in Japan dedicated to iai-battodo.
He also kept alive the tradition of the Toyama Academy
by founding the All Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation.
Since that time he has been the Senior Master of
Toyama Ryu. In 1952 he founded the Nakamura Ryu
and has been involved in swordsmanship until this
day. Nakamura Sensei resides in Tsurumi, Yokohama
where he presides over the International Iai-Battodo
Federation and teaches battodo for the Kaku Sei
Kai. His titles and degrees are as follows:
(Headmaster): Nakamura Ryu Batto-do (Happo-giri).
So-Shihan (Senior Master): All Japan Toyama Ryu
Federation. Battodo: Hanshi10th dan (International
Martial Arts Federation). Kendo: Hanshi 8th dan
(IMAF). Kendo: Kyoshi 7th dan (All Japan Kendo Federation).
Jukendo (bayonet): Hanshi 8th dan (All Japan Jukendo
Federation). Tankendo (short sword): hanshi 8th
dan (AJJF). Kyudo (archery): 4th dan (All Japan
Kyudo Federation). Judo: 3rd dan (the pre-war Judo
Association). Calligraphy: Hanshi. President: International
Iai-Battodo Federation. Senior Advisor: All Japan
Battodo Federation. Senior Authority: Butokukai
THE CONTRIBUTOR. Guy H. Power, renshi sixth
dan, has studied Toyama Ryu battodo since 1983.
From 1990 to1994 he was stationed in Japan where
he studied both Toyama Ryu and Nakamura Ryu iai-battodo
under Nakamura Sensei; he also studied Muso Jikiden
Eishin Ryu iai-do for two years during his stay
in Japan. Mr. Power was named by the International
Iai-Battodo Federation as their official representative
for the United States and awarded him their kanban
(a traditional teaching license printed on a wooden
board) authorizing him to teach both ryu, calligraphed
by Nakamura sensei. He is believed to be the only
non-Japanese to receive a martial art kanban.
THE TRANSLATOR. Takako Funaya received her Master
of Arts degree in Translation from the Monterey
Institute of Inter- national Studies in California.
She is currently an in-house translator for Fuji-Xerox,
1. Nakayama Hakudo (1869-1958). 16th headmaster
of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (Shimomura branch); founder
of Muso Shinden Ryu; kendo, iaido, and jodo master;
fencing master to the Emperor's Guard until the
end of WWII. He is conceiveably the most famous
sword master of the twentieth century.
Many of the forms have been taught in a vacuum and
have lost their original meaning, or have been subjected
to unintentional reinterpretation, others have been
contrived during the luxury of civil peace without
the benefit of combat experience; consequently,
the original technique has become ineffective, but
taught as viable.
The Dai Nippon Butokukai (Greater Japan Martial
Virtues Association) has been the premier governing
body of selected martial arts since 1895. Its headquarters,
the Butokuden in Kyoto, is still used today as a
martial arts training hall.
After the war Takayama Masayoshi was classified
as a Class B war criminal for killing 10 Chinese
prisoners of war with his sword. His style's name
is translated as "Actual Combat Martial Ways,
Takayama's Style of Sword Drawing Techniques."
Nakamura Style, Eight Direction Cut.
The Japanese word for logic means a scientific investigation
of governing principles which leads to a correct
or reliable conclusion. In the English vernacular
we use "logic" to mean a 'reasonable expectationÕ.
"Shu Ha Ri". Observe (the old without
straying), Break (strict observation and adapt different
teachings), Leave (advancing beyond both former
"Shohatto" (First Presentation of the
Sword) is the basic sword technique common to most
old-schools. As taught and practiced, the blade
would strike the target while the right foot is
still high in the air. This results in only the
left knee remaining in contact with the ground at
the time of impact.
Although capable enough of inflicting a wound, not
enough force is generated during a left pivot to
succesfully cut through a target.
The author feels this method is ineffective because
not enough force is generated from a slow draw to
allow a proper cut.
Zanshin (remaining spirit) is the final stage of
an omnidirectional all-encompassing alertness. It
is cultivated from intensive training and is displayed
in a combative engagement stance, usually the finale
of a form.
And dangerous. A case in point is that of Lieutenant
Colonel Aizawa who cut his fingers employing this
type of technique. Aizawa once had been a kenjutsu
teacher at the former Army Toyama Academy and was
an expert in kendo and bayonet fencing. In 1935,
using his western model service saber, he assassinated
the head of the Military Affairs Bureau, Major General
Nagata (this action preceeded the February 26 Revolt
of1936). After failing to kill the general with
three cuts, Aizawa placed his left palm on the back
of his sword at the mid point, assumed a bayonet
fencing "half-right stance" and thrust
strongly with his right hand, skewering the general
completely through from back to front. This technique
is very similar to the All Japan Iaido Federation's
fifth form called "kissaki kaeshi" and
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu's "Iwanami". Aizawa
cut all four fingers of his left hand to the bone.
He later stated, "As a Toyama Academy fencing
instructor, I was disappointed and embarassed that
I was unable to cleave the general in two with one
Eiji Happo, "the eight rules for writing the
Chinese ideograph Ei (eternal)". The foundation
of calligraphy, the "eight rules" specify
how to draw the dot and the horizontal, vertical,
and diagonal strokes; therefore, in being able to
write one basic ideograph, the calligrapher can
write tens of thousands of ideographs. These eight
calligraphic strokes approximate "Happo Giri",
the Eight Directional Cuts: thrust, left and right
horizontal, vertical, left and right downward diagonal,
and left and right upward diagonal cuts. All other
cuts are but variations of these primary techniques.
In assiduously practicing Happo Giri, the swordsman
can truly become a master.