* Reprinted from the Toyama Ryu Batto Jutsu Tai Kai 2000 Program, with kind permission of the event organizers.
In 1868, with the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the newly enthroned Emperor Meiji came to power. One of his first decrees was the disarming of the Samurai caste to prevent them from returning to power. Recognizing the historical and cultural importance of the Samurai to Japan, Emperor Meiji established the Dai Nippon Butoku-Den, or "Greater Japan Institute of Martial Virtues" as a means to preserve and control the instruction of traditional Japanese martial arts.
In 1873, in the Toyama district of Tokyo, the Rikugun Toyama Gakko, or Toyama Military Academy, was established to train the officers and non-commissioned officers of Japan's modern, western-style army. The curricula included Japanese fencing and swordsmanship.
In order to instruct their military personnel in the most effective method of swordsmanship, the Academy drew upon the techniques of the then living master swordsmen. These techniques from various old schools, most notable of which was Omori Ryu, were all performed from a standing position. One of the teachers who was brought in to develop this practical sword system was Nakayama Hakudo. Nakayama sensei's background in Eishin Ryu became the basis for the five original standing forms. Morinaga Kiyoshi, a fencing instructor at the Academy, reworked the kata and expanded them from five to seven by dropping one from the original five and adding three. It was this combination of techniques as adopted by the army that became the foundation of the Toyama School of Swordsmanship.
In 1939, a twenty-seven year old kendo instructor by the name of Nakamura Taizaburo was selected to attend the Academy. After six months he qualified to be an instructor of Jissen Budo, the combat martial arts of sword, knife and bayonet. This marked a turning point in the evolution of Toyama Ryu.
While teaching kenjutsu in China, Nakamura, who also studied calligraphy, was inspired with the thought that eiji happo, the eight rules of calligraphy, might also apply to swordsmanship. While practicing the ei character, he saw that the eight brush strokes traced the trajectory of the sword when cutting.
From this he made the realization that there were only eight distinct cuts possible with the sword; all others were just variations of the theme. He had noticed in his studies of old-school styles that many had left out the kesa-giri, or downward diagonal cut. He felt this odd since kesa is the most natural cut to make. He began to organize his realizations and deas into a system of practical swordsmanship, devoid of any meaningless techniques.
Toyama Ryu therefore, is not an ancient koryu martial art. It is a modern bujutsu created specifically to be used in combat and was taught as such until the Toyama Military Academy doors were closed in 1945.
With the closing of the academy, Toyama Ryu Iaido might have become a dead art had it not been for the efforts of three of its great teachers, Morinaga Kiyoshi, sensei, Yamaguchi Yuuki, sensei, and Nakamura Taizaburo, sensei. In Hokkaido, Yamaguchi Yuuki, sensei established the Greater Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation, in the Kansai region (Kyoto-Osaka), the late Morinaga Kiyoshi, sensei established the Greater Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Association, and Nakamura Taizaburo, sensei's All Japan Toyama Ryu Iaido Federation. Each organization is autonomous and retains its own set of forms. Although they established different organizations, these three teachers kept alive the teachings of Toyama Ryu and a way of life called "Budo".