Someone asked me about finding effective Japanese sword arts, because they had heard some have been watered down. I haven't answered them because I'm still trying to figure out what it means for a sword art to be "effective" in the 21st century. We don't fight with swords anymore, and even if we wanted to, there are far more effective weapons these days. So what does it mean for a Japanese sword art to be effective?
I'm afraid someone may be expecting too much from their idea of practice. For me, an effective art is one that teaches the fundamentals of how to handle and use the weapon, and spends a lot of time teaching the concepts of maai and seme and sen. Fancy techniques or "real" fighting scenarios aren't part of my practice.
"Real" martial arts are pretty well stripped down to the basics. Not watered down, but stripped down, as in anything extra or not absolutely necessary has removed. Weapons combat doesn't leave a lot of room for fancy, even archaic weapons like swords. But beyond that, when I think of effective martial arts, I think about how effective the practice is for refining myself and my understanding, not how effective it will make me in a Saturday night fight. Training goes on every day. If you're smart and just a little bit lucky, you'll never be in a fight. So which is more important, those effective sword techniques, or effective training?