What is Kenjutsu?

Kenjutsu is a general term for for Japanese sword arts; developed by samurai over centuries for battlefied combat and duelling. Typically,  the basis of kenjutsu schools is a set of kata (forms) which are  practiced with a partner most commonly using wooden swords (called bokuto or bokken). These kata compromise the striking, parrying,  and  footwork techniques of the  school as well as the tactical strategies and concepts  of the sword.

Each school has their own method of training involving different types of practices, and exercises, and different influences of philosophy, ethics and historical or situational context. Some schools may practice some forms of sparring (like Kendo), while others do not.

Most schools of kenjutsu focus on techniques of the Japanese long sword , or katana, which may be called daito or odachi. Commonly there are also techniques of the small sword (shoto), or knife (tanto). Further, many kenjutsu schools include methods of jujutsu  in situations of the bind or disarming - for this there are numerous terms used such as jujutsu, taijutus, kumiuchi, torite,  and more, but essentially these are close combat, grappling techniques.

Kenjutsu has a long history in Japan having evolved over centuries. There have been many schools of kenjutsu; some dating back to the 14th century.  Few survive today,  while most have died out or exist in descendant schools.  

Perhaps the most famous living koryu of kenjutsu is Katori Shinto Ryu. It's correct name is actually "Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu" (天真正伝香取神道流 ). Founded in the 15th century, this is a comprehensive martial arts school which includes much more than the sword,  but also, two-sword, jujutsu, bo, naginata, spear, shuriken, jujutsu ad more, even some astrology.  TSKSR  is an important and respected school due to it's success and staying power and influence in several other famous schools of kenjutsu.

Another famous school of kenjutsu is Itto Ryu.  This school was founded on the 16th century by Itto Ittosai Kagehisa who was succeeded by Ono Tadaaki who's art still survives as Ono ha Itto Ryu. There are several descendant living branches of Itto Ryu including but not limited to Mizoguchi ha, Nakanishi ha, Tadanari ha Itto Ryu,  Kogen Itto Ryu, Hokushinin Itto Ryu and several other school not coined "Itto Ryu". Itto Ryu in influential in many later schools of kenjutsu but also the development of modern kendo where the kata, aesthetic form and methods are all very familair to practitioners of Itto Ryu. 

At Calgary Rakushinkan, we practice a form of Itto Ryu Kenjutsu.