The Japanese Sword and the Japanese Idioms Part 4

There are even more sword-related Japanese idioms we would like to introduce to you. “Tsukeyaki-ba” (Blade forged and stuck on) When a sword loses its sharpness, sometimes swordsmiths will stick on a tempered blade made of steel. This is called Tsukeyaki-ba, but such a blade very quickly loses its cutting ability and becomes useless. From this analogy, this term refers to knowledge and skills that were hastily acquired without maturity. “Yaki ga mawaru” (The burn gets around) During the forging process of the Japanese sword, the blade is hardened by putting it through the fire. But too much fire actually weakens its sharpness. This has developed into an idiom which…

The Japanese Sword and the Japanese Idioms Part 3

We will continue introducing Japanese idioms that related to the sword. “Seppa tsumaru” (The seppa is stuck) Seppa is a long elliptical thin metal piece on both sides of the swordguard. One is placed between the guard and the habaki (the metal encircling the base of the blade), and another between the guard and the hilt. It is designed to stabilize the swordguard. When this seppa is stuck, the sword cannot be drawn, leaving you in a rather urgent situation in which you cannot fight and cannot run away. When one is in such a situation, we used the term seppa tsumaru. “Mi kara deta sabi” (The rust from the…

The Kumo and Matsu That Protect Kenshi

The Kendo Mune has some decorations around the chest other than the beam of light. It is woven around the beam in a Kumo pattern (cloud), Matsu pattern (pine tree), or a combination of the two. The Kumo pattern has two lines meeting together from left and right before creating a whirlwind shape after the cross. This is the traditional Kumo pattern, a design of nature cherished by the Japanese from long ago. The Matsu pattern is also a design passed on through the generations, characterized by its idiosyncratic shape like a slightly-crushed UFO. The most popular Matsu shape for the vest is called sangai-Matsui (three-story pine), a pattern with…

Are you familiar with the expression byo-jo-shin-kore-do?

Are you familiar with the expression byo-jo-shin-kore-do? The follow is the definition: “In martial arts terms – to expel the four diseases of fear, alarm, confusion, and doubt, to keep a calm mind, and remain cool-headed is of utmost importance; this is the right path for man the highest form of morality.” This spirit is considered the highest moral standard. From its very beginnings, martial arts as put a huge emphasis on “respec”. Kendo, sumo-do, naginata-do all have the suffix “-do” attached to it. During such contests, if you clench your fists to show your delight, the merits of that move will be retracted. This is because such acts are…

The Japanese Sword and the Japanese Idioms Part 2

For this entry, I would like to continue to introduce Japanese idioms related to the Japanese sword. “Dotanba” (A podium made of sand) During the Edo period, the execution place for criminals had a podium made by a piling up sand. These grounds were also used to test out swords by cutting up bodies. Often there would be a carving in the sword to indicate the number of bodies it successfully severed on debut! The podium made by the pile of sand is called dotanba. At the dotanba, one has nowhere to escape and is about to meet his fate. Today this word is used for desperate situations or circumstances…

The Japanese Sword and the Japanese Idioms

The Japanese Sword – it has unbelievable cutting power, but does not break or bend. It is called the soul of the samurai and it treated not only as a weapon but carries a spiritual, religious aura. It appears in the mythologies of Kojiki and Nihonshoki (two of Japan’s oldest and most important books of classical Japanese history), called reiken (spirit-sword) or houken (treasure-sword) and is steeped in much mystery. Japanese people are uniquely known for keeping them as jewelry to appreciate its beauty rather than as a collection of antique items. Yes, it is believed that number of samurai who used the sword and the craftsmen who made them…

Getting Floored in Kendo

Dojo literally means “place of the Way.” The word is a translation of the Sanskrit term “bodhi-manda” which refers to the “Diamond seat,” where Gautama attained nirvana sitting under the Bodhi tree. Thus, Dojo originally meant “a place where Buddhism is studied.” Kendo is not Buddhism, but because of the deep spiritual connotations and ascetic training of the self in search of a higher plain of existence, the same term was adopted to mean “a place for studying the martial arts.” The quaint wooden-floored Dojos that we are familiar with now didn’t exist in Japan until around the late-1700s. Before this, martial arts training was mostly conducted outside on the…

What made you take up Kendo?

“Please tell us what motivated you to start Kendo.” This is a question that is asked at the Dan-grading. So what makes Kenshi who live abroad take up Kendo? One reason I have heard is that they want to learn the spirit of Japanese Bushido through Kendo. I am not sure whether there are any Japanese Kenshi who started Kendo with such a motivation. In Japan, I think most people who begin Kendo at elementary or junior high school do so simply by following their siblings or because their parents made them do it. For those who began Kendo in kindergarten, maybe it was because you could swing around a…

Do you know? The secret to the number of folds on the Hakama and joints on the Shinai

The Nishijin Main Store of Tozando attracts many customers, helped by its location in Kyoto. Kendo is very popular overseas with many Kenshi worldwide. But since it is not an Olympic sport, the existence of a kendo world championship is perhaps not widely known. As a company that markets martial arts items, we feel the obligation to spread awareness of kendo. We want not only Japanese people but all the Kenshi as well as the general public worldwide to have a deeper understanding of Kendo. Many Kenshi overseas are unfamiliar with common customs, sayings, and legends surrounding Kendo. Today I would like to introduce something many of you probably may…

The Bare Necessities

Written by Alex Bennett(Kendo Kyoshi 7-dan) “Commando style”.  A once common word in kendo parlance is now fast becoming obsolete. In fact, I imagine that younger kendo aficionados have no idea what it means. Maybe the Japanese equivalent will shed more light on its meaning: “No-pan”. That’s right, “no pants”. In other words, what you DON’T wear under your hakama. (I don’t know about girls because that’s not the kind of thing we talk about in the dojo.) Ever since I started kendo three decades ago, it was almost inconceivable that anybody would don underwear under that magnificent split skirt. Yup, there is nothing better than having a draft of…