Many aikido teachers refer to the close links between sword work and aikido - for instance, this quotation from Dennis Tatoian Sensei:

''"When I left Iwama Saito Sensei said 'You are going with two teachers. The first is this bokken; the bokken will answer all your questions. The second teacher is Kagami Sensei; the mirror. Watch what you are doing and you will learn.'"
Sugano Shihan always included sword work in his aikido teaching, especially at the longer Inner Aikido Seminars. Sometimes this was for the same reasons as most other teachers: take any empty-hand technique in aikido, perform it while holding a sword, and you will probably find that the timing, distance and body movement are identical. When used this way, the sword has a further practical purpose, in that it shows very clearly whether the technique is being performed with precision or not.

However, where I believe Sugano Shihan was unique in his use of sword work was in the system of paired practice exercises that he developed under the name of 'Go no ken', 'The five sword forms'. These provide a graduated training system, in which both partners learn to act as both 'teacher' (oshiete) and 'pupil' (manabite). As Sugano explained once - in 'classic' aikido training, it is possible to progress through many levels without ever having to perform the role of teacher. Thus, practitioners can end up being very competent at performing the techniques, but understand much less about how to share their expertise effectively with others. To help counter this, "go no ken" is based on two distinct roles; the role of teacher is structured so as to lead the pupil through a series of prompts and reactions, giving the pupil the opportunity to learn and explore the principles of sword work.

The five forms themselves represent a progression, taking the pupil from a basic 'safety check' through a range of cuts, blocks, parries and counter-attacks, and exploring the omote and ura dimensions of sword work.

Each form can also be practised at varying levels of sophistication - from a 'static' level at which the partners alter "ma-ai" only to the minimum extent necessary for safety, to more dynamic levels at which the teacher uses "ma-ai" to move the pupil back and forth, only occasionally offering the pupil an opening to continue with the next move.

Practice of the "Go no ken" sword system forms an important part of Sugano Shihan's teaching legacy, and one which the Trowbridge Aikikai club is keen to maintain.