Ishiyama-ryū employs a graduated process of learning and developing technique. Our kihon (basic techniques) are broken down into three levels composed of three kata each. As a student progresses through each level, an additional layer of complexity is added. This process introduces additional techniques at a more controlled rate, and prevents the student from becoming overwhelmed with the hundreds, if not thousands, of details found in swordsmanship.
Ishiyama-ryū kata includes forms for the longsword (daito), shortsword (shoto), and two swords (nitto).
Baxter Sensei and his senior student Bishop Sempai demonstrating one of the Ishiyama
The practice of tameshigiri reveals aspects of technique that may not be immediately visible during kata. The angle of the cut, how the piece falls to the ground, the grain of the cut piece, etc. all provide feedback that can be used to understand the path of the sword as it passed through the target. As such tameshigiri is an integral part of training. The act of target test cutting is a gradual process conducted under very controlled circumstances at various levels through the training process.
The technical methodology of Ishiyama-ryū is designed to develop a highly efficient, powerful, and consistent cut. During Senbongiri (1000 cuts) the founder, Russell McCartney Sensei, demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach by making 1181 consecutive cuts without a single missed attempt at the 2000 Cherry Blossom Festival in Seattle. This effort earned him a Guinness World Record for Tameshigiri.
McCartney Sensei performing Mizugaeshi (Returning Water Cut), which involves an upward diagonal cut followed by a horizontal cut before the first piece falls to the ground.
Jigeiko is conducted using a variety of sparring weapons and protective gear suited to the students' skill level. Beginner students utilize lightweight Actionflex padded swords to introduce them to the concept of sparring in the safest environment possible. Intermediate students use curved gekken padded swords developed by Nihonzashi. Unlike the Actionflex swords, Nihonzashi's gekken swords have a shaped handle and replicate the weight of a real sword, though add additional padding to reduce the force of impact to ensure safety. Advanced students use the RSW katana which accurately reflects the weight, balance, shape, and length of a katana in addition to having a functional guard (tsuba).
Student executing a yokogiri (side cut) to his opponent and then driving off center to evade
the descending shomengiri (straight cut).