Tachi Tips & tricks (6)

No harm

Yesterday during my seminar, one student was waving his sword held to his wrist by the rope at the tsuka kashira and the ring at the end broke releasing the sword.

Training weapons are NOT real ones and might break easily. Do not get over excited while training and keep high security levels. There was no harm but an accident could have happened.

We are now training with metallic blades instead of padded ones. Therefore our ways of training should adapt accordingly. Permanent adaptation is not to be applied only during the techniques but should include all the elements of the class in the dôjô. Adaptation is what tachi kumiuchi is teaching us. Stop thinking always in the same ways. Last month sensei said: “don’t hold to what you know or you won’t improve your skills”. The key point is to adapt.

A weapon designed for training purpose is still a weapon. Please be careful. You can influence the actions of a sentient being during the fight but there is no possibility to affect an in-animated object.

Be aware of this.

Tachi Tips & Trick (5)

various types of blades some being both...

When you get older your students get older too and you can learn from them!

Yesterday on tachi kumiuchi seminar at the Bujinkan France in Vincennes I learnt two things. One of my old students followed a few seminars to become a blacksmith.

I was teaching the particular way of waving the blade horizontally and was telling the students that the point of pivot is done around the first third of the blade. He told us that the sôri (curve) of the blade is not the same in a tachi and on a katana. The katana is balanced more or less at the middle of the blade but the tachi is often balanced at a point closer to the tsuba. The apex of the curve being closer to the hands it is logical (ans easier) to turn the blade from this point adding more momentum and speed to the blow. Remember that you do not cut with the blade but only try to get uke‘s balance. Also the burden of the yoroi makes it also easier to move the blade that way.

Rotate your blade  on itself and do not pivot from the kissaki (tip of the blade). A tachi is not a katana therefore your movements have to be different.

Also, you can find the same blade displayed with the katana mouting and the tachi mounting which confirms what I was writing in a previous post.

Tachi tips & tricks (4)

tachi of different sizes but with the mounting

We have been training quite a lot with the tachi in the past weeks. When in Japan I was quite surprised to see that the blades used by sensei and the shihan were not that long after all.

I have a few tachi (long and normal) and I found that the qualificative of tachi only applies to the mounting (edge up / edge down) as it gives or close new angles in the drawing process.

For example the hontai nuki gata is given when using a tachi as the edge is aready down. Then the size of the blade doesn’t matter that much. In fact with a long blade the movement is as difficult as when using a regular size blade.

In tate nuki gata, the blade is used not vertically but a shield (tate) this can be done with both ways of wearing the sword but proves to be easier when having a koshiate (holster) hanging down from the belt as it gives more space to turn around the blade even if it stays totally or partly into the saya.

In my opinion the terminology defining the tachi as a long blade was added after the war period not when they were using the tachi but after during the peace time period.

One day I asked sensei about the size for a tachi: “Arnaud, size doesn’t matter as long as you can use your sword freely”.

Tachi tips & tricks (3)

up and down, inyo, omote ura

Tachi waza is mainly done katate (one hand) the other hand holding the reins of your horse or another weapon like the yari. The two-handed grip was developed later with the use of the katana. Sometimes you can use the second hand to reinforce the momentum of your blade but it is not its general use. When riding a horse the left hand holds either the reins or the second weapon (yumi, yari, naginata) and the blows are given with the right hand only.

In general, sensei said that you do not cut, or hit, nor crush with the tachi but that you should move around the opponent in order to stab through the openings of the yoroi. Tachi kumiuchi fighting is to understand how to stab the opponent who is fully protected by his yoroi by aiming at the holes in the protection opened by your actions.

If the yoroi is the utsuwa (container) and the opening is kûkan (open space), don’t fight for the omote, but for the ura. In life, the invisible is more important than the visible.

Become an artist and make the invisible visible!

balance your tachi, balance your life

Tachi kumiuchi is fighting with sword and yoroi but tachi alone also means standing up. In fact tachi kumiuchi is about acquiring the ability to keep our balance. The tachi (sword) too is balanced but on a horizontal plane, sensei insists on this in each class. When the tachi is in the belt with the cutting edge down, it protrudes more than the katana. The way it is balanced in the belt is linked to the size and weight of the weapon.

Datô no kamae

By having your body standing up vertically (ten ryaku) and your sword balanced at the hip (chi ryaku) you link the ten and the chi through the jin (adapting the movements to the situation).

You are free to move in all directions balanced by the tenkan (axis, pivot). Juppô sesshô is created because your movements can go in any direction during the encounter with the opponent (kumiuchi). Adding the perception of the dragon to the movements of the tiger, you are fed by the kaitatsu and flow (nagare) naturally with things.

Training in tachi kumiuchi develops the knowledge on how to use the weapon but enlighten us also on how to handle our life better. What sensei is teaching is to bring things to life, ikasu and get a happy life.

Rokkon shôjô!

Tachi tips & tricks (2)

picture taken from http://www.teppojutsu.com/The tachi is not a katana and therefore should not be used in the same way.

Sensei explained that we have to understand the evolution of warfare in feudal Japan in order to be able to adapt our techniques to the moderne world. He was mainly referring to the goshin. At first there was 1) the chinese ken, then 2) the tachi, then 3) the the ju (rifle), then 4) the katana, then 5) the cannon. These are the five spirits of warfare.

When you look at this list of periods, you are surprised that you can actually put dates on them. The chinese ken preceded the muromachi period. The muromachi was mainly tachi. Then with sengoku jidai the rules changed by the extensive use (Nobunaga and his followers) of the rifle (teppo – musket type) that led to the Tokugawa/Edo period. It is only when peace time was established and heavily controlled that the katana  began to widely used by the samurai.

The muromachi and azuchi-momoyama periods were times of nearly permanent wartime. Samurai would wear the yoroi everyday and a heavier weapon like the tachi was of good use. The sengoku jidai introduced the rifle and the yoroi was no more the safest outfit. One day in his home, sensei showed the helmet of a shogun‘s personal guard. Even though this antique helmet was in a  very bad shape, sensei pointed out to me a big inward bump the size of a musket ball (approx. the size of a kid’s marble). The helmet was not pierced through but we can imagine that his former owner did have huge headaches afterwards.

So the introduction of teppo into the wargame created a major change in battlefield experience. It must have been painful to the samurai to discover that their techniques were not good anymore after the introduction of rifles. Eventually this is how the Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Tokugawa managed to get the unification done.

When the Tokugawa period began, there were no big battle anymore and the yoroi was abandoned. No battlefield, means no need for yoroi anymore. The regular gi (reminder kimono is only for women) was no more protected. This was the beginning of the katana period when cutting abilities were developed (battôdô). This led to Meiji (1868) and the use of heavy cannons, the fifth big change.

From all that it is easy to understand that the tachi and the katana being used in two different periods, their practical use should also be very different.

A few tips and tricks to remember when using the tachi:

1. the tachi is a shield and the yoroi is the weapon, use the tachi more like a stick than a sword. This is also why you can flip the blade from one hand to the other the same way you use a hanbô.

2. the tachi being held cutting edge down, hontai nuki gata is the only logical way to draw it.

3. the tate nuki gata, doesn’t mean vertical as in modern japanese but shielding as in the ancient understanding of the term.

4. the koshiate *(holster hanging down from the belt onto the thigh) made it possible for the samurai to have more freedom in his movements.

5. as the tachi is used katate, the other hand would carry the yari. In this case, the yari becomes the shield and the tachi is the weapon.

So please during your tachi trainings do not use the tachi as if it were only a big katana. With the year of tachi kumiuchi you are learning a totally new way of fighting.

As sensei was saying recently: the real sword masters are the tachi masters. The samurai who were using the katana did it because the didn’t understand the tachi.”


*to see drawings of various koshiate, please refer to “Samurai Sword Fighting” by Hatsumi sensei. Page 19 in the English edition.

picture taken from http://www.teppojutsu.com/

Tachi tips & tricks

Look at the tsuka and therope hanging from it

The tachi is mainly used katate (one hand), often when riding a horse.

The tachi was used to hit the opponent so that he would lose his balance. Sometimes the violence of the hit would create a reflex that would open the fingers and make him drop the weapon.

This is why there is a rope on the tsuka kashira (top of the hilt) to keep it tied to the wrist.

This device also existed on the saber used by the 18th century riders in Europe. The picture displays a “chasseur” from the 5th Dragon (model 1790).

As always, the same problem comes with the same solution.