View Full Version : Tameshigiri
08-05-2000, 06:09 PM
Hello all, I am currently cutting straw mats and goza. Both I have to ship in. I live in Omaha, Nebraska where plenty of hay grows. Does anyone know if hay makes a good cutting target. If so what are the tricks to rolling and soaking? Thanks for any info.
08-05-2000, 07:53 PM
Maki-wara is a standard cutting material. It cuts slightly differently from tatami-omote. It is harder to prepare and it makes a big mess when cut. It was the first material that I cut with my sword.
Bundle the straw to any reasonable diameter and tie it in three or more places. If the straw was green it will strink and you will need to tighten the ties. The initial tightness of the ties and the number of ties are variables that you can experiment with. Submerge the targets in water for three days. The number of ties and their tightness affect the soaking time. Drain the targets and cut.
I hope this helps. I'll see you San Diego.
08-07-2000, 12:23 PM
Hello Mr. Woo,
Submerge the targets in water for three days.
Three days? I haven't cut straw yet, but that seems like a long time. How long do ya'll soak tatami omote targets for?
08-07-2000, 11:57 PM
We use reclaimed tatami omote for targets. There is a wide variation in the quality of the targets. Some are very green and new while others have been heavily trampled and have started to decompose. We generally roll the targets tightly with a ¾" diameter space in the center for expansion. The targets are secured with four rubber bands. The targets are placed on end in a large trash container and water is added to submerge ¾ the length of the target. The targets must be turned over at least once during the soaking period. We have used as little as 18 hours to soak full tatami omote targets but have decided to standardize on a three-day soak time to get the resistance and consistency that we are looking for. The tightness of the rolling for the targets has a great effect on the soaking time. In the future we are going to experiment with using a looser rolling method with a shorter soak time.
As an aside, the targets we prepared for Russell McCartney's successful Guinness Book Record of 1181 cuts were soaked for two days. The targets were rolled very tightly using a ¼" diameter space for expansion. They were very firm and provided great resistance. There were nearly 200 targets left after the record attempt. The students of Ishi Yama ryu were cutting those targets for the following two weeks. Those targets were just as firm after two weeks as after two days of soaking. Evidently tightly rolled tatami omote targets do not get significantly less firm with additional soaking time.
I believe you have experimented with fresh tatami omote from Mugen Dachi Co. Please tell us how you prepared the targets and your experience in cutting them. Did you make any changes in the way you prepared fresh tatami omote versus reclaimed mats for tameshigiri?
Victor Y. Woo
08-08-2000, 12:05 PM
We basically soak the reclaimed tatami omote over night, which means about 8 hours. Then it is allowed to drain for at least a couple of hours before cutting. This provides the resistance of flesh, which was the original gauge used for straw, in the same way that bamboo should represent bone.
About a year ago I saw one well known swordsman demonstrate cutting, and the targets were literally dripping water out of them. He said that when they were wet that they are like cutting through wet concrete or something.
With all due respect to this gentleman, my experience has actually been quite the opposite. Over soaked targets become soggy and the reeds will over saturate with water. This makes the target exceedingly easy to cut, whereas a completely dry target is virtually impossible to cut through.
As far as new tatami omote goes, they do seem to absorb water more rapidly - probably due to the reeds being more alive (greenish), and the fact that they have not been squashed by people walking on them.
I did test the new tatami mats being offered by the "Mugen Dachi Company", and they were exceptional (check http://www.tameshigiri.com for more info on these).
The night before the testing, our Australian instructor and I rolled and tied the mats until 1am (we were drinking heavily, and it seemed to slow down our productivity a tad).
Then, we got up around 7-8am to get ready and pack everything up, and let the targets drain until about noon while I taught the Saturday Aikido class. My associate was too hung over to hold a sword, so I cut them all myself using several different weapons. The targets soaked for about 6-7 hours, and drained for another good 4-5 hours. The consistancy was perfect, except for the o-makiwara I tried to cut which didn't get soaked enough all the way through.
Anyone interested in the review of the Mugen Dachi Co. mats can take check it at:
There are several pictures, and I hope to convert some video that was taken into an mpeg in the near future if I can figure out how to do it!
As long as I'm at it, there are some mpegs I threw up on my page that shows aspects 4 of the 5 areas of training for Shinkendo, for those that have never seen any of it:
Still a work in progress - sorry for the shameless plug!
But anyway, it's interesting to hear how other groups train and how they prepare targets.
[Edited by Nathan Scott on 08-08-2000 at 01:07 PM]
Nathan & Victor,
I've never had to soak a makiwara longer than 12 hours -- even the brand new Mugen Dachi tatami-omote. I prefer them to drain for about 2 hours if I've the luxury of driving out to the dojo early enough.
I agree with Scott that a sopping wet makiwara is easy to cut, whereas dryer versions are the more difficult.
I fold the mats into thirds (similar to "U"-folding a letter prior to placing it into an envelope), then tightly roll the mat. I don't allow for any dowel gap if I can help it -- so that after soaking, there is no space at all at the core. I then forcefully ram the bottom of the makiwara onto the cutting stand's 1" x 4" sharpened dowel.
Kerwham! Voilla! Ready for tameshigiri.
Ain't life grand? :D
08-09-2000, 11:05 PM
Nathan and Guy,
We generally soak the reclaimed tatami omote for several days and drain them ½ hour before cutting. I get the feeling the two of you think we are a bunch of wimps for cutting soggy targets ;) . Well at least we are not as wimpy as those people that are still cutting beach mats :D. I guess I will get the chance to cut "properly prepared" targets for real men in a week or so at the Dragon Times seminar.
Yes, It is very illuminating the way various dojos prepare targets for cutting. By the way, there is a new umbrella organization that is trying to make tameshigiri a competitive event on a national scale. It is named the North American Bladesman Association. I'll pass this thread on to my sensei. The preparation of targets will have to be standardized by a consensus of the participating organizations.
Well at least we are not as wimpy as those people that are still cutting beach mats.
OUCH! That smarted! :D
I guess I will get the chance to cut "properly prepared" targets for real men in a week or so at the Dragon Times seminar.
Hopefully the mats will arrive on time. Dave Wilson of Mugen Dachi is on holiday and says we should get them on time. .....
Guy (crossing my fingers) Power
08-10-2000, 02:02 PM
Hello Mr. Woo,
I get the feeling the two of you think we are a bunch of wimps for cutting soggy targets.
Hey now, I never said anything about wimpy targets and soggy swordsman! Sorry if I seemed a bit surprised, but I've never heard of anyone soaking targets for that long.
But each style has their own methods and logic - and I'm sure Mr. McCartney has his reasons.
See you soon,
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