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  • Mechanics of Tameshigiri

    I am a (male) former kendo practitioner who currently studies HEMA, or Historical European Martial Arts, and help teach newcomers to the community and train our regular membership.

    One of the training methods that is quickly becoming popular in HEMA at large is the use of tatami mats and, essentially, tameshigiri to check the validity of our cutting mechanics. A large issue that the community faces as a whole, though, is an apparent discrepancy in cutting performance between men and women. There are a number of theories floating about, some valid, some completely off the wall, but no one seems to be coming to a clear consensus as to why the ladies seem to be under-representing when it comes to cutting. HEMA as an art is still in its infancy, and we lack much of the pedagogy and experience necessary to really figure out the problem from our end. Hopefully some perspectives from other more established arts will help us find the issue - if there is an issue to be found.

    Essentially my questions boil down to this for female practitioners of tameshigiri:

    -Is there a conspicuous issue that you dealt with that initially prevented you from being able to perform well in cutting that wouldn't have affected your male colleagues?

    -If so, what steps did you take to remedy this issue?

    -If not, is this "difference" simply idiosyncratic, and fixable simply with more training?


  • #2
    Apologies, I am not female nor do I practice tameshigiri although I do practice iai. Can you describe the criteria for what is being considered a successful cut? Also, what weapon is being used (I presume they are safe for cutting use)?
    Last edited by dillon; 24th October 2016, 12:59 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Jokinly View Post
      I am a (male) former kendo practitioner who currently studies HEMA, or Historical European Martial Arts, and help teach newcomers to the community and train our regular membership.

      One of the training methods that is quickly becoming popular in HEMA at large is the use of tatami mats and, essentially, tameshigiri to check the validity of our cutting mechanics. A large issue that the community faces as a whole, though, is an apparent discrepancy in cutting performance between men and women. There are a number of theories floating about, some valid, some completely off the wall, but no one seems to be coming to a clear consensus as to why the ladies seem to be under-representing when it comes to cutting. HEMA as an art is still in its infancy, and we lack much of the pedagogy and experience necessary to really figure out the problem from our end. Hopefully some perspectives from other more established arts will help us find the issue - if there is an issue to be found.

      Essentially my questions boil down to this for female practitioners of tameshigiri:

      -Is there a conspicuous issue that you dealt with that initially prevented you from being able to perform well in cutting that wouldn't have affected your male colleagues?

      -If so, what steps did you take to remedy this issue?

      -If not, is this "difference" simply idiosyncratic, and fixable simply with more training?
      This would be easier to answer if you asked on e-budo as Kendo World software doesn't like me much anymore. Never the less, I'll give it a shot and hope for the best!

      The major problem that I encountered when teaching a cutting seminar to HEMA practitioners (years back), is that they tend to not use enough tip speed. In the Japanese sword arts, we are taught that speed is essential for good cutting. The HEMA folks that I worked with tended to muscle the sword. If you have good upper body strength, you can still generate enough speed to cut fairly well. However, if you are slightly built, or a woman, then you usually won't have enough upper body strength to muscle through the cut very easily.

      The only way to overcome this is to work hard on generating more snap in the cut. This is obviously easier with a hand and a half, but works the same with a single hand sword. More snap equals more tip speed. Tip speed plus good hasuji (alignment of sword edge with movement direction) equals good and consistent cutting. Takes lots of practice to get there, but is well worth it in the end as it will give all of your cuts and movements more life.

      Hope that helps.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Jokinly View Post
        . . . A large issue that the community faces as a whole, though, is an apparent discrepancy in cutting performance between men and women. There are a number of theories floating about, some valid, some completely off the wall, but no one seems to be coming to a clear consensus as to why the ladies seem to be under-representing when it comes to cutting. . . .

        Essentially my questions boil down to this for female practitioners of tameshigiri:

        -Is there a conspicuous issue that you dealt with that initially prevented you from being able to perform well in cutting that wouldn't have affected your male colleagues?

        -If so, what steps did you take to remedy this issue?

        -If not, is this "difference" simply idiosyncratic, and fixable simply with more training?
        I've only done a little tameshigiri, but I am female, my main gig is polearms, and I've seen a fair number of HEMA demonstrations. HEMA folks I've seen were largely cutting with the upper body, like pgsmith said, and I have not often seen body movements that were fully coordinated, upper and lower body. ​People who don't have the upper body strength to move the sword at speed need to figure out how to get their bone structure behind the sword's movement and cut from the hara (remember that from kendo?). Now, this might not be the paradigm that HEMA techniques were built on in the way lots of Japanese sword seems to have done, but it does work.

        In doing tameshigiri the few times I did it, I think the biggest problem for me was feeling intimated by the experience. There were a lot of very enthusiastic guys, perhaps even a little showing off, and I just wanted a quieter situation to work through the cutting without feeling like I had to perform in a certain way or achieve certain results. For women in JSA, we sometimes have an advantage because in starting out with not so much ability to muscle the sword, we're not trapped in the bad habit of muscling the sword.

        -Beth




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        • #5
          Originally posted by babayaga View Post
          In doing tameshigiri the few times I did it, I think the biggest problem for me was feeling intimated by the experience. There were a lot of very enthusiastic guys, perhaps even a little showing off, and I just wanted a quieter situation to work through the cutting without feeling like I had to perform in a certain way or achieve certain results. For women in JSA, we sometimes have an advantage because in starting out with not so much ability to muscle the sword, we're not trapped in the bad habit of muscling the sword.

          -Beth
          Hey Beth,
          I've run across that in the past. I've had to take the enthusiastic guys to task and remind them that just cutting the target is not the objective in tameshigiri. Any shmoe off the street with a machete can cut targets fairly easily. Cutting correctly within the context of the particular sword art, that's the objective.

          Paul
          Last edited by pgsmith; 1st February 2017, 05:42 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by babayaga View Post

            In doing tameshigiri the few times I did it, I think the biggest problem for me was feeling intimated by the experience. There were a lot of very enthusiastic guys, perhaps even a little showing off, and I just wanted a quieter situation to work through the cutting without feeling like I had to perform in a certain way or achieve certain results. For women in JSA, we sometimes have an advantage because in starting out with not so much ability to muscle the sword, we're not trapped in the bad habit of muscling the sword.

            -Beth

            Hi Beth,

            I'm in a very priveledged postion of currently running a 100% female dojo (Apart from me!).

            I find it much easier to teach women as beginners as like you say, the "Muscling/Baseball bat" thing is not there.

            The only advice I tend to give is that because of the differing pelvis shapes, it's sometimes common for women to have turned their hips before impact - once it's pointed out, there really is no difference as long as technique is good.

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