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Samurai Sword Fighting Styles


The Samurai, arguably the most iconic people group of all history, reigned supreme as ancient Japan’s elite military force for centuries. Their unique fashion sense and fighting style earned them a place in legend as the greatest warriors of all time. Unlike many soldiers of that time period, the Samurai warrior wore two swords. The longer sword, or katana, is the most famous of Samurai weapons, and quite possibly the most popular sword in the world, even today. The shorter sword, called a wakizashi, was a complement to the Samurai’s primary weapon, the katana, used primarily for indoor battles. The combination of these two swords in warfare created myriad techniques for the Samurai to employ.


The Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu Technique

Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu is a technique centered on Iaido. Iaido was the technique the Samurai used to develop their trademark simultaneous draw and cut motion, as opposed to cutting from a normal stance after having already drawn his sword. Iaido is intended to develop a spirituality combined with the battlefield technique of iaijutsu. Eishin-ryu was for training in sitting and standing techniques as well as fighting against multiple foes.


The Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu Technique

This technique was created and perfected by the famous Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, author of, “The Book Of Five Rings.” The name of this technique means, “Two Heavens, One School,” referring to the famous Samurai stance of holding both his katana and wazikashi overhead poised to attack. The swords are coordinated within the technique so that one is always defending while the other is attacking.


The Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Technique

The oldest known school of Japanese sword instruction is Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu. Katori Shinto-ryu has seen 20 headmasters since it’s inception in 1447. This school engages the katana, bo staff, naginata (a weapon similar to the halberd), the spear, and hand-to-hand jujitsu style combat. The headmasters of Katori Shinto-ryu are given the title of Living National Treasures of Japan.


The Mugai-ryu Technique

This style has been in existence since 1691, according to the Chicago Mugai-ryu Study manual. It incorporates kenjutsu and iajutsu techniques. Students commonly train with bokken, or wooden swords, or sometimes with iaito, which are dull aluminum swords designed for training purposes. More advanced pupils engage in tameshigiri, which involves slicing through targets to teach correct form and blade angle.


The Ono-ha Itto-ru Technique

The name of this technique means, “One Sword.” The principles of this technique are based on a single, heavy blow to defeat ones opponent. Fighting Arts states that the Ona-ha Itto-ryu has more than 150 individual skills, the majority of which are downward cuts along the center of the body. The modern sport of kendo, or recreational kenjutsu, is based on the style of Itto-ryu.


The Tamiya-ryu Technique

This technique employs the psychological factor, by using a sword with a longer hilt. In addition to providing the swordsman with greater power and stability, the high-stance of Tamai-ryu, called Jodan-no-kamae, was founded on the basis that the opponent would tend to look at the raised, more imposing, sword blade and fail to recognize the movement of the feet.


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