Kenjutsu Techniques

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Old Kenjutsu

Zan Tei Settetsu

Ono Itto Ryu

Armed techniques (Kenjutsu Ono-ha Ittoryu) [1\5]



Kenjutsu Stances
Odachi Nodachi


Kodachi Kata
Kenjutsu Techniques
Kojo gokui goten
Kojo Ryu Twelve Positions

"Do weapons training as though empty-handed; train empty-handed as though with weapons"

Bay Marin Aikido offers students the unique opportunity to train in both Iwama Style weapons and the Ken tai Jo (sword and staff) weapons forms of Sugawara Sensei.

Iwama Style Weapons

Sugawara Sensei's Ken tai Jo

Ken and Jo suburi, kata, and paired forms

8 paired forms with ken and jo

The sword movements of these eight paired forms come from the 600+ year old Japanese weapons school, Katori Shinto Ryu. These are classical sword moves which serve as the basis of all the recognized modern sword schools.

The Jo movements are generally based upon the Iwama Style 31 Jo Kata with some of the movements also based upon the usage of the bo, naginata, and the spear.

The first four forms are in the classic "Omote" fashion. That is, harder in attack and defense with larger more dramatic movements Originally these forms were

O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido, was adept with sword and staff, and he often demonstrated that Aikido techniques could be executed either empty-handed or with the bokken or jo.

His student, Morihiro Saito Sensei, carried on the tradition of executing Aikido techniques identically regardless of whether a weapon was used or not. And he further taught that training with the weapons fostered a precision, power, and keen sense of timing that vastly aided in the learning of empty-handed Aikido.

Saito Sensei made the great contribution of organizing the Founder's weapons training practices into a systematic set of elements that could be preserved and passed on to future generations.

It is important to note that the primary goals of Iwama Style weapons training are not to learn sword fighting or stick fighting for use in combat situations. Rather, the weapons training, both solo and partner practices, are designed to help the student develop a strong sense of timing, spatial awareness, and connection with a partner; to learn to stay in sync with a partner, while the weapon becomes a natural extension of one's own body.

As a certified teacher of Saito Sensei's weapons system, Goto Sensei offers instruction in all of the levels of the Iwama weapons practices. These include:

Fundamental moves, or Suburi, 7 for bokken and 20 for the jo

The 31 and 13 count jo katas

The 31 jo kata partner practice

The set of 10 jo partner practices, or kumi jo

The set of 5 bokken partner practices, or kumi tachi

The Ki No Musubi no Tachi bokken blending practice

A variety of awase, or blending movement, partner practices with both bokken and jo

A variety of empty-handed sword and jo take-away techniques

(Iwama style) Ken tai Jo, bokken and jo partner practices formulated to study attack and defense while wearing (Japanese) armor.

The second four forms are in the classic "Ura" or 'hidden' form. The movements are smaller, more subtle, and the distance is closer. These forms were formulated to study unarmored attack and defense.

In the practice of these forms, distances are closer and the pace faster. There is more blurring of the roles in attack and defense, rather than having a clearly defined attacker (kogeki) or defender (uke). Most of the footwork requires sure steps and angles, avoiding the step and sliding adjustments students sometimes do.

There is always a rotation of the hips as well as clear movements of the hands and arms. There are always clear cutting and piercing moves at specific targets from both weapons.

The general purpose of these ken tai jo forms is the honing of one's skills in judging critical distance. With practice, speed and accuracy develop naturally along with increasingly correct body movement and footwork.

Unlike Iwama style weapons training, the close relationship of the body movements in both weapons practice and empty-handed aikido is not emphasized. Additionally, the easy interchange from weapon-in-hand to a throw or disarm is not as apparent in Sugawara's Ken Tai Jo.

These forms provide an exhilarating and stimulating weapons practice. One that hones our minds and intent to a razor sharpness nearly as keen as that of the ancient samurai swords.


In the modern world it is not common (at least not where I live) to encounter someone armed with a sword. This is a thankful state of affairs! However through historic tradition jitsuka are trained in the very basics of sword techniques or Ken Waza.

What is a sword?

A sword is a weapon that is usually made of metal. It has a 'long' blade and a hilt - usually separated by a > hilt. Swords are used in a variety of attacking styles, thrusting, slashing and even bludgeoning.

A little history

The Japanese are recognised as the first people to create truly sharp swords. Before 1 this swords were rarely able to slice into people rather they were used to bludgeon an opponent into unconsciousness and the sword could then be used to cleave and stab. However the folding of steel and other metals led to stronger swords that retained their sharpness for more than a few blows. It was these swords that the samurai used in their battles and it is these swords that are used in jiu jitsu.

The art of using a sword is an entire martial art (or several) in it's own right. The art of the sword is not one where the blade is swashbuckled around or fenced - at least not with the sword of the samurai, the Katana. Ken Do (the way of the sword) is the most famous practice of Japanese sword work, but there are many other arts of the sword to learn. The art of Iai Do for example focuses solely on the art of drawing the sword from it's sheath, whereas Tameshi Giri concentrates on the art of actually cutting with a sword.

Why train with swords? In jiu jitsu as with most of the gentle art, only the surface of a set of techniques is touched upon. There is always a life time of study to be spent on each technique. Judoka for instance often spend their entire lives perfecting a single throw. Jiu jitsu aims for an all round coverage of techniques so that no matter what the situation the jitsuka can react appropriately. Therefore whilst there is so much to learn about the sword, jitsu provides some knowledge about swords. After all perfecting a throw such as koshi guruma may not be as helpful against a sword as gaining a competency in a much larger range of throws.

The Katana

The katana is a versatile sword and is only one of several types of Japanese sword, but it was the preferred sword of most samurai. The katana is a fairly long sword normally used two handed, but light enough to be wielded one handed when required.

Katana vary in quality and in price as well as their particular style. Many katana posess ornately carved hilts with dragon heads or gold wire handle. Scabbards are also frequently etched and embossed in a Japanese style. Most of these artistic designs are for ornamental katana which are ineffective in combat, but there do exist some which are not. therefore on the mat do not be complacent in thinking that a katana is not 'real', no matter how it looks. It may well be sharper than you think.

It was not an infrequent occurrence for the Samurai to carry a katana and a wakizashi (see below) into battle, one sword in each hand and fight with both at once. The smaller wakizashi made a good weapon for the off hand, and such a combination was referred to as diasho meaning the long and the short.

The katana in the correct hands is a deadly weapon. In the wrong hands it a deadly liability to the person who is attempting to wield it. It is normal practice however to train (at least initially) with a bokken (see below) and then move on to a katana that has been purposefully blunted. Even blunted katanas are dangerous. They won't pierce the skin whne pressed gently to it, but they will cut if force is applied. More senior grades (purple onwards) typically spend time learning how to strike effectively with katana. This then allows them to train safely with one another in practicing defences against attacks with a katana.

The Wakizashi

The wakizashi is a shorter sword than the katana and is of a similar construction. The wakizashi was another preferred weapon of the Samurai and was often used in the off hand to the katana. The wakizashi is not as obvious as a katana, and so whilst not as visually impressive, it can be more easily concealed - making at least equally as deadly if not more so.

The No Dachi

The no dachi is an impressive two handed sword over five feet in length and very sharp. Much heavier than a katana, the no dachi can easily cause grevious wounds on an attack, but it is not as maneuverable or fast as a katana, and so defences against them tend to be easier - assuming it doesn't hit on the first attack. This sword is not well suited to thrusting attacks, but more to downward slashes, and so the attack is more easily predictable. No dachi are rarely used in jiu jitsu since the katana is at least as challenging a weapon to master.

The Bokken

Bokken are wooden swords about the size of a katana. They arte essentially practice weapons, and potentially safer than a metal sword. Of course if you are hit by a fast moving three foot piece of solid wood - IT WILL HURT YOU! Bokken are still weapons as much as a baseball bat could be used as a weapon.

the bokken is carved so that it has a slightly cureved katana like blade, and a distinct handle. Between the handle, modern bokken also have a tsuba or hilt to protect you when practicing fighting or kata with another. The tsuba is held in place by a rubbery band called a habaki.

Many other types of swords exist, and may be found in dojos across the world, but the principles of using them are similar, as are the defences against them.

Using Swords

Swords are highly dangerous weapons. For centuries they were man's primary weapon for close combat on the battle field. Swords should be respected at all times whether they are blunt or sharp, wood or metal.

Wearing your sword The swords used primarily in jiu jitsu are the katana and the wakizashi. Both of these weapons have slightly curved blades, and when they are worn, are worn on the opposite hip to the sword hand with the slicing edge of the blade pointing up. The tsuba is positioned so that it lies next to the knot of the obi. The sword scabbard should slide through between the two bands of the obi. The sword scabbard often has securing tapes on it. These should be looped through and under the obi a few times to make sure that the scabbard does not slip out from the obi.

If you are using a bokken, this will not have a scabbard, but if you take the overlap of the obi at the back and bring it around to the side where the scabbard would be (this is easily done with a couple of fingers), the bokken can be slid into the cross as shown in the diagram. Up inside the outer band over the inner band, then under the inner band, and over the outer band.

Finally you should always try and keep your off hand on the scabbard of the sword. Place the hand on the upper end and place the thumb over the tsuba. This means that when you rei to someone, your sword does not slide out onto the floor making you look very silly and leaving you practically disarmed.

Drawing the sword

The art of drawing a sword is Iai Do, and is an entire martial art in itself. In the very basics of sword work, it is enough to focus on drawing the sword smoothly and quickly into the first strike or into a ready position. With a long sword it often helps if you turn your hips away from the direction you are drawing the sword as you are doing it. This will help you get enough distance in your draw to get the tip of the blade out of the scabbard.

In drawing the sword, you should try to follow the curvature of the blade. For a straight bladed sword draw in a straight line. For a curved blade sword draw in an arc the same shape as the curve of the blade. It will also help if you slowly breathe out in a smooth continuous breath as you draw the sword. This will stop you tensing and jamming or jerking the sword in the scabbard.

Holding a katana

A katana is typically held in both hands with the right most hand nearest the blade. There should be about a finger's distance between the index finger of the right hand and the tsuba. The left hand should grasp the lower part of the hilt away from the blade. The left hand's little finger should lie just beneath the hilt of the sword as though supporting the entire sword.

When preparing to strike, the hand is open, the sword being gripped only by the left hand's little finger and the thumbs & palms of both hands. As the strike is made, both hands grasp the sword fingers curling into place as the strike is made. This gripping strategy may at first feel uncomfortable, but like a true randori judo grip where only a few fingers are used until the attack is made, this allows you to move the sword in a more relaxed and free manner and put the necessary force into the strike at the end when it is needed. This also means that your hands will be able to hold the sword comfortably for a much greater length of time.


There are many types of attack that can be made with a sword. Some more simple attacks to try are:-

• Shomen Uchi - The leading foot is drawn back to a cat stance (90% weight on back foot, 10% on front foot, back knee bent slightly, and front foot up on the ball) as the sword is take directly back over the head so that it points vertically down. Then as you step back to the initial stance, the sword is swung directly over the head into the target. On the strike do not let the tip of the bokken drop below the horizontal.

• Thrust - A simple attack from the initial stance draw the sword hilt back towards you and slightly to one side as determined by the stance. From there push hard off the back foot and let the front foot slide smoothly across the floor. At the same time extend both arms driving a little body weight and shoulder into the thurst. Keep the tip of the sword above the horizontal.


Swords are dangerous weapons, but the Samurai realised that they may be disarmed on the field of battle, and may have to defend theselves against a sword armed attacker. To this end jiu jitsu developed several defensive techniques to 'ahem' obtain ownership of the sword.

As usual if we assume that most people do not intend to attack themselves with their weapon, then the best place to be to avoid being hit by the weapon is where the attacker is. Taking the previously described attacks as examples the following techniques could be used:-

From a vertical attack (or a 45° attack), the jitsuka must move into the attack and try to stand in the same place as the attacker whilst taking control of the sword. The sword will not suddenly stop dead when blocking the arms, so it is better to control the arms and keep the attack moving through. The best example of a technique to do this would be yama arashi. This can allow the jitsuka to lock both arms and because it is a hip throw will allow the jitsuka to assume the position of the attacker and to put them to the floor in one sweeping movement.

If the attack is seen early enough, the jitsuka may be able to rush the attacker. Stepping quickly to the outside and placing a covering hand on the hilt of the sword, the other hand can come forward to take the face nad eyes in order to take the attacker's balance backwards causing them to fall - probably onto their own sword.

From a thrust, the jitsuka needs to sidestep the attack. From the side, the jitsuka then must take control of the sword. Because a thrust tends to be for the gut or abdomen, the arms tend to be too low to lock up into something like arm lock six. Instead the jitsuka should try to focus on the wrists. Covering bothe hands, the jitsuka should be able to continue the movement of the thrust going and use it against the attacker to then take them into a wrist lock. Whilst putting the wrist lock on it may even be possible to strike the attacker with their own sword by their own hands.

An important thing to remember about swords is that they are long, and whereas a knife that has been 'secured' may not be able to slash you, a sword that is 'secured' may have a lot more movement at its tip than you would at first think. Make sure that when you do take control of the sword you can see the end of the sword. You know where the attacker is... there the one screaming in pain at the other end of the sword. Concentrate on the sword - you can even use it to finish off the attacker or if numbers are a problem the next attacker - "I'm sorry m'lud, he came at me with this sword and I just turned him round and, well he just stabbed his mate with it.".


The jo is a stout wooden stave fashioned from Japanese oak which was originally used as a substitute for the long sword and the short spear. The principle use for the jo is as a weapon to counter and attack other aggressors who are armed with similar weapons or as a weapon to neutralise an unarmed attacker. Use of the jo is also a very good method of achieving co-ordination of body, limbs and mind, and to this end, many exercises have been developed using it.

Jo Suburi

Each of the following twenty suburi should be practised carefully and with feeling. Breathing is very important and you should inhale before you start the movements, allowing your breath to pass out of your lungs as you perform the suburi, and exhaling sharply as you finish the final thrust or strike of the suburi. Always check your posture at the beginning and end of each suburi to ensure that you have started and finished correctly. Good posture before and after performance goes a long way towards correct posture during the suburi.

1. CHOKU TSUKI - This is the basic thrusting movement which is featured in many of the jo waza (jo techniques). Commence in basic posture, hidari hanmi, with the jo resting on one end vertically on the mat immediately in front of your left foot. Hold the jo with your left hand. Reach down with your right hand to grasp the jo near its base. Your left hand should lift the jo as you do this. Slide your right hand down to the end as you bring the jo to a horizontal position, tsuki no kame. Slide the jo through your left hand back and then forwards, swinging your right hand up to the front of your centre. Both feet slide forwards as you lower your posture during this forward thrust.

2. KAESHI TSUKI - This is actually a counter to a thrust from your opponent. Commence in left posture as for the first jo suburi. Grasp the top of the jo with your right hand, thumb downwards. Bring the jo up in a circular motion as you move to your left with your left foot, bringing your right foot around to remain in hidari hanmi. As you move, thrust the jo forwards to your opponents centre, your left hand on top of the jo. Expel your breath explosively as the thrust is performed.

3. USHIRO TSUKI - This is a thrust against an opponent who is behind you. Commence in basic posture as for the previous suburi, bringing your right hand to the top of the jo, thumb upwards. Lift the jo placing it along the underside of your left forearm while sliding your left foot back beside your right. Step back with your left foot, thrusting the jo straight to your rear and turning your body to your left as you do this.

4. TSUKI GEDAN GAESHI - This is the first of two combinations of movements which incorporate the first jo suburi. Commence in hidari tsuki no kamae, holding the jo horizontally in your left hand with your right hand at its base, your feet in left posture. Swing back with your right hand to make choku tsuki (first jo suburi), sliding your feet forwards. Slide your left hand towards the front of the jo, and step backwards and to the right, remaining in left posture as you push the jo back past your right side through the right hand. Turn your hips to the left, stepping forwards with your right foot, and bring the jo around at knee level to strike at your opponents lower legs. Your right hand should be behind the jo pushing it round to make contact.

5. TSUKI JODAN GAESHI - This combination introduces the striking techniques which are to follow in the next five suburi. You commence in hidari tsuki no kamae. Swing back with your right hand to perform choku tsuki, sliding your feet forwards. Move backwards and to the right, still in hidari hanmi, bringing the jo up to protect your head (sliding your right hand up to your left). Tum it over your head to the striking position in preparation for shomen uchi strike (right wrist twists, left hand moves to end of Jo). The strike is performed by swinging the jo in an arc over your head and down onto your opponent as you step forwards with your right foot.

6. SHOMEN UCHI KOMI - Commence in right posture holding the jo in front of you with your left hand at the end of the jo and your right hand a quarter of the way up. Step back with your right foot, raising the jo above your head, pointing it towards the ceiling and angled slightly back. As you step forwards with your right foot, bring your hands down and forwards, striking with the jo to your opponents centre.

7. RENZOKU UCHI KOMI - Commence in right posture and perform shomen uchi komi (sixth jo suburi). Having performed the strike in right posture, move your weight forwards on to your right foot and bring your hands up to the front of, and just above, your head with the jo pointing to your right. Step forwards with your left foot, turning your hips into left posture. Bring the jo round to extend behind you and make hidari shomen uchi to complete the suburi.

8. MEN UCHI GEDAN GAESHI - Commence in right posture and perform shomen uchi komi. When the strike is completed, extend your right hand to the end of the jo, sweep it back to your left side and move back and to your left. Step forwards with your left foot. Bring the jo round in a strike to your opponent's knee, keeping your left hand behind the jo to give power to the strike.

9. MEN UCHI USHIRO TSUKI - Commence in right posture and perform shomen uchi komI. As the strike is completed, slide your right hand to the forward end of the jo, turn your hips into left posture and perform a thrust to the rear as in ushiro tsuki.

10. GYAKI YOKOMEN USHIRO TSUKI - Commence in right posture as if you had just completed shomen uchi komi, bringing your hands up to the front of, and just above, your head with the jo pointing to your right. Step forwards with your left foot and perform hidari shomen uchi. Slide your left hand to the front end of the jo, turning your hips further into left posture and perform ushiro tsuki to your right side at chest level.

11. KATATE GEDAN GAESHI - This is the first of the suburi which features one-hand grip and uses wrist movement for successful completion. Commence in hidari tsuki no kamae, sliding your left hand to the forward end of the jo. Push the jo back through your right hand, bringing your body back and to the right as in the fourth suburi. Both hands should now be at the forward end of the jo. Take a long step forward with your right foot, sweeping the jo forwards across an imaginary opponent's face, holding it with your right hand only and catching it with your left hand over your head on the left side after the sweep is complete, finishing in a defensive position.

12. TOMA KATATE UCHI - This movement is used to extend the jo forwards to reach a considerable distance past your normal fighting range. Commence in hidari tsuki no kamae and draw the jo back over your head to your left with your right hand, resting the forward end of the jo on your left forefinger/thumb cleft. Draw your weight back onto your right foot. As you start to swing the jo around with your right wrist, commence stepping forwards with your right foot, swinging the jo at your opponent's head and around to be caught by your left hand down by your left hip.

13. KATATE HACHI-NO-JI-GAESHI - This incorporates a double wrist action to loosen your wrist and serves as the precursor to the hasso techniques that will follow. Commence in left posture. Hold the jo in your right hand on your right side, the end resting on the mat. Tum your wrist forwards, raising the jo and, while stepping forwards with the right foot, sweep the jo across your imaginary opponent's face. catch the jo high on your left side in your open left hand. Swing your hips back to the right, changing posture into hidari hanmi while stepping back with your right foot as you push the jo across to your right with your left hand. Spin it around your right wrist, catching the short end in your left hand, beside your head on your right side.

14. HASSO GAESHI UCHI - The next five suburi all incorporate the hasso technique which consists of rapidly twirling the jo from a forward position under your wrist and up to above your right shoulder beside your head, as you do to complete the thirteenth suburi. Commence in ken no kamae, sliding your right foot back as you extend your left hand forwards and upwards, letting your right hand slide a little further towards the centre of the jo. As you step back with your right foot, push sharply down with your left hand on the jo to swing it down and up to your rear. Grasp the bottom end with your left hand as it comes to a vertical position at the right side of your head in hasso no kamae. Start to step forwards with your right foot as you bring the jo up to your head changing the grip with your right hand, and complete your step forwards as you strike with shomen uchi in right posture.

15. HASSO GAESHI TSUKI - Commence as in the previous suburi twirling the jo to assume hasso no kamae. From this point, extend your left foot forwards, bringing the jo down to perform a straight thrust to your front. Slide your right hand forwards and perform hasso gaeshi once more, bringing your left foot back a little to finish in hasso no kamae.

16. HASSO GAESHI USHIRO TSUKI - Commence as in the previous suburi by twirling your jo to assume hasso no kamae. From the vertical, drop the top of the jo forwards, extending your left hand to its front end and thrusting the jo to your right rear (migi ushiro tsuki). Finish with your hips facing to the right.

17. HASSO GAESHI USHIRO UCHI - Commence as in the sixteenth suburi assuming hasso no kamae. Tum your hips further to your right and strike down and around to your rear with a round sweeping blow, keeping your feet in the same position as they were in hasso no kamae.

18. HASSO GAESHI USHIRO HARAI - Commence as in the previous suburi assuming hasso no kamae. Tum your whole body to the rear, sweeping your right foot back and round whilst swinging the jo in a sweeping strike to an imaginary opponent who is standing behind you.

19. HIDARI NAGARE GAESHI UCHI - These final two suburi are designed to help improve your body movement as they incorporate a flowing combination of strikes. Commence in ken no kamae (right posture), stepping back with your right foot to perform shomen uchi komi (sixth suburi). As the strike is made turn to your left, bringing the jo around as you extend your left hand forwards to catch it. From here, take the jo back over your head. You should now be facing your rear as you perform right shomen uchi strike to the imaginary opponent who is now standing in front of you.

20. MIGI NAGARE GAESHI TSUKI - Commence in ken no kamae, stepping forwards to perform hidari shomen uchi. As you complete the strike, step back and round with your right foot, turning to your rear to block across your head Lower your hands into hidari tsuki no kamae and perform hidari choku tsuki to deal with the imaginary adversary behind you.

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