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moon in the water Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 04-26-2010 10:46 PM
the water does not try
to reflect the moon
and the moon has no desire
to be reflected
but when the clouds clear
there is the moon in the water
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 155
Comments: 1,111
Views: 1,935,975


In General The blind swordsman Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #33 New 12-10-2010 09:12 AM
The blind swordsman Darkness is my advantage
(the blind swordsman) Zatoichi

I'll just watch for now
(the blind swordsman) Zatoichi

I saw one of the old Zatoichi movies last week. It was a great movie. Zatoichi is a blind man who travels around Edo period Japan. He makes a living by giving massages and gambling. Only samurai were allowed to wear swords and Zatoichi carries an innocent-looking pilgrim's stick. It is actually a shikomi zue - a cane sword. He always protects children and women and people who need help against injustice.

For a budoka the swordfight scenes are very interesting. Sometimes he waits full of intense concentration listening for a whisper of an attack. Then in an instant he spins and slashes - nearly always drawing and holding his blade in a reverse grip (an icepick grip with the blade facing out). Spinning through a group of attackers he looks something like some old movies of O Sensei. Gozo Shioda Sensei gives a similar impression of ceaselessly spinning in old videos when he is attacked by several people at once. So maybe there is a lesson there for us against multiple attackers. Always be in motion - turning and entering, entering and turning.

There are other interesting concepts in Zatoichi. Ninkyo is the concept of chivalry promoted by the forerunners of the yakuza gangs - with the idea of caring for the poor and the weak. Bushi no nasake is the idea of a samurai's compassion - especially looking after the weaker members of society. But in the Zatoichi movies the yakuza are often the exploiters and the samurai are mostly incidental or even allied with the evil side. So it is left to the anma - the blind masseur - to help when someone is in trouble.

Takeshi Kitano's hommage movie Zatoichi was released in 2003. I liked it but it wasn't in the same class as the original Zatoichi movies. In the original movies Zatoichi was played by Shintaro Katsu. He had great charisma as an actor. He also had his own production company and wrote and directed movies. He had some troubles with the law and the establishment in Japan because of drugs. There was also an unbelievable accident during the filming of the last Zatoichi movie. A stuntman was killed in a fight scene because one of the prop swords turned out to be a real katana. A few years later a similar freak accident killed Brandon Lee during the filming of The Crow when a blank cartridge apparently fired a real bullet.

There was a nice Hollywood version of Zatoichi called Blind Fury starring Rutger Hauer.

The Kitano and the Hollywood versions are watchable and enjoyable. But the Shintaro Katsu versions are unforgettable.

At the end of the Zatoichi movies this is the final song played over the credits. The song is a kind of lullaby in enka (Japanese modern popular ballad) style. The singer is Shintaro Katsu himself. He was an accomplished musician and singer.

Trailer/preview of a Zatoichi movie

Article about Zatoichi, including his possible influence on Columbo and Kung Fu.

wikipedia articles:

great illustration: zatoichi by Kenji Takabayashi http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenjibaseball/2060848714/ photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenjiba...th/2060848714/ used with his very kind permission

niall matthews 2010
Views: 7600 | Comments: 7

RSS Feed 7 Responses to "The blind swordsman"
#7 12-28-2010 03:34 AM
niall Says:
Thanks, Graham. Yes I do know them. Great idea for another blog post! Happy New Year to you too.
#6 12-27-2010 12:02 PM
Hi Niall, Happy new year. Like this article and was wondering if you have seen the babycart series, a set of six films based on shogun assassin or to be more precise lone wolf and cub series. p.s.Actually I think all the blogs are good. As in your latest one; stay young and green. G.
#5 12-12-2010 07:10 AM
niall Says:
Thanks Billy. Difficult question! A feeling of killing is satsujinken killing sword (the opposite is katsujinken life-giving sword). An attacking feeling is semeru (which you should have as uke in aikido) and to attack is kogeki suru. Tori in aikido has a feeling of mushin empty mind, not attack. Let me know if that's not what you meant. Cheers, Niall
#4 12-12-2010 03:23 AM
Makochan Says:
Dear Niall; I loved the blog and the video clips and immediately thought of Blind Fury which I liked. This blog brings me to a question for you and raised at Dave's Wednesday Jodo class. When a swordsman enters on an opponent with serious intent enough to crush the opponent without physical contact, what is this called in Japanese? Best as always, Billy
#3 12-11-2010 01:07 AM
niall Says:
That's a great point about multiple attackers. Using them against each other is a basic principle. Yes you can throw the attackers against each other but even using weapons you can keep a neutralized attacker between you and a new advancing attacker if you need to.
#2 12-11-2010 12:57 AM
niall Says:
Thanks Carina. Takeshi Kitano is his name as a director and Beat Takeshi is his name as an actor. The movie was very popular in Japan because of the affection for the original Shintaro Katsu Zatoichi movies. Incidentally Tadanobu Asano is one of the few star actors in Japan who is also a great actor. Zatoichi was blind but in that scene he pretended he wasn't.
#1 12-10-2010 01:30 PM
guest1234567 Says:
I liked very much Kitano's Zatoichi, I saw it in my computer, in Las Palmas they played it in a small cinema and only a few days,it had no sucess, I was wondering why? I remembered that at the end it reveals that Zatoichi was not blind.. In the article it says that he was blind? Niall about the lesson against multiple attackers is just the same as it is for randori: turning and entering, entering and turning with the exception that without sword you can throw one attacker against the other.

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