Equipment (2)

I’ve got a sword – can I use it for practice?

It depends on two things – the type of sword, and the level of the practitioner.

If you have a good quality iaito (blunt-edged training sword) that is meant for practice, then generally yes, you can use it in the dojo. Please note, though, that so-called ‘battle-ready’ swords are generally of inferior (and therefore unsafe) build quality. We will not allow these swords to be used.

If you have a shinken (live-edged sword), we will allow its use only by practitioners of a good level of ability and understanding of iaido. We do not allow absolute beginners to use shinken, both for their sake and those around them.

Will I need a licence to carry my sword?

While sword ownership and transport falls under the remit of UK Common Law & the The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) (Amendment) Order 2008, there is no licencing system in place. It is currently illegal to own a Japanese sword unless the person meets certain criteria – such as practicing a martial art.

All Heijoshin members are furnished with the appropriate paperwork and knowledge to ensure their ownership/carriage of swords remains on the right side of the law.

Practicing (7)

Is practice dangerous?

Not at all. Despite our arts being weapons-based, virtually all of our practice is kata-based and non-contact, and safety is very high on our agenda.

Do you actually fight with weapons?

We learn weapons-based arts, but we do not fight with them how you see them on TV. The slightest contact with a sword moving at full-speed would seriously injure or kill our opponents, and as such, our practice is kata-based. This is the only safe way to learn weapon arts and maintain accurate study.

If you are looking to beat your friends senseless with weapons, JSA are not for you.

Can I train at multiple dojo?

The short answer is yes, but we do not recommend it in the early stages of development as all instructors teach differently, and the various approaches to teaching beginners can clash and cause problems in both the students’ practice and their understanding of what they are doing. As students become more skilled, it becomes less of a problem as the student understands the differences in practice. If you wish to practice at additional dojo as well as Heijoshin, please let the dojo leader or sempai know as a matter of courtesy.

Do you offer private tuition?

While we are willing to offer private tuition to those who cannot attend our scheduled practices (due to work or personal issues), we believe that people learn martial arts better in a group, and as such, we recommend that all students attend our regular training sessions.

If you cannot train on evenings, please get in touch to see if we can help you in any other way.

Do you grade students?

In the dojo, we do not. All gradings for iaido and jodo (from ikkyu upwards) are done at national events in front of an impartial panel, ensuring standardised ability levels nationwide. This is done four times a year at venues all over the country (including the Midlands).

There are no grades in kenjutsu as ours is a koryu ryuha that does not place an emphasis on such.

How long does it take to reach black belt?

Many arts give the famous black-belt at shodan (1st dan) level. However, in iaido & jodo, there are no coloured belts to designate grade.

From beginner to shodan in iaido or jodo takes approximately 18-24 months of weekly practice. Please note, however, that this is considered a beginner grade, and development should continue past this first milestone to deeper understanding of the art.

I am injured/disabled – can I still practice?

Many people practice sword arts due to injury and/or inability to continue their current art. We can tailor your practice around your injury or disability quite easily.

Starting Practice (8)

Do you teach all ages?

As a guide, we only allow adults to join the dojo due to the nature of sword arts. However, we do allow make allowances based on maturity and attitude, and under 18s are considered on an individual basis.

We have no maximum age. Our arts can be practiced well into retirement with few adjustments to technique depending upon physical ability.

Is it expensive to study with you?

Not at all. The minimum you need to start is a set of loose clothes and a bokuto (wooden sword) that will cost around £10, but we can loan you a beginner weapon for the first few practices.

To get fully kitted up in training clothes (which you don’t need to do straight away) costs around £100. We will advise the best places to purchase from, naturally! An iaito (blunt-edged training weapon) costs £150-250, depening upon spec and style, and you will need one of these around a year into practice, but you are welcome to get one straight away if you wish.

As for dojo fees, we ask all members to pay via standing order. This gives the dojo financial stability and also encourages the member to attend regularly! The fees work out to approximately £4.50 per two-hour practice, and less if you practice more than one art with us.

Please note that the dojo is run on a non-profit basis, and no fees are taken by the instructors for teaching martial arts.

Why should I choose Heijoshin over other nearby dojo?

Actually, we don’t mind who you train with!  If you are learning JSA (Japanese sword arts) formally with one of the other dojo nearby, that is fine with us.  There is no competition between the various dojo (other than the usual friendly abuse/banter we share with each other) and we’d all rather see interested parties learning properly under a qualified and competent instructor than trying to teach themselves or learn from someone incapable of teaching!

Every teacher is different, as are their students.  We’re very traditional, we work hard, but also enjoy ourselves during practice, having a laugh when mistakes are made (which is regularly!) – this may suit you, it may not… but you won’t know until you give it a try.

So, come learn from us – or another dojo – we don’t mind.  Just don’t learn the hard (and dangerous) way by buying videos from eBay or asking the local McDojo to teach you!

Do you do beginner courses?

From time to time we do, yes.  Drop us a line and we’ll let you know when the next one is scheduled.

I cannot attend, but would like to teach myself – what do you recommend?

While DVDs and books can be useful in the early years, the only way to learn sword arts is from an experienced teacher. Without someone standing over you, correcting the small errors that you cannot see in your own practice, you cannot learn effectively. Traditionally, we have all learned from skilled teachers and we intend to continue this method of study. We would not recommend learning in any other way.

Can you recommend any good books/videos to learn from?

In a word, no. Books & videos are only useful as aides memoire and not to learn from initially.

Upon joining Heijoshin, each member is given an intro book that contains information about our arts – and a ‘further reading’ list.

…but I’m over 40!

Join the club! Many of our members are 40+ (most of them joined around this age too) and they don’t plan on retiring from martial life any time soon.