From Eikoku Roshukai
The practice of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (MJER) in the UK has always been independent.
The style was introduced here by Fujii Okimitsu sensei in the 1970's and although Iaido in general was governed by the British Kendo Association (BKA), MJER was pretty much left to get on with it whilst the BKA fostered Muso Shinden Ryu, which it considered to be mainstream Iai.
In the early years, apart from the instruction from Fujii Sensei the opportunity to train with other Japanese sensei was very limited and inconsistent and little was understood about the history of the Ryu. In the early part of the 1980’s this all changed when Haruna Matsuo sensei began to come to the UK each year. It was Fujii sensei who had to organise and raise funds for this through the Kenseikai; a very successful Kendo and Iaido club with its roots in Japan. Haruna Matsuo sensei provided the stability of style that had been missing for so long in MJER in the UK, and through his instruction the style grew in depth and quality.
The practitioners of the style spread countrywide from the mainly South Eastern base of the Kenseikai. In the late 1980’s groups outside of the South East of England began to organise regular seminars geared specifically around MJER rather than the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) Seitei Gata Iaido.
This proved to be very popular and the seminars became even more ambitious with Japanese sensei being invited. In the early 1990’s discussions began to take place about forming a self-help group, to promote the classical Iaido of MJER. This group became known as Musashi(UK) and its original purpose was solely to organise regular seminars and raise money to bring over Japanese sensei. One such seminar was organised for the beginning of the 1994 with Oshita Masakazu sensei a newly promoted 7th Dan who had been coming to England with Haruna sensei for many years and was extremely popular. The group then split from the BKA and turned for assistance from Fujii Okimitsu sensei who had by now returned to Japan and was living in Saga City, Kyushu, the home of Kenseikai. Fujii sensei, together with an Englishman living in Japan, Colin Hyakutake, made inquiries on our behalf to locate MJER instructors. One such instructor, Eguchi Soshin Sensei expressed a willingness to come and teach us and suggested he should bring his sensei: a man at that time we did not know.
It soon became known to us that Eguchi sensei was referring to Iwata Norikazu, a highly respected and most senior swordsman who followed strictly the teachings of Oe Masamichi, the founder of MJER. Although in his 80’s Iwata sensei agreed to come over and instruct us. In May 1995 a party of seven sensei headed by Iwata sensei came over for the first ever Kokusai Roshukai Kobudo Kenkyukai (International Roshukai Classical Sword-arts Seminar).
The seminar spread over 6 days proved to be one of the biggest single style seminars ever held outside of Japan with attendees from many countries. During the seminar Iwata sensei asked us to become part of the Roshukai and thus was formed the Eikoku Roshukai. Shortly after this and as a result of Iwata Sensei’s visit, the Canada Roshukai was formed twinning itself with that of the UK.
With the formation of the Eikoku Roshukai it has become clear that our previous training was inconsistent in two main areas. The first was that Seitei Iai: being a modern construction taken from a variety of Ryu and developed by a committee in order to provide a training and grading vehicle for Kendo practitioners, was not needed as a basis for MJER. The second was that the MJER we had been practicing was not mainstream but was a ha or branch formed by Yamamoto Harusuke sensei. It is unclear if the changes he made were approved by Oe Masamichi sensei. Subsequent to Yamamoto Harusuke sensei, further changes have been made to the forms. Our course was adjusted in an effort to put us firmly back on the original path in the study of MJER and as a group we no longer practice Seitei Gata Iaido.