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…

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…

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…

Choosing the right naginata for you

Written by Jeangerard Hughes(Tozando, Naginata 5-dan) It feels tautological to say that the naginata (the wooden weapon) is at the core of your Naginata (the martial art). In few other arts you are supposed to make one with your weapon to the point that you are most of the time simply required to stick physically to it through waza process. Also naginata is a huge weapon, with length ranging from 212 to 225 cm for the AJNF1 standard versions, revealing qualities or on the contrary amplifying default, both in the weapon and the techniques.They are also quite costly to come by, so you want it to endure and stay through…

Suzaku – The never ending challenge, moving the sword craft into the future

Written by Yamamoto Yasumasa(Tozando)Many roads passed through the ancient capital of Kyoto, for example the Tokaido, Sanyodo and Hokurikudo roads. The most important 7 main roads on which you could enter and leave Kyoto, in other words check points, were called Kyo no Nanakuchi(the seven entrances of Kyoto). Even to this day there are train stations and locations which reminds us of this history, such as Kuramaguchi and Tanbaguchi. Among those seven entrances, there was one called Awataguchi, nowadays it would be somewhere located close to the Higashiyama-Sanjo, or Sanjo Keihan Station area. Anyone who has studied a bit about Japanese swords would recognize Awataguchi as the area from where…

Is your Aikido Hakama really good enough?

About 20 years ago, getting a good Aikido Hakama would require you to either come to Japan yourself, or try to contact one of the few stores that would accept mail-orders and ship internationally. Additionally, if you didn’t know any Japanese, then it could have been quite hard to even communicate with the Japanese staff. Being an Aikido practitioner overseas was most certainly very inconvenient and time spending at that time. Nowadays the world has changed, whether you get one directly from Japan online, buy one that is sold locally from one of the Budo stores in your own country, or buy one directly from Amazon or any other major…