Toyama-ryu

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Toyama-ryu (????) is a modern form of iai created by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1925 at the Rikugun Toyama Gakko, or “Toyama Army Academy” in Toyama, Tokyo, Japan. Today, Toyama-ryu is primarily located in the Kanto,Tokai & Kansai region. It does not have a single headmaster.

After the Meiji Restoration, officers in the Japanese army were required to carry Western-style sabres. However, this caused problems during battles against rebels in Satsuma (now Kagoshima Prefecture), since soldiers equipped with single-shot rifles and sabres were frequently overwhelmed by samurai who knew Jigen-ryu (???)and could charge much faster than the non-Samurai soldiers could cope with.

During the Russo-Japanese war (1904-05), the Cossack cavalries frequently charged against the Japanese infantrymen and again it was extremely difficult for the Japanese to defend themselves using sabres once their enemy reached them.

The Japanese studied the First World War with great enthusiasm, hoping to learn more about fighting modern warfare. They discovered that much fighting was still occurring at close quarters in trench warfare, often with heavy swung weapons like entrenching tools and home made clubs. This likely prompted the Japanese to tighten up their close quarter combat training. The katana was therefore readopted as the Japanese could access domestic sword masters more easily than European ones. Jukenjutsu (????) was also developed at this time, being based on the use of sojutsu (spear) techniques. This later became the rarely practiced sport of jukendo, after the war ended.

Thus, Japanese army officers were later issued new swords shaped more like katana. However, not all officers had sufficient background in kenjutsu to deploy these weapons in combat. Consequently, in 1925, a simplified form of sword technique was devised that emphasized the most essential points of drawing and cutting. For instance, the army iai-batto kata differ from those of many koryu sword schools in that all techniques are practised from a standing position. (Koryu schools included a number of techniques executed from seiza.) Also, this modern ryu has an unusually strong emphasis on tameshigiri, or “test-cutting.” Swordsmen involved in developing this military system included Nakayama Hakudo and Sasaburo Takano.

At the end of World War II, the Toyama Military Academy became the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama. Nonetheless, the military iai system was revived after 1952. By the 1970s, three separate organizations represented Toyama-ryu Iaido: in Hokkaido, the Greater Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation (established by Yamaguchi Yuuki); in Kansai (Kyoto-Osaka area), the Toyama Ryu Iaido Association (established by Morinaga Kiyoshi); and the All Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation (established by Nakamura Taizo). Each of these organizations was autonomous and retained its own set of forms; the Hokkaido branch even included sword versus bayonet exercises. Today, there are also at least half a dozen active instructors of Toyama-ryu outside Japan, many of whom are in California, though there are also schools in Poland and Australia.

The adoption of the katana by the Westernised Japanese army was also part of a Nationalist trend in Japan. During the 1920s Japan went through a phase of Militant Nationalism that lasted until defeat in the Second World War. By adopting the katana, the traditional sword of the Samurai[1] the Japanese were allying themselves with the Samurai military tradition. Adopting the Katana also served to calm discontent among the more politicized sections of the army who had been outraged at mechanization (another lesson learned from World War I) which had de-emphasized the role of infantry and cavalry.