A decent FAQ on swordmanship

Bob Hubbard

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Has some interesting information.
http://www.tsuki-kage.com/faq.html

Frequently Asked Questions
Compiled by Nathan Scott

Contents:
What are some good books about Japanese Sword Arts?
The purpose of "menuki"
Blocking with the Edge
Proper Tenouchi and Sword length
Noto (resheathing) as performed in Shinkendo
Where can I get Tatami Omote mats for cutting?
Tameshiwari & Tameshigiri- "Testing" or martial stunts?
Iaito vs. Shinken
Zanshin, Mushin & Metsuke
No-dachi and Sakabato-dachi
Where can I find a dojo in my area?
Is it possible to teach myself Japanese Swordsmanship?
What exactly did Ueshiba Morihei sensei study?
Why study an art with no modern application?
 
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Battousai

Guest
I disagree with some things:
Blocking with the Edge: Seems to be what is prefered. The information presented about the side and back of the sword is incorrect from my research. The cutting edge of the sword was heated as to be somewhat brittle to cut better, while the back of the sword was heat treated differently to be flexible and able to take a strike. The most basic block, the Kissaki Uke, Pik block, is done with the back/side edge portion of the blade.
And then that remark about the swordsman training 30 years without injury, does that mean he still has all his fingers or that he's never gotten even a paper cut from Iai (I doubt it)?
 
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Despairbear

Guest
I have to agree, the expination of the pro's of blade on blade blocking shows some ignorance. When edge on edge blocking happens and your sword now has a "saw tooth" look to it, it has become useless. It is nearly impossable to forge weld a new section of blade on and retain the propper temper in a blade. With the price of a sword in period swords where not throw away that quickly. Also when a blade has been destroyed like that its ability to deliver a fatal blow is almost nill. Bad for the sword, bad for the swordsman what else needs to be said.



Despair Bear
 
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TLH3rdDan

Guest
i have to agree with everyone so far that the guy who wrote that faq knows very little about swords... you never block edge to edge that destroys the sword and im sorry but its just as quick to block with the back of the blade as it is to block with the edge... and im sure that if he is using a cheap little 80 dollar katana from century then let him keep going thru swords but there is no way in hell i would ever block edge to edge with the katana i have from bugie... cost to much to be ruining the edge and buying another lol... and again to show his ignorance if the blade is tempered properly it will not bend and stay that way... it will be flexible but yet ridgid...
 
OP
Bob Hubbard

Bob Hubbard

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I thought there might be some questions on it. So, I posted it here. :)

I personally don't know much, but I have to agree...it just doesn't seem "right" to block with the edge, unless you have no choice.

:asian:
 
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tonbo

Guest
A couple of points:

First, Nathan Scott *does* know a bit about swords. He is a regular poster on an Iai list, and is a current practitioner, AFAIK.

He also mentions that edge-to-edge blocking is NOT preferable, and is most often avoided, but can be done if necessary. Notice that he never really *advocates* it, but instead says that it can be done, and explains some ways and reasons that it might be.

The likelihood that anyone actually performs sets with edge to edge blocks is about even, and I would say they are most likely using "beater" weapons--weapons that they know are going to be damaged, and are either being "tossed" afterward or are being reground later. Not real believable, but I could see it done with cheaper weapons.

As for people in the "olden days" doing this....well, hey.....I wasn't there, so I don't know. But from what I have learned, samurai combat was nothing like most people think. They tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, and deliver a quick strike or two to take their opponent out. Duels were said to have only three possible outcomes: You died, your opponent died, or you both died. In this kind of scenario, if you had to block with your edge, then to hell with it. If it kept you alive long enough to deal a killing blow, then it was worth it.

Final point: On a Japanese sword, the actual cutting part of the edge is the first foot or so. The rest of the blade, while sharp, was not the actual "focus" of the cut. It would be conceivable to block with the edge lower down the blade and still deliver an effective strike with the "cutting length" of the blade.

Anyway, just my 2y worth, from another swordsman's point of view......

Peace--
 
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Despairbear

Guest
"As for people in the "olden days" doing this....well, hey.....I wasn't there, so I don't know. But from what I have learned, samurai combat was nothing like most people think. They tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, and deliver a quick strike or two to take their opponent out. Duels were said to have only three possible outcomes: You died, your opponent died, or you both died. In this kind of scenario, if you had to block with your edge, then to hell with it. If it kept you alive long enough to deal a killing blow, then it was worth it."


You are right we where not there but the combat manuals are still around and we have swords from that period. Neither one supports the edge on edge blocking idea. Swords simply are not built that way. Try this some time, take two kitchen knives and hit them together with force blade on blade and see what happens. Now I am not saying that a blade could not have intersected a blade at ant point in history, but it would not have been done on pourpse. If your blade was destroyed you probably could not affrod to replace it so your carrier as a warrior is over. Your sword and your soul where closely tied, a broken blade for a warrior would have been psychologicly devistating.


Despair Bear
 
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tonbo

Guest
Yes, you are right. We have swords and manuals from the samurai period. But we don't have *all* of them. Manuals, maybe, but swords? Hardly. We have a mere dent in the number that were actually made.

One thing to remember is that there were then, as there are now, a variety of smiths and samurai. Some samurai had more money and or sponsorship than others, and could afford better weapons and/or training. Thus, some swords would survive time, others would not. Some samurai would rather destroy their own weapons than turn them over, and so we lose some there.

Kinda like the Greco-Roman sculpture: we have a LOT of sculpture from that time, but we can guess that a LOT more was made that we don't have (and never will).

When it comes to actual use, I would argue *strongly* that blade to blade blocking was not done as a regular matter. However, I would lay out good money that it happened. Either by accident, by desperation, or by "sacrifice", you can't have the number of battles/duels/skirmishes that Japan went through without a fair number of incidents where it happened. Think of it like this: A modern soldier may not *prefer* to use his rifle as a club--but prove to me that it never happened, and that it isn't resorted to. (POOR analogy, but it'll do for the moment, anyway).

Preference-wise, no, I don't think *anyone* seriously advocated doing such a thing to their blades. Yes, the sword was the soul of the samurai. They had great respect for their blades, going so far as to name them and have them blessed by priests. Yes, the blades were believed to have a soul. But remember, too, that these are the same people that viewed seppuku/hara-kiri (ritual suicide) as a means of protest in some cases. They *did* have their practical moments, where, I would argue, if they slipped, or if they poorly executed a block, or even just "did what it takes" to get out of a situation, they would have used an edge to edge block.

I am no sword-maker and no metallurgist. I can't argue any points of how swords were made, other than to say they were made to hold an edge under *most* circumstances. Edge blocking was not one of those. But I bet it happened.

Also, warriors' careers were not necessarily "over" if they lost a sword. Many could have them replaced, if broken, but at a pretty hefty price, both emotionally and financially. Remember that samurai were sponsored, and served lords--the lord may have to provide a new weapon from time to time to have his servant be efficient. That happens.

Just a historical side note: breaking swords was what caused one of the revolutions in Japanese sword design. The royal swordmaker saw too many warriors returning from war with broken weapons, or not returning at all because of weapon failure, that he sought out a better process. This led to the folded steel designs, and many of the advances in swordwork that came to represent the samurai.

Again, I am no expert, and don't want to pretend to be one. I agree wholeheartedly with those that say edge blocking is a "good" or "acceptable" idea. However, it is unrealistic to imagine it never happened, or that there weren't people that *may* have advocated it. I mean, hey.....remember again, there were samurai who advocated the killing of any samurai who had hobbies that weren't militarily or politically useful, too. (Anyone advocating edge blocking would probably be laughed at then, also, but hey.....)

My apologies for the lengthy rant......no flames intended, and all points of view accepted.

Peace--
 

arnisador

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I cannot believe that samurai did not need to replace blades on occasion; I would assume the lords they were serving paid the price, one way or another.
 
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tonbo

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Doubtful that *all* swords were unbreakable. Some flaws or nicks could be ground out, perhaps......but somewhere, sometime, *some* swords are going to break.

As to who paid for the replacement.....well.....I'm sure there were rules for that, too....;)

Peace--
 
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tonbo

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I came upon this the other night by pure luck.....

In the October, 1999 issue of "Black Belt" magazine, pgs 108-110, there is an article on Kumdo. They show a couple of techniques being done with "beater" swords......and two of the techniques show.....you guessed it.....edge-on-edge blocking....

Granted, this is Korean, not Japanese, but still....interesting.

Peace--
 

Yari

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The sword is harden on the cutting edge, because it has to cut, but it's not flexible, therefor the mune. The temper line is the the "area" where it goes from hard to soft. This area is very important because it holds the soft and hard together. If the area is tampered with, ether by sand or a dent or something else, that'll be the swords weakest point. The same would be if you chip the cutting edge. In principle you have a sword with a part that's only soft (i know i depends on how big the chip is). But think of it as a kind of link. When a part of the sword is not as wide as the rest, and is usally dent inward very sharply, the area of stress under usage will be right there. This will highten the possibilty of a breakage under a fight. No matter if it's only for 1 slash or not. I dont think that a serious swords fighter would do that. But I wasn't there, so I dont know.

But if I was depending on my sword, every hour of the day; Nope I would learn or use techniques that would not jepordize my situation. Who says that the last slash you make will be the last.

/Yari
 
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Despairbear

Guest
Originally posted by tonbo

I came upon this the other night by pure luck.....

In the October, 1999 issue of "Black Belt" magazine, pgs 108-110, there is an article on Kumdo. They show a couple of techniques being done with "beater" swords......and two of the techniques show.....you guessed it.....edge-on-edge blocking....

Granted, this is Korean, not Japanese, but still....interesting.

Peace--


I have seen similer things over the years that does not make them right. Often times "beater swords" are too heavy-too thick unsharpened blades that can take a blow on edge because they are not real weapons. People do a lot of strange things with sword when they have not used live steel in a martial aplication, is has been a rather big problem in the world of weapons combat to get a weapon that acts like live steel and yet is safe (ish) and affordable. Most often there is no way to do it propperly and the arts suffer for it. The massive influx of stainless steel weapons in the market is a perfect examlpe of this, people want a "real" sword but do not want to pay for it. The result is a item (note: not a weapon) that does not perform as a weapon should, they are often way too heavy and far too stiff to have any use other than to look good on the wall. If you want to be true to your art you must practice in the manner your art is to be used, to do less is to undermind your training.



Despair Bear
 
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tonbo

Guest
You are quite right about the sword thing. I have a couple of different Japanese and Japanese-type swords. I have a beater that is a heavy, clumsy chunk of metal that moves like a walrus on sleeping pills. I bought it mostly to use when I VERY first started in Iai, before I knew what to look for. Now, I use it to train with when I want to try to compensate for weight.

I also have a custom-made iaito, made from zinc-aluminum. Excellent balance and length, totally different feel. It performs like a dream.

Also in my collection are various steel swords, most of European or Middle Eastern design. Most either hold an edge or did at one time. Again, depending on the weapon, very different feel.

Most practice with swords in the arts is, you are right, done with "beater" or "waster" weapons. We are not blessed as a society with people who routinely make actual steel weapons for use in training that are affordable enough. Instead, we go for a cheaper imitation--the beater (and even those ain't always cheap!!).

I, too, have seen similar articles in the past. What I found interesting was that the style advocated that kind of blocking. I haven't looked deep enough into Kumdo to know how long it's been around, or what its origins are. I don't know if these are based on actual techniques, or if they are just modern techniques.

The point I was getting to, after all this rambling, was simply this: In classical weapons training from a reputable style, the techniques were based on actual combat experience--techniques were used because somewhere, sometime, someone had USED them effectively in combat. People taught sword styles based on what worked, no matter how ugly it might be. They would refine as they went, if necessary, but the whole point was that they were teaching arts to keep people alive on the battlefield.

Nowadays, however, we have various interpretations of arts, and "yeah, this *should* work" techniques. In some cases, the instructors who are making up the techniques have never actually had any contact *at all*, bokken, live steel, or beater. In those cases, they can make up whatever they want......but it won't always work. Sure, it may LOOK good, but is it effective? Only as effective as Hollywood-do.....

I agree, Despair Bear......if you want to be true to your art, train it as you would use it. When it comes to weapons (and weapon v. weapon contact), this is often *really* hard to do, as most are not used the same way anymore. You can only do the best you can with what you've got. However, as far as techniques go, if you want to be true to your art, you should practice what has been tested, not just what looks cool.

Your points and views are respected.



:asian:

Peace--
 
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Despairbear

Guest
Originally posted by tonbo

The point I was getting to, after all this rambling, was simply this: In classical weapons training from a reputable style, the techniques were based on actual combat experience--techniques were used because somewhere, sometime, someone had USED them effectively in combat. People taught sword styles based on what worked, no matter how ugly it might be. They would refine as they went, if necessary, but the whole point was that they were teaching arts to keep people alive on the battlefield.



No doubt and no argument here, my point was more along the line of while the art is a "proper" art people can interprit it a rather strange way. Things like edge on edge blocking show up, why? I have no idea it just seems to happen regaurless of the evidance to the contrary. The goal of martial arts is martial not aesthetic, we are not trying to look good we are trying not to die. I think many people unfortunetly miss this point and strange things start to happen.



Despair Bear
 
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tonbo

Guest
The goal of martial arts is martial not aesthetic, we are not trying to look good we are trying not to die. I think many people unfortunetly miss this point and strange things start to happen.


:rofl:

Yeah....that's when you start getting things like "sport karate". Are they *serious*??? :confused:

Okay, I admit, sport karate is rather interesting to watch. However, I often find myself thinking, "Yeah, that's flashy and all, but how much of that would actually *work*?"

I get a little tired of watching guys do a bunch of head-level kicks in a circular pattern, then showing how high they can hold their legs. Great. Astounding. Now tell me just what that is supposed to *be*, besides flashy?

*grumble*. Ah, well. Not meaning to knock it, but hey.....I practice the *martial* arts, not the *flashy* arts. :shrug:

Peace--
 
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Despairbear

Guest
Well that is a whole 'nother can of worms. The differance between martial art and martial sport. Personaly I have nothing aginst martial sports I am involved in a few of them. But I have a problem when people think or are told that a martial sport and martial art are on in the same.




Despair Bear
 
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tonbo

Guest
That's mainly my problem with "sport" martial arts. Many people see the sport version and think it's the art, and vice versa. I think the only real "crossover" that comes to mind is Capoeira. Very fun to watch, and a very serious art at the same time.

I don't have anything against martial sport. I enjoy watching it. I don't participate in it, as I am not flexible or fast enough to do it...I'm an old man in my 30's...!!....and I will leave that to the guys who can do it. I just don't like the few bad apples that walk around saying they are martial *artists*, when they spend all their time doing cartwheels and making up a new musical kata that shows off their acrobatic skills and flexibility.

The majority of martial sports practitioners I have met, though, are serious in both fields. When they need to please crowds, they reach into the bag of tricks; when they need to get down and dirty, they rely on the arts themselves. When they need a blend, they have it.

God bless 'em both...;)

Peace--
 

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