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What did you see?

Well, you learn something new everyday. Last night Karita Sensei and his son, Naoki, gave a lectured aimed to give us a better understanding of the Japanese sword.


Something that I didn't know was that some swords come with a kaeritsuno (返り角) which is a piece of carved horn that keeps the sword in the obi or belt (see arrow above).  Now why would they want that?  Karita Sensei said that after a samurai was done cutting their opponents down there would be a tremendous amount of blood on the sword.  When they re-sheathed the sword, the blood would dry and the sword would become stuck.  The kaeritsuno acted as an anchor that enabled the samurai to still draw the sword with one hand and break free of the dried blood.  He also said that how the kaeritsuno was designed and oriented can help you understand where and when the sword was made. Pretty ingenious.

It doesn't matter what we do or where we go, we can always learn something new.

Tonight Karita Sensei will be giving a free lecture on how to understand Balance and Axis' in the martial arts.

Henry Ford's popular admission “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right” can be apropos to tonight's lecture.  One could think, "Karita Sensei does Tai Chi, what does that have to do with Aikido?" and turn off one's mind to other possibilities.  Another way to think might be, "I wonder what I can learn from this that might help me shed light on what I am doing?"  With both mindsets, we are correct.

A good martial artists is supposed to be proficient reading the situation and then acting.  To be able to read a situation, one needs to be good at "seeing" things that a normal person wouldn't readily be able to notice. 

At tonight's lecture, pay attention to how Karita Sensei moves more than what he says.  Don't let the words get in the way.  Watch how he uses his center and how he generates power.  If we can't "see" these things then we need more training.  If we can see these things then a cacophony wealth will open up for us and we will be able to see something that just might help us in our own training.

"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." - General Mattis














"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." - General Mattis

On a certain level General Mattis' words are completely true for budo or the martial arts.  However at another level, it is not quite apropos to someone of his level of understanding or ability.

To understand how his words pertain to budo, one might look to the kanji for the word martial arts or budo 武道 for an explanation.

At first glance, most look at the kanji for budo and see 武道 as just bu 武 for "warfare" and do 道 for "the way."  Therefore without knowing any better, one believes that budo simply means "the way of warfare."

However, as one trains a bit more and becomes more experienced the word budo and its kanji take on a deeper meaning.  To understand requires further training.  With this experience one learns to look deeper and as we take a look closer and peel back the layers, we see something different.  The kanji for bu 武 is actually made up for two separate radicals.  The kanji for stop 止 and the kanji for spear 戈.  From this closer look, the meaning of budo might be "the way to stop fighting."

General Mattis assertion isn't wrong, but perhaps, like most quotes, taken out of context.

We all start out with the desire to win and dominate our opponents.  As we become more learned, we realized how fleeting winning can be and that the true opponent is really ourselves.

Is the goal then to reach the level of "the way not fighting?"  Actually no, the goal is total relinquishment of even the idea of budo or perhaps it is like the time when a student visited a famous sword teacher and showed him a sword to which he said, "What is that?"

The famous sword teacher Yagyu Tajima no Kami said that in order to master swordsmanship one need to cure these diseases:

  • The desire for victory,
  • The desire to rely on technical cunning,
  • The desire to show off,
  • The desire to psychologically overwhelm the opponent,
  • The desire to remain passive in order to wait for an opening, and
  • The desire to become free of these diseases.


Martial arts IQ: Rare footage of Mochida Moriji Sensei

mochidaMochida Moriji is considered one of few great swordsman of the 20th century and was thus dubbed the "Master Swordsman of the Showa period" by many of his peers.  He was the last person to have ever been awarded the rank of 10th Dan.  Mochida Sensei was the Kendo teacher at the famed Noma Dojo that hosted so many famous martial artist over the years and even O Sensei demonstrated there. Mochida Sensei was well known for his kizeme which is one of the highest level techniques in martial arts where one uses ki to either lead or disrupt their opponents.

In the first video below you can see how strong Mochida Sensei is in Kendo.  In the second video you can see a little about Kendo and some quotes by him.


sword-makerAn ancient fairy tale about two swords made by two masters. Goro Nyudo Masamune is regarded as Japan's finest sword maker.  He made swords in the Shoshu tradition during the 13th or 14th century.  There is a famous tale that illustrates the quality and spirit of Masamune's blades.  As legend has it, Masamune was challenged to a sword making contest by his student Senji Muramasa who was himself a master sword maker.  After working for sometime they both produced what they thought were winning swords.  Masamune's creation was called Yawarakai-Te (柔らかい手) or the "Tender Hands" sword and Muramasa was the Juuchi Yosamu (十千夜寒) or "10,000 Cold Nights" sword.  To test the blades cutting ability, they immersed them in a rushing creek facing the current.  Supposedly this was one method a samurai would use to see how well a blade would cut leaves floating by.  Muramasa's sword cut every leaf as well as every rock and fish that floated by.  Masamune's blade cut not single leaf and many other things that were a drift just gently floated around the blade.  After some time, Muramasa declared himself the victor and taunted his teacher.  Masamune just smiled to himself as he sheathed the sword.  A monk happened to be sitting on the riverbank and watched the entire contest.  The monk politely interceded and declared Masamune the winner and offered this explanation:  "Muramasa", he said, "Your blade lacks discrimination and cuts whatever is in its path and its desire for blood makes it an evil sword."  He elaborated why Masamune's sword won, "Masamune's blade is far better because it has discrimination and does not needlessly cut."  He further stated, "Masamune's blade only cuts when it needs to and not only when it wants to."

The Japanese sword is not only a razor sharp precision cutting instrument but it is also universally thought that the sword has a soul that is instilled partly during the forging process by the smith and partly when wielded by the swordsman.  The sword then becomes a reflection of not only oneself but its maker too.  From this story we can understand O Sensei's theory of "satsujinken katsujinken" or the sword that takes life and the sword that gives it.  We are not wild animals driven by animalistic urges.  We train and develop special skills and with those skills comes responsibility.  An often attributed Voltaire quote is apropos for this story, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" or as Peter Parker's uncle said, "With great power there must also come - great responsibility."  The sword or the art then becomes a reflection of who we are.  Therefore, because of the great power martial artists wield, they must then be people of the highest caliber.

Sensei used to say, "Aikido is only for the elite" which I misunderstood all of these years.  The elite that he was referring to was not the person who was outwardly rich or opportune, but the person who inwardly was of the highest caliber.

Taiwan's last sword maker - how sad

Sword appreciation is kind of a dying art and I would think for sword making it is even more so.  I came across the video of Master Kuo who is supposedly the last traditional sword maker in Taiwan.  His most famous creation was the Green Destiny sword from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.