Musō Shinden Ryū iaidō is one of the most popular iaido styles both in Japan and worldwide. It is based on iaijutsu – a sword-drawing art – developed by a samurai called Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto no Shigenobu, who lived at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries in eastern Japan.
Numerous sword-drawing schools regard Hayashizaki as their founding father. His school was originally called Shinmei Musō Ryū, and the art was called battōjutsu at that time. After Hayzhizaki died, his students renamed the style Shin Musō Hayashizaki Ryū.
The 7th headmaster of the school, Hasegawa Chikara-no-suke Eishin, expanded the repertoire of the school by adding exercises where techniques start from tatehizasta, which is a half kneeling position. He is said to have reformed the school in other aspects as well. Even the name of the school was changed to Hasegawa Eishin Ryū.
Tosa (currently Kōchi) prefecture became the home of the style when Hayashi Rokudayu Morimasa (1661-1732) became the 9th headmaster. Eishin ryū was adopted into the official training curriculum for the Tosa samurai and the style became known as Tosa Eishin Ryū.
Today’s Musō Shinden Ryū was shaped by the iai master Nakayama Hakudō. He was one of the most influential persons in Japanese budo in the first half of the 20th century. His grade in kendō, iaidō and jōdō was hanshi, i.e. the highest teaching grade.
Nakayama Hiromichi Hakudō was born in 1872 in Kanazawa in the Ishikawa prefecture. In 1889 he came to Tokyo and started training Shindō Munen Ryū at Negishi Shingorō’s Yūshinkan dōjō. Thus he was originally a Shindō Munen Ryū kenjutsu master, but he wanted to study even the famous Tosa iai in order to come to know the true essence of the Japanese sword.
At first Tosa teachers did not want to teach their art to an outsider, but Hakudō persisted and finally managed to become a pupil to several Tosa area iai masters. Few people wanted to learn iai in those days, and teaching was mostly given on an individual basis by small groups of initiates. Some of Hakudō’s kendō students were interested in the art, and he disclosed its secrets even to them. Under Hakudō’s influence iai became gradually ever more popular and widespread.
Hakudō called the iai he taught by several names: Hayashizaki Musō Shinden Ryū, Musō Shinden Ryū battōjutsu or simply Ōmori Ryū and Hasegawa Eishin Ryū, depending on which series was taught. He also introduced the term iaidō, to emphasize the spiritual aspects of iai practice.
After Hakudō died in 1958, his students started to call the art Musō Shinden Ryū.
Musō Shinden Ryū in Finland
Toshikazu Ichimura Sensei, who brought aikidō to Finland in the beginning of the 1970’s, was also a 6th dan and a renshi-graded teacher of iaidō. The curriculum of his aikidō seminars included also iaidō as a supplementary subject. In the beginning, iaidō was mostly studied by some students in aikidō clubs, but in 1986 the first personal contacts were made with a real master of iaidō, Takada Gakudō Sensei. That year Takada Sensei instructed Nordic iaido students for the first time at an iaidō seminar in Uppsala, Sweden. There were several Finns among the participants, and four of them received a dan grade in a grading test held at the seminar. These were Jukka Helminen, Arto Lauerma, Petteri Silenius and Pasi Hellstén.
When Ichimura Sensei returned to Japan, a Swede, Martin Stelander, shouldered the responsibility for teaching iaidō in Sweden and Finland. He had taken his first iaidō steps under the guidance of Ichimura Sensei, and had studied iaidō at Takada Sensei’s dōjō on his training trip to the Japanese aikidō hombu in 1985. Stelander came several times per year to Finland to teach at iaidō seminars, and Takada Sensei came to Finland for the first time in 1988 to teach at a seminar in Helsinki. The grading test held at that seminar resulted in a few new dan grade holders: Leena Mäkinen and Yuji Matsuoi among others.
After that, Takada Sensei came to Finland every other year – later every year – to teach at one week or two weeks long seminars. Often the Finnish seminars were combined with another seminar in Uppsala. Thus, our most enthusiastic iaidō students had an opportunity to get an iron ration of iaidō by participating in both.
Takada Sensei named three persons responsible for teaching Musō Shinden Ryū in Finland: Jukka Helminen, Arto Lauerma and Pasi Hellstén.
In 1986 Finnish Iaido Federation was established to oversee iaidō activities in our country. Later affiliated style associations for Musō Shinden Ryū and Musō Jikiden Eishin Ryū were founded.
Now the Finnish Muso Shinden Ryu Association has 11 member clubs in various parts of Finland. The Association organizes annually two to four camps taught by our own instructors and one seminar taught by Takada Sensei. There are tests for kyu grades at the local seminars, and dan tests are held at Takada Sensei’s seminars.
© Pasi Hellsten
Suomen Muso Shinden Ryu Yhdistys ry.