How have you learned the practical use of a katana?

jks9199

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Just out of curiosity, is anyone aware of any attempt to honestly match traditional JSA against HEMA? Something where both practitioners really tried to be honest about using their art to see what happens?

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Langenschwert

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Just out of curiosity, is anyone aware of any attempt to honestly match traditional JSA against HEMA? Something where both practitioners really tried to be honest about using their art to see what happens?

It happens informally. Even within HEMA, there is the acknowledgement that even the most intense tournament is still just a game, and can't properly mimic a fight with sharps. Even were such a contest to happen, it's not conclusive in any way. I do traditional JSA as well as HEMA also.

If a JSA style doesn't do randori, then they're not going to do well against a similarly experienced HEMA practitioner in a sparring format, since sparring is in integral part of most HEMA clubs. The other issue is that in such an engagement, no one is trying to kill the other. Your brain reacts differently under the threat of lethal combat. There are techniques that are banned in tournaments so people don't go to the hospital too often as well. What it proves is who was the better sportive fencer that day under XYZ set of rules. It doesn't necessarily show how a real duel would turn out.

Kendoka tend to do OK against HEMA guys, but they are unused to dealing with grappling, left-handers (like me), strikes with the back edge, and full body targeting. They are very good with range and timing, which are the cornerstones of combat anyway.

Sport fencers who take up HEMA tend to do very well. Sport fencing pedagogy is among the most advanced of any sport, with a good 300 years of continual transmission and refinement in a series of similar weapons: rapier to smallsword to modern fencing weapons, and dussack to duelling sabre to modern sport sabre. Once they understand that one must hit without getting hit rather than just hitting first, look out.

Here's a video showing such an engagement. Note they're using shinai, which I'm not a fan of for such a match, as they don't behave like swords. There's no crossguard for the HEMA fencer either, which changes the game a fair bit. It's also a fairly old video. I'll see if I can find more.

 
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jks9199

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Cool, thanks. I wasn't looking at "which art is better"... just "what might happen if A uses the techniques and principles from JSA against HEMA?" And, of course, sparring/competition isn't the same as a real fight -- but I still thought it would be cool. Kind of a little taste of reality behind some of the scenes in Highlander, y'know? :D
 

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Sorry for coming back to thread late, life etc

In conclusion, I intend to stick with HNIR as my primary and not confuse with other martial arts until I have a firm grounding (i.e. several years).

Thanks again!

Langenshwert IS a member of the Hyoho Niten Ichiryu as well as being a HEMA instructor.
 

Tez3

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Just reading this after musing on the current political situations we seem to have, wouldn't the question about which sword style works best or which works best against another be answered if we made politicians duel with live blades? Just a thought. :D
 

Langenschwert

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Cool, thanks. I wasn't looking at "which art is better"... just "what might happen if A uses the techniques and principles from JSA against HEMA?" And, of course, sparring/competition isn't the same as a real fight -- but I still thought it would be cool. Kind of a little taste of reality behind some of the scenes in Highlander, y'know? :D

I get it. In all reality, a lot of the techniques are similar so it comes down to who's the better fighter. Sometimes it's interesting to see how different arts solve similar problems. As long as the weapons are similar, the solutions are likely to overlap across arts. The main difference that I've experienced between the two is the amount and duration of blade contact. In German longsword, there are comparatively few "void and counter" style techniques that avoid blade contact, whereas in most JSA I've seen and done, it's far more common. German style longsword tends to prefer blade engagements, using the relative pressure exerted to determine the correct response. Where they overlap is in the preference for what is termed a "single time" defence. That means that your defence hits the opponent while simultaneously defending against the incoming attack. The "double time" defence is a parry and then riposte, which is less efficient, albeit often necessary.

As Ringeck says: "Strike, when he strikes, thrust, when he thrusts". I was taught the same thing in JSA. How the particulars play out is different though.
 

Hyoho

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Just reading this after musing on the current political situations we seem to have, wouldn't the question about which sword style works best or which works best against another be answered if we made politicians duel with live blades? Just a thought. :D

Thing is it's all down to the one that has a sword in his hand. Langenshwert is a prime example of this. For example he practices an old Koryu that is mongai fushutsu (not to be taught outside) It does not allow fundamental waza to be shown in public (embu/demonstrations). For this we have to adapt certain things. His HEMA ability and the fact he is a good practitioner has him doing this very well. In free practice such as HEMA and Kendo we never experience the same situation twice. Both offer method to practice without getting killed or injured in the process. It's all down to the fighter, not the sword or school he studies.
 

Tez3

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Thing is it's all down to the one that has a sword in his hand. Langenshwert is a prime example of this. For example he practices an old Koryu that is mongai fushutsu (not to be taught outside) It does not allow fundamental waza to be shown in public (embu/demonstrations). For this we have to adapt certain things. His HEMA ability and the fact he is a good practitioner has him doing this very well. In free practice such as HEMA and Kendo we never experience the same situation twice. Both offer method to practice without getting killed or injured in the process. It's all down to the fighter, not the sword or school he studies.

For politicians though we give them a range of swords to use, no training at all, put them in a field and tell them to get on with it. None of them will win though, while they are doing that, we can watch by drone camera and get on with running everything.
 

Transk53

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For politicians though we give them a range of swords to use, no training at all, put them in a field and tell them to get on with it. None of them will win though, while they are doing that, we can watch by drone camera and get on with running everything.

I'll vote in using the Moors as a good place to tidy up the mess :D
 

Tez3

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Oh yes, and for legend too. There are a few hounds around those parts.

That's Exmoor, it's worse than Dartmoor, it also has the Beast of Bodmin as well as the Bootnecks running around.
 

Hyoho

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Bit off topic but...A cousin on the Dartmoor rescue team pitched his tent one foggy day. Was woke up by a group of bright lights shining down on him. He thought it was aliens. Got up and ventured out in daylight to find he had pitched the tent under an electricity pylon.
 

Transk53

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Bit off topic but...A cousin on the Dartmoor rescue team pitched his tent one foggy day. Was woke up by a group of bright lights shining down on him. He thought it was aliens. Got up and ventured out in daylight to find he had pitched the tent under an electricity pylon.

That must have so funny.
 

Juany118

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What do you mean "practical use of the katana?" There's very simply not much call for sword fighting today... The traditional (koryu) sword arts have faithfully preserved the lessons of people who really used the sword in combat. They're about the best way to learn "practical use of the katana."

With that said, you're basing an opinion of several complex arts on what amounts to a bare taste, barely dilettante experience -- and some misunderstandings. Tameshigiri is not an art in and of itself; it's a form of practice/test cutting with the sword. Many Japanese sword arts introduce it at some point in the training -- often only after you've developed sufficient skill not to be likely to hurt yourself...


I admittedly don't know anything about the use of a Katana. I had a brief flirtation with kendo over 25 years ago but I decided foil and saber fencing was expensive enough on it's own.

That said, if the style teaches enough weapons, beyond the katana, and you adopt the correct mindset, could it be "practical" the way FMA can be. Yeah, in civilian life I will never be walking down the street with a baston, or a Bowie length knife etc. but I will often be able to find something that is a weapon of opportunity, or even carry on my person, that I can use by applying the same principles.

This may not apply to any of the forms noted by the OP, just a thought I had.
 

Chris Parker

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I'm keen to read about people's stories as to why and how they have gone about learning to use a katana, to help guide my own journey. I'd like to offer my own opinion on some martial arts I have tried and how I think I might become proficient at using a katana. Any input would be sincerely appreciated!

I'm interested in the culture, mental and spiritual development encouraged through Japanese martial arts. Also, quite simply I find the katana utterly captivating. However, I am especially interested in the practical use of the weapon, and I'd like to focus on how people have cultivated practical skills on using the katana, after I offer my own naive opinion on the subject.

PLEASE CAN I CLARIFY, I am not trying to start a flame war, I am simply posting my "at a glance" opinion of the below martial arts and my final view on how I might become proficient at using a katana, based on my own naive views. I wholly admit I know very very little of each of these martial arts and how it teaches the katana. I would love for experienced practitioners to step in and inform me on why my assessments are wrong and how they felt it helped them learn to use a katana! I'm literally willing to embaress myself by putting my inexperienced views on here to help develop my (and maybe others) learning. Also, obviously the katana is a dangerous weapon and will cut with all ryu styles and even if handled poorly. But I'm interested in using it well and finding "the most practical path to learning the katana"!

I've tried Iaido, Katori Shinto Ryu and Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, and have researched around a few other martial arts. My uneducated assessment of my experiences so far is as follows:

1) KENDO (not tried)
PROS: I really like the duelling to help promote warrior spirit and learn distancing, the pressure of fencing etc
CONS: I don't like that it teaches a weapon which is very different in handling to a katana and that it limits the actual sword techniques and targets you can use. A real swordfight has no such rules. Also in all kendo duels I've watched they behave almost suicidal if you imagine they are fighting with real swords. If kendo essentially taught kenjutsu and the whole body was a target, I would definitely give kendo a go.

2) HEMA (tried 2 classes)
PROS:
a great way to duel in a way more realistically than kendo. Full contact duelling, whole body is a target, learn to fence against multiple weapons.
CONS: However, doesn't teach the katana formally.

3) IAIDO (tried 4 classes)
PROS:
a beautiful martial art, you handle a real katana (eventually) and learn to cut.
CONS: it focuses on the draw and the spiritual aspect of the sword and is more meditative. No duelling. I feel this is not a terribly practical art and isn't meant to be.

4) KATORI SHINTO RYU (tried 4 classes)
PROS:
a brilliant kenjutsu where you learn many weapons, including the katana. Long and choreographed katas within which is contained many techniques which can be picked apart and learned carefully.
CONS: But they do unfortunately focus on the long (almost dance-like) katas. My issue with it is also that some of the stepping and stances seem very long in timing to execute, and in an actual fight you might be caught off-guard whilst you take your long steps into rather flashy kamae.

5) HYOHO NITEN ICHI RYU (HNIR) (tried 8 hours worth of classes)
PROS:
another brilliant kenjutsu and what I've decided to make my primary. Learn multiple weapons including the katana. Also the kata are very short and focus only on executing and perfecting single swift techniques intended to kill instantly and end the duel (the way a real sword-fight would go, really). Stances are short and explode into long only when you need quick range to hit the target.
CONS: My issue with it though is that I don't feel it teaches all possible cuts and thrusts with your classic katana (ie 2-handed) in its entirety. I feel it is simplified and focuses on 1 handed use to segway into handling 2 swords (the signature style for the school). Also all the kata teach techniques that are in response to a single simplified vertical cut from hasso no kamae (with reason, it was the most popular attack back in Miyamotos time). This means that I feel extra training/reading, perhaps of another ryu on the side, is required outside HNIR in order to achieve my goal.

6) TAMESHIGIRI (only researched)
PROS:
Handle a real sword, learn to cut, practice real cutting
CONS: No duelling, no partnered practice

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CONCLUSION - A scrub's opinion on how to get proficient at the katana!
My opinion is learn HNIR for the practical combat skills, learning multiple weapons and paired kata. On the side do Tameshigiri so you can practice real cutting and have confidence your technique is sound. Optional extra includes Kendo/HEMA for the duelling aspect to promote warrior spirit.

My main issue with my final conclusion is that I cannot find any Tameshigiri schools nearby so would need to rely on self-teaching through a book, such as the Shinkendo Tameshigiri book (Shinkendo Tameshigiri: Toshishiro Obata: 9780966867756: Amazon.com: Books)


For those of you who stuck it out till the end, thank you ever so much.

Any opinions, advice or just personal stories would be sincerely appreciated.

Cheers

Just because I was summoned... sorry for the delay.

Okay, reading through this, I applaud the enthusiasm, but, as Paul said, you aren't even far enough along to be classed as a beginner... and you are in no position to offer any comparison whatsoever. I'm not going to go through the entire post, as it's quite past it's time here now, but my recommendation is to pick an art (single), study, and learn. Ask questions, but refrain from offering opinions at this stage. You simply aren't in a position to know what you're offering an opinion on.

All the best with your continued study, should you do so.
 

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