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Old 08-04-2005, 11:17 AM   #25
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Szczepan Janczuk wrote:
Thanks all gods, average swordsmen is not cloned from "Big" Tony! I saw that block both hands above the head and jo is in horizontal position.
May be it works only against bokken?
Anyway thanks for good stories!
Nah, it isn't Tony's size, but his ability with the sword. Just like in Aikido it isn't so much about power but proper form. Let me post a photo I took. If I remember correctly the exposure time was 1/15th or 1/30th of a second. Probably 1/15th but see how far the tip travelled in that time.

It ain't the force, but the speed, angle and draw. And by the way, he had started the cut by cutting up leaving the piece free standing to follow up with the straight down cut. The reason for the photo is to show how fast the blade is moving. Remember the piece was still standing there freely after being severed with the first cut and he had to reverse direction and cut down before the target fell...

And by the way, I hope he doesn't mind me posting this photo of him. He wasn't happy with that cut because the target was falling over a bit more than he wanted. Me, well, I'd be happy just to get the first cut cleanly. It is a serious rarity for the bloody thing to just sit there long enough for me to do a second cut. And to make sure the big guy is happy, I should give full credit. Senpokan Dojo in Southern California is his baby. And also his new venture, Tozai Imports ( ). Tony is involved in a lot of things including now representing Mugai-ryu (a koryu Japanese sword art) in the US.

But back to the topic at hand... Many of my customers are increasingly practicing tameshigiri as a method of validating their technique. And one thing that happens more often than it should is that people cut too low on the target on the stand. It is tempting because targets aren't cheap and if there's enough left there to practice something, well, you may go for it. Unfortunately what tends to happen is that they clip the pin used to hold the target on the stand. They're usually a couple inches long and about 1 inch thick. Solid oak usually. And if the person's form is decent usually they'll just cut right through the dowel. Sometimes they don't even realize they cut through the pin until they're trying to put on a new target!

How thick is the average jo? Hmmm...

Also, some of the more serious guys will also roll multiple mats around a 1" oak dowel for the entire target and soak the whole thing. Their idea is to emulate flesh and bone in a "real" target. And they cut them regularly. My only concern from the craft side is that if their form is off they can (and sometimes do) damage the blade. But usually the damage is more a slight tweak in the blade from the blade being off a bit in angle. I.e., poor hasuji and the blade "wraps" a bit around the target as they hit it. That sometimes leaves a "kink" in the sword. Or a chunk taken out of the edge depending on the blade quality, shaping, etc.

Holding the jo over your head two handed while someone is cutting down? Could work sometimes if the swordsman isn't very good. But if they get the angle right and are cutting with any proper form and velocity you'll likely end up with two smaller sticks. Look at that photo again. Notice how the sword is being drawn back. And how bloody fast that's happening.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 08-04-2005 at 11:22 AM.

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