Batto Do / Toyama Ryu Iaijutsu

The way of drawing and cutting with a sword in a single motion

What is Batto Do / Toyama Ryu Iaijutsu

Batto Do, loosely translated, means the way of drawing and cutting with a sword in a single motion. This is the basic distinction between Batto Do and Kenjutsu, which are fighting techniques used after the sword is drawn. The terms Batto Do and Iai Do are almost interchangeable. Kata is an important training element in Batto Do but cutting is also part of the classes.

Batto Do / Toyama Ryu Kata

The eight Toyama Ryu kata were adapted from the original training kata from the Toyama Military Academy. Each Kata teach the student how to move, draw, defend, and attack efficiently with the sword. These katas are a training tool for Japanese Swordsmanship. – Click here to view the katas

Lineage Association

Toyama-ryū|戸山流 is a modern form of iai created by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1925 at the Rikugun Toyama Gakko, or “Toyama Army Academy” in Toyama, Tokyo, Japan. Today, Toyama-ryū is primarily located in the Kantō,Tokai & Kansai region. It does not have a single headmaster.Our lineage is from Toyama Ryu Iaido Association (established by Morinaga Kiyoshi)

Background & History

Toyama-ryū|戸山流 is a modern form of iai created by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1925 at the Rikugun Toyama Gakko, or “Toyama Army Academy” in Toyama, Tokyo, Japan. Today, Toyama-ryū is primarily located in the Kantō,Tokai & Kansai region. It does not have a single headmaster.

After the Meiji Restoration, officers in the Japanese army were required to carry Western-style sabres. However, this caused problems during battles against rebels in Satsuma (now Kagoshima Prefecture), since soldiers equipped with single-shot rifles and sabres were frequently overwhelmed by samurai who knew Jigen Ryū (示現流)and could charge much faster than the non-Samurai soldiers could cope with.

During the Russo-Japanese war (1904-05), the Cossack cavalries frequently charged against the Japanese infantrymen and again it was extremely difficult for the Japanese to defend themselves using sabres once their enemy reached them.

The Japanese studied the First World War with great enthusiasm, hoping to learn more about fighting modern warfare. They discovered that much fighting was still occurring at close quarters in trench warfare, often with heavy swung weapons like entrenching tools and home made clubs. This likely prompted the Japanese to tighten up their close quarter combat training. The katana was therefore readopted as the Japanese could access domestic sword masters more easily than European ones. “Jūkenjutsu“|銃剣術 was also developed at this time, being based on the use of “sōjutsu” (spear) techniques. This later became the rarely practiced sport of “jūkendō”, after the war ended.

Thus, Japanese army officers were later issued new swords shaped more like katana. However, not all officers had sufficient background in kenjutsu to deploy these weapons in combat. Consequently, in 1925, a simplified form of sword technique was devised that emphasized the most essential points of drawing and cutting. For instance, the army “iai-battō” “kata” differ from those of many “koryū” sword schools in that all techniques are practised from a standing position. (Koryū schools included a number of techniques executed from “seiza”.) Also, this modern “ryū” has an unusually strong emphasis on “tameshigiri”, or “test-cutting.” Swordsmen involved in developing this military system included Nakayama Hakudo and Sasaburo Takano.

At the end of World War II, the Toyama Military Academy became the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama. Nonetheless, the military iai system was revived after 1952. By the 1970s, three separate organizations represented Toyama-ryū Iaido: in Hokkaidō, the Greater Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation (established by Yamaguchi Yuuki); in Kansai (Kyoto-Osaka area), the Toyama Ryu Iaido Association (established by Morinaga Kiyoshi); and the All Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation (established by Nakamura Taizo). Each of these organizations was autonomous and retained its own set of forms; the Hokkaido branch even included sword versus bayonet exercises. Today, there are also at least half a dozen active instructors of Toyama-ryū outside Japan, many of whom are in California, though there are also schools in Poland and Australia.

The adoption of the katana by the Westernised Japanese army was also part of a Nationalist trend in Japan. During the 1920s Japan went through a phase of Militant Nationalism that lasted until defeat in the Second World War. By adopting the katana, the traditional sword of the Samurai [Although the Samurai traditionally carried two swords (a katana and wakizashi) non-Samurai had been banned from carrying katana (with numerous exceptions) in 1607 and the katana had become associated strongly with the Samurai.] the Japanese were allying themselves with the Samurai military tradition. Adopting the Katana also served to calm discontent among the more politicized sections of the army who had been outraged at mechanization (another lesson learned from World War I) which had de-emphasized the role of infantry and cavalry.

What is Tameshigiri?

Batto Do also places a strong emphasis on actual sword cutting. Soaked straw tatami mats are rolled up and tied tightly. These are used as targets to practice proper cutting techniques. This is a vital aspect in understanding true swordsmanship.

In modern times, the practice of tameshigiri has come to focus on testing the swordsman’s abilities, rather than the sword’s. Indeed, the swords used are typically inexpensive ones.

Practitioners of tameshigiri sometimes use the terms Shito (試刀, sword testing) and Shizan (試斬, test cutting, an alternate pronunciation of the characters for tameshigiri) to distinguish between the historical practice of testing swords and the contemporary practice of testing one’s cutting ability. The target most often used is the or tatami “omote” rush mat. To be able to cut consecutive times on one target, or to cut multiple targets while moving, requires that one be a very skilled swordsman.

Beginner classes now available!

What do you need to start Batto Do?

Beginners should consult with Sensei before purchasing equipment. An important piece of equipment for the beginner is the obi or belt. The Batto Do obi is very different from the usual karate or judo belt, because it must securely support the sword. It must be at least 6cm wide, and must be long enough to pass three times around the body and make a proper knot. Another item needed to start is a wooden sword or Bokken (Bokuto).

Class Schedule

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