Tachi Tips & Trick (5)

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

various types of blades some being both...

When you get older your students get older too and you can learn from them!

Yesterday on tachi kumiuchi seminar at the Bujinkan France in Vincennes I learnt two things. One of my old students followed a few seminars to become a blacksmith.

I was teaching the particular way of waving the blade horizontally and was telling the students that the point of pivot is done around the first third of the blade. He told us that the sôri (curve) of the blade is not the same in a tachi and on a katana. The katana is balanced more or less at the middle of the blade but the tachi is often balanced at a point closer to the tsuba. The apex of the curve being closer to the hands it is logical (ans easier) to turn the blade from this point adding more momentum and speed to the blow. Remember that you do not cut with the blade but only try to get uke‘s balance. Also the burden of the yoroi makes it also easier to move the blade that way.

Rotate your blade  on itself and do not pivot from the kissaki (tip of the blade). A tachi is not a katana therefore your movements have to be different.

Also, you can find the same blade displayed with the katana mouting and the tachi mounting which confirms what I was writing in a previous post.


Did sensei meet Shakespeare?

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

William Shakespeare

Here is a speech taken from Shakespeare’s play “Henry V”. It carries some values that rings a bell to what Hatsumi sensei explained a few weeks ago (cf. post on chivalry below). Reading this text I wonder if sensei didn’t meet Shakespeare when we did the ’96 Taikai in UK in Stratford Upon Aven, Shakespeare hometown…

This is a text I really like and I thought you might be happy to read it. Enjoy!

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive.
    No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
    God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
    As one man more methinks would share from me
    For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
    Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man’s company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he’ll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.


Tachi tips & tricks (4)

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

tachi of different sizes but with the mounting

We have been training quite a lot with the tachi in the past weeks. When in Japan I was quite surprised to see that the blades used by sensei and the shihan were not that long after all.

I have a few tachi (long and normal) and I found that the qualificative of tachi only applies to the mounting (edge up / edge down) as it gives or close new angles in the drawing process.

For example the hontai nuki gata is given when using a tachi as the edge is aready down. Then the size of the blade doesn’t matter that much. In fact with a long blade the movement is as difficult as when using a regular size blade.

In tate nuki gata, the blade is used not vertically but a shield (tate) this can be done with both ways of wearing the sword but proves to be easier when having a koshiate (holster) hanging down from the belt as it gives more space to turn around the blade even if it stays totally or partly into the saya.

In my opinion the terminology defining the tachi as a long blade was added after the war period not when they were using the tachi but after during the peace time period.

One day I asked sensei about the size for a tachi: “Arnaud, size doesn’t matter as long as you can use your sword freely”.


Ki ken tai ichi

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

Japanese commander

This Japanese proverb means ”mind, sword, and body are one”. This “ki ken tai ichi” is very close to the “ken tai ichi jo” of the ten chi jin ryaku no maki.

On the battlefield, the three elements must be united in order to survive the fight. Ki refers to mental energy, the soul. Ken refers to the weapon (often the sword). Tai refers to the broad definition of body. It includes not only the physical body but also the yoroi (and the horse).

When you mind is fudôshin (inmovable) and determined,

When your weapons move as if they were natural extensions of your physical body,

When your body is reliable because of hard and stenuous trainings,

Then you are ichi, one, united; and when unity is achieved you can become zero, mushin


Japanese historical periods etc…

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

Izanami and Izanagi from the Kojiki

In this blog I have been speaking a lot about muromachi, azuchi-momoyama, edo, meiji periods. A short listing of the previous periods of Japanese history seem to be a good idea now.

Japanese history is very rich and goes back to the beginning of mankind. As you know, every ryû tries to be linked in time as far as possible in order to give credential to their fighting system. They often try to be originating from the  first emperors. Even though one can doubt about the  veracity of those facts, it is good to have an overview of Japanese history.  As you will see, religions, China, and wars are closely interconnected. Learning the Bujinkan is also trying to understand how this culture is coming from. 

Disclaimer: 1) the big periods can be divided into smaller ones named after the emperors, 2) depending on the point of reference there can be discrepancies in the exact duration of any period*. History is not always accurate. But we can see 12 large periods from the beginning to today. I have added links to wikipedia for those interested in having more information on the periods preceding muromachi.

Yayoi period (300 BC – 370 AD): the prehistorical period, tumulus culture. More on Yayoi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yayoi_period

Yamato period (370 – 538): unification of the country by the Yamato court. ends with the introduction of Buddhism. More on Yamato http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamato_period

Asuka period (538-710): flourishing of Buddhist art (temple). New organisation of society: Taiki reformation, establishment of Taihô codes. More on Asuka http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asuka_period

Nara Period (710-794): Capital Heijô (Nara prefecture). Shintô based on the Kojiki (712) is the religion of the Kami. The Kojiki depicts the mythology of Japan. More on Nara http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nara_period

Heian period (794-1192): Heian capital (Kyoto). Creation of hiragana. Writing of the Genji Monogatari. Many embassies are sent to China to learn the crafts and Buddhism. Shingon Shu and Tendai Shu are imported to Japan by Kobo Daishi (810) and Dengyo Daishi (805) respectively. This is also at this time that the Gyokko ryû and Kotô ryû are supposedly introduced to Japan from China. During the Genpei war (1182) Minamoto no Yoshinaka captures Kyoto. He is defeated by Minamoto no Yoshitsune. After the defeat, Daisuke Nishina  retreats to Togakure mountain (today Togakushi) and changes his name into Daisuke Togakure. He supposedly founded the Togakure ryû.  Myôan Eisai comes back from China and establishes the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism (Linji in Chinese). More on Heian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_period

Kamakura period (1192-1336): Samurai culture is spreading. The Daibutsu is erected in Kamakura city (Kanagawa prefecture). Minamoto no Yoritomo establishes the Kamakura government (1192). Go Daigo Emperor (1318-1332) saved by Kurando the founder of the Kukishinden ryû. It ends with the overthrowing of the Kamakura government 1333). Foundation of Sôtô Zen by Dôgen coming back from China where he studied Ch’an Buddism. More on Kamakura http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakura_period

Muromachi period (1336-1573): Muromachi government in Kyoto established by Ashikaga Takauji. at its peak, Ikebana starts. Ônin wars (1467) opens the sengoku jidai period. Introduction of firearms (1543) by the Portuguese.

Azuchi-momoyama period (1573-1603): Nobunaga overthrows the muromachi government (based in Azuchi castle). Unification of the country finalized by Hideyoshi (momoyama castle). Sen no rikyû perfects sadô (tea ceremony) and becomes the sadô master of Hideyoshi. Many castles are built. Sekigahara wars.

Edo period (1603-1868): Tokugawa Ieyasu creates the Edo government and moves it to Edo (Tokyo). In 1563, Commodore Perry (USA) forces the opening of the country.

Meiji period (1868-1912): Meiji restoration. The samurai lose their power. Japan adopts modern standards. Clans are abolished and swords are banned (1871). The Empire is given a constitution (1889).

Taishô period (1912-1926): The Taishô Emperor is enthroned. Japan gets into WWI in 1914.

Showa period (1926-1989): Enthronement of  the Showa emperor Hiro Hito. Japan attacks Pearl harbor (Dec. 1941) and forces the USA to get into WWII. After Japan’s defeat, a democratic constitution is established (1946).

Heisei period (1989- today): Enthronement of Aki Hito. Modern times.

Those 12 periods are the main ones creating the backbone of Japanese culture. It will not change your taijutsu but will help you understanding the “invisible” aspects of our art.

*Alternative list of periods http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp/~watson/ref/nengo.html