In 1966, Toshishiro Obata left a small town in Gunma prefecture, Japan, and headed for Tokyo to start a vocation in the martial arts. He ended up at Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo, the origin of aikido, where he turned into a uchi-deshi,or live-in student, under headmaster Gozo Shioda. Toshishiro Obata stayed there for seven years as a student and instructor, in the end showing the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police course. During that time, his samurai education in Japanese swordsmanship started — specifically, when he observed several demonstrations by Taizaburo Nakamura, headmaster of nakamura-ryu.
Toshishiro Obata left the Yoshinkan in 1973 to pursue swordsmanship full time. He studied and accomplished high rank in numerous other prestigious Japanese schools, including ioriken battojutsu, toyama-ryu, yagyu shinkage-ryu, kashima shin-ryuand Ryukyu kobudo. He also joined the Tokyo Wakakoma, Japan’s world class gathering of stuntmen and battle choreographers, and was responsible for the presentation and increasing notoriety of aikido on Japanese television and in movies. During this time, he also won seven consecutive All-Japan Target-Cutting Championships.
All through his studies, it got to be clear to Toshishiro Obata that albeit every sword school had its own strengths, none of them taught a complete, comprehensive system. In Japan, customary schools aren’t allowed to change or even develop their unique educational program. Every art is considered a living, breathing historical treasure that must be preserved as loyally and precisely as possible.
The inheritor of a customary school is subsequently compelled by a sense of honor to show techniques, preparing methods and ideals precisely as he learned them. To change anything would be seen as disrespectful to the art’s founder. It was hence that Toshishiro Obata, having mastered a large portion of the old schools, came to America in 1980 to start a comprehensive samurai education system known as shinkendo Japanese swordsmanship.
For this samurai education system, Toshishiro Obata chose the name “shinkendo” for a mixed bag of reasons. The expression can be translated in several ways, yet perhaps the most imperative one is “method for the genuine sword.” That doesn’t just allude to honing with a genuine sword; it also means studying genuine, complete swordsmanship — a basic component in one’s general samurai training.
Image by shinkedo.com