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Thread: Questions about Shin Choku-Giri & Purpose of Shinkendo

  1. #1
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    Greetings again, Obata Sensei,

    this time I will address your sword art instead of the Taijutsu-related question in my first post. I have to admit that I know virtually nothing about Shinkendo, except from what I've read here. Therefore, the first (technical) question is in reference to your books 'Naked Blade', 'Crimson Steel' and your video with the same title, containing Toyama Ryu Battojutsu.

    1.) In the books and video already mentioned, you show a straight downward cut called Shin Choku-Giri. It obviously is done with a very big Furikaburi (I don't know, if this term applies to your art), that surprises me. To me it seems that you even make a hollow back, arching your back to the rear when the sword is raised.

    I practice a style of Iaijutsu, that has it's roots in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (as well as the techniques taught in the Toyama Gakko, as far as I know). While I suppose that art cannot be classified as 'battlefield-oriented', I was taught never to 'open' the upper body that much, not only because that makes one extremly vulnerable while in this position, but also because it seems to destroy the proper feeling and 'tension' in the Tanden and the whole body-position. Would you mind to explain about this technique? Is it possible that it is specifically designed as a means for some of the forms of Tameshigiri you mentioned in another thread, instead of being a 'fighting-technique'?

    2.a) That technical question directly led me to a more general consideration I've had for some time now, and I would be glad to here your opinion on this. Guessing that with the creation of Shinkendo you did not intend to invent a new sport, nor to train people for using swords in actual combat, I think of it as something I usually call 'Budo' (which is, in my opinion, something different than mere sport, despite how it is viewed nowadays by a lot of people, it seems). After that, could you please explain your view of the purpose of Shinkendo, or the purpose of practicing Shinkendo?

    2.b) Now we come to the part that I'm thinking over for some time now. If a martial art (in general) is

    I. not intended for providing one with techniques for actual combat on the battlefield or in self-defense,
    II. not intended to win any (sport-) competitions with, and
    III. is not a traditional school that should be preserved in it's original, unchanged entity,

    and the techniques are sometimes mentioned as being only the surface of such arts, why does it really matter if the techniques are still original, in the sense of 'battlefield-oriented'? (of course, I don't think about completely fancy bogus techniques, but simply about authentic techniques that have changed with times and may have become what is called 'Dojo-techniques'). I'm not sure what I should think about that and would love to hear your opinion on the matter.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Reinberger

  2. #2
    Obata T Guest

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    Hello,

    The books "Naked Blade" and "Crimson Steel" [and the"Crimson Steel" video] are very different from what I do now, please
    read or look at my "Shinkendo" material or video. Then you will get a better view of my martial art.

    [I've recently put up some MPEG videos clips showing samples of 4 of the 5 areas of study in Shinkendo on my web page. Unfortunately, it is not Obata Soke performing, but currently they are the only samples available on the internet: http://www.shinkendo.com/library.html NS]

    This time I will address your sword art instead of the Taijutsu-related question in my first post. I have to admit that I know virtually nothing about Shinkendo, except from what I've read here. Therefore, the first (technical) question is in reference to your books 'Naked Blade', 'Crimson Steel' and your video with the same title, containing Toyama Ryu Battojutsu.

    1.) In the books and video already mentioned, you show a straight downward cut called Shin Choku-Giri. It obviously is done with a very big Furikaburi (I don't know, if this term applies to your art), that surprises me. To me it seems that you even make a hollow back, arching your back to the rear when the sword is raised.

    I practice a style of Iaijutsu, that has it's roots in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (as well as the techniques taught in the Toyama Gakko, as far as I know). While I suppose that art cannot be classified as 'battlefield-oriented', I was taught never to 'open' the upper body that much, not only because that makes one extremly vulnerable while in this position, but also because it seems to destroy the proper feeling and 'tension' in the Tanden and the whole body-position. Would you mind to explain about this technique? Is it possible that it is specifically designed as a means for some of the forms of Tameshigiri you mentioned in another thread, instead of being a 'fighting-technique'?
    Think battle fighting...you and your enemy are wearing thick armor and iron plated helmets. When you cut down at an enemy, you must swing so you will cut your enemies armor [this is one strategy]. If you do little swings, it is too weak. Even if you are vulnerable when you swing back, it is the only way you can cut through armor while you yourself are also wearing armor.

    95% or Iaido/Iaijutsu is performed from seiza or tatehiza, so as a result, many students of Iai don't understand what Tameshigiri and Shito is.

    When you cut down into a kabuto or other such hard material, you are going to test the sword as well as your own ability.

    However, since Tameshigiri and Shito are different types of practices, there are many situations that people may not understand as a result.

    I have studied several types of swordsmanship, Japanese military history, and have also been trained [and participated] in [combat/war] choreography in Japan, so I feel I have a reasonable understanding of Japanese battlefighting (1200 years of Samurai history). At the Wakakoma we researched and were trained in situations that included criminal cases, battle fighting, middle to modern era fighting, revenge/ambush situations, etc.

    If someone has never done Tameshigiri on harder materials such as bamboo, I feel it is impossible to understand how much power you will really need when you cut.

    2.a) That technical question directly led me to a more general consideration I've had for some time now, and I would be glad to here your opinion on this. Guessing that with the creation of Shinkendo you did not intend to invent a new sport, nor to train people for using swords in actual combat, I think of it as something I usually call 'Budo' (which is, in my opinion, something different than mere sport, despite how it is viewed nowadays by a lot of people, it seems). After that, could you please explain your view of the purpose of Shinkendo, or the purpose of practicing Shinkendo?
    When I came here 20 years ago, I was teaching Battodo [USA Battodo Renmei] and Toyama ryu Battodo. However, I've watched arts such as these become increasingly weakened in Japan. High dan ranks have become easy to achieve over a short period of training, there are many cases where people get hurt or end up damaging the sword when doing Tameshigiri, and many swordsman show poor demonstration manner [etiquette].

    There is a case recently here in America where one instructor of Toyama Ryu and Battodo (from Japan) got into a fight with a hotel roommate of another art, and he drew his sword and tried to attack his roommate. He was arrested and sent back to Japan. Additionally, there have been times when swordsman have even cut their own fingers off in the haste of drawing.

    Some instructors will give shodan to those that come to their seminar. Since their style does not have alot of techniques, cutting has become the main objective of their style. In these cases, tachiuchi is practiced very little - and often times not at all.

    I don't mean to upset anyone by stating this, but these are facts and [also reflect] my experiences.

    This is why I decided to establish Shinkendo. Shinkendo does not use the Dan/Kyu system, and it's kyoka [curriculum] is based on Suburi, Battoho, Tanrengata, Tachiuchi, and Tameshgiri. This is a martial art where we do not focus on only kata, or only sparring, or only cutting but we focus on all five points- Gorin Goho Gogyo.

    Shinkendo uses the Kuyo Junikun ["twelve precepts of the nine planets strategem"] and hachido ["eight-fold way"] philosophy that you cannot find anywhere else. You can train the mind, spirit and body in this way. This is why we do not consider ourselves a type of "Sho no Budo ryu-ha" [an isolated (small) family martial art] but as "Dai no Budo Shinkendo" [a martial art ("way of the serious sword") that is all encompassing, global in nature].

    In Shinkendo, we can try competitions [within our own Federation], but this is not designed to be the main point, that is why, as I mentioned, you try to learn Chudo Seishin...Jinsei Shinkendo [The middle/moderate way of mind and spirit...life is Shinkendo).


    2.b) Now we come to the part that I'm thinking over for some time now. If a martial art (in general) is

    I. not intended for providing one with techniques for actual combat on the battlefield or in self-defense,
    II. not intended to win any (sport-) competitions with, and
    III. is not a traditional school that should be preserved in it's original, unchanged entity, and the techniques are sometimes mentioned as being only the surface of such arts, why does it really matter if the techniques are still original, in the sense of 'battlefield-oriented'? (of course, I don't think about completely fancy bogus techniques, but simply about authentic techniques that have changed with times and may have become what is called 'Dojo-techniques').

    I'm not sure what I should think about that and would love to hear your opinion on the matter.
    What you are saying is quite true. If I was to teach Shinkendo to an army, they could go out and use the techniques with success in war. On the other hand, students
    go from simple to complex and they enjoy sparring. We have many variations in our techniques from kata to sparring, and it makes you use your cerebrum and cerebellum constantly. That is why we consider our Shinkendo REAL SWORDSMANSHIP. When you learn real philosophy and techniques, you improve yourself thoroughly.

    If I missed any of your questions, please let me know!!


    International Shinkendo Federation,

    [Edited by Obata T on 08-25-2000 at 01:26 PM]

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    Hello,

    I'd like to offer further comment on a few specifics, if I may:

    I believe the specific "Shinchokugiri" your referring to, by the sound of it, is the one in which we stand with feet wide apart (like a high horse stance) and cut strongly. This technique is not a sparring technique, but primarily that of a test cutting method. We sometimes call this technique "Dotangiri", in reference to the mound (dotan) that techniques like this were originally used to test cut.

    This could also be considered a "finishing technique" on the battlefield.

    The form used in this technique is physically efficient and very strong. Since it is a straight cut, the hips must move forward and back to utilize the hip power.

    In regards to why a modern Budo might use "real techniques", there is another element to this question that is hard to put into words. There is a certain "spirit/mind forging" that takes place when put under the stress of serious (potentially dangerous/life threatening) activities. The more experience in this realm, the stronger the spirit/mind becomes.

    Training seriously under such conditions also puts you into a "zone" - the more potentially threatening the activity (ala "extreme sports"), the more the student will sharpen their focus and enter more deeply into this zone. The zone is something that is an important place for a serious martial artist to be familiar with, as it promotes desirable qualities under stressful situations, such as Mushin, Fudoshin, Suigetsu, Takemusu, etc.

    And finally, one important lesson in martial arts (IMHO) is compassion for other human beings. Once a student has been on the receiving end of real techniques, and has perceived the potential for "destruction" and the pain that is involved in such techniques, a normal, healthy person will develop a deep compassion for life, and will often actively move towards easing human suffering in general as a result. This attitude is what seperates "Gentleman Budoka" from simply violent, trained killers (Katsujinken/Satsujinken).

    Anyway, I'm not saying that practice should be unnecessarily dangerous by any means; safety should be the primary concern. Just that real techniques change the student in many ways. Kind of like the feeling that happens when you graduate from using only a wooden bokken to a razor sharp katana. I found that I sweated profusely when I first transitioned, even though I thought I was comfortable learning with it and was not doing anything vigorous.

    I personally believe that the inherent dangers in training swordmanship is one of the reasons that swordsmanship was considered the core of Samurai training, even though it was generally not the main weapon used in battles.

    Many of our students world wide are LEO, Military, Security Professionals, etc. and I've been told that this element of realism is why they train in Shinkendo.

    Hope this helps a little,

    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Hello, Obata Sensei. Welcome to E-Budo.

    I have a question regarding the use of the sword on the battlefield. I do not claim to be an expert of any kind, but I am under the impression that, in general, the sword on the battlefield in Japan was used not to cut through heavy armor, such as the kabuto, but rather to attack weak points in the enemy's armor. Thus, rather than attempting to chop through the helmet (probably a very difficult thing to do except for the most expert swordsman armed with a very heavy blade), the swordsman would aim for the junction of the neck and shoulder (kesa-giri), the underside of the arm or wrist, the armpit, the inner part of the thigh, the back of the knee or ankle, or other such vulnerable targets that were unprotected, or only lightly protected, by traditional Japanese armor. The thrust to the face was also used for this reason, as I understand.

    In such situations, it would not be necessary to deliver devestatingly powerful blows to incapacitate the enemy by severing a vital tendon or artery. It seems from what little I know that many of the techniques in the older ryu are designed for this sort of attack. Of course, one should train so that in time of need one would be able to deliver strong attacks; and, of course, a powerful blow delivered with a heavy weapon could stun the enemy or break bones, even if the armor was not penetrated.

    In any case, I would be very interested in hearing your views on this.

    Earl Hartman
    Earl Hartman

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    Obata Sensei and Mr. Scott,

    thank you very much for the informative responses, and for sharing your views with us. Mr. Scott, thank you also for your endeavors to make this communication possible, and for providing the link.

    95% or Iaido/Iaijutsu is performed from seiza or tatehiza, so as a result, many students of Iai don't understand what Tameshigiri and Shito is.
    Just for the record, that might not apply to all styles. In Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu as it is taught today (though there are different lines with slightly different curricula, but that doesn't change very much), for example, there are the following sets:

    Shoden: 10 forms from Seiza, one from standing position.
    Chuden: 10 forms from Tate hiza.
    Okuden: 8 forms from Tate hiza, 10 forms from standing position, 3 forms from Seiza.
    Then there is
    Batto Ho: 7 + 4 = 11 forms from standing position.
    Bangai no Bu: 4 forms from standing position.
    Tachi uchi no kurai: 10 forms from standing position.

    This makes a total of 31 forms from sitting positions, and 36 forms from standing positions. Pretty much a Chudo in that regard, I suppose, with a light overweight on standing techniques. Of course, the Suburi-practice is also not done while sitting, usually.

    Another thing is that - at least in the style I practice - regardless of the fact that what we do is called 'Iaijutsu' we also do Tameshigiri occasionally.

    Domo arigato gozaimashita,

    Robert Reinberger

  6. #6
    Obata T Guest

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    Regarding Shinchokugiri; it is basically a test-cutting technique.

    A Suemono is a target that doesn't move [hence the term "suemonogiri" NS]. There are many records of tests and
    competitions using such techniques.

    First of all, you must understand these differences; a sword tester [shito], and a swordsman's style tameshigiri [kenshi shizan].

    As for cutting through a helmet or armor during times of war, there seems to be alot of confusion over this idea. One cannot understand these fine points if they only study a style of "dojo kenpo" [dojo swordsmanship] as many do. It is necessary to research such things outside the dojo mindset.

    There are several practices that seem to be not well known regarding battlefield fighting:

    Before a battle, one would strike sand over and over with the cutting edge of their sword. This is called "Habiki. This means that you unsharpen your blade so it doesn't chip or crack on impact of hard materials.

    Then you get close to the enemy and strike their helmet causing them to become unconscious or possibly much worse, then follow this attack with a thrust. No matter how many times you attack the enemy with a rounded sword [edge], the sword will almost never crack or get damaged [if used within reason]. There are many things that are done that people in
    the modern ages would probably never think of.

    In the battle [at Ueno mountain] during the end of the civil war, there was a record made of battlefield casulties.

    Besides the guns, 95% of all the attacks [as confirmed on the bodies of war dead] were from kesa giri, and of those, 25% were killed from thrusts. Horizontal and strait cuts do not seem to have been used very often in cases such as these.

    Of course, I am well aware of the methods of cutting around armor as taught by some ryu-ha. This is common practice.

    When it is a one on one attack, better trained bushi will use techniques that are known to win over their enemy [like those described in the above question]. However, in the heat of battle, Kiai, Kesagiri, Tsuki Tobashi are used commonly along with Taisabaki and Ashisabaki.

    Smaller, refined attacks like under the arm, etc. were not used too often.

    I can talk on and on about battles and historical incidents of wars, etc. If I write about it in a book someday, please use that opportunity to question the writings and send me comments after you read it.

    There exists Satsujinken and Katsujinken, Shinkendo is Chudo.

    International Shinkendo Federation,

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    In the battle [at Ueno mountain] during the end of the civil war, there was a record made of battlefield casulties. Besides the guns, 95% of all the attacks [as confirmed on the bodies of war dead] were from kesa giri, and of those, 25% were killed from thrusts. Horizontal and strait cuts do not seem to have been used very often in cases such as these.
    Interesting details. In fact, what always surprised me more than the techniques done from sitting, is the relatively rare use of Kesa giri in Iaijutsu (in the styles I'm familiar with, at least).

    In another thread, you wrote:

    In modern times, we teach students to care for their partner, so all students can enjoy the art. However, I am confident our techniques can actually be used in war
    successfully if need be. This is my opinion, but I don't think a Budo is complete without both the qualities of Killing and Saving.
    I think, that fits also as another answer to my above question [2.b)].

    So again, thank you very much Obata Sensei and Mr. Scott, for your considerations and answers, and Mr. Hartman for adressing that additional aspect.

  8. #8
    Obata T Guest

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    I think you are taking the Chudo Seishin meaning the wrong way. In this case; Chudo does not only mean middle way.

    Chudo Seishin also means Chudo spirits, mind, balance, etc. If you say that you have both Tachiwaza and Suwariwaza, it does not mean it is Chudo or Chudo Seishin. This Chudo does not apply to techniques only, Chudo Seishin applies to the person to improve their life. Please study the true meaning of Chudo Seishin first, then it can help you in your life.

    It is very difficult to explain the Chudo Seishin, YOU must be the one to learn it. If you do not understand the true meaning, you cannot use it. Shinkendo's main point is Chudo Seishin.

    In Shinkendo's Battoho alone, we have at least 150 not counting variations that can be practiced. No matter how much Kata is practiced, it isn't enough. This is why we include many other points including Tachiuchi. Shinkendo is not all about techniques, you train your mind and body with the Gorin Goho Gogyo, Kihon Shikon, Kuyo Junikun, and Hachido.

    I have been in the movie society in Japan. I have talked to writers, producers, and historians. You sit down with wakizashi and tanto, but a samurai never wore a long sword in castles, at a friends house, or somewhere important. This is a way of showing respect.

    I have studied and heard first hand about battle stories and strategies from the wars and battles in the ancient times, civil wars, edo era, end of edo, WWI, WWII. There are many ways to fight in battle, but Suwari waza was never used. If there is a fight inside a house, a wakizashi or tanto is used.

    In Shinkendo's Hachido, there is Dai no Budo and Sho no Budo.

    International Shinkendo Federation,

    [Edited by Obata T on 08-27-2000 at 04:58 PM]

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