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Thread: Is Kenjutsu a Sword Art in Itself?

  1. #76
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    I think I can see where Erik was coming from.."hobby" does seem like a somewhat loose kind of term, kind of lumping the Budo together with softball and numismatics. Cady is right that there are many who do approach their art from that sort of angle. There are also many who strive to make their art a more meaningful part of their lives..to "live" their art, even if they don't get paid for it. It is the same with serious artists of every sort. Many of the most famous painters in history made very little money from their work...but if someone told Gauguin that his painting was a hobby, he would probably be insulted somewhat.

    At any rate, Iai would be the most useful and perhaps authentic if paired with study and practice of kenjutsu or kendo. As Darrell Craig said, Iai alone is a bit like putting on a tuxedo with nowhere to go. All the same, it seems logical that one must learn how to draw the sword first. If a person has not learned the difference between a skillet and a stock pot, it is useless to try and teach them how to make an omelet.

    On the other hand, the study of most of the Koryu is incomplete in this context. If we judge the "battlefield validity" in this way, of what use is skill with naginata and yari if the practicioner doesn't have a clue how to tie their waraji, or correctly don a kobuto so that it doesn't fall over their eyes? Since we aren't going to have to re-fight the Onin War, whether or not something is a "battlefield art" doesn't seem to much matter. Those that study Iai or naginatajutsu or kenjutsu usually know that the practical application of what they practice will never occur. Most I have spoken with pursue their arts to better themselves mentally and spiritually by the quest for excellence. And, of course, to keep alive the heritage of the Bushi. <I> Den.</I>

    [Edited by Soulend on 12-21-2000 at 02:46 PM]
    David F. Craik

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    Margaret:

    David didn't throw the rock, he used a sling. (Slingers were important components of ancient near Eastern armies.) The Illiad has a lovely scene, depicted in gory detail, of a chariot driver getting hit in the forehead with a thrown rock and having his eyes spurt out.

    Dan:

    Thanks for helping to inject the proper reality check. Glad someone else is on the same page.

    Anybody who had done iai for even a just a little while and asked a few simple questions will know that chiburi and noto in iai kata are formalized motions just used to finish off the kata so the training goes smoothly from one form to the next. In reality, no one is going to be enough of an idiot to put his sword away before he has properly cleaned off all of the blood, fat, hair, grey matter, and bone chips that would be sticking to the sword after he had offed a few people. He would either wipe the sword off on the clothes of the fallen enemy or use paper he carried around just for that purpose.

    It's kind of disheartening to know that in order to really train realistically I need to get a horse in addition to all the other stuff. Do you realize how much space is required to set up proper courses for yabusame and kasagake? Geez.

    Earl Hartman

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    Posted by Cady:
    "Iai represents one small part of the larger picture."

    Of course this is true. Even Ryu that specialize or emphasize Iai contain paired kata(even some Ryu many would criticize as being 'modern', such as MJER,MSR,Mugai Ryu,etc).

    "To my eyes, it is more at home in duels than in battles."

    This is what several Iai proponents have been saying repeatedly throughout this thread. However, just because an art is not meant for the battlefield does not mean it is not a martial art. Generally, bujutsu are arts meant for use by the warrior class. Iai is the method of using the sword in day to day situations, or even in encampment. Another great example of this type of art is Shinto Muso Ryu Jojutsu. SMR is clearly a koryu bujutsu, but not a "battlefield" art. It is, like Iai, an art for 'individual combat'(Duel, assassination, surprise attack,etc).

    "I do know for a fact that in the classical kenjutsu I study, it is the very last part of the curriculum that starts with cuts, the procedes to kata, shiai, and finally iai."

    Interesting. According to available literature, as well as written accounts by people who have trained with either Otake or Sugino, Iai is the FIRST thing taught in TSKSR.

    When trying to objectively discuss this art(Iai), it is important to first understand the purpose of the art. It is not meant to replace or compete with a sogo bujutsu. Nonetheless, it played an important role in the life of the classical warrior, important enough to be included in the curriculum of most schools. Also keep in mind that MJER/MSR was, just a couple of generations ago, a fairly comprehensive system(see Earl's post on 11-21-2000 entitled MJER Curriculum), specializing in methods of single combat. AFAIK, the bojutsu, yawara, and some of the paired stuff, is either lost, or very rare. Maybe it's still practiced by a few old men in Shikoku.
    I guess my point is this: if you are required to carry daisho all day, you better be able to bring them into action. IMHO, this is where you start--you have to be able to safely draw the weapon before you do anything else.(I have examined an Iaito used briefly by a "kenjutsu" practicioner who constantly feels a need to explain that Iai is not a "martial" art. The saya was almost completely split open from one of his first attempts at nukitsuke). It is certainly not the end-all of training with the sword, but it is an important beginning.

    Regards,
    Brian Dunham
    MSR SanShinKai

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    Cool

    Brian,
    I never, ever said that iai was not martial. Only that I do not believe it was meant to be a stand-alone skill. Nowadays, when we can have hobbies (cool yer jets, Erik. LOL!), studying iai alone, kenjutsu alone or jujutsu alone can be a deep and fulfilling pursuit. Soitenly!

    cg
    Cady Goldfield

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    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
    Of course I can picture there being a time to draw...once... on the battlefield.
    So Iai does have battlefield utility, or is it your position that if you only have to do it once it doesn't count? Make up your mind Cady.

    I might point out that if you are in the position where you have to draw, even once, and you do it wrong, you'll probably never need to do it again, ever.

    Aside from that, did you even read my post?
    Dan Beaird

    The best time to be a hero is when all the other chaps are dead, God rest 'em, and you can take the credit.

    H. Flashman V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E.

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    Oh, fer cryin' out loud, Dan. The only thing I've been trying to say here is that iai is not a stand-alone art capable of providing a solid fighting skill for the battlefield. It was never intended to be. It is one fraction of a much larger, cogent combat method. I'm sure that any good swordsman who knows his iai would have been able to save his a** by drawing that sword and making a cut when his yari broke (and then his "bo," and then his "jo"...).

    But, o' come on! To pretend that having only iaijutsu skills could accommodate the strategic needs of all-out combat is just plain dreamin'. I'd compare it to kenjutsu and the other weaponry systems, the way I'd compare the skill of loading, aiming and firing a single pistol shot to the entire gamut of firearm combat and strategies. Think tactics and strategy for the whole-scale fight.

    To kill with one stroke is the apex of skill, but for most of humanity, it's going to take a lot more to handle things when your draw-and-cut fails to meet the mark. You need a followup, whether it's a one-on-one duel, or a battlefield melee.

    And yes, I read your post.

    I get the strong impression that a lot of iai guys are way serious dudes. It's like discussing religion and politics! So different than talking with, say jujutsuka and hard-contact karateka. I wonder whether it has to do with the difference in training? Jujutsuka and the like have had the mettle of their skills tested physically, intensely and often painfully on the mats. So, it leaves little question of whether a technique or approach is effective or "martial" or not. The skilled karateka, jujutsuka and kenjutsuka I've had the pleasure to know have rarely -- if ever -- gotten so defensive over hypotheticals. And when they speak of "actuals" -- what they've encountered in "real life," they are straightforward and frank about the efficacy, or lack thereof, of their waza application.

    Fascinating arts, and interesting things to ponder during the holiday madness...

    cg

    Cady Goldfield

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    Am I wrong in assuming that a popular misconception of iai is that the iai practioner draws a blank look on his face if forced to use his sword after the draw???

    From a pure technical standpoint, everything after the draw is "kenjutsu" - and all MJER waza cover a variety of situations (NOT on the battlefield ;-) against one, two, or more opponents - after the draw.

    And here again, I think many many people equate iai with seitei kata - which gives the impression that those iaiDO folks only do the solo stuff.

    However, many MJER ryuha still practice paired kata (tachi uchi no kurai) which again covers various situations, sword techniques, target areas, distance, timing - just....like....kenjutsu.

    I am not espousing the viewpoint that iai (the drawing and cutting with the sword) is comprehensive and the end all of sword arts.

    I think most of us agree that it is only one component (dead horse?)

    The misconceptions (and hence alot of the arguments and sniping) people have is that all of iai is the practice of waza (solo) and even that does not deal with what happens after the draw. Which is not the case.

    And boy, would I love to study more of kenjutsu and jojutsu and even kendo, oh and jujutsu, maybe even aikido.

    But dang, real "life" (wife, kids, house, job, teaching iai)seem to suck the little waking moments I have - leaving none to persue other arts. I'm jealous and envious of those who have the luxury of time to do so!!

    I'm sure if a "real" samurai from the past were to read these posts he'd be beside himself with laughter - because all of these arts we are discussing would have been studied.

    Erik Tracy
    MJER iai-jutsu
    Jikishin-Kai


  8. #83
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    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
    I wonder whether it has to do with the difference in training? Jujutsuka and the like have had the mettle of their skills tested physically, intensely and often painfully on the mats.

    Cady:

    You seem to be implying that iai people are thin-skinned and defensive becasue of the nature of their training, which apparently does not include having their skills tested "physically, intensely and often painfully" (on the mats or elsewhere).

    The impression you give is that you believe that iai people somehow are not qualified to discuss martial things because they haven't been thrown around or punched a lot. I hope I am mistaken.

    Did you ever stop to think that if people practiced iai on each other they would all be dead? This gets back to the discussion of the validity of kata. As far as full contact karate goes, I am under the impression that in the Kyokushinkai, for instance, no punches to the head are allowed. I know that I do not have the stones to go into something like Kyokushinkai karate, and I mean no disprespect to those who practice it, but no matter how intense, physical, and painful it is, from a strictly theoretical point of view, it has to be somewhat unrealistic as an unarmed fighting system if you are not allowed to hit someone in the head with your fist.

    Regading jujutsu, did the jujutsu practitioners tell you how their skills were tested in "real life"? Were they attacked on the street, did they engage in no-holds-barred matches, did they engage in supervised randori, or did they practice kata (physically, intensely and often painfully, of course).

    In any case, we could also question whether any sort of training, even of the most painful kind, so long as it has rules of any kind, is "real" training for "combat". As I have said before, I trained in kendo with Japanese riot squad police. They were all bigger, stronger, and better than me. I was scared to death and it hurt like hell. But I know that kendo, for all of its value as tough training, is not a "real fighting art" in terms of its technique. However, I learned a lot about what a fight feels like (at least a non-deadly one). Still, would this help me if I knew that one stroke from a sword would settle the whole matter? When this is the possibility, the attitude towards training and technique is going to be funamentally different than that of a karateka who knows from experience that he can take a lot of shots and still be able to fight.

    This whole thread started when someone said, in so many words, that "iaido is not a fighting art". It may very well be that in this day and age the way in which it is practiced by a lot of people does not prepare someone for "combat", especially as we would experience it today. However, this can be said of many of the arts we practice. Almost all of them, for that matter, if they involve any sort of archaic weapon not readily available to us today. They may help us in many ways, especially in terms of mindset and strategy and just getting used to the idea of a fight, among other things, but I believe that these things can be gotten just as well by training in a modern fighting system so long as it is a solid one and you have a good teacher. Classical Japanese budo are not necessary for this.

    This is primarily a discussion about theory and history. It is not a discussion about how many black eyes you have to get before you have the right to talk about your art. Or are we back to the "let's discuss it on the mats" thing?
    Earl Hartman

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    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
    Oh, fer cryin' out loud, Dan. The only thing I've been trying to say here is that iai is not a stand-alone art capable of providing a solid fighting skill for the battlefield. ...(snip)...

    But, o' come on! To pretend that having only iaijutsu skills could accommodate the strategic needs of all-out combat is just plain dreamin'....

    Nowhere in this thread has anyone even suggested that Iai is all you need to know to survive on a feudal Japanese battlefield or even in a less formal killing affair. Go back and look how it all started. Sweeping statements that Iai is not a "fighting" art, that it is not a "battlefield" art and the further implication that it is not a martial art. Add to that the further arguments that Iai (or in some schools) is too preoccupied with kata which have no use or function in combat. Both of these arguments have been reasonably refuted without casting doubt on the utility of other martial arts and, I might add, without implying that (as John Lennon might say) Iai is all you need.

    This is a reasonable discussion, and so far I'm having a lot of fun with it. From the start though, I saw it as a very few Iai folks responding to statements about Iai from non-Iai folks. Someone made a comment early on, that if you really want to know what Iai is, and what it is not, you should talk to some of the senior Iai people who frequent this message board. These are the people who know, not people who have watched a demonstration or dabbled in it at some remote time. I'll defer to the experts when forming my opinions, their dedication and work has at least earned my respectful attention when they speak. They are the caretakers of an art I am trying to learn, what they have to say is important to me, and they have been generous with their time and knowledge.

    I have to wonder why these same people aren't posting more on this subject. Perhaps they're wiser than I am and know not to talk when nobody is listening, or they realize that it's easier to get people to change their religion than it is to get them to change their opinion. But maybe there's someone out there like I was a few months ago, who has an interest in a martial art, but hasn't been able to talk to someone about it. If they were to read those early posts, they might think that Iai has nothing to offer. Those people need to listen to the experts. I don't think I'm able to discuss the subject except in very general terms and in light of my other experiences.

    Two hundred years ago, if the comments at the beginning of this thread had been made to a student of Iaido, he would probably have responded with a practical demonstration which would make further argument impossible without the assistance of a good spirit-medium.

    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
    Fascinating arts, and interesting things to ponder during the holiday madness...
    Indeed. Happy Holidays
    Dan Beaird

    The best time to be a hero is when all the other chaps are dead, God rest 'em, and you can take the credit.

    H. Flashman V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E.

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    Cady wrote:
    I get the strong impression that a lot of iai guys are way serious dudes. It's like discussing religion and politics!


    Happy holidays all!!!!

    [Edited by FastEd on 12-22-2000 at 09:02 PM]
    Nulli Secundus

    Ed Chart

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    Originally posted by FastEd
    Cady wrote:
    I get the strong impression that a lot of iai guys are way serious dudes. It's like discussing religion and politics!


    See what I mean? See?!

    You gotta admit, at least y'all aren't bored on these forums. Keep in mind that all of this is pure recreation and entertainment, and the adrenalin you're pumping is the cheap est high on the market.

    Happy holidays!

    cg
    Cady Goldfield

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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Earl Hartman

    Did you ever stop to think that if people practiced iai on each other they would all be dead? This gets back to the discussion of the validity of kata. As far as full contact karate goes, I am under the impression that in the Kyokushinkai, for instance, no punches to the head are allowed. I know that I do not have the stones to go into something like Kyokushinkai karate, and I mean no disprespect to those who practice it, but no matter how intense, physical, and painful it is, from a strictly theoretical point of view, it has to be somewhat unrealistic as an unarmed fighting system if you are not allowed to hit someone in the head with your fist.
    Kyokushin -- As a general rule Earl is correct; bare knuckles to the head in general practice is restricted, but not uncommon. It is quite dangerous and decreases the number of training partners. However in fighting class, bag gloves are used and we could hit to the head.

    Iai -- If iai teaches timing, sabaki, trajectory, and maai, then I beleive that it is a fighting art. If you're just swinging swords, well .....

    Happy holidays,
    John Mark

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    Hm. My former TKD instructor sparred full-bore with Mas Oyama's senior students. In return, Oyama had a lot of respect for my teacher's teacher.

    In kenjutsu, once we know the kata (2-man), we practice them at full intensity with bokuto, with intent to kill. What allows us to live and laugh another day, is timing and control. This is also how I survived 20 years of full-intent karate and military-style TKD.

    Ditto, in our classical jujutsu practice, we intend to kill. Control allows us to go "to the edge" and not over it.

    Even so, in kenjutsu, every one of us in our dojo has had broken fingers (I've had at least 1 digit of every finger fractured or broken at some time), wounds in the face and throat during *controled/limited target* full-intensity shiai (and that's with armor and bamboo shinai), deep contusions and the like. In jujutsu, I've had several concussions, a broken leg, deep contusions and a detached retina. Even my instructor, who is built like a tank, has gotten fractures and broken bones, not to mention knocked out. And that's when we were going "relatively easy." Likewise, in my former P/K life, our hard-contact (yet controled) training provided me with a long list of injuries, from dislocated shoulders and jaws to concussions, broken bonens, muscles and tendons ripped from the bones, and loads of huge, deep bruises.


    That's the way it is when you get as close to "real" as you can without killing or permanently damaging your training partners. Sh*t happens, despite the best neuromuscular and psychological control.

    I'm a middled-aged lady now, with arthritis in the knee and finger joints, some of it no doubt cumulative damage from years of hard training. Yet, I'm still in pretty serviceable condition. I can't afford to go as close to the edge with some things as I did in younger years -- can't afford another detached retina or concussion -- and make no pretense of attempting to train for "combat" anymore. But, I wouldn't give back those years of experience for anything. They served the fire in the belly, and have instilled the intensity I need to maintain a martial mindset.

    I offer this only as my own opinion, but ... IMO ... if you do not train with the intensity and mindset of what you'd need to fight, then you WILL NOT have it when you are in a confrontation where you need it. IOW, train the way you would fight, because you'll fight the way you train.

    This includes one's approach to iaido, I believe very strongly. If you do not go through the kata with a true intent to kill your opponent (real or imaginary in kata), you are doing nothing more than dancing with a pointed object. Every movement must have purpose and meaning -- not aesthetic, but pragmatic and functional -- which involves the study of human anatomy (and armor, in some cases), as well as the structure, centering and balance of one's own body, both in motion and in transition between movements. Otherwise, you end up with cuts that will not really cut a person, mis-aimed strikes, and being taken completely off center when your blade actually makes impact with a solid object. I have seen this in embu videos, and I have seen this recently watching an experienced and respected iaidoka doing kata.

    If you do nothing but practice "air guitar," don't expect to be able to compete in a real-life Battle of the Bands.

    Cady

    [Edited by Cady Goldfield on 12-23-2000 at 11:26 AM]
    Cady Goldfield

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    Thumbs up

    if you do not train with the intensity and mindset of what you'd need to fight, then you WILL NOT have it when you are in a confrontation where you need it. IOW, train the way you would fight, because you'll fight the way you train.


    Yes. Well spoken, Cady!

    Excellent discussion, everyone.
    Krzysztof M. Mathews
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    "Servicable condition" , Miss Cady, that's cool. Bob Elder ( hopefully in the same boat.)
    Rich and Stress Free

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