Discussion in 'Korean Swords and Sword Arts' started by MBuzzy, Jun 7, 2008.

  1. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

    Jan 5, 2009
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    Hello all,

    Sorry I do not get on here as much as I used to. A bit busy with everything that life tends to throw at you, when you are not looking.
    I just wanted to add my two yen pieces worth of advice. No disrespect intended towards anyone or any particular art/style, but from my personal experience, cutting is an integral part of one's training in studying the Japanese sword arts. If you do not cut, you will never know whether or not your technique is up to snuff or not, period.
    Yes, it is important to be properly trained in the basics/kata and to have a good/qualified sensei judge your progression so as to determine whether or not you are ready for a shinken or not. At the same time though, alas, not all students (or teachers for that matter) are created equally in terms of skill level or understanding.
    On occasion, I have personally witnessed this very thing, when going to the local Budokan to practice cutting with a large group of other interested parties from various dojo and ryuha. The one thing that I noticed time and time again was that the people who practiced kendo, could NOT cut through their logs, nine times out of ten! The kendoka who had the least amount of difficulty in cutting were those who also practiced some form of iaido. The best cuttings were performed by those who's sole practice was Iaido.
    Practicing only with a bokuto, is a first step for the beginner in many styles of Iaido. But at the same time, it is but a step. Training with a bokuto is not the same as training with an Iaito, and training with an Iaito is not the same as training with a shinken. A shinai is not even part of the equation, when training to learn how to cut. That is probably why many kendo styles have initiated training kata with iaito into their curriculum these days.
    Sorry for the long winded message, but I have one last point to make. Though a sensei does play a deciding factor in when a student can START using a shinken, ultimately, it is up to the individual practitioner to make that transition. Keep in mind that many of the Koryu arts do not have dan rankings, and certainly do not have kyu rankings. They have what is referred to as mennomaki or menkyo kaiden. The dan system is handed out by the federations (ie. Zen Nippon Iaido Renme) that the respective Ryuha belong to. So time in training (not rank) plays a more important role in deciding if one is ready for the live blade or not.
    Again, my apologies for my long windedness.

    Respectfully yours in the martial arts,
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  2. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Feb 18, 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
    (Psst, James... uh, "Korean Sword Arts" section, my friend....)

    That said, cutting can be a vital part of some systems, but that doesn't make it integral in all of them. As noted, proper cutting mechanics can be taught without actually cutting targets, and it really doesn't take much skill for a sharp blade to cut through a target, whether the mechanics are perfect or not. And some systems will absolutely use it, others won't. What may be important to remember is that "learning to use a sword" isn't really about learning how to allow a sharp bit of metal to separate objects from themselves, or flesh from itself, it's about learning the strategy and tactics of the system in question, learning it's movements and approach to combat, which happens to use a sword.

    I'm with you on the Kendo/Iaido comparrison, as well. Just one little point, though, kata has always been a part of Kendo, however most have only really bothered to learn it when they have to for a grading, rather than actually study them.

    Here is a video that was apparently taken before WWII, featuring two of the few men to have been awarded Tenth Dan in Kendo.


    Later the kata were "simplified" so Kendoka wouldn't have too much of an issue learning them.....
  3. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    May 27, 2008
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    Olney, Maryland
    Hey, I'm just happy to see activity in this section! Since much of what is seen in KSA is often purloined from JSA, his points regarding koryu arts are certainly in place.:)

    You and I are on the same page regarding the place of cutting. Personally, I think that at some point, everyone should do so, even if only once. But cutting stationary targets is kind of a skill unto itself, much as board breaking is, and has dynamics all its own.

    I have seen this video. The practice of modern kendo seems, from my exposure, to be almost entirely focused on shiai. Neither good nor bad, but while effort has gone into maintaining a one to one correlation between a strike with the shinai and a cut with a sword, there is no getting around that kendo is practiced using a longer implement which is straight rather than curved. Though the shinai is meant to represent a sword, in terms of what you are doing, a shinai handles more like a cane than a sword.


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