Walsh University launched a course on the ancient craft of Japanese swordsmanship called kenjutsu.

NORTH CANTON  A group of Walsh University students familiarized themselves with the ancient craft of handling a bokuto as they took their first plunge into learning kenjutsu, or Japanese swordsmanship.

The bokuto is the wooden sword used by those who engage in the ancient craft which dates back to the feudal era of Japan. Walsh University launched a 10-week course Sunday called Toyama Ryu Kenjutsu which deals with the swordsmanship subject. 

"Every college is trying to do global learning," said Michael Dunphy, dean of the Walsh University College of Arts and Sciences. "This is one way we are contributing to that. At the end of that 10 weeks they will be eligible to be assessed for the first grade in classical Japanese swordsmanship."

Dunphy, who is versed in Japanese swordsmanship, will instruct the course. He also teaches a course for more advanced students. To help launch the course here, John Viol, head instructor of a Detroit, Mich.,-area school called Seishinkan, visited Walsh University with a couple of his instructors.

Viol described his institution as "a school for heart and mind purification."

Instructors were dressed in the loose-fitting clothing known as hakama while wearing the weapon belt called buki obi.

"Today, they learned the core fundamentals, handling and etiquette," Viol said. "They learned basic applications for close-quarter fighting. They didn't just learn the sword. They learned a well-rounded warrior curriculum. This is not martial arts, this is martial science. There is a huge difference."

The course was held in the Birk Center for the Arts. Currently, it does not carry any academic credit. But Dunphy said there is substantial interest on campus.

"I have a waiting list of 30 right now," Dunphy said. "Eventually, we will have a college credit course available."

The program is sanctioned by the Martial Sciences International.

"This system comes from the Yagyu Shingan," Dunphy said. "They were the protectors of the Imperial Family. These guys were highly trained warriors."

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