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Re: Katana Inquiry
Permanent Village Fixture
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I re-read my last post and thought I should temper one previous statement for accuracy.

In sentence 4 I* would substiture "many" for "all".
It's a small point but I think it better reflects the shidoshi in these parts with good grasps of the subject.

Posted on: 2007/6/16 8:30
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Re: Katana Inquiry
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(This is a long post, sorry.)

Mr. Lohstroh,

I appreciate your insights on this subject, and look forward to more posts.

I try to view the two (MJER and Bujinkan) as two sides of the same coin. The MJER is the technical side of my practice, where I learn how not to remove my own appendages and do proper classical cutting.

Hatsumi sensei says we must be more than simple butchers in our sword work. However, to transcend being a butcher, one has to become a butcher first.

Also, in terms of the form of iai, I have been able to improve my practice of daisho sabakigata, because I have a better understanding of how my opponent would manipulate his says when drawing a real blade. I have observed that this is sometimes lost when practicing with bokken. If one were to try to draw quickly in the manner we commonly do with boken in our obi, we would have a lot of thumbless and one handed swordsmen.

The Bujinkan side is the strategy side, it is everything else that I can do with a sword that circumvents or transcends the "classical" techniques. The use of kukan is somewhat more robust than a simple observance of maai and has allowed me to see things in iaido that may not be pointed out until much later in one's studies or perhaps not at all. For example the pushing cuts, the use of moguri, etc.

I am lucky in that Yamauchi ha still retains its application and henka (kai waza) intact with full transmission. We do a lot more than just the kata, and that helps to allow me to utilize that knowledge in other areas of study. There is the practice of kata, and then there is the true usage of the sword, both are taught in this school..

Something that I always notice with Hatsumi sensei in videos is that he is always aware of where the blade edge is, even demonstrating with fukuro shinai. I notice others who are even using kendo shinai (which has markers) don't always retain this awareness. For those who have never done iaijutsu at speed with a shinken, let me tell you that blade awareness has to transcend conscious action. Training with shinai exclusively will not allow you to develop this. Then there is the sheer physics of a steel blade vs. a training tool.

Of course, with training partners, shinai are important tools. Even still, some other JSA eventually do paired exercises with shinken at high levels. I am not necessarily advocating this, and I am certainly not of a level of experience to do this, but I offer it as food for thought.

I have often heard that the need to practice with a shinken is minimal, because we are after all learning happo hiken jutsu. I have to think, if you are not learning the weapon to it's utmost, then you are NOT learning happo hiken jutsu as fully as you could. If you don't have the kihon with the weapon, your true techniques will fail. I just don't see how it can be any other way for the vast majority of us. I have heard that Someya sensei makes his students practice suburi (repetitive cutting drills), but I rarely hear of Bujinkan people doing this.

Learning to cut with a shinken is, over all, not that hard. Learning how to cut properly while someone is trying to cut you, that is another story I think, and it requires a familiarity with the weapon that is simply not attainable without extensive practice.

In our class we will start out with a student trying to cut shomen on a single sheet of newspaper. It is a humbling experience and shows you that a katana or tachi is NOT a light saber. True, one does not have to cut off a limb to be effective, but if you don't understand how to be that butcher, if things went wrong, then you would die.

I decided not to make excuses for my deficiencies in this area, particularly when I had competent instruction available. I am trying to take responsibility for my own training, and if I am going to claim to study a system with a myriad of classical (and non-classical) weaponry, then I have to do my own homework and seek clarification from qualified teachers when possible.

We do the best we can with what is available. My Bujinkan teacher has a very good grasp of the feeling of taijutsu, so I feel lucky given my remote location. I additionally feel lucky to have found an experienced teacher in JSA (really if you saw where I lived you would understand how amazing it is that I have either, not to mention both, available to me).

If anyone is really interested in using katana (or any weapon), then find someone, Bujinkan or otherwise, to help you get applicable kihon. Our breadth of study is truly awesome, and it takes a lot of work to even get moderate proficiency with something like a 28-33" blade, especially if you are performing iai with it. It is not the time to assume that your other taijutsu will fill in the gaps.

If your interests lie elsewhere, that is fine, as long as you are honest about it. We cannot master everything, but we should have sufficient knowledge in as many areas as we can.

I am not, in any way, trying to say that someone's taijutsu is horrible if they don't have good ken kihon. I am just saying that good weapon's kihon takes specific knowledge beyond good taijutsu. I am still working on both, and base my conclusions on the observation of others.

My MJER teacher has a bad right shoulder (gun shot wound). He rarely demonstrates tameshigiri any more. However, at one of our new year's trainings (hatsunuki keiko) he performed one single kesa giri. It was perfect, absolutely perfect. This is what proper training achieves, and this should be our goal in training. In this way, only then can our taijutsu be expected to see us through. I have a LONG way to go.

Posted on: 2007/6/16 16:08
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Re: Katana Inquiry
Kutaki Postmaster
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Mr. Walton and Mr. Sked,

My apologies, I should have actually read the linked story. Yes, that is a different accident. I assumed it was the story that typically gets passed around JSA forums. If I have time, I will try to get a reference.

From memory there was an embu, mekugi in the shinken were worn, and a child in the crowd was impaled. If I remember correctly, the child died.

This new story is obviously tragic.

Sometimes, when we perform tameshigiri, it is necessary to view from head on to see if we are cutting properly. It scares the tar out of me, but it is a necessary risk. You just never know when something out of the ordinary can happen. We had a shinken skitter across the floor one night. It does happen and can be very scary. Luckily nobody was injured, beyond the mortification of the person who owned the shinken.

Thanks for the clarification.

Posted on: 2007/6/16 16:15
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Re: Katana Inquiry
Permanent Village Fixture
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Mr. Manry,
I think your long post was much better at saying what I only tried to say. I am always happy to hear from people who are willing to work on their weapons skills because there is a lot more to Bujinkan bikenjutsu than the kihon toho but, based on what I've been taught and have observed for myself, much of it is basically inaccessible by short-cut.

However, I can also understand (but not agree with) the alternative perspective that weapons training is more or less symbolic and best used to develop timing/maai/etc.. From this perspective, specialization might seem to be beside the point.

Posted on: 2007/6/16 17:15
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Re: Katana Inquiry
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A truly excellent post! Thank you Mr. Manry, I enjoyed reading that.

Quote:

Fnord325 wrote:
(This is a long post, sorry.)

Mr. Lohstroh,

I appreciate your insights on this subject, and look forward to more posts.

I try to view the two (MJER and Bujinkan) as two sides of the same coin. The MJER is the technical side of my practice, where I learn how not to remove my own appendages and do proper classical cutting.

Hatsumi sensei says we must be more than simple butchers in our sword work. However, to transcend being a butcher, one has to become a butcher first.

Also, in terms of the form of iai, I have been able to improve my practice of daisho sabakigata, because I have a better understanding of how my opponent would manipulate his says when drawing a real blade. I have observed that this is sometimes lost when practicing with bokken. If one were to try to draw quickly in the manner we commonly do with boken in our obi, we would have a lot of thumbless and one handed swordsmen.

The Bujinkan side is the strategy side, it is everything else that I can do with a sword that circumvents or transcends the "classical" techniques. The use of kukan is somewhat more robust than a simple observance of maai and has allowed me to see things in iaido that may not be pointed out until much later in one's studies or perhaps not at all. For example the pushing cuts, the use of moguri, etc.

I am lucky in that Yamauchi ha still retains its application and henka (kai waza) intact with full transmission. We do a lot more than just the kata, and that helps to allow me to utilize that knowledge in other areas of study. There is the practice of kata, and then there is the true usage of the sword, both are taught in this school..

Something that I always notice with Hatsumi sensei in videos is that he is always aware of where the blade edge is, even demonstrating with fukuro shinai. I notice others who are even using kendo shinai (which has markers) don't always retain this awareness. For those who have never done iaijutsu at speed with a shinken, let me tell you that blade awareness has to transcend conscious action. Training with shinai exclusively will not allow you to develop this. Then there is the sheer physics of a steel blade vs. a training tool.

Of course, with training partners, shinai are important tools. Even still, some other JSA eventually do paired exercises with shinken at high levels. I am not necessarily advocating this, and I am certainly not of a level of experience to do this, but I offer it as food for thought.

I have often heard that the need to practice with a shinken is minimal, because we are after all learning happo hiken jutsu. I have to think, if you are not learning the weapon to it's utmost, then you are NOT learning happo hiken jutsu as fully as you could. If you don't have the kihon with the weapon, your true techniques will fail. I just don't see how it can be any other way for the vast majority of us. I have heard that Someya sensei makes his students practice suburi (repetitive cutting drills), but I rarely hear of Bujinkan people doing this.

Learning to cut with a shinken is, over all, not that hard. Learning how to cut properly while someone is trying to cut you, that is another story I think, and it requires a familiarity with the weapon that is simply not attainable without extensive practice.

In our class we will start out with a student trying to cut shomen on a single sheet of newspaper. It is a humbling experience and shows you that a katana or tachi is NOT a light saber. True, one does not have to cut off a limb to be effective, but if you don't understand how to be that butcher, if things went wrong, then you would die.

I decided not to make excuses for my deficiencies in this area, particularly when I had competent instruction available. I am trying to take responsibility for my own training, and if I am going to claim to study a system with a myriad of classical (and non-classical) weaponry, then I have to do my own homework and seek clarification from qualified teachers when possible.

We do the best we can with what is available. My Bujinkan teacher has a very good grasp of the feeling of taijutsu, so I feel lucky given my remote location. I additionally feel lucky to have found an experienced teacher in JSA (really if you saw where I lived you would understand how amazing it is that I have either, not to mention both, available to me).

If anyone is really interested in using katana (or any weapon), then find someone, Bujinkan or otherwise, to help you get applicable kihon. Our breadth of study is truly awesome, and it takes a lot of work to even get moderate proficiency with something like a 28-33" blade, especially if you are performing iai with it. It is not the time to assume that your other taijutsu will fill in the gaps.

If your interests lie elsewhere, that is fine, as long as you are honest about it. We cannot master everything, but we should have sufficient knowledge in as many areas as we can.

I am not, in any way, trying to say that someone's taijutsu is horrible if they don't have good ken kihon. I am just saying that good weapon's kihon takes specific knowledge beyond good taijutsu. I am still working on both, and base my conclusions on the observation of others.

My MJER teacher has a bad right shoulder (gun shot wound). He rarely demonstrates tameshigiri any more. However, at one of our new year's trainings (hatsunuki keiko) he performed one single kesa giri. It was perfect, absolutely perfect. This is what proper training achieves, and this should be our goal in training. In this way, only then can our taijutsu be expected to see us through. I have a LONG way to go.

Posted on: 2007/6/16 17:44
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Re: Katana Inquiry
Kutaki Postmaster
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Thanks for the positive feedback. Discussing these issues is always touchy. I want to make it clear that I am not trying to slam the Bujinkan for a lack of sword skills. There are clearly those who have it, and there are some who are not interested so much in it.

I also will put out my standard disclaimer. I am not a shidoshi, I am only nidan in the Bujinkan and have only been practicing budo taijutsu for 8 years.

Transitioning from the other arts I practiced before budo taijutsu has been challenging and is still a work in progress, but it has been a lot of fun.

Mr. Sked, we met previously at a Mark O'Brien (2000 maybe) seminar in North Carolina, I believe. At the time I was relatively new to Budo Taijutsu, too talkative, and trying to assimilating way too much, way too fast. I was an annoying person to work with. Hopefully I have improved enough since that time to deserve your positive remarks.

Posted on: 2007/6/17 1:45
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Re: Katana Inquiry
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Quote:
Mr. Manry,
I think your long post was much better at saying what I only tried to say. I am always happy to hear from people who are willing to work on their weapons skills because there is a lot more to Bujinkan bikenjutsu than the kihon toho but, based on what I've been taught and have observed for myself, much of it is basically inaccessible by short-cut.

However, I can also understand (but not agree with) the alternative perspective that weapons training is more or less symbolic and best used to develop timing/maai/etc.. From this perspective, specialization might seem to be beside the point.



I agree with your last paragraph. It is not enough for me to rely on my taijutsu with a weapon in my training (in a real situation, that is all you can do). I want to know how the weapon really works under it's own merits, then expand from there. However, I can understand that some people do not have this interest and pursue different goals.

I think it is only when a person who has not had the training tries to generalize with authority that there can be a problem, especially if they are extensively teaching that weapon to their students.

Learning proper suburi and cutting is not an impossible task. If you want to improve your work with weapons, find somebody to teach you the kihon and then practice, practice, practice. This will only let you see more of your taijutsu develop.

We have hijacked this thread to some degree, so my apologies. On the original topic, I think people should check out the Hanwei production swords and the oni forge swords. I have cut with both, and found the top level blades of each line to be quite good for the price. The Ukigumo (mentioned earlier) cuts high quality tatami omote like a hot knife through butter with littel effort at all.

I have a Chenness prototype blade for yamauchi ha (2-7+ blade, 1 shaku tsuka), it is a large sword, even bigger than Shinden Fudo Ryu, I think. It is a nice blade, but I have heard of problems with some of their other productions. I think this one is nicer because it was specifically produced with a particular sensei in mind and he had some feedback in a previous model (Chenness O-katana).

Everyone be safe, and enjoy your training.

Posted on: 2007/6/17 2:06
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Re: Katana Inquiry
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Hi Glenn,

Wow, that was a really nice post. Thanks for sharing. I am really fortunate that I have a local friend that has trained with Luke Molitor at his seminars quiet often.

I guess we did go a tad off course with the thread, but I think it still has been very informative.

Kind Regards,
Jayson

Posted on: 2007/6/17 7:41
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Re: Katana Inquiry
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Glenn, I've enjoyed reading your posts also. The skill with the "weapon" and the "taijutsu" skills really can't be separated. If your taijutsu skills are not up to par then no matter how "good" you are with the weapon, you will leave vulnerable areas that can be exploited. With excellent taijutsu one can pick up any object/weapon and use it effectively, but if you are also very familiar with that object/weapon what you will be able to do is far more. One must also be aware of the danger of locking yourself into the trained patterns, those can be "read" and will be. One's ability to leave the normal way of using that object/weapon makes for a much more formidible opponent. So IMO one really can't separate these too and expect true expertise.

Posted on: 2007/6/17 9:52
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Re: Katana Inquiry
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Mr. Martin,

I agree with you. Taijutsu does provide the basis for understanding any use of weapons. Specific skill with that weapon increases your ability on top of that foundation and gives you something to discuss at budo cocktail parties. :)

My primary concern in this thread is really just emphasizing that people acquire the skills to keep themselves safe if they choose to practice with shinken, particularly if they are performing actual iaijutsu.
Even very skilled people have can and do have accidents and the results can be devastating.

Posted on: 2007/6/17 12:20
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