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by Niall Matthews

photo: Craftsman from Alan Davey's collection
a short sword
in his waistband
winter moon
Issa, Haiku: A Passerby

To Ireland, I; our separated fortune
Shall keep us both the safer. Where we are
There's daggers in men's smiles; the near in blood,
The nearer bloody.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, act 2 scene 3

Noble heroes, my sword and yours are kin. Good sparks and
lustrous, a word, good metals: you shall find in the regiment of
the Spinii one Captain Spurio, with his cicatrice, an emblem of
war, here on his sinister cheek; it was this very sword
entrench'd it. Say to him I live; and observe his reports for me.
William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well, act 2 scene 1

But when Curtana will not do the deed.
You lay that pointless clergy-weapon by,
And to the laws, your sword of justice, fly.
John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther

Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 3 scene 2

Every fight should be fought as if life were at stake,
even when you're fighting with wooden swords.
Then the martial arts would find their rightful place again,
and become the practice of the way.
Taisen Deshimaru, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts
I have written about swords and words before here.

In Japanese the word for a real sword is shinken. And the same word is used commonly now in Japanese to mean serious.

There are a few sword metaphors used in modern Japanese.

One is tantou chokunyuu. It means to be straightforward or direct.

Another phrase is ittouryoudan. It means to cut in two with a single stroke. So it is used to mean doing something decisively. In English we have a similar saying: to cut the Gordian knot.

We use a few words from swords and other weapons in English. We look daggers. Or fall on our swords. We talk about rapier wit. Or a double-edged sword. Cutting words or pointed remarks. Or a sharp tongue. Or losing our edge.

In the above quote from John Dryden Curtana was the name of the sword of King Edward the Confessor of England. It was a symbol of mercy. It had no point.

And budo training should always be shinken. Train as seriously as if you were using a live blade.


William Shakespeare, The Complete Works

John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther

Haiku by Issa
Attached Images
File Type: pdf nmatthews_2013_05.pdf (485.2 KB, 3 views)
Old 05-24-2013, 05:40 AM   #2
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: Shinken

Yes agreed.

All blade work is to cut through something.

Perhaps the most important thing to cut through is the illusions created by our ignorance?

Perhaps we need to move, see, think, and feel as if we are always holding a blade?

Well said.

Compliments and appreciation.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-27-2013, 02:23 AM   #3
Robert Cowham
Dojo: East Sheen Aikido and Kashima No Tachi
Location: London, UK
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 289
Re: Shinken

Good thoughts! One of the meanings of harai dachi with a shinken is a cutting away, or a sweeping away of impurities, in the sense of an exorcism. Practice with a shinken requires focus and it challenges us in beneficial ways.
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Old 06-07-2013, 10:02 AM   #4
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niall's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 394
Re: Shinken

Thanks Lynn. I really like your comment about cutting through the illusions created by our ignorance.

Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Robert. You are right. A shinken requires focus and concentration. And at another level we humans have continually to cut away pride and ego and all our other negative parts.

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats

aikiweb blog|wordpress blog
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Old 06-21-2013, 10:59 AM   #5
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: Shinken

Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
All blade work is to cut through something. [\]
Lynn, may we not also use our swords defensively? Granted, it still cuts through air, it might cut through the timing of an attack, it might cut through the mind -- but does not a sword, when used well, also have the capacity to unify?

And as long as we're talking about swords and words, I am forever fascinated by the dual nature of the English word "cleave."
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