Hōki-ryū iaidō in Indiana

Hōki-ryū iaidō

at Yobushin Dojo, Indiana


Hōki-ryū Kata 

Like other classical traditions, Hōki-ryū's primary vehicle for training is the kata, pre-arranged practice patterns. Though this word may already be familiar to arts like karate, David Hall's excellent article should be consulted for the fundamental uniqueness of kata in the koryū as methods for achieving psycho-physical integration and for passing on the ability to make intuitive decisions in stressful combative situations. All lines of Hōki-ryū share a core curriculum of iai, which consists of six Omote kata (“surface forms”) and nine Chūdan kata (“middle level forms”).
Hōki-ryū mokuroku
Above: Portion of an 1855 Hōki-ryū mokuroku (catalogue of techniques) listing the Chūdan and Tonomono kata of the curriculum. Image courtesy of Rennis Buchner.

Note that the English translations of the kata names are just that, kata names. These are not necessarily simple descriptions of techniques.

Six Omote forms 表六本

Japanese Translation
1. Osae-nuki (押え抜) Pin and draw
2. Kote-giri (小手切) Cutting the wrist
3. Kiritsuke (切付) Draw and cut
4. Nukitome (抜留) Stopping the draw
5. Tsukitome (突留) Stopping the lunge
6. Shihō-kanegiri (四方金切) Cutting in four directions

Nine Chūdan forms 中段九本

1. Hiza-zume (膝詰) Close to the knees
2. Mune no katana (胸之刀) Sword to the chest
3. Okkake-nuki (追掛抜) Pursue and draw
4. Kaeri-nuki (返り抜) Turn and draw
5. Issasoku (一作足) One quick movement
6. Mukō-zume (向詰) Close in front
7. Nagarōka (長廊下) Long corridor
8. Kissaki-gaeshi (切先返) Turning the sword point
9. Shihō-zume (四方詰) Surrounded on four sides

The Omote kata are seated techniques (suwari waza) from seiza, while the Chūdan set is a mixture of forms from standing and seated positions. While Hiza-zume and Mune no katana start from seiza, Issasoku and Nagarōka start in iaihiza (also called tatehiza). The remainder are tachi waza (standing techniques).

Nakamura sensei performs seated iai
Above: Nakamura sensei and students demonstrate a seated technique at a public performance of traditional Japanese arts held at the Indiana University Music School on June 21, 1998. They are accompanied by two musicians from Japan, Yano Shiku and Urasawa Satsuki, who perform the shakuhachi (flute) and the koto (zither) respectively.

In addition to Omote and Chūdan, the original Hōki-ryū curriculum also includes sets of kata such as Omote gokajō, Ura gokajō, Ōhen hakkyoku, Iai hakkyoku, and Tonomono, with upwards of 75 kata (see R. Buchner's essay for more information). Today, while virtually all lines of Hōki-ryū maintain the core fifteen kata, some still preserve materials from these more advance sets. They practice paired swordwork (kumitachi) or further iai techniques with the attendant oral transmission (kuden). The content of the okuden (secret transmission) or gokui (essence) may vary from line to line.

Zen Nihon Iaidō Tōhō

Our school also practices the tōhō (“sword method”) devised by Zen Nihon Iaidō Renmei, the All-Japan Iaidō Federation. This is a curriculum of five kata drawn from five major schools, including Hōki-ryū, and its goal is to provide an introduction to iaidō through a cross-section of the art. Consequently, it has been homogenized to eliminate the technical features that make any given kata unique to a particular ryū.

1. Mae-giri (前切り)
Front cut; from Eishin-ryū
2. Zengō-giri (前後切り)
Front and rear cut; from Mugai-ryū
3. Kiriage (切不げ )
Upward cut; from Shindō Munen-ryū
4. Shihō-giri (四方切り)
Cutting in four directions; From Suiō-ryū
5. Kissaki-gaeshi (切先返し)
Turning the sword point; from Hōki-ryū

Most students of Japanese swordsmanship are perhaps more familiar with the seitei gata (“standard forms”) of Zen Nihon Kendō Renmei, the All-Japan Kendo Federation. The iaidō tōhō is the seitei gata of ZNIR.

Our members visiting Nakamura sensei at Hyogo University
Above: Our members visiting Nakamura sensei at Hyogo University.

Kata Order for Learning

We learn the kata in the following order:

      1. Okkake-nuki
      2. Kaeri-nuki
      3. Hiza-zume
      4. Shihō-zume
      5. Mae-giri (ZNIR)
      6. Kiriage (ZNIR)
      7. Shihō kanegiri
      8. Kissaki-gaeshi (Hōki-ryū version)
      9. Kissaki-gaeshi (ZNIR version)
      10. Tsuki-dome
      11. Nuki-dome
      12. Zengō-giri (ZNIR)
      13. Osae-nuki
      14. Kote-giri
      15. Kiritsuke
      16. Shihō-giri (ZNIR)
      17. Nagarōka
      18. Mukō-zume
      19. Issasoku
      20. Mune no katana


A brief list of our most commonly used Japanese terms.

Obata sensei's students in Hiroshima
Above: Hōki-ryū practitioners under Obata sensei in Hiroshima.


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