Reflections of The Spring 2010 Atlanta
Kukishinden Ryu Sword Workshop
Preston Gardom

    The KukishinDen Ryu Biken no Ho workshop put on by Sensei Sukh was a great learning experience.  So, I decided I should share my thoughts with everyone so they may also learn form some of my ideas.  There were some really interesting things I garnered from Sensei’s Sukh’s expert skill, experience and thoughts about the lineage and the kata. 

First, I learned the differences between the sizes of the KukishinDen Ryu sword and “traditional” kenjutsu schools/swords we normally see today.  Everything from the length of the sword to the thickness, the way you cut with it, and the way you draw it.

The KukishinDen Ryu utilized a longer sword (almost 47 inches from handle to blade tip) and a thicker/ heavy blade.  For example, in comparison to the 43 inch sword f the Jinen Ryu Bikenjutsu school.  Due to the weight and length, the way you cut is slightly different.  The KukishinDen Ryu style seems to bludgeon and then cut the opponent, where as the kenjutsu styles I have studied thus far are more of a hard hit and scissor motion with your hands to slice through the target. This KukishinDen style was most likely because techniques where developed when the fighters wore armor and needed to blast through the metal and lacquer to create a bludgeoning effect then to cut through afterwards.  Very interesting thoughts when you think of timing, power and distancing of what we do in studying the many areas of Kobudo.

Another new thing I learned from Sensei Sukh was that after you cut, you leave the sword between you and the uke while you go into the next posture.  This keeps pressure on your opponent and helps you to maintain your proper distance.  He said many people who train in kenjutsu, do not look at that practice as life or death…therefore they do not really showcase “zanshin” or total awareness.  Even though we are training with our friends and going through pre-set movements, you should always think about guarding yourself form the opponent.  Sensei also mentioned that is not only for kenjutsu, that idea should be in everything we do.

We also reviewed the idea of how swords were drawn for the saya (or scabbard).  In The Jinen Ryu for example, the sword is drawn (and worn) sharp edge up.  The KukishinDen sword is longer, so it could be drawn with the blade down or up.  Much like a tachi style or odachi sword.  This sword most likely would be drawn in advance of an opponent’s attack.  This was not a quick draw weapon.  The style of carrying the Japanese sword edge up was a much more recent style than some of the “older” lineages as I understand the history of the Japanese sword.

I also noticed that the kamae (on guard postures) looked similar to some of the other sword styles I have studied (like Jinen Ryu).  The kamae in Seigan, Gedan, and Daijodan looked familiar while some of the other kamae like Ichi, Kasumi, Tenchijin and Chudan were foreign to me.  Ichi no Kamae has the sword horizontally in front of you while Chudan no Kamae has the sword pointing at the opponent’s heart and Kasumi no Kamae holds the sword parallel to the floor over your head, and Tenchijin no Kamae is showing your shoulder / back as a weakness to bait your enemy.

The kata showed how even though you are wearing all this heavy armor you can still be nimble and light on your feet.  Kata such as ShiHo Giri is a great example of this.  In this kata as you are stalking the opponent when you have your distance you leap in to one side you cut the opponent and then leap to the opposite side to do another cut.  This leaves the opponent feeling confused and helpless.

This workshop and time spent training on this sword school gave me a great deal appreciation for what we study and an even bigger challenge to push myself to understand the movement and ideas of the KukishinDen Ryu.  I am ever greatful for the leadership from the Dayton Gi Yu Dojo and from my teacher Dojo-cho WS Bumgarner.  I am looking forward to the next time I get to train and learn about the kenjutsu schools we study!