Western Martial Arts

Western Martial Arts...
and Cutting Practice

A Few Final Thoughts-

I have read many comments over the years about cutting practice being unnecessary, or something that "they do" (the EMA folks), and, "why should we (the WMA folks) have to do what they do". In all sincerity I will try to say this in a way that is obviously meant to include anyone who studies a martial art that involves the use of a bladed weapon;

If you are training to use an edged weapon then there is only one way to check to be sure that you are using it efficiently and effectively, the way it was meant to be used... see if you can cut a reasonable target with it!

Hopefully that included everybody and offended no one.

I have also heard and read comments about tatami not being a “realistic” or useful target. Neither are plastic bottles, pumpkins or plywood. There is only one realistic target, another human being that is moving around and trying in earnest to hit you back or cut you. Thankfully, I don’t believe most of us will be unfortunate enough to ever be in the position of having a “realistic” target to deal with. EVERYTHING ELSE is just a fabricated test of the sword or the person using it. What the modern day martial artist wants, hopefully, is a target material that can provide them with useful information and can help them learn to cut better.

Back to “realism”.  From my reading and coversations with others whom I respect, I believe that most sword cuts were meant to penetrate the soft tissues of the body by means of slashing, slicing, or thrusting. It is my impression that the “home-run hit”, or cutting entirely through a torso or large limb, was a rare occurrence because it is very difficult to perform on a moving target that is trying to avoid being hit, and at the same time is striking back. However, a cut that created a sizeable wound in soft tissue was sufficient to put down most combatants and allow you to move on to the next opponent.

As such, body dynamics, sword position, swing angle, edge control, and tip position are paramount to quality sword technique, and can easily be checked and tested.  In the later part of the 19th century in Japan they started to use targets made from rice straw with a piece of bamboo in the center and then soaked in water. These targets were used because they found that this was a material which represented the muscular and connective tissue in the human body in both density and toughness, the green bamboo has similar cutting properties to bone. Today we use prefabricated tatami omote that closely mimics the old rice straw targets.

I honestly think that when you look at all the different things that can be learned from regular cutting practice, and then the cost of the material, the availability, and the realistic difficulty it takes to cut the target, then tatami omote comes out way ahead of all other target materials in terms of value. Tatami can be built up to make increasingly tougher targets and inexpensive bamboo or wood dowels can be added to the target to give it a harder center. If you decide that you would like to try some tatami for cutting targets the best value on the market is from Mugen Dachi.

Don't just take our word for it. Check to see what some long-term practitioners and instructors of the Western Martial Arts have to say about Mugen Dachi Tatami Omote.

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