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Thread: kesa giri vs. downward vertical strike

  1. #31
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    It seems like I read an article on this, I was pretty sure it was at toyama-ryu.org in the history of the art, starting with gunto soho, and later evolutions - which I can't recall. That site appears to be expired, so I can't find the article, but I am guessing you have seen this article as well, and may well have resourc rines that the article used for that reference.

    Does that ring any bells?

    edit
    I found an article at: http://dev.nsgroupllc.com/smaa-hq.co...p?articleid=14 which might or might not be the same article. I can't say whether the article is authoritative, I'll leave judgement to those of you better qualified than I.
    Last edited by jdostie; 16th August 2013 at 23:59.
    Joseph Dostie

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    I wonder if the vertical strike found favor, at least in the Itto Ryu, because it's more difficult for the opponent to perform kiriotoshi.
    Ben Persons

    "Kimi ga yo wa, ama no hagoromo mare ni kite."

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    An interesting analysis, Nathan - thanks!

    How about nukitsuke? Although it's definitely a weaker cut than kuritsuke/kirioroshi, the arms don't pass in front of the eyes. Similarly, wakigamae on both sides is powerful without being as obvious as kesa giri from jodan or hasso.

    Ken

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    Actually, Toyama-ryu is a good example of an art that, at least under Nakamura Taizaburo, moved away from straight cuts in favor or kesagiri due to the higher usage of kesagiri during war time. The problem is, were combatants using kesagiri because it was "better", or because they had minimal training in swordsmanship and it was the easiest/most natural way of cutting? Obviously, performing a straight cut down on someone wearing a helmet may not always be the smartest tactic, but if the opponent isn't trained deeply enough in uke-nagashi type blocking evasions, then they may have a difficult time diverting the power or getting out from underneath the cut. Again, both have an important place in swordsmanship (IMO), but I think it's important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of performing either cut from a tactical standpoint. If an opponent is less experienced, then drilling through them with a powerful straight cut may be enough to disrupt their physical or mental state.

    As far as "nukitsuke", if we are both talking about a horizontal combative draw, I've always viewed this cut as having it's place. Cutting across the forearms/wrists as the opponent is raising to jodan, cutting a certain place on the upper/outer arm of the opponent's drawing arm, cutting across the throat, eyes, or above the eyes, etc. But from my way of thinking, nukitsuke is more useful for less penetrating cuts or to buy time/distance than a deeper cut that will sever larger parts of the body. But yeah, nothing wrong with any of the other cuts from other kamae. Each kamae and cut has their advantage and liability when used in conjunction with an appropriate tactic. But the topic of downward straight cut vs diagonal cut is, IMO, an important one to understand, since they appear similar on the surface (both downward cuts), but in fact have very specific and different weaknesses that can be exploited by an experienced swordsman. Deciding to cut straight or diagonal is more than simple a difference of apples or oranges.

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Deciding to cut straight or diagonal is more than simple a difference of apples or oranges.
    You're right, Nathan - this has become a very interesting thread.

    Okay, I've had about 20 years of MJER training & 7 years of Shinto-Ryu iai along with more than 60 years of European fencing experience, so I guess I've handled a sword of some sort for quite awhile in many situations. I've also found that combining techniques learned in various martial arts can work to my advantage, depending of course on whether my Sensei is willing to consider henka (variations). This has been a positive experience in SMR jodo while a bit less positive in MJER....

    The engineer in me considers the process of defeating an opponent to be broken into several parts.

    First, the decision has to be made as to whether you are best situated to cut or thrust. This in itself isn't an easy decision because the katana isn't really an ideal thrusting weapon, but does do the job in most cases. The fencing ballestra is a way to move your body & blade forward about twice as fast as a basic lunge, so the maai (pardon me for mixing Italian & Japanese terms) changes so quickly that an opponent doesn't know what to expect or how to defend, while leaving you in an excellent position to follow up with a cut if the thrust doesn't do the job. But the downside is that keeping your hara centered for a follow-up cut is rather difficult, & may leave you open if you miss badly. Combinations of thrusts & cuts are used in both MJER & Shinto-Ryu, but I've found that almost all cuts that follow a thrust are vertical/kirioroshi - not sure why that is, to be honest.

    There's nothing intrinsically wrong in using nukitsuke (horizontal combative draw/cut), but as Nathan points out, there isn't much "penetration" to put an opponent permanently out of commission. Vertical cuts (kuritsuke/kirioroshi) appear to be attempts to kill the opponent in one stroke, while angled cuts (kesa giri) appear to be disabling in most cases. That's not to say that a kesa cut intersecting the neck wouldn't be rapidly fatal, but essentially all my training doesn't put the same level of strength into a kesa cut versus kuritsuke. These perceptions may be due to my Sensei-specific approaches, but that's what I see.

    Ken

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    Hi Ken,

    For me, I've seen more situations in which a thrust follows a cut, in regards to combining the techniques goes. This can be VERY effective if applied using good tactics. Japanese swords aren't as good at thrusting as say, a spear is, but that being said some Japanese swords are straighter than others for a reason. Each school tends to have a preference to the amount of curvature their swords have, and where the curvature is placed, and the way they handle a sword compliments their preference. So from my point of view, the effectiveness of a Japanese sword thrust is case-by-case. Thrusts are very devastating though when performed correctly, and are often under-emphasized (IMO) in many arts and/or dojo.

    I'm not sure I'm on board with the idea that a straight cut is more fatal/disabling than a diagonal cut. Both target different weak points / vital areas, and both can be developed to a high level of power. My position is that it is harder to develop skill at a straight cut, and harder to block. That alone is a big advantage. But aside from that, both cuts have their place. A kesagiri to the temple or neck would be more than disabling. Without getting too gross, the closer you sever an artery to the heart, the faster the opponent bleeds out. Being disabled would be nearly immediate (shock, lack of strength, etc.), with expiration occurring very shortly afterwards. A downward of upward diagonal cut to an opponent's forearm when they are in jodan or gripping their hilt in preparation to draw creates an advantage that 99% of opponents would not be able to recover from.

    In one art I studied, we would often use kesagiri to cut into the opponents kesagiri (counter-cut), then use the deflective force to "bounce" back to the opponent's centerline for a finishing cut. This was a very effective application of kesagiri when applied correctly, and very difficult to reverse since the movement occurred as two-movements-in-one (one beat).

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    I have been waving a bokken around for 30+ years. I started with shomen-uchi in Aikido, and Iaido, and whatever else I came across and then discovered Kashima Shinryu and just fell in love with Kesa-giri plus the various ways they use it. I still like it, and think it better for deflecting shomen-uchi cuts, but for some reason, I now like shomen-uchi again.

    Also, as for which cut is better and which style uses what, I am tempted to think that it is the man behind the sword that makes 90% of the difference, not the type of sword or the style, or they type of cut. Just my 2c.

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    Maybe it is just me but comparing which is better: straight cut or an angled cut is like asking which is a better tool: screw driver or hammer. When I have a screw a screw driver is better; when I have a nail a hammer is better. I think what is more important is timing, target and distance. Once I know those the cut should be the correct one and it shouldn't take any thought to figure it out.

    Just my 2 cents.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
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    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

  9. #39
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    While I agree that it is more the wielder and the situation that causes the cut, that makes for lousy conversation and I'm rather enjoying the points presented in the thread.
    Here is something that I haven't seen addressed. It always seemed to me, based on my limited interaction with the Toyama ryu, that they pretty much considered kesagiri to be kirioroshi with movement involved. That's how I saw it anyway. If you do a straight downward cut and moved your hips to the right or left, you'd end up with a kesagiri at the proper 45 degree angle. That's the way I've seen them doing tameshigiri anyway.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Paul, I know nothing about Toyama-ryu, but I'm not sure I agree that a vertical cut while moving your hips right or left would give you a kesa giri equivalent. I just tried it with my shinken on bamboo in my back yard, but found that I couldn't even cut a 2-inch stalk cleanly. I think the hasuji would be a lot different in a "true" kesa giri cut, & my hands tend to follow my hara so when I move just my hips, it just throws things off-balance.

    Ken

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    Is kesa giri more effective? For what?

    Kesa giri is great for tameshigiri and hence to cut a vertical target, like a standing enemy, in pieces (when not to be concerned with the opponent’s attack).
    For their military purpose (between 1925 and 1945, Japanese soldiers didn’t have to be trained to face other swordmen) , I can imagine that Toyama ryu put more emphasis on kesa giri.

    This seems in contrast to kenjutsu schools like Itto ryu with its emphasis on kiri otoshi. Indeed in itto ryu, students are trained to face another skilled opponent and the one doing uwadachi and overriding the other’s sword is likely to win. But also in Itto-ryu, when enemies come from different directions, the best tactic can be to duck under their sword while cutting diagonally their torso.

    The situation is different again for samurai who have to charge an army with inferior kenjutsu skills (the Japanese military learned their lesson from confrontations with the Satsuma clan, who were experienced in Jigen ryu). The Satsuma were highly effective in these charges but this is not where itto-ryu samurai were trained for (at least not that I am aware of).

    Therefore (like others said already) it seems all situational to me.

    Another question is: should you train kesa giri to become better in tameshigiri or should it be the other way round.
    Guy Buyens
    Hontai Yoshin Ryu (本體楊心流)
    BELGIAN BRANCH http://www.hontaiyoshinryu.be/

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    Tameshigiri is really the testing of the sword-swinger, rather than the sword, at least today. It just struck me that it's more logical to perform kesagiri from hasso than it is from jodan, but few of us cut tatami omote or bamboo from hasso.

    Jodan-no-kamae done kendo-style, whether hidari or migi, orients hasuji for a vertical cut & is, in my opinion, less efficient than if both arms & the blade are in one single plane. However, if both arms & the blade are in a single plane, then it's obvious that you are oriented for kesagiri. Try it if you don't follow my logic. In MJER, I was always forced to perform jodan kendo-style, but once I joined my SMR jodo dojo, Sensei changed that to the single-plane method which is both faster & physically more effective. My wife is a long-time kendoka, & has found it very hard to change styles, but agrees that the single-plane method works faster (if there is a name for single-plane jodan, please someone let me know!).

    Ken

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    Hi Ken,

    I'm having trouble understanding your meaning of "single-plane", but as far as kesagiri, it's probably worth noting that there are basically two types of kesagiri:

    1) Kesagiri from a vertical jodan kamae (as Paul mentioned previously). The upside is you can cut straight *or* diagonally from jodan with little to no telegraphing. This method is more commonly seen in iai styles. The downside is you still have the same problem that straight cuts have of the arms passing in front of the eyes during the swing.

    2) Kesagiri from hasso kamae (or equiv). The upside of this method is you can cut diagonally directly from an over-the-shoulder hasso or equivalent position without passing your arms in front of your eyes. This method is more commonly seen in kenjutsu styles, and includes the "makiuchi" type application seen in arts like TSKSR (armored style). The downside is that it is harder to prevent telegraphing, and you're locked into a narrower direction of attack.

    The second method is the more "extreme" diagonal cutting method I was originally using to contrast against the straight cut.

    As far as which is "better", I for one was not trying to argue which one is better or worse, just what the important tactical characteristics are of each.

    In terms of tameshigiri, I'm not sure I'm tracking on this logic. As far as target cutting goes, the original / main cut was "suemonogiri" straight cutting against horizontal targets. This method was adapted from the fairly standardized sword testing method of cutting horizontally stacked bodies laid on top of a dotan. Diagonal cuts against vertical targets became more popular later, though diagonal cuts were of course used on body testing as well. From my way of thinking, which method of tameshigiri you practice should be based on which type of cut you want to test. Kind of like how Jigen-ryu uses a horizontal target for straight cut practice and a vertical target for kesagiri practice. But yeah, if you're cutting mostly vertical tatami omote targets, then it would make sense that some form of diagonal cut is going to be your bread and butter.

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Scott View Post
    As far as which is "better", I for one was not trying to argue which one is better or worse, just what the important tactical characteristics are of each.

    In terms of tameshigiri, I'm not sure I'm tracking on this logic. As far as target cutting goes, the original / main cut was "suemonogiri" straight cutting against horizontal targets.
    Nathan,

    I can see what you mean by the different types of kesa giri but don’t follow you on the difference between suemono giri and tameshigiri.

    SUEMONO GIRI (据物切), means cutting fixed/still objects. The term is for instance used by Enshin-ryu (current soke is Masumoto Takakazu) and the full name of the art is Enshin-ryu Suemonogiri Kenpo. Suemono giri is not synonym for horizontal cut but can be seen as another word for tameshigiri, it doesn’t exclude kesa giri.

    In fact it is TAMESHIGIRI (試し切り) that used to be the name for of a sword test: a cutting exercise to test the quality of the blade rather than the cutting skills of the swordsman. The materials used to test the quality of the sword were condemned criminals and cadavers. Another use was to train to be a good assistant (kaishakunin), for someone who was to perform seppuko. In fact TAMESHIGIRI (試し斬り instead of 試し切り) can also be written with a kanji, emphasizing decapitation.

    Indeed, these days, tameshigiri is performed to test the cutting abilities of the swordsman on adequate material (like tatami mats or bamboo). I noticed however that some iaido people, were seeking other ways to give a name to this activity. Because tameshigiri can be written in 2 different ways, some emphasis can be given in Japanese. An alternative I came across is to use SHITO (試刀) for sword testing, and SHIZAN (試斬), for test cutting (skill testing).
    Guy Buyens
    Hontai Yoshin Ryu (本體楊心流)
    BELGIAN BRANCH http://www.hontaiyoshinryu.be/

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    Hi Guy,

    On a general level, the terms tameshigiri and suemonogiri can both be used to indicate "test cutting". However, as you point out, the kanji and general usage of suemonogiri refers to cutting fixed objects, which historically included things like helmets, armor, copper plates or coins, and oak poles. These objects were most often placed or secured on to a flat horizontal object or "dotan", then cut using a straight cut (not horizontal cut, or diagonal cut). Furthermore, a special "kiritsuka" hilt was used for these tests, not the standard bushi koshirae fittings. Thus, the purpose of "suemonogiri" originally was primarily to test swords rather than sword techniques.

    Bodies and other objects were also fixed or suspended at angles that allowed for test cutting while using techniques like kesagiri, but I was simply generalizing that straight cuts were and still are tested on horizontal targets while diagonal cuts were and are tested on vertical targets.

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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