Thursday, May 20, 2010

達成 Shōshin - Advancement in Rank

In Martial Arts, one can be periodically tested to certify their advancement in skill and by rank. In the world of Shinkendo this is no different. As a Honbu student of the World Headquarters of Shinkendo in Little Tokyo, one can train all year round and test quarterly when a Sensei feels you are ready. This week I am pleased to announce that I have passed two such tests. The first being in Shinkendo for the rank of Jiho which is a second rank certifying me as an intermediately student among the Shinkendo Ranks. For those not familiar with Shinkendo, Shinkendo uses an older ranking system that goes back to the Edo period as opposed to using Kyu/Dan or belt ranking. To achieve the Jiho rank one must know the eight Kamae, Taitsubaki (defensive footwork techniques) Tatchiuchi (sparring techniques done with a partner) Tarengata (pre-arranged solo forms) as well as other reviewed basics from the previous Ichimonji rank testing. As opposed to Kendo which uses Bugou (armor) & shinai, Shinkendo uses wooden Bokken or Bokuto and ultimately real shinken. Overall, this progression from wooden sword to real katana is done to both enhance technique and emphasize safety. As a result, there has been no major accidents in Shinkendo's 20 year history. This is the result of the excellent training devised by Obata Kaiso.

No matter how hard you train, one should almost expect the unexpected to happen. Chaos theory definitely applies here. I had become quite ill during my brief run up to San Francisco the weekend before testing. Testing while using cold medication can make some simple moves quite challenging. But in the end, your Sensei knows what your true ability is. If that wasn’t enough personal chaos combined with the stress of testing, the test for Toyama Ryu would seriously put me to the test. Seriously!

Toyama Ryu is a sword discipline that was used by the officers of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. As with such being a military discipline, each technique must be perfectly executed with military precision. I had seen Toyama Ryu as the gateway to Tameshigiri (live sword cutting) and had train hard in Batsu-Jitsu & Yamagata. But as the chaos factor entered the picture two elements would take me by surprise. One being that I would not be tested in what I had trained for and the other would be that I would have to test in front of the whole class before our headmaster & Shinkendo Kaiso (founder) Toshishiro Obata-Sama. Talk about nerve wracking! One minor mistake and picture a scene from any good Samurai film where the Daimyo yells at a subordinate Samurai who is caught off guard but this time for real! But for those of you who are not Japanese or simply not to be confined to just watching Samurai films, this is what you train for!

As expected, the unexpected occurred when I was told to test in the alternate form of Batsu-Jitsu known as Gunto-Soho, a form we rarely ever practice involving seven draws and precision steps that would have been required by any officer in the Japanese Imperial Army. To my relief, I passed! I have now achieved the 6th Kyu rank in Toyama Ryu. Tameshigiri is only a discipline away! The training will continue and there will be more tests to come but for now I can take pride in the fact that my hard work has borne some results and there will be more to come! To find out more about Shinkendo or Toyama Ryu please visit Shinkendo's Official Website.

Or to read further on Shinkendo please check out Shinkendo by Toshishiro Obata available at the


  1. Congratulations. Nice photo. I know exactly where that is.

  2. Arigatou' It's not quite Edo but until I can afford to really go to Japan it will do for the picture!

  3. Congrats! From Owari no utsuke!