We recently had the privilege of having Marco Pinto out to New Zealand. Marco is one of only two people to hold a Chuden teaching license in Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu. Unfortunately I couldn't make the seminar due to family commitments. However, last night at our regular kenjutsu training session my teacher, Chris, went over some of the points that Marco had made.
It was one of those sessions where Chris picked apart our batto. I really enjoy these sessions because it is good to have someone look at my technique and point out things that might need correcting that I miss.
Battojutsu is a very precise practice. For instance, during one movement Chris said I needed to move my sword about 1 cm forward at the end of my cut. That extension meant my blade stopped in the correct position. That 1 cm was the difference between the tip of my sword dipping or not.
An upright posture is critical in sword work as well. If you cut with a lean either to the front or back, it requires more muscular strength to hold the sword as the person's centre of gravity has shifted past their feet, slightly unbalancing them. If you keep your shoulders over your hips then gravity is pulling you down into your feet and you remain stable. Now this is easy to understand if you are doing a straight cut from above your head and down. But some cuts are on the diagonal or horizontal planes and you still have to keep your posture. Easier said than done.
One area I am working on (one of the many!) is 'noto' or returning the sword to the saya. I am trying to do this without any extra body movement and keeping my weight down the whole time. Noto is one of the few times you have the sharp end of the sword pointing towards yourself and often the time when you can cut yourself.
After last night's class I had a moment of thinking, "wow, so much to learn in this one kata but the overall curriculum is so large!"
I will leave you with Kaicho Toby Threadgill, showing how its done.
Toby Threadgill Menkyo Kaiden.