Friday, July 14, 2017
Tonight was tameshigiri (test cutting).
We cut saturated tatami mats, rolled up into cylinders we call wara. They are placed on a stand addressed as "bokusensei" (literally "wooden teacher). The object is then to cut the mat.
But not just to cut through the mat. No, the point is to see how one's cuts are performing. Force and strength is not enough in and of themselves to consistently cut well. The hasuji (cutting angle) is critical: the correct means an successful cut (and most likely cutting all the way through), an incorrect angle - too flat or too pronounced - means the sword will most likely be caught in the grain of the mat and not cut through. And it is not enough just to cut through - one must execute the cut one intended to, not just the cut one may have ended up with.
Tameshigiri is one of the few teaching tools that is instantly instructional. The results of the cut are available as soon as you finish. Any flaws in the cut - a bad angle, failure to cut through the target instead of to the target - are instantly revealed and available for correction. It is the most instant form of instruction and self correction I know.
The items you see above is the result of my first cut - a kesagiri (shoulder to hip). The angle looks reasonably acceptable. It did get through - but you would be surprised at the relatively small amount of strength I had to exert. I had to make an effort - but could never just through with brute strength
Frankly, I wish life was more like tameshigiri: instant feedback for instant correction.