1- History of Tenshin Bukô-ryû Heihô

The Toda-ha Bukô-ryû martial tradition is deeply rooted into Toda-ryû, sogobujutsu, (martial tradition including the whole weaponry range), which was created by Toda Seigen during the intense times of civil wars also called Sengoku jidai (1490-1600). Before he created his own school and tradition, Toda Seigen had studied Chûjô-ryû (kenjutsu martial tradition founded in the 15th Century by Chûjô Hyôgo no Kami; its specialty was the short sword called kodachi). An eye disease turned him blind. As a consequence, he transmitted Toda-ryû, a family tradition, to his younger brother and became a monk.

During the Edo era (1600-1868), the Bukô-ryû branch got separated from the main core tradition. Under the lead of the thirteenth sôke Suneya Ryôsuke Takeyuki (1795-1875), it left the prefecture of Fukui (formerly called Echizen) and settled on the Bukô Mount (prefecture of Saitama) where it will specialize into the art of naginata (halberd). Despite this specialization, Toda-ha Bukô-ryû kept in its curricula other pieces of weaponry such as the tachi (sword), the yari (spear), the kusarigama (sickle with chain and weight) and the (stick).

The current sôke (or dai, head of tradition) of Toda-ha Bukô-ryû is Nakamura Yoichi sensei, twentieth sôke and first male head of tradition since the fourteenth dai Suneya Satô, both wife and successor of Suneya Ryôsuke. On the 19th of October 2008, Nakamura sensei replaced Nitta Suzuô sensei, who had died on the 1st of June 2008. The nineteenth dai, Nitta sensei was the master of Simon Pierre Iwao sensei.

Nitta sensei
Nitta Suzuô sensei

Toda-ha Buko-ryu is currently under the direction of sôke-dairi, Kent Sorensen, also head of Toda-ha Buko-ryu's core dojo, the Nakano Dojo in Tokyo Japan.

Sorensen sensei is supported by a number of shihan (fully licensed instructors) throughout the world.


Simon Pierre Iwao 2011Pierre SIMON Iwao 2011 

2- Tenshin Bukô-ryû Heihô's curriculum

The Toda-ha Bukô-ryû curriculum divides into 2 distinct parts: the hon mokuroku and the betsu mokuroku.

First to be studied, the hon mokuroku makes the main part of the school and emphasizes the development of the necessary dexterity to handle a naginata, the speciality of this school. Composed of 36 kata focusing on either naginata, or kagitsuki naginata (a naginata with a metallic buttoir fixed across its blade, used to either stop, or smash down the opponent’s blade), it splits into 3 proficiency levels:

1. shoden, or basic transmission
Such level includes the practice of the following series of kata:

  • Tachi awase no koto: naginata versus sword (5 kata)
  • Ai naginata no koto: naginata versus naginata (11 kata)

2.chûden, or intermediary transmission
Such level includes the practice of the following series of kata:

  • Yari irimi no koto : naginata versus yari (5 kata)
  • Kusarigama aiki no koto : naginata versus Kusarigama (5 kata)

3. okuden, or deep transmission
Such level includes the practice of the following series of kata:

  • Kagitsuki naginata Tachi awase no koto: "special" naginata versus sword (5 kata)
  • Kagitsuki naginata Yari awase no koto : "special" naginata versus yari (5 kata)


Studied as a minor series aside the main practice, the betsu mokuroku is a separate curriculum within which the student practices either the sword, main weapon for the classic Japanese warrior, or any other piece of weaponry which could be used against him. Considered a research path, it is only taught to the best students. Betsu mokuroku is made of 3 series of kata:

  1. Bojutsu Goten Bunrei : bô versus sword
  2. Kusarigama Tachi Goten Bunrei : kusarigama versus sword
  3. Nagamaki Gokui Goten Bunrei : nagamaki versus sword

3- Practice in the Tenshin Bukô-ryû Heihô tradition

The early practice is meant to train the student into focusing on simple moves called kihon, repeated and learned for a certain while. Once the student has become more familiar with the handling techniques of the naginata, he may develop and improve through the indefatigable repetition of the kata which are part of the school's curriculum.

Whatever his proficiency, a student must keep on practicing the kihon throughout his whole existence.


Kata-forms oppose two partners who practice as shidachi and ukedachi.

  • Shidachi, either "the sword which does", or "the blade which does", verbatim. In this role lies the novice, the ones who executes the techniques taught in the school, and learns how to handle a naginata.
  • Ukedachi, "the sword which receives", verbatim. In this role lies the initiate –the insider-, the one who helps the shidachi, leading him along the long and rigorous learning path.


Toda-ha Bukô-ryû (戸田派武甲流) - Kagitsuki naginata Tachi awase no koto

To the external observer, while a kata is being executed, shidachi wins, while ukedachi loses. The intent is obvious and clear: ukedachi loses on purpose, with the view to developing the moral and physical qualities of his shidachi, acting there in an essential role. Indeed, thanks to his ukedachi, shidachi will, on top of developing technical, weapon-handling qualities, grow qualities such as engagement, stamina, persistence, pugnacity ; understanding of the notions of pace ; fighting, entry and opening distance ; opponent control ; breathing control ; focus control, ...


In order to attract shidachi up to his own proficiency level, and even beyond, ukedachi must possess proven both technical and mental qualities, as well as a humble and large "heart". It is only under such conditions that shidachi will meet all the required opportunities to become in turns a good ukedachi.

Hence, more than a strictly speaking opposition, shidachi and ukedachi work together in a complementary manner.