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Obata Toshishiro, Shinkendo founder
October 20, 1948 |
Gunma Prefecture, Japan
|Style||Shinkendo, Aikibujutsu (Aikido) , Bojutsu-tanrendo|
He studied aikido under Gozo Shioda in the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo, and studied the sword arts of Nakamura-ryu, Ioriken Battojutsu, Toyama-ryu, Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, Kashima Shin-ryu, Ryukyu Kobudo, Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu, and others.
He moved to America in 1980 to start teaching and to develop his own sword art, based on his extensive experience. In 1990, the International Shinkendo Federation was officially established. The federation has grown to 80 branches internationally, and continues to expand. Obata, as the founder of the school, is referred to as Obata Kaiso by his students, and continues to travel across the globe to hold seminars for his students around the world.
Beginnings in martial arts
In 1966, the 18-year-old Obata left his small rural hometown and headed for Tokyo, to begin a career in martial arts. He soon found himself at Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo, the birthplace of Yoshinkan Aikido, where he became Uchi-deshi, live-in student, under headmaster Shioda Gozo. Obata stayed at Yoshinkan for seven years as a student and instructor, eventually teaching the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police course. It was during this time that Obata was introduced to Japanese swordsmanship, when he observed several demonstrations by Nakamura Taizoboru, headmaster of Nakamura Ryu.
Obata left Yoshinkan in 1973 to pursue swordsmanship full-time. He studied and achieved high rankings in many famous Japanese schools, including Nakamura-yu, Ioriken Battojutsu, Toyama-ryu, Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, Kashima Shin-ryu, Ryukyu Kobudo, and others. He also joined the Tokyo Wakakoma, Japan's elite group of stuntmen and fight choreographers, and was responsible for the introduction and increasing popularity of Aikido into Japanese TV and films in that period. During this time, Obata also won seven consecutive All-Japan target-cutting championships.
Martial arts development
In all of his studies it became clear to Obata that although each school had its particular strengths, none taught a complete, comprehensive sword system. The traditional schools in Japan are not allowed to change or expand upon their original curriculum. They are considered to be living, breathing, historical treasures and must be preserved as faithfully and precisely as possible. The inheritor of a traditional school is therefore duty-bound to teach techniques, training methods, and ideals exactly as he learned them. To change or add anything would be seen as terribly disrespectful to the original founder of the school. It was for this reason that Obata at age 32, having mastered many of the old schools in Japan, came to America in 1980 to start a new, comprehensive system of study: Shinkendo Japanese Swordsmanship.
Obata spent 10 years refining his art before unveiling it to the world officially in 1991. The International Shinkendo Federation was established three years later. As the creator of an entirely new system of sword study, he assumed the title of Kaiso (Founder), and started teaching seminars and opening branches all across the world. At the present time, there are over 80 branches of the ISF worldwide.
In 2004, a new aspect of Shinkendo training was formalized: the study of Nitoken, or Two-Sword training. The techniques he created are based on his wide knowledge of different sword arts. During class, it is common to use two full-length swords for training. The techniques can be interchanged with the use of a daisho, the short and long sword set.
Since 1986, Obata has appeared in several Hollywood films, including Black Rain, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Rising Sun, The Shadow, The Hunted, and Demolition Man. He has also appeared as himself in martial arts documentaries.
Obata Kaiso has published several books, most notably Shinkendo, Japanese Swordsmanship–the core textbook of his art–, Tameshigiri–dedicated to the safe and effective practice of target cutting within the study of Shinkendo, and Modern Bushido– a treatise on the philosophy of Shinkendo. Kaiso is still working on several more books, including deeper studies into each aspect of swordsmanship, and a historical view of Toyama-ryu.
- Shinkendo, Japanese Swordsmanship
- Modern Bushido
- Samurai Aikijutsu