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Firstly I would like to say that all of the material contained within this blog is of my own opinion and any inaccuracies in technical content or other's personal quotations are completely my own.

Secondly I would like to thank everyone in advance where I have used photos of you or photos you have taken. I have quite a library of digital photos and virtually no record of who took them so I hope you will take this general thanks as adequate gratitude. If there are any photos of you or taken by you that you would like removed please let me know.

Thirdly, some articles have been published on my dojo website if you would like to read them in an easier format

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Saturday 13 June 2015

The Meaning of Toho

While enjoying my two week training stay in Japan, I thought I would put finger to keyboard and present a brief review of the many things I have learned from Ishido Sensei during this stay. Having three other friends with me for this trip meant I had to do quite a bit of translation but anything that prompts Ishido Sensei to speak more is a good thing. Having to translate it also puts it into a kind of English file format which I hope will remain in fairly good shape for reloading later.

The thing which hit me strongest in this period is Sensei's use of the word "toho".

刀 = to; sword
法   = ho; law

刀法 = sword method

This is also often translated into swordsmanship or sword methodology. The way Ishido Sensei uses it though is more along the lines of efficient and effective use of the sword. He has often used this term before to describe the objective of certain kata e.g. sogiri which have very little logical application as a scenario but instead are for developing one's toho or sword skills.

What seems more obvious now though, as explained by Ishido Sensei, is the importance to develop one's toho; that knowing and running through the shape of the kata is not enough; one has to gradually develop the fundamental cutting parts. This is not described or explained in any particular detail in the seitei manual so I assume that this is something that is taught by teachers on an individual basis (kuden or oral transmission).

I have written articles for the BKA news before which presented a dichotomy of a kata being either a situational one (jokyo) or a sword method one (toho). I also mentioned that most people of a senior grade actually looked at all the kata as toho development routes. If one considers this a bit more deeply, even in more ancient times, the chance that the exact same combative situation would arise as the one that a person had trained in must have been fairly low. It makes more sense that one is training the component parts of the kata rather than the situation the kata presents.

Some of the toho points that were mentioned this week (at least one from Aurelien) include:

  1. Ensuring that the sword was turned completely to the side before sayabanare in ichimonji forms such as Seitei Mae to prevent the sword making a "double nukitsuke" i.e. the sword moves in a direction inconsistent to the cut when leaving the saya.
  2. That the kissaki should move in an upwards motion when commencing kirioroshi instead of being pulled forwards.
  3. That the second oblique cut in Sogiri requires the right hand to be slightly loosened and rotated to ensure that sword is completely on the centre at the end of the cut. 
  4. Hikinuki leading to ukenagashi ni kaburi can be achieved by softening the arms as the body turns. 
  5. That the small fingers should be properly on the tsuka while drawing the sword up in Nukiuchi with a kirite (cutting grip) so that at the moment of sayabanare the sword should move up and elevate to a near horizontal position immediately.
Etc etc

In the end one can see that toho is something of a science to be studied, learned, trained and mastered if one's iai is to be full rather than just being a collection of various forms. Having this well embedded would surely allow the warrior of times before be able to turn their hand to whatever situation arose, hence achieving tsune ni itte, kyu ni awasu (being in a state of calm, quickly adapting to the situation).