With a solid foundation and background in classical Kenjutsu and the more modern forms of Aiki-Ken, we felt the need to further develop our swordsmanship beyond the limitations and fixed patterns of old Kenjutsu. Rather than modifying one system and copy/pasting it onto another system, we have decided to redefine ourselves based on our own needs, principles and beliefs. Out of respect for the sword arts that have shaped and inspired us and to avoid further associations, we have named our way FudoKai-Ha or Mixed Kenjutsu Arts. It is intended as an ongoing experiment to add more diversity, creativity and freedom of expression on top of the pre-existing sciences of classical Kenjutsu that we know.
A Chinese proverb says ‘Paint the dragon, dot the eyes’ The story dates back to a painter named Zhang Sengyao (Liang Dynasty 502-557 AC). Zhang painted a Dragon, but purposely omitted painting the eyes. When people asked about it, he explained, “The eyes are the dragon’s spirit … the other parts are just the form. Once you add the eyes, you are giving it life force and it will fly away.” This metaphor stands for ‘the finishing touch’.
The same goes for the choreographed training patterns of ‘Kata’ in Kenjutsu. Unsurprisingly, Kata (型) means “form” in Japanese. Practicing only Kata, like most schools do, without any kind of surprise and without a creative mindset and flexible mind … you will never get close to that which is pure, your own and genuine. Kata may come close to some kind of reality and is a great tool to learn properly, but it still remains as Zhang said ‘just the form’. At some point you have to dot the eyes and give yourself life force.
In addition, some people seem to forget that martial arts had to be very flexible and creative to withstand the test of time. As weapons and fighting tactics evolved and changed, so did martial arts. Knowledge had to be constantly tested, refined and adapted to new criteria and realities. Nothing remains functional for hundreds of years without some form of change. Furthermore, remember that all traditional masters and schools once were innovative perhaps even revolutionary. These schools probably would not have been created with a pigeon-holed mind.
Finally, ancient sword styles are similar to what Latin is in languages. Latin is mainly studied for literary and historical purposes, but it no longer develops. Due to its lack of daily use it has been determined that the language is dead. The purpose of old style sword schools is mainly to preserve and protect its heritage, culture and tradition. Your personal development is of secondary importance. You have to see these arts purely in their historical context. Hence, classical schools do not represent ‘the truth’ but rather ‘a truth’ at some point in history.
‘The truth is outside of all fixed patterns’ – Bruce Lee
So when you ask us ‘what do we do’ we ask ourselves ‘what don’t we do’ …
Some relevant examples are:
Katori Shinto Ryu was adapted by the founders of Aiki-Budo, Yoseikan Budo and Sugawara Budo. Capable masters such as Minoru Inaba and Christian Tissier were influenced by Kashima. Furthermore, Aikido master Shoji Nishio has developed the Aiki ToHo Iai and master Kazuo Chiba has created his Iai Batto-ho from Shinden Muso Ryu Iaido. Just to name a few.