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Old 08-05-2005, 11:34 AM   #26
JohnSeavitt
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
So how did Musashi get beat by the Jo guy - inquiring minds want to know.
I'm nowhere near seeing that stuff, but my sense so far would be by attacking the swordsman's body, same as everything.

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote:
Holding the jo over your head two handed while someone is cutting down?
I actually don't recall seeing this sort of thing in the aikido flavors of jo that I've done, but it's worth noting that in Shindo Muso ryu jodo this is a kamae, not a block.

John
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Old 08-05-2005, 04:23 PM   #27
Nick Simpson
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Nice picture. I had the pleasure of witnessing some pretty inept tameshigiri a few months ago at a demo. The guy was fiddling around with the stand and couldnt seem to stand the mat upright for any length of time, so I asked him if it wouldnt be easier to get someone to hold the mat up for him. He asked if I wanted to do it and I agreed but he backed down at this point

To be honest, from his skill level, thinking back, I wouldnt really want to even hold the very bottom of the mat when he was swinging a sword...

They're all screaming about the rock n roll, but I would say that it's getting old. - REFUSED.
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Old 08-07-2005, 02:08 AM   #28
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

love the way his sword looks in that pic! One more thing about ken vs. jo: A lot of people think using a jo is pointless because the infinitely sharp sam-your-eye swords were too far superior. Not so! It's actually easier for the jo to break the ken!!! There's a convinient little spot near the habaki that, when hit, will break the sword in two!!! Metal harmonics is fun! Let's end all our sentences with exclaimation points! Multiple times!!!!! Also, you'd have to be like Swarsineggkak;lkadflkn...ah whatever, California's governor to cut a jo cleanly in half.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
-Barry LePatner
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Old 08-08-2005, 09:11 PM   #29
Keith Larman
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
James Matarrese wrote:
love the way his sword looks in that pic! One more thing about ken vs. jo: A lot of people think using a jo is pointless because the infinitely sharp sam-your-eye swords were too far superior. Not so! It's actually easier for the jo to break the ken!!! There's a convinient little spot near the habaki that, when hit, will break the sword in two!!! Metal harmonics is fun! Let's end all our sentences with exclaimation points! Multiple times!!!!! Also, you'd have to be like Swarsineggkak;lkadflkn...ah whatever, California's governor to cut a jo cleanly in half.
Is this something you've done or tried personally? Or seen done? Or know someone who has done it?

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Old 08-08-2005, 09:24 PM   #30
Keith Larman
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Nick Simpson wrote:
Nice picture. I had the pleasure of witnessing some pretty inept tameshigiri a few months ago at a demo. The guy was fiddling around with the stand and couldnt seem to stand the mat upright for any length of time, so I asked him if it wouldnt be easier to get someone to hold the mat up for him. He asked if I wanted to do it and I agreed but he backed down at this point

To be honest, from his skill level, thinking back, I wouldnt really want to even hold the very bottom of the mat when he was swinging a sword...
Yeah, I've seen some pretty terrible things over the years. One group had students that kept knocking the stands over because their blade angles (hasuji) was just terrible. A few commented after the "demonstration" that what they needed was stands with wider bases. Me, I'm thinking "put the swords down, boys, and work on the fundamentals some more".

Another interesting story. My polishing instructor got a call one day. The fella wanted to know about removing fire stains from his katana. It turns out the guy decided it would be cool to pour some lighter fluid on a target and cut it that way for the demo. Well, mat "goop" (yes, that's the technical term) carried the flaming liquid onto the surface of the blade and continued to burn creating serious mark. He had also managed to spray the room with flaming debrie. That "sensei" was given an earful then hung up on.

And finally I've been to a number of tai kai, demos, that kind of stuff over the years. Once or twice to help give talks about sword care, but other times by invitation of guys competing. And generally I stay *waaaay* back unless I know the swordsman really well. I've seen guys using swords that they absolutely shouldn't be using (crappy blades, damaged blades, defective mounts, etc.). I've also seen guys that have had zero control. My favorite one day was this guy who was wearing his rainbow colored "I'm a sensei, really. REALLY" belt outside his hakama. And his gi top had enough patches from various karate styles to look like a Nascar. Why he figured that qualified him to use a Japanese sword I'll never know, but apparently he felt like he knew what he was doing. The guy got up there and started flailing away. He was able to cut stuff, but he was so out of control that he wouldn't have lasted a second against someone who knew what they were doing. I moved an entire group of people back and away from the stage when I saw him doing his thing. I could just see that sword helicoptering into the spectators. Swords bring out the weirdest stuff in people. And with all the misconceptions and mythology surrounding them, well, it is inevitable I guess.

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Old 08-08-2005, 09:30 PM   #31
Keith Larman
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
John Seavitt wrote:
...I actually don't recall seeing this sort of thing in the aikido flavors of jo that I've done, but it's worth noting that in Shindo Muso ryu jodo this is a kamae, not a block.

John
Yeah, most koryu jo stuff I've seen emphasize the kamae aspect. It isn't so much a block as it is a deflection *or* an attack (or a threat of one) to stop the swordsman. With the point of that jo coming into your face there is tremendous motivation *not* to continue with that kesa... But I've seen some Aikido sensei describe some positions as both kamae and blocks to protect from a sword and they meant a static block. Most guys I know studying koryu sword arts giggle at that kind of stuff. I'm a big guy but I know many smaller guys who could easily power enough through me in that position to at a minimum drive the jo (and part of their sword) right through my skull in that kind of position. And *if* the jo is out there strong enough to stop a sword, well, that means it's supported enough to make it vastly easier to cut through it *assuming* the swordsman knows his stuff.

I must admit I'm tremendously skeptical of the notion of snapping a blade with a jo strike. A crappy sword, maybe (and remember that there were lots of pretty crummy Japanese swords made -- traditionally made in the olden days didn't mean decent). But a good sword of "normal" cross section? I'd really love to see it. Heck, I might even donate a "cheap" sword to let someone try that kind of thing because I'd really love to see it.

But all that said there are wonderful techniques in some styles of jodo where they deflect, redirect, and do all sorts of fancy stuff. I have little doubt a competent jo person would fare well against a swordsman of equal skill (as if that makes any sense). The reality is that it is very difficult to cut through a hard target that isn't supported. Which means you might club your way through or crash right into them. Nasty end result either way. And it is *very* difficult to snap a steel blade unless you're putting a tremendous amount of torque at the right angle on the blade. If you blow a cut and clip the stand, sure, then it happens. But that's hitting something very solid at an angle and continuing to drive through it as you cut.

Whack a good swordsman's sword and he'll likely follow it in a very aiki way, bring the sword around and then make sure you won't hit it again. And it is hard to do if you know longer have an arm attached to hold the jo...

Gruesome topic, neh...

Last edited by Keith Larman : 08-08-2005 at 09:34 PM.

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Old 08-08-2005, 10:06 PM   #32
akiy
 
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
James Matarrese wrote:
Also, you'd have to be like Swarsineggkak;lkadflkn...ah whatever, California's governor to cut a jo cleanly in half.
Interesting. As Keith has mentioned, I too have seen the peg holding up the tameshigiri target cut quite cleanly in two by someone of normal build and strength. I've cut through some bamboo myself, albeit pretty skinny (~1 inch diameter). A friend of mine who used to do a lot of tameshigiri said that the best cuts he ever had was when he barely had the strength to left the blade due to a bad flu; the weight of the sword did all of the work.

(Tangentially, I would have to say that the majority of people whom I've seen trained in using a bokuto in aikido use too much koshimawari (hip turning) in their cuts, rendering their hasuji (blade angle) off of the cut angle, making their blades bounce off the target.)

I, too, am skeptical about the notion of using a jo in a tactically sound manner (ie perhaps not just trying to whack the blade but by using a proper "technique" such as makiotoshi) to break a shinken. Keith, I'll be happy to donate $50 to any kind of "study" you might want to do (with proper protection gear, supervision, and such) to research this matter...

-- Jun

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Old 08-08-2005, 10:54 PM   #33
samurai_kenshin
 
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

well, this is only coming from someone who tried to cut a cocobolo jo and chipped his sword (while still only going half way through), so I *could* be wrong. Mind you, I also said "cleanly in half" A regular jo-sized piece of wood I've seen cut (redwood I believe) was cut cleanly, but a white oak/other hardwood may not be cut so easily.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
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Old 08-09-2005, 12:34 AM   #34
Keith Larman
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

James:

I think you're missing part of the point. Sword against a very hard target can and often does result in some damage to the blade edge. How much, etc. is a question that is enormously involved. Quality of the blade itself, blade geometry, user ability, target nature, etc. I've seen inexperienced guys bend blades on small targets. Good, decent blades but their ability was so abysmal that they damaged the blade on simple, soft targets. I've also seen experienced swordsmen cut very difficult, hard targets with ease with run of the mill swords. The difference? Ability. Knowing *exactly* how much force, how much draw and then being able to maintain a perfect angle throughout the cut.

So can an average fella cut a jo in half without damaging the sword? No, not likely. They probably won't get through the jo and they will probably damage the sword in the process. But take a swordsman with sufficient training and ability and they will generally find things like 1 inch wood to be rather easy to cut. That doesn't mean a thinner blade with little niku won't take edge damage -- it most likely will. The issue is complex at this point because there are so many variables. But skill is the first one and the most critical.

Maybe if I get time tomorrow I'll find the frame captures I have of me and Tony swinging at each other. Him with a katana, me with a jo. I hesitate because it wasn't exactly a safe thing to do. But we're both very experienced and we set it up to make *sure* we had sufficient distance between each other. But still... We were both happy not to do it again. A little close for comfort.

Anyway, a proper cut as Jun has commented often feels like absolutely nothing. The Japanese sword of proper shaping and manufacture is a marvel of cutting efficiency when wielded properly. When everything is right they cut through almost effortlessly. Guys who have started tameshigiri often comment how when they started they needed to use a lot of power to cut. Over the years they've learned that it is all about form and basics of movement. And when that happens it is no longer the power, speed or strength you try to muster. It is all about being calm, focused, and letting the sword cut for you. Done correctly it will.

The point being that it is complex. You *could* block a sword cut with a jo if your jo is strong and the swordsman isn't very good. And frankly most aikidoka I know don't cut well at all. Terribly actually. Most also don't purport to be learning to use the sword but use the sword to expand on their aikido. That is fine. But that also means their cuts and form aren't exactly representative of what a good swordsman might be able to do to your jo. And if you brace that thing with both arms over your head and let me cut down on it... Well, you're going to be at a minimum digging that jo out of your forehead. And probably have a pretty deep cut in your head even if the jo holds up. Sure, the blade may take damage. But the point is that the use of the jo to "block" a cut from an experienced swordsman is most likely folly. And snapping a "good" blade with a jo is extremely unlikely. Heck, smiths often test swords by whacking them at full power over an anvil. That generates a tremendous amount of force on a very small area on the sword. And often the sword doesn't break until multiple strikes.

If you're interested I wrote an article on blade geometry (and more specifically "niku") years ago. It's up on Rich Stein's Japanese Sword Index. It might help you understand the blade geometry aspect of this. The article was originally a long post I put up on an on-line forum to answer some similar questions. It was written quite a few years ago and it was posted by Rich "as is" from my forum post. So we ain't talking polished paper here.

Maybe one of these days I'll take a "project" blade from my workshop, strap it in a vice and set up my video camera. Gotta figure out some of the safety issues, but I've got an old, cheap chinese made Japanese style sword that is clay treated. I could give it a few good whacks with a hard jo on the flat near the habaki. I would just need to figure out a way to put up a barrier to protect me if something breaks or comes loose.

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Old 08-09-2005, 09:16 AM   #35
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote:
Most also don't purport to be learning to use the sword but use the sword to expand on their aikido. That is fine. But that also means their cuts and form aren't exactly representative of what a good swordsman might be able to do to your jo. And if you brace that thing with both arms over your head and let me cut down on it... Well, you're going to be at a minimum digging that jo out of your forehead. And probably have a pretty deep cut in your head even if the jo holds up. Sure, the blade may take damage. But the point is that the use of the jo to "block" a cut from an experienced swordsman is most likely folly. And snapping a "good" blade with a jo is extremely unlikely. Heck, smiths often test swords by whacking them at full power over an anvil. That generates a tremendous amount of force on a very small area on the sword. And often the sword doesn't break until multiple strikes.

That always seemed odd to me: The claim to be using weapons to learn Aikido in the face of tactics like blocking (using a jo to block a sword coming down). In my opinion, a lot of us just throw around the phrase, "Weapons teach us about Aikido" without ever asking, "Hey, where's the Aiki in my weapons work?"

David M. Valadez
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Old 08-09-2005, 01:11 PM   #36
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Chuck Gordon wrote:
Edge vs body blocking:
One of the things to remember is that the Japanese sword was seldom used in a direct block, but almost always in a sliding or redirecting block (think of aikidome vs a karate-style age uke).
cg
to answer the original question, blocking is not something desirable to do with your sword and it's even less desirable to expose the edge to such impact. Generally you are always working for deflection of your opponents weapon with the side of the back of the blade (mune). This achieves two aims, one it prevents you from being hit while at the same time forcing your opponent to deal with the energy of their own weapon while turning them slightly to expose a moment in which your blade can enter.

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Old 08-09-2005, 03:56 PM   #37
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

yeah, I probably missed the point, but, hey! I gotta be wrong sometime, right? (Ok, bad joke...) Ok, so we've established that it's bad to block with your sword, much less the edge. Is it possible, however, to block with the tsuka, as I see with, I think a few kumitachi. The tsuka goes directly over the forehead and blocks, then...well, whatever technique you're doing. Did this ever happen?

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Old 08-09-2005, 04:44 PM   #38
Tenor_Jon
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

the tsuka's the hilt right?
(either that or the hilt guard, but I think the hilt guard is the tsuBa...too many similar words!)
I probably wouldn't block with it, as I don't want a blade anywhere near my hands! I wonder about pummeling with a katana though. That would potentially be pretty devastating, even if you don't have a developed pommel, there's still a good amount of weight behind the tang to do that. But yeah I'm not sure about this either.
But this reminds me of something else, I've seen a couple dao (chinese sabre) techniques in which the uke attacks with a "yokomen"ish strike, and the tori redirects the blade to the left (if they're right handed) and then once the blade's past a certain point, they release their blade to counter. Anyways, they step in, putting the left hand on the mune of the blade, and kinda "clothesline" (push forward with both hands empty, then put the sword hilt in the right hand, and the left blade guiding the back of the blade forward, blade parallel to the ground)at the person's neck, finishing with a vicious draw cut that does further damage. Anyways, this putting the palm on the back of the blade, called "half swording" in western techniques (though they did it with double edged blades), are there some techniques of that with the katana? (or is this just a dao thing since it's mostly a one handed sword) especially when the opportunity to close in to the opponant presents itself?
(loves practicing this clothesline drawstrike thingie with dao)
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Old 08-09-2005, 05:24 PM   #39
Brion Toss
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Regarding the jo-blocking-sword idea, yes it is obviously true that if you present a firmly-held piece of wood for someone to swing at with a katana (or even better, swing it so that it actually collides with the edge of the simultaneously-swung katana), you will likely end up with two pieces of wood. But I don't know why anyone would even think of doing such a thing, except out of ignorance or delusion. That's why, as I understand it at least, jo parries tend towards deflections, not blocks, and those deflections are calculated to get the contact point away from the cutting edge. Heck, even another jo might well be able to break a jo held firmly, like in the overhead-with-both-hands position mentioned above (which is actually a deflection for a tsuki attack in most circumstances, I believe).
It seems likely, considering the source, that the practices of Aiki ken and jo have some reasonable underpinnings; if Aikidoka tend to be lousy with weapons, it might just be because they have lost contact with the principles that need to inform their motions.
Yours,
Brion Toss
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Old 09-02-2005, 02:58 AM   #40
Reitan
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

I have never trained in kendo or iaido, but I do know a little about the Togakure taijutsu and weapons training, and using one hand on the blade to force the edge into or against an attacker is very common. However, the power behind the blade comes from the whole body propelling forward, or levering the blade at an angle with the whole body. Any subsequent drawing-type cuts are also done with the whole body shifting away, and because you are holding the blade, it follows, cutting naturally. Granted, this type of budo involves alot of legwork, but it generates an awful lot of power. I came home from many a class with wooden bokken burns and deep bruising on my neck and torso from this type of technique practice, so I can account for it's effectiveness. Also, on a earlier note that started this thread, if I was attacked suddenly and reflexively attempted to directly block or absorb the attack, I would definately re-think my training. There are always exceptions to every rule, but force against force is generally not an ideal clash. Further, the idea of a suprise attack seems to imply some type of hesitation that causes a last-second reaction. If someone is training properly and committing themselves to aikido principles, you would naturally move to minimize personal danger when attacked, and there would be no such thing as a suprise or hesitation. Just some food for thought.
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