Becoming a Living Katana

It is widely recognised that Aikido owes much of it’s development to kenjutsu – the art of the sword, but I like to think that we go further than simply using sword techniques. I like to think we become a living katana.

When a sword cuts the blade penetrates by concentrating the force of the cut.

“The basic idea of a blade is very similar to a sharp point. The shape concentrates all the force onto a very small area, resulting in a high amount of pressure which allows it to penetrate matter.”

The same principle is seen when using an axe.

“The axe is an example of a simple machine, as it is a type of wedge, or dual inclined plane. This reduces the effort needed by the wood chopper. It splits the wood into two parts by the pressure concentrated at the blade.”

When you cut a log with an axe, your first objective is to actually strike the log, but you don’t try to slap it with the side of the head and you don’t bludgeon it with the back. You use the sharp side, the cutting edge that’s been honed to focus all the energy of the strike.

If we look at the cross section of a katana (or an axe head) we see a blunt back edge & a sharp side arranged around a central line.

Cross sections of katana blades

When viewed from above the hanmi – or stance – used in aikido is very similar. Our back foot is turned out to the side giving us a ‘blunt’ back edge, the front foot aims forward along the central line to give us our ‘sharp’ side. The arms are held in front of the torso in a triangular shape with the hands on the centre line, adding to this sharp edge and wedge shape.

This is perhaps even more evident when using a bokken, as the bokken helps to illustrate the central line.

If we think in these terms when performing our aikido techniques, it help us to maintain the ‘aim’ of our hanmi. Ensuring that the front foot & central line point to the core of our opponent focuses the energy of our ‘cut’ and we become a living katana…and a katana is pretty darned impressive.