Website on Katanas

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by PhotonGuy, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I understand where you're both coming from. But you're both (and so am I) doing techniques a specific way for specific reasons. And those ways and reasons were passed down from those before you. There are other ways of doing those things, and doing them effectively.

    What is the "right way" to draw a sword? The way your school teaches it. I've never studied a sword art, but I'm quite sure I could do it the right way - pulling it out of the scabbard without cutting myself in the process. But that's not truly your nor your school's "right way."

    My experience is karate. There's a "right way" to throw a punch according to my school. Anyone off the street could throw a punch truly the right way - how many people with zero training have punched someone in the head and knocked them out?

    If you or I are doing something the "right way" according to our respective schools' ways of doing things, what do you call it? Maybe LARPing isn't the best word, but it's the one that I think best gets my point across. Vocabulary isn't my strongest attribute.
     
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  2. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I don't see your analogy.

    But I have seen more than enough meth heads to confidently say it's nothing I want any part of.

    Same for sword arts - I've seen more than enough to know it's not for me.
     
  3. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    And that is the thing. You don't have to personally experience a thing to have an opinion on it.

    If you did we wouldn't have self defence instructors.
     
  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Maybe I should've said "yours, theirs, and the truth" rather than yours, mine..."

    And I think you've got my argument wrong. I'm more on your side than theirs. I don't think you need to be as OCD about the sword as they're making it out to be. And you shouldn't not try just because you can't drop $600 on a sword. The sword doesn't have to be perfect; it needs to fill the basic needs, which seems to be too high in some people's minds.

    Then again, I haven't trained a day in my life, so what do I know? Almost nothing. But I do have enough common sense to spot absurdity at times.
     
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  5. BrendanF

    BrendanF Orange Belt

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    As you pointed out yourself - a really insulting description of what we do.

    I don't act out any characters' actions, within a fictional setting.

    Again, as you yourself noted in direct contradiction with your earlier description - what we do, and the reasons why, have been handed down for centuries, from the people who did it. There is no fiction, no "recreating". We simply train to use the sword the way they did.

    As a result, there are some tools that are needed, and as every single individual with any experience has mentioned... unfortunately a $50 cheapo just won't be worthwhile. Doesn't mean it requires $600.

    The gent discussing the guitar provided a perfect analogy. Try finding a decent guitar for $50.
     
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    Agreed, it could possibly be done. It would still probably not be in the $50 range, for the reasons I noted plus the volume (lower than what I expect the volume is for a machete).
     
  7. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    You're taking what I said too literally. Sorry you're offended by it. The end of my previous post should sum it up (I'd bold the last two sentences if I knew how to)...

    "If you or I are doing something the "right way" according to our respective schools' ways of doing things, what do you call it? Maybe LARPing isn't the best word, but it's the one that I think best gets my point across. Vocabulary isn't my strongest attribute."
     
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  8. BrendanF

    BrendanF Orange Belt

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    No problem.. I'm not offended, just pointing out that it's an insulting characterisation.

    "What do I call it?" I call it studying or training in a traditional martial art. This is the one I study, for example:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenshin_Shōden_Katori_Shintō-ryū

    Quoted as it articulates my thoughts better than I can:

     
  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I agree, there is more than one way to do a technique effectively. Hell, it wouldn’t be difficult to be “effective” with a sword, even lacking any instruction at all. Stab him with the pointy end, cut him with the edge, swing it at the bad guy. It’s pretty intuitive.

    Likewise, it’s pretty intuitive to throw an effective punch, with little or no training.

    However, those of us who train in these methods do so because we recognize there is a difference between untrained or intuitive effectiveness, and a higher level of effectiveness that comes from training in a logical and methodical system.

    That is what we do. It isn’t about simply preserving a cultural tradition, although I recognize that can be a part of the picture. Rather, it is about practicing a method that is logical and makes sense and is effective on a level beyond untrained or intuitive.

    My disagreement with a lot of these discussions is that it seems to me that some people assume traditional methods are being practiced purely as a historical and cultural relic, and in the face of a presumed understanding that the method does not work very well or is irrelevant today.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    We see our method of kung fu as absolutely relevant and effective today. It is not the only effective method and I don’t try to claim that it is. But it is our method and it works well, and that is why we do it. We do not do it simply to continue an archaic tradition.

    My guess is that the sword folks see it the same way. Granted, people don’t carry swords anymore so there isn’t much direct translation into use in the modern world, but practicing the method is done because the method makes sense and works very well as a sword method. It is not simply a practice in keeping a historical and un-useful method alive for posterity.
     
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  10. wab25

    wab25 Green Belt

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    I think we are all missing the point here... (I just wanted to use that pun...)

    We all study different arts. These arts all have histories, some longer than others. These arts study different things, yes there are cross overs and similarities, but the arts are taught differently because they are different. They differ in their history, their philosophy, their tactics... But all these arts have one thing in common. They will all die, when people stop studying them. No matter how long the history or how effective the art, when people stop studying it, that art will die.

    The whole reason an instructor teaches an art to students, is to pass that art on to the students. To allow that art to live a while longer. To that end, instructors strive to teach and pass on their art in the most efficient way they know how. The best advice given here, was to consult with the instructor and get the tool the instructor suggests. The instructor will use his expertise to help the student select the best tool for the job. The instructor knows and understands that cost will limit the number of students he has. Make the cost high enough, and he will not have any students... his art will die in him.

    No one here ever suggested a $10,000 sword, or a $1000 sword or even a $600 sword. The suggestion was consult the instructor. A known supplier of swords was shown to have appropriate swords in the $250 to $300 dollar range... but even then, the instructor should lead the student to the tool. It is the instructors job to find an appropriately priced item, that will allow the student to safely practice and learn. His goal is to find an item the student can practice with that: 1) will not break causing the student to need to buy another 2) will not injure the student, due to the repetitive motions 3) will best allow the student to do the techniques required and 4) provides a safe environment to train in.

    I think, (my opinion only) that it is a little disrespectful to not follow all your instructors advice. To come into a class, with little to no experience (even a few months to years experience) and decide that you found a better way to train, is very disrespectful to the instructor who has spent years learning and training his art. A good instructor has enough respect for his art, and his students, to lead them in the most efficient way, to pass on their art.

    I think it is also disrespectful to yourself. How much are you paying in dues to study this art? How many hours per week / month / year are you going to train? Multiply those hours by your hourly pay... That is what you are investing in learning this art. To make that investment, and not learn the art in the most efficient manor, in my opinion, is disrespecting yourself. When you look at the whole investment, how big really, is the difference from $50 to $250?

    The question comes down to, is this the art you want to study? Is this the instructor you want to train in? Sure, some schools / instructors may want too much money, may be getting kick backs... that might not be the school / instructor for you. Maybe the art is not the most "effective" or there may be other ways to accomplish the same thing, as you see it... this may not be the art for you.

    If you found the art you want to study, for whatever your reason, and the instructor you want to train with, do yourself a favor. Respect the art. Respect the teacher. Respect yourself and your investment. If, within a month or a year, you already know better than the instructor... why are you training there? If, within a month or a year, you find a better way to accomplish what you want... why are you training that art?

    Really the question is, what do you, as a student, want? As said, there are lots of ways to do lots of things. Some of the ways to do some of the things, can be done much cheaper and much faster. If what you want to do, is one of those things.... pick the fastest, cheapest route and do it. If what you want to do, is to learn an art, the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to learn that art, is to follow the instructors instructions. Pick what you want to do, and be true to yourself. Be honest with yourself, about what you want. This can be hard.
     
  11. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Actually, I think there is something about swordsmanship which makes learning it different from other activities such as guitar, tennis, or boxing. I'll try to make the argument below.

    If you want to just cut mats in half, you don't need specialized instruction or any particular type of sword. Just grab the sharp implement of your choice, start practicing, and eventually you should get pretty competent at cutting mats with your preferred tool.

    If you just want to murder people with a sword, that's not hard either (assuming you have the drive and the stomach for it). Plenty of completely untrained people have done it. You could probably even be more effective if you've practiced cutting things with your blade - even without instruction.

    Swordsmanship, though, isn't primarily about cutting mats or murdering defenseless victims. It's about fighting in a duel or on a battlefield against opponents who are also armed with swords or some comparable medieval weaponry and not getting yourself killed in the process of killing them.

    Here we get to the problem. There is nobody who regularly sword fights for real any more.

    If you want to develop your own method for playing guitar or playing tennis or boxing or working as a bouncer, you can practice your skills and then go test them in the appropriate venue - coffee shop, tennis court, boxing ring, dive bar, whatever - to find out whether your ideas and your skills are valid. You can also avoid a lot of trial and error by watching other people apply their skills for real.

    The use of the sword on the battlefield or in duels is pretty much extinct, though. There are some countries where the machete is a daily work tool and fights may occur between two machete users. Potentially a valid new sword art could arise from those cultures, but I suspect that even there such confrontations are rare enough that there wouldn't be a ton of experience to draw on.

    So how do you determine what works in sword battles? One possibility would be to just spar with blunt weapons and protective gear. You could probably learn a lot about hitting without getting hit in that fashion. The problem is that actual blades behave differently from blunt weapons in a number of important ways. Protective gear also changes things significantly.

    The best solution, in my opinion, is to start with information passed down from people who did actually fight with real swords and witnessed other people fight in such battles. This could be from a continuous historical tradition (such as the Japanese koryu arts) or from historical documents (such as used by HEMA practitioners). Having such a foundation isn't a sufficient condition for developing good swordsmanship (vital information and experiences could be lost through the generations), but I suspect it is a necessary condition.

    The thing is, these historical traditions and documents are based on specific contexts. Proper use of the sword for an armored knight on the battlefield (where a sword is a sidearm backup to the primary weapon, because swords aren't good at penetrating armor) is different from proper use by a civilian dueling to first blood over a point of honor is different from proper use by a samurai using quick draw methods to strike down a would-be assassin. Doubtless there are commonalities which could be found by someone who is proficient in those different contexts, but it makes sense to practice the specifics as they have been passed down in order to avoid losing or distorting some important aspects of the art which we might fail to understand due to our lack of opportunity to experience or observe the real events.

    In addition, since there is no real use for actual sword fighting in the modern world, many practitioners prefer to practice their sword arts as a sort of historical recreation and cultural preservation anyway, which means using the equipment and training methods (and possibly other cultural trappings) appropriate to that period of history.

    Which leads us to...

    Based on pgsmith's answer to my earlier post, it appears that the expense of constructing an acceptable iato is based on factors intrinsic to making a facsimile of an historical Japanese sword. You could build a blade of the right weight, dimensions, and balance for cheaper and still have it sturdy enough so it wouldn't fall apart, but you'd have to give up on features like a wrapped handle or a properly fitted sheath. If the point of the art is to preserve the art of historical Japanese swordsmanship*, than using a different sort of weapon kind of defeats the purpose.

    I'll leave it to the experts to opine on how much changing the design of the sword (such as using a non-wrapped handle) might affect the actual technical application of the historical skills.

    *I'll post a separate question on the topic, but my understanding is that at least some of modern iado has moved away from certain technical details of actual historical iaijutsu. If so, then it's not even a matter of whether the combative functionality could be retained with a different blade design. If the art has become more of a cultural system, then the blade design is just part of the cultural heritage and it doesn't matter whether you could make something different for cheaper.
     
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  12. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    The adherence to culture is entirely subjective though. I mean ok you buy the corect sword for the time period but are wearing modern underwear or something.

    I mean by now they are pretty much praying to white jesus anyway.

     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
  13. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Yeah, always a lot of subjectivity with regards to culture. However if the specific cultural heritage you are studying is historical swordsmanship, then having the right sword seems much more relevant than the right underwear. If you were studying historical tailoring then the underwear might be more of a concern.
     
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  14. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    OK. But how much of the "right sword" is just pure marketing. The fox karambit with its dodgy lock could be used as an example. Thankfully almost nobody will ever have to actually use one for its purpose.

    Now if you do a Doug Marcia seminar and get all exited and go buy the proper knife. I have no issue with that.

    It is when the next step is applied and you are forced to buy their overpriced junk.
     
  15. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    When learning a sword art you're learning more than just how to cut mats. Cutting mats isn't even the end goal, no more than hitting a heavy bag is the end goal of boxing.

    Mats tell you if your cut is good. If your form is good, cutting mats is fairly easy. If you have sufficient tip velocity, edge alignment, hip rotation, etc, the cuts will succeed. If not, you'll not cut successfully. That's why we cut mats... as a way of gauging our technique.

    You can certainly cut mats with any sharp implement. But that's not the point. People doing JSA want to learn how to use a Japanese sword, which is a specific skill set. Yes, you can make a cheap cutter with a riveted handle, etc. That's also not the point. Japanese swords come apart, and are maintained in a certain way. Just like a firearms practitioner learns how to disassemble and clean his gun, an iaidoka learns how to do the same thing with his sword. You can't do that with a riveted handle.

    Quality gear only comes so cheap. Sword makers want to get paid and eat. They have to pay for materials. Shipping is expensive. Even a completely machine-made sword of reasonable quality that is sufficient for practice is going to cost a lot more than 50 bucks. A machete probably doesn't need harmonic nodes in a certain spot, or to be balanced particularly well. It doesn't need a specific distal taper. It's for cutting brush, not for use as a weapon, although it can be used as one in a pinch. Just because a machete can be used as a weapon, doesn't mean it's optimized for combat. There are machete fencing systems, but they're generally derived from military sabre anyway, and a sabre is a far superior weapon.

    JSA people aren't larping any more than a hobbyist MMA practitioner who never plans to compete. Maybe less so, since JSA people don't wear their hakama to get groceries, but I've seen enough Tapout shirts at Safeway.

    The goal is to learn a traditional skill in a traditional way, and to preserve the same. None of us have any duels to the death scheduled. Some people learn traditional carpentry, some learn to play period music on period instruments. Bach played on a viola da gamba is not the same as on a modern cello, and certainly not the same as on an electric guitar with distortion. JSA is the same. It is a traditional skill that is passed on in the traditional way. Coming onto a JSA forum and spouting off about its traditions is the same as going onto a traditional archery forum and telling them they need modern bows with pulleys, or to dump archery and get a firearm.
     
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  16. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    You're either missing or unaware of something as well... that is incredibly far from the term, and in no way describes anything like what we do. While I understand your attempt to "educate" drop bear, doing so from such a level of ignorance is not useful or appropriate.

    I get your analogy, but you're way off base.

    No, he's discussing his delusional fantasies and disconnection from reality, while ignoring what the actual practitioners are telling him, and we are discussing training in legitimate traditions. Neither of the descriptors you offer are correct or accurate.

    Then, I have to say you missed the mark by quite a distance.

    No, it's not. No more than learning to put on a karate uniform and tie the belt is "LARPing" (it's not, of course).

    Not anything to do with protocols and traditions, more to do with proper mechanics suitable to the weapon and system.

    No, we are not "recreating" anything either... we are part of continuing traditions... there is no need to recreate anything as it still exists... there is no "LARPing" as we are not pretending to be any made up characters in order to live out some fantasy storyline.

    Seriously, if you guys don't know what we do, please stop trying to tell each other what we do, okay?

    Which is NOTHING LIKE what we do.

    Godsdammit.... the only, single person who is obsessed with the idea of any of this being about cutting mats is drop bear, who has no clue, experience, knowledge, insight, or understanding of anything whatsoever. Forget the whole idea of cutting mats... the thread is not about that, training in sword arts is not about that. So no, no part of that is relevant, or, frankly, accurate.

    No, the argument is that a cheaply built sword is more likely to break. And that does apply.

    Means nothing, and is completely irrelevant.

    How do you think you develop the skill if you're using something not suited to the practice itself?!?!

    Creating your own price point, based on exactly nothing anyone else has said, is a complete strawman argument, and just shows again that you are arguing from wilful ignorance. And the argument for correct cutting techniques is that you are studying Japanese Sword Arts... so maybe learn to do things in a Japanese Sword Art way?

    Or just made of delusional fantasy like yours... is that better?

    What the hell is wrong with you?!?! No one, repeat, NO ONE has said anything about a "cooler than hell sword"... just a quality tool that is suited to the practice. Seriously, read what is said.

    Then you don't have a clue what you're talking about.

    No, it's not. You don't learn to play the guitar by buying a toy ukelele. That's not elitism, it's reality. Something you seem to want to avoid.

    And I'll counter that by saying YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD REPEATEDLY BY PRACTITIONERS OF THE ART WHAT THE REALITY IS. We do know what is good and bad. You don't. You are in no position to argue anything. Stupid or not.

    For Christ's sake... there are "pro cutters" that do exactly that... but none of those are suited to the practice of Iai... or are typically thought well of by sword practitioners, due to their relying on their sheer weight and altered geometry to make up for lack of technique. But that's irrelevant to the questions being asked for here.

    That's more like it.

    Considering there's so much more to it than that, I doubt you could draw a sword the "right" way... not without some education, instruction, and a fair amount of practice. And that's before we even get to "the particular school".

    Which is, again, somewhat removed from this situation as well...

    I call it correct practice. It's not "Live Action Role Playing", unless you think you are actually Chuck Norris when you perform your karate...

    What are you talking about? You have no experience, or understanding of the topic, and are arguing against the people who do know what they're talking about. That's not a matter of "I don't have to personally experience it to have an opinion of it", it's a matter of your opinion being completely uninformed and having no credibility or validity.

    NONE OF IT.

    You have exactly no way of knowing if anyone is talking about "overpriced junk" or anything of the kind. Seriously, you have no reference point here at all.
     
  17. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yeah. But as I said. Plenty of self defence instructors fall in to the same boat.

    You teach self defence don't you?
     
  18. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    ATTENTION ALL USERS:

    Please, keep the conversation polite and respectful.

    -Brian R. VanCise
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  19. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    With deference to Brian, are you completely clueless?

    Yes. Based in experience, education, knowledge, insight, training, and the expertise of those who came before me. What does that have to do with a thread on swords?!?
     
  20. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    With actual defence to brian lets just leave the conversation there shall we?
     
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