Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Red Leaves Cut

How could we possibly think of heading into winter without considering not only the fading beauty of autumn, but also Japanese Swordsmanship?

Below is an excerpt from the Ichijoji blog. The full post is at Autumn Leaves and Their Symbolism. Please pay a visit.

Momiji Uchi - The red leaves cut
Those interested in swordsmanship will probably be aware of its use in Miyamoto Musashi's Gorin no Sho - in the Water chapter is a section describing the Red Leaves Cut. As noted by Victor Harris in his translation, "Presumably Musashi is alluding here to falling, dying leaves." As the technique refers to knocking down the enemy's sword, knocking it out of his hands in fact, this seems very likely.

It seems that Musashi was not the only person to use this term to denote a technique. According to the respected researcher and historian Watatani Kiyoshi, it was used in the Kyo-hachi-ryu... a term that is generally thought to refer to the 8 principle schools taught in the Kyoto area during the Muromachi period, and probably including the Yoshioka school, which, as we know, Musashi and his father both had dealings with. In fact, Watatani identifies it as being specific to the Kyoto area - as Musashi spent some time in the city, this makes it quite likely that he adopted a term already in use.

This is fairly common practice - many schools share terms for similar and sometimes quite different techniques. Some of these clearly share a common origin, while in others, the connection is not so clear.

However, the common name suggests the possibility that the name itself shared a common referent, and possibly included an additional layer of symbolism.


Erik the Strange said...

In my daito Ryu school in Japan we had a arm lock throw called hagaeshi - falling leaf response.

Rick Matz said...

Could you describe the throw?

Compass Strategist said...

Hint: Red Leaves Cut is an inside downward cut movement toward the wrists and then inward.