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Thread: kesa giri vs. downward vertical strike

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    Default kesa giri vs. downward vertical strike

    Hi all,

    I read that Toyama Ryu puts a lot of emphasis on kesa giri, indeed one of the founders mentions this as a conscious decision, feeling that this was an important strike that he felt was neglected. Kesa giri certainly seems to be emphasized more in their kata. The other day I saw on the website for Kashima Shin Ryu that kesa giri is considered the fundamental stroke there as well.

    It seems like in other schools, such as Itto Ryu (and Kendo), the downward vertical strike (not sure if shomen uchi was the right term in this context) is the fundamental stroke. I was wondering what people felt the advantages and disadvantages of each were, and why one or the other would be primary. Also, I wondered if their might be historical or other outside reasons affecting the choice, for instance whether or not armor and helmets were used, or in the case of Toyama Ryu, if the popularity of tameshigiri had something to do with this, due to the targets used. Any thoughts?

    thanks,
    Jason
    Jason Ginsberg, L.Ac.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Ginsberg View Post
    I read that Toyama Ryu puts a lot of emphasis on kesa giri....whether or not armor and helmets were used...
    An explanation I have heard is that reported failures in combat of the straight over head cut against steel helmets worn by Chinese soldiers in Manchuria (1930s) inspired the instructors at the Toyama academy to revise the curriculum and focus more on Kesa Giri (although some straight cuts are still part of later incarnations of the techniques as well).
    Last edited by Michael Mason; 24th April 2008 at 22:23. Reason: removed redundancy
    Michael Mason
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Mason View Post
    An explanation I have heard is that reported failures in combat of the straight over head cut against steel helmets worn by Chinese soldiers in Manchuria (1930s) inspired the instructors at the Toyama academy to revise the curriculum and focus more on Kesa Giri (although some straight cuts are still part of later incarnations of the techniques as well).
    That's what Power Sensei has told me as well. Kesa-giri in Toyama had nothing to do with the angle used to cut makiwara.

    The instructors at the Toyama Military Academy examined the battlefield dead and realized that the kesa-giri cut had a much better chance of doing more internal damage than a straight downward cut.

    My sempai, Leung Sensei, describes it this way: If you use a straight downward cut on an unarmored opponent, your strike still might glance off the skull. And now you've got a very angry opponent to deal with. With kesa-giri, you're going for the base of neck. Imagine the "L" shape at the base of the neck. Leung Sensei calls it a "shot catcher". If you hit that part -- even if you're off by an inch or two -- the blade has no where else to go but deeper into your opponent. Once through the collarbone... Well, you get the picture...

    In Nakamura Ryu Batto-Do, we had the straight downward cut in one of our basic Toyama forms, but then it was removed. (Not sure why. Then again, it's early on a Friday morning and I might be senile... )

    -- Jay
    Jose "Jay" Mijares
    Nakamura Ryu Batto-Do -- Kenshinkan Dojo (San Francisco Bay Area)

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    Quote Originally Posted by J. Mijares View Post
    The instructors at the Toyama Military Academy examined the battlefield dead and realized that the kesa-giri cut had a much better chance of doing more internal damage than a straight downward cut.


    -- Jay
    I read somewhere that they also studied testimonies & reports from the Boshin war & Satsuma rebellion as the two conflicts was loaded with sword fighting.
    Cant provide a source though.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    Within the Morinaga Ha tradition of Toyama Ryu we still use Makko Giri in many of our Kata, instead of Kesa. In the Hon Iai, which are the main 8 Kata, Kesa Giri isnt introduced to Sanbonme, within our tradition.

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    But weren't battles where the casualty's are from death by sword in the 20th century very rare?
    -John Nguyen

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    Default Nice question

    Of course they're rare. The big thing to remember in all Japanese Sword arts is that use of the sword in modrn dojos is in preservation of the art itself and the hitsory of the sword's culture.
    As stated before the kesa-giri is much more effective that straight down for a multitude of reasons. Also, historically, the straight down cut is for testing the blade itself upon delivery by the smith. stack up a pile of bodies and give a big kiai! in un-armored combat, then Shin-chaku giri (straight down) could have certain benefits.
    As for use in the battle field in WWII and in the Manchurian occupation, then you would have to read accounts of those actually there to find it's effectiveness in the earlier part of the 20th century. But, I would also contend that in a 20th century battle field that charging at someone with a katana in jodan ready to cut them down their forehead would just leave you to get shot in the chest or gut....or stabbed with a bayonett.
    I know that Nakamura Sensei had written many journal entries about his experiences in the Manchurian occupation. Perhaps a little digging and you could pull something up that he wrote if it's available.
    I'll ask my sensei if Nakamura Sensei told him anything about what you're asking.
    Jon Bracamonte
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    Right! I found a source for my earlier comment:


    http://smaa-hq.com/articles/power_toyama.php


    In 1925, The Toyama Academy established Toyama Ryu iaido. Five forms employing both left and right kesa giri (downward diagonal cut) were created, adapted from standing techniques of Omori Ryu and Eishin Ryu iaido. 3 Although both Omori and Eishin Ryu do not incorporate the kesa giri, research was conducted on sword battle results of the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion which indicated that 90% of the dead and severely wounded were struck by kesa giri. At about this same period, Nakayama Hakudo Sensei taught at the Academy.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    What??!!?? I hate to dispute Power-Sensei's discussion, but there must be a dozen or more Eishin-ryu waza that incorporate kesa-giri, Fred. Where in the world did he come up with that statement??

    Or is there another school of MJER with which I'm not familiar?
    Ken Goldstein
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    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii View Post
    What??!!?? I hate to dispute Power-Sensei's discussion, but there must be a dozen or more Eishin-ryu waza that incorporate kesa-giri, Fred. Where in the world did he come up with that statement??

    Or is there another school of MJER with which I'm not familiar?
    I'm not disputing anything personally, just digging up something I've read.
    I got no vested interest in pro/con.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    I think in this case the "Eishin Ryu" which is being referred to is Tate Hiza No Bu and not the entire MJER curriculum. Still there are a couple of katate-kesagiri in the Eishin Ryu curriculum, and certainly room within the waza to change any number of other cuts into kesa-giri if that's where a suki leads you.
    Charles Mahan

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    and building new ones.

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    one observation I would make is that if you did do an over head cut and it hit with the monouchi, regardles of someone wearing a helmet or not, they are stunned for a moment. Ask anyone who has been accidentally hit with a bokken...
    There are some interesting records from the napoleonic wars where cavalry encounters between the brits and french were examined to determine what was the best method to use a sword by looking at casualties... Although the brits inflicted some nasty wounds (arms off etc) by 'swinging cuts' and usually had the better of the encounters for a straight fight (usually down to better horses!), it was noted that the french killed more due to a higher use of 'stabbing', which caused more internal injuries of course. (and probably explains why they had their arms cut so much!)

    Casulaties at osaka castle were also examined as to cause of death, about 10% were sword, and apparently more were killed by thrown stones than this! Arrows were the biggest cause, which reflects the puncture wound type as per above...
    Tim Hamilton

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    Nice to read about the initial question kesa kiri vs kiri oroshi.

    I am an iaido student and occasionally meet up with a friend who is an aikido teacher. We are both quite passionate about practising our arts and always have nice conversations and likewise exchange views on budo on a variety of subjects, i sometimes wish for would be nice to have this sharing with all budoka's i may encounter digitally or in real life. So to the point I post my question in this thread which is slightly different...or rather different then the initial question but i don't know how to make a new topic. And since i read more then post in e-budo i give it a go for the first time.

    The last time we where exchanging ideas we came across the fact that as a form of practise in his aikido the sword (bokken) strikes is kiri oroshi which is anticipated on in a multitude of ways. Just leaving out from my side the playing with timing, distancing, maai and feints at first it was not hard for him to lock my wrists, take me down and all the painful stuff aikido people like to do. Later for safety I replaced the bokken for a foam softsword (i use in training iaido for jiyu kumitachi) and of course from fixed position it was still possible for him to do what he likes to do. Of course we tested it also with speed and playing around with timing and feints and though it became harder for him to bridge the gap we kinda agreed on the technical possibility a kiri oroshi could be met (all hypothetically ). When i was reading through the previous posts where historical events, findings are taken in account I could not help it to think that even without historical findings the logic of a diagonal stroke occupies more space to travel through is substantially less easy to avoid then a horizontal strike which divides the space in two equal parts. Of course when we tested kesa kiri there was no way he could enter. And my kesa is not like that the sword travels in a long arc from a rather large maai to make a connection to the head but I move my body dynamically quite close to the target and then cut with the length of more then the monouchi as it is how i perform a kesa kiri (or kiri oroshi).

    Though for my question i want leaving out the whole discussion of the concept behind the use of the sword in aikido cause that is not relevant here. Just only for the part that in both situations handling as aikidoka a kiri oroshi or kesa kiri is not done (as far as i know) in a sparring like session but always in the framework of waza, kata or whatever you exactly name it. So our common question is actually, what can you do (still 100% hypothetically) against a diagonal cut when unarmed stepping as much away from fixed patterns so commonly used in traditional practice. Maybe some might think the answer would be easy cause when a kesa is performed the aikidoka just steps outside the range and comes in to the right side of the attacker. Yes when you know beforehand that i make a kesa kiri and not a gyaku kesa (reversed, so from left to the right) this avoidance of getting hit is possible. Maybe you can compare it with ducking a hook in boxing (how many boxers can really do this perfectly swaying from left to right, i always took the wrong direction ), and about direction, part of the findings was naturally somehow you chose to reach the left part of the attacker when he performs kesa kiri which only make you end up in the space the diagonal cut travels through. However I did this expiriment later again with an aikibudo practisioner and I must say I was amazed on how quick my hands/arms where almost almost found. However what happens when you practise this with only bokken you as attacker not wanting to hurt someone you change the direction of the bokken which is not realistic either cause there would be little power in the cut (though some might like to disagree beforehand when coming from a tradition or belief the smallest cut is deadly and therefore legitimate). And changing the direction of the cut implies the swordsman was outpositioned but then again we did this one in fixed position. And even moving around adjusting timing and distance, to nullify the force it must be done by changing the direction of the blade or stopping the blade with minimal space before the impact, or slowing down my cut in the rising of my arms or somewhere else along the way. Just to go short on this. In my opinion practise with bokken on this question (but also outside this question) can be deceiving when researching the possibilites and non possibilities of a reaction towards a sword that travels fast and without delay. Of course the answer on what against kiri age, kesa kiri as for attack or defence or follow up tactic from iai or kenjutsu set of mind is different in that respect both have swords, both drawn or one of the two drawn. But maybe after all not so different when you leave out the tactical possibilies of blocking, deflecting etc. Which in its own right is another discussion I enjoyed reading here on e budo. So if you leave blocking out (wether your style agrees or not) and have the same state of mind as the aikidoka without sword it might be interesting what overlap there really is. Maybe to see the problem in the same light as Hatsumi explains how he sees muto dori. (p.s. i am not a ninja).

    However I would find it interesting if someone else had done the same type of research or expiriment and if so with what kind of materials and from what kind of perspective, could be JSA, western medieaval swordarts etc. And of course is there someone on this forum who is master in unarmed meeting someone swinging a sword or baseball bat in a diagonal strike at them
    Anyway I am quite confident my kesa kiri can't be avoided, not when I am free to launch the attack whenever I want. That is if i see suki or lure the aikidoka in taking the bait. But I also ask this question of a possibility against a kesa kiri from an aiki perspective cause it intrigues me as well. Also i am not sure if there are people who are confident both horizontal or diagonal strikes are not a problem because their aikido skills and experience I simply overlook wrongly. Then the last small question would be, why in aikido it seems most training evolves around the kiri oroshi, or yoko men however you call it in aikido. Makes me curious then what the value is and how to interpret it as iaibu. Kind regards to all who read this and hopefully some of you can answer! Kind regards jeroen
    ps i am not a native english speaker sorry for that.

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    Aha! A blast from the past, Jeroen.

    I train in both MJER & Shinto-Ryu iaido where kesa giri strikes are widely used, as well as in SMR jodo. I've found that moving into a kesa cut is often more effective than trying to dodge it, especially considering that kesa cuts can be made from wakigamae, gaedan, jodan, etc. Many jodo kata incorporate the close-in movements that allow shidachi to effectively block a kesa strike.

    When Sensei is demonstrating techniques, he often doesn't even bother with the jo against the bokken, & I seriously doubt that I would be able to strike fast enough to hit him when he shows those techniques.

    But perhaps I'm not understanding your question. Does it only pertain to aikido?

    Ken
    Ken Goldstein
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    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    I have found it is always a question of timing and comparative skill levels... whoever is best has the best chance. My old aiki teacher used to say it was a 'last chance' technique, as it was better to run away and find a gun! The risk you run in getting inside the sword's 'circle of operation' is... life threatening, and although I see grappling techniques at my son's western sword classes, and I also have them from the partner work in my ryu (same as Ken's) they tend to be used as a secondary idea, rather than using sword. This is from a swordsmans point of view, rather than an unarmed approach though. We are in sword training schools after all!
    Tim Hamilton

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