How To Cut With A Katana Properly?
How To Cut With A Katana In The Right Way?
Most people think cutting with a sword is simple. You move it over your head and slash it down on whatever unlucky thing is in front of you. But if you've spent any time with a katana, you'd know that's not true.
The Katana has a very distinctive cutting style. The fundamental blade motions and how you divert your energy decide whether you cut the right way or not.
Sword skills aside, there's both a right and a wrong way of cutting with a katana. That's what makes the gulf between a master and a novice so glaringly obvious. The focus of this article is to teach you how to cut with a katana in the right way. It's a beginner-level guide, so I shall not include any actual sword skills from any sword styles.
Tips For Cutting With A Katana The Right Way
The fundamental aspects of swinging a katana are simple yet also very nuanced. What you see here may look easy, but very few beginners can accurately act it out all the time. It requires dedication and a good deal of muscle memory to execute.
1. Use Your Fingers As Pivots
A katana will act very differently depending on how you hold it. First, you'd want to grip the upper portion of the handle with one hand while keeping the hilt at about a 45-degree angle on your palm. Grip more tightly with your ring and pinky fingers and a bit loosely with your index finger.
You'd want to keep the thumb adjacent to your middle finger. That will act as the center. Your goal is to use your fingers as pivots to move the blade.
Tightening the grip of the lower part will leverage the blade edge forward, and doing so with the upper portion will pull the edge back. Your lock with the middle finger and thumb will act as the center.
2. Let Your Wrists Do The Swinging
Katana is a two handed sword. The fingers only add a slight pivotal force to a katana. Your primary swinging motion must come from the wrists. Human wrists are very flexible; you can achieve more than a 45-degree swinging motion without using anything else.
Therefore, you need to use the wrists to do most of the swinging motion. Try to utilize the full range of your wrist motion on every swing. Repeatedly practicing like that will give you better muscle memory.
Using the wrists to do the swing will make it easier to control your center of gravity because you won't have to lean forward with every swing.
3. Start From Your Feet
In any martial arts, energy channeling is the most basic fundamental skill. Muay Thai and boxing practitioners guide it from their feet through their hips and project it into their fists. While using a katana, you'd follow the same basic principle but with a gentler output.
Your swing should not start from your hands. You need to move your feet, rotate your hips, then your shoulders. Your hands will merely follow along with the momentum.
One of the best ways to learn this is by watching a master swing their katana. Ignore their blade, and focus on how they move their body. It'll be easy to spot since now you know where to look.
4. The Cutting Motion
Now let's talk about the fundamental cutting motion of the katana. You first need to acknowledge that a katana is not a baseball bat. It is not a striking weapon, nor is it a heavy weapon. It lacks the weight of Zweihänder and the bluntness of a cleaver. So, it needs a suitable cutting motion to get the best cut.
If you press a Katana edge on a straw dummy hard enough, the blade will dent the straw first and then cut through. That may look acceptable to most people, but that's not utilizing the full potential of the katana.
The slashing motion is a very nuanced aspect of handling a katana. It's merely a tiny sliding motion when your weapon hits the target. It will allow your blade to slide and cut instead of hit and cut.
Mistakes To Avoid While Cutting with A Katana
To enhance your katana swings, you need to avoid quite a few common mistakes. These mistakes will ruin your form, and practicing without resolving these issues will ingrain the errors further.
Here are some of the common rookie mistakes to avoid in Kenjutsu:
Relax your shoulders much like how you would while throwing a proper punch. Relax your forearm muscles and biceps too. Your swing strength does not come from your muscle strength. It comes from the kinetic energy of the movement of those limbs.
Earlier I mentioned how you need to guide your energy from the feet. Rigid muscles will prevent that transfer, and you'll lose almost all of the lethality of your katana.
Tensing up the muscles will only reduce the fluidity of motion of your limbs. Hence it is the first thing you need to correct if you want to cut with a katana.
Some people use the lats to pull the sword down while leaning forward. That's a huge no-no. Remember never to lean forward when you strike.
First of all, it will lower your center of gravity, so you will find it hard to retrieve your katana. Secondly, it reduces your blade's fluidity and makes your strike more, let's say, blunt.
It also ruins the angle of the swing, so it becomes harder to follow through with the slashing motion. Instead, you keep your torso straight and use your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers to handle the arc of the swing.
And that is how to cut with a katana in the right way. The tips I mentioned are all easy to follow, but they might seem difficult to execute all the time. You must practice often and burn the motions into your muscle memory to increase efficiency.
And lastly, be very careful while handling a katana. There are things you can cut with a katana, and there are things you shouldn't, check out this guide for more information about what can a katana cut.