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Is hitting the target a priority?

By Myoken Dojo, Jul 13 2016 09:20AM

There are two aspects to hitting the target: being in the right place and arriving at the right time. I'm only considering here the issue of being in the right place.


I am occasionally asked by students something like "What happens if the enemy moves?". It is a significant question and an important point, but it is driven by irrelevance. Let's take ZNKR Seitei Mae, nukitsuke for example. Some people say that you should cut with the boshi, some say with the monouchi. When we get both of these answers from hanshi, clearly neither is wrong. The book doesn't specify. The book says to hit the enemy's right temple. it doesn't say if the sword moves forward through the cut nor does it say whether the sword cuts across the face or along the side of the head, whether it cuts perpendicular to the centre line or whether it pushes forward diagnally. We are told that we must hit the temple, we are told that the shoulders should be turned to 45 degrees, and we are then told exactly how much to move forward to make kiritsuke (kirioroshi). The correct forward movement must hit the target at the correct distance where we imagine it to be. Therefore, logically if you hit with the monouchi you must interpret that the enemy's head moves back, if you cut with the boshi you must interpret that it doesn't.


Does it matter? Not really. The description of the form, it's logic (Riai/Bunkai) is a shape to give a basis for learning correct body movement.


Lets take a step back. I often see beginners doing paired kata leaning forwards so that the monouchi is correctly positioned over the target. What this means is the feet were in the wrong place, so they lean forward to compensate. One mistake to cover another, with the perception that hitting the target is the important thing. If learning to hit the target is the issue, then they achieved it. I would argue that learning to judge the correct distance - putting the feet in the right place - and maintaining correct posture is the point, the purpose and aim of the training. When you can do that the sword will hit the target.


So it is in iaido. If you concern yourself with what the enemy is doing, what you are cutting, you are putting all your attention into the end of the sword and taking your attention away from how your feet and body are delivering the sword.


When you see that the enemy moves, then the training that led to knowing where to put the feet in relation to the enemy will still enable you to hit the target. So learning the correct foot movement is only the first stage, understanding the foot movement comes next, being able to adjust it depending where the enemy is comes next. When these things are working correctly the sword will always finish on the target.


First metsuke, then ashi sabaki then tai sabaki. Last is ken sabaki

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