“The fundamentals of cutting with the short sword are the same as the fundamentals of the long sword,” says samurai weapons expert Carl E. Long, “except that we use the arm as an extension of the first part of the blade.”
In this samurai weapons demonstration with the short sword, Carl E. Long and the late eighth-dan swordmaster Masayuki Shimabukuro describe and portray how a single rolled tatami can be cut with the most refined technique and accuracy.
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Samurai Sword Master Masayuki Shimabukuro Shows You How to Cut Using the Short Sword
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“In a long sword, we might have 30 inches of blade — but in a short sword, we may only have 20,” Carl E. Long explains. “So you want to extend the sword out from the hand and use the entire arm to cut rather than just the elbow. If you use the elbow to cut, you don’t get nearly as much speed or force. So keep the blade extended, kissaki (tip) up, and use the entire arm as the sword as you cut.”
In Samurai Swordsmanship: The Batto, Kenjutsu and Tameshigiri of Eishin-Ryu, the top-selling samurai weapons book he co-wrote with Masayuki Shimabukuro, Carl E. Long writes:
Distance and geometry are the key factors that must be understood to successfully perform test-cutting. Each individual has a unique physique, range of motion and experience level. The differences in structures of the human body will not affect the geometry of cutting if the basic principles of correct alignment and distance are observed.
The same could be said for the length of the sword itself, with only slight adjustments to your approach being necessary to accommodate for a successful cut.
However, as Carl E. Long says, those adjustments would be necessary to avoid a failed cut:
Japanese katana are designed to cut as the blade moves in an arc. This geometric configuration of the sword allows the blade to make contact with the target at a single point along the cutting edge as it passes through the target material. The geometry of the blade is such that any misalignment of the body of the target during the swing of the sword will result in a failed cut.
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The three-disc set Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship details a variety of cutting techniques, various attacks and defenses in two-man sword-sparring situations. Some of these situations involve equal swords, some are long sword vs. short sword, and some are even sword vs. an unarmed man! These methods for practice are explained first by Carl E. Long and then demonstrated with his sensei, Black Belt Hall of Fame member Masayuki Shimabukuro (Weapons Instructor of the Year, 2006), with particular attention paid to footwork, timing, hand positions and rhythm.
To learn more about the late samurai weapons master Masayuki Shimabukuro, visit jikishin-kai.com.
To learn more about samurai weapons expert Carl E. Long, visit sakurabudokan.com.