View Full Version : Names of basic cuts

8th October 2000, 06:06
I knwo each school has its own names for the basic cuts, and I'm curious to know. It'll help me when I come across a tern when looking at other schools. I'm basically looking for the names of the downward vertical cut, downward right to left cut, downward left to right cut, upward left to right cut, upward right to left cut, horizontal right to left cut, and horizontal left to right cut. Thank you.

8th October 2000, 16:53
downward vertical cut is called "shomen", the diagonal ones i am not sure if you mean "yokomen" which means side of the head, or "keisa giri" which is a shoulder to kidney type cut, and i think the reverse of that, the downward left/right cut is called "soho giri" but i may have to be corrected on that. the horizontal ones, we always called just a "do" cut. there is also a thrust "tsuki" and a wrist cut "kote".

9th October 2000, 04:50
The downward diagonal cuts are usually called kesagiri (migi and hidari), as Yagyu mentioned. I think it is general that the upward cuts along the same lines are called gyakukesa (reverse kesa), although in Shinkendo they are referred to as kiriage. Side to side cuts are yokogiri, and the straight overhead cut is shinchokugiri ("choku" is straight). The distinction between migi and hidari (right and left) depends on the point of the cut's origin, i.e. if I am cutting yokogiri and it starts on my right side and passes to my left side, it is migi yokogiri, "right-side" side-cut.
I hope this helps.

Nicholas Lauridsen

9th October 2000, 16:25
I study Toyama Ryu and I can tell you the names of the cuts in our Dojo. We have three downward vertical cuts. Jodan stops high with your right arm horizontal, Chudan stops with the point at throat level, and Gedan stops with the point at knee level. Our downward diagonal cut from right to left is hidari kesa. The downward diagonal cut from left to right is migi kesa. The upward reverse cuts are gyaku kesa. Horizontal cuts are suihei. Thrusts are tsuki.

I was looking at the tamishigiri rules from another school. They use the same hidari and migi kesa. Their reverse upwards cuts are migi kiri-age and hidari kiri-age. Their horizontal cuts are migi yoko and hidari yoko.

They also call the tatami targets goza while we call them wara. Everyone does seem to have a unique set of names for everything.

Dan Harden
10th October 2000, 04:12
Just a few comments

I would not look at "cuts" as a series of anything.
For example:
A rising cut may be called kiri Age, gyaku Kesa, Okachi dachi, Te Ura or what have you, (Hell, I could make a case for Tori-I as well). This does little to help you understand the intent and strategy of their use. In other words, To think of a particular "cut" and its use, only in relation to a fixed target, is grossly underestimating its potential.
(Then again, for some schools, you may be seeing the entirety of that schools potential. :) )

Much can be said for suppressing, forestalling, redirecting and countering, both an opponents blade and his attack (read; mindset, strategy) overall. This can be done with the proper understanding of a number of different "Cuts."
At some point, those cuts transcend the use of the term "cuts." Don't they?

Anyway. Much to complicated a subject for this venue.

Kamae, cuts, deflections, postures, and Maai, these are all the same when you think of the whole.


[Edited by Dan Harden on 10-09-2000 at 11:17 PM]

10th October 2000, 11:50
I've seen a picture (book/web ??) of the cuts used on boddies for sword testing.

Is there anything like this for the cuts used on a person in combat?

Just a though :D


Nathan Scott
10th October 2000, 23:00

Most the older names used in testing swords was specific to sword testing.

Personally, I make little effort to sort out all the differnt names for kamae and cuts between styles. It is far to confusing and style-specific, as Dan-san indicated.

In Shinkendo we designate (left or right) the cuts in accordance to which side of our body the cut originates from, as opposed to where it ends (or which side of the opponent the cut actually strikes). Apples and oranges.

Also, wara means "straw", which is what used to be used for cutting. Goza, to the best of my knowledge, is a very general term meaning "mat", and I believe is more commonly used in reference to a thick, loosly woven welcome-type mat (though it might be broad enough to encompass tatami as well). For you Karate buffs: Makiwara = wrapped/rolled straw.

Tatami omote is the exact name for the top layer of tatami used in covering tatami floor boards. This is what is currently popular for testcutting in Japan.

I don't know if people are cutting welcome mats or not! :D


10th October 2000, 23:33
What are the names of cuts in Shinkendo, if you would be so kind as to share, Nathan? Thanks! :)

Nathan Scott
10th October 2000, 23:56
The basic cuts include:

1) tsuki (jodan, chudan & gedan); hirazuki - horizontal thrust

2) hidari kesagiri (lt/rt diagonal downward)

3) migi kesagiri (rt/lt diagonal downward)

4) hidari yokogiri (lt/rt side cut)

5) migi yokogiri (rt/lt side cut)

6) hidari kiriage (lt/rt diagonal upward)

7) migi kiriage (rt/lt diagonal upward)

8) dontangiri/shinchokugiri (straight cut)*

*This is a little grey, because we don't generally consider straight cuts as combative "cuts", so we don't have a name for them. Dotangiri & shinchokugiri are terms usually used for "specialty" straight cuts, for lack of a better word.

In addition to the basic cuts, we have tactical cuts or combinations - many of which have names, and some of which are not.

The over all catagorization of cuts is basically divided into four sections:

1) cuts that stop at the end of the swing.

2) cuts that continue around to the original starting position

3) cuts that reverse along the original cutting path

4) cuts that transition fluidly from one cut to another cut

There are alot of variations in the upper levels, but this is how the cuts are structured in Shinkendo's foundation.

It is a very comprehensive style of sword! :D

More detailed information about Shinkendo is available in Obata Soke's recent book "Shinkendo". He is also writing a book on tameshigiri right now that will have some of this as well.

Hope this helps,

11th October 2000, 02:25
Thank you, Nathan!

If I wasn't so far away from a dojo, I'd already be a member. I'm in Savannah, which is about 4 or 5 hours from Atlanta. Ideally in the future, I would like to study with Obata Soke and yourself. Well, until then, I'll pick up the Shinkendo book and any future references. Thanks again!

Nathan Scott
11th October 2000, 18:04
My pleasure Mr. Timberlake. Hope to see you at the Honbu someday!


11th October 2000, 18:16
As far as Nakamura Ryu goes:

1. Morote tsuki (two-handed cut); katate tsuke (single-handed thrust).

2. Itto Ryodan (Cutting in two with a single cut). Also known as:
b. Kara-take wari (Splitting Chinese bamboo)
c. Sue-mono giri (Cutting a fixed object)
d. Shinchoku giri (Cutting straight down)
e. Dodan-giri (Cutting on a stand)
f. Shomen-giri (cutting to the front)
g. Men-giri (Head cut)
h. Makko (Dead front)
i. Ito-magoi ("Farewell Visit" --actually the name of a waza in MJER; .. my Japanese MJER sensei called this "a Pearl Harbor")
j. Nukiuchi ("Draw & Strike" -- actually the name of a waza in MJER; it employs the straight cut).
k. Kirioroshi (Cutting downwards).

3. Kesagiri (Priest robe cut). Downward diagonal cut. Performed both migi (right) and hidari (left). Also called:
b. Naname giri (diagonal cut).

4. Gyakukesa (Reverse kesa). Upward diagonal cut. Performed both migi and hidari. Also called:
b. Kiri-age (Cutting upwards).
c. Naname kiri-age. (Cutting upwards on a diagonal).

5. Yoko ichi-mo(n)ji giri (side horizontal cut). The ideograph [moji] for the number "one" [ichi] is a horizontal bar; this translates to "horizontal." Also known as:
b. Yokogiri (side cut).
c. Suihei giri (placid water cut). Placid water is flat; ergo, horizontal.
d. Dogiri (torso cut).

One of the pillars of Nakamura Ryu is the exercise "Happogiri" [Eight-direction Cut]. It is performed in the following sequence:

1. Morote tsuki. Two-handed thrust.
2. Shinchoku giri. Straight cut (feet/legs spread further than shoulder length).
3. Hidari kesagiri (left). Cutting from upper right to lower left.
4. Migi gyakukesa. Cutting from lower left to upper right.
5. Migi kesagiri (right). Cutting frou upper left to lower right.
6. Hidari gyakukesa. Cutting from lower right to upper left.
7. Migi yoko ichimonji. Right horizontal cut.
8. Hidari yoko ichimonji. Left horizontal cut.


11th October 2000, 18:29
Thank you for your reply as well, Mr. Power! I'm kind of embarassed to admit that for a while I did not know that you were a practitioner of iaido, I just figured you were very up to date on your history and terms :)

It's interesting to see so many different names for the same basic cuts. Thanks again!

Nathan Scott
11th October 2000, 18:39
Guy-san, you use all those names for the same cuts???


11th October 2000, 22:31

It does get confusing, eh? Actually, we don't use *all* the terms; however, most do appear in written format -- especially in the 1935 and 1939-45 manuals.

Some, like "karatake-wari" and "dotangiri" are not used by Toyama Ryu, but generally, swordsmen know the terms. I was first introduced to the term "karatake-wari" by Obata sensei.

Just some good information to know.


12th October 2000, 00:27
"I don't know if people are cutting welcome mats or not!"

Now that doesn't sound very friendly. :)

Nathan Scott
12th October 2000, 00:37
Oops - that comment wan't intended as a slight, just a funny. I don't know who all uses that term.

I could be wrong about the goza=welcome mats thing anyway.

I'll try to be more funny next time! :D


12th October 2000, 01:22
I thought it was funny. I was joking ; ) hehe.

12th October 2000, 06:45

"Say ... gimme a cut of that prime rib...."

Some more cuts, slices, and dices from Yamada Asaemon's["Kubikiri"] "Do It Yourself" manual.

2. TAI TAI Suritsuke
3. KARIGANE Wakige
4. CHIWARI Ichinodô
5. KESA Ôkesa
6. TACHIWARI Kami Tachiwari
7. WAKIGE Ni no Dô
8. KURUMASAKI Ai no Kuruma
9. SURITSUKE San no Dô
11. SAN NO DÔ Kurumasaki
12. NI NO DÔ Hachimaime
13. ICHI NO DÔ Hondô
X = Hiza Tachi
Y = Hiji Tachi

CREDIT: Graphic and text "borrowed" from MEIBOKU [without permission] at http://www.meiboku.demon.co.uk/guide/mei/tamesh/

12th October 2000, 07:08
Greetings! :)

I got an inquiry...

I always understood that Gyaku-Kesa-Giri and Kiri-Age were two different cuts although done in the same direction...

I was told that Kiri-Age was a superficial cut or a cut that "does not enter" the body so to say and that Gyakute-Kesa-Giri was a more profound cut or "one that enters" the body.

Is this true?


Arnold Vargas
Genbukan Satoichi Dojo
Tsunami-Ryu Bujutsu

Nathan Scott
12th October 2000, 17:12
That's a good question.

I've always understood that Gyakukesa is (usually) used as an alternate term for Kiriage - or vice versa. Whether a given cut would be considered "right or left" is another story, as you can see from the previous posts.

Gyakukesa/Kiriage is, IMHO, the weakest fundamental cut in swordsmanship biomechanically. But, it is tactically advantageous when applied correctly.

In Shinkendo we exploit this cut alot in our Tanrengata, Tameshigiri and Suburi practices; and to a lesser degree in our Battoho (all performed from standing, BTW). We tend to move pretty large, and maximize available physical resources to generate effective power (sorry, a little hard to explain).

There is an account, of which I am quite foggy on the specifics right now, of the effective use of Kiriage in defense of an attack on a lord. I believe there was a siege on a castle, and when the attackers reached the room in which the lord was secured in, one of the body guards took out a handful of aggressors by cutting kiriage just under the Doh (entering upwards between the Doh armor and Kusazuri skirt). It seems to me I read this in one of Obata Sensei's old books in fact (maybe "Crimson Steel"?).

However, my guess would be that it might be generally more effective for attacks to the insides of the extremities and armpits because of the angle and lack of relative power.

A very hard cut to defend against, in my experience, but difficult to learn.


12th October 2000, 18:58
Hello Arnold,

I always understood that Gyaku-Kesa-Giri and Kiri-Age were two different cuts although done in the same direction... I was told that Kiri-Age was a superficial cut or a cut that "does not enter" the body so to say and that Gyakute-Kesa-Giri was a more profound cut or "one that enters" the body.

Literally, "kesagiri" means "priest's robe [kesa] cut [kiri];" gyaku-kesagiri is "reverse [gyaku] priest's robe cut"

"Kiri-age" is "cut [kiri] up/rising [age]. "Age" is pronounced as "ah-gay" and means "upwards, ascend, up, rising, etc."

In our training (Toyama Ryu/Nakamura Ryu), kiriage and gyakukesagiri are interchangeable terms. Either cut can be superficial (if your maai is off), or a hewing cut. These terms (to us) merely describe the direction of blade travel in general terms.

I would be surprised if other schools did not have differing definitions.


Earl Hartman
12th October 2000, 19:43

Ah yes, another example of the refined and aesthetic sensibilities of Japanese culture. Your little...uhhh...diagram reminded me of a story:

A high-ranking bushi has just received a bright, shiny, razor-sharp new sword from a famous smith, and he's dying to try it out. He arranges to be the executioner for a criminal who is scheduled to be executed the next day.

Upon going to the execution ground and informing the condemned man that he will act as his executioner, the man askes him what cut he is going to use to dispatch him. The bushi proudly and arrogantly declares that he intends to use the most difficult cut of all, which will cut the man in two, all the way from the shoulder to the pelvis, with the balde passing through the stomach before exiting just above the hip bone(in the version I heard it was a kesa-giri, but that doesn't jibe with your chart. I suppose a do-giri would work for the purposes of the story).

The man sighs with regret, and, startled by this display of bravado, the bushi demands to know what is bothering him. The condemned man said: "Well, if I had known you were going to use that cut, I would have swallowed a few big rocks so that I could spoil the edge of your sword!"

Da-DUM-bum (rim shot, cymbals).


Nathan Scott
12th October 2000, 19:50
Ha! I love that story Earl-san. I believe it is retold in the book "Sword and Same".


12th October 2000, 20:18
"As visions of Dotanukis danced through his head"

Eh! Yaaaaa!

Couldn't resist

13th October 2000, 03:49
Hi! :) And thanks for the replies!

Now, you mean Gyaku-Kesa-Giri and Kiri-Age are two terms for the same cut? And these two are done in the same fashion?

I was told that Gyaku-Kesa-Giri had like a "pull" to it at the end and that Kiri-Age was a complete "stroke". But this I was told...

Any comments will be appreciated. :)



13th October 2000, 05:07

Now, you mean Gyaku-Kesa-Giri and Kiri-Age are two terms for the same cut? And these two are done in the same fashion?

In our practice, yes. Again -- different schools, different meanings and implementation. "Your mileage may vary" [as others are wont to quote].


13th October 2000, 05:17
Thanks Guy! :)

So then it could be okay and the person who said that the two cuts are different in technique although in the same direction...can be correct in terms of style?

He did Kiri-Age sliding the rear foot and Gyaku-Kesa-Giri with a step instead of a slide...see? But this may be correct in terms of a style being different, right?