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Class Notes – Kenjutsu 02

October 20, 2012

2 lessons back, we covered the same material as the first kenjutsu lesson, so I didn’t post any notes from that session. The last lesson we started off with suburi, the basic overhead cut. As usual, I nagged the people about getting the sword tip to arrive together with the end of the step forward.

Teacher – the only job where you are PAID to nag!

One thing about the suburi, it is important to cut AT the target. Some people cut before the target: they complete the cutting movement before the sword would arrive at the target, then use the arm swing for the rest of the way. Some people don’t cut at all. It’s just arm swing all the way. Both are not good, because arm swing isn’t enough to deal with an opponent in armour.

Watch out for that!

We then reviewed Tsuki Komi (附込), the first waza in the set. We have a total of 10-12 lessons to cover 9 waza, so I am quite confident of completing all of them this quarter. That also allows more time for repetition and review.

After that, we did Tsuki Kake (突掛). Essentially, it is starting Tsuki Komi a little earlier, and because starting it earlier has less stopping power, we add a left cut towards the arms too. Thinking about it, Tsuki Kake would probably work better against a more integrated opponent, one who leaves fewer loopholes. Of course, that means we ourselves have to work on not telegraphing our movements!

Because we are doing the waza at half-speed (in a class full of beginners, that is common sense), we often end up with the blade tip between the opponent’s two hands. Then the left cut traps both arms/hands of the opponent, which is cool. This trapping works because the natural instinct and reflex when we feel a threat to our hands while we are holding swords is to grip the sword even harder. That resistance allows both hands to be trapped and you can start a lock from there.

This resistance and tension is what I want my students to be able to recognize. You can feel it even through the bokken. After you recognize this tension, you will be able to recognize and re-create it in an unarmed situation. Sounds like something I said before during hanbo class?

A skilled opponent will immediately recognize the bad situation for what it is and release the hold on the handle WHEN you cut at the hands. Don’t release too early, or the other guy can just cut you and you have nothing to show for it, not even retaining your own weapon. It takes guts to wait for the RIGHT time to release, then soku yaku the hands to cause the other guy to lose his blade. Don’t worry, familiarity helps. So we will come back to this in future lessons!

Final point:

When we give the opponent an opening to attack, we usually bring the kissaki to the right. That way the tenchi kiri will either come straight down or a little to our left. If we shift the kissaki slightly to the left, the attack can come from our right.

If it does, and we Tsuki Kake (while shifting to our left), and get the tip between the opponent’s hands, please, please, please, please DON’T cut to the left after that. If the opponent keeps his blade up and you bring his arms (and blade) to the left, where you are, you could qualify for a Darwin award very quickly!

But that is all part and parcel of learning kenjutsu, is it not? To see how weapons (either your opponents’ or your own) change the situation, and learn how to adapt. And our taijutsu, our skills, our abilities, just grow and flourish as we nourish ourselves with that challenge that just stretches us a little bit more, that makes us a tad bit more uncomfortable than usual. And therein lies the fun behind life!


俊傑 (Shunketsu)



From → bujinkan

  1. Pamela permalink

    Hi! I was wondering where you learned your kenjutsu from? Can share with me please? 🙂


    • I learned my kenjutsu from my Bujinkan sensei, Justyn Obly. He isn’t teaching anymore though. Are you interested in kenjutsu? it is loads of fun! 🙂

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