BATTŌJUTSU AND KENJUTSU
Battōjutsu is a broad term that is used to describe techniques which involve rapidly drawing the sword to engage with an opponent. Our approach differs from that of other quick-draw practitioners in that the initial drawing action is followed up by the execution of additional techniques (instead of returning the sword to the sheath), thus engaging multiple directions and multiple targets in the flow of movement. Battōjutsu, as it is practiced within Ishi Yama, is dynamic and fluid, and a key component of our course work and individual techniques.
Kenjutsu, "the art of the sword" or "sword techniques," is an all-encompassing term used to denote the practice of Japanese swordsmanship. Through time, kenjutsu has had the connotation of being highly combative, and engagement with an opponent generally happens in situations where the sword is already drawn. Kenjutsu training with Ishi Yama involves paired training exercises, refining individual techniques, and free sparring using padded instruments and protective gear.
Kata are prearranged solo forms that serve as the foundation for internalizing the principles of a style. Basic kata within the Ishi Yama curriculum are designed to distill the complexities of swordsmanship into manageable components for beginner students, while higher level kata build upon that foundation by adding new levels of complexity that create a deep and dynamic art form. At its highest level, this style is designed to address multiple attackers coming from multiple angles within a continuous flow of movement.
Kumitachi are paired forms that involve an attacker and a defender. This type of training helps the student to develop a sense of proper distance and timing, and enables them to begin reading an opponent and implementing an appropriate response under a variety of conditions. Students utilize wooden training swords and no physical contact with the body is made while practicing kumitachi, in order to provide a safe training environment.
Ishi Yama Battōjutsu is one of only a small number of sword arts nationwide (outside of the Japanese fencing sport of kendō) which incorporates jigeiko, or free sparring, as part of its regular curriculum. Jigeiko synthesizes the combative aspects of sword fighting (gekken or gekiken) and forces the student to apply what they have learned in a live scenario. This training develops the application of strategy and creates a deeper awareness of reading and responding to an opponent. Jigeiko is conducted using a variety of sparring instruments and protective gear suited to the students' skill level.
Historically, tameshigiri ("target test cutting") was a practice used to test the capabilities of a sword. These days, it is practiced as a way to test the quality, accuracy, and consistency of a swordsman's technique. The targets are made of rolled tatami omote (the outer cover of traditional Japanese tatami mats), which are soaked in water to simulate the density of a human limb. Tameshigiri is an integral part of training, as it reveals aspects of technique that may not be immediately visible during kata. The angle of the cut, how the piece falls to the ground, the grain of the cut piece, etc., all provide feedback that can be used to understand the path of the sword as it passed through the target.
The technical methodology of Ishi Yama Battōjutsu is designed to develop a highly efficient, powerful, and consistent cut. Ishi Yama blends all the steps required to make a successful cut seamlessly, rather than going through the motions in a sequential process. With the addition of multiple directions, multiple targets, and consecutive cutting, Ishi Yama's approach to tameshigiri is challenging and most closely resembles actual combative encounters.
Russell McCartney Sensei, the founder, demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach by making 1181 consecutive cuts without a single missed attempt at the 2000 Cherry Blossom Festival in Seattle. This effort earned him a Guinness World Record for tameshigiri.