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Sword Play – 4 Essential Samurai Techniques

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The Japanese samurai were the warrior elite in ancient Japan. Highly trained, with considerable skill the samurai were adept in battle and were masters of the sword.

The Samurai were extremely disciplined with a code of conduct that was followed by all that were part of the warrior class.

Thankfully, the achievements they made in their command of the sword have been passed down through time, so that they can be learned today.

We have brought together 4 of the most well known samurai sword techniques below.

NOTE: For your own safety you should always use dummy swords while training, and never use these techniques on others outside of the dojo.


The Yoko Giri

The Yoko Giri can be best explained as the side cut that was most commonly used by samurai.

  • To carry out the move you first need to grip the sword in both hands to the right side of the body.
  • With both right and left elbow slightly bent, the sword should be held just above waist level.
  • The move is executed by swinging the sword in a sideways horizontal slashing movement.

The Yoko Giri was a particularly sword technique designed to disembowel an attacker by slicing through the soft region of the abdomen.

Kesi Giri

The Kesi Giri is quite a difficult move to get right due to the need to slash the sword from an overhead position.

Accuracy of the swing is far more important than force, (a fact a lot of beginners fail to realise).

Depending on which side of your head you decide to start the move, it is possible to carry out the swing to the left or right.

  • First hold the sword in both hands above your head. Keep your wrists tucked in so that they are close to the scalp.
  • You then move the sword so that your wrists become centered over your head.
  • The move is achieved by slashing downward at a slight angle. (Either left to right if you start above the left shoulder, and vice versa if starting from the right)
  • The blade should travel from your starting point down to the opposite thigh.

Again, caution and safety are the name of the game here. Know your limits and be careful to stop the slashing movement before making contact with your own body.

This is why a controlled steady swing is far more important than brute force. In combat, the blade edge and weight of the sword would do all the work for you.

Overhead Cut

Another overhead cut that is much simpler to carry out. Nonetheless, it is an elegant move that is very effective.

  • Hold the sword in both hands over the head. (The blade edge should face the sky.)
  • Your elbows should be slightly bent and held close to your ears so that the sword is centred over your head.
  • Bring the sword down in front of you in a slashing movement, (your arms and elbows will naturally straighten as you execute the move).
  • Ensure to end the arc of the sword as your hands become level with your hips.

Nukitsuke

Finally, there is the Nukitsuke. This is an impressive samurai sword technique that was designed to intimidate the opposition in close combat. The nature of this move means you need to be standing facing your opponent before you begin.

  • With your knees bent you assume a wide stance. At this point the sword remains safely in its sheath.
  • The grip of the sword should be clasped with your right hand.
  • Hold the sheath with your left hand just beneath the hilt of the sword.
  • Press the hilt so that the sword lifts about an inch from the sheath.
  • In one swift movement, pull the sword from the sheath with your right hand, tuck the sheath behind you with your left and swing the sword through the air horizontally, (left to right at shoulder level).
  • Your opponent should be caught unaware by the rapid, controlled delivery. Brutal.

And there you have it, 4 essential samurai sword techniques that all those wishing to the pursue the art should master. Good luck and stay safe.