|Yoyogi kōen Sword Fighting, Tokyo. photo by Colin McMillen|
When I noticed him doing this I gave him another quick sword drawing lesson. I didn't want to slow the whole class down to teach him all of the necessary basics. But as I looked over at him, he would have his sword upside down in his belt.
It was amusing because he would try to emulate the kata I had shown the class, and every time he cut with his sword he was hitting with the back of the blade. He would then glare at his sword as if it was broken.
I told him he was unlucky to have a "backwards" sword.
But he isn't the first student to have his sword wrong way around. Many of us have done this at some point in our training careers. So if you get stuck with one of these "backwards" swords in a real battle, what do you do?
You can make use of the strategy of 峰打ち mineuchi. This is a method of striking with the back of the blade (normally on purpose). So why do this? What are some strategic reasons to strike with the back of your blade?
- Well, in the heat of the battle, or, if you are a beginner, it could happen by accident. Then just getting your weapon into play is a start and you correct as you go.
- When the strategy of mineuchi is done on purpose, it opens up some wonderful options. For one, it can be a speed thing. It may give a slight advantage to strike whatever is nearest without having to turn your blade or adjust your kamae.
- Another option is surprise. Using the back of the blade allows you to attack from angles and directions that are unexpected. Then through principles of 引力 inryoku or 押切 oshikiri, you can transition it into a cut.
- A third really great reason to use mineuchi, is to open up the space. Striking with the backside of the blade up under kote before do giri is common. Or flipping down onto kote, and after slamming into his hands bouncing off this strike to cut something vital. Also, clearing the enemy's weapon while keeping the edge directed at him.
- The curve of the sword itself allows for the tip to wrap around obstacles and build up tremendous speed when hitting with the back of the blade. The uke may block your strike and still be surprised when the tip makes contact with his temple. Also, this curve creates wonderful effects when redirecting an enemy's strike.
- But you may also do this so as not to seriously injure or kill. Hatsumi Sensei shows this all time. There are many important methods of using a sword without cutting or killing.
In 時代劇 (old Japanese plays), the actors would prepare the sword in advance so the audience could see it was backwards to show they did not have murderous intent.
This principle is even more important with modern firearms. There is a saying in English, if you are holding a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Meaning you will choose the "hammer" solution just because you have that tool. So with a gun, every threat looks like a target to be shot. Even though it may the wrong choice for that particular threat.
With your sword, give yourself options besides cutting by learning more about your weapon.