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.
Kihon – Course 1, 2 and 3 Entry Level Technique
Level one kata help the new student focus on proper kamae (stance), tenouchi (grip), batto (drawing), chiburi and noto (sheathing). Level two kihon further develops batto waza (drawing techniques), and introduces basic sword transition and the fundamentals of kesagiri (downward diagonal cut). Level three kihon further develops sword movement from each position, introduces yokogiri (side cut) and offsetting movements, and begins emphasizing breath control.
Students practicing kihon kata at the old Ishiyama-ryū Hombu Dojo
Toyama Ryu – Beginner to Intermediate Technique
Ishiyama-ryū includes adaptations of the eight tachiwaza (standing techniques) of Toyama Ryu Battōdo. These are gaiden waza (borrowed techniques) which have been stripped down to suit an intermediate level student. These kata contain an additional eight batto waza, and introduce the student to situations in which the opponent is coming from different directions.
Nakamura Taizaburo Sensei, one of the principal instructors of Toyama Ryu and founder of Nakamura Ryu, performing tameshigiri.
Tachiyama – Intermediate/Advanced Technique
Tachiyama kata are upper level techniques that build upon Toyama kata by integrating advanced Ishiyama waza. Tachiyama kata introduces continuous swing, more intricate 'jo-ha-kyu', advanced breath control, multiple opponents coming from multiple directions, and dynamic movement.
Ishiyama-ryū class about to begin reiho (bow in) at the Koei Kan Dojo in Bellevue, WA.
Ishiyama-ryū – Advanced Technique
Advanced Ishiyama kata consists of 13 itto (one sword) kata, and 6 nitto (two sword) kata. These techniques cultivate the essence of Ishiyama-ryū: multiple encounter/attacker/defender situations through the unification of mind, body, breath, and instrument. Furthermore Ishiyama-ryū also practices tameshigiri (target cutting) and is also one of the few schools which include sparring as part of the curriculum.
McCartney Sensei demonstrating Ishiyama-ryū nitto kata at the old Hombu Dojo in Seattle, WA.