Fun with Iaito and Play-Doh (R)

Ninjamom

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Just thought I'd offer some notes on a training method/idea we were able to use in our class: Has anyone else practiced throwing a ball of Play-Doh up in the air and slicing it with a steel iaito or kagum?

I had read about several schools using this exercise, so I finally tried it myself. I was able to practice downward cuts (in the direction of motion of the falling dough-ball), upward cuts, and horizontal cuts, with both one and two-hand grips. Good cuts minimized the trajectory of the dough ball (i.e., it was cleanly and clearly cut, rather than just 'hit' with the sword), and resulted in no visibly damage to the practice blade.

After convincing myself that the exercise had benefit and could be practiced safely in a controlled classroom setting, I allowed some junior students to try under supervision. I roped off a 'safe zone' (marked with twine and Wavemasters), with only one student at a time allowed in it, cutting with blade and ball trajectories facing away from the rest of the class. We used a through-hardened steel kagum (Korean practice sword; not an aluminum or hollow rolled steel blade). As expected, the students who participated enjoyed getting to 'actually cut something (!)' while applying and practicing the techniques they had been taught in kata/forms and basic drills.

The exercise seemed to work well for practice in and demonstration of control, timing, speed, and proper blade allignment. It added one more tool to the classroom arsenal of techniques and methods for reinforcing the same basic set of skills, and it was a lot of fun for those who succeeded.

(Note: poorer cuts result in little pieces of dough going all over the floor, so be prepared for some clean-up if you try this in class ;) )
 

fnorfurfoot

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In my very limited experience with the sword, we had a class where we brought in apples, pears, and oranges. Play-Doh seems like it would be a better target because you can reuse it and there is no juice to clean up afterwards.
 

Langenschwert

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IIRC, the Arabs would use soft clay as a cutting medium for training during the middle ages. Reusable, and gives good resistance. I can't see a problem with using play-doh. It's even somewhat historical! :) You might want to set up a large cylinder of play-doh on a cutting stand and use it as a static target as well. The benefits will not only be edge alignment, but timing the impact of the cut to the body movement. For my art, the foot hits the floor at the same time of impact. It becomes very apparent when doing this against targets, or even better, a pell. Good luck and have fun! :)

Best regards,

-Mark
 

howard

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Sounds like a good drill to me... should be effective at improving hand-eye coordination.

I've seen pictures and clips of Iaido practitioners doing this with apples, but I don't know if this is a modern addition to Iaido, or if such drills were done in ancient times.

btw, kudos for your mindfulness of safety. It's always encouraging to see people who respect what even a dulled practice sword can do when used carelessly.

I'm curious... how many tries did it take before people started to hit the target? I bet if I tried this, I would have quite a few swings and misses before I hit the ball. :)
 
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Ninjamom

Ninjamom

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I'm curious... how many tries did it take before people started to hit the target? I bet if I tried this, I would have quite a few swings and misses before I hit the ball. :)
Good question! I grew up with an empty lot behind my house, playing sandlot softball all day most summers. I assumed making contact with the dough would be as easy as hitting grounders and flies for fielding practice, or playing '500'. NOT SO!!!!!!

Hitting the dough in a downward cut was the easiest to start - it only took me about 3 tries before I could do it with reasonable consistently (I suppose because you have a longer arc where your swing intersects the path of the object). Getting a clean cut consistently didn't take much longer. Getting a controlled horizontal cut, repeatedly, took me about 20 min. (Individual results may vary ;) )

My iaito is weighted the same as my live blade.
 
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