Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ono Ha Itto Ryu

We had the privilege to train under Masayaki Shimabukuro Hanshi's instruction last week end in Pensacola.
The seminar began Friday night with Batto Ho, and we spent all day Saturday and part of Sunday on Ono Ha Itto Ryu, unknown to most students, including myself... We practiced Kihons, stances, and the first 5 katas of the school. By Saturday night, my head was hurting to try to remember all these new moves...

Sunday we went back to Ono Ha Itto Ryu, and MJER Chuden Waza. In the afternoon 3 students tested for Dan belts, one of them in an unexpected fashion...

Ono Ha Itto Ryu is clearly one of the close if not the closest ancestor of modern Kendo. It was very interesting to practice the kata and see how Kendo kata could have evolved from these.

Here is an article written by by Shimabukuro Sensei in 2007 on this ryu :

Principles from Ono-ha Itto-ryu

by Masayuki Shimabukuro, Hanshi

In our practice of Ono-ha Itto-ryu Kenjutsu, we are exposed to the study of principles that are considered to be the signature methods of the style. However, these principles are of great importance in iaijutsu and kenjutsu in general, and can be found in many styles, including Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu.

The first principle that will be discussed is called “isshin itto”, which means “one heart, one sword.” This phrase can be understood as one beat (of the heart), one technique and describes the fundamental principle of Ono-ha Itto-ryu. Isshin itto is clearly expressed in the techniques contained throughout the curriculum of Ono-ha Itto-ryu.

An example of isshin itto can be seen in the technique called suriage, in which one receives the enemy’s cut with the shinogi as the defender’s sword rises up along the same line as the enemy’s cut, displacing the opponent’s sword, and cuts down to the enemy’s men. This action of receiving, displacing and cutting happens in one movement. This principle is also expressed in suriotoshi, a technique found in Hitotsugachi, the first kumitachi in Ono-ha Itto-ryu. Suriotoshi, also called kiriotoshi, or dropping cut, is cutting down at the same time as the enemy cuts down, along the same line as the enemy’s cut, displacing his sword with the shinogi, thereby creating the condition of shini tachi (dead sword) in the enemy’s technique. The action of kiriotoshi continues by cutting to men or through to chudan (with the kissaki at the enemy’s nodo) and immediately thrusting. As in suriage, this all happens in one action.

These techniques, receiving and displacing the opponent’s cut and countering in one action, are usually considered to be advanced techniques in most styles. However, they are the first things practiced in Ono-ha Itto-ryu. This is especially the case with kiriotoshi, which represents both the beginning and end of the Ono-ha Itto-ryu curriculum.

While isshin itto is a very important component of waza, it requires kokoro gamae, the mind in a state of readiness, enabling the mind and the sword to execute waza together as one unit.

Another important technique or principle is “makura no osae.” Makura means pillow and osae means push or hold. This phrase refers to the principle of restraining or holding an opponent with the light touch of a pillow. This principle can be demonstrated in the example of someone sitting in a chair and then attempting to stand up. Typically, one feels very strong when they rise. But a light touch of the finger to the forehead of someone sitting in a chair can prevent them from rising.

In practice, if one applies osae when the opponent cuts or thrusts, one can immobilize the opponent, preventing him from applying a technique. The application of makura no osae requires correct timing as well as the ability to read the opponent’s intent.

The final principle that we will discuss involves some interesting historical references. Itto-ryu contains a concept called “shisha tachi”, which refers to using the kissaki like the shisha, or scouts, of the armies of feudal Japan. Shisha were intelligence gatherers tasked with obtaining as much information about the enemy, the landscape, potential obstacles, etc. Once this information was acquired, the shisha’s job was accomplished. This information would then be used to affect the proper strategy and tactics in deploying the full force against the enemy.

Shisha tachi refers to using the Kissaki to probe the opponent much like shisha would probe the enemy prior to mobilizing the full army against the enemy. One tactic that a shisha might have employed in a given situation is called “mon zen no kawara.” This refers to kawara, roof tiles, that shisha would throw at the front (zen) of the gate (mon) of an enemy’s stronghold, causing a disturbance in an attempt to lure him out. In a way reminiscent of mon zen no kawara, shisha kissaki can be used to lure the opponent out, forcing him to commit to a course of action. Shisha tachi can also be used to assess the opponent’s skill and to determine the correct distance for attack and defence. The information obtained through shisha tachi is then used in support of one’s skill and waza in overcoming the opponent. Once this information is acquired and can be used to defeat the opponent, shisha tachi, much like the shisha, is no longer necessary, and is replaced by the use of one’s full technique.

Ono-ha Itto-ryu emphasizes the principle of isshin itto. However, in addition to the techniques that reflect this principle, it also contains teachings such as makura no osae and shisha tachi. This is important because one must have not only good technique, but must understand strategy, possess common sense, and have a clear mind and strong spirit.

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