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Way of the Samurai 2:4

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These are all vulnerable points. That is called Kusazuri and is made of iron. This is Kusari. Because they are there, you just go for the inner thigh. This technique is for when you fall down on the battlefield or trip over a tree root. When the opponent tries to attack your head, you cut his stomach. Or you block his cut and as you stand up you hit his face with the sword's handle. And then you move your sword around and cut his hip. Then I move away and strike. The distance should be such that one person could stand between us. Now you twist the sword, and then go for my neck so I just push you away and stab like this. Both of us withdraw then I attack the neck. You turn away and cut to my hand from below. I just let go of my sword, then we both try to stab each other. Then, before my sword returns, you cut my neck. It takes Otake-sensei many hours to explain fully the meaning of one pattern of cuts, and 13 seconds to do them at proper speed. To enable contact training without striking their training partner they redirect some cuts to engage their partner's sword. Each strike is simultaneously attack and defence. The students practise many different sequences of strokes. Each sequence is called a Kata. They never practise free sparring due to the danger of serious injury. They always aim the blows at the weak points in the armour, although they don't wear armour except on special occasions. Master Otake has two sons. This is the eldest, Nobutashi. Both have been trained all their lives, and they are now both very skilled. The first katas they studied employ single swords. They learn the basic types of cuts, slashes and parries first. Then move on to the finer skills in the more difficult katas. Nowadays in Japan, stories about warriors are very popular. Most of the stories in which you hear of strong swordsmen who fought dozens of men, hundreds of battles, and had never been defeated are simply fiction. Very little truth has been handed down or preserved from the past in relation to these kinds of exploits. The school has always been based in the countryside. They have a tradition of practising on rough ground to train themselves in real fighting conditions. They train with a great range of weapons: halberd; spear; short sword; and others. But always one of the pair has a sword. There are no formal teaching sessions. The students work in pairs, there being only room for two or three pairs at a time. Each pair works through a series of katas, and then their place is taken by another pair. All teaching is individual and is by demonstration. There are many schools in Japan that teach the samurai martial arts, more than a thousand of them. However, in most of these, the techniques are so ritualised, that it is hard to see them being used in a real fight. At this school, the oldest of them all, they are still truly martial. The students are not allowed to forget that men died to learn what they are being taught. The status of the school depends upon the ability of the teaching master. This means that Master Otake must be at the centre of focus in any study of the school. Yet he dislikes such a concentration on himself. For him, it is the school that is important. He sees himself as the servant of the teaching and knowledge preserved by it. The school has great status in Japan. It's an "Intangible Cultural Asset", a sort of living National Trust property. Once, most of the students used to be farmers from the area. Now many come from nearby cities or even Tokyo two or three times a week. They come from a range of occupations, teachers, dentists, businessmen, accountants. There have never been many of them. At the moment, there are only about 50 active members. The school has always accepted any student who was prepared to study seriously. Though all the teachings were once secret, there was never any question of limiting the training to the Japanese heredetary samurai class. Students pay a small fee to join, and an equally small regular contribution. This is a Keihaku Shinman paper. You must sign it in blood. New members must sign an oath before joining the school. Take your left hand and cut it around here. Anywhere round here will do. This is very sharp - use the point or the bottom edge. The rules of the blood oath are: do not lie; be discreet, even amongst your family; don't argue, or fight, or be impolite; avoid bad places at all costs; don't fight until qualified; and keep your oath, or be punished by the god of the temple. - Is this the place to sign? - Yes, here. The rules of the blood oath, like everything else about the school, were laid down by the founder, Master Choisai. Master Choisai was buried here in 1488, at the age of 102. Around him are buried many generations of the masters of the school. The tomb is set amongst trees close to one of the great shrines of Japan. When the founder retired from active fighting, he came to Katori Shrine, and there he started the school. He said that the teachings came to him by divine revelation after long meditation. Katori Shrine is one of the most important centres of Japan's oldest religion, Shintō, which is deeply involved with the worship of nature, especially as in the spirit of trees. It was in the open spaces of the shrine that the founder taught. And it's from the shrine that the school gets its full name, Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū. The founder was a Buddhist, but there is no conflict for a Japanese in worshipping at both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Master Otake is the teaching master of the school. But there is also an hereditary headmaster, the direct descendant of the founder. - Good afternoon. - Thank you for the other day. Good afternoon. Twenty generations separate him from his ancestor. His house is built beside an ancient dojo, now used once a year ceremonially by the senior students. In it are the statues of the founder and his wife.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 2 seconds
Country: Brazil
Language: English
Views: 141
Posted by: halfleaf on Apr 8, 2010

Part of a eight part series documentary on the Martial Arts of south and south east Asia, originally broadcast on the BBC in the early 1980s. This episode follows an ancient Dojo in Japan who still practice the Samurai way. Part 2 of 4 parts.

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