What is Jiyu-Kumitachi?

What is Jiyu-Kumitachi?

Now the world is turning its attention to Japanese iaido

 The dojos of the International Iaido Organization Hogyokukai receive many visitors from abroad. It is not just because NBC, one of the three major US networks, featured the Hogyokukai chairman before the Tokyo Olympics, or because they chose Hogyokukai to shoot videos in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

 Professors from the Department of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, which is one of the top five universities in the country along with MIT, SU, UCB and HU, as well as alumni from the dojo filled the dojo to the brim with students of Mugai-ryu iaido. They said they were “amazed” not only by the techniques of Mugai-ryu iai, but also by the Zen way of looking at things. These are the people who will eventually stand at the heart of America, and it would be useful for the future if they could deepen their understanding of Japan through Japanese culture.

 Also present this year were those who had guarded Queen Elizabeth and key figures from the US Special Forces Delta Force. Some of them said that they came to Japan just for that reason. I think it is a great responsibility to bear the long history of iaido.

The concept of Martial Arts, it’s a really strong Samurai

Disney Plus and is about to become a worldwide hit. They come to us with a yearning that it is natural to be able to cut and to fight real battles.

 And iai, which has existed since the time of the samurai, has a way to respond to this. The three elements of iai are kata, kumidachi and test cutting.

The ‘kata’, ‘kumitachi’ and ‘test cutting’ that make up iai meet these expectations.

(1) Kata
Repetitive practice of movements that are exactly the same while assuming a virtual enemy, performed by one person. The repetition of kata is unique to Japan and is considered by Westerners to be a solo performance.

(2) Kumitachi
fighting according to a set form, with the batter (uchi-dachi; the loser) and shidachi (shidachi; the winner) determined.

(3) Tameshi-giri(trial cutting)

Most sword-breaking organisations refer to it as ‘Shi-zan’.

One word of caution: each style has its own ideas about test cutting. In our Mugeiryu iai, the question is whether or not we can cut with the first sword of kata no nukiuchi, so we aim to cut with a brilliant sword. In Mugei-ryu test cutting, the goal is to cut with the first sword of kata no nukiuchi.

This is an arrangement of the kata ‘Right Enemy’, taken from the enemy’s perspective

You don’t know unless you try

 You can’t know if the movement you are doing is correct unless you actually try it.

 Similarly, in kumitachi, if you don’t try it, you won’t know the actual timing or the movements of your opponent. If you do kata without knowing, you may end up making assumptions, which I think is dangerous.

Connected to the form, it constitutes the universe of iai

 It is easy to imagine that the way we perceive ‘kata’ will be compounded if we try it, just from this discussion so far.
 I feel that kata, kumitachi and test cutting are not separate things, but are connected to each other in a way that makes iai appear three-dimensional.
 I think it is significant that in Mugai-ryu, the previous Soke Shiokawa Hosho Sensei and his direct disciple and my teacher, the current Meishi-ha Soke Niina Gyokuso Sensei, strongly taught test cutting and kumitachi.

 Let’s take it one step further.

What would happen if they really tried to fight?

 As long as kumitachi remains a form, it is like a magic trick, to put it worse.

 You know what your opponent is going to do, you know what he is going to do, and if you breathe together, you can do it brilliantly.
 That’s what I mean when I say that no matter how good this kumitachi is, it doesn’t mean it’s strong.

 What would happen if we really tried it, would what we are practising be able to respond properly to the opponent’s movements?
 When people think of ‘judo’, they think of working with an opponent.
 When they think of ‘kendo’, they think of striking each other with a mask, a body and a kote.
 In karate, they probably imagine exchanging thrusts and kicks.
 Why is it that only in iai do we imagine a single person performing kata?

 Karate used to be ‘kata practice-centred’.
 Then kumite, which started as a “let’s try it” and actually fight, came in, and that became what karate represented.
 I imagine that the name “Jiyu Kumite” given to the fight was probably adapted from “Kumitachi”.
 This is because the name ‘kumitachi’ existed first.
 Unfortunately, I do not know whether it was named by the founder of Kyokushin Karate, Oyama Masutatsu Sensei, or by Yamaguchi Gogen Sensei of Goju-ryu, who was working with Oyama Sensei at the same time. And that is not the main point here, so let’s leave it out.

In 2013, the concept of jiyu kumitachi was born

It was at a sushi restaurant after a training session in Fukuoka in 2013 that I expressed to my teacher, Shinna Soke, that I wanted to actually fight in jiyu kumitachi, rather than kumitachi as a form based on promises, which had been used in karate earlier.  Naturally, the idea of ‘kumite’ in Kyokushin Karate, which was my old school, and the Mugairyu kumitachi that I learnt from Niina Soke, were things that came about because of his knowledge and experience to an extent that ordinary people would not have known.  However, it was not really new, and there are a number of anecdotes of actual battles in the dojo of the founder of the style.

Jiyu-kumitachi is only intended to be real.

 If you try it, you will love the tingling tension.
 The reason why we have chosen to call it an ‘iai’ tournament is because it is not normal for warriors to ‘come at each other with swords drawn’ when they meet each other.
 It is necessary to start from the state where the sword is retracted.
 At that time, you will realise that there is an enemy who will not allow you to “easily draw your sword”.
 Because it is a samurai battle, it must be a sword-to-sword battle.
 In samurai times, only a procession of feudal lords were allowed to walk around with spears, and the same applies to swords that are too long.
 So in this tournament, you are only allowed up to using a Wakizashi.
 Two swords are fine.
 However, whatever two swords you use, you must be able to draw them.

The possibilities are surely endless, the life of iai is “kumitachi” and “test cutting”

 Jiyu kumitachi will have potential for the players, but also in terms of further promoting it to the general public.
 At previous competitions, it has become commonplace for spectators to cheer.
 There is no such iai competition.
 It’s great to do and exciting to watch, that’s Jiyu-gumi-tachi.
 It doesn’t matter whether you are deep or shallow.
 There are no ranks, qualifications or schools.
 If you get cut, you lose, even foreigners understand.
 That’s how you know it’s going to be a big cheer.

Let’s start for the first time.
 It doesn’t matter if you are not good at it at first.
 Unfortunately, no matter how good you are at kata or how good you are at kyomi-gumi tachi, it is not proportional to the strength of your jiyu-gumi tachi.
 But you won’t know unless you try.
 The exchange of techniques will surely cause a chemical change.
 A reason to remain in the next generation will be born.

 It is sad that martial arts seek only strength.
 But there is no doubt that the foundation of martial arts is strength.
 It is impossible to imagine a martial art that is not strong.
 The founder of any school must have been amazing.
 If the basis of budo is strength, then the lifeblood of iai is kumitachi and test cutting.
 The reason why the kumitachi must be a free kumitachi is as stated above.

First part

Second part