Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, 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 ~

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Shinai: More Than a Bamboo Sword

Below is an excerpt from a post at Tozando Blog. It's about the history and meaning of the bamboo sword used in Kendo practice. The full post may be read here.

A ‘Shinai’ is commonly known as a practice tool replacing a live blade in Kendo and Kenjutsu. And yet, it goes beyond being simply a tool in that it’s treated with reverence. More than just being a bamboo sword used during practice or competitions, by standing in for a real sword, its usage vicariously approximates life-or-death duels. Naturally, given this state of mind, certain practices apply when, for instance, you place the Shinai on the ground. This includes not straddling the sword, not holding the sword with your left hand and pointing the tip to the ground when standing up, or even rolling the sword on the ground.

The kanji characters ‘木’ (read: boku, moku, or ki) and ‘刀’ (read: to or ken) are read as such – ‘bokuto’ (wooden sword). In contrast, Shinai (bamboo sword) combines the kanji characters ‘竹’ (read: take) and ‘刀’ (read: to or ken), but the reading – ‘Shinai’ doesn’t reflect that. One theory states that this word is rooted in ‘撓う’ (read: shinau), which means ‘to bend flexibly’, and that it gained this exclusive usage in Kenjutsu circles. Originally, before the Shinai was introduced, blunted swords or wooden swords were used during practice. In those days, practicing with such equipment would result in serious injury whenever practitioners made full contact, so it naturally followed that they shifted almost exclusively towards drilling forms. This meant that they’d stop their sword right before contact in paired forms or drills training, but a single mistake in gauging the amount of force would often result in unintentional contact; one misstep would place a student’s life on the line. Such was the type of practice back in the day.

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