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Thread: kesa giri vs. downward vertical strike

  1. #16
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    Dear Ken and Chidokan,

    thank you for your feedback. yes the question was asked in relation to unarmed defense in aikido training against a sword. with kiri oroshi everything seems fine while against a kesa kiri moving in, avoiding or whatever is a whole other thing.

    and yes i agree to on the personal skill differences however it is all hypothetical after all. surely every good teacher gives the advice that the first option is to avoid or run such encounter with a sword wielding madman.

    I wonder what the effect of a jo would be on a shinken when both are used with full impact. I think indeed i would make use of another tactic when having a sword and a kesa present itself as option against someone infront of me with a jo since he has more options then someone empty handed. But yes i assume someone handling a jo, bo or spear has the upper hand for sure when both men are equally matched.

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    Well, I can't speak for a spear or bo, Jeroen, but if I am being attacked by a hand-held weapon, I want a jo in my hands!

    I've trained in European fencing for more than 60 years & with a katana for a couple of decades, & truly believed that either a rapier or a katana was the best weapon for hand-to-hand work. But after less than 10 years with the jo, I'm amazed at the flexibility it gives me. Perhaps the most telling point is that the jo allows me to take either a defensive or offensive posture, & also allows me to make the decision to choose to kill or just disable my opponent. Hard to do that with a katana unless you're Abarenbo Shogun!

    The jo is never used to intercept the sword on the sword's cutting edge, by the way, but instead is used far more often to block or pin the opponent's body. If I've used the jo to block the elbow of your cutting arm, it really doesn't much matter whether you have a shinken in your hand or are just trying to slap me.

    Ken

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    I was told kesagiri is used more on the assumption that the opponent is wearing armour although no one wears it to practice. Indoors it's difficult to do shomengiri anyway. I like gyakukesa!
    Hyakutake Colin

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    If I recall correctly, kesageri ("monk cut") is a diagonal slash cut, so named for hypothetically cutting along the line where a monk's jacket crosses diagonally in front (like keikogi). I don't see kesageri as a cut you'd use on armored opponents, given the location of the joint gaps between pieces of strapped-on armor.

    In my obsevations, straight on vertical and horizontal cuts make more sense, not just in respect to where you would cut at the neck, shoulders, hip/waist, elbows and wrists, but also in the most efficient generation and dumping of power. A vertical drop cut contains huge power if the psoas (tanden) and femoral/kua-area muscles are drawn in and the body internally "drops" to bring the sword down. Even striking a helmet or face guard full on, the crushing force alone could bring an opponent down. Likewise, horizontal cuts using the power of winding from the femoral joints, waist, legs and feet, generate great cutting power. But diagonal "kesa" cuts seem, to me, to be kind of halfway neither here nor there in power generation, and almost seem to bleed it away, not as powerful as the other two directional cuts.

    Guess I'll have to pull out the old bokkuto and test this again. Er, not on anyone, just an inanimate padded target.
    Cady Goldfield

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    Other than horizontal cuts (nukitsuke), I agree with you, Cady, that kirioroshi (vertical) cuts are the most powerful that can be generated with the sword. But kesagiri (diagonal) cuts are almost as strong.

    Last year, I set up a first-time tameshigiri session for our jodo Sensei & students, & everyone was astonished that not a single person was able to cleanly cut two rolls of tatami omote with a horizontal cut using a shinken. Everyone did a reasonably good job with kesa cuts, including gyakukesa, although only my wife & I - who have actively practiced tameshigiri - made really clean cuts. It was quite an eye-opener for many people who thought they understood how the blade cuts, but actually had no clue how important hasuji is.

    There is really quite a difference between today's martial "arts" & Samurai martial "skills."

    Ken

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cady Goldfield View Post
    If I recall correctly, kesageri ("monk cut") is a diagonal slash cut, so named for hypothetically cutting along the line where a monk's jacket crosses diagonally in front (like keikogi). I don't see kesageri as a cut you'd use on armored opponents, given the location of the joint gaps between pieces of strapped-on armor.

    In my obsevations, straight on vertical and horizontal cuts make more sense, not just in respect to where you would cut at the neck, shoulders, hip/waist, elbows and wrists, but also in the most efficient generation and dumping of power. A vertical drop cut contains huge power if the psoas (tanden) and femoral/kua-area muscles are drawn in and the body internally "drops" to bring the sword down. Even striking a helmet or face guard full on, the crushing force alone could bring an opponent down. Likewise, horizontal cuts using the power of winding from the femoral joints, waist, legs and feet, generate great cutting power. But diagonal "kesa" cuts seem, to me, to be kind of halfway neither here nor there in power generation, and almost seem to bleed it away, not as powerful as the other two directional cuts.

    Guess I'll have to pull out the old bokkuto and test this again. Er, not on anyone, just an inanimate padded target.
    I had problems with kesa giri. The Batto Renmei demanded 45 degrees. At least as accurate as possible for competition. Within the ryu I always visualized cutting through the carotid in neck as nearer 35. Two degrees lost me first place in national competition! Shomegiri o t only assumes the opponent has no helmet. It assumes you also have no helmet. Because you are unable to bring your arms above your head. That is unless you do shomen giri from hasso waza like me and stop a centimetier from the floor. A lot of what we do nowadays has been 'adapted' into perfection of movement rather than practically. Isn't the concept of shomen giri in Iaido to cut down through one's own ego?
    Last edited by hyaku; 27th July 2013 at 08:50.
    Hyakutake Colin

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    Hello Ken, I've seen nanadan iaido in Japan bend swords. Batto is a wheel of the cart some never study. But many of my mentors/teachers had moved from the practical aspects of the sword to Iai.
    Hyakutake Colin

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    Like anything else, Colin, handling a sword takes both practice & understanding of the kinematics. My wife & I have trained in MJER for many moons, but it wasn't until we started tameshigiri training that we realized how little we really knew about how the katana was really used "back in the day."

    Neither of us has ever bent a shinken (yet), but some of our tatami omote cuts were certainly not "beautiful," to say the least. Kesagiri came fairly naturally to me, but Linda had some problem with it for awhile, & we went through large quantities of tatami until she felt she understood the hasuji. We cut from hasso these days, rather than from jodan, as we've found that it doesn't take a tremendous amount of force/energy/power to cut if you're doing it correctly. We're growing bamboo in our backyard - glad we live in the tropics! - that we're now using for practice. I can cut a 2-1/2" bamboo stalk kesagiri from hasso, & at least 4" from jodan, although I'm still looking for a smoother cut on the surface.

    There's no one to test us out here, so we're following the kata in Toshishiro Obata's book, 'Shinkendo Tameshigiri,' & are likely not performing in a formal manner as you are. We certainly stop our swings a lot higher than one centimeter from the floor!

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    You don't have to be in the tropics to grow bamboo, Ken! I grow about 30 species in Massachusetts, and you can't see my house from the street because it's cloaked in the stuff, some of which is almost as high as the peak of the roof.

    Alas, I can't grow the huge-circumference types, like moso, but I do get 2" culms that are fun to cut. The annual thinning of the groves is always a favorite time.
    Cady Goldfield

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    That's pretty cool, Cady. We just have two clumps of the non-spreading bamboo, but the culms (thanks for the correct nomenclature) grow to be quite thick. I guess bamboo being a grass means it can grow almost anywhere.

    Ken

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    There are varieties of bamboo that can tolerate -20F. Otherwise, about the only place it isn't happy is in the desert, where the air is too dry.

    In cool-temperate climates like mine, there are a lot of options. I have several kinds of tall "timber" bamboo to provide fence materials, garden stakes and for cutting practice of course.
    Cady Goldfield

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    Talking

    Well I had to turn some of sword work into a more practical use this past few years. Still a Japanese resident but spending most of my time in the Philippine jungle. Bamboo I cut for fence posts is near 5 inches. Smaller ones I can do nice cuts and use to support big plants. Bananas grow as thick as man's body. Lots of koshi maximum swing and I can just about cleave one. I keep blades with a rough polish and they bite in. Even kids take a blade to school. Obata San is the same age and was in the same renmei I mentioned until he went to America. He worked for Wakakoma pro as a tateshi (fight arranger) then did Ninja Turtles. So you would know what his results are trying to cut through a helmet. In between the armour is favorable. With my shomengiri the opponent has to avoid as he counters. Soke asked me, "Can you hear my cuts"? I replied, "If I didn't I guess I would be heading for hospital".
    Hyakutake Colin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cady Goldfield View Post
    If I recall correctly, kesageri ("monk cut") But diagonal "kesa" cuts seem, to me, to be kind of halfway neither here nor there in power generation, and almost seem to bleed it away, not as powerful as the other two directional cuts.

    Nice to see the forum back.

    One counter to your point is that more people fail at Horizontal cuts in Tameshigir than Kesagiri. The hand position for Kesagiri works to generate power.
    Mat Rous

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maro View Post
    Nice to see the forum back.

    One counter to your point is that more people fail at Horizontal cuts in Tameshigir than Kesagiri. The hand position for Kesagiri works to generate power.
    While I agree with your basic premise, you have to take the target into account for a good portion of that Mat. It is much easier to cut tatami or bamboo partially with the grain (as in kesagiri) than it is totally across the grain (as in suihei). As an interesting experiment, roll up several double mats and cut dodan while standing at right angles to the targets. Then, repeat the same cut standing at 45 degree angle to targets. I can easily cut twice as deep while standing at 45 degree angle. This is why whenever you see a Toyama ryu embu and they cut dodan, they always cut at 45 degree angle to the targets as it looks much more impressive that way.
    Paul Smith
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    I'm surprised there hasn't been stronger interest in this subject, especially since I don't recall it being discussed before. I consider it a pretty important aspect of swordsmanship to consider, personally.

    From my training and experience, kesagiri (a diagonal cut) is a more natural cut to execute, and allows for cuts to specific targets straight cuts can't align to. And obviously, it can be more friendly to apply if wearing a kabuto with large maedate, shikoro, or fukigaeshi. Moreover, one big benefit is that a kesagiri, if cut from hasso, doesn't require the exponent to cross their arms in front of their face while swinging, creating a very brief blind spot with regards to the opponent. Conversely, kesagiri is hard not to telegraph to the opponent, and as a result can often be countered easier than a straight cut, and blocking kesagiri is very natural and easy to learn. Bottom line, easier to master, but also easier to block.

    A straight cut requires more training to perform correctly, due largely to equalizing the strength relationship between both grips to ensure proper hasuji throughout the cut. Straight cuts are also harder to block, and require a higher level of skill and training to perform correctly. Straight cuts do not telegraph as much as kesagiri, and allow for increased movement options, rather than locking the exponent in to moving and cutting from one side or the other. On the other hand, one big liability is the arms must pass in front of the eyes during the cut, creating a brief blind spot, which some arts that don't use straight cuts are known to specifically exploit. As far as wearing a large kabuto, a straight cut may be harder to perform, however there is at least one koryu I can think of that simply uses what some would call a "Dai-jodan" position (a narrow jodan position that is more in front of the head than behind the head) that would still allow the user to raise the arms adequately to cut down with power. Bottom line, harder to master, but harder to block.

    So in closing, my analysis indicates that straight cuts are, in many regards, the mark of a more advanced system of swordsmanship and training, while kesagiri is largely the mark of a system that was more tailored towards quickly teaching the masses an effective method of swinging that can be used with or without armor. This is probably the main reason kesagiri was found to be the cut of choice on the battlefield.

    To be clear - both have a great deal of merit, so I'm not implying that arts that favor kesagiri are low class, as much as the context and intent of the teachings may be different from a historical standpoint.

    FWIW,
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 16th August 2013 at 18:13.
    Nathan Scott
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