Aikido contains, in its usual curriculum, a number of sword exercises and applications. These are not regulated by any Aikikai standard, since the Hombu dojo tends to exclude such practices from its schedule. Instead, prominent teachers usually have their own systems of practicing with the wooden sword, bokken, as well as with the staff, jo, such as the complex series of techniques developed by Saito sensei and Nishio sensei. Osensei, too, certainly practiced with the bokken, as can be seen on the many films of him remaining.
Suburi is the basic training for achieving a skill in handling the bokken, and it usually contains solo exercises of cutting, thrusting, parrying and so forth. This type of training is necessary, if one is to learn an accomplished way of doing any swordplay with a partner. But also when it comes to the partner exercises, it is necessary to find a basic system of techniques, where the suburi basics can be applied without too much complication, and where there is not too steep a ladder upwards, from the reasonably simple to the very advanced.
This is what I have tried to accomplish in this series of partner exercises with the sword: a system for learning the basics of the sword, in the spirit of Aikiken, where one should be able to comfortably advance from the basic to the more complex techniques, yet always remaining near the suburi forms of how to move the sword.
Aikiken is the term usually applied to bokken exercises in aikido. The word stresses that the techniques must be in accordance with the aiki principle of blending ki, the vital energy: the ki of the defender with that of the attacker, of tori and uke. On the superficial level, this is shown by the taisabaki moves out of the way of the attacking sword, as well as by the rhythm with which the counter moves are carried out. It also demands, certainly, that the attacker's force is not stopped, nor his sword move blocked.
Iaido as it is normally practiced, for example in the standard form of Seitei iai, does not always apply the aiki principles in the way aikido does. Also, of course, iaido is practiced without a partner. Still, there are some immensely important things to be learned from iaido training, such as how the real blade behaves, compared to the wooden bokken, and what the rhythm is like in a series of moves, when the blows and the thrusts are carried through instead of stopped short.
Therefore, I strongly recommend that the students practice both Aikiken and iaido, preferably in a way that allows for a maximum of compatibility between the two, that is - as far as possible - exactly the same series of techniques. It is also with this in mind, that I have designed the Aikibatto, which can as readily be trained in solo kata style with a iaito, the sword for iai practice, or shinken, the sharp blade, as it can with a partner and the bokken.
My own sources are the aikido, aikiken and iaido training I have done through the years. The teacher most inspirational to me must be Nishio sensei, a formidable authority on aikido, as well as on the sword and the jo. He has developed a most advanced system relating the aikido techniques to ken and jo. Certainly, there are bits and pieces of his teachings in this system of Aikibatto, but please rest assured that any mistakes or shortcomings in the techniques I have put together, have nothing to do with him. He would certainly be the first to correct them.
by Stefan Stenudd. The aikibatto sword and staff exercises for aikido students explained, with practical and spiritual aspects of the sword arts, equipment for training, and more. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
I'm a Swedishwriter of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihanaikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.