This January, the Kan-oukan organisation hosted a Basic International Seminar (koshukai) in Hiroshima prefecture Japan where koryu styles of jujutsu and swordsmanship were taught to members and specially invited guests. Koryu refers specifically to styles that were derived prior to the meiji-restoration of 1867, in the era of the samurai. Where one koryu martial art is often enough for a life-time of study, Kanoukan is very unique in that it teaches three separate koryu arts.
The first is Shibukawa Ichi Ryu Jujutsu, a jujutsu style that was practiced by both the samurai clansmen of the Matsuyama domain and the towns people of the Hiroshima domain. The style has a huge curriculum containing unarmed combat and self-defence techniques and many weapon techniques.
The next martial art practiced in Kanoukan is Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu Iai Heiho (MSERIH). This art has a long and complex history and is over 500 years old. It primarily focuses on the skill of drawing the sword from its housing (saya) to cut down the opponent. However, MSERIH also teaches sword duelling techniques (kenjutsu) and sword-based grappling techniques (jujutsu).
The third art taught at Kanoukan is Oishi Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu, a system of sword duelling that teaches the methods developed by famed swordsman Oishi Susumu of the Yanagawa doman. After receiving an invitation by the feudal lord in the 1830s, Oishi went to Edo where he achieved great fame. This was because he was undefeated in many challenge matches against famous instructors of the time.
Kunio Morimoto is the founder of the Kanoukan organisation. He quite remarkably holds the highest rank of Menkyo Kaiden in all three of these koryu arts having mastered their techniques. In January’s seminar Morimoto sensei quite passionately shared his knowledge of the initial katas and tekazus (techniques practiced in pairs) in these martial arts. Morimoto sensei is an astute teacher and pushes his students on many of the finer points of the techniques. He emphasizes training ‘the inside’ which generally refers to deeper details about the posture and movement of the body allowing the practitioner to be more efficient and powerful. He explained that the three different martial arts were closely connected through their internal principles and therefore supplement each other. For example, principles of posture, breathing and relaxation which are critical for swinging the sword, are equally critical for the application of effective and powerful jujutsu techniques.
The following techniques were covered in over 12 hours of training on the weekend seminar;
無雙神傳英信流抜刀兵法 Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu Iai Heiho
大森流Omori-ryu - Techniques of drawing the sword from the saya, most starting from the seated (seiza) position.
太刀打Tachiuchi - Sword duelling techniques using the standard length wooden sword (bokutou)
大石神影流剣術 Oishi Shinkage Ryu Kenjutsu
試合口Shiaiguchi - Introductory level sword duelling techniques using a longer type of wooden sword unique to the style.
陽之表Younoomote - A larger set of paired duelling exercises to further develop biomechanics.
陽之裏 Younoura - Techniques requiring a higher level of awareness to stay in tune with the opponent and sense his intentions.
澁川一流柔術 Shibukawa Ichi Ryu Jujutsu
履形 Kutsugata - Techniques devised for stopping or countering a knife attack as a concealed blade is drawn from the waist area.
吉掛 Kikkake - Defences against a single hand thrust to the upper body. These techniques can be used to protect against a push, a punch or some types of grabs.
込入Komiiri - Defences against a two-handed lapel grab.
両懐剣 Ryokaiken - Defending attacks from an opponent with two knives.
互棒 Gobou - Using a short stick to defend against an opponent with a knife.
四留 Yotsudome - Techniques for dealing with an attacker grabbing both hands, and multiple attackers who seize the defender’s arms.
The seminar was very well-attended by instructors and branch managers from around Japan, the Caribbean and Europe all of whom were in awe of the quality of instruction. Morimoto sensei is very determined not only to teach students techniques at a high standard, but also to develop the proper spirit (heart and mind) of budo and the proper etiquette for practice, as it has been done for centuries.
Through this master teacher students were able to better feel and appreciate the true essence of authentic samurai martial arts. A truly unforgettable experience. He also emphasizes the importance of being a good person, having a good heart, and fostering good relationship. That being said, after training members had a fun social get-together and enjoyed some fine Japanese cuisine in a buffet style dinner.
This seminar was a great experience not only to learn authentic techniques of ancient martial arts, but also to experience Japanese culture. Hiroshima prefecture has a very rich history and there are many fantastic sights and historical attractions that greatly enhance the experience of training there.