Discussion in 'Sword Arts Talk' started by Christian Soldier, Jul 2, 2012.
So.... about those questions, Dan?
Sorry about that, I was writing my post in responce to elder's post and I didn't see yours.
I don't want a sword that just looks pretty but something I can cut tatami mats with and the like and is 'battle ready', if that makes sense.
No, I don't have any formal training with swords. I have a few years of knife training, but unfortunately that's the best I can get without traveling a couple hours.
Again, it was a future endevor and I was just looking through my options now and was dissapointed, so I figured I'd ask you guys about swords. If I do continue down the sword MA path, I'll probably get a Bokken first. But when I am spending that much money, I like to have a lot of time to think about it first. Hence why I am asking now.
If you absolutely refuse to suggest a sword, I understand. I just wanted to look into it (japanese swords and and Sword Arts) a little bit first before I dived in.
If this doesn't explain things very well, let me know, and I'll answer any other questions you might have.
Cool. Your first step, then, isn't looking for a sword, it's looking for an instructor. There's a number of reasons for this, including the fact that, not having any experience, you really won't know what you're looking for (no matter what others tell you, or how many reviews you read... I mean, you talk about "big name" swords, which really doesn't mean anything. There are mass-producers, and there are reputable suppliers, but they can be very far apart), and there's a big chance that whatever you pick up simply won't "make the cut" in whatever school you end up in. Do you want to spend a few hundred dollars on a sword only to be told (when you find an instructor) that it's terrible, and not to be used in the class at all (and, for the record, I've said the same thing to my own students, who bought things without consulting, and made pretty big mistakes)? Then you have the issues of safety, as you're not versed on what you'd need to do to take care of the sword, or yourself. You have no training in safe handling of the weapon, or anything related.
Really, the best advice we can offer is to find an instructor, and then ask them these questions. Specific schools can have certain preferences for dimensions of swords, others will leave it to be a more personal choice, and so on. You might also be interested to know that not all schools will even do tameshigiri (test cutting), so there may be no need to ever get a shinken (sharp, real sword).
Let's look at your math. $500.00 for a knife with an 8" blade comes to $62.50 per inch of cutting blade. You mentioned Blind Horse Knives, they charge around $40.00 per inch of cutting blade(looking at their workhorse models). But when it comes to a katana, with an approx 28" blade, you think paying more than $14 an inch is outrageous?
A couple of hours? That ain't nothin' son. I've travelled thousands of miles for training, and a two hour commute for good JSA training isn't that unusual. If you can only make it to a dojo once a month due to travel difficulties, that's still not so bad.
Finding good swordsmanship instruction takes work and time. There's a lot of BS out there and chances are you'll run into it before you find something good. Take your time, and realize that getting swordsmanship instruction requires a lot more work than signing up at a local Tae Kwon Do school.
It's just not worth it for me. I'm just a high school student, and I don't have that kind of money. I wouldn't dream of signing up at a TKD school. If I do get into it, I'll buy a ton of books on the subject and a boken and start reading. I can learn really well that way and it saves me from having to spend a lot of money to sort through all of the 'BS' schools and teachers.
No, you can't "learn really well that way". At all. No-one can (without some serious amounts of experience behind you, to placate Ken). You simply won't have the ability to differentiate what is needed from what isn't, no matter how well written the book is. I appreciate that you're in high school (for God's sake, then, DON'T GET A SWORD!!!), but if you're serious, wait until you can get an instructor. If it's not possible right now, wait. There are no short cuts.
To give an indication of the lack of knowledge already, you mentioned that you'd consider paying larger amounts of money for a sword if the swordsmith was "an old Japanese guy that was actually descendant from the samurai".. uh, gotta tell you, swordsmith's weren't samurai, they were artisans. The samurai were a different social class entirely.
But, to emphasize to the maximum, do not get a sword, do not think you can learn from a book, and realize that you're very, very young, and can afford to wait.
EDIT: Just to make my point, I was in a martial arts store recently (big surprise to those who know me...), and came across a book that was being sold there - http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Samurai-Sword-Cary-Nemeroff/dp/0804839557
I spent the next 20 minutes railing against the book, as it's written by a complete charlatan, who has no business being anywhere near a sword, let alone claiming to be able to teach the usage of such a weapon. The entire book is rife with completely terrible information, bad techniques, poorly researched ideas, and worse. The people working in the store said "But it says he's a 10th Dan... doesn't that mean he's good? I mean, someone must have awarded him that rank.". Uh, no. Completely useless sod who self promoted (through a pay-for-grade group). Odds are you'd pick up that book, and not have a clue that what you're reading is total garbage.
Get yourself in a position where finance and distance is not too much of an issue then look for a teacher, this will require some background reading on your part and perhaps a little bit of networking so that you can find a good teacher.
You aren't going to get much out of a book for various reasons and that is assuming you can even find one which will cover the specific teachings of the ryu-ha you wish to study.
You do have a few ideas of which ryu-ha interest you..........don't you?
Apart from the issue of learning at a technical level you also need to consider the safety aspects of using a sword, you need to be able to train in such a way that keeps you and those who may be around you safe.
That is best accomplished by having a teacher yell at you when you do dumb stuff and by ingraining good habits through keiko.
The interaction between you, your teacher and fellow students is very important, IMO, this can play as much a part in learning these traditional arts as spending hours swinging the weapon.
If you want books then invest in some good background reading at learn about just what may be expected of you when you commence training.
Have you given much thought to what benefits you as a student can bring to the Dojo?
Clearly I underestimated this training and the sword. My apologies.
I now have almost no desire to train in these sword using martial arts or to buy a sword. I've said this a few times, I was really just barely touching the surface to see if I wanted to further look into this. Now, I don't. I'll stick to what I know and just work to get good at that. I've decided I'm not ready to try anything like this anytime soon.
Thanks for your insight.
Okay, let's take this to where it should be, then.
You're interested in sword. Honestly, for those of us who train in them, we think that's fantastic, and are more than happy, even eager, to help and encourage you in your interest. But you need to understand that that doesn't mean that we're going to encourage, endorse, or even condone what we consider to be needlessly dangerous activities, purchases, or training approaches. There are just too many idiots out there who buy cheap, dangerous "swords" because they like the look of them, or think they're cool, and it's inevitably those idiots who get the governments around us up in arms trying to ban the weapons of our chosen art. We are more than happy to help guide you, but you will have to realize that we will give you the best answers of our experience, even if they aren't the answers you thought you would get, or were hoping for.
Now that that's out of the way, let's look at what you should actually be asking if you're interested in swordsmanship, particularly Japanese. As we said, the first thing to look for is an instructor... but before we get to that, I'd be asking what you know of Japanese swordsmanship at this point. Rich asked you if you had an idea of which Ryu-ha (traditional school) you were interested in. Did you have an answer for that? Bear in mind, of course, that many systems are simply not going to be close to you, or available, but to give you an idea, here are some clips of a range of traditions:
Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu
Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu
Yakumaru Jigen Ryu
Ono-ha Itto Ryu
Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu
Plus many, many, many more... then we get to the Iai systems:
Shinmuso Hayashizaki Ryu
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu
Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu
Then again, many of these systems feature a range of other aspects to their arts.
Finally, there are the more "common" sword arts, namely Kendo (realistically a sport with bamboo swords, so no need to get a real one), and Seitei Iaido (a solo sword drawing art).
Still, that should be enough to get you started in terms of understanding the range of sword systems out there, was this what you were after?
Hey, no one is here to discourage you from doing sword arts. We just want you to do it safely and well. The fact that you came here and asked questions is a GOOD sign. That's why we answered as we did. You're in high school. Awesome. Lots of time to learn and get good. There are any number of things you can do if you are interested in sword arts but can't train in a traditional school right now. Kendo, Fencing and Wrestling will all teach you body awareness, range and timing. That's all good stuff. Sword arts use all that. If you can wrestle really well, you can pretty much do anything you put your mind to, MA-wise. Also, training in any good sword art will help you when you start JSA. Many of the principles are the same. What if the only art you'll have access to for the next few years is Chinese swordsmanship? That's great too! Go do it and train hard! By the time you start JSA you'll (ideally) know the fundamentals of swordsmanship in general and can make a reasonable transition, provided you can "empty your cup" and do things "their way". I have to do that as I do both European and Japanese swordsmanship. They reinforce each other, but there are very important differences too that I have to keep straight.
It's totally worth it in the long run though. The training changes you. That's the whole point. You came here seeking advice. You've found it. Take it in the spirit in which it was given, which is to help you and prevent you from making mistakes that will frustrate (any maybe injure) you.
Best of luck, and keep at it.
Thanks Chris, That was so much information it actually overloaded my computer.
I didn't watch all of them (cause my comp kept freezing) but I found Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, Ono-ha Itto Ryu, and Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu to be pretty cool. I figure since I am just starting out, it might be a good idea to start with a 'boken art' and then maybe continue with a live sword after some training.
These guys have a lot of technique, I am guessing they've been doing it awhile.
Yakumaru Jigen Ryu was pretty um, intriguing I guess. I'm sure there is some meaning behind the stick beating drill, I don't really know anything about these arts so maybe it's common and very helpfull to students, IDK.
Ha, not a problem. Yeah, each of those arts has quite a history, and everything found there is for a reason. Katori Shinto Ryu is probably the most famous koryu (old system) around, and one of the most highly respected as well. It's teachings centre on the sword, but also include a range of other weapons, such as spear, naginata (a short blade on a long pole), bo (staff), shuriken (throwing spikes, not stars), unarmed combat (yawaragei), and a large syllabus of more "tactical" lessons and related information. You'd most likely need to move, unless you are very lucky to find a school nearby.
Ono-ha Itto Ryu was one of two official systems of the Tokugawa Shoguns. It is a very direct, very pragmatic system, with it's founder, Ono, being known as probably the better swordsman out of him and his counterpart (Yagyu Munenori, of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu), but his, uh, less happy persona had him put in second place. This school provides much of the technical approach for modern Kendo.
Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu was founded by the famous lone swordsman, Musashi Miyamoto. Again, a very pragmatic and direct system, there is a (relatively) small, and seemingly simple syllabus, but the techniques are incredibly difficult to do properly... and the mindset is key. As with all other arts listed here, it's unlikely that there is something just around the corner for you (other than possibly Kendo or Seitei Iaido, which would be a great start anyway).
Most of these systems will only ever use a bokken/bokuto. Ono-ha Itto Ryu will also use a form of shinai (bamboo sword), as will Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, and a few others. Katori Shinto Ryu primarily uses a bokuto for the majority of the training, other than for the Iai/Batto (sword drawing) methods. Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu is really only bokuto. It might be important to realise that the reason for that isn't so much that it's safer for the students, it's that it doesn't ruin your swords, and allows for a range of training methods that a real sword just wouldn't, such as the constant impact in a number of kata.
Yakumaru Jigen Ryu are from an area of Japan called Satsuma, where there was a major uprising at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. Their training is largely based on strong striking, with the system having a teaching that a second strike shouldn't even be considered, as the enemy should be dead after the first cut. There are stories of the battles being strewn with the dead soldiers who had the unfortunate luck to encounter a Satsuma/Jigen Ryu swordsman... with the back of their own swords embedded in their own foreheads, having been struck back with such force that it killed them. The way they train can look a little odd to some, but believe me, you don't want to face them!
Please tell me you have pics posted! <drool>
Peace favor your sword,
I do have just one little bit to add to this discussion. It is that many of us modern practitioners forget the historic difference "functional" weapons and high-end masterpieces.
For the vast majority of armies throughout history, most were armed with weapons that were "mass produced" (using whatever technology was available at the time). The goal of most sword makers, for most swords, was to make a functional weapon. It wouldn't break. It would be balanced right for "most" people. That sort of stuff. They usually weren't junk that would come apart but they also usually weren't works of art. They were functional tools. You want a tool that will do the job, and last a long time before you eventually have to discard it as worn-out, broken down, scrap, to be replaced by one just as functional.
The rich, elite, and privileged could afford, or were given, the highest quality swords. The lieutenant and sergeant got whatever the heck was issued to him, whatever his father left to him, or whatever he could afford. "I'll sell my rod. I'll sell my reel. I'll even sell my spinning wheel. To buy my love a sword of steel..."
As much as I lust after that blade that elder made, the simple fact is that the vast majority of Bowie Knives, historically speaking, that hit the U.S. were functional tools made by small, nearly subsistence, smiths or imported from Sheffield & the like. Of course, there were custom pieces made by master cutlers. A Longhunter couldn't afford one of those, but an Arkansas legislator could. So I don't get much heartburn when I use Coldsteel (or even cheaper) bowies. One of my favorites is a Depeeka POS. The fit and finish is HORRIBLE and I don't want to say what it took to get a good edge on it. But the edge has held better than even the Ontario (another mass produced but decent bowie) and it's freaking sturdy.
Now, if a fella really wants to get in touch with historic sword arts, he'll spend some time using the "functional tools" too, even if he does lust after the $10,000 works of art.
Well, I'll leave off the rant for now.
Peace favor your sword,
Nope. Sorry-I made that one almost 15 years ago, now. I think I have some 35mm slides around somewhere.
Besides, it's not mine; it's his.
It was really, really nice, though......
EDIT:It was summer, 2000, when I started that blade......
Someday I'll get around to posting some of my work, I guess, but it's not really a priority.....
I think the fact that my "everyday carry" is a Ken Onion Leek got lost in all this somewhere-though I've posted as much a time or two elsewhere. I'd no more carry a bespoke piece-even one I made-everyday than I would wear one of my Rolexes.......sometimes, though....
But let's not forget that we are talking about katana here. The samurai of old Japan were the ones most likely to have a katana made. For most of their thousand year history, the samurai were the rich, elite, and privileged.
Not necessarily. A lot depends on period, of course, but for a long time many rank-and-file could carry a katana. Just not daisho.
Of course, this also leaves aside the fact that pole-arms were considered more serviceable by nearly every pre-gunpowder army on the planet, but that's a different rant.
Peace favor your sword,
Yeah, I caught that.
My comment wasn't directed at you in particular, or, to be honest, anyone specifically. Rather, there is sort of a "cult of the sword" which pervades swordsmanship of any stripe but is particularly rife within Japanese swordsmanship. It is this nearly omnipresent cult-worship to which I address my comments. Swords were tools, like every other battle implement, and considered less valuable than the man using them. The vast majority were not works of functional art for the wealthy and were to be used, worn out, and (after a long and useful life) replaced.
I agree that there has always been a symbology to the sword. I forget which group it was, Goths I think but maybe the Vandals (or even the Visigoths), but when a boy reached manhood, he was given a sword to symbolize his manhood and slaves, when freed, in the same society were given the same. Then there was the Roman tradition of the Rudis. But the swords given were not works of functional art, pattern welded, chased with silver, studded with gems, inlaid with gold. They were functional and basic.
While I completely understand the natural human desire to own the nicest sword (knife, whatever) you can afford, I just find it to be a bit of a modern self-delusion to look down on someone who wants an "entry level" "beater" blade because that's what the vast vast majority of fighters throughout history had. Heck, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that the "entry level beaters" that we have now are actually much higher quality than what the average classes had available to them. Modern self-steels (as I'm sure you know) have vast amounts of engineering and chemistry as well as a quality control that was simply unattainable for "mass production" techniques historically. Yes, the Master's blade could be every bit as good as modern steel, but we're not talking about the Duke's sword, we're talking about the Sergeant in the Duke's employ.
To be fair to the Cult of the Sword, I also have a similar rant for the Cult of the Gun, otherwise known as "gun snobs" who insist that if it isn't a Kimber .45ACP, then it's crap.
Peace favor your sword,
Yeah, I think the first one is the on I'd prefer most. I kinda figured Yakumaru Jigen Ryu was a very lethal art which is why I didn't judge them by what could be considered a silly drill by people who don't know the art. I'd be thrilled to be able to train with them as well. I'm a pretty good wood worker, I think I'm going to make a boken.
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