5 Tips for Japanese Sword and Noto, Plus ONE Bonus Hint

We often use the sword with less formality in the Bujinkan than other Japanese schools do.  We treat it like a tool.  So even though we wouldn't use a shovel or a hammer with lots of ceremony and stylized movement, with any tool there are good and bad practices.

Noto or resheathing the katana is the source of many bad habits and self-inflicted injuries for would be Samurai.

Here are some tips for noto:
  1. Practice no-look resheathing.  You should be looking at your felled opponent or your surrounding environment.  The resheath should be so natural and automatic that you can do it in the dark.
  2. Gravity is your friend. The tip should just fall into the opening of the saya or koiguchi. You are not sticking it in the hole (insert bad joke here), it just drops in from it's own weight.
  3. Push the saya (scabbard) onto the sword; don't push the sword into the saya. NEVER force the sword. The saya could have flipped unexpectedly or be split open.  You don't want to injure your hand by distractedly shoving the sword into the saya.
  4. Do the whole movement with your legs and hips, just like in drawing the sword.
  5. Practice slow!  Slow makes good, good makes fast.  It is unlikely that you would need to resheath in a hurry anyway.  So do it slowly unless you need to flee the scene.
And the last bonus tip:  Practice Zanshin!  The time when you are resheathing can be a vunerable time when a hidden enemy is waiting to ambush.  Or your felled opponent is not as injured as you thought.  One way to resheath is with your kamae directed at any potential threat.  Keep your tsuka (hilt), pointed at the threat by turning your body and hips.  Control the kukan (space) with it.  That way you are ready to redraw into that kukan or use the tsuka for an improvised parry or strike.


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