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Day 6 Sugano Sensei Remembrance/ "Tsuki is proper use of sword."

(Continued from Day 5)

BE- Something that has been very confusing to me has been that in the sword style I am learning they teach a very different type of cut than what I learned from study with you. We practice cutting wet bamboo tatami rolls. When I cut using the sword cutting you taught me where you lock the arms and hands while cutting down, When I cut I could go only a few inches into the mat but not through. When I tried a second time the sword bounced off the tatami and almost flew out my hands. The sword cut they teach in Battodo is a circular cut. It circles out and then draws back in so that the maximum length of the blade is used to cut through the target. This seems to be the best way of using a weapon. If you lock the arms when you strike you hit with only one area of the blade instead more and cutting through your target. If you strike using only one place you will cut a few inches and get stuck.

Sugano Sensei

(Annoyed) “Yes. Cut a few inches into your head and get stuck.”

He looked at me angrily continued, “All of these sword schools are made up. They imagine that they are keeping old ideas of samurai alive but they are not. After Japan was unified there was peace of hundreds of years. All of these schools sprung up because there was no war, no fighting. All of them were imagining sword fighting. Only a few schools kept real understandings. Fighting with sword is simple. You kill the other. In real fighting there is no blade to cut with. Sword is good for one of two strikes and then will not cut. The blade is no good. I teach to lock arms when striking because sword must smash opponent. There is no cutting action, only smashing. Real Samurai fighting involved armor. Sword was no good with armor. Cannot cut through. Must lock arms and smash. Like cutting wood. Must chop opponent like wood.

BE- Sensei but when I cut the tatami while locking the arms my sword almost went flying out of my hands! The harder I cut the more difficult it is to cut.

Sugano Sensei.

“You must hold sword strong. They are playing a game with themselves cutting tatami. Real war and using sword was cutting through armor. If try to cut through armor and not have arms locked, then sword will do nothing. This cut is only good for killing peasants, farmers. Farmers had no armor. If you don’t want to get sword stuck in body of peasant then use this cut. This sword has nothing to do with Samurai. I know your sword practice. This was invented after Samurai to teach basics of sword to new soldiers. It was made for cutting people who have no armor, have no swords. Cutting is not useful anyway. Cutting is best to make opening for tsuki.”

BE- But it seems like it is good to learn to cut with the length of the blade rather than just one place on the sword.

Sugano Sensei

“Sword has three areas. First third is for turning. Second third is percussion center. Bottom third is for defense. The bottom of sword is strongest. That is why if must defend then bring other blade to base of sword by tsuba. Middle part of blade is where use percussion. This is strong for strike. Top of sword is weak. Can use this area to turn others sword to make opening for tsuki. Tsuki is proper use of sword. Cutting is just to make way for tski. Cutting with sword will wound. Tsuki will kill. Cutting with sword is to close distance, to make opening. Cutting may kill other but difficult. Cutting is to make path so that can move in and punch through. This is part of locking arms. Either to body or to sword, enter and smash. Must hit hard on body to make an opening in armor, to make weakness so to tsuki. If hit sword must knock sword over to tsuki through. Most fighting records show that cuts not kill immediately. Tsuki causes death instantly most times. Must strike vital area though.”


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