The first class with Sensei felt like the continuation of my last trip two months ago. As it is now common, when there are not so many participants, we do a lot of weapon techniques during the class (yari and sword).
The main point is to use Karada gaeshi 体返し. The body is deflecting the attack through the weapon. The yari or the sword become the natural extension of your body movements. There is no intention in your weapon, uke attacks, and you walk with your sword in front. The weapon is a shield, stabbing or cutting are not the objectives.
You don’t do a technique you simply protect yourself. You do not have to apply a technique because you control uke’s movements, and the distance by using your body. The trick here is to be close enough to prevent us from attacking again, and also to have enough space to use the yari or the sword. The correct distance is important.
In May, Sensei spoke of Kasumi no kaeru 霞の反る, or to put uke in a “fog like” situation. As you don’t try to escape and stay close to uke, he cannot grab the correct distance to maximize the use of his weapon.
On the sword techniques, Sensei also insisted on not cutting but using the air pockets of the ishitobashi* (see previous posts). When you use a sword, you have to understand its potential. You don’t need to cut because uke is using the Yoroi as a protection**.
When he is not wearing the Yoroi, then you have to know that the sword cuts by itself because it is its nature. I remember what my Musō Shinden teacher used to say. It was exactly the same. “The nature of the katana is to cut; the hardest part is to know how to stop it” (i.e. not to create a suki, an opening after the cutting motion). As Nagato sensei said, it is always necessary to keep our body protected. This need to be protected is why Sensei keeps repeating that we have to use the sword as a shield in the Bujinkan.
The sword of 2015 is the evolution of the sword of 1996. In 1996, we learned the forms, today we are learning strategy. If you are not good at doing the techniques (omote), then this pure feeling (ura) might escape you. The biken waza from Kukishin Ryû and Togakure Ryû are the foundation of what sensei is teaching these days.
The weapon being a shield then Karada gaeshi is the only logical answer.
**Reminder: the Yoroi was designed to protect the Samurai from the Yari.