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Old 02-03-2011, 10:16 AM   #14
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: Reasonable weight for suburito?

Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
A powerful cut follows a clean, straight arc. The integrity of the path of the blade, and possibly the speed as well, are more important than the amount of pressure applied to the blade once it meets resistance.
I would also add that the swordsman need to be "behind" the cut when it comes into contact. That does not mean "pushing" but "there" and in complete control throughout the cut. No slack.

Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
I don't know if its right to say you should use "no" arms when swinging a sword or if its just a certain quality of arm muscle power a good swordsman has, but certainly the goal of suburi is to learn to direct the sword with your center without your arms getting in the way and causing it to zig zag all over the place.
Agreed. One great comment I heard was that the arms guide and support the sword but you cut from the hara. The unsaid part is how you learn to connect the two...

Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
When you hear about "doing a thousand cuts a day" the point isn't to build muscles or develop strength. The point is for you to do the several thousand bad cuts that you must do before you can start doing good cuts. I'm sure there is an internal power story here.
I often joke that you need to get all those bad cuts out of the way as a means of calming down myself when I can't seem to cut true. But the goal of the cuts, I think, is to make each one perfect so your body learns how to do it perfectly more often. This is through both the coordination of a very complex movement with the development of a certain type of body that allows it.

Watch someone like Kuroda. He moves like a cat. Toby Threadgill has a similar feel when he moves. It is relaxed but so incredibly fast and without any telegraphing. The movement is fast because it is incredibly smooth. It is so smooth and efficient it becomes crisp.

So speed is a function of perfect form and body integration. And when you develop that integration you find that the sword cuts quiet well all by itself.

Another observation is that there are a number of ways of cutting "correctly" that depend on stylistic choices. We can talk about grip and tenouchi but I've seen styles that really don't grip the same. Which changes how their kamae look. Which change things like how their elbows look during a cut, etc. But... Each style has an internal consistency and you really can't mix and match. So what is correct in one place is incorrect in another. However, both done "correctly" in their own contexts work quite well.

The most common thing I see that is generally wrong among the untrained is simply not cutting. They use the sword more like an impact weapon which will in general make for a poor cut on a target. Or if they're hasuji (blade alignment) is also poor possibly also a blown cut *and* a damaged weapon. Not a good thing.

Another mistake really common in Aikido is the inability to reach their target. They say "I'm cutting him on the top of his head". Then they drop their hands with the sword to literally level with their hips while the tip is pointing up at 45 degrees as they slide forward. At best they might nip the nose of the other guy and, if they survived that long would have just done a tsuki to the stomach. I.e., their description doesn't even come close to matching the reality of what they're doing. They need to be extended somewhat with the monouchi (or tip depending on style or intent) of the sword at the target so they can continue to cut through.

Finally, on the issue of power. I've seen guys who claim to have a "powerful" cut but really all they're doing is swinging really hard. It may be great that they can "load up" and deliver all that power, but... I can hear the play by play "He winds up for the pitch and Oooooooh, he just had his gut opened up at he started his cut... He's out!!!!!" All joking aside is the realization that there is a larger context of why you're learning the weapon. Ideally within a koryu art it was a preserved methodology to keep you alive in a conflict. That was the ultimate goal. Not to have the fastest cut. Or the most power. At least not as a primary goal. The primary goal is to survive while the other guy doesn't. So while there are all sorts of things that may be useful and necessary to learn within any art, the ultimate goal is a balance of a lot of things. Where muscle works better, it is used. Where speed works, it is used. Where IS principles come into play, it is used. But how all those things come together depends on a much larger picture and "mix" of all of them. With the ultimate (idealized) goal being the same.

So it is often tempting from the outside looking in to be critical of some sword style. If you want a lesson in contrast look up Jigen Ryu and compare that with someone like Kuroda. Couldn't be more night and day. And I wouldn't want to be faced off against either. So when I hear people critical of someone like Kuroda because he's not doing this or that the way they think it should be done, okay, right, pick up a sword and stand there facing him and let's see how that works out...

So the point is that when there is a history full of exceptions, it is difficult to come up with rules. Especially so if you're trying to do so outside context of a full-fledged art that expresses all aspects of the how and why of the training.

So to answer Mike's question, all of the above. And none of it. Most who pick up a sword and profess true (overall) proficiency generally don't have it unless they've been involved in a well preserved art. The rest of us have to say "we use swords" and do so within the context of our own goals. But it is a different beast altogether.

So you ask your instructor to help you improve. But recognize that most who do Aikido have never cut with a real sword in any appreciable way (there are many exceptions here). Heck, there are many who train in iai who rarely if ever actually cut.

Complicated issue. But I will say people offering up advice on how to cut (myself included) need to be careful about saying "this is the right way". There's lots of "right ways". Even more wrong. But some of the wrongs are partly in the rights and vice-versa depending on everything else. So it is a muddy mess at best.

I'm blathering now. More Joycian than I wanted. So I'm going to bow out and get some work done. Too much chat, not enough mat lately.

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