- Sword training tests and improves your taijutsu (body skill). If you are in an unarmed fight and your distance, timing, and balance are a bit off and you get hit, it may not hurt you all that bad. If your distance, timing, and balance are off with a sword, you could be severely injured or killed. If you can improve those factors to such a level that your sword skill is very precise, how much more precise will you be in an unarmed situation?
- Sword training forces you to focus and pay attention. Because of the severity of making a mistake is so high, you must have all of your physical, mental, and spiritual faculties at your command. And they must follow your commands to the letter. Even if you are training with bokuto (wooden sword), a mistake can cause serious injury. I’m a big believer of “the proof is in the pudding.” This aspect of focus and precision is most evident in performing tameshigiri, which I’ll write about in a moment.
- Sword training will teach you to wield power responsibly. In general, our society fears power (often as a result of someone that misused their power). Many people fear and hate the police, the military, the government, and the rich. Some people extend that fear to inanimate objects such as firearms and weapons. We fear natural forces of power such as tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Holding a sword gives you power that an unarmed person doesn’t have. Power itself is not good or evil, helpful or harmful. It’s what you do with that power that is judged as good or evil. You can use electrical power to illuminate your home, or to electrocute a person. You shouldn’t fear power, but you should certainly respect power. You don’t fear a campfire, but you respect what can happen if you play with it irresponsibly.
Tameshigiri is test cutting with a live, sharp sword.
The material to be cut is typically a tatami (mat made of rice straw) that is rolled up tightly. The rolled up mat is soaked in water for a period of time, then allowed to dry slightly to simulate the density and texture of human flesh. The number of mats rolled together can simulate various body parts (1 ply for arms/wrists, 2 ply for legs/neck, 3-4 ply for torso cuts).
If you have skillful control of the blade, not much force is needed to cleanly cut a tatami. Of course it’s important to learn this skillful control from a teacher that has performed proper tameshigiri many times before.
When too much force is used in the cut, the precision gets sloppy. If the precision is sloppy when you make your cut, at best your blade will stick in the target with no damage. At worst, you could bend or even break your blade. This is the “proof is in the pudding” I mentioned earlier.
This is why sword training is still applicable in the modern day. It greatly improves your skill and precision. And that skill and precision will stay with you during your unarmed training as well as daily life.
Oh, and probably the best reason to train with the sword…it’s just freakin’ FUN! Come on! Who doesn’t get a bit of a thrill when cutting for real?! It’s a wonderful way to release stress!
What have been some of your experiences training sword or test cutting? Share in the comments box below.