The literal translation of tameshigiri is test cutting. During the Edo Period in Japan this referred to testing the cutting capability of a sword. Today it has come to mean testing the cutting ability of the person wielding the sword. As such it has evolved into a martial art in its own right. Within the world of Japanese sword arts tameshigiri today is viewed variously, ranging from complete disregard to complete integration into the regular training syllabus.
At Musokai, tameshigiri is not a part of our regular keiko. However, we feel that the undisputed benefits of tameshigiri make it a worthwhile adjunct to our studies. Due to the cost and the extensive preparations required, we will schedule tameshigiri events only at irregular intervals. We feel it is very important to state that in our view tameshigiri should be performed exclusively to improve our Iai, so we will not publicly announce such an event so as to limit the audience to active members training at Musokai.
Much has been written about the value of practicing tameshigiri elsewhere, so we will list just a few of the main benefits here:
Targets for cutting can be just about anything that does not risk damage to an expensive blade. Straw bundles are perhaps the most common target. Bamboo, living plants, paper and even water. Yes, water! One of the more difficult tests of your cutting ability is cutting down into water without causing even a single drop to splash up!
Our most common target is a rolled reed mat (makiwara) made by rolling traditional tatami mats (tatami omote) that have been rejected due to minor flaws. These mats are rolled tightly, tied with biodegradable twine and soaked in water overnight. A single mat thus simulates roughly the thickness of a human arm, while two mats rolled together simulates the thickness of a human leg. Wooden dowels or small bamboo can be rolled into the mat to simulate bone. At Musokai we will not include the latter in our makiwara since we are exclusively interested in the quality of the cut - did it go through the mat in a flat plane or curving plane; did it cut the last reeds cleanly on exit or tear them, and so on.
Here are some links to deepen your understanding of tameshigiri:
We encourage you to explore this fascinating topic more fully at your leisure. If you are a student at Musokai, please feel free to ask about it. As you advance you too will have opportunity to test the quality of your cuts!