Showing posts with label sword. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sword. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What exactly is kobudo?


Kobudo
What exactly is kobudo? I have been training in kobudo for the last two and a half years and I’m still not exactly sure what kobudo is. The basic description of kobudo that I would give to a layman would be ‘weapons training’ but that is very simplistic. After all a gun is a weapon but training to use a gun is not kobudo!

There is a distinction between the terms kobudo and Okinawan kobudo. The word ko-bu-do  breaks down to mean ‘Ancient’ (ko) ‘Stop War’, meaning ‘Peace’ (bu) and ‘Way’ (do) i.e. the ancient way of peace ( sometimes also known as ancient martial way). Some of the weapons used in Okinawan kobudo are based on ancient farming and fishing implements, such as tonfa, nunchuku and kama, whereas some were designed to be weapons such as the sai which was used by the domestic police for crowd control purposes. However, most of these types of weapons were used widely in much of Asia before they ever reached Okinawa so why they are referred to as ‘Okinawan’ weapons I don’t really understand.

The term Kobudo actually refers to the ancient Japanese arts, i.e. those that pre-date the Meiji restoration of 1866 -1869 and include battojutsu, ninjutsu, jujutsu, naginatajutsu, bojutsu, kenjutsu and many others. The term kobudo is synonymous with the term koryu, meaning old school. In this interpretation, kobudo includes some empty hand arts such as jujutsu and ninjutsu so to describe kobudo as ‘weapons training’ really is incorrect!

So can Okinawan kobudo and kobudo (koryu) be mixed together? It would seem strange to do so because the Japanese arts were used by professional warriors on the battlefield whereas Okinawan kobudo was used by civilians as a means of self-defence or civil-defence. Samurai would have had no use for a pair of nunchuku or tonfa on the battlefield and Okinawan civilians were banned from using bladed weapons such as swords.

Here lies my confusion……

I am learning kobudo in a jujitsu club. So far, so good. I have trained with a sword (actually a bokken) – a Japanese ancient art. Still so far, so good. I have also trained with a bo which is used in many cultures around the world, including Okinawa and Japan. My other two weapons are nunchuku and tonfa, both from Okinawan kobudo BUT I am not learning to use them in an Okinawan kobudo way, I am using them in a Japanese way. Basically I am doing jujitsu using tonfa and nunchuku.

In Okinawan kobudo, which is a precursor to karate, both tonfa and nunchuku are used pre-dominantly as blocking and striking weapons, whereas I am using them for locks and throws as well. Want to know how to do a reclining leg throw with a pair of tonfa? – I’ll show you. Want to do a half-shoulder throw augmented with a pair of nunchuku ? – I can show you that as well.

But is it kobudo? Or is it a hybrid? Or is it a form of weapons cross-training? Does it matter? After all, it’s effective….

What is your understanding of the term Kobudo?




Bookmark and Share
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Iai-jutsu grading result...

What ever your views on the kyu grading system in martial arts (my views on this will be the subject of my next post), I am pleased to announce that my husband and I both passed our iai-jutsu grading on Sunday!
 
I was a little more nervous than usual about this grading. The requirements were much more exacting than for our other level one weapons and a higher standard of precision and etiquette were required. It took me a long time to master even the most basic elements of using a sword such as just smoothly pulling it out of the saya (scabbard) and returning it again (without looking). I nearly always had the saya upside down so that the sword wouldn't fit in! Eventually I got the hang of it and now it's hard to understand why I couldn't do it in the first place - but that's the nature of learning.
 
There were a lot of 'differents' associated with this grading compared to previous kobudo gradings: different venue, different grading officer, even different uniform (we had to wear our hakamas). There was also a lot of waiting about before the grading, about 2 hours, so it was hard to stay warm and it was too cramped to practice properly as you need a lot of space when you are wielding a sword and we had to wait in the hallway of a small infant school. 
 
Finally it was our turn to grade. We started with the reishiki ceremony which we did simultaneously. I'd been fretting about some of the details of this rather elaborate show of etiquette - do we bow before we swap the sword to the right hand or after? Is it left hand or right hand down first when doing the full seiza bow? Do we start walking with the right foot first or the left foot? All these details matter. However, on the day we both managed to perform it flawlessly so the grading got off to a good start.
 
After that we were graded separately (apart from partnering each other when required). The grading officer looked at us and said, 'How about ladies first?' Mmmmmmmm.....no chance for some sneaky revision whilst watching my husband grade first then. Amazingly I remembered everything, didn't make any mistakes and didn't stand on or trip over my hakama!
 
Then I knelt on the edge of the mat whilst my husband was graded, just getting up to partner him for his disarming techniques and wrist throws. His performance too was error free and looked really neat and precise. I felt very proud of him.
 
Then it was time to line up and get the results. "Pass with honours". Both of us. Wow!
 
Bookmark and Share
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Grading time again!

This is one problem of studying two different martial arts in different clubs - you subject yourself to twice as many gradings! In karate, as I have advanced along the kyu grades the gradings have become further and further apart: 3 monthly up to purple belt (4th kyu), then 6 monthly up to 1st kyu and now it's a minimum of 9 months before I can grade for black belt. This assumes that you train at least twice a week. For people only training once a week you can pretty well double the figures. Even after the minimum 9 month period you can only grade for black belt if you are invited to do so by the organisation and that will depend on how well you do at a pre-grading session.

In kobudo, however, my gradings remain at 3 month intervals and my next one is on Sunday. This time I am grading with the bokken. Our syllabus for bokken is based on Iai-jutsu and has 3 levels, my husband and I are taking level 1.

The level 1 bokken syllabus is much more demanding than the level 1 syllabus of other weapons and cannot be learnt to a high enough standard in just 3 months. We have been training with the bokken for at least a year now alongside the three weapons we have already graded in. The last three months have been dedicated to just training with the bokken.

The syllabus focuses on drawing the bokken in different ways, the five basic cuts, the basic stances, four disarming techniques in seiza, wrist locks with the handle of the bokken, 5 muto dori techniques (disarming techniques) using jujitsu moves, an elaborate Reishiki (beginning) ceremony and demonstration of decorative cord (sageo) tying to the handle of the bokken.

Learning to use a bokken effectively definitely requires you to learn how to relax into a technique until the last second when you apply tension. Without this ability to relax you look like you're hacking someone to death rather than smoothly cutting them! It is a skill that transfers well to karate where the ability to alternate between soft and hard is also necessary to generate speed and power. This is no coincidence - many ideas and training practices used in karate come from several styles of sword. I previously wrote about this in Karate and the Sword .

Iai-jutsu not only has some overlap with karate it also has a lot of overlap with jujitsu, as you might expect. The sword is the weapon of the samurai and so is jujitsu. If a samurai was disarmed of his sword he would have to fight empty handed and so the art of jujitsu was developed. Samurai were particularly adept at Yoroi-kumi-uchi: Techniques for grappling in armour which required the combatants to use their hips and limbs in a particularly powerful fashion, allowing them to lock onto each other without actually grabbing the armour.

So my bokken training has taught me many things that are directly applicable to my karate training - I have learnt to move more fluidly and have learnt several jujitsu techniques that have improved my grappling skills in karate. I think that some selective cross-training like this is an excellent way of perfecting skills and body movements that transfer across different martial arts. Cross training can give you a new perspective on a similar technique learnt in your main art.

Another challenge of training with the bokken is learning how to move in a hakama! The first challenge is just getting the thing on and then learning how to get into and out of seiza without treading on it.....well, you can imagine the problems that presents!

Anyway, all is ready for the grading.

Here's a short video of  a Reishiki ceremony (beginning ceremony). The one we have to do is similar but about 3 times as long and requires quite a lot of standing up and kneeling down again!




Bookmark and Share
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Friday, 24 September 2010

What do you wear under your Hakama?

I have just received my new hakama! This is the first time I've ever owned such a garment. And what a strange garment it is. I need to wear the hakama in my kobudo class when training with the bokken. Up to now I have just trained in my gi but I will have to wear the hakama at my grading in December so I thought I'd better buy one so I can get used to it. A lot of people have told me it takes a lot of getting used to!

I tried it on and was quite perplexed by a few things: Firstly, how do you tie it? It has two lots of ties, one at the front and one at the back. Secondly, what do you wear underneath? That may sound a little like asking a Scotsman what he wears under his kilt, but honestly I have no idea. You have to wear something because there are large vents either side. I can't imagine wearing my gi pants underneath - surely that would be too bulky and too hot? Do I wear shorts, big bloomers or what? Thirdly, what is that little hard plate at the back for?

I managed to find an answer to my first problem, how do you tie it?, in this YouTube video:


Okay! Now I just need to practice all that.

I had a look around some forums to see if there was anything about what people wear underneath the hakama. Apparently, a lot of people wear their gi pants or cut-off gi pants. Some wear cycling shorts or ordinary shorts. Traditionally  a kimono is worn under the hakama but I think this is when it is being worn ceremonially.

According to Wikepedia the spoon shaped plate hanging at the back of the hakama is called the hera and slots into the obi, keeping the hakama in place.

Just out of interest the pleats of the hakama have a symbolic meaning: There are seven pleats, five at the front and two at the back, and they represent the seven virtues of Bushido: the five at the front represent- Jin (mercy), Gi (righteousness), Rei (etiquette), Chi (intelligence), and Shin (trust).  The back pleats represent the virtues of Makoto (loyalty) and Chu-kou (allegiance). The front pleats are also arranged asymmetrically, in keeping with Japanese aesthetics.

So now I know all about the hakama. However, I still want to know - What do you wear under your hakama? (Or gi)?

Bookmark and Share

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Karate and the Sword....

I am currently reading a very interesting book by Mabuni Kenei (son of Mabuni Kenwa - founder of shito-ryu karate) called Empty Hand. I came across a very interesting section on the influence of the sword on the development of karate.

Now, I don't know about you but I don't tend to associate the use of the sword with karate. I associate it more with Japan, Samurai and jujitsu. It is not an Okinawan weapon. However, according to Mabuni Kenei, the philosophy and strategy underpinning Shuri-te style karate comes directly from the Jigen style sword techniques.

Shuri-te karate was developed and perfected by the 'Master of the fist', Matsumura Soken (1800-1896).  Shuri-te is widely believed to be an amalgam of native Okinawan te and Chinese kempo and both Matsumura and, before him, his teacher Sakugawa 'Tode' Shungo (1733-1815)  travelled to China to study Chinese kempo. However, Matsumura, who worked as a bodyguard and administrator at Shuri castle, was also sent to the Satsuma province on mainland Japan where he learned the Jigen sword technique.

The Jigen sword technique is different to other sword styles in that it only has one kamae position - hasso no kamae. In this position the sword is held pointing up to the sky with the elbows positioned at shoulder level and standing sideways on to your opponent. The swordsman then steps through with the back leg towards the opponent, swinging the sword down with great speed to cut the opponent diagonally from the neck through the chest and exiting the body underneath the opposite arm, accompanied by a loud kiai.

The aim of the Jigen technique is to kill with the first strike. Sound familiar? Training is aimed at performing this cut at increasingly faster and faster speeds until it is lightening quick. The highest level of perfection was called flame cloud. The speed of a flame cloud cut was one rin. In modern methods of measuring speed one rin equates to performing the cut in 0.00075 seconds! Masters of the Jigen technique were said to be able to, '... cut raindrops falling from the roof three times before they hit the ground.'  Training to achieve these speeds, which required a lot of mental concentration, was done using a wooden sword to hit a wooden block diagonally from left to right with a loud kiai. This training technique was called 'hitting a standing tree'.

Matsumura achieved flame cloud and became a Master of the Jigen sword technique.

Matsumura was highly influenced by his Jigen sword training and it was he who introduced the basic principle of 'kill with the first strike' into karate. It was also Matsumura who invented the makiwara striking post, based on the 'hitting a standing tree' technique, in order for the karateka to practice improving speed and mental tenacity with punching.

In karate the arms are often said to be our weapons. Master of the sword, Nakayama Hiromichi (1869-1958) said, '....the karate fist is definitely a sword.'

In my kobudo classes one of the weapons that I study is the bokken and I can attest that the principle of movement needed to perform a quick sword cut is the same as that needed to perform a rapid punch in karate - a combination of 'hard and soft' to achieve the whipping motion needed to generate speed. But then I shouldn't be surprised by that if karate striking techniques have been influenced by the sword...


Empty Hand - the essence of budo karate by Kenei Mabuni. Ed. by Carlos Molina.

 Bookmark and Share
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sunderland Festival of Martial Arts 2010 - a great success

I made it to the martial arts festival I have been advertising in my sidebar for the last few weeks. It was a great success – better than last year even!

After getting up at 6.30am (ooh! bit early for a Saturday that) we were on the road just after 8.00am to drive the 140 miles to Sunderland. We arrived just as the introductory Lion Dance was finishing which was a shame as I enjoyed watching that last year.
The line up was great though, everything from aikido to capoeira to karate, kobudo, taekwondo, jujitsu, taiji , kung Fu and kickboxing.
The things I particularly enjoy about this festival is the fact that it isn't just about presenting professional performance displays with flashy sound and lighting. Impressive as these type of demonstrations are they don't necessarily represent martial arts as you and I know it. Instead this festival showcases many local or national clubs (the sort you and I attend), giving them a chance to show the public what real martial arts clubs are about.

Most of the clubs didn't, therefore, just handpick their 'stars' to do the demonstrations but allowed members of all ranks and ages to participate. The taekwondo club had members ranging from 5 years to 90 years performing in their demonstration. What impressed me most was the fact that this 90 year old black belt could kneel down in seiza on the mats and get up without having to rub his knees! A feat some middle-age martial artists have a problem with.

The kids are always great to watch. Some clearly have a lot of natural talent and enthusiasm and you can see that if they keep up their training they will one day make excellent martial artists. Others are just not with the program at all but never the less add the 'arrr' factor!

Of course one also wants to witness some impressive, advanced martial arts as well and there were some impressive high ranking artists performing as well.

The other thing that I like about this festival is the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. The instructors and members of the various clubs as well as the organisers were willing to stay around to chat and show you things. Several of them put on mini seminars that you could join in. I learned a few defences against knife attacks from the senior instructor with DFM martial arts. I'd have like to join in a few more of these 'taster sessions' but I was too busy talking to people or watching the demonstrations!

Of course the main motivation behind organising this festival every year is to raise money for Cancer Research UK, so there are raffles and auctions and various other side shows to help swell the coffers. Hopefully they raised money by the bucketful.
Anyway, here's some videos of some of the highlights of the festival:

 





Monday, 5 April 2010

Karate: hard not tense


Karate is often described as a hard style. It is generally characterised by fast linear movements where power is generated through speed and attention to biomechanical principles. However, ‘hard’ does not mean stiff or tense. In fact it is essential for good power generation to be relaxed as possible only tensing the muscles at the last second. This is one of the hardest things for the student karateka to understand and to learn to do.


We’ve all been there! Shoulders raised, biceps contracted hard to try and force through the punch, teeth clenched, movements clunky and stiff. So much energy is expended, so much effort made and yet your punches and kicks still seem slow and weak. Sensei shouts ‘relax, you’re too tense’. You know this but seem powerless to change. It is hard to turn muscle contractions on and off like a light switch.

When you look around the dojo at your seniors – the ones that move well, hit hard and are quick and light on their feet, you realise it’s generally the ones without the big hulking muscles  The leaner, lighter people often move better and pack the hardest punches. Good technique will always conquer physical strength in karate, well at least in the shurite styles. One of the key features of good technique is being relaxed.

So how do you become more relaxed when your natural propensity is be stiff and tense? Well one suggestion that is working for me involves looking at how they do it in the softer martial arts. Like I have mentioned before, my kobudo training is done in a jujitsu club and much of it is based on the principles of jujitsu, which is a soft martial art. Movements are generally slower and circular rather than fast and linear. To move in a more circular way requires you to be more relaxed and to understand how push/pull and rotational movements affect uke’s responses.

However, for me, the biggest aid to learning to be more relaxed is through my sword training. When one has a three foot extension on the end of your arm that you are trying to control with fluidity and precision then it must almost become part of your arm. To move it swiftly and precisely you need to be relaxed more than with any other weapon. By repeatedly practising the various drawing, cutting and stance katas my movements are gradually becoming more relaxed and fluid.

I am discovering that I can move my body around much more quickly when I stay relaxed. I’m starting to understand what it feels like to not have my muscles in a state of tension when it is not necessary for them to be like that. Though the sword seems to lack that requirement for a sudden tensing of muscles at the last second it is never the less teaching me some skills that are valuable for karate.

My kobudo sensei often says ‘let the sword to the cutting, not your arm’. I think the same principle can be applied to karate – ‘let your fist do the punching, not your arm’.

Bookmark and Share

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Three exciting things!

1. I have a new katana! (see picture). For a while now I have had difficulty controlling my previous bokken. It is too big and too heavy. It is a standard 40 inch bokken weighing 660g. This doesn’t sound very heavy but I have found it a bit unwieldy! I can’t chiburi properly with it, my cuts are ‘wobbly’ and imprecise, and I have difficulty putting it back in the saya.
My new katana is only 33 inches long and weighs 350g. It is made from red oak and feels pretty strong (it makes a lovely whooshing noise when making cuts!). Sensei told me that the correct length for a sword is that the blade should be the length of your arm (measured from the axilla to the wrist). The length of the blade is 23 inches and my arm measurement is 22 inches, so without actually getting one made to measure, this is as close as I’ll get to the perfect length sword. It is actually called a ‘youth’ size which suits me!

Apart from trying it out at home I haven’t had the chance to use it in class yet – can’t wait for Sunday so that I can put it through its paces!

2. I have finally bought the correct kobudo gi for my organisation (see picture). It’s quite jazzy isn’t it? I wouldn’t feel at all right wearing something like this in my karate club – I much prefer the simple white gi with a single patch on it. However for my kobudo club it somehow feels okay! The only problem is the organisation my kobudo club belongs to has an obsession with patches and I am eventually going to have to spoil the gi by sewing on badges until I look like a boy scout! But at the moment I’m resisting.

I actually like the idea of  wearing a different gi to the two clubs I belong too. I know it shouldn’t matter what I wear – a different coloured gi won’t make me better or worse – but somehow it symbolises that I occupy a different place in each club. In my karate club I am a fairly senior brown belt and expected to work at a high standard and help out more junior grades. In kobudo I am the most junior member of the club hoping other people will help me!

Wearing the correct gi also gives a sense of belonging. When you join a new club as a junior it takes time to fit in and to be accepted by the other members. You have to train hard, listen to advice and criticism with good grace, show you’re not afraid to have a go and eventually you gain their respect. I feel after 9 months I’m just starting to achieve that. Having the right gi somehow helps me feel more accepted.

3. I’ve saved the best ‘till last! I have booked onto a seminar with Ian Abernethy. It’s not until July but I wanted to guarantee my place early. I’m really excited about this. I am currently reading his book ‘Bunkai-Jutsu’, which is really good by the way, and I listen to his pod casts. To actually meet the man in person and work on some bunkai under his guidance sounds like a fantastic opportunity. I’ll post about how this seminar went in July.

Bookmark and Share

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Why do we.........do Shikko?

Shikko, or knee walking (also known as samurai walking) is not something that we do in karate but it is an important element in aikido and in Japanese sword training. However, my karate instructor is also a keen student of aikido and so decided to introduce us to a bit of knee walking. This rather strange way of moving across the floor intrigued me so I decided to find out a bit more about its history and why it is still done today.

First let's have a look at some knee walking:



Historically, knee walking has been done in Japan for centuries in both civilian and military life. In civilian life in old Japan most of the activities done inside the home or a building were done on the knees such as cooking, eating or even discussing business. In addition to this, most typical Japanese buildings were never very tall because natural resources such as wood were very scarce and costly, so standing up to perform tasks was not an option. Knee-walking became a common practice in family life.

During Feudal times, the Samurai would be expected to sit and walk around on their knees while in the presence of a daimyo (feudal lord). This was also a position in which one received guests, not all of whom were always trustworthy, so in theory, keeping everyone low to the ground made it more difficult for anyone to attack the daimyo. However, samurai still had to function as warriors and bodyguards and so trained to fight, if necessary, from the iaigoshi position. Iaigoshi is similar to the seiza (kneeling) position but the balls of the feet remain on the ground so that you are always in a position to move quickly, either by walking on the knees or by leaping to the feet.

It is fairly easy to see why, in the art of the Japanese sword, shikko is still practised along with learning sword techniques from the iaigoshi position. These traditional samurai techniques are integral to the art. However, why is shikko practised so widely in aikido, which is a modern budo art?

Aikido is a blend of (mainly) grappling arts (
Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu, Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū Gotōha Yagyū Shingan-ryū and judo) Though Daitō-ryū is the primary technical influence on aikido, it also derives much of its technical structure from the art of swordsmanship (kenjutsu). Many of the strikes of aikido are often said to resemble cuts from a sword or other grasped object, which indicates its origins in techniques intended for armed combat. Other techniques, which appear to explicitly be punches are also practiced as thrusts with a knife or sword.

This influence of the sword in aikido extends to learning techniques from the iaigoshi or seiza position (suwari waza - both uke and nage seated; hanmi handachi - uke standing, nage seated) in much the same way as it is practised in kenjutsu and thus the need to learn shikko becomes more apparent.

Training to do shikko has many positive physical benefits. It increases strength and flexibility in the legs and hips. The rotational movement required to walk in shikko is particularly good for getting one used to engaging the hips properly when moving and is very important for developing a strong awareness of one's center of gravity (hara or lower dantian).

So how do you do it?

1. From iaigoshi position: drop the right knee to the floor
2. without raising the hips, step forward to assume a left-leg leading iaigoshi.
3. repeat the movement to continue moving forward in a straight line.
While moving in shikko, keep the balls of the feet in a straight line and avoid raising and lowering the body. Ref: Bokken - art of the Japanese Sword, p.58, by David Lowry.

Here's another description of how to knee walk from David Harvey: http://www.gedanate.com/martialarts/japanese/aikido/shikko-knee-walking/
"Imagine your ankles are tied together with a set of elastic bungee
cords…
You are kneeling. Then you lift up your right knee and place the right
foot flat to the floor.
The imaginary ‘elastic’ pulls both your heels together, so your left heel swivels across to touch your right heel. The heels are together again.
Using your hip, and leaving your feet where they are, allow your right knee to kneel down again. You have just moved forward about 19 inches (50 cms).
Now raise the left knee and bring the left leg forward so the foot is flat on the ground and the left knee is raised. (Your ankles are apart again, so imagine that elastic pulling them together again.)
Swivel your right ankle now so it meets the left ankle again.
This is basic Shikko knee walking, the Samurai Walk."


To finish - a look at the application of shikko in suwari waza (the overhead filming of suwari waza randori is particularly impressive at the beginning of this video)



Sources:
http://www.aikido-world.com/highlights/technical%20_tips/samurai-walk.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikko#Shikk.C5.8D
http://www.gedanate.com/martialarts/japanese/aikido/shikko-knee-walking/
Bokken - Art of the Japanese Sword (1986). David Lowry. Black Belt Books.

Bookmark and Share




Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Chiburi!

I had a kobudo lesson last night in which we focused entirely on the sword. As a complete beginner I am obviously focusing on the very basic components of iaido, namely: Nukitsuke (The initial draw and strike of the sword); Kirioroshi ( The primary, vertical cut after nukitsuke);
Chiburi (the shaking off blood from the sword) and Noto (Returning the blade to the saya).

I find the whole process quite difficult but fascinating and fun. I'm currently using a bokken which I find quite heavy and hard to control. Sensei suggests getting a wooden katana instead (at least for kata work) as they are thinner and lighter - I may take him up on this idea as my right wrist was pretty sore this morning!

The part that fascinates me the most though is the chiburi. I'm not sure if it's just the word that fascinates me - it almost sounds Italian, Chiburi! Or whether it's the idea of shaking blood off the sword that appeals to the darker side of my nature! Anyway I wanted to find out a bit more about this process:

The term Chiburi means "to shake the blood." In the days of the Samurai, after cutting down an opponent using a sword technique, the bulk of the blood was usually removed with a one handed flicking action. The reason for doing this was primarily to stop the sword from rusting and to prevent blood from being put into the saya from where it would be difficult to remove.

I was a bit dubious as to how effective a chiburi action would be at removing blood from the sword. I have a lot of experience with blood, (I used to be a dialysis nurse), and it is fairly thick sticky stuff! Not easily shaken off a sword I would imagine. In fact it seems that a lot of other iaido practitioners are also dubious about it as well. I checked out a forum that was discussing this issue:
and found several people appear to have practiced the chiburi with real blood - and found it wanting!

One contributor, Meik Skoss, said: "A student cut himself during iaijutsu training and, while he was being attended to, the teacher saw the sword lying on the floor, with the guy's blood still on the blade. "Waste not, want not." He picked it up and tried a number of different chiburi (beginning with that of Katori Shinto-ryu) and found out that, lo and behold!, none of them had ANY effect on removing blood from the blade. He concluded that chiburi, regardless of the way it is done, is a stylistic affectation. Looks nice. Doesn't "work.""

Another contributor, Richmond McCluer, clearly has macabre tastes, he recounts: "Years ago I did a couple of cuts on whitetail deer carcasses after we hung them during hunting season. Lessons learned included: chiburi, done a variety of ways, does not get the blood off the blade; chiburi will get some blood off, but not all of the fur".

However, perhaps chiburi is not meant to get all the blood off the sword - just the excess!

One-on-one samurai sword fights gave the victorious warrior time to also wipe the blade then proceed to clean the blade in a correct manner. However sword fighting moves delivered during a battle wouldn't have allowed the time for this, so a quick cleaning action and re-sheathing would have been more practical.

Nowadays it's a ritual action performed in sword kata (forms) to symbolize the act of blood removal from the blade. I love the flamboyancy of the chiburi movements - very showy!

Bookmark and Share

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails