Journal of Japanese Sword Arts

A monthly magazine dealing with all aspects of Japanese sword study.

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Issue: #87 Dec. 1997

Journal of Japanese Sword Arts

A monthly journal concerning all aspects of the use of the Japanese Sword. Articles, news, reviews, technical tips.

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$36 US in USA

$48 overseas.


Kim Taylor, ed.

44 Inkerman St.

Guelph Ontario

Canada, N1H 3C5


by Raymond Sosnowski, NH

Introduction. I have previously reported on last year's local seminar, "The First NH Atarashii Naginata Seminar," in the Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #81 (Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 8-10, May, 1997). Although the turn out this year was smaller, those of us who attended, were given a lot of individual attention. Although a Shinsa (promotion exam) was originally planned, it was not held because the anticipated attendees were not able to come this year for various reasons. Needless to say, we will plan for another seminar this time next year.

Instructor. We were again privileged to have Ms. Miyako Tanaka, Kyoshi and USNF President, from El Cerrito, CA, come to instruct us. She is the highest ranking woman in Atarashii Naginata outside of Japan, and has practiced Naginata for over 30 years. She has been in the US since 1979, and is a co-founder of the Northern California Naginata Federation (NCNF) in 1990. She is also an instructor of Tendo-Ryu Naginata-jutsu, which is one of the two Koryu (classical styles) that Atarashii (literally "new") Naginata is based on.

We were also priviledged to have Mr. Kurt Schmucker, Sandan (and ready to test for Yondan) and Vice-President of the USNF as well as Vice-President of the International Naginata Federation (INF), who came to us after attending a professional meeting where he was the keynote speaker in New Brunswick, Canada; Mr. Schmucker assisted Tanaka-sensei. He is also Godan in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido, Yondan in Kendo, Sandan in Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo, and Shodan in Judo, as well as a student of Tendo-Ryu Naginata-jutsu under Tanaka-sensei.

Location. The seminar took place at Gold's Gym on Route 101A in Nashua, NH. The pre-, post- and extra-seminar classes took place at Choyokan Dojo at Morningstar Farm, Lyndeborough, NH. [Choyokah Dojo is operated by the host of this seminar, Mr. Joseph Caulfield, Esq.] Lyndeborough (locally pronounced "lime-burro") is about a 35-minute car ride from Nashua, NH, located on the southern NH border.

Practitioners. Seven people, all from the East Coast, participated in the seminar. There were four from southern NH, Mr. Joseph Caulfield, Esq., his wife Sharon, Mr. Brian Dunham and myself. There were two from the Boston metropolitan area, Mr. Brian Moore who is also my fellow Aikidoka and Iaidoka, and Mr. Martin Hafner. From the DC metropolitan area, there was one, Ms. Fran Vall, Sandan and the present Director of the East Coast Naginata Federation (ECNF).

The Pre-Seminar Practice - October 11. Mr. Schmucker lead the pre-seminar afternoon practice at Choyokan Dojo in Lyndeborough, NH, with the southern NH group in attendance. He began with Happo Buri (literally "eight swings," eight "directions" is implied), and their subtle details, which was a preview of part of the seminar practice. [In preparation for forms practice, everyone does Happo Buri with the Naginata which acts as a solo warm up.] In spite of the similarities between Happo Buri and Uchi Kata (offensive forms, that is, the cuts), it is the subtle differences that are the hallmark of their proper executions. We continued by practicing Shikake-Oogi, the eight routines that are the Oyo Waza (applied techniques) of Atarashii Naginata; they are used in Shinsa (promotion exams) up to Sandan.

The Seminar - 12 & 13 October. The theme of this seminar was the "honing of the Kihon Waza (basic techniques)," in this case, the trinity of accurate Kamae (stance), accurate Datotsu (target), and proper timing (and coordination by implication). Most everyone had the mechanics of the Kihon Waza down, but now was the time to fine tune them. The three half-day sessions began with warm-ups without Naginata and a group practice of Ashi-Sabaki (foot work) and Datotsu (target) practice; leading this practice is a requirement for Yudansha (black belt) Shinsa, which has its own set of verbal commands (in Japanese), and stylized postures and movements [there are times when the commands are not used, and practitioners react solely to the non-verbal cues from the postures and movements].

We began both days working on Happo Buri. In all but one pair of swings, the back or Ishizuki (which is the butt end opposite the Kissaki or tip of the blade) hand is the "power hand;" and, in all cases, the back hand does not move, maintaining a firm grip on the E-Bu (shaft of the Naginata). In all cases, the front or Kissaki hand is allowed to slide about one palm width at some point during the swing. Since these are swings, and not cuts, there is an emphasis on fluid, constant motion. A freqent misconception about Happo Buri is that it is part of Uchi Waza; however, as practiced today, Happo Buri is a kind of warm up exercise, which allows parts of the body to move through an extended range of motion.

The most important one is Jo-Ge Buri (overhead swing with no differentiation between the right- and left-hand versions), the first of the Happo Buri; it is required at the Shinsa for all Dangai (all Kyu ranks, that is, Mudansha) ranks and Shodan. The range of motion extends from behind the back with the E-Bu parallel to the spine (the Kissaki points toward the floor) and the feet together through an arc overhead as one steps back and sinks into the analog of a long, low, back stance so that the Ha-Bu (blade) ends up out in front, several inches from the floor. Tanaka-sensei strongly emphasizes the "limit-to-limit" motion of this swing. Jo-Ge Buri initially begins in Chudan no Kamae, and you step forward and back on the same foot until given the command to change sides at which point you switch feet and relative hand positions.

Yoko Buri (side swings differentiated into right- and left-side versions, Migi and Hidare, respectively, which counts as a pair) begins in Waki Gamae with the Ishizuki directly in front of and centered on the exposed hip (the Ha-Bu is positioned with the "edge" horizontal and out). As one steps forward and then back with the opposite foot, the Ha-Bu swings through a semi-circular arc and then is moved through an additional 45-degrees off forward center as the Ishizuki hand slides back about one palm span. The power hand traces a sideways "V" (that is, "<" or ">") from the hip crease to the Tanden as you step forward with feet together, and from the Tanden to just above the hip as you step back; the E-Bu remains horizontal throughout the swing.

Naname Buri (diagonally downward swings, Migi and Hidare) is the most difficult one, and is executed from Hasso no Kamae. The first order of business is a good Hasso no Kamae. [All Kamae in Naginata are essentially modified high (and narrow) horse/side stances; instead of the feet being parallel, the rear foot is turned out and back 30 to 45 degrees, while the front foot is turned out forward about 75 degrees. The weight is centered, and carried on the front of the feet, that is, on the balls of the feet forward to the toes, and not on the heels; this footwork can be considered to be the "Naginata stance."] In Hasso no Kamae, the wrist of the Ishizuki hand is placed on the hip crease, and the Kissaki hand parallel to the ear and behind the head as if drawing a Yumi or bow (the back elbow is approximately level with the center of the shoulder).

Like Yoko Buri, in Naname Buri, as one steps forward and then back with the opposite foot, the Ha-Bu swings through a semi-circular arc and then is pulled through an additional 45-degrees off forward center as the Ishizuki hand slides back about one palm span. The power hand traces a sideways "V" (that is, "<" or ">") from the hip crease to the Tanden to just above the hip. Unlike Yoko Buri, the E-Bu remains in a diagonal plane 45 degrees from vertical throughout the swing since Naname Buri begins in Hasso no Kamae (Yoko Buri begins in Waki Gamae).

Naname Buri Shitakara (diagonally upward swings, Migi and Hidare) begins in Waki Gamae like Yoko Buri, and works on the diagonal like Naname Buri albeit upward instead of downward. Again the power hand traces a sideways "V" (that is, "<" or ">") from the hip crease to the Tanden to just above the hip. As you step forward (feet together), the Kissaki hand slips back a palm span so that the E-Bu is in the vertical plane perpendicular to the front, and sloping downward toward the Kissaki. As you step back, the Kissaki hand (this is the exception to the Ishizuki hand as the power hand) draws the E-Bu in an arc upwards along the diagonal plane.

Furikaeshi Buri (swing back over the head and down forward) is generally introduced after Jo-Ge Buri and Yoko Buri, and rounds out the first half of Happo Buri that Dangai should concentrate their practice on. The alternating footwork changes for Furikaeshi Buri, stepping back to bring the feet together then stepping forward. As you step back, the Kissaki is brought back behind the head, and the two hands come together over the head. As you step forward, the two hands separate (the Ishizuki hand remains in place, and the Kissaki hand slides away), and you do a downward swing like the second part of Jo-ge Buri (except that the step is forwards and not backwards). Like Jo-Ge Buri, Furikaeshi Buri initially begins in Chudan no Kamae.

We practiced Happo Buri solo and in pairs. Pairs work consisted of unison work, and "mirror-image" work. For the diagonal swings, one partner also oriented their E-Bu as a line for the other person to use for tracing. We also worked round-robin in pairs so that everyone worked with everyone else.

The next part of the Kihon Waza that we worked on extensively was Uchi Kata. Again we spent a lot of time on Furiage Shomen-Uchi (overhead head cut) from Chudan no Kamae (basic on-guard stance), and Soku-Men-Uchi (overhead temple cut) and Sune-Uchi (shin cut) from Hasso no Kamae. We also worked on Furiage Sune-Uchi (overhead shin cut) and Furiage Kote-Uchi (overhead wrist cut) from Chudan no Kamae; both of these techniques require more attention. When raising the Naginata, Furiage Sune-Uchi is indistinguishable from Furiage Shomen-Uchi, but in the delivery the trajectory changes slightly off from vertical to "cut" the shin [if Furiage Sune-Uchi were delivered like Furiage Shomen-Uchi, then the Ha-Bu would impact the top of the knee]; and when raising the Naginata, Furiage Kote-Uchi is indistinguishable from Furiage Shomen-Uchi, except that the feet just turn in place (there is no advancing step) when the torso turns forward, and, in delivery, the trajectories are the same except that the Kote-Uchi continues to below the Chudan level. We also did Do-Uchi from Waki Gamae.

We also practiced Uchi Kata solo and in pairs; pairs work consisted of unison work. We again worked round-robin in pairs so that everyone worked with everyone else. In the last session, we put on the Sune-ate (shin guarda), that part of the Bogu (practice armor) unique to Atarashii Naginata, and took turns being targets while practicing various Sune-Uchi, and then full Bogu for all targets considered.

The final part of the Kihon Waza is Uke Kata (defensive techniques); both ends of the Naginata can be used to intercept a strike [there is a Monouchi on the Ha-Bu as you expect with a "blade;" there is also a Monouchi at the Ishizuki end of the E-Bu as well -- in fact, there is a Sune-uchi done using the Monouchi of the E-Bu (it is the only Uchi Kata executed with the E-Bu)]. Typically done in pairs, one person executes a Kihon Waza from Uchi Kata while the other person responds with the appropriate Waza of Uke Kata. We began with Shodan Waza (single techniques) which always includes Shikake (attacker) doing Furiage Shomen-Uchi from Chudan no Kamae, and Soku-Men-Uchi and Sune-Uchi from Hasso no Kamae, and continued with Nidan Waza (two techniques in succession) such as Soku-Men-Uchi and Soku-Men-Uchi, Soku-Men-Uchi and Sune-Uchi, and Sune-Uchi and Sune-Uchi. Oogi (defender) responds with the appropriate Uke Kata.

This practice naturally leads into practicing Uchi-Kaeshi (a two person form of the essential Kihon Waza). The sequence for Shikake is: Hidari (left) Chudan no Kamae then Furiage Shomen-Uchi, Hidari Hasso no Kamae then Mochikae-Sokumen-Uchi [Mochikae means a change of sides; in this case, stepping in causes the change of sides], Migi Hasso no Kamae then Mochikae-Sokumen-Uchi, Hidari Hasso no Kamae then Mochikae-Sune-Uchi, Migi Hasso no Kamae then Mochikae-Sune-Uchi, stepping back into Hidari Chudan no Kamae to reestablish Ma-ai (combat distance), and finally Furiage Shomen-Uchi. Oogi also begins in Hidari Chudan no Kamae, and moves back in reaction to the strikes.

The sequence for Oogi is: slide steps back and intercepts the Furiage Shomen-Uchi with the Shinogi (side of the blade) or Shomen-Uke [for these blocks, one chokes up on the Naginata, bringing the ends close to the body and bracing the E-Bu against the body], step back and intercept the Sokumen-Uchi (Sokumen-Uke) with the Ishizuki end of the E-Bu, step back and intercept the Sokumen-Uchi with the Shinogi for Sokumen-Uke, step back and intercept the

Sune-Uchi (Sune-Uke) with the Ishizuki end of the E-Bu, step back and intercept the Sokumen-Uchi with the Shinogi for Sune-Uke [this is Gedan no Kamae], stepping forward into Hidari Chudan no Kamae to reestablish Ma-ai, and to intercept the final Furiage Shomen-Uchi, step back into a parallel stance raising the Naginata horizontally with both hands about a fist-width in front of and above the forehead, which is another kind of Shomen-Uke.

Generally, the pair reverses roles and works their way back to the starting point [as an advanced practice, the direction changes, but not the roles]. If space permits that final Furiage Shomen-Uchi with the horizontal block for Shomen-Uke is not executed and the sequence is repeated from the beginning. That final Furiage Shomen-Uchi and horizontal Shomen-Uke with the E-Bu is the last pair of techniques in Uchi-Kaeshi. Uchi-Kaeshi is also practiced wearing Sune-ate and full Bogu, which we did in the last session; however, in this case, Oogi does not practice Uke Kata, but leaves those targets protected by Bogu open for Shikake to strike [there is also a subtle change in the Ashi-Sabaki: after the second Sokumen-Uchi, Oogi does a slide step back which exposes the outside of the shin when Shikake steps in for Sune-Uchi].

Also in the last session, we practiced Shikake-Oogi. These too were done in round-robin fashion. Beginners generally learn Ipponme (first one) and Nihonme (second one) immediately after Uchi-Kaeshi because it contains all the Kihon Waza needed for these first two Oyo Waza. Dangai will learn up to Gohonme (fifth one). Ropponme (sixth one), Nanahonme (seventh one), and Hachihonme (eighth one) are learned by Shodan and Nidan [Sandan and above have an additional set of seven Kata; the Shikake-Oogi are not considered to be formal Kata, but, for all practical purposes, they are "Kata" in the generic sense of the word]. In this session, we concentrated on the Ipponme through Gohonme series of Shikake-Oogi.

We finished the last session with practice in Bogu; I have already mentioned the Uchi Kata and Uchi-Kaeshi practices. There were two more types of practices. In Kakari Geiko, a Sempai (senior) provides obvious openings for a Kohai (junior) to strike; Kurt and Fran were the Sempai during this practice. In Jigeiko (practice sparring), we again worked in a round-robin fashion, pairing up with each other. Needless to say, I know the Kohai were somewhat tired when this final session ended.

The Extra-Seminar Practice - 12 October. Tanaka-sensei reviewed the introductory Kata of Tendo-Ryu Naginata-jutsu that we learned last year [for an overview and some initial details on Tendo-Ryu, see my article on last year's seminar, "The First NH Atarashii Naginata Seminar," in the Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #81 (Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 8-10, May, 1997)], especially the first Kata of the Ko-naginata Omote grouping, Sho-dan section, called Ichimonji no Midari [see "The Role of Arms-Bearing Women in Japanese History" by Mr. Ellis Amdur in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 11 - 35, 1996; the essential elements of this Kata are seen in figures on page 17]. This Kata is the prototype for the other Kata in the Sho-dan section.

She also spent a lot of time reviewing the second pair of Kata, Ishizuki Koishigaeshi no Midare and Onajiku Hidari (same on the left side), which has a rather curious footwork: one foot behind the other with the feet turned out, and the back knee braced behind the front knee; turning on the balls of the feet, the body turns 180 degrees and you end up in a mirror image of the original stance. This powerful hip turn brings the Naginata from a Jodan (Muhen in Tendo-Ryu parlance) position through a semicircular arc into a Chudan (Ichimonji in Tendo-Ryu parlance, like the single brush stroke for Ichi or "one," the Naginata is parallel to the floor) position; this technique, called "Koishigaeshi," is one of the hallmark techniques of Tendo-Ryu. The use of the term "Onajiku Hidari" for "same on the left side" is ubiquitous in Tendo-Ryu; many Kata pairs have right-hand and left-hand side versions.

The Post-Seminar Practice - 14 October. With the long Columbus Day weekend over, some of us had to go back to work, but for an extra day, Tanaka-sensei taught a morning and an afternoon session, which I was able to attend along with Fran, Joe, and Brian (Moore). Tanaka-sensei continued with the seminar theme of the "honing of the Kihon Waza." We again went over detailed aspects of Happo Buri, Uchi Kata, Uchi-Kaeshi, and Shikake-Oogi. For much of the solo work, we made use of the mirrors in Choyokan Dojo.

We also took the Shikake-Oogi apart to practice the embedded Nidan Waza of the Shikake side. Tanaka-sensei also worked with us on details of Uke Kata from Sambonme and Gohonme of the Shikake-Oogi: two Harai Waza (warding-off techniques), a Ha-Harai (Harai using the Ha-Bu) from Do-Uke (waist block), and an E-Harai (Harai using the Ishizuki end of the E-Bu) from Shomen-Uke (forehead block), and Makiotoshi (literally a roll over and drop, that is, a flick down) using the Mune (back of the blade) of the Ha-Bu. Finally, Tanaka-sensei gave us a demonstration of Naginata Waza useful against a Shinai, the mock-sword of Kendo.

Tanaka-sensei also related some information to us on the evolution of Happo Buri. The lines of Happo Buri today are the four equiangular, intersecting lines of the written asterisk, that is, "+" and "x" superimposed on each other. The horizontal line is just below waist level and the intersection is just below the navel [apparently the navel of the Japanese, in general, is lower than those of Occidentals, so when a Japanese person says "navel level," chances are that this translates to two to three inches below the navel with respect to Occidental anatomy]. Techniques like Naname Buri previously had three levels (head as in Soku-men, Kesa as in Kesa-Giri centered on the torso, and the center of the shin as in Sune-Uchi), and a more acute angle (30 degrees from vertical as in Sokumen-Uchi and Kesa-Giri, rather than the present 45 degrees), and Yoko Buri used the hands to extend the Naginata out initially so that the swing would end with a pull back in, which also gave Yoko Buri a slicing effect, that is, a radial motion as well as an angular one. The present execution of Happo Buri represents an effort to simplify the swings, and one aspect of simplification is present in the symmetry of the swing trajectories.

Apres-practice Dinners and ECNF Meeting. After the first day of the seminar, we stopped at Elisha's Restuarant in Milford, NH, on our way back to the Caulfields' Dojo for an extra-seminar practice that evening. At the end of the second day, all but two of us went to the Osaka Tea Garden in [South] Nashua, NH, for Japanese food; after dinner, we had a brief meeting of the East Coast Naginata Federation or ECNF. Several aspects to be considered were presented by Ms. Fran Vall including next year's local seminar and sponsoring the annual USNF Seminar in 1999. I announced that the first draft of the by-laws was complete, and would be distributed to the committee of "seniors," Ms. Fran Vall, Mr. Joseph Caulfield, and myself, for comments and revision recommendations -- I anticipate a follow--up round of revisions before the legal language passes muster.

Special Thanks. Seminars just do not happen; they do require a supporting cast to make them happen. A special thanks first to Ms. Miyako Tanaka for again coming cross country (her schedule of teaching Mathematics on Saturdays at a Japanese school in San Francisco, means that she has to take the "red-eye" Saturday night to get here on Sunday morning) to give our second annual seminar. Thanks to Mr. Kurt Schmucker for taking time out of his hectic schedule to visit us. [Kurt showed me some updates that he has made to the Naginata web page <>, and we also managed to get in a Sunday morning Jodo session.] Thanks also go to Mr. Joseph Caulfield, Esq., for hosting the seminar, and to Ms. Sharon Caulfield for making the arrangements and for providing accomodations for Tanaka-sensei, and Fran-san. Thanks to Ms. Fran Vall for initiating this seminar, and interfacing with the national organization. Finally, thanks to my wife Val for letting me take the time to train while my in-laws were visiting this year during the seminar.

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Last Updated March 6, 1998 by
Kim Taylor