Sunday, September 27, 2009

Traditions

I stumbled across this video recently.



Because I am essentially a petty, cynical person, (hey, I'm trying to change...) my first reaction was a kind of jaded "So what?" People who do a lot of tameshigiri (test-cutting) like to laugh at those of us who do iai when we fail to cut something when we try it for the first time. It seems to justify in their minds that iai without tameshigiri is pointless or delusional even, reinforcing their conception that they are training properly and we're not. And while it is certainly common for people who have never done tameshigiri to fail at it the first few times, the fact remains: it's really not that difficult to cut a straw bundle. A bit of practice and you're off to the races. It's not enough to hold most people's interest, and the trouble of rolling up and soaking straw mats means most people just can't be bothered.

But as the video went on, Mr. Machii started cutting more and more unusual items. I must admit that I was impressed that he cut the cucumber so perfectly! Seeing it in super-slow motion revealed that his cut was right on target, splitting the cuke in half with a flawlessly horizontal cut. That took a great deal of control. My inner cynic piped up with: "Well, how many takes did they do before he cut it really nicely?" but the more things he cut, the more I thought, Wow, he really is talented.

Next, he cut a rubber ball, fired at him at 120 km/h. This too, was impressive, and would have required great skills. I don't know how much more difficult it is to cut a ball with a sword, than (for example) to return a pro's tennis serve - I've never tried either - but the fact that he cut from the scabbard impressed this iaidoka.

There are lots of other examples of him cutting objects online: metal pipes, metal sheets, 6mm plastic BBs ... the list goes on and on.

So I was feeling a lot of respect for Mr. Machii, when I watched this video of him demonstrating "Shushin Ryu" iaijutsu. I wasn't even bothered by the fact that he is listed as the soke. You never know; some people inherit these arts at a young age because there isn't anyone else to take over.




It seems as though he takes Eishin Ryu techniques, kind of mashes them up a bit, then does them so fast that he can't really control his sword. And he gives it all a new name, declaring himself the Soke. Great. Just when I let down my cynical guard for ONE second ...!

3 Comments:

Blogger American Father said...

Well, I would say that Machii is the greatest swordsman out of Japan in a long while. His iai has some fire in it and one is in no danger of yawning when he draws. Most iai is tired and rote in it's execution. Machii has really taken the technique to a new level and we could all take a lesson from him. Folks like him have always existed, and sometimes they resort to some spectacular feat that they alone can only do in order to drive home the point that they have trained and gained something the rest of us can only daydream about. Machii has trained all of his life- far more intensly than any mere iaidoka. He has his own view and he has made the art internal to himself. He does not do the art that you do and he probably never will. He does his own thing, and he is damn good at it. Imagine if the rest of us trained that hard? As for "taking" Eishin technique...well there are just so many ways one can draw a sword. It has been around nearly 400 years now and it is safe to say it is in the public domain, so, I say folks can clam up about that. Machii is the soke of his school. No one can dispute that. I say live and let live and be inspired by this swordsman, he is certainly the best I have seen.
In closing I would I have to say that he wanted more out of the art than any established system could give him. Politics, age and conformity hae a way of crushing out the best and the brightest that would change a few things. Mother nature gives him the option of founding his own way. And, it is his, not yours. So stop making the error of viewing the rest of the world through the window of one overly defined, poorly practiced, narrow example of what a sword art can be. I am not a Japanophile, so, unlike most westerners that do some kind of sword art of Japanese origen, I tend to not let race into my judgement of martial arts. Machii is good, and worthy of our respect.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I must say I found it rather irksome to read such a haughty and judgemental comment at the end of this blog. To say Machii is the best swordsman in any respect is extreme and smacks of ignorance, at least in respect with iaido.
All I know about Machii is from this blog (though American Father seems quite familiar with him). One thing that I believe can be said, though, is that this person's very good at cutting things with a sword; and I can certainly respect that.
His iaido, however, is not what I can consider good. It lacks control. I could nitpick, but generally what bothered me most about it is the abundance of unnecessary movement, especially when he sits. He adjusts his sword every time, bringing around and back to the same place. What's the point of that? You can start a school and that makes you its soke, I guess, but that doesn't make you any good. I hope for Machii that, if he really wants to do iaido, he finds himself a good sensei to learn from.
American Father, if this young swordsman’s the best you've seen and you have any real interest in iaido, than I pity you. If you have seen a high level iaidoka in peak form and all his (or her) peaceful deadliness and yawned, I pity you even more.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know...Pamela, I think the point of all of this is that lesser folks are judging others with considerable skill too harshly. It may be that Machii does not do iaido at all. If that is the case, so what. Does he say he is doing what YOU are doing? If so, nitpick away. Otherwise give him some room to do his thing without being critical. He is very, very good. Better than you, better than the folks writing in this blog. Give some credit. You do not get to determin the path of others. Mind your own footing.

1:36 PM  

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