Strictly translated, the Japanese word Kobudo covers all ancient martial traditions, armed or unarmed, of Okinawa or Japan. Today, when specifically referring to Okinawan traditions, the term kobudo is most often used to describe the weapons and traditions of the Ryukyu Islands.
Founded by Taira Shinken, Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai is translated as "the organization for the preservation and promotion of the ancient martial traditions of the Ryukyu Islands".
Batto is the art of cutting with a sharp (or "live" blade) sword on a bamboo, straw or tatami mats that have been soaked in water for several days. The cutting is done at a pre-determined angle and the wet straw or mat simulates the resistance of a human body. This technique is similar to Iai-Do where form is practiced without actual cutting. Students of Batto practice form, accuracy and timing to increase skill and strength.
Shinken Taira, a master of Okinawan weaponry, was born on the small island of Kukijima by Okinawa. His family name was "Maezato" but later in life he changed to his mother's name "Taira". He studied under Master Moden Yabuki, the founder of "Ryukyu Kobujutsu Kenkyu-Kai", which is the now Kobujutsu Research Association. Master Yabuki was the first to open a dojo for this study.
In the 1930's, after many years of study, he went to Japan to open his own dojo in Ikaho, Gunma Prefecture.
In 1940, Taira returned to Naha, Okinawa to open a dojo.
The dojo name was "Ryukyu Kobujutsu Hozon Shinkokai". Here he worked to promote the ancient Okinawan martial arts as passed down to him by the many great masters who he had studied under.
In 1960's Taira went to Yokohama and stayed in Sakagami's dojo (Genbu-Kan) where Sensei Demuara studied kobudo with him. Taira later went back to Okinawa where Sensei Demura visited him in 1962. Sensei Demura has since been a key person in bringing the study of Okinawan weaponry to North America and it continues to be taught today in Genbu-Kai dojos around the world.
Taira also studied with many more masters to acquire weapons knowledge and kata forms including Gichin Funakoshi and Kenwa Mabuni.
The sword was originally used for killing people, but after 14th century the Shogun Ieyusu Tokugawa created the EDO era. During his control of Japan, peace was restored, and therefore, the use of the sword changed from killing opponents and protecting oneself and others to saving people, and as a mind and body exercise. In that way, it changed from a killing sword to a living sword.
After World War II, Kendo and Iai-Do changed to more of a sport which led to a few problems, since the philosophy behind the training is that without the true feeling of the art, the sport is no different than playing baseball or running. The way of the sword is much more valuable than that. The way of the sword is clearly understood as "live or die", therefore, the art of true cutting is the center of Kendo & Iai-Do. Practitioners of Kendo (bamboo fighting or fighting with no partner) and Iai-Do (cutting in air) cannot realize the true feeling of cutting. One only realizes this experience from Batto-Jutsu.
Accomplishing good cutting form does not depend necessarily on size or strength, but rather technique and speed. Men, women and disciplined children may learn the art. Since the sword is a very sharp weapon, beginners must learn the fundamentals before doing any actual cutting. Practice swords or "Bokken" are used until a certain skill level is achieved. Training in Batto-Do with a real sword requires a focused mind, a well-conditioned body, and a balanced spirit. All this control is learned through the practice of Batto katas before any cutting is attempted. Safety is strictly adhered to in Batto classes.