Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu Techniques
This hyoho (an alternative pronunciation of heiho, or strategy) was taught to me on Tuesday, May 20, 1997 in Guelph, Ontario, by Matsuo Haruna, chief instructor at the Musashi Dojo in Ohara, Okayama-ken. I was one of eight in this Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu Kenjutsu class (Musashi's Daisho or two-sword school). In less than a day, Haruna-sensei ran through the standard twenty-four Kenjutsu Kata of NIR: twelve Itto/Tachi Seiho (Shitachi armed with Daito), seven Kodachi Seiho (Shitachi armed with Shoto), and five Nito Seiho (Shitachi armed with Daisho) -- Uchitachi is armed with Daito in all the Kata. Haruna-sensei also gave a brief talk on NIR, and we learned that NIR also has an almost equally strong Bojutsu component of twenty Kata, seven Kata of Bo vs. Bo, and thirteen Kata of Tachi vs. Bo.
Reiho and basic Kamae
When carrying both swords, they are held together in the left hand, the daito is held most left by the pinkie and the shoto with the other fingers in such a way that the shoto tsuka points up more than the daito tsuka. The left arm is held straight down, the swords are brought to the hip only when something happens, like a bow for example or when you're about to draw the sword. When the shoto is inserted in the belt (which it is before starting the nito set), the daito tsuka is higher. To draw, the right hand grasps the daito, the left hand takes the shoto from below and both are drawn together so as not to cut a hand off. After finishing practice, the shoto is placed on the right of the daito in the right hand, the two are then transferred to the left as in the start. There are no chiburi or noto movements in this ryu. This part was explained by Kim Taylor.
To bow for the itto set, take 3 steps toward the opponent starting right foot, with the sword at the hip, draw the daito, place the feet on line (shizentai) and go to sonkyo, both persons place their sword on the floor so that the points touch. The right fist is placed on the floor while the left hand is on the thigh (sumo style). The sword is picked up, chudan, then both take a neutral kamae, which is gedan for shidachi, and tate zen for uchidachi. Take 5 small steps back, left first. This is an old style bow, and usually a more simple form is
used, that looks exactly like kendo no kata but with the feet together and flat on the floor: in chudan, take sonkyo and stand up again. Tate zen is a kamae where the sword is held pointing up, one fist in front of the belly, ha to the left, somewhat tilted to the right so as not to obscure the vision. The name compares it to the stick that is used in zen meditation. Gedan is with the sword in the right hand, the tip is in front of the right knee, ha turned somewhat to the outside, tip aims in front of the foot, not the center. Left hand is on the hip in kodachi gedan. Feet are together in both kamae, the right foot half a cm more forward.
Sometimes the swords will be ready on the floor at the start, sometimes there is no bow. The ceremony at the end must be the same as at the start though. There are 12 daito techniques, uchidachi always starts in hasso: from tate zen the sword is brought to chudan, then to hasso. The feet don’t move. Hasso is 30 degrees up, with the left index at the corner of the mouth and the right index at the tip of the ear, elbows sticking out horizontally. Shidachi starts in different kamae, mostly gedan, sometimes hasso or waki. Wakigamae with the daito is taken as follows; from chudan, the sword is raised in jodan and the left foot is put forward. Then the right foot is drawn backwards and the sword is lowered to waki, the stance is very deep, with the knees pointing in the same direction as the feet. The right foot points to the right, not to the front, weight is evenly distributed over both feet. This stance is called koshimi. Another possible stance is moji gamae, short for Mojiri gamae. Left foot is forward in daito set, (right foot forward in the shoto set), the wrists are crossed, tip is aimed at uchidachi's throat. This is a slightly oblique chudan, and is taken by passing through jodan as in wakigamae. The footwork is somewhat fluid in general, according to Haruna sensei, "the book doesn't say anything about which foot". Sometimes an extra little step will be necessary to maintain correct distance.
Itto Seiho single sword set
Kodachi seiho short sword set
Nito seiho two sword set
Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu Techniques
1 sassen (sashi sen, finger point)
Uchidachi steps forward 3 steps in hasso and strikes shomen (shomen referring to kiri otoshi strike ending horizontal in this explanation) on the third. Shidachi starts from gedan, shifts to the right on his third step and stabs to the throat, the left hand is on the hip, koshimi deep stance as described earlier. Take the last steps short so as not to hit, or else aim over the shoulder. The 3rd step is to be fast. Both go to chudan, return to the center if needed, take their neutral kamae and move back. Uchidachi always moves back first. To start the next kata, both players always take chudan first.
2 hasso hidari
Both start from hasso. Uchidachi strikes shomen on the 3rd step, shidachi shifts to the right and cuts the neck, from deep stance, the rest as in sassen.
3 hasso migi
Shidachi starts with the left foot, same as 2 but to the left.
4 uke nagashi hidari
Shidachi starts from gedan with the left foot, uchidachi strikes men (men=strike ending at throat level from now on) on the 3rd step, shidachi steps with the left foot to the right (foot pointing to the right front, not towards uchidachi) and performs uke nagashi block. Uchidachi immediately steps back with the right foot to hasso (left foot forward) and prepares to strike again (a strike is always with the right foot forward for uchidachi, shidachi strikes with either foot forward. Uchidachi is pretty conventional.) Shidachi steps forward with the right foot and cuts straight down to the hand or head as soon as uchidachi moves back to hasso.
5 uke nagashi migi
Shidachi starts with right foot, etc.
6 moji gamae (the most difficult one)
Shidachi remains in position in moji gamae. Uchidachi takes 5 steps and strikes towards the head. On uchidachi’s 5th step, shidachi brings the right foot next to his left taking jodan (uchidachi's target now becomes kote), and slaps down uchidachi’s sword to the left. Uchidachi pulls back his right foot to hasso. (In this case the step back may be shortened.) Shidachi follows, stepping forward with the right foot and taking jodan. Uchidachi sees the do open up, and cuts down from uchidachi's right to shidachi's left do while stepping back with the left foot. Shidachi strikes the sword down again (to the left). He pulls his left foot next to his right at the moment of this strike. (a lot of striking is done with the feet in shizentai position). Uchidachi pulls back the right foot to hasso again, shidachi follows at once stepping forward with the right foot to koshimi and cuts kote or men.
Shidachi starts in gedan. Uchidachi cuts men on the third step, shidachi strikes this cut to his right with his left hand on the mune. The mune must be on the palm of the hand, not the thumb (it would break), the sword points up and the ha points back during this block, use the left side of the sword. The feet are together, the body twists to the right, it is not so much a block as striking away the sword, timing is important. As uchidachi starts to move to hasso, shidachi steps forward with the left foot and stabs to the throat with the hand on the mune in the middle of the sword, from koshimi (deep stance).
8 nagashi uchi (this is also the most difficult one :) )
Shidachi starts from gedan with the left foot, steps to the right and does uke nagashi on the 3rd step, steps forward with the right foot and strikes. Uchidachi now steps to the left with the rear (left) foot after his first strike while doing uke nagashi on the right (that being the foot forward). Shidachi is crowding uchidachi who has to step back with the left foot to get the proper distance to cut. Uchidachi strikes again while stepping back with the left foot. Shidachi performs uke nagashi again, moving to the left (his feet were together before this ukenagashi) with the left foot this time, then strikes again, stepping in with the right, while uchidachi was moving back to hasso. Uchidachi is still trying to get the advantage back, there's a big feeling of just hammering in on these kata.
9 tora bura (tiger sweep)
Shidachi stands in waki gamae, uchidachi walks up and strikes on the 5th step. Shidachi quickly steps back, and then forward with the other foot and strikes to the neck (hidari kesa, stop at the neck), turning the hips. The feet are changed almost in a jump. The hips should remain on the same height, this should resemble a tiger and not a frog.
Shidachi starts with left foot, blocks uchidachi’s strike on the ha in a 90 degree block with the left hand on the mune, pushes down the sword in a big circle to his right while slightly moving forward (left foot stays in front) and and traps it between his sword and right leg. When uchidachi tries to move back, shidachi stabs him, bringing his feet together. Push the sword low enough to unbalance uchidachi.
11 aisen uchidome
Both start in hasso, both strike together. Uchidachi starts to move back to hasso, shidachi immediately follows, bringing his feet together, stepping forward with the right and cutting.
12 amashi uchi
Both sides start in Hasso. Shidachi's left wrist is the obvious target 'offered' to Uchidachi. When Uchidachi strikes at the kote, shidachi lets go of the left hand in a circular movement via the rear to avoid being hit, stepping sideways to the right. When Uchidachi retreats to hasso, Shidachi moves in with the right foot and strikes a 2-handed men. Because this is the last kata, instead of stepping back, go to sonkyo and perform same reigi as before. If there is a bow with the swords on the floor, there is no bow later when standing apart. Only one bow is made.
Kodachi seiho - short sword set
Reigi is identical to itto seiho, shidachi goes to gedan with the shoto at his side, tip in front of the knee through chudan kamae (the left hand is placed on the hip).
Uchidachi starts in hasso and strikes shomen on the 3rd step. Shidachi starts from gedan with the right foot, on the third step stab between the eyes or throat, with the arm straight or slightly lower than the sword, from a deep stance. The left arm is extended backwards, the left thumb down ("fencer's lunge" position), or may also be placed on the hip.
Shidachi starts from chudan with the left foot. The 3rd step is sideways to the left while shidachi lowers the shoto to avoid a strike to the wrist, keeping the tip on the centerline to the opponent. The right foot is placed next to the left, then forward, striking down the sword or to the head, and taking uchidachi’s right elbow with the left hand and turning it inside while simultaneously stepping forward with the left foot. Then thrust to the throat from hip level while placing the feet together.
3 uke nagashi
Shidachi starts from gedan with the right foot, on the 3rd step moves slightly to the right, blocking the men strike (above the head). The tip of the shoto is somewhat pointing back, shidachi uses the shinogi. Shidachi immediately grasps the tsuka between uchidachi’s hands from below with his left hand, thumb towards uchidachi, while stepping forward with the left foot. Shidachi pushes the sword to his left and cuts to the neck, lowers the shoto to hip level, pulls uchidachi down and onto the blade, stabbing between his arms. The feet come together if necessary to make up the distance.
Shidachi stands with the right foot forward, hand in the center, tip somewhat to the right (to uchidachi’s left eye). Uchidachi takes 4 steps and strikes shomen on the 5th after shidachi has slightly lowered the shoto. Shidachi brings the feet together and strikes down the sword to the left. Uchidachi changes feet and strikes to shidachi’s right do from his left. Shidachi steps forward with the left foot, with the shoto at his hip pointing up to block the cut while he takes uchidachi’s elbow, then stabs him as before.
Shidachi starts from gedan with the left foot, uchidachi strikes men on the 3rd step. Shidachi blocks with the hi and strikes away the sword to the right, the feet are brought together during this action. Shidachi grabs the arm and as soon as uchidachi tries to move back, stabs him. This is similar to kazuki.
6 nagashi uchi
Shidachi starts from gedan with the left foot, on the 3rd step shidachi steps to the right with the left foot and performs uke nagashi. Uchidachi moves back to hasso, shidachi strikes to the neck but uchidachi blocks by moving his sword to his left instead of to hasso. Here uchidachi’s feet are together, you don't have any time to do anything except get the blade back to protect your neck. It's a real snap from the cut to the block. The blade is vertical at the left shoulder.
Shidachi returns to shizentai gedan, uchidachi returns to hasso. Uchidachi attacks again, shidachi steps with his LEFT foot to the left and performs uke nagashi, grabs uchidachi’s elbow, cuts the neck, then stabs. Uchidachi should overcommit a bit in his strikes for shidachi to be able to do these things.
Shidachi is holding the shoto with his right hand in front of his left breast, horizontally, the ha pointing 45 degrees down and forward if not directly down. The mune is up. Shidachi starts with the right foot. When uchidachi strikes on the 3rd step, shidachi stabs in a rotating motion, by putting power in the pinkie finger, thereby hitting aside uchidachi’s sword and stabbing him in the face. Timing is everything. Shidachi’s left hand is on the hip. The right foot is forward during the stab, the back foot comes up to the front, this is one of the few kata that doesn't end up in the "koshimi" very deep hanmi stance.
This is a truly terrifying kata from shidachi's side of things. You MUST have the will to take a hit to the head to do this one, even in light practice. It truly is a "throw your life away" kata.
Nito seiho - two sword set
The names of the kata always refer to the kamae shidachi starts in. (The people in the pictures are practicing, not demonstrating perfect technique!)
Chudan is with both feet in shizentai. From gedan (the right hand is held slightly higher so both tips are on the same height, tip aims before the foot, not the center), the swords are raised in a circular motion until both tips are on one line aiming at uchidachi’s throat, on shoulder height. Both take 3 steps forward. Uchidachi
strikes to the daito, but this is moved outwards and then back on line, and shidachi presses forward placing his feet together. There are two ways of moving, tsugi ashi or ayumi ashi, feet together or natural walking pattern. Haruna sensei was showing us the natural walking pattern this year so left foot passes the right.
Uchidachi moves back and raises the sword again to hasso, and strikes down again. In this kata, uchidachi performs strike, hasso, strike, pull the wrists out of the way, hasso, strike. Back on all but the final strike where you step forward to attack. Second strike down is to the swords again, Shidachi evades as before and quickly raises both swords (ha pointing in direction of movement) crosses them over his head (shoto is on top). Daito goes up first, shoto in front and crosses the upside down T just before the strike. Shoto moves fast, daito slow.
Shidachi steps forward with the right and strikes down with both swords to uchidachi’s wrists (feet together) and threatens his belly. Uchidachi moves back to hasso, then strikes again (stepping forward). The shoto is used to block this strike, the daito is used to cut upwards to uchidachi’s wrist, or armpit if you're too close. Right foot forward, koshimi (deep stance). The daito points upward, the hand is not higher than the tip.
Jodan is with the daito in hasso position and shoto in chudan position (as in 1).
Uchidachi strikes to the shoto, (on the 3rd step) this is evaded and his sword is blocked below by crossing the swords, feet together. Uchidachi steps back with the right foot, shidachi threatens (like in the first nito kata, from gedan, threaten the hara) uchidachi strikes again stepping back with the left, shidachi steps forward and blocks high by crossing the swords up, then pushes the sword to his right, steps forward with the right and cuts with both swords as uchidachi moves back to hasso, daito to the head, shoto threatening kote, deep stance, right foot forward. During the blocks the feet are together.
The first strike is blocked as in the end of chudan (with the right foot forward), then shidachi moves to feet together and chudan to threaten as uchidachi pulls back.
Uchidachi moves back to hasso and attacks again, stepping forward. Shidachi followed a bit in chudan, steps to the left with the left foot, moving both swords to his left side when uchidachi attacks again. The shoto
strikes down uchidachi’s sword while the daito cuts horizontally to uchidachi’s right upper arm. The hips should move with the daito strike. (right foot steps forward during this cut.) This is like nuki tsuke, use the same hip power.
4 waki gamae hidari
Right foot forward, the shoto is held forward as in chudan, the daito is held horizontally and on the left hip, pointing back. The arms are ‘crossed’.
Shidachi steps forward, keeping waki gamae (Right (front foot) left, right, left crosses over right) and when uchidachi strikes on the 3rd step, shidachi blocks with the shoto and strikes the underside of the wrist with the daito. Repeat as uchidachi moves back a bit and strikes again. The 2nd attack is then pushed down to the left while the daito cuts kesa upwards, moving the feet together, then down and stepping forward with the right as uchidachi moves back to hasso. Just two attacks from uchidachi's side, three things from shidachi's side, block, block, sweep and strike.
5 migi waki gamae
Shidachi has the left foot forward, shoto as in chudan, daito held on the right hip with tip aimed for uchidachi’s throat, remains on the spot in this kamae.
Uchidachi comes over to strike down the shoto, which is moved aside and then controls uchi's sword, the right foot is placed next to the left, the daito threatening uchidachi, immediately followed by raising both swords and cutting with both swords to the wrists (as in chudan).
This can be really weak unless shidachi is fully committed to thrusting through the throat and then cutting the wrists. You have to make uchidachi pull the wrists back, collapsing the hips and then he is forced into hasso. So uchidachi moves back to hasso at the moment of the double cut. Shidachi now stands in shizentai gedan. Uchidachi attacks again, stepping forward with the right, shidachi moves back with the left foot, strikes away the sword with a circular downward block using the shoto (up over and out again), steps forward and strikes men with the daito. (Uchidachi doesn't move back now).
To switching from itto to kodachi, and vice versa is done pretty much like you do it in kendo no kata, move a bit to the side while facing your partner, set it down with the handle facing the partner, edge away from both of you, and pick up the other one. Do this on one knee rather than sticking your butt in the air.
To switch uchidachi-shidachi roles you could simply meet in the centre, transfer your swords to the right hand, hand off to the left of your partner and back up again. Make sure you hand them over tip down, edge toward yourself, then the partner spins it around so it's in "in the saya" position on receiving it.