Hiten Mitsurugi


is a Japanese term meaning techniques for drawing a sword. It is often used interchangeably with the terms iaijutsu, battōdō, or iaidō, although each term does have nuances in the Japanese language and different schools of Japanese martial arts may use them to differentiate between techniques (e.g. standing or sitting techniques). The emphasis of training in battōjutsu is on cutting with the sword. All terms are somewhat more specific than kenjutsu or kendō which more broadly means simply sword techniques, and is often used to refer to techniques where the sword is already out of the saya.

Comparison with Iaidō and Iaijutsu

The emphasis of training in iaidō is on quickly and correctly drawing the sword, striking, and returning the sword to its saya (scabbard/sheath). Battōjutsu usually incorporate multiple cuts after drawing the sword. Often the focus in any form of iaidō is on cutting with the draw (i.e. cutting from the saya, rather than first drawing the sword and then engaging an enemy as a separate action. Also called "Battokiri" translated as "cutting draw"). Consequently, battōjutsu students may also practice cutting techniques on real objects (on soaked straw mats), while iaidō students rarely do.

Significance of -dō and -jutsu

Karl Friday in his book, Legacies of the Sword, discusses the historical usage of various terms in Japanese to describe sword arts. Suffice it to say, that while in English many people may dispute the use of -dō or -jutsu or else ascribe specific differences to the terms battō or iai, these differences are not nearly as clear in the original language and the words are often used interchangeably. In general however, -dō refers to the way of..., usually including mental and spiritual practices, whereas -jutsu refers to the art of..., specifically the actual forms and techniques of the style.


The origins of drawing the sword from the sheath and cutting on the draw are murky. Although various martial traditions in Japan have legendary founders going back many years, much credit is given to Hayashizaki Jinsuke. He is now enshrined at the Hayashizaki Jinja, a shrine in the Tōhoku region of Japan seen by many modern practitioners as the chief shrine for iai. The concept of battōjutsu may have existed before this time, but it is unclear who was the first person to actually use the term.


Ryūha, or Japanese martial traditions, which teach battōjutsu are relatively uncommon in Japan, and less common in America and other countries. This is in contrast to the relatively high degree of availability of open hand training, such as karate and aikido. Here is a partial list of ryūha which include what could be called battōjutsu in the broad sense of drawing and cutting from the saya, although some of them more often use the terms iaidō, iaijutsu, or battōdō.

Listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten (武芸流派大辞典, the Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Traditions) as koryū, or arts developed before the Meiji era.

  • Musō Jikiden Eishin-ryū -- Traces back to the Hayashizaki Ryū Iai of Hayashizaki Junsuke (Late 15th century)
  • Musō Shinden-ryū -- Traces back to the Hayashizaki Ryū Iai of Hayashizaki Junsuke (Late 15th century)
  • Suiō-ryū Iai Kenpō -- Founded around 1600 by Mima Yoichizaemon Kagenobu
  • Shin Shin Sekiguchi-ryū -- Sekiguchi Ryū was founded by Sekiguchi Yorokuuemon Ujimune.
  • Mugai-ryū -- Founded in 1693 by Tsuji Gettan Sukemochi, who had previously learned Yamaguchi Ryū kenjutsu.
  • Jigen-ryū -- Founded by Tōgō Hizen-no-kami Shigetada, its lineage traces back to the Shintō Ryū of Iizasa Chōisai Ienao.
  • Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū -- Founded in the 15th Century by Iizasa Chōisai Ienao.
  • Yagyū Shinkage-ryū -- From the Shinkage Ryū of Yagyū Muneyoshi, who studied under Kamiizumi Nobutsuna in the 16th Century.
  • Yoshin-ryu -- from the Yoshin ryu founded by Akiyama Shirobei Yoshitoki in the mid 17th Century.

Listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten as arts developed after the beginning of the Meiji era.

  • Toyama-ryū -- Founded in the late 19th, early 20th century to instruct officers at the Toyama Military Academy.
  • Nakamura-ryū -- Founded by Nakamura Taizaburō in the mid-20th century, who had learned Toyama-ryu at the Toyama Military Academy.

Battōjutsu in popular culture

  • The character Setsuka in Soulcalibur III uses an Iai sword concealed in an umbrella, in a manner similar to battōjutsu. Also, the character Mitsurugi has several stance techniques resembling battōjutsu.
  • In Samurai Warriors 2, some of Akechi Mitsuhide's attacks came out from his scabbard. One happens as a charge attack, one occurs during his normal attack, and two come from his special stance: a super-fast forward cut that leaves a shadow for a brief moment, and a counter.
  • In Dynasty Warriors 4 and 5 Extreme Legends, Zhou Tai uses it in his normal, charge and musou attacks.
  • In Bushido Blade 2, Gengoro, when equipped with the katana, has a series of attacks and stances from battōjutsu.
  • Future Hiro Nakamura in Heroes reveals that he trained in Tōhoku in battōjutsu.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, the hero Himura Kenshin is a practitioner of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū (飛天御剣流? lit. "Flying Heaven Honorable Sword Style"), which utilizes superhumanly-fast Battōjutsu-orientied techniques.
  • In the video game series Fire Emblem, the Sword Master class uses a form of Battōjutsu as his attack.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Vergil's attacks with Yamato resemble Battōjutsu as well as Iaidō.
  • In 9 Dragons, members of the Wu Tang Blue Dragon class can acquire a Battōjutsu special attack at higher levels.


  • Wagner, Gordon, Donn F. Draeger. Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique and Practice. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill Inc., 2001.
  • Friday, Karl. Legacies of the Sword: The Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture. Honolulu, US: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997.
  • Obata, Toshishiro. Crimson Steel. Essex, UK: Dragon Books, 1987.
  • Obata, Toshishiro. Naked Blade. Essex, UK: Dragon Books, 1985.
  • Yamada, Tadashi and Watatani Kiyoshi. Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. Tokyo, Japan: Tokyo Koppi Shuppanbu, 1979.

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