Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How To Use A Samurai Sword Properly

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Each school will have different variations of angles, grips and body positions, but here is a fundamental cutting concept that most sword styles share: When delivering a cut, make sure that your wrists are lined up behind the blade handle. It may feel fine in the air, but when you actually cut into something, you're in for a big surprise when you loose control of your sword.

Correct Grip
(wrist aligned over blade)

Incorrect Grip
(wrist NOT aligned over blade)

Unarmored Targets





The diagram above illustrates the basic sword cuts.

Do (abdomen cut)
Facing your opponent, you cut from left to right across the abdomen just above the hip bones. You don't want to hit the hip bone, and you don't want to hit the rib cage; you want to cut the "gushi" stuff in-between.

Kesa giri ("monk's robe" cut)
This is called the "monk's robe" cut because it follows the line of the robes of a monk (how about that!). The path of this cut is a downward diagonal cut from the top of the shoulder to the opposite hip. Different sword schools may have different angle variations, but the Kesa giri is fairly universal.

Kiriage (upward cut)
This is the opposite of a Kesa giri cut. It follows a diagonal line from the top of the hip to the opposite shoulder. Follow through several inches past the target.

Kote (wrist cut)
The Kote cut is usually delivered as a straight down cut to the wrist area while your opponent is facing you holding his sword. Cutting to the left or right wrist area can either disable or sever the hand.

Men (straight down head cut)
This is a straight down cut to the top of the skull. When practicing in the air, you should follow through to about abdomen level (some styles follow through well past the groin). In reality, it's probably unlikely that you would ever bury the sword deeper than the skull, but the mental intent of cutting further down will strengthen you cut immensely.

Ski (straight thrust)
The straight thrust is usually delivered with both hands on the sword, but some styles have one handed techniques. The Ski strike targets are: straight into the eyes, throat, belly, or ribcage. When striking to the ribcage, turn the blade sideways as you thrust in, then push out the side in one fluid motion. This way, you'll slide in between the ribs, and exit out the side. When striking to the throat, do the same: turn the blade sideways and thrust in, then push out the side to free your blade .

Armored Targets





Kesa giri ("monk's robe" cut)
You'll notice in the diagram above that the "X" pattern for an armored samurai has sharper angles. This is because you want to cut from the base of the neck to the armpit. This is where Japanese armor is typically vulnerable. If you tried to cut from shoulder to hip, you would run right into the breastplate and wouldn't do much damage.

Do (abdomen cut)
Same as described above for an unarmored samurai, but you'll have to be more precise. The target area is much more narrow since the gap between the breastplate and the hip guard is minimal.

Kiriage (upward cut)
This is the opposite of a Kesa giri cut. It follows a diagonal line from the armpit to the base of the neck. Follow through several inches past the target.

Kote (wrist cut)
Same as described above for an unarmored samurai. There is some light armor on the wrist, but a heavy blow can still cut through.

Men (straight down head cut)
Same as described above for an unarmored samurai. If you can smash through the helmet, you still won't get very far, but it is possible to cut through the helmet with a heavy blow.

Ski (straight thrust)
You are limited to only a few targets with Ski: eyes and throat. The ribs and abdomen are covered with a breastplate. There is a throat guard, but it's possible to pierce or slip under it.


Link

22 comments:

  1. I could be wrong, having never studied strictly sword arts (only Aikido, where we train with Bokken and Jo only) but I think that last strike is probably "Suki" not "ski". It's pronounced quickly in japanese (e.g. "suki desu" - "I like it" sounds like "ski dess"). Correct me if I'm wrong though.

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  2. to edit my above. "tsuki" (not suki)

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  3. You're right that he's wrong on something. Either suki (usually you don't pronounce a u, but that's for something else) or tsuki. I raise my hand for the latter since it means thrust, stab or lunge. Suki indeed means 'like' of course those words said alone would translate in English into 'to like' and 'to thrust' (or to + the other meanings)

    But great article. I am actually thinking on learning how to use swords.

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  4. Tsuki -- at least that's what we learned in kendo, and the instructor was Japanese... :-)

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  5. who cares i'm not going to use a samurai sword any time soon but i do own one hmm

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  6. Does handedness play into this in any way? The grip pictures use the left hand.

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  7. OR you can get a gun and shoot the guy.

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  8. OR you can shake hands with tradition, and respect the fact that something can be learned from the ways of the past. i actively train in Ninjutsu, and when i started out i was completely disinterested in modern applications. i loved the idea of building character through bikenjutsu, and it is for that reason that i tip my hat to modern weapons, but would favor a blade any day. and yeah, good call guys, it is "tsuki."

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  9. correct me if im worng but i believe there are supposed to be 9 different cuts not 8, although i cant remember the name of the ninth right now

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  10. Regarding handedness, traditionally all Japanese sword use was taught right-handed regardless of the student's handedness. This is true in ninjutsu and kendo, which I have studied, and I have been told by my instructors that samurai were trained similarly. I suppose it was just easier to make everyone learn the same form than tailor the lessons to each student.

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  11. Well, in Anime world, anything
    could happen:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch
    ?v=vMC8tVSJ4pw

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  12. Screw anime... check out what happens in the real world!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl7_WFg7PAc&NR=1

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  13. Per question on the left-handed grip shown in the article, the left hand is always positioned lower on the tsuka (hilt) of the sword and was responsible for the majority of the power of the cut. The right hand was there to guide and reinforce the cut. In my experience teaching iaido, left handed students always had and easier time making proper cuts instead of chopping like right handed students tended to do early in their training. They also tended to pick up proper drawing technique more quickly than their right handed counterparts, pulling the saya off the blade instead of pulling the sword out of the saya. Right handers have to fight the common practice of always powering through things with their dominant hand, which often leads to a lot of frustration in learning proper form.

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  14. u guys wanna know how to cut-practice on pop bottles filled with water-then move up to tatame mats-when u are decent with the sword find a dojo-otherwords....u wont become a greatcutter by sitting on ur bum and surfing the net. There are many parts to a katana-the gaurd:tsuba-the waved etching:hamon-the two peices of metal on the grip:menuki...remember these a true samuria knows his weapon well. Respect ur sword---its a 3 foot long razor.....the two most important things to remember;speed and the angle-a proper cut u never feel. Be patent, nothing comes easily-this art is one earned though sweat, blood, and hard work. And the most important thing that u need is a copy of the book of 5 rings:writen by myamoto musahi; a samuria that passed away over 3000 yrs ago. this is a very good source of information. Thank you for reading... and i highly recomend the art of tamashigiri and swrd cutting to all age groups with the proper care and patance.

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  15. you guys are lame. when are any of you going to need to know how to use a sword? maybe when you are re-enacting star wars light saber battles

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  16. In a post that recomended people take up tameshigiri prior to recieving instruction in a dojo the phrase...

    "the waved etching:hamon"

    Starts alarm bells ringing, A hamon is not an etching it is the result of of differntial heat treatment that leaves the hard edge (martensite) and the flexible back (pearlite). Etched "hamons" are found on stainless steel wallhangers and SSO's (sword shaped objects. use a stainless SSO for cutting and tou will incure stresses in the SSO that will eventually lead to a catastrophic failure where half the SSO remains in hand and the other goes pinging off...

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  17. I take Kendo and he is right on 25% of his info.

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  18. Typo, "strengthen you cut immensely."

    Nice article.

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  19. Lemme guess... lemme guess... you're all taking samurai sword-fighting lessons... from... (wait for it...)... a white guy! LoL!

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  20. thanks for the info

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  21. I'm not pretty convinced by the armor cuts. They're pratically the same than nunarmored cuts, just telling the angle have to change a little or you have to cut harder to cut through the plates or chainmail. A samurai could defend himself against katana with his kote (armguards) and even if his kabuto would ever fall from his head, he would use like a little buckler. I don't think it wasn't as easy to cut through.

    What I learned from fighting in yoroi is you'd better have to directly aim the less proctected parts of the armor (armpits, inside legs, inside wrists and not on the top, etc.) than trying to go trough steel mails or plates. It also allow you to keep your blade safe and cutting through the battle.

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  22. if the government collapses along with the economy, guns will only help you for so long. You can't go and buy them, and you cant buy bullets either. I'm sure your no John wayne, so if a guy isn't within 12ft of you he's got a 50-50 chance. Not to mention a gun can jam and rust, a sword can easily be cleaned and won't jam, plus it's silent.

    Like a Boss...

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