stupid question/wishful thinking

jarrod

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i've dabbled in kendo & would like to study it more seriously once i relocate. i think i'd really like iaido as well, maybe better. but i was wondering if any japanese sword arts sparred without the restrictions in kendo? meaning a solid strike anywhere on the body counted, allowing controlled punches, kicks, & footsweeps...anything like that?

& if not, am i the only one who would be interested in training like that?

jf
 

Sukerkin

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There's a very good reason why sword arts don't free spar, Jarrod :eek: :lol:.

Even with bokken, it would be all too easy to seriously injure someone, especially when the practitioners are not very experienced.

There are some partner forms in most sword arts but these consist of pre-prepared attacks and defences i.e. each side knows what their movements are going to be.
 

Sukerkin

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I'm having a look now to see if I can find some video of partner forms in MJER but not having much success yet.
 

MA-Caver

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Mark is correct about there being VERY good reasons why there's no free sparring and why there are very set timed movements in Kendo.
Far too many people have watched far too many sword fights on hollywood films to know how they are actually and truly done, especially upon the highlander series.
I'm sure you've seen the Kurosawa samurai epics and I'm sure you've seen the vast differences between the two styles of sword fighting. Kendo as far as I've ever seen (but never formally practised) in live demos don't do the fancy Conan the Barbarian swinging around and over and under the body type of movements... i.e. treating the sword like it was a nunchuku. It only LOOKS cool, when in fact crap like that would get you hurt, maimed or simply killed.
Lots of times just playing around sword fighting (with non-MA-ist) I watch people go hog whole crazy with their makeshift swords. NO discipline in it at all. Just swinging wildly hoping to get a hit.
Kendo is a highly disciplined refined art and for good reason... those Katanas are horribly sharp and brook no carelessness with them. (remember the info-commercial moron?)
:asian:
 

Sukerkin

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A-ha! Found some video. This is the tenth kata of the tachi uchi no kurei set. It's primary function is the teaching of the understanding of distance to a fie degree and the reading of intent of motion from your opponent.


EDIT: Okay, maybe you have be an Iai student to appreciate that that is actually funny :D.
 
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Sukerkin

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And a more serious one. This is not my style but it's a nice 'tour' advert for this Argentinian (I think) dojo. Plus, anyone who uses Atom Heart Mother as background music gets extra points from me anyhow :D.


One more, fromJapan this time:

http://www.56.com/u54/v_MjU3MzQ1ODc.html
 
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Tez3

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My other half wants to do Kendo but it's very expensive! We can't find a place close enough either.
 

Sukerkin

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Have a look at the British Kendo Associations website, they have a list of many schools there.
 
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jarrod

jarrod

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thanks guys!

i wasn't quite picturing a full-on brawl a-la beast master or anything, i just noticed from the one time i sparred in kendo that it seemed pretty common for the shinai to lock together & the opponents to be pretty close. being a grappler my instinct was to backheel the guy, but of course that was against the rules. also i kept wanting to attack the legs since that is a common tactic for me in the knife & stick fighting i've done.

the town i'm moving to has a kendo group about 20minutes away & it's only $25 a month! i think i'd prefer iaido, but kendo was a lot of fun as well. i'm also tracking down a naginata instructor in the area.

jf
 

Chris Parker

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Hi, Jarrod,

The closest I have found to this in any koryu system is the Owari Kan Ryu Sojutsu, which is a system of spear fighting, and begins it's training with shiai (a type of sparring/free form with protective equipment similar to kendo), then enters into kata training. There is also jukendo (bayonet fighting), and atarashi naginata-do, which use the same equipment.

Other than that, though, a number of schools may give you the opportunity to train in some free-form expressions, in which there are some, few, or essentially no limitations, and often one defined attacker and one defender. This is a more traditional Japanese method of "sparring", and allows the student to apply the principles of their art under a semi-real scenario. This could be what you're after, so check with a potential school beforehand if you want.
 

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Sukerkin

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This is going to sound all killjoy and stuffy but one thing to bear in mind is that Toyama ryu is a 'modern' art rather than a koryu one.

To the best of my knowledge it was a curriculum created between the wars to teach some bladed arts to officers to correct a woeful lack of skill witnessed since the outlawing of the Samurai. This does not mean that it is rubbish but it does mean that it's roots grow in different 'soil' than something like MJER or Katori. It also will tend to mean that the techniques will be basic, in the sense of 'foundation' level.

In fact, a quick Google turned up this, which seems a useful thumbnail sketch:

http://www.toyama-ryu.org/history.html

Here's quite a nice, clear, video of some Toyama training:


This is the sort of thing that you see in the Batto Ho and Toho kata sets in Iai; indeed one of the techniques shown in the video early on looks very much like the first part of Shatto and another very much like kiriage. Not a complete surprise really, I suppose, considering the history of the art.

First impressions are not that bad actually, watching the video. Looks like a nice dojo, with good discipline and friendly atmosphere. Plus, I wouldn't dream of critiquing anyone's technique from a style I do not practise.
 
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Langenschwert

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This is going to sound all killjoy and stuffy but one thing to bear in mind is that Toyama ryu is a 'modern' art rather than a koryu one.

True enough, but as far as I know they take all comers, or are at least prepared to. Other JSA groups do compete with them AFAIK.

If I had the bogu or other armour up to their specs, I'd cross blades with them (or anyone else) in a heartbeat. They have the guts to try out their stuff against resisting opponents that they don't even know, and that's something to be repsected IMO. :)

Best regards,

-Mark
 

Sukerkin

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That is very true, Langen.

I might have some reservations about the effects on accuracy of technique that comes with 'safe' sparring with blades but it surely will have a good effect on your sense of distance and timing :lol:.
 

Chris Parker

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Agreed, Sukerin. From watching the Toyama Ryu videos (and, yes, the system was developed for the Japanese military prior to WWII, and is based mainly on just teaching the soldiers and officers to be able to cut properly if they came to a position where the sword could be used), particularly the first one, it comes across as simply kendo (rules) with metal blades.

Although the metal blades may add a little more realism to the weight and balance of the weapons, I feel that they would be unnecessarily dangerous. If a weapon such as an iaito is being used, they are made from a zinc/aluminium alloy, and are designed to be so soft that they will not hold an edge, nor will they hold up to much impact without being badly bent or damaged. If a mogito is being used, that is essentially a true sword without an edge, so it will stand up to the impact, but will still be dangerous in that there will be quite a sharp tip (kissaki) to the blade.

In the video, the competitors did very little that looked to me like effective cutting, instead opting for fsater, lighter "hitting" style actions, similar to kendo (hence my comparisson). These actions give the impression of fast swordwork, and a feeling of success with the blade, but if real weapons were being used and it was a real combat situation, I think you would find that there were a large number of light cuts which could easily be recovered from, but very little in the way of decisive, commited cutting which is what you would need in an actual swordfight. Remember, about 90-95% of Japanese swordwork is evasive cutting, where the opponentcuts and you simply avoid their blade and cut them at the same time. There is very little in the way of blocking with the blade, as that takes too long, exposes you to counter cutting, wastes energy, and risks damage to the delicate cutting edge of your weapon.

This is not to disparage the Toyama Ryu or what they do. But it should be remembered that the Toyama Ryu is a MODERN MILITARY art. And it was developed the same way modern military systems work. The sparring aspect is not meant to be realistic, but to engender a competitive spirit amongst the soldiers (similar to a military base having a boxing tournament, or these days, MMA or BJJ style competition), as well as getting the soldiers used to the effects of adrenaline, and giving them the experience of moving forward ander all conditions.

Hopefully this will help explain why sparring is not realistic combat experience, even though it has many other benefits, and why the Japanese approach of free-form expression against nominated or un-nominated attacks is actually more realistic (and more common from a Japanese Martial Art perspective).
 

Sukerkin

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That was very well put across, CP.

I too had the same reaction to all the foot stamping and blade tapping when I watched the 'sparring' video i.e. that it looked very much like kendo without a shinai.

As I hinted at above, the lack, for safety reasons, of truly committed cuts in the 'free sparring' situtation does not really foster the development of proper technique. It would also seem to overly encourage blade-on-blade parrying rather than evasion. It'd probably be great fun tho' and would help with visualising timing and distance.

I don't want the above to seem 'anti'. It would be great if we had a Toyama student here at MT to give us more detail on the ins and outs of the ryu :(.
 

Chris Parker

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Or, just throwing the invite out there, Obata Sensei's Shinkendo, which is primarily based on Toyama Ryu, and features a large emphasis on tameshigiri (test cutting). I know of a few people here in Melbourne, such as Howard Quick, but i don't think he's a member of this particular forum. Pity, he's held in quite high regard by most here, including myself (although I must say, I occasionally disagree with his take on some things).
 

Daniel Sullivan

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thanks guys!

i wasn't quite picturing a full-on brawl a-la beast master or anything, i just noticed from the one time i sparred in kendo that it seemed pretty common for the shinai to lock together & the opponents to be pretty close. being a grappler my instinct was to backheel the guy, but of course that was against the rules. also i kept wanting to attack the legs since that is a common tactic for me in the knife & stick fighting i've done.
Shinai locking is generally done when one attacks and rather than passing or circliing when the attack either fails or is not scored, they simply continue to advance against their opponent, usually with the intent of following up with another attack. In this instance, the opponent will 'lock' with the attacker in order to break the attack, break the momentum, and seek an opportunity for attack upon a clean break. Ideally, locking up between opponents should be minimal; it just becomes an energy burner if you lock up for a prolonged period of time.

Kendo does indeed have a refined rule set, but it does have shiai sparring. Essentially, it is a type of fencing.

Daniel
 

Langenschwert

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Although the metal blades may add a little more realism to the weight and balance of the weapons, I feel that they would be unnecessarily dangerous.

Sparring/freeplay with intent and steel blades is possible to do safely and is IMO necessary. No amount of training with wood or shinai or padded weapons will prepare you like steel will. The Glascow Company of Duellists (among others) do this safely. Of course, injuries will occur because it's impossible to train properly in a killing art without getting hurt once in a while. The trick is making sure there are no serious injuries. If you've never had a good bruise from training a fighting art, your training likely is too soft.

If a weapon such as an iaito is being used, they are made from a zinc/aluminium alloy, and are designed to be so soft that they will not hold an edge, nor will they hold up to much impact without being badly bent or damaged. If a mogito is being used, that is essentially a true sword without an edge, so it will stand up to the impact, but will still be dangerous in that there will be quite a sharp tip (kissaki) to the blade.

TR use specially designed blades, IIRC. They tend to bend after a few exchanges, but they are easily straightened. For western sword arts, Albion Swords makes a line of steel sparring blades that are rigid in the bind, but flexible in the thrust and are extremely resilient. They are also very safe when combined with decent safety equipment. They also handle and feel very much like sharps, increasing the realism of one's training. They've certainly done me a lot of good. I don't know who makes those used in TR.

In the video, the competitors did very little that looked to me like effective cutting, instead opting for fsater, lighter "hitting" style actions, similar to kendo (hence my comparisson).

This may be deliberate depending on what protective equipment the the techniques are designed to work against. Against an unprotected head, even a light fast strike will stun and perhaps incapacitate. Even a marginal cut will devastate unarmoured body parts.

Remember, about 90-95% of Japanese swordwork is evasive cutting, where the opponentcuts and you simply avoid their blade and cut them at the same time. There is very little in the way of blocking with the blade, as that takes too long, exposes you to counter cutting, wastes energy, and risks damage to the delicate cutting edge of your weapon.

Different ryu have different methods. Certainly many have counter cuts with blade contact (opposition), hanging parries and the like that you see elsewhere. Blade contact doesn't come from "blocking", it comes from counter cuts that close the line, edge to flat and vice versa. That's faster and safer than a void and counter cut in most circumstances. You always risk damaging your edge because you can't predict that your opponent will be nice enough not to strike into your edge like an idiot as you attack. It can happen, since not every opponent is a skilled fencer with perfect footwork and bladework. One attempts to mitigate it through proper technique and strategy but there's no sure thing. Also, since feet are slower than hands, sometimes your feet are not fast enough to save you.

This is not to disparage the Toyama Ryu or what they do. But it should be remembered that the Toyama Ryu is a MODERN MILITARY art. And it was developed the same way modern military systems work. The sparring aspect is not meant to be realistic, but to engender a competitive spirit amongst the soldiers (similar to a military base having a boxing tournament, or these days, MMA or BJJ style competition), as well as getting the soldiers used to the effects of adrenaline, and giving them the experience of moving forward ander all conditions.

No argument there. However, since they accept other arts in competition, they are bound to learn a lot. It may not be perfectly realistic now, but in 10 years, they will have assimilated a lot more information on bladed combat vs. resisting opponents. I'm interested to see how this develops.

Hopefully this will help explain why sparring is not realistic combat experience, even though it has many other benefits, and why the Japanese approach of free-form expression against nominated or un-nominated attacks is actually more realistic (and more common from a Japanese Martial Art perspective).

The only thing like a real sword fight is a real sword fight. However, as long as the swordsman is prepared for the chaos that a real fight brings, he should be in good stead. Whether that comes from sparring or kata doesn't matter in the long run. You can't really replicate the fear of knowing that a mistake will kill you, and that this other person six feet away is TRYING to kill you by burying a yard of sharp steel in your skull.

Now, I did notce that the movement seemed not very consistent with longsword footwork, but whether that's an artifact of technique degrading under pressure or by design I have no idea. It seemed too linear to me. But video isn't always a good way to see what's happening with three dimensions squashed into two. :)

Best regards,

-Mark
 

Sukerkin

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I can't recall whether you have any background in JSA, Langen, so please forgive me if I inadvertently insult your knowledge.

It is just to clarify that in the Iaido schools particularly, there is hardly any 'blocking' as a Western swordsman would view it.

The essence of 'fencing', Japanese stylee, is reading timing, distance and intent and not being where your opponent wants to cut (or cutting faster than him from an unexpected direction e.g. kiriage).

Some techniques do call for the sword to be used as a 'barrier' (much like a 'hanging' block), ukenagashi being a classic example but, there being no 'light' cuts (all are fully committed), then the attacker uses tenouichi (essentially your grip) to stop the cut before contact occurs and try to recover his posture for either a follow up attack or a move to evade a counter-cut.

Some schools do have 'fading' blocks wherein they retreat the 'defending' sword as the 'attacking' sword makes contact (Muso Shinden do this if I recall correctly) but the general ethos is that the katana is designed to do only a couple of things - slice and thrust. It is not designed to withstand being struck by another sword. This is one of the major ways in which it differs from something like the longsword.
 

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