To vs Ken & Their Jutsu

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by DruBokkens, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. DruBokkens

    DruBokkens White Belt

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    First of all, I'm glad to finally join you guys on this great forum. :D

    Formalities out of the way, I would like to ask your guys' expertise on the matter combining arts and swords. Familiar with kenjutsu, I encounter tojutsu mentioned here and there in articles, and only referred to as a very general term for sword techniques. However, doesn't "to" refer precisely to single-edged swords, while "ken" to double-edged? Therefore, isn't there a confusion going on in the way we call sword arts, for ex. what we know as kenjutsu would correctly be tojutsu, since all the blade types it deals with are single-edged?
     
  2. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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  3. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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  4. DruBokkens

    DruBokkens White Belt

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    Will do.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2016
  5. Jameswhelan

    Jameswhelan Yellow Belt

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    Quite right. As someone pointed out in a recent thread, formally 刀 tō is single-edged (sabre) and 剣 ken is a double-edged sword from antiquity.

    Although the double-edged sword became obsolete in Japanese military culture, the word 剣 ken stuck around and shifted its meaning to include any geometry of sword because this is the word most used in Chinese military texts, which were enormously influential in Japan in the medieval and early-modern eras.

    So, yes, 剣術 kenjutsu is the usual word for Japanese swordsmanship but some documents and ryuha use different terms. 刀術 tōjutsu is unusual but not unheard of. Probably its most well known attestation is in Honcho Bugei Shoden. It's a primer from the Edo period on some well known martial arts styles and their founders and its chapter on sword arts is called 刀術 Tōjutsu.
     
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  6. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    Just NO!
    Japanese is a very context driven language. This means that any single word may have many subtly different meanings depending upon the context. It also means that a great many words are almost interchangeable depending upon the context. A large number of westerners have real problems with this because they want a single word to mean a single thing (witness the many arguments easily found about "do" vs. "jutsu"). However, it just doesn't happen in the Japanese language, where often one word will be used instead of another just because it "sounds better" (I've actually been told that a number of times).

    Worry less about trying to assign exact definitions to anything Japanese, and worry more about practicing correctly. :)
     
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  7. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Yep, what Paul said…

    As in everything this way, context rules. Certain terminology is particular to certain groups, for example… James gave an example of the usage of tojutsu above… another is Tatsumi Ryu, who use the term to describe their sword methods. However, it's used there as an overarching term, and is further subdivided into kenjutsu and iai. Katori Shinto Ryu refer to their swordsmanship as Tachijutsu… again, further subdivided into a couple of areas… they call their two sword methods "ryoto" (a pair of swords), rather than the more common "nito" (two swords)… but yeah, what Paul said.
     
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  8. Felix Galt

    Felix Galt White Belt

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    Also don't forget that 剣 carries important religious symbolic baggage with it like in the Kashima tradition of swordsmanship from Shinto and the Kurikara from Buddhism.
     
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  9. DruBokkens

    DruBokkens White Belt

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    Thanks for your replies, I appreciate your input, and that's true that I was trying to find a definition of a practice instead of focusing on the practice. :D As Jun-fan said, If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done. :D
     

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