The katana (samurai sword) is a weapon that was popular during Feudal Japan. Before katanas, they used a tachi for the cutting edge needed in battle. The signature of this sword was facing the wrong way. With a need to correct this as well as have a quicker draw on the sword in close combat, the katana gave the samurai the edge needed for victory. Also, it was great to use the katana with another sword. Using a shuriken as a concealed, throwing weapon would be great to move in closer. The sword was washed using a technique to rid the metal of impurities. This created a sharpness and strength in which many swords could not compete. The katana is still used in martial arts such as Kendo, Kenjutsu, and Aikido.
1. Basics: Holding Your Katana
Without the foundation, you’ll be wielding your sword incorrectly. This video shows you how to hold your katana properly. It teaches you the correct way to approach the handle keep your sword erect for offensive and defensive purposes. It shows you how to properly hold the sword with two hands and have the wrists facing a certain way with your sword alignment for great strikes. Also, you learn about the different parts of the katana and taking care of it. Later in the video, you’ll find out what are good target areas to aim when striking. Great instructional video.
2. Sword Postures
This is a pivotal first step to getting your technique down to a science. Here are four postures (Kamae) that will help you get the proper leverage for different strikes:
Gedan (Low Level) – Right outside of the body for striking and blocking
Chudan (Mid Level) – 2/5 from center of body
Jodan (Upper Level) – energy from tip and left hand right above forehead.
Hasso (Side) – move to different positions (Chudan, Jodan, and Gedan) for a more aggressive or relaxed system.
These are all great fundamental postures to learn especially when molding the way you strike or setup your defense mechanism.
3. Drawing Cuts
What’s interesting to note is the same way you draw your sword (release it from your sheath) is how you set up your first cut. In a sense, it works as a two for one. Timing and alignment is everything. The left hand is the opener of the sword and the right hand is used to guide it around the handle. The sword is pulled out toward the opponent in a horizontal manner with an intention to strike. The right hand grips and sets up the snap for a great cut.
4. Two Handed Cuts
Kirioroshi is the name for two handed cut. From a 45 degree angle, you want to hold your sword above your head. You want your gripping (mainly your thumbs) to be behind the sword rather than solely on the side. You want to extend your cut upward for a great strike. It’s more or less an elliptical-like motion (up, outward, down). It’s also important to watch your foot positioning for each cut.
5. Flicking The Blade
In times of battles, this was a great way to rid your blade of blood. You always wanted to make sure you thoroughly cleaned your blade because blood and residue would cause your sword to rust. Of course, simply flicking your blade won’t get all your stains out, but it’s a good habit to remind yourself to clean your blade.
6. Returning The Sword
After cleaning your sword, you want to place the sword back into the sheath correctly to not cut yourself. Noto (returning your sword) is all about good left hand placement. The hole is covered by the last three fingers. You use your other hand to create a second hole. Shoden is a rather swift return that actually lets the dull part of your blade touch the back of your hand as you stop and slowly slide the sword back in the sheath.
In the form, Junto Sono Ichi, you step with the right foot and push the sword with the right hand along the center of the body. You step forward and perform a horizontal attack. You can continue this with the left foot and perform a vertical attack. This is just a couple of tactics to build a rather fluid and precise kata. The video goes into good detail of how your position and movement can help you cut enemies along the chest and head areas. This is a great way to prepare you for specific situations.
This is a good training video of a few techniques to help you with a sparring partner. You’ll get great foundation in types of strikes, foot placement, stutter steps, and more. It’s good to view this a few times because they show you how to perform these tactics slow and fast to make it easier to learn. This is a solid video for when you begin sparring and start getting good movement with your moves.
Building good cutting mats will help you create precise strikes you can use in actual combat. In this video, you’ll learn how to target your cuts by aligning your body and swinging your sword with good extension. Jodan (above the head) is a great place to start. The center line is most important in your cutting range. The video shows you how to adjust your position depending on how you face your target.
Wielding a katana is still effective today especially for reading an attacker’s movements (mainly for your own home self-defense). It also pays homage to a real art form that resonates in the hearts of many descendants of warriors or those with a passion for sword fighting.