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Sword Drawing and Slashing (Jan 1987)

Mahoutsukai DOJO

By Hatsumi Sensei

Translated by Mr Masaru Hirai

Before imparting to his pupils the training of the ninja's iai sword drawing techniques, the master gave them a warning to this effect: You must never draw your sword against an attacker except when your life is at stake or you are going to protect something more important than your life. This warning is a good lesson for the ninja today as well. For those of you who have little knowledge of the ninja's iai, we will begin with some basics; for those of you who are already versed in this ancient art, a brief refresher course will not be too much to bear. As a matter of fact, going back to basics will help to ensure good, sound technique and a right attitude. The ninja ken (shinobigatana) or short sword, had a short, single-edged blade that was particularly useful for close-quarter combat. Compact and easy to carry, it also allowed for quick, silent movement down narrow passageways or through tight crawl spaces. Though it could not compare with the samurai's longer, razor-sharp katana in terms of elegant looks and superior craftsmanship, it nonetheless suited the ninja's needs perfectly. It was an extremely practical and versatile weapon. Certainly volumes could be written on the many unique uses of the ninja ken. However, for our immediate purposes we will concentrate on some of the primary drawing and striking techniques. The reader should bear in mind that the ninja sword fighting method is a total body endeavour. It is the body in motion not just the limbs that propels the ninja ken for effective cutting and stabbing. The following specially prepared photographs will illustrate these important points.
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Starting from shizen-no-kamae or natural posture (1), Hatsumi Sensei begins by placing his hand loosely on the scabbard (2). Releasing the sword from the scabbard with the second joint of his index finger (3) Hatsumi Sensei then steps forward with his right leg as his right hand loosely grips the hilt (4). As the sword is drawn, Hatsumi Sensei extends himself forward and loosens his shoulders (5). As the cut begins, the position of the knees and shoulders play an important role in balance (6). The sword is drawn as if he were going to throw it away (7).
Let’s proceed to a variation, the technique of drawing the sword while taking sidesteps. You may move to the rhythm of tango music. You move your left foot to the right, crossing over your right leg. The way you loosen the sword guard is the same as before, with your forefinger.(1).Now this is the tango. You take another step to the right with your right foot (2).While moving your right foot to the left, behind your left toot, you draw the sword. Please be careful not to slash immediately; it will draw you off balance. Act slowly, rightly and gracefully (3). Direct the sword to the heavens as if you were dancing with the sword(4). Strecthing yourself out, you swing down the sword into a thrusting posture(5).
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Now look at how I bring down the sword using the whole of my body. Note that I am about to draw the sword by using the stretched forefinger of my right hand as a balance, and that the weight of my body is in the air (1). You can see that the forefinger of my left hand is also being used as a balance. The case in point is a rhythmic movement. As sound flies through the air, so does the ninja’s iai drawing sword fly through the air (2). Please take a close look at the movement of my body, which is being stretched out and swung back and forth as well as left and right while I am drawing the sword. This stance is adaptable to any response from the attacker whether he tries to make a counter attack or not (3). You may take a step forward with your left foot or backward with your right (4). Stretching out lightly, you swing the sword down (5).
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Sword Drawing and

Slashing (Jan 1987)

Mahoutsukai Dojo

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