Tameshigiri (Test Cutting) video guide

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by Czlowiekfala, Feb 8, 2019.

  1. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Hi,

    First of all I apologise for self promotion, however I would like to let you guys now about a small project I am currently running. Every month (starting from February) I am going to post a video showing various Tameshigiri techniques combinations along with the cut patterns.

    It is quite hard to find good learning materials on test cutting so I hope that you will find the videos usefull.

    First video is up and it shows Godan Giri (五 段 斬) - 5 cuts of a single mat



    If you have any questions, feedback or anything you would like to share please let me know either here on in the video comments.

    Thanks for reading! :)
     
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  2. Christopher Adamchek

    Christopher Adamchek Blue Belt

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    Nice clean cuts, the transition between the cuts In the second part was smoother
     
  3. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Looks powerful. When I see videos like this I always wonder what is holding the mat in place. It appears it isn't just free standing. Is it on something fastened to the floor and then a pipe to hold the mat? Just curious.
     
  4. ZockerSWAT

    ZockerSWAT Yellow Belt

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    I wish I could own a Katana or a sword in general in germany....
    Sadly I cant, Muay Thai has to satisfy me at least for now, but it looks so awesome!
     
  5. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Thanks for the feedback! Yes, you are right. The second part was smoother due to double Kesa Giri with fast transition to the next cut. In the next videos I will try to show some techniques that require more fluent movement between cuts.
     
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  6. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    It is actually a wooden stake that holds the mat (like the one for vampires :) ). It is possible to cut the mat that is not supported by a stake - and this is called Suemono Giri , however the mat often falls down after the first cut.
     
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  7. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    That make much more sense to me. Still impressive.
     
  8. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Thank you!

    Muay Thai is great as well. I bet it requires more endurance and stamina than swordsmanship. The most important thing is practice itself :)
     
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  9. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Germany doesn't allow sword ownership? I believe around here you are allowed to, so long as it is for the purpose of training, or you do not carry it with you in public except for the purpose of training.

    Checked while writing this...based on a very quick google search, swords can be possessed in most areas of germany by someone over the age of 18. So in a few years you'll be good to go! (double check that for your area before you do, once you turn 18)
     
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  10. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Kempodisciple is right. I have some friends from Germany who are practicing tameshigiri so probably this just a matter of being over 18. Nevertheless buying Shinken (real blade) just for test cutting is not a good idea if you do not have enough experience with such weapon. Safety first :)
     
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  11. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    This is because tameshigiri is a tool to aid in teaching Japanese sword arts, not a goal in itself. As one of my instructors told me, "if your goal is to cut grass mats, use a machete!" Learning tameshigiri, and how said tameshigiri is conducted, is dependent upon the school of swordsmanship that you're studying, so most learning in tameshigiri is done within the confines of the art. Tameshigiri for Toyama ryu is much different from the tameshigiri practiced in Shin Shin ryu or Mugai ryu. (I use those arts because I'm familiar with those three).

    That being said, based upon what I see in your video you are probably practicing Toyama ryu. If that is the case, then your cuts are very nice, clean and good 45 degree angles. You are rushing too much though, and so disconnecting your tanden from your cutting stroke which means you are primarily cutting with your arms instead of your center.

    Mike Femal at Nihonzashi has a number of tameshigiri videos up on his site. He has a good number of the Zen Nihon Battodo Renmei cutting patterns using various of the swords that they sell.

    Looking forward to your next video!
     
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  12. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate it!

    Yes, you are right - I am practicing Toyama Ryu and my way of cutting is done according to that school. I am quite aware that the cuts are quite good for tameshigiri, however they might not be entirely effective in a combat situation. First of all they are clearly signaled by "the fishing movement" (throwing your hands forward in order to execute the cutting movement). The second drawback of that way of cutting is the final position of the sword after the cut is done. Katana is quite close to the body so it is hard to perform a defensive move such as parrying.

    I also train other schols of swordsmanship (Katori Shinto Ryu, Shinkendo) and the cuts are being performed while using you entire body - however I haven't checked how this way of cutting will work during tameshigiri. Will see :)

    As for tameshigiri itself I think it is a great practice to check if your cuts are correct. Personally I believe that it is quite pointless to train various cuts just "in the air" without checking if one is able to actually cut anything with those techniques.

    Thanks once again for great commentary! I think I will learn one or two things here as well :)
     
  13. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Welcome aboard!

    Okay, cool... what was your purpose in doing this? Is it just, as you imply next, that you think there is a lack fo material "teaching" tameshigiri? How long have you been training to be able to offer such instruction? Are you concerned with people picking up cheap, poorly put together "swords" and trying to copy your "teaching"? Are you also covering such aspects as safety, blade maintenance, proper preparation of wara, and so on? If not... putting up videos showing your technique isn't a bad thing... but putting it up as something akin to instruction might not be something I'd advise...

    Well, yeah... as Paul said, you don't really "learn" tameshigiri, you use tameshigiri to learn... in other words, it's a way of testing (literally) your technique honed through your practice, rather than a practice to be developed in and of itself in the main (there are some who approach it as it's own skill, but that's kinda missing the point, I feel...).

    Toyama Ryu (as confirmed) is one of the very few groups that has any kind of really "formalised" approach to tameshigiri... as well as Shinkendo, mainly as it's essentially a Toyama offshoot (well, Nakamura-ryu offshoot, anyway... itself a line/variation of Toyama Ryu).. and, as a result, they do feature "tameshigiri techniques", for want of a better term. Most schools don't have anything like that... and a large number of classical schools have no tameshigiri component at all, or leave it purely up to the individual if they want to explore that aspect.

    The reason is pretty simple... Toyama Ryu essentially is a modern form of sword training for Japanese officers (named for the Toyama Academy). These officers didn't need to deal with much in the way of "combative" use of the sword... especially against another swordsman, as so much of classical systems focus on... instead, the focus is on "cutting". The use is for things like executions, bluntly, and the school's history is one of particularly atrocious war crimes and more... but the pertinent factor here is that the Toyama practices don't teach you to fight with a sword... or even use a sword combatively... instead, they teach you cutting mechanics and sequences... which is where things like Godan Giri come from, as well as much of the rest of the syllabus.

    Cool. Overall, I'm in agreement with Paul. I'd add to his comments about being separate from your tanden, and say that, to my eyes, you seem to be over-twisting your body, taking it out of alignment with your target, and you have a fair amount of tension in your right shoulder particularly (mostly on right-left cuts), which can affect your hasuji, as well as forcing you to use more muscle than you need to. None of this is unfixable, of course, and how much of an issue it is depends on things like how long you've been training.

    This is something I don't really understand, and you kind of say the same thing further down... what exactly is the point of having cuts that are "quite good for tameshigiri", but not effective in the actual, combative use of the sword? If you're focusing on only one aspect of the cut, such as hasuji, or body alignment, or lack of muscular power, then tameshigiri is great to check those aspects... but having a particular "tameshigiri cut" that is only for use in cutting targets doesn't seem to make much sense to me...

    Well, the kissaki should be leading, not your hands... the larger "fishing" motion is more about a big "cast", emphasising the extension of the kissaki itself, not about throwing your hands... of course, your teacher might describe or teach it differently, but that was my experience joining in with the local Shinkendo guys and doing a bit of Toyama Ryu... as well as the way it's done in most classical systems, and in Seitei (ZNKR) Iaido...

    No, I don't think that's an issue... having the sword out from your body is more problematic when it comes to recovery and moving into a defensive action...

    Well, Shinkendo is basically a derivative of Toyama Ryu, as mentioned, and has a fair focus on tameshigiri itself, so don't expect too much variation there... Shinto Ryu, on the other hand, is quite different... and will depend greatly on who you're studying Shinto Ryu with. I'm also a little curious as to why you would be training in Toyama Ryu and Shinkendo at the same time... and how long you've trained each of these arts... as well as which group you're with for Shinto Ryu. Would you mind saying?

    Agreed, and that's one of the main purposes of it (in the modern sense... historically, it was just about testing the blades themselves... the idea of testing technique, or the swordsman is a far newer concept and approach). That said... swords cut. They are designed to do that, and they do it extremely well... a big part of the benefit of tameshigiri, I've found, is more in psychologically "knowing" that you can cut... the actual mechanics shouldn't really change much... and most teachers can tell how well you can cut even if all you've ever done is just "in the air".

    Cool, hope you stick around! Many people start, put up posts, then don't return... even with these plans... the sword art area is a bit quiet, so I hope this helps breathe some life back into it!
     
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  14. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Thanks for feedback and some quite interesting question. Without further ado I am going to answer all of them :)


    The main purpose of the video ( and the future ones as well) is to show the correct sequence of the various tameshigiri cuts. What I want to do is to create several videos covering, hmm let's just say "popular" tameshigiri giri cut patters in a friendly format. Of course one can find lot tameshigri on youtube both on English and Japanese channels however scrolling through lot of videos just to find the technique you are looking for is quite time consuming ( although quite beneficial). The video of course is too short to call it "a teaching" and I am not going to cover other subjects as the blade maintenance etc. However I think safety is crucial here - especially during tameshigiri so in the future videos probably I will add some information about it.


    Yes, Toyama Ryu simplified many techniques to provide a fast way of learning how to cut and handle the sword for imperial army officers Only after the war - Toyama Ryu became more "samurai like". The best example are Toyama Ryu eight katas. First version - Gunto Soho - consits of almost soldier like way of walking, all of the forms end with forward cut and the techniques teach how to deal with the enemy equipped with a bayonet. The second version Batto - Jutsu - changes the last cuts from shomen giri (forward cut) to kesa giri (from shoulder to hip cut). That version also reduces number of steps. And finally there is the Battodo version that was developed after the war. Due to the fact that many dojo's were quite small - the number of steps during kata were further reduced and overwall all kata were shortened. It is great that you know the history of the style. Without knowing the history it is much harder to understand the reason behind many techniques.


    Due to fact that I am practicing two different styles I tend to switch from one to another. I have found this way of cutting the best of tameshigiri (at least for now). One the one hand I am trying to be aware of shortcomings of certain techniques however on the other hand I tend to use what is effective in a situation at hand. I hope that in the future I will able to learn way of cutting that will be usefull in both situation (tameshigiri, combat). As you may know it is going to be quite hard to use those techniques in combat enviroment so maybe "tameshigiri" cuts work as well :)


    Well, long story short....I have been practicing Toyama Ryu for 13 years and finally realized that in order to move forward I need to learn about other styles as well. I left my club and enrolled to both Shinkendo and Katori Shinto Ryu schools. Fortunetly I have friends who practice other styles so it was easier for me to find alternatives. Maybe this is not exactly Musha Shugyo :) but I am no longer attached to one style and try to learn as much as possible from different sources. As for Shinkendo - it is much different from Toyama Ryu - at least from the Toyama Ryu I have been taught.

    One more thing. Great part of tameshigiri is that the practice itself not only strengthen your technique but also mental side. Very often you have to cut in front of many people so managing your stress and other factors is a great training as well :)
     
  15. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I know very little about japanese swordsmanship, so i'm not commenting on the rest of it, but both Chris' statement and your response to it here stuck out to me.

    From what I understand tameshigiri is a way to test the effectiveness of your slashes. If that's the case, having a separate technique that's useful in tameshigiri but not combat would be silly, unless it's developing a different skill. It reminds me of people learning "to a test", where you ace the test, but then don't have any practical knowledge for afterwards. Here, you're acing 'tameshigiri', but can't use that for 'combat', which is what tameshigiri is theoretically supposed to be testing.
     
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  16. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I’m seeing a parallel with some karate/TKD practitioners who perform impressive breaks of stacks of boards/pavers using a downwards chop that would have almost no application in a fight.
     
  17. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    Thanks for the comment!

    The cut itself is quite effective. There is virtually no resistance from the mat - it is like cutting through the air. The technique is working, so personally I would not compare it to the situation when let's say karate kick or punch has no power of effect at all. You could use those cuts during the fight however opponent is not a mat :) and generally reacts to what you are doing. Probably I would shorten the cutting motion to make the cut less obvious. However the cutting motion itself is crucial here. Without it, one cannot cut the mat and this the situation when technique fails completely.

    What I wanted to say is that I am not performing cuts only good for tameshigiri however in order to apply them to combat situation some changes need to be made. It is little bit like doing kata and then trying to use those moves during training bout - adjustments need to made according to the situation :)
     
  18. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Cool, thanks.

    Okay, let me get a bit more particular... who is the (intended) audience for the video series?

    Okay... aside from the fact that I wouldn't describe Toyama Ryu as "samurai-like" in any way, none of that is really anything to do with what I was saying... interesting, sure, but not really what was being discussed.

    Yeah... my point is that learning cutting methods purely for tameshigiri seems a little... lacking, to my mind. And having differing techniques for tameshigiri and combat seems less than optimal.

    Okay, for this part I might break it up a bit...

    Why would you need to learn about "other styles" to "move forward"? Can you elaborate on that?

    So... to take this bit by bit... you left your Toyama Ryu school after 13 years... at what rank? And what authority did you get with regards to teaching? Is what you're presenting Toyama Ryu, or your own ideas and sequences? If so, under what authority are you showing it?

    With regards to your (new?) other schools... what are you thinking you'll get from Shinkendo, being largely just a variant of Toyama Ryu itself?

    And, more to my heart, who are you studying Shinto Ryu with? What group? How long have you been studying it? Oh, and for the record, we tend not to think of "enrolling in a Shinto Ryu dojo", but of joining the ryu and committing to it's study... it's semantics to some, but it's an important distinction to us... as it shows very different attitudes to the school (ryu) itself.

    Hmm... if the idea is to not be "attached" to one style, instead to utilise a range to come up with your own take, have you discussed this with your Shinto Ryu teacher?

    Yeah, agreed... of course, the same can be said of pretty much any (proper) training methodology...

    The ideas behind tameshigiri are somewhat more complex than that, but I certainly see where you get the idea... a more accurate analogy might be the person practicing at a shooting range, with all the time in the world, all the opportunity to steady themselves and ensure their aim, control their breathing, and squeeze a Rond with a fair amount of accuracy and consistency, yet, under the effects of adrenaline, with a moving target, and moving themselves, find themselves firing randomly, or even freezing, unable to act...but, for interest's sake, let's look at what tameshigiri actually is.

    Back in the day, the origins of tameshigiri were centred around the testing of blades. As well as the more gentile targets, it was fairly common to use condemned criminals (or, in cases, parts of them...) as the targets... many old blades have inscriptions on their nakago (tang) saying things along the lines of "One lucky day in August, 3 bodies cut". For the record, when fixed targets, such as tatami mats were used, the old (common) term was suemono-giri. The persons doing the cutting were essentially professional test-cutters, who were known for the consistency of their sword work and cutting mechanics, ensuring that the weapons wouldn't be damaged, and that the blades would be tested accurately.

    As Japan moved through the Edo period (early 17th Century to mid/late 19th Century), the practice came to have a number of somewhat negative connotations... the samurai were trying to show themselves as morally superior, as well as spiritually more refined, which meant that the use of corpses for testing their swords was seen as less than exemplary. Nonetheless, a number of low-ranked samurai managed to excel with this skill, being the professional sword testers mentioned earlier (otameshi-geisha, or sue mono-shi)... but higher ranked (and more nobler) samurai would disdain such occupations (they were not above employing the testers to demonstrate just how awesome their new sword was, of course... ha!). From the mid-18th Century, though, mainly due to the lack of positive to cutting corpses, these otameshi-geisha would use substitutes more and more... leading the way to the modern usage of things like tatami omote, goza, and so on.

    With more consistency of the targets now, the emphasis started to change... swordsmen would begin to use the practice of sue mono-giri (cutting fixed targets) as a new form of tameshigiri (test cutting), specifically moving now to test the skill of the swordsman rather than the sword itself. It wouldn't take over completely until essentially the Toyama groups began a revival of the training practice to ensure that correct cutting mechanics were being learnt by their graduates... meaning that this is really a 20th Century understanding of the practice.

    To be blunt, most classical schools simply didn't bother with the practice of tameshigiri, mainly because they didn't need it. They knew that their mechanics worked, they knew that the swords cut effectively, and they knew that the more important thing for a warrior is to be able to move in combat, and just let the sword do it's job. It's really like expecting a modern soldier to go to a shooting range to ensure that their bullets work... so long as you know the item does it's job, there's no need to test it in that manner...

    I wouldn't necessarily agree with that... they're learning body mechanics, focus, commitment to an action, precision, and so on... all of which have application... the exact movement might need to be adapted, but the core is still there. The issue is when the basic mechanics need to be adjusted in order to affect the target effectively... which is what appears to be happening in the video, to a degree, and is implied by the OP's comments.

    I've said this a number of times before, and probably will a number of times again, but... swords cut. It's what they do. It's not all that remarkable that a very sharp piece of metal manages to easily slice through a very soft target... provided it's all lined up properly, cutting really isn't that hard. I can get someone cutting successfully in about half an hour, if it comes to it... so it's more that the sword is effective at cutting a mat, than "the cut" being the effective aspect.

    Well........ the sword is. The technique is simply one way of letting the sword do what it does.

    I don't think anyone had... Tony was talking more about a particular strike being done in a way that was certainly powerful and had a real tangible effect (breaking tiles, or bricks, or boards, or whatever), but was not a strike (angle, position, etc) that had a practical fighting use.

    Yeah... learning to use a sword combatively is less about these aspects... and is more about understanding the reality of the combative context itself. It's that understanding/application that Toyama Ryu (and the practice of tameshigiri as an end of itself) is lacking, to my mind.

    Hmm... there are some aspects to the mechanics that would benefit from adjustment in a combative context, but that's not the core of the difference... in a real sense, doing the kata is more realistic with regard to applicable skills and combative training...
     
  19. Czlowiekfala

    Czlowiekfala White Belt

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    My "target group" is people who are about to start tameshigri practice (with some Kenjutsu experience) or are already practicing. I want to to show how the various tameshigiri combination looks like. The combinations can be found on official Toyama Ryu website.


    Actually that is correct. What I wanted to convey is that Toyama Ryu after the war wanted to become "more samurai" and break the link to militaristic past. Anyway, my mistake here.

    As you mentioned somewhere in your reply Toyama Ryu is lacking in regards to combative training. I could not agree more. By "moving forward" I mean learning a wide spectrum of different techniques and also seeing how other styles approach swordsmanship. Currently my rank is 3 Dan Toyama Ryu Battodo however rank form me is just a number in front of your name. What is essential is one's skills. I know that this is quite controvesial belief however this what I think.

    As I mentioned most of the tecniques that I am going to show will be according to Toyama Ryu tameshigiri patterns, however maybe I will show some of mine ideas as well - of course I will indicate that fact in the video.

    As for Shinkendo and Katori Shinto Ryu - my journey just started. I have been practicing both martial arts since Septemeber 2018. Frankly speaking - both of them are great. Due to my experience it is easier for me to grasp some ideas and technique faster. So far I am really enjoying the training :) As for Katori Shinto Ryu I am practicing the style according to Sensei Sugino line.


    If the blade is lined up properly, then yes - it will cut. However even with the sharpest sword you are not going to cut well without proper technique. If the hasuji (angle) or tenouchi (grip) is incorrect the sword will stay in target without cutting it. If you use excessive strenght while cutting incorrectly blade will bend. I have seen many failed cuts in the past and many times I failed to cut as well due to incorrect technique. So I would say that lining up the blade properly is a bare minimum here.

    Of course. Both teachers know my intentions. Before entering the both schools I asked for a permission.

    Btw: I really liked the history of tameshigiri from your post.
     
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  20. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Cool, so the target audience is "other people", rather than yourself. That would therefore take us to one of two primary goals... either entertainment, or education. I think it's pretty clear that the aim here is education, would you agree?

    Okay. This is what I was getting at... if it's a catalogue of "techniques", or sequences, as a form of instruction, are you in a position to be teaching them? Not sure about Toyama Ryu, but in classical systems, leaving a school does give rise to issues of continuing to teach it's methods.

    Ha, no, no mistake here... just two different expressions and opinions.

    Cool. Here's the thing, though... most classical systems approach their study through swordsmanship, rather than approaching a study of swordsmanship, if that makes sense... what I mean by this is that each school is more focused on the tactical and philosophical aspects, which are then enshrined and expressed through the techniques themselves... so you can't just learn different school's techniques and think you're actually learning anything about the school itself or it's actual teachings.

    No, not controversial at all. In fact, the origin of Dan ranking is based pretty much entirely in the idea of having rank associated with demonstrated skill... the older form of ranking (menkyo) was based around knowledge and authority within (or from) a particular school. In a number of schools that cross the divide between modern and classical arts (such as Toyama Ryu, Nakamura Ryu, Daito Ryu etc), the ranking serves a dual purpose in that it not only shows the level of the skill attained within the parameters of the school's methodology, but it also shows the hierarchal position held within the authority of the school... whether or not you are authorised to teach, or lead a group, or branch out, and so on. In many Japanese dojo, Godan (5th Dan) is the entry level to be considered a teacher... this is sometimes lowered where Westerners are concerned, or schools separate from Japan (foreign branches). Hence my asking about your rank and authority within Toyama Ryu. I'm not sure what Toyama's ranking situation is...is Sandan a teaching rank?

    Okay.

    Ha, yeah, I expect that it would be!

    Cool. That's, at the end of the day, the most important thing.

    Awesome. So we're dojo-mates, then! Who are you training with, or where? I can't find a location on your profile...

    Agreed... of course, the question becomes "correct technique". For example, I train in Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu, and the Kuukishin methods in the Takamatsuden... and they all disagree with each other on the specifics of almost everything, from grip, to angle, to body movement, to arm usage, to timing, and so on... which means that the idea of there being one "correct technique" doesn't really work... mind you, you can't just try to mix and match the methodologies of the various approaches... they are all internally congruent, but not necessarily congruent with each other.

    This relates to the prior comment... and I'm going to mainly address the study of Shinto Ryu here, as study of a koryu is different to the modern systems.

    You mentioned "enrolling in the class"... which is not the way many in koryu would approach things. I understand this might be a simple phrasing misunderstanding, but to clarify what I mean, you don't "join a class", or even "learn" a koryu... you become a member of the ryu (an extended family, really), and study the ryu from the inside. There's really no other way to do it. The other side of things, though, is that you are (ideally) devoted to internalising the teachings of the ryu... which is something that cannot be done if you are trying to mix it up with other approaches. The biggest concern for any student of koryu should be bringing in outside influences and methodologies and corrupting the teachings that you are being entrusted with.

    The other thing to be aware of is that, at the end of the day, the techniques are not the real focus of studying the ryu... they're simply the vehicle the ryu teaches through. As a result, you don't study a koryu in order to learn "techniques"... if you do, you've learnt nothing of the ryu or it's teachings. This means that it's not really something you can just "bring across" into your Toyama Ryu practice... they really need to be kept completely separate. If you want to try doing tameshigiri using the mechanics of Shinto Ryu, that's cool... I've played with it myself... but you really can't try to do Shinto Ryu in Toyama Ryu and have any genuine success.

    I hope you don't see any of this as discouraging, or dismissive... it's not intended in any such way... I think it's great that you're devoting yourself to the study fo the sword, and, as a dojo-mate, I wish the best success for your study of Shinto Ryu... but my allegiance is to the ryu first... which means I will look to it's protection and proper transmission first and foremost.

    My pleasure. As you said, knowing the history can help greatly in knowing the present, and it's reasons.
     

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