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Thread: Matsuba Kunimasa (swordsmith / budo-ka)

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    Default Matsuba Kunimasa (swordsmith / budo-ka)

    Hi all,

    Just returned from a lecture/meeting/demonstration by a visiting swordsmith from Japan that is rising in notoriety, Matsuba Kunimasa (Ichiro). He is based out of Miyazaki-ken in Kyushu (Hyuga City), and is probably best known for having won the NBTHK competition about 8 years ago for best Japanese sword. However, he is also a 6th dan in Manseikan Aikido (Sunadomari) and a 5th dan in Kendo, and appears to be developing some form of kenjutsu that has roots in Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu.

    What was of particular interest to me, besides though, is that his first teacher in swordsmithing was Kobayashi Yasuhiro (d. 1987), who in turn was known for trying to revive the Koto period methods in order to make stronger, sharper blades for actual use. Obata Toshishiro was a sword tester for Kobayashi during that time (that is the main sword he uses for cutting), and I was given a Kobayashi wakizashi once as a gift that I like very much. So I was very curious about Matsuba and the type of swords he makes.

    The sold-out event yesterday (55 attendees) was hosted in part by the "Sushi Chef Institute" in Torrance, California, and part of the $45 per ticket went towards a sushi buffet lunch. It started with a video, and then a lecture on sword making and the development of Japanese swords over the various periods. I asked him how much influence Mr. Kobayashi was on the methods of his current smithing, and he said it was totally different, and that he believes that he is making swords at a level that he believes Kobayashi was trying to reach. Of course, Matsuba brought several of his swords with to show, including the one that won the NBTHK competition. Beautiful stuff, but apparently, way outside my price range (basically starting price is that of a new car).

    He finished with an hour demonstration of tameshigiri, all on various sizes of fresh green Japanese bamboo. It occurred to me that cutting bamboo was probably his specialty, since many swordsmen in Japan cut tatami omote, but very few of them attempt to cut bamboo (whereas bamboo cutting in California, however, is well known already!). One of the things I thought was interesting about his cutting methods was his emphasis of short-stroke cuts. If I understood him correctly, these smaller cuts were a test based on the idea of cutting trough the kote, whereas the larger cuts would have been reserved for the torso. While his swords are sharp, there is no disputing that he is skilled at generating a great deal of speed and power in a relatively small swing.

    Although this particular event was not without its problems (I'll list them if anyone is really interested in hearing my gripes), it was overall a worthwhile event. For those interested in swordmaking or tameshigiri, there is a second event here in Los Angeles coming up this Tuesday night, Sept 3rd, that is a lecture only, but FREE to the public (RSVP necessary). More information on this lecture at the Japan Foundation Los Angeles webpage.

    I'm having trouble posting links to youtube, but if anyone is curious, go there and search for "Bokken.mov" (segment on Matsuba swinging a furibo) and "Real Japanese Sword Smith Visiting Los Angeles August 2013" (segment for LA enbu and lecture).

    Regards,
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 1st September 2013 at 19:16. Reason: youtube link problems
    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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    Here is a photo of one of his swords:

    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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    Thanks for the thread.

    Who do you think are the top current swordsmiths of the current time?
    Richard Scardina

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    Thanks. I'm actually not the best person to ask. I don't collect swords, so my knowledge is for the most part limited to aspects of the sword that involve performance. There are others here that have more to offer as far as who the top dogs are right now.

    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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    Whom might that be?
    Richard Scardina

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    Richard,

    Any of the mukansa level smiths would be your top level guys. They are the big dog swordsmiths in Japan.

    Best regards,
    Chris
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kendoguy9 View Post
    Richard,

    Any of the mukansa level smiths would be your top level guys. They are the big dog swordsmiths in Japan.

    Best regards,
    Chris
    Thanks

    The term; "mukansa level smiths" produced many links and info

    It was a good place to start with that term

    Havent foumd why they are named/go by "mukansa"
    Richard Scardina

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    "Mukansa meaning: "without judgment", this means that a maker's swords are of such a high level that they are displayed at the annual contemporary sword smith exhibition without examination of a panel of judges; no further awards will be granted, since the swords are above competition."

    The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords, NBTHK, has an annual sword smith competition in Japan. Read more about the NBTHK here ... http://www.nbthk-ab.org/Japan.htm
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    I think there are currently two Living National Treasue ranked swordsmiths: Amata Akitsugu and Osumi Toshihira. There were three or four others at this level that have now passed away.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    "Mukansa meaning: "without judgment", this means that a maker's swords are of such a high level that they are displayed at the annual contemporary sword smith exhibition without examination of a panel of judges; no further awards will be granted, since the swords are above competition."

    The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords, NBTHK, has an annual sword smith competition in Japan. Read more about the NBTHK here ... http://www.nbthk-ab.org/Japan.htm
    Quote Originally Posted by Kendoguy9 View Post
    I think there are currently two Living National Treasue ranked swordsmiths: Amata Akitsugu and Osumi Toshihira. There were three or four others at this level that have now passed away.
    Interesting. I had never known. Of course, i really did not research the subject that in-depth.

    What books-media are good reference?
    Richard Scardina

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    For anyone interested in Japanese swords, I always send them first to Dr. Rich Stein's Japanese Sword Guide He has a tremendous amount of information about Japanese swords and collecting, as well as lists of articles, books, and links to other interesting sites.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    For anyone interested in Japanese swords, I always send them first to Dr. Rich Stein's Japanese Sword Guide He has a tremendous amount of information about Japanese swords and collecting, as well as lists of articles, books, and links to other interesting sites.
    Thanks.

    Not to sound novice, how is the correct pronunciation of Tsuba?
    Richard Scardina

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Scardina View Post
    Thanks.

    Not to sound novice, how is the correct pronunciation of Tsuba?
    tsoo-bah, you have to get a bit of the "t" in along with the "s".
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    The collection of books, monographs, prints, and charts available from the Hawley Library is also a great place to check for affordable sources of information.

    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 Richard Scardina View Post
    ...What books-media are good reference?
    Not a reference for who are the current top-rated smiths, but for a general introduction to the craft of the Japanese sword, how they are polished, how the fittings and scabbard are made, and so on, an English-language book that I like is this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Craft-Japanese.../dp/1568364318
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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