Japanese sword handling techniques take stage at Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival

Japanese Swordsmanship of Gwinnett operator Nayef Smith demonstrates test-cutting, a Shinkendo technique he will show to audiences at the Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival this year. (Special Photo)

Japanese Swordsmanship of Gwinnett operator Nayef Smith demonstrates test-cutting, a Shinkendo technique he will show to audiences at the Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival this year. (Special Photo)

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Japanese Swordsmanship of Gwinnett members perform a Shinkendo demonstration at JapanFest in Atlanta. (Special Photo)

Ancient sword fighting techniques used by Samurai close to a millennium ago in Japan will come to life on stage at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Conyers.

The Japanese Swordsmanship of Gwinnett will perform Shinkendo demonstrations at noon on both days of the festival on March 22 and 23 at the Georgia International Horse Park.

Shinkendo is a Japanese sword art form that culls from and combines techniques from many schools of sword art instruction dating back to the time of the Samurai fighters.

The 30-minute demonstrations present all five of the Shinkendo aspects of swordsmanship, including Suburi, or swinging methods; Battoho, or combative drawing and sheathing; Tenrengata, or solo forms; Tachiuchi, or sparring; and Tameshigiri, or test-cutting.

Nayef Smith founded Japanese Swordsmanship of Gwinnett in 2003. A third degree black belt, Smith said he trained in empty-handed martial arts, including Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do, since 1988 and discovered Shinkendo in 1993 while in college.

“At some point, you’re going to cross into weapons,” said Smith of the pursuit of martial arts.

Smith said he liked Shinkendo because it tied in closely with Japanese tradition. Not only were the sword movements used in battle by the Japanese — the sword was the core weapon of the Samurai soldiers — but, even in times of peace, the Japanese people pursued swordsmanship as an art form.

“The most attractive thing to me about Shinkendo is that it is a comprehensive Japanese martial art that is well-rooted in Japanese language and culture, but does not lack for practicality,” said Smith.

“The sword is not only an icon of the martial arts but also represents the core values of Japanese social philosophy, its general etiquette, all derived from a classical formal military system.”

Smith said that after World War II, much of the Japanese martial arts became subdued or lost entirely. The ones that continued did so only symbolically.

The Japanese art of the sword was revived by expert Japanese swordsman Obata Toshihiro. Based on his training, Toshihiro developed Shinkendo in 1990 and established the International Shinkendo Federation in 1994. The Shinkendo Federation is an organization that licenses Shinkendo instructors and schools.

“Shinkendo is a modern art, and as such, is able to break down the walls between the different Ryuha (schools) and reincorporate their teachings into one comprehensive form. This is the way Japanese swordsmanship was originally studied,” according to the website, www.shinkendo.com.

Smith, an information technology professional, said his school is a part-time business, and currently enrolls about 15 students, all of whom are adults. Children are not trained in Shinkendo because it is too dangerous, he said.

“It really is a martial art not suited for kids,” said Smith.

For the Cherry Blossom Festival performances, the group will perform their exercises with wooden swords with blunt points, except for the test-cutting part of the display, which will utilize a sharpened steel blade.

“We don’t do anything nonchalantly. A lot of safety is involved,” said Smith.

To learn more about the Japanese Swordsmanship of Gwinnett County, visit www.japaneseswordsmanship.com. For information about the Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival, visit www.conyerscherryblossomfest.com.

Source Article from http://www.rockdalecitizen.com/news/2014/mar/08/japanese-sword-handling-techniques-take-stage-at/
Japanese sword handling techniques take stage at Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival
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