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Old 09-05-2013, 02:19 PM   #1
Lorien Lowe
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bokken strike style

I've moved to Portland from Northern California, and in visiting a new dojo I saw that their strike style was vastly different from what I'm used to. The strike there describes an arc, like the belly of a 'D' when seen from the side, as opposed to the whiplash, 'L' shaped strike that I'm used to seeing (and have had pounded into me). Any comments on the respective strengths/weaknesses of these two styles?
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Old 09-05-2013, 02:40 PM   #2
Cliff Judge
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Lorien Lowe wrote: View Post
I've moved to Portland from Northern California, and in visiting a new dojo I saw that their strike style was vastly different from what I'm used to. The strike there describes an arc, like the belly of a 'D' when seen from the side, as opposed to the whiplash, 'L' shaped strike that I'm used to seeing (and have had pounded into me). Any comments on the respective strengths/weaknesses of these two styles?
I think you are saying that at the new dojo, they raise their swords all the way back over their heads so they are facing behind them?

And in your old dojo, they would raise their swords vertical, and the bring them down vigorously?

And in both cases the end of the cut is parallel to the ground?

Well different groups do it different ways, and everybody has a schpiel about why this way or that way is better. Even classical sword schools.

Some people will pooh-poo the "D" shaped cut, because there is not usually a good combative argument for hauling your sword all the way back there. You are going to lose time, and you have to make it rise before it can fall onto your target. Some schools will tell you that any further back than 45 degrees is bad.

But you get a nice range of motion and if your swordwork involves keeping your shoulders relaxed (if it is any good at all it will be mostly about keeping your shoulders relaxed), you can feel what happens way back there.

Iaido people do cuts like this. But it is not unheard of in classical kenjutsu either, to bring the sword to at least parallel to the ground - so your opponent cannot see it.

The other cut you are describing, the "L" shape, what might be a problem there is your description of it as a "whiplash." You can get something like a whiplash by putting lots of upper arm and shoulder into your cuts. That's really really bad. But if your swordwork is more along the lines of "just let the sword fall straight down" that is fine stuff. I just don't usually get a whiplash that way.

If you have your shoulders tight, you will see the blade of your sword do a crazy zig-zag on its way down. That is easier to see and feel with a bigger, broader "D" shaped cut IMO.
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:45 PM   #3
Millsy
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Re: bokken strike style

Lorien When you say L and D are you meaning as Cliff said or:

L: The arms come down the center line of the body with the sword sort of vertical and the wrist "snap" out at the bottom of the cut. The classic Saito type shomen seen performed by a lot of aikidoka. See at 1:40 on the video below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDeX8mAyNP8

D: The hands and wrist "cast" out from the head and the sword is bought down almost in an elliptical motion. As seen in most Iai and Kendo: See 1:25 in this video :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTblzOvQe4c

The first I see as aikido training, building that extention from the centre for open hand technique, tanren training. As a sword cut itself the mechanics of the cut mean maximum extention and power of the cut occurs near the belt level. With the D cut the maximum speed and extension of the blade is at the forehead (shomen) of the opponent and the blade then slices back towards your belt.

Two different cuts for two different purposes. Not bad or good, different.

You'll see a lot of people when they have someone in front of them checking their range and practicing their distance, extend their arms and sword to the forehead as if they were doing the D shape cut. An interesting exercise have an uke stand in front of you and check your distance to their forehead by extending arms and the sword to the forehead. Then cut with the L cut slowly, if your uke is my shape you'll hit about the top of the belly, if uke is fitter about the bellybutton Then without moving do the D cut and you'll strike shomen.
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Old 09-06-2013, 02:02 AM   #4
Lorien Lowe
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Re: bokken strike style

As Tony said, and as demonstrated in the videos he posted. Definitely not involving upper body tension in either case.

The exception is that I've been taught to do the L-shaped cut at any level, not just to the bellybutton; part of the point of the strike (so I thought) was that one could control the finishing point of the strike by extending asymptotically out to ground and simultaneously to any point in front of oneself, without clamping down on the sword and tweaking one's arms.

It sounds like the finish of the D-shaped cut is more of a drawing slash, as opposed to the more tsuki-like finish of the L-shaped cut?
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Old 09-06-2013, 06:09 AM   #5
Cliff Judge
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Lorien Lowe wrote: View Post
It sounds like the finish of the D-shaped cut is more of a drawing slash, as opposed to the more tsuki-like finish of the L-shaped cut?
Yeah...like casting with a fishing rod.
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:53 PM   #6
Krystal Locke
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Lorien Lowe wrote: View Post
I've moved to Portland from Northern California, and in visiting a new dojo I saw that their strike style was vastly different from what I'm used to. The strike there describes an arc, like the belly of a 'D' when seen from the side, as opposed to the whiplash, 'L' shaped strike that I'm used to seeing (and have had pounded into me). Any comments on the respective strengths/weaknesses of these two styles?
You are aware that your NorCal sensei's weapons style is rather unique, aren't you? I learned some stuff from him back in the day that has served me very well for a long time, but can occasionally get me in trouble for being different. He's the first teacher that put weapons work into a physics and mathematical framework that I can really understand.

Off the cuff opinion, learn both, take the good from each, and make your sword work a new dipthong...
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Old 09-14-2013, 05:40 PM   #7
Lorien Lowe
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Re: bokken strike style

Yes, I know Read Sensei's stuff is unique, but I think that the differences we've already talked about answers my question: tsuki vs. slash. I think you're right that learning both would be a good idea
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Old 09-14-2013, 10:51 PM   #8
Keith Larman
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Re: bokken strike style

A lot depends on why you're moving that piece of wood through the air, neh?

If you're trying to use it like a sword as in an edge weapon intended to cut stuff, well, it does impose some restrictions on use. Not the least of which is doing things that won't damage your blade, doing things that will actually cut stuff, doing things that will actually cut through stuff.

But that said, there's lots of reasons to swing that piece of wood. And they get complicated really quickly.

Most I've seen swinging bokken in Aikido would at best knock a cutting target off the stand if not also damage the blade and mount. Heck, many I see in Aikido have no idea of maai and would be dead before they ever even started to move. A lot of disarms I see start off with the person so bloody close they should have been perforated from repeated thrusts.

But again, all that said, that doesn't mean there aren't all sorts of valuable lesson to be learned by all sorts of styles of practice.

So if you're actually thinking you're doing swordsmanship as in what would work with a real blade, well, now we get in to a much more restrictive and sometimes rather contentious discussion. If we're talking about learning really cool stuff about mechanics, movement, connection, etc., well, hell, all bets are off. Have fun and experiment.

I think that's about all I want to say on this... I'm gonna go finish a sword I'm working on right now instead of watching for responses... Later!

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Old 09-17-2013, 04:22 PM   #9
Lorien Lowe
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Re: bokken strike style

I'm planning on playing with some kendo and/or iaido, so I'm curious to see how my views might change on this.
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Old 09-17-2013, 05:41 PM   #10
Keith Larman
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Re: bokken strike style

Well, I'll point out that even some iai and certainly some kendo folk are often rather surprised to find out how swords cut for real... The iai folk I know tend to adjust pretty quickly to actually cutting targets, but one kendo fella I know had a devil of a time getting away from that snapping "cut" of his. He tended to launch targets across my yard, much to the blade's disappointment... So to speak...

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Old 09-20-2013, 11:17 AM   #11
patrick de block
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Re: bokken strike style

Forget about style. Have a look at Saito's body movement in the slow motion sequence 1:56 - 2:17

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDeX8mAyNP8
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Old 09-20-2013, 12:44 PM   #12
Millsy
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Patrick de Block wrote: View Post
Forget about style. Have a look at Saito's body movement in the slow motion sequence 1:56 - 2:17

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDeX8mAyNP8
Hi Patrick, would be interested in you elaborating.

To me it seems his body movements and posture are very similar to his open hand movements and posture. And I would have thought it is all about Saito's "style"?
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Old 09-20-2013, 01:32 PM   #13
Keith Larman
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Patrick de Block wrote: View Post
Forget about style. Have a look at Saito's body movement in the slow motion sequence 1:56 - 2:17

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDeX8mAyNP8
Okay, fine, I'll put on my flameproof undies... The question remains -- is he demonstrating an aiki movement? Is he demonstrating a movement to push down someone else's weapon? Or is he cutting with the sword?

#1 -- fine, no worries.

#2 -- fine, no worries.

#3 -- No cut.

My point is that style does matter because style exists within a larger context which indicates what the hell it all means. Context. And if you look at it through the eyes of different contexts such an example can range from fantastic stuff to total crap... And everything in between.

Have fun...

Last edited by Keith Larman : 09-20-2013 at 01:34 PM. Reason: Clarification

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Old 09-20-2013, 01:51 PM   #14
patrick de block
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Re: bokken strike style

Hello Tony,

I have never trained with Saito nor with anyone who trained with him. Take my comments with a grain of salt, since I am Tomiki 'style'. Tomiki talked about Aiki Age and Aiki Sage, or rising and falling energy and that's what I saw.

And I don't recall where I've read it, probably on this forum, but Mike Sigman considers the suburi exercises of Saito as 'internal strength' exercises and in that sense he also says that the sword kata of Saito are not 'real' kata but paired suburi exercises.

And if this is all true, it is no wonder that his open hand movements and posture are very similar.

And about style, I don't care. Put some people together and let them train whatever and they will develop a 'movement dialect'. I recognize anyone who does Tomiki Aikido from miles away, but some show a functional expression and others a formal expression. And usually the formal expression is called style.
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Old 09-21-2013, 12:13 AM   #15
patrick de block
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Re: bokken strike style

Hello Keith,

I had another look and I think I agree. He goes up and down and back and forth which is not the same as Aiki Age and Sage which I thought at first. My answer to your first question would also be 'no'.
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Old 09-21-2013, 07:26 AM   #16
Keith Larman
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Patrick de Block wrote: View Post
Hello Keith,

I had another look and I think I agree. He goes up and down and back and forth which is not the same as Aiki Age and Sage which I thought at first. My answer to your first question would also be 'no'.
Well, for me there are a lot of confounding issues when discussing whether something is "aikido" or "aiki". There are so many different understandings of those terms. Then there are also issues of why one does what one does within the context of Aikido. Meaning the "value" of something often has a lot to do with a variety of other things, and some of those things we are no doubt not aware of. Finally, "swordwork" in Aikido has its own form and definitions. And when I see a senior person in Aikido doing something, well, by definition almost that is Aikido (for better or worse sometimes). Not saying that's the case here, mind you, just that when senior folk in Aikido do what they do, well, what they do is aikido for that style. I have no problem with that notion. So when I see stuff like this, well, I have zero problem with it, I'm not sure I'd want to use an actual sword that way to try to cut something. But then again that may not be the intent at all in the first place...

So when we talk in this thread about sword "striking" style (and I really don't like the word "striking" as you don't tend to strike with a sword), well, the way some things are done will work better than other ways. And fwiw I have trained with folk who use a more short "slashing" style rather than the larger casting cuts you see in some iai (not all). And a variety of methods in between. Some seem to have varied ideas with respect to how to cut, but most would work well enough I suppose. But a "cut" with no draw (or push for that matter) that simply lands flat will do some damage but will be very unlikely to cut through much at all -- it's simply a matter of how blades work (which is why I added the caveat above about pushing down the opponent's sword as an interpretation of the movement). The Japanese sword doesn't work all that well as an axe -- wrong blade shape and design. And an awful lot of Aikido Bokken "cuts" I've seen over my time would really not work well with a real blade against, well, most anything as a target.

So all that said I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Saito had tremendous skill, power, etc. And I think the weapons work they do is fantastic in the context of Aikido training. No doubt at all because the context is large, wide ranging and includes a lot of training in how to move the body, connecting up, blending, flowing, timing, etc.

But if an Aikido student wanders out and joins a koryu sword style or a more modern sword style, you'll likely find that the first thing they do is start tearing apart the person's cutting form and building it back up.

Enough from me. Have a grand day everyone.

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Old 09-22-2013, 08:57 AM   #17
SeaGrass
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
But if an Aikido student wanders out and joins a koryu sword style or a more modern sword style, you'll likely find that the first thing they do is start tearing apart the person's cutting form and building it back up.
Yup! It was a shocker (in a very good way) for me when I started Koryu after a number of years in aikido. The way I do suburi now is very different than what I did a few years ago.
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Old 09-24-2013, 06:31 AM   #18
phitruong
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
But a "cut" with no draw (or push for that matter) that simply lands flat will do some damage but will be very unlikely to cut through much at all -- it's simply a matter of how blades work (which is why I added the caveat above about pushing down the opponent's sword as an interpretation of the movement). The Japanese sword doesn't work all that well as an axe -- wrong blade shape and design. And an awful lot of Aikido Bokken "cuts" I've seen over my time would really not work well with a real blade against, well, most anything as a target.
.
i always have the urge to attach a battle axe blade to my big bokken. wonder if it can be done. it must be my barbarian dna sneaking in somewhere. is there such thing as aiki-axe? i would drop the aiki-ken and jo just to learn that, aiki-axe that is. does japanese use axe in battle?

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 09-24-2013, 07:10 AM   #19
Keith Larman
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Re: bokken strike style

I was watching a demo one day sitting next to a friend who did a koryu sword style. The nice guy up on the stage was doing a fairly conventional aikiken type demo. The koryu fella looked at me and asked why it is some aikidoka tend to swing the sword like we're trying to axe murder a munchkin. Yeah, I could only laugh at the comment and nod in agreement.

The problem now is that every time I watch that style of "swinging" a bokken I flash back on that image. Can't quite "unsee" that one.

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Old 09-24-2013, 08:40 AM   #20
lars beyer
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
I was watching a demo one day sitting next to a friend who did a koryu sword style. The nice guy up on the stage was doing a fairly conventional aikiken type demo. The koryu fella looked at me and asked why it is some aikidoka tend to swing the sword like we're trying to axe murder a munchkin. Yeah, I could only laugh at the comment and nod in agreement.

The problem now is that every time I watch that style of "swinging" a bokken I flash back on that image. Can't quite "unsee" that one.
Almost got me hooked into another fruitless argument about aikiken and aikido. Which was never meant to be koryu anyway.
Cheers
Lars

Last edited by lars beyer : 09-24-2013 at 08:45 AM. Reason: Nevermind..
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Old 09-24-2013, 09:27 AM   #21
Janet Rosen
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Re: bokken strike style

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Keith Larman wrote: View Post
...like we're trying to axe murder a munchkin.
Thanks, Keith, I don't think I can unsee that either now

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Old 09-24-2013, 12:04 PM   #22
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
I was watching a demo one day sitting next to a friend who did a koryu sword style. The nice guy up on the stage was doing a fairly conventional aikiken type demo. The koryu fella looked at me and asked why it is some aikidoka tend to swing the sword like we're trying to axe murder a munchkin. Yeah, I could only laugh at the comment and nod in agreement.

The problem now is that every time I watch that style of "swinging" a bokken I flash back on that image. Can't quite "unsee" that one.
In our best Looney Tunes Wagner: "Kill the Munchkin! Kill the Munchkin!!"

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Old 09-24-2013, 07:00 PM   #23
Keith Larman
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Lars Beyer wrote: View Post
Almost got me hooked into another fruitless argument about aikiken and aikido. Which was never meant to be koryu anyway.
Cheers
Lars
As I have written many times, each has their own place. Their own context. Their own value within that context. Confusing contexts is what causes problems.

So no, I do not confuse traditional swordsmanship with aikiken. Although I've seen some who do aikiken in a way that I'd say also contains some aspects of decent swordsmanship. But I've also heard any number of people chopping munchkins who claim their aikiken is also good traditional swordsmanship. Which it simply isn't. I have gone to great lengths in this thread to make this distinction. And it still bugs you?

The question is not whether it is koryu or intended to be koryu. The question is whether a specific style of cut is "effective" as a cut with a specific weapon. That answer depends on what you're intending to do. If you're intending to cut something with a sword, no, it isn't. Everything else is perfectly fair game, however.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 09-24-2013 at 07:04 PM.

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Old 09-25-2013, 08:26 AM   #24
Cliff Judge
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Re: bokken strike style

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
As I have written many times, each has their own place. Their own context. Their own value within that context. Confusing contexts is what causes problems.

So no, I do not confuse traditional swordsmanship with aikiken. Although I've seen some who do aikiken in a way that I'd say also contains some aspects of decent swordsmanship. But I've also heard any number of people chopping munchkins who claim their aikiken is also good traditional swordsmanship. Which it simply isn't. I have gone to great lengths in this thread to make this distinction. And it still bugs you?

The question is not whether it is koryu or intended to be koryu. The question is whether a specific style of cut is "effective" as a cut with a specific weapon. That answer depends on what you're intending to do. If you're intending to cut something with a sword, no, it isn't. Everything else is perfectly fair game, however.
I will quip, here, that some of us also do not confuse traditional swordsmanship with iaido or battodo.
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:58 AM   #25
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Re: bokken strike style

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
I will quip, here, that some of us also do not confuse traditional swordsmanship with iaido or battodo.
I wasn't going to go there given the reaction to what I posted already. Posting that might cause some to burst in to flames... :

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