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  • the importance of sayabiki?

    The following is the first of several posts I plan to write which will build upon one another. This is partially a thought exercise for me as I reflect upon what I am showing students as well as come up with a teaching methodology which builds upon itself step by step.

    Why is sayabiki as shown in seitei mae important? Well the most obvious answer is that with a properly sized sword, you need proper sayabiki in order to clear the sword from the saya during nikitsuke. Not doing so can damage your saya, effect your cut etc. I believe this level of understanding is appropriate when you are first learning the coreography of the kata, but later on you need to understand how to hold the shape, rather than simply mimicing the shape via the large muscle groups.

    Sayabiki, in conjunction with nikitsuke as I understand it, is an introduction to cross body tension/connection (ignore any hip movement for now). Often I will see begining students clear the iaito from the saya just fine but neglect to pull the saya back enough, they feel like the sword has cleared the saya and don't understand why they need to pull the saya further.

    Nikitsuke is an opening movement where the body transitions from a concave position to a generally convex position and the arms start in a loose position and end in a more stretched position. Prior to begining furikaburi, the arms should be stretched in opposite directions, leading to a stretch accross the chest, in particular accross the sternum area. This stretch is similar to a rubber band being pulled from both sides, causing the band to elongate instead of droop towards the floor. This stretch/extension (applicable to kiroshi) is a step in using less shoulder to support the arms in place. When I place students in the position prior to furikaburi and push and pull on their arms/sword, they can feel the difference in stability between the two, and a more firm path from the kisaki to the supporting leg is felt and established.

    The next steps to reduce shoulder usage (moving stress from the front to the back of the shoulder, using tanden rotation to move the arms, breath pressuration to pull the arms) will be discussed in forthcoming forum topics. I will try and relate each step, to a particular movement in seitei mae.

  • #2
    Thanks for the post. Due to budget problems when I purchased my iaito mine is far shorter than I need (to the point I can draw the sword comfortably without sayabiki), so I've developed bad habits that I'm trying desperately to break. Any info is helpful.

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    • #3
      First, a linguistical pedantical nitpick: it's nukitsuke. Nuku = draw out, tsukeru = fix, attach.

      Second, just as reference information and food for thought, not as any kind of comment on hl1978's suggestion, in Yagyu Seigo-ryu batto, there is no sayabiki at all. The idea is, if you move with the whole body, you can clear the sword of the saya without sayabiki. Many draws also start while stepping forward with the left foot (or stepping back with the right), which I believe is somewhat unusual. Come to think of it, Yagyu Seigo-ryu is kinda weird altogether.

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      • #4
        Thank you Hl1978 for that informative post, I look forward to reading many more.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Josh Reyer View Post
          Second, just as reference information and food for thought, not as any kind of comment on hl1978's suggestion, in Yagyu Seigo-ryu batto, there is no sayabiki at all. The idea is, if you move with the whole body, you can clear the sword of the saya without sayabiki. Many draws also start while stepping forward with the left foot (or stepping back with the right), which I believe is somewhat unusual. Come to think of it, Yagyu Seigo-ryu is kinda weird altogether.
          So without saya biki how do you clear the saya, are they leaning forward?

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          • #6
            I have heard from various sources over the years that in some lines of MJER originally they used very short swords and there was no sayabiki at all because they didn't even grab the saya with their left hand. Different strokes for different folks I guess (or "different draws for different paws"?).

            With that said, in my own training in my ryu of choice most groups I have come across have a strong emphasis on sayabiki (much more so than I see in many MJER and MSR groups, but those groups are so diverse it is impossible to make blanket statements). Some have some rather unusual usage of the left hand/arm that you don't see much anymore that happens to scream to me of cross body tension usage you mentioned. With that said we have no technique using a horizontal cut ala mae at all.

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            • #7
              Great post. I hear "More sayabiki" all the time and am diligently working on it. One thing that really made me try to be more aggressive in my sayabiki is the thought of one day using shinken.
              I heard some sensei telling stories of some instructor using shinken and not doing enough sayabiki to clear the koiguchi. The shinken split the saya clean and continued thru the hand between the thumb and forefinger
              severely cutting him and i imagine severing the tendons in the hand. From that point all I can think is MORE SAYABIKI. My dojo has a MSR base and From what I have heard MSR tends to use a little longer sword.
              I am not really far enough into study to know if this is accurate or not. Thanks for the post.

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              • #8
                although I do not use sayabiki for my style of MJER (tanimura ha) I still have a massive emphasis on the left hand... This aligns the sword for my right hand, and due to keeping a light 'grip' as I drive the saya into my obi, it is 'knocked off' by my forward hip movement/drive, thus ending by my side on the obi. The sword is turned right at the last minute. In mae for example, as the kissaki is leaving the saya, it is turned inside the saya over the length of the boshi. Not recommended for beginners, and a good reason to have the left hand away from the koiguchi I reckon...
                Note for shimomura ha I do use sayabiki, but in a slightly different way as the saya is turned upside down in the obi... sort of more emphasis on the twist is the only way i can describe it in words...

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                • #9
                  Sayabiki is often discussed as one of the important elements in performing a proper nukitsuke. What about the importance of sayabiki in performing a proper noto?

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                  • #10
                    Sorry, maybe it's just me and I'm going out on a limb here or maybe I'm saying what other people are thinking...

                    I'm not usually a language pedant but I do believe that the correct amount of attention to detail should be related to the nature of the lingual expression. What you are writing (on a forum that is viewed by lots of easily-influenced new students to JSA) sounds like it meant to be documentary in nature i.e. you are teaching others through this forum.

                    I have some problems with this which you are free of course to ignore, it's just my opinion.

                    Firstly, I don't think you actually want to be seen to be teaching on this forum but the way you are writing comes across that way more than just "my experience of iaido is...".

                    Secondly, you are doing this in front of some potentially very experienced iaidoka, some of who may find what you are writing to be just wrong, inconsistent, irrelevant to some styles of iai.

                    Thirdly, if you are executing a written piece that you would like others to view and consider (which by definition you are) then it would be better received if you made sure that your posting is free from spelling errors (both Japanese and English) and is expressed less like an online iai lesson.

                    I think E-Budo banned online teaching from its forum and while I am glad that KW has a more moderate approach to its moderation, I can understand why E-Budo did what they did.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Andy_Watson View Post
                      I have some problems with this which you are free of course to ignore, it's just my opinion.

                      Firstly, I don't think you actually want to be seen to be teaching on this forum but the way you are writing comes across that way more than just "my experience of iaido is...".
                      As I stated in my inital post "This is partially a thought exercise for me as I reflect upon what I am showing students as well as come up with a teaching methodology which builds upon itself step by step." It does not mean that my approach is set in stone.



                      Secondly, you are doing this in front of some potentially very experienced iaidoka, some of who may find what you are writing to be just wrong, inconsistent, irrelevant to some styles of iai.
                      If they have criticism, I welcome it. This is a "thought exercise" releated to how/why of things. If they have a differing point of view, I value discussion of how to train, what various concepts mean, and how to teach various concepts since I was thrust into the role of being a teacher several years back. We have a wealth of experience on this forum, and this would make for interesting conversation.

                      As stated in paragraph 2 of my original post, this post is related to Seitei Mae.

                      Thirdly, if you are executing a written piece that you would like others to view and consider (which by definition you are) then it would be better received if you made sure that your posting is free from spelling errors (both Japanese and English) and is expressed less like an online iai lesson.

                      I think E-Budo banned online teaching from its forum and while I am glad that KW has a more moderate approach to its moderation, I can understand why E-Budo did what they did.
                      I am using an old version of IE (Internet explorer 6.0 dating from 2004!) as my current PC is broken and I am utilizing my work pc which so I have no automated means of spell checking within the browser, so my apologies. Likewise I do not have install permissions on this machine so I can not install the I spell tool included in the top right hand corner of the quick reply window.

                      I was taught to read phonetically, so I think phonetically as well, this coupled with a New Jersey accent may lead to occasional unusual spellings. On this otherhand, this is a forum post and not a scholarly paper, but like submission to a journal, I am looking for feedback.

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                      • #12
                        The way I understand it, sayabiki is used to increase the speed of the draw. The saya and the sword moving in opposite directions will be faster than just the sword being pulled from the saya.

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                        • #13
                          I took the original post to be an enquiry into raising a discussion about what we teach, rather than a lecture on how to do it... There is a fundamental problem with forums in that people tend to be a little cryptic, jokes dont work very well, and you can miss the intent/emotion of the post, which can really wind people up if they take it the wrong way...it's a bit like watching iai videos, you see the shape, but don't get the 'feel'...
                          I agree on not having teaching threads, what is relevant to one particular ryu/ha is perhaps contradictory to others...however to say perhaps that you are interested in expanding your thoughts on teaching a particular aspect of iai should in theory be of benefit to most of the junior students who dominate the group on here. (Maybe not straight away, but they could read it again in future!)
                          It depends on what you want to read on here... note the bulk of the threads are started by junior students who are asking fairly basic questions, so it is interesting to see 'teaching threads' discussing how to put points across to students.... Maybe the more senior guys who pop on here should do a bit more posing of questions and get the juniors working harder...

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                          • #14
                            Interesting. I more or less, understand the reason for sayabiki, but it is not something we have dealt with much in class. That may have something to do with the number of students who do not have iaito, and use bokken, and the fact that the saya for the bokken that have been ordered haven't arrived yet. Still, I have never had any difficulty drawing my own iaito from saya, and I have to wonder how important it really is?

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                            • #15
                              IN MY STYLE (Ryuha of MJER) which is all I can speak for, I had until a few years ago thought that sayabiki's function was a combination of all the options suggested by the people who have posted their understanding of the term. However, I am beginning to realise that it is a far more complex issue. Tim says he doesn't use saya biki in his style, but that is nonsense, I have seen him do iaido and he uses saya biki in every kata. It just doesn't take the form of pulling the saya round behind him as he makes nukitsuke.

                              Saya Biki literally means pull the saya, in all and every aspect. it is a genereic term for a large number of possible movements. The way it is done in ZNKR Seitei iaido is just one form of saya biki. There are many. the ryuha of most koryu within the ZNKR follow a similar pattern.

                              In my style it has 2 parts, as far as physical movement in nukitsuke is concerned: first a pulling of the left hand back to the obi immediately after koiguchi no kiri gata (even before the right hand has made much progress forwards). Later it pulls round the back after the sword has begun the cut, in time with the cut itself. In my style it is not a function of releasing the boshi to allow the sword to begin the cut action, that is too early. other styles may be different.

                              I offer this, not to teach my saya biki, no such brief explanation can, but to demonstrate that attempting to explain a generic term in terms of a single or few specific manifestations, cannot be done.

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