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What is Iai?
Iaijutsu is the classical Japanese martial art focusing on using the Japanese long sword started with the sword in its sheath, emphasizing awareness, the speed of the draw, and proper cutting form. Iai-jutsu is a major part of the curriculum taught in the Suio-ryu Iai Kenpo, a koryu bujutsu (ancient system of martial arts) now offered as part of the Butokuden family of martial arts.
What is the difference between Iaido and Iai-jutsu?
Iai-jutsu is related to, but distinct from, Iaido, the latter being a formalized system of iaijutsu-derived techniques that focuses on the application of the sword as a way to perfect one’s self rather than as a practical art.
While related, the techniques taught as part of the Suio-ryu are the older Iai-jutsu techniques, rather than modern formalized iaido.
What is the Suio Ryu?
The Suio Ryu is one of the few extant koryu, or ancient systems of martial arts, practiced today. It was founded around 1600 by Mima Yoichizaemon Kagenobu, and has followed the traditional method of oral transmission. Today, the head of the Suio Ryu is Katsuse Yoshimitsu Kagehiro, who lives and teaches in Shizuoka City (formerly Shimizu city) in Shizuoka prefecture in Japan.
It encompasses a broad variety of techniques from pure iai-jutsu drawing techniques, to semi-armored grappling techniques called kogusoku. Amongst the waza, or techniques, of the Suio Ryu are jojutsu, paired sword forms called kumi-iai, naginata-jutsu, pure kenpo sword forms, and wakizashi techniques. The emphasis of the Suio Ryu is practical application; although kata practice is the norm, every technique is intended to be delivered with full strength and intent, as if one were actually cutting against a live opponent. In many ways, this is part of what makes the Suio Ryu unique, for most of the techniques that comprise a kata are meant to be paired against techniques from other waza so that their applications can be both understood and tested.
The Suio Ryu was brought to America thanks to the efforts of Yamazaki Kiyoshi, who met with Katsuse-sensei and arranged for several of his students to begin training in the Suio Ryu. Since then, those students have trained as direct students of Katsuse-sensei, and were allowed to join the Suio Ryu family as a full branch organization.
About the Instructors
There are many senior leaders that are part of the Suio-ryu at Butokuden. Unlike many modern arts, koryu often use a system called menjo (or certifications) rather than belt systems. All of the instructors at Butokuden have been given the level of sho-mokuroku, recognizing the length of their experience and responsibility to preserve and continue the tradition of Suio-ryu.
Foo, Anthony – Sho-mokuroku since 2013.
Funahashi, Tadashi – Sho-mokuroku since 2013.
Otaguro, David – Sho-mokuroku since 2013.
Wang, Sung – Sho-mokuroku since 2013.
Weiss, Norma – Sho-mokuroku since 2014.
Allen, Jason – Sho-mokuroku since 2019.
Mesina, Jon – Sho-mokuroku since 2019.