Training notes

Follow and listen to the sword

There are two concepts in iaijutsu that are related to one another, but have distinct meanings. These are tachi suji and kiru oto. Tachi suji refers to the correct path for a blade to travel in a cut, and kiru oto refers to the whip-like whooshing sound made when a cut is done correctly. The two go hand in hand.

In order for the blade to cut cleanly and correctly it must follow its optimal path. The angle of the blade must be correct in all three dimensions of space, and the ken saki (tip of the blade) must accelerate properly through the arc of the cut. To follow the blade through a cut is to feel the optimal path and give power it, as if from behind. Once the blade is set in motion its own inertia and momentum should inform the optimal path, and the forward wrist extends during the cut to facilitate this. So it is learning to initiate a cut correctly that allows one to target the cut correctly so that it may follow its proper path.

When the blade cuts correctly, kiru oto, the characteristic whip-like whooshing sound, is created. The sharper that sound, the cleaner the path. Learn how to initiate a cut correctly so that you can follow the sword’s preferred path, and listen for this telltale sign.

Announcements Training notes

Online training

Change comes fast. Yesterday our governor ordered all fitness centers (including health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, and self-defense schools) in Maryland closed to the general public (with the exception of certain child care services). So for the time being we are moving our training online! We had our first online class tonight, continuing with the iaijutsu (sword drawing and cutting techniques) section we had switched to on Sunday.

With iaijutsu the ability to move quickly without holding tension in one’s body is paramount. Grip and power are applied during cuts, and then the body must return to a controlled relaxed state. Patience in the mind and the body is key.

This is good training for these times.

Training notes

To follow or not to follow the kata

Fukuro shinai – a leather-covered bamboo training weapon used for bikenjutsu

Great class on Tuesday night! Continuing our focus on bikenjutsu we spent some time exploring two training methods, which early on in one’s training can look very different from one another. The first is the method of following kata, which trains one’s body in fundamental movements that may not feel natural, graceful, or even effective when one is first practicing them. But over time the body comes to understand these movements and they then add naturally to one’s ability. However it is important to not be “stuck” in the kata, and instead to have free and natural movement. So the second is the method of free training (leading to ran dori), where the goal is to achieve a certain outcome without being bound to the kata. In this method one practices what they can personally do best at this point in time to achieve the goal (e.g., in bikenjutsu the goal may be to create an opening and land a clean cut from a particular kamae). The outcome is what’s important, but how one moves one’s feet or which side one enters from, etc., are not defined. Both methods help progress learning and should be used, but one should always be clear about which method is being trained so that unrealistic or sloppy movement is not excused as just being part of the other paradigm’s method. As training progresses and fundamental movements from the kata become more ingrained and natural, these two practices converge.