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Thread: Regarding Performing Noto During Iaido...

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    Default Regarding Performing Noto During Iaido...

    I have a bit of a strange question, but please bear with me. This question is for those of you who practices classical (i.e. koryu) forms of iai, either independently or as part of a larger sogo bujutsu system.

    Were any of you taught that when performing noto, or returning the blade to the saya, that you should specifically not touch the blade?

    Ron Beaubien

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    Default it may vary from style to style

    In Muso Shinden Ryu we are taught to bring the fingers to the edge of the koiguchi and do the noto by feel, running the mune across hand to find the koiguchi without having to look at it. You will do this either by sight - meaning you have to look away from your "attacker" or do it by feel.
    don engle

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    Ron - What do you mean by not "touching" the blade. In one style, I was taught to grip the saya right at the koiguchi and rolling the fist forward, bunch up the flesh of the web of the hand so it forms a pad around the koiguchi, so that the mune of the sword cannot actually contact the saya mouth. We do not, therefore, "pinch" the blade as other schools do. OTOH, I tend to see the pinching as a simulation of wiping the blade with paper (done most graphically by Sosuishitsu-ryu).

    Anyway, is that what you were talking about?

    Best

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    I wonder if Ron is referring to James Williams' comments in this clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCdI9WQ6e0I
    Where he refers to touching of the blade during noto being incorrect from a classical perspective.
    Jeremy Hulley
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    I agree with Ellis in asking what you mean by touching. I am at least mildly familiar with several koryu sword arts, and none of them advocate actually putting out your fingers and touching or grabbing the blade. Besides being bad for your sword, it would be foolhardy in the extreme. However, all have incidental contact between your skin and either the mune or shinogi of the sword. I was told that this is the reason that swords are burnished on the shinogi and mune, to keep them from having problems due to this incidental contact.
    Paul Smith
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Hulley View Post
    I wonder if Ron is referring to James Williams' comments in this clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCdI9WQ6e0I
    Where he refers to touching of the blade during noto being incorrect from a classical perspective.
    Blanket statements like that are only as good as the limited experience the speaker has. There were/are many different koryu, they all did something different, and they were/are all "correct".
    So to say touching the blade is not correct from a classical perspective is just being polemic.

    Regards,

    r e n

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    Ron, I suggest that you try to perform noto without having the mune touch your left hand at all. I'm not sure it's impossible, but it should answer your question pretty quickly.

    In MJER, we use the left hand much the way Ellis stated, as a guide to getting the kissaki through the koiguchi & aligning the rest of the blade with the saya. I'm not sure if that's quite the same as simulating wiping of the blade with paper, though....

    On a related note, why do almost all koryu have us wrap the koiguchi with our left hand so that the opening can't be seen by an opponent ? The best answer I can come up with is that it shows "mastery" of your blade, but I'm not sure that's pertinent.
    Ken Goldstein
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    I agree with Ellis in asking what you mean by touching. I am at least mildly familiar with several koryu sword arts, and none of them advocate actually putting out your fingers and touching or grabbing the blade.
    Actually Paul. I'd say you know of at least one. We put our fingers on the "blade" all the time, and I can think of a couple of instances where you could say I am "grabbing" the blade. Based on other parts of your post, I think maybe what you meant is none advocate actually coming into contact with the ha? All contact would be with the mune or some part of the flat. Never the ha, and only rarely closer to the ha than the hamon line.


    In MJER, we use the left hand much the way Ellis stated, as a guide to getting the kissaki through the koiguchi & aligning the rest of the blade with the saya. I'm not sure if that's quite the same as simulating wiping of the blade with paper, though....
    Actually Ken, I think he's referring to the pinching of the blade between the index finger and thumb which occurs after the kissaki enters the koiguchi. I've noticed that this is done to different degrees within different lines of MJER, even within the ZNIR/Seitokai line. I've seen some with only limited contact at the mune, and others which contact the blade across virtually its entire surface during the insertion stage of noto, excepting only those few millimeters closest to the ha. In this case I wouldn't think it was a "simulation" of using a cloth, but rather a replacement for a cloth. Ie. Wipe as much off as possible with just the fingers.
    Last edited by Charles Mahan; 5th February 2008 at 01:58.
    Charles Mahan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii View Post
    ... On a related note, why do almost all koryu have us wrap the koiguchi with our left hand so that the opening can't be seen by an opponent ?
    ummm, AFAIK, the wrapping thumb and forefinger around the koiguichi has to do with the mechanical requirements of a proper noto and controlling the saya. 'Hiding' the koiguchi may be a side effect, but is not the point of it.
    And yes, the statement that was referenced to start this topic is just plain wrong. The emphasis on not touching a blade has more to do with collecting. The issue is one of respect as much as basic care. For a 'user' blade, regardless of how valuable it is, you oil it lightly before use, clean and oil it afterwards. Simple matter of taking care of your equipment.

    Dave
    Last edited by socho; 5th February 2008 at 03:26.
    Dave Drawdy
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    Thank you all for your replies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Ron - What do you mean by not "touching" the blade. In one style, I was taught to grip the saya right at the koiguchi and rolling the fist forward, bunch up the flesh of the web of the hand so it forms a pad around the koiguchi, so that the mune of the sword cannot actually contact the saya mouth. We do not, therefore, "pinch" the blade as other schools do. OTOH, I tend to see the pinching as a simulation of wiping the blade with paper (done most graphically by Sosuishitsu-ryu).

    Anyway, is that what you were talking about?
    Sorry for not being more specific. I have been having a bit of a hard time understanding the concept myself. I was taught, or have always seen, similar kinds of noto as you have described above. Both of them make total sense to me.

    However, I was referring to not touching the sword with the left hand at all. In other words, putting the blade of the sword back in the saya directly without letting the skin of the thumb, index finger, or hand to come in contact with the mune, shinogiji, or shinogi in any form.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Hulley View Post
    I wonder if Ron is referring to James Williams' comments in this clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCdI9WQ6e0I

    Where he refers to touching of the blade during noto being incorrect from a classical perspective.
    Bingo! That is exactly what I was talking about. I ran across that video and when I heard him say that I almost fell out of my chair.

    There may be a few mistakes in my transcription as the the video's audio is hard to hear in the beginning, but this is the quote from James Williams at the 2007 Blade Show in Atlanta, Georgia where he performed a Tameshigiri / Nami-ryu demonstration:

    "For those who know us here, for noto or returning the saya, a lot of styles especially modern ones have some tendency to rub their finger on the blade prior to the mouth of the saya. That is incorrect from a classical perspective. If you use iaito which are not real blades it doesn't matter as they are not going to corrode on you, but if you are using a live blade you should not be touching it. So, what you want to be able to do is... (performs noto) ...to be able to do that without touching the blade at all. The oils of your body are corrosive and they will mar the blade."
    I just couldn't get my head around it. Although any moisture coming from the hand, rather than oils per se, would certainly be corrosive, it sounded like a quote from someone who sees Japanese swords as works of art, that are not to be touched or breathed upon. I have nothing against that point of view, but then why turn around with the same sword and cut through tatami omote that has been soaking in water overnight? It just didn't make any sense to me.

    I imagine that going into battle where one would be trying to cleave other human beings in half, people would probably be wearing armor and trying to block or deflect your cuts with their own swords or weapons, that it seems there would be little concern that the natural moisture of one's own hand might cause damage to the one's own blade. In fact, that would be the least of my worries. Most likely, even if successful in battle, one's own sword would be covered in blood and flesh, chipped, probably bent if it hadn't been completely broken in half, basically damaged beyond repair and have to be replaced.

    Quote Originally Posted by renfield_kuroda View Post
    Blanket statements like that are only as good as the limited experience the speaker has. There were/are many different koryu, they all did something different, and they were/are all "correct". So to say touching the blade is not correct from a classical perspective is just being polemic.
    That is also what bothered me. While there are certainly many differences between schools in how they perform noto, it seems that just about all of them do indeed use the left hand to cover the koiguchi, pinch the blade, slide the mune along the skin, or in other words "touch the blade," in order to guide the blade through the koiguchi when returning the sword to the saya. I couldn't see any difference between classical and modern schools in this regard, although it is possible that I am missing something.

    Although I don't remember having ever seen one, there certainly may be a classical school somewhere whose practitioners never touch the blades of their swords when performing noto. However, the practice doesn't seem all that common that the opposite (i.e. "touching the blade" when performing noto) could be called "incorrect from a classical perspective."

    Now that I think we clarified what was being talked about on the video, can anyone name a classical school whose practitioners don't touch the blades of their swords with their left hand when performing noto? I'm curious about how common this practice was.

    Thanks again.

    Ron Beaubien
    Last edited by Ron Beaubien; 5th February 2008 at 04:08.

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    I'm trying to imagine noto without using your left hand to guide it... And if there really was a school that teaches that, I can see the beginners having an extremely hard time doing so.
    -John Nguyen

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    Sorry Ron,

    All three Iai styles I have training in use the left hand to guide the blade back into the saya, Takeuchi Ryu Battojutsu, Bichu Den Iaijutsu, and Shisen Ryu Iaijutsu all follow that basic idea..

    I haven't seen one school in enbu that did it any other way, except perhaps the Sosuishitsu guys who (at least in theory if not always in practice) have the form allow for a cloth to wipe the blade as Ellis pointed out..

    I'll keep looking, but I doubt there's much to this..Even the Shojitsu Kenri Kataichi Ryu do their noto using the left hand as a guide (They use Tachi for Iai and would perhaps have a different way to do noto)..

    Interesting statement..
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

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    This is not a contradiction of anything written - just an interesting story about moisture. I live in the pacific NW, moist and all that, and it's a fair guess that the wood of my sword's saya absorbs moisture from the air. I keep the blade well-oiled and thus, have (or had, as the story reveals) never had a problem.
    Several summers ago, I was doing some sword drawing, techniques that are a personal study, using Toda-ha Buko-ryu principals. The reishiki at the end of THBR forms (this explanation, obviously, is not for you, Ron ), includes thrusting the sword with the "left side" of the shinoji/mune sliding across the supporting left hand (see V. III of Koryu Bujutsu by Skoss - everyone should have a copy anyway - for a picture of Nitta Suzuyo doing this movement). I practiced iai for about half an hour. Then sheathed the sword and put it down where it lay for a mere 15-20 minutes, in the hot sun, while I did some other practice.
    Then I unsheathed the sword, and evidently the heat of the sun precipitated all the moisture out of the saya's wood, where it "found" the surface of the blade with the moisture of my hand. That side - and that side alone - was literally "furred" with rust that pitted the sword. 15 minutes! You probably could have watched it grow, were it not in the saya.

    But the larger issue is - that the people polishing swords back in the day when they were used, were "tradesmen." It was surely sort of like going to get a knife sharpened. Not a big expense - and furthermore, surely many bushi could do it themselves. So I imagine they were not as anxious about such things as we are.
    Best

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    Interesting story! How obvious was the precipitate?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nii View Post
    I'm trying to imagine noto without using your left hand to guide it... And if there really was a school that teaches that, I can see the beginners having an extremely hard time doing so.
    It's doable. All it takes is practice. We don't like to touch the blade during noto, but we don't get uptight about it either. Really, if you weren't looking for it you wouldn't notice. Beginners tend to slide the mune on the koiguchi and later you find you don't really need that crutch.
    Doug Walker
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    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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