The Sugawara Sogo Budo Philippines members were first introduced to the Baguio community during the 11th Tanabata Festival 2023 at the Baguio Museum.
They were invited by outgoing head of the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon, Hidenobu Oguni or Oguni san as his last gift to the people of Baguio.
Their mesmerizing sword demonstrations were enough to make your heart leap or literally jump from your seat. Guests were treated to a close up of Japanese traditional martial arts. Those who were seated in front certainly wriggled at the seeming close encounter.
Kenzou or Jose Alcala explained that Katori Shinto Ryu was introduced to the Philippines by Sensei Sugawara Tetsutaka.
The Sugawara Sogo Institute – Branch Dojo was founded in 1998 by Senseis Sugawara Tetsutake and Eduard Lapuos, Jr.
The Japanese word “sensei” was popularized in the movie “Karate Kid.”
Katori Shinto Ryu, according to Kenzuo, are intentionally long and practiced at actual speed encountered in real battle situations.
The curriculum consists of the following weapons: katana, kodachi, bo, naginata, and yari.
He explained that Iai-jutsu (art of quick drawing the sword) have two sets: seated and standing.
This enables practitioners to respond in a number of ways based on opponents movement and the surroundings. A sample of which is when a swordsman is suddenly attacked with his sword still sheated or covered and he is unable to respond.
The next set of kata or form refers to a detailed choreographed pattern of martial arts movements and are the paired sets which are practiced with wooden weapons.
The other is called tachi-jutsu or sword techniques.
One of the oldest in the three main lines of Japan’s Koryu is Katori Shinto Ryu.
It is the source of many classical and modern martial arts.
Zensuo or Ken Alcala explains further that tachi-jutsu or sword techniques are performed by practitioners in full armor used by the Samurai (called O-yorol) The techniques employed in Omote No Tachi are aimed at the weak points of the armor. These techniques were demonstrated at the 11th Tanabata Festival and are shown in the photographs. It brings us the world of the Samurai that we see in movies. A Bo for example is a 6 foot wooden staff.
“There are four major aspects of sword handling that make up the kata,” said Kenzuo.
“Nuki-tsuke (drawing of the blade),kiri-tsuke(cutting/thrusting actions),chiburi (shaking off excess blood from the blade) and noto (sheathing the blade). These are performed in combination with other body movements (such as leaping left or right) while maintaining a state of zanshin from start to finish,” he added.
For those interested to learn Japanese martial arts, you may look for them at their Facebook page, Sugawara Sogo Budo or visit them at their Dojo address: Manila Boat Club 2442 Havana St, cor Del Pan St, Santa Ana, Manila. Training Schedules are: Monday 6:30 to 9:00 p.m/ Wednesday 6:30 p.m. to 9p.m./ Saturday 5:30p.m. to 8p. m.
“Practicing Koryu martial arts can offer numerous benefits to the individual,” emphasized Kenzuo.
“It improves physical fitness, enhances self-discipline, increases mental focus, and gives a deeper understanding of traditional Japanese culture. It also promotes self-defense skills, stress relief, and a sense of camaraderie among practitioners and well-being. However, the specific benefits may vary depending on the individual’s dedication and training regimen,” he added.
The group is looking into the possibility of having classes in Baguio should they have enough students. I forgot to ask him what is the minimum number of students. (Photos and captions by Kenzuo or Jose Alcala) — Stella Maria L. de Guia