Kenjutsu is the art of samurai swordmanship; Kenjutsu schools proliferated from the 9th century onward. Many of these ryu appear repeatedly in the chronicles of bujutsu.
In that era competition was merciless, since defeat often resulted in the loss of life and limb. Many a Kenjutsu student risked his life to establish a reputation. Not unlike gunfighters of the old west, these fencing experts roamed the countryside in search of a contest or a fight. Gradually, legislation was enacted to curb the bloodshed in these personal contests of fencing skill.
Training with live blades in the dojo was restricted to inanimate targets, such as the makiwara, made of rice straw, or to controlled kata performances-still employed in schools where kenjutsu with a live blade is practiced.
The main phase of kenjutsu was training with the katana, the regular sword. Techniques were generally divided into two groups; the first, cutting and thrusting used in attack and counterattack. The second, comprising parries used in defense.
According to orthodox laws of fencing, no warrior was proud of wounding an enemy in any manner other than established by strict samurai code. The long sword was to be directed at only four points: the top of the head, the wrist, the side, and the leg below the knee.
A warrior also learns the techniques of other; minor specializes in the use of the short sword or the intermediate sword and the long sword, which was worn on the back with the handle jutting from behind the shoulder.