Tameshigiri, or test cutting, provides a way for Iai Jutsu students to test certain areas of their technique. Applying the lessons learned in the waza and katatachi, employing correct technique and distancing with focus and spirit will result in a clean test cut.
Cutting with a sword doesn’t require superhuman strength nor can it only be performed by a master. Although Tameshigiri is not particularly easy, applying the basics learnt in the waza from balanced training will ease the challenge. A correct cut should be effortless, the sword cutting the target with no feeling. Strength doesn’t play a part in cutting; forcing a cut will often snag the blade. Likewise the speed at which a cut is performed has no bearing on its outcome.
After all, the katana has been developed over hundreds of years for the sole purpose of cutting. The balance and curvature of the blade will slice through some considerable materials when allowed to cut. This is the key; the swordsman is just required to swing the sword correctly, the sword will do the cutting. It’s this fact that makes women and children.
Tameshigiri is performed once a student is competent enough with his swordsmanship. Providing a way of measuring and judging your progress, Tameshigiri requires a level of competency prior to being performed. Tameshigiri will often highlight the areas that need to be focused on in training. Some maybe more obvious, like failing to cut due to poor extension and draw through; a poorly focused spirit may require more thought.
The targets we use in Iai Jutsu are straw mats rolled up tightly and soaked in water for three days. Traditionally in Japan old tatami from the dojo would be used, though available in the UK they are costly. Straw beach mats provide a cheaper alternative but offer less cuts.
Tameshigiri is only to be performed in a respective manner with the same focus and attitude as waza. It is not a flashy activity of showmanship.
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