Koryu Iai, What good is it? – Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan Iaido and Roukudan Jodo

We went through Omori Ryu last evening, that’s the first set of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu. I need to explain that, because it seems fewer and fewer people around here are practicing. This is a shame, there is so much more in koryu than Seitei Iai. I know that sounds harsh, and I don’t mean Seitei is meaningless, I mean there’s more in the koryu. Extra, beyond what you can learn in seitei.

Last evening we simply went through the kata, front to back, but apparently I “talk a lot more in iai than in jodo”. Some of that, it was decided, is that a lot of the partner practices take care of themselves, but I was told that I talk more than that would explain. I suspect that’s true, there are things that you learn in iai that are worth learning, after all I started iai because I “wanted to work on my posture without someone hanging off my arm”, I started iai to improve my aikido. It did, not just the posture but a whole depth of understanding of lines of attack and so much more.

So why koryu over seitei? It works better, both as a teaching system (start with a small set of skills and add gradually until you have a big set of skills), Omori Ryu is an excellent way to teach your beginners. Seitei is not.

So why is the emphasis on seitei instead of koryu? Honestly, it never was for my generation. We started with koryu, we continued with koryu, we never stopped. But somewhere along the line gradings started to happen, these came along almost ten years after my first iaido class and were never anything special for another ten after that. Somewhere along the line, and I could speculate how and why, seitei took over.

Pity, really. The culture of seitei isn’t the same as koryu, the base principles aren’t the same, what you learn isn’t the same. By adding seitei and ignoring koryu we may lose more than we gain.

Why do seitei? You can grade in it, right up to 8dan. If that’s important to you, carry on. You can learn it from dozens and dozens of different sensei. Not a bad thing at all, Ohmi sensei has said many times that he uses seitei as his learning set. What he means is that he meets many iai instructors senior to him and learns through the medium of seitei iai. (He has to, to be blunt, his sensei are dead. Yours are not.)

And there lies the difference between koryu and seitei. In koryu you have one sensei at a time. There is no “but so and so said this and such and such said that”, there’s only “my sensei said”. But not only your sensei, it’s his sensei and the guy before that. Koryu is lineage, it’s a series of instructors, each building on those before. Sure, these days you can go to “youtube sensei” and visit loads of sensei who will show you their koryu kata. They aren’t secret, but that very openness is a trap for those who figure they can pick and choose. You can’t for seitei so why think that for koryu?

We come to my point, which is that around here there are, still alive, three generations of koryu iaido instructors who will be coming together a month from now in Peterborough for a seminar. I’m speaking of Ohmi sensei, myself and Carole Galligan, my student. This is it, this is the lineage for those who consider they do Jikiden in the CKF eastern region. Unless you are branching off to develop your own style, you’re looking up a chain of instructors (which includes a few others in that third generation, Eric Tribe, Dave Green, Ed Chart, who did I miss?) to Ohmi sensei. And beyond him? No, that’s it, his instructors are not with us any more. You learned a bit from Ohmi sensei so you’re in my generation? Sure, play with the definitions, make it a venn diagram of instructors but keep it triangular with Ohmi sensei on top. Or you miss something.

Do you like the idea of being in a lineage? That’s nice. I’m 62 and feeling very frail. Ohmi sensei is older than I. What I am trying to say, delicately, is get off your rear ends and learn all you can from your lineage before you have to go off and try to get bits and scraps of information from other sensei who are not in your lineage. This seems incredibly obvious to me, you can get it all, now, everything, or you can fiddle around with contradictory information about seitei from dozens of sensei and then have to do the same thing when you finally want to learn about your koryu. What I’m saying is that there is a danger of a break in the line if you don’t pay attention. What I’m saying is that I asked Jim Wilson about the registration numbers for the koryu seminar next month and he said it was small.

Small? Seriously? You can have three generations of your lineage in a room for two days, pounding the knowledge into your head, or if necessary, trying to teach you the dance steps. What happens each year about this time? An announcement goes out that says “oh and for those testing next month, Ohmi sensei will be running a seitei prep session”


You need to be offered yet another seitei practice to lure you out to a koryu seminar with three generations of your lineage present? Including the line founder? Shame. You will look back when it’s too late and think “why did I think like that”. You’ve been practicing and grading in the 12 Seitei kata for years and you still want more practice? Why? Don’t you know it by now? What secret do you think you’ll get with one more practice? The secret of how to pass your next grading?

You want secrets? You want more depth? Oh never mind.

Get your registration in for the Peterborough koryu seminar. This is one of my three favourite seminars in the year, the other two are the Guelph May seminar and the Welland seminar. One of these is gone, let’s not see another disappear. For those who do “jodo and”, I know you’ve had a lot of seminars this fall, it won’t happen again next year, so don’t weaken this seminar now. You will be missing it next year if it goes.

This is the URL, use it. Now.


Kim Taylor
Oct 5, 2018

28 Oct 2017 Kenshokan Koryu Kenkyukai!!

Check out the seminars below for the rest of 2018. If only to see how they change on the day.

October 27-28 Kajiya sensei, soke of Niten Ichiryu in Mississauga.

Novemer 3-4 Ohmi sensei in Peterborough koryu iaido seminar.

November 23-25 Mansfield Sensei, Mississauga, Jodo seminar and grading

December 1 Etobicoke Iaido grading

2019 April 6, Seito Bugei Juku seminar in Peterborough.


Space booked from 7:00 onward, but feel free to head in whenever you…

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