Toyama-ryū Battōdō

The Curriculum of Toyama-ryū Battōdō

The curriculum of Toyama-ryū Battōdō is limited, as its original purpose was to provide a basic system of swordsmanship to WWII-era combatants. Despite this limitation, the techniques are pragmatic and effective, and exemplify some fundamental concepts of sword use. As Toyama Ryū is not a complete system of swordsmanship, its techniques are taught to students currently studying Shinkendo.

Overall Curriculum

Within the KTRR, Toyama Ryū has been completely subsumed into the Shinkendo curriculum and further developed as follows:

  • Toyama-ryū Kihon Kata (基本型) — The eight basic kata as transmitted through the Nakamura line
  • Toyama-ryū Jōkyū Kata (上級型) — Advanced variations on the eight basic kata
  • Toyama-ryū Henka (変化) — Advanced applied variations
  • Toyama-ryū no Hensen (変遷) — Study of the original methods and their technical evolution to the present time (Guntō Sōhō, Battōjutsu, and Battōdō/Iaidō periods)

Battō Kata Curriculum

The eight kata listed below form the basis of the solo battō forms of Toyama Ryū. In the KTRR, these kata are studied in their four incarnations, which represent different stages in development of Toyama Ryū from its initial conception after World War I to the present day.

Toyama-ryū Battōdō Kata

一本目前の敵IpponmeMae no Teki
二本目右の敵NihonmeMigi no Teki
三本目左の敵SanbonmeHidari no Teki
四本目後の敵YonhonmeUshiro no Teki
五本目前の敵 連続GohonmeMae no Teki Renzoku
六本目前後の敵RopponmeZengo no Teki
七本目左右 前の敵NanahonmeSayū Mae no Teki
八本目一刀 両壇HachihonmeIttō Ryōdan

Enhancement of the Curriculum — 4 Divisions & 31 Techniques

Obata Toshishiro in Rikugun Toyama Gakkō uniform
The original uniform worn at the Rikugun Toyama Gakkō, clearly influenced by the European military. Photograph published in Naked Blade (Obata Toshishiro, 1986)

In the Kokusai Toyama Ryū Renmei, the changes in technique are separated into four divisions. In studying all 31 techniques, one will understand how Toyama Ryū has changed over the years, as well as its underlying principles, mindset, and ethic of practice. The techniques in Guntō no Sōhō, Toyama-ryū Battōjutsu, and Battōdō (Toyama-ryū Iaidō) remain as they were at the time they were originally taught. While practicing, one will come to realize the dangers and risks inherent in certain techniques, the constructive changes made to techniques over time, and where the techniques should not have been changed. The Jōkyū techniques were created by omitting the weak points of Toyama Ryū while simultaneously making them more practical.

Although Guntō no Sōhō contains some irrational techniques, it is nevertheless original Toyama Ryū technique, and it is necessary to study these older methods in order to accurately hand down all of Toyama Ryū to future generations. There is significance behind practicing a technique while knowing its flaws, rather than just mimicking the technique without realizing its flaws and purpose.

The characteristics of the Kokusai Toyama Ryū Renmei kata and techniques are:

  1. 軍刀の奏法 Guntō no Sōhō (7 techniques)
    1. These are the original seven techniques taught at the Toyama army school.
    2. There are traces left that indicate that the techniques originated largely from suwari-style iaidō.
    3. The rhythm is strange because the techniques were made to suit military marching, which starts with the left foot.
    4. There are many straight cuts that were borrowed from iaidō, and these are not practical.
    5. There are two techniques in which one cuts downward diagonally across the opposite leg. This is very dangerous.
  2. 戸山流抜刀術 Toyama-ryū Battōjutsu (8 techniques)
    1. These techniques are more practical because all the irrational elements were removed or altered.
    2. The flow and rhythm of the movements are much improved.
    3. Cuts across the opposite leg are removed, making the techniques safer.
  3. 戸山流抜刀道 Toyama-ryū Battōdō/Iaidō (8 techniques)
    1. This set of kata incorporates ideas from Kendo and other sword ryū-ha, making the individual techniques more quick and direct.
    2. The battō (sword-drawing) is faster and the distances are closer. This requires more skill to perform correctly.
    3. The first technique involves a rising diagonal draw-cut across the opposite leg — this is dangerous.
    4. The second technique finishes with left kesagiri (instead of right kesagiri).
  4. 上級 Jōkyū (8 techniques)
    1. In the Jōkyū techniques, all the weak points found in the other kata are addressed. This form is safer, and is more complex, with a large variety of techniques.
    2. These techniques cover the zengo-sayū (front, back, and side-to-side) movements more smoothly and effectively. They emphasize smooth ashisabaki (footwork), taisabaki (body movement), and kensabaki (sword movement), which create speed and strength in one's movements.
    3. The techniques are practical, so variations can be incorporated easily. This also makes the techniques more comfortable and more enjoyable to practice.