Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Some Videos

My budo life has been pretty boring lately; my natural laziness, combined with it being insanely hot and humid, plus being extra-busy with end-of-semester marking and having to clean and move out of my apartment, means that I haven't practiced much in the last two weeks.

So let's look at other people practice.

First off, a nice old video of Nakayama Hakudo. I am struck by how his Taki Otoshi has a straight thrust, like MJER, and not the downward-into-the-chest (or head) thrust that most MSR people do. He also does a tate-ha noto... intriguing! I wonder if the yoko-ha noto was a late addition. Also interesting is how his body sways when he cuts. It's definitely something that we would view as a problem nowadays. (Kind of reminds me of something a friend of mine said the other day, regarding another video which I'll post below...)

Next, a clip from the Nippon Budokan series of Koryu Budo videos. This one is Namitome Sensei demonstrating Shindo Muso Ryu jodo with Otofuji Sensei.

Now, a friend of mine has this whole VHS and said, nonchalantly, "Oh, but it's not really that good, I just keep it because it has Otofuji Sensei on it." And I thought, "Are you on CRACK?!" I asked him why he thought so, and he said that, at various points in the video, Namitome Sensei's back foot is turned too far out: "I just kept wanting to pause the video and smack his foot into the right position! The whole thing was just kind of sloppy." Now, people can talk until they're blue in the face about "the corrupting influence of Seitei on Koryu" and I won't pay them much heed, but if Seitei influences people to make crazy judgements like that ... argh. Namitome Sensei moves like a demon in this video; he can pretty much point his feet in whatever direction he wants to as long as he moves like that. Moving on...

I really like this next series of videos. Tameshigiri is pretty impressive, although it really isn't all that difficult, to be honest. Notice that the sword used in this video is definitely a "specialized" tameshigiri sword: wide mihaba, very thin, and no bohi. Still, fun to watch!

This next one is nice ... katana vs. 9mm bullet. Lead is actually quite soft, if you think about it; you could probably cut a bullet with a kitchen knife, but it's still impressive to see that the blade comes away completely unscathed, save for a smudge. The older gentleman is the swordsmith, and he looks like he can hardly believe it either. Like I said, nice video, but then they go and ruin it with typical, "Japan is number One!" nonsense at the very end where they say, "The Japanese Sword and the pistol: when tested, the Japanese sword wins!" I would bet that almost any sword, provided it was sharp, could do the same thing.

And the follow-up to the last video...

It's impressive to see that the sword weathered 6 bullets before losing its edge. It was only when the 7th bullet struck the already weakened, blade-less portion that the sword broke. I wonder if .50 bullets are jacketed?

There are probably some people who think the above are ridiculous, and basically, I agree ... it's just fantasy ... but at the same time, I have to confess that the sight of a bullet splitting in two on the edge of a sword is incredibly cool.

There are lots of videos on YouTube that are ... well, kind of weird. It used to be par-for-the-course that "Japanese swordsmanship" outside of Japan was sometimes fake, fictionalized, fabricated, or just populated by weirdos and ninja wannabes. But I always thought that, with the abundance of "true" information in Japan, that stuff wouldn't fly over here. But increasingly, I am seeing weird stuff passed off as genuine. Take, for example:

They chose THIS guy to represent Japanese swordsmanship? Like this is a NORMAL activity people do here? Why are they practicing in a warehouse? When someone doesn't have a proper dojo, warning bells start going off in my head. Why is the daughter only pulling the bow halfway? If they're going to do that, they'd be further ahead throwing the arrows. And why are the tameshigiri targets made up like people? Cutting a plain roll just isn't "Battlefield realistic" enough? Weird, weird people, if you ask me... (although, to be perfectly honest, I've always wanted to see tameshigiri done on a side of beef. They always SAY tatami-maki compares to a human body, but bones make a big difference, I think...)

This next video also makes me queasy, partly because I wouldn't ever want to do it, and partly because I know I probably couldn't. (Sour grapes!) But in the final analysis, it's very silly. Also irritating is the fact that this is passed off as "genuine Korean swordsmanship" not just "something we made up a few years ago". I also don't like the idea of "swordsmanship as entertainment" which is what has been happening with karate kata in the last few years.

When I think that people take this stuff as real, and not made up, it just bothers me; the same way that it bothers me how some people really believe in Scientology or The Secret. At some point, somebody made a conscious decision along these lines: "I'm gonna make up some ridiculous crap, and because people are gullible, they'll believe it, and I'll get rich!"

Perhaps the ultimate example of this, below. Fortunately, due to a concerted effort to expose him as a fraud, almost nobody credits this guy anymore.

That being said, this guy could definitely kick my ass.


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