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Nick Pagnucco
04-21-2006, 02:11 PM
Hi there,

I'm having problems with my bokken cuts, and I'm looking for advice (and yes, i'm also asking my seniors in my dojo ;) ). Basically, I have trouble stopping a cut in a way I feel is right. My weapons instructor said you roll your hands on top of the bokken's handle, but when I try and do that as I cut, I end up stopping the cut by creating a lot of tension in my wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Come to think of it, all ways I try and end a cut right now end up with me tensing muscles around these joints.

Seeing how tension rarely seems to be the answer in aikido, I was curious if anyone had any suggestions on what I possibly should be doing. Thanks.

SeiserL
04-21-2006, 04:34 PM
My weapons instructor said you roll your hands on top of the bokken's handle, but when I try and do that as I cut, I end up stopping the cut by creating a lot of tension in my wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
IMHO, common problem. Practice twisting/wringing a towel with just your hands. Relax your arms and let the wrist roll inward.

Like any of the Aikido grabs, we initially tend to tense up our arms and shoulders. With practice, you can grab tightly with just your isolated hand muscles and not give up your center.

Mark Uttech
04-22-2006, 01:42 AM
When doing suburi, I just squeeze with my hands. But then, I only do that when I think to do that.

George S. Ledyard
04-22-2006, 11:54 AM
Most people can't stop their tip with precision and without bouncing because they are too tense (Iwama style not withstanding). Relax your arms. It is the left arm extension which stops the tip from dropping. If you extend your left arm out towards what you are cutting you can't rest your weight on the end of the handle and you can't control your tip. Your left arm at the end of a vertical cut should extend down towards a spot on the floor that is about 40 inches out from your center axis. If your left hand doesn't rise, your tip won't fall.

Also, it is important to keep both arms extended equally in a relaxed fashion. Many folks cut by pushing with their right hand. The power hand is the left hand. the right hand guides the blade towards the target. Equal, relaxed, extension will produce the kind of control you want.

The other factor which most people igore is the legs. If you are going to stop a full power cut within a fraction of an inch, the residual energy of the sword that wasn't used in the cut itself has to go somewhere. If your legs ar stiff, you will have to tighten your muscles to stop the cut and the tension will a) slow you down and b) make it difficult to stop your tip precisely. Keep your legs as soft as if you were doing an "egg toss".

Good exercise:
A partner stands in front of you with a bokken held in a lowered position. You stand just out of contact range and do continuous left and right kesa giris (yokomen cuts).

At random intervals the partner will suddenly raise the sword up vertically in fron of him and you are expected to stop the cut and do so with your sword kust touching the partner's bokken. This teaches you how to cut with commitment but stop the blade at any instant as required. (most Aikido folks don't really cut with commitment when they do sword).

Nick Pagnucco
04-22-2006, 02:52 PM
I'm definitely aware of the fact I dont cut with commitment quite yet, and I've been working on that (with some improvement). I didn't think about the legs, though, so thank you very much.

And I've heard the wringing motion thing before. For some reason, when I try that with a bokken, my (right) elbow begins to hurt. Maybe Its because I'm trying to generate power with the wrong arm.

Anyhow, thanks for the suggestions. Its appreciated.

(And if anyone has any others, keep 'em coming!)

senshincenter
04-22-2006, 04:00 PM
If I may add something...

The other thing relative to not letting the left hand rise (and thus the sword tip drop) is the timing issue of bringing your center into the technique relative to the cut. In my opinion, it is actually this timing issue that controls the tip of the sword (which also makes it heavy) - not really the tightening of the hands. The wringing of the hands onto the top of the tsuka is done more to transfer the center of your body (and thus your weight) along the length of the sword in the manner described above. It is not that you use your hands or the tightening of your grip to slow or stop the sword. With the right timing for brining your center into the technique, because your weight is on top of the tsuka, the tsuka cannot lift, and thus the tip of the sword cannot drop - all the while the sword remaining heavy and with continuous downward energy throughout its arch of motion. To experience the limitations of using the hands to address this issue (vs. the center) all you have to do is hundred or more cuts, take on a heavier sword, and/or attempt to cut with full speed and power. Immediately you will experience the shortcomings of addressing the tip of the sword with your hands/arms. In the end, because this is a timing issue, it is difficult to achieve and requires many hours of one building up one experience upon another experience. You got to do the time, and you got to give yourself time.

Be mindful of some common mistakes along the way:

referring here to shomengiri:
adopting a chopping motion to reduce the topsy-turvy energy of the sword
muscling with the right arm (not keeping the left hand the power hand)
slowing the sword down before the sword has completed its motion
pulling up on the sword with your fingers
using a push-pull relationship in the hands
not finishing the cut (stopping high/short)
over-tightening your grip
i.e. any kind of device that allows one not to have (first) the weight of one's center and then the timing of applying that weight correctly

Ed Shockley
04-23-2006, 07:47 AM
The marvelous thing about bokken is that it corrects mistakes by itself. If you do even a few hundred slow cuts daily then as your body tires it will begin to conserve energy and the cut will be perfect in no time. The reason for cutting slowly is so that you don't hurt something while you are fixing your form. Good luck.

SmilingNage
04-23-2006, 01:23 PM
It would be best if you can get alot of your practice cuts done before and/or after class. This way your teacher or sempai can assist you with your strikes. Beware of training to much away from the dojo, as you might reinforce bad bokken habits with 100's of unsupervised cuts. Start off with a supervised practice first then bring your bokken practice out of the dojo.

I am not a fan of internet coaching. The advice I would pass on to you would be start with all the events that happen before the actual cut. Your stance, hand placement, grip is where you should focus you attention. Dont be in a rush to become the next "last samurai." Start with simple exercises like changing your hamni while holding the bokken. Learn the feel of your ken as it relates to your body movement. Strive to make the bokken at extension of yourself, one unit working together.

eyrie
04-23-2006, 06:55 PM
To add further to what George said, it's a wooden replica of a slicing implement. But most people tend to wield it like a club instead. If you don't have a live partner, use an imaginary one. ;)

rottunpunk
04-24-2006, 09:37 AM
aikiken is different from iai, but most of the principles should be the same i think.

-there should be no power in the arms (a lot of westerners use arm power) all power should be from hara.
- the 'cut' only really starts just above the head
- it is there that you apply hara and tenouchi (the wringing towel bit)
- at the end of the cut (when the sword leaves the body) tenouchi and hara is released
- this brings the sword to a natural stop.

also, make sure you have correct grip on the tsuka. and correct posture, as lack of these two may inhibit you
the heal of both palms shouls rest on the tsuka, and the hands should be elongated (foreknuckles over the top). light grip. only the little fingers should be used to cut with

hope this makes some sense
:p

Adman
04-24-2006, 10:59 AM
Good exercise:
A partner stands in front of you with a bokken held in a lowered position. You stand just out of contact range and do continuous left and right kesa giris (yokomen cuts).

At random intervals the partner will suddenly raise the sword up vertically in fron of him and you are expected to stop the cut and do so with your sword kust touching the partner's bokken. This teaches you how to cut with commitment but stop the blade at any instant as required. (most Aikido folks don't really cut with commitment when they do sword).George,

We practice much the same thing in our dojo (I think, given your description). Something else I practice is a basic shomen cut with eyes closed. A partner holds their bokken horizontaly from their center in the cutting path. They can keep the bokken there or move it. My goal is to meet my partner's bokken powerfully (mindful of cutting instead of bashing, of course) or miss it powerfully and calmly (no tip "bounce") as has been suggested in this thread. This practice has been insightful for me at least. Do you also train something similar with shomen cuts?

thanks,
Adam

Nick Pagnucco
04-24-2006, 01:13 PM
well, tonight I get to practice with weapons again, so we'll see. (this involves trying out some of the suggestions here, and harrassing the instructor within an inch of my life).

One thing I know I do which I need to stop is I 'place' the weapon instead of 'cut' with the weapons. But the advice here seems like it will be useful.

roosvelt
04-25-2006, 09:17 AM
well, tonight I get to practice with weapons again, so we'll see. (this involves trying out some of the suggestions here, and harrassing the instructor within an inch of my life).



Here is your biggest problem. You only do weapons in class?

If I hearing some suggestions, I'd be outside with bokken in my hands to give it a try right away.

Just do a simple cut for 15 munites every day for a month, you'll see the improvement.

The magic is time and dedication.

eyrie
04-25-2006, 06:50 PM
...and preferably every waking moment, if not with your body, then with your mind and spirit, cutting through the illusions that hinder enlightenment.... ;)

Nick Pagnucco
04-26-2006, 10:19 AM
...and preferably every waking moment, if not with your body, then with your mind and spirit, cutting through the illusions that hinder enlightenment.... ;)

Well, drat... and here I was cutting through enlightenment with a blade of illusions. ;)