Battodo – 抜刀道

The twilight of the samurai era is associated with the Meiji restoration. The edict issued in 1876 forbidding samurai to carry swords caused the very rapid disappearance of fencing skills in subsequent generations

The fascination with the West and modern firearms only contributed to this. However, Japan, growing in power, developed the army and the need to train officers and non-commissioned officers of the Japanese Imperial Army in the use of a military sword –  gunto, which in principle should be called a military saber. The Gunto was worn at the belt in the European style, not the samurai style (more vertically, with the blade in the scabbard facing back). The development of the military training program for fencing with the use of gunto was attended by the greatest sword experts of those times, with Hakudo Nakayama at the forefront. The training program was carried out at the Rikugan Toyama Gakko military academy

The founder of this Academy, General Uzawa, published in 1925 the textbook „Gunto no Soho” – „Principles (law) of the military sword”. Since this period, we can talk about the birth of a new martial art, based on the old rules of using the sword on the battlefield, called battodo. The name itself refers to the old fencing from the Muromachi period. This is how the Iai Batto-do Toyama-ryu style was created. In fencing practice, all exercises in seiza (sit), which dominate in traditional iaido schools, were rejected, the technique was deprived of „decorative” elements, paying attention to efficiency and simplicity. In battodo, one practices standing up, relatively quickly moving to practice with a sharp sword – katana, now called shinken (living blade). The test of your ability to use a real blade are cut tests – tameshigiri. Trying to cut soaked rice straw mats, bamboos, or other practice goals, he finds out if his cutting technique is real and effective.

The development of battodo after World War II towards martial art rather than military skills, was most influenced by the master Taizaburo Nakamura (1911 – 2003), a mentor of the Samurai School, which was founded in Warszawa, Poland in the early eighties of the twentieth century by hanshi Tomasz Piotrkowicz. Hanshi Piotrkowicz informed Master Nakamura by letter about the establishment of the Samurai School in Poland and battodo training. But master Nakamura was too old to visit Europe…

The popularity of this martial art in Central and Eastern Europe was due to swordmanships demonstrations performed by Tomasz Piotrkowicz and his sons, international Battodo Tai Kai organized with the participation of Japanese masters and an extensive publication of master Piotrkowicz entitled „Handbook of samurai swordmanships – battodo”.

The master fencing who most contributed to the popularization of battodo in Japan after World War II was Taizaburo Nakamura (1911 – 2003), a fencing instructor from the Toyama Academy. He published many books on the subject, gave many battodo shows, remaining active almost to the end of his long life. Battodo techniques, of course, have changed since the days of Toyama Academy.

First of all, training with a military gunto sword was replaced by a samurai katana sword. These swords are worn differently – the gunto was worn in the European style, and the katana is tucked behind the belt with the blade up. Straight, vertical cuts of shinchoku-giri were replaced by a more effective diagonal kesa-giri, kata begins with a step forward with the right leg rather than the left (military step), the five forms described in Gunto no Soho were developed to eight kata Toyama-ryu battodo.

In addition, they train in samurai costumes, traditional, not military or white outfits, reminiscent of uniforms from the Toyama Academy. In the Mushin-ryu battodo, apart from 8 forms – kata of Toyama-ryu, 8 kata of Samurai Juku and 8 forms of nito-ryu (two swords) are trained. Toyama-ryu kumitachi (katana hantai katana) was supplemented with a more advanced form – okuden level Mushin-ryu kumitachi (also six sword duels). In addition, combat systems are practiced – kumitachi with the use of a sword against yari, mokuju (rifle with bayonet), stick – bo, and other traditional weapons, such as tonfa, kama, tsue, tinbe etc.

Modern batto-do, however, is still the practice of drawing a sword and cutting the attacker with one movement of the katana.

The specificity of the construction of the samurai sword (the blade is extremely thin, sharp, but therefore fragile – it exposed the sword to nicks and cracks during collisions) influenced the way of fencing, in which speed (overtakes, counter-attacks) and movement (dodges, distance change) were preferred.

In basic training, however, it is also worth practicing blocks and deflections with the opponent’s weapon. This purpose was served by sparring with wooden swords (sabers), called bokken or bokuto. It was a relatively safe (for the participant and his weapon) confrontation, common already in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In the ken-jutsu Mushin-ryu, bokken fighting systems are developed: ippon kumitachi, sambon kumitachi, okuri kumitachi, kaeshi kumitachi and renraku kumitachi.

The name ken-jutsu is often used for sword fighting schools, where bokken training and pair training – classic sparring dominate. The wooden Japanese saber is also a natural weapon in exercises of defending against a knife, dagger, short kodachi sword (wakizashi), stick: bo, jo or hanbo, pole weapons (polearm): spear, spear, naginata, halberd, glavia, etc. and other types of weapons, especially trained in kobudo, such as: tonfa, sai, kama, kusarigama, nunchaku etc.