Iwata Norikazu sensei was born in Kochi in 1913, he holds the highest level of certificate in Muso Jikiden Eishen Ryu the so-called Mekyo Kaiden.

Iwata sensei started to learn budo at the age of 11, he started to practise Kendo. At the age of 27, he started to learn Iaido, from the 19. headmaster of the school, Fukui Harumasa sensei. He also learned Iaido from: Mori Shigeki sensei, Suzue Yoshishige sensei, Takaoka Den sensei and Yamamoto Takuji sensei. He practised Iaido for twenty years at Yamamoto sensei, who learned Iaido from Oe Masamichi sensei for seven years on a daily basis. Iwata sensei also attended Aikido practices led by Morehei Ueshiba sensei.

Iwata sensei passed away on january the 1st in 2011. He was the only living teacher who really knew the way Oe Masamichi sensei was thinking about the form exercises in Iaido. His unique Iaido style is a rich source of the teaching of his masters, and the masters of his masters. He wrote three books on Iaido, and several articles in the Kendo Nippon magazine. Iwata sensei’s teaching and publications let us know the tradition of his masters, especially the teaching of the founder of Muso JikiDen Eishen Ryu, Oe Masamichi (Roshu) sensei.

We know from Yamamoto Takuji sensei, Iwata sensei’s master that Oe Masamichi sensei first studied Eishin Ryu Shimomura Ha, and he became the 15th headmaster of the school. Later, he left this school, joined Tanimura Ha, and became the 17th headmaster of it. No one knows why did he changed from Shimomura Ha to Tanimura Ha, but Iwata sensei put forward a theory on it. Oe Masamichi sensei was originally a Kendo teacher, therefore the natural posture for him was the one that looks the opponent directly in the face. Probably that is why he chose Tanimura Ha, the iai school with the more natural posture.

There are some differences between Tanimura Ha and Shimomura Ha

  1. Shimomura Ha has more hand and finger techniques than Tanimura Ha
  2. The body is twisted much more in Shimomura Ha exercises than in the JikiDen school.

  3. Body twisting, noto timing, and footwork requires a lot more precision in Shimomura Ha than in JikiDen, therefore the former is more difficult.
    Oe Masamichi sensei’s direct face-to-face posture became more popular for those who learnt Kendo first. The basic standing in Kendo, called ‘chudan no kamae’ in Japanese, was similar. According to Iwata sensei, it might be the basic method taught by Oe Masamichi sensei. His methods were greatly influenced by actual combat based on his experiences in one of the last sword based wars in Japan called the Hamaguri Gomon no Ikusa (The Clam Gate War) fought at the very end of the Tokugawa Era between 1865 and 1867 at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.