and Cutting Practice
from Western Martial Artists
-Bob Charron; Instructor, St. Martins
Academy of Arms, USA
I believe cutting practice is
essential to a complete understanding of any Western Martial Art
that employs an edged weapon. I believe it essential to informing
proper actions with the blade. I have found the tatami mats supplied
by Mugen Dachi to be the most effective and versatile material
for my test cutting, and their customer service and support of
Western Martial Arts are among the very best.
- The value of cutting practice in the
The practice of the art of cutting with the weapon is essential
to the student of Western Martial Arts. One must participate
in test cutting periodically to ensure that the techniques
studied from the ancient masters see proper expression in their
interpretation. Blade orientation and cutting mechanics relative
to the weapon being used should be learned and carefully considered.
Each weapon may have some cutting mechanics unique to it, and
the manner in which each weapon best accomplishes its task
of cutting must always be part of the equation in proper interpretation
of the treatises.
-The value of cutting seminars at WMA events.
seminars taught by those who are accomplished in proper cutting
techniques should be on everyone's list of "must
sees" during their course of study in Western Martial
Arts. Such seminars help inform the student and aid in proper
interpretation of the ancient masters. This knowledge can
then be used by the student in periodic cutting practice
during individual study, and shared with others to foster
a better understanding of cutting mechanics within the community.
-Guy Windsor; School of European Swordsmanship, Finland
Cutting practice is essential for
most European sword arts; Mugen Dachi provides the best cutting
targets I've ever used and first-class training to go with them. Excellent
instructors and a first-class product.
The best, most consistent, cutting medium
I've come across, really useful, safe training, and lots of fun.
-School of European Swordsmanship-
-Robert Holland; Instructor, Schola
I recently had the pleasure
of participating in a cutting workshop using targets supplied
by Mugen Dachi. I have had extensive experience using water-filled
plastic bottles as targets, and I definitely found the Mugen
Dachi tatami targets to be far superior. They are more challenging
to cut, requiring that your blade angle and body mechanics be
precise. Even having over 21 years experience in western sword
arts, I found it took a great deal of focus to cut the targets.
I highly recommend these targets to all students and teachers
of western swordsmanship as an excellent training tool.
-Schola St. George-
-Gus Trim; Owner, Angus Trim Swords
Cutting practice is an important part of any sword martial art.
Using something that is relatively dense, and can test both swordsperson
and sword can be quite instructive, can tell you how your edge
alignment holds up, and tell you how much power is needed for an
I find Mugen Dachi mats very good for this purpose, and they are
my favorite for cutting practice, and testing purposes.
When Brian Price told me of this part of the event, I was quite
intrigued. And made the decision to bring a few swords, just for
the cutting........ extras that I wouldn't miss to much, if they
The gentlemen that put on this, teach JMA, and also run a small import business,
bringing in new tatami mats from Japan. When I met Jim Alvarez and his partner
Dave Wilson, it was obvious that both gentlemen are devoted martial artists,
and charming gentlemen. It became obvious later that they were quality instructors..........
After a discussion of some of the rules for this class/demo, both Jim and Dave
took turns slicing up a mat, with katanas they had brought with them. Before
actually starting participants cutting the mats, both took a turn with an AT.
The same result, mats were sliced evenly and cleanly.
Swords used by the students/participants, ranged from a couple kats that Jim
and Dave brought with him, to a 5 year old Tinker Viking sword, to an antique
saber, to the CF Ranger, to the previously mentioned AT's, and some assorted
I'm not going to try and do this blow by blow, but I would say that even though
there has been a lot of discussion about how different the kat and western sword
cutting techniques are, they are more similar than different. It took this demo
for that statement to really sink in for me...... The discussions we get into
make it seem like tremendous differences, but in application the differences
were slight. It became obvious to me, that getting technique assistance from
experienced JMA practitioners, wouldn't be a bad idea for inexperienced longsword
students......... in cutting practice.
I see a lot of value to adding the tatami mats to our cutting regimen here in
the NW. I would highly recommend that anyone involved in the WMA think seriously
of adding this cutting medium to what they are already doing.
It does need a good sword in that the edge geometry must be reasonably
good. But this sure shows technique problems, and the mats seem
to be easier on a sword in a "pooched cut" scenario,
than plywood or water filled 2 liter bottles.
Since affordability is an issue for mats, I highly recommend Jim and Dave's little
import company, for acquiring mats for test cutting.
-Angus Trim Swords and Knives-
-Eric Blacksmith; Director, Olympia
Sword Fighters Guild
I believe the key to being
a proficient swordsman is to utilize many forms of training. The
reason this is necessary is because we actually do not kill people
with swords these days. When we practice against each other, there
is safety equipment, and standards we adhere too that are involved.
We do not fight with the intensity or power that we would use in
a real fight. If we did that, injuries and death would be a common
outcome during practice.
In a different sense, we can also strike at a pell (a wooden
pole or cross affair used to train striking techniques) with
our practice swords, yet get no sense in for a true cut. If we
use these techniques, along with drills and careful academic
study, can we recreate the art in entirety? No. To learn how
to cut you must actually cut something. You must practice to
build the skill to a point where you can integrate it in with
the rest of your training. Now we have brought a bit more completeness
to our training.
The swords that we use are also important to how well you can
cut certain mediums. Having a good edge is paramount to successfully
completing a cut. Blade profile is also important to the efficiency
of ones sword. The myth that a good European sword is heavy,
and the edge really does not matter, has pretty well been blown.
The swords with a proper edge and correct profile and taper would
go through the mats just fine. However, even a sharp edge may
not cut it (sorry). Edges that blend in with the profile of the
crossection do better than an edge that has a steep angle away
from the parallel blade profile. While they may be sharp, they
just do not cut that well through the complex organic weave of
the tatami mats. Good edges and profiles, along with proper distal
taper make a huge difference in the performance of any Euro sword.
The above tidbit of information leaves us with the fact that European
swords are complex fighting tools. Swords changed and evolved throughout
the ages to take on an evolving war field. Civil society played
a large role in the development of the sword, and the fighting
styles also. This added to the complexity of western martial arts
and the equipment they used.
As to the mentioned mat cutting experience, would the Europeans
have used this method to train with? If it was practical and affordable
to do so, yes. The people of Europe were pragmatic, and if something
helped them to achieve their goals in a more efficient and cost
effective manner it was used.
That's why Mugen Dachi Companies tatami targets for cutting practice
really fit the bill for today's learned swordsman. Its cheaper,
and less harmful to your swords than some of the mediums we currently
use such as plywood and water bottles. Plywood tests tracking well,
but still encourages bashing instead of cutting. It can damage
the hell out of your sword and your body if you really mess up
Water bottles are
the same, although they require more skill than plywood whacking.
The mats will test your tracking and your cutting ability to
a much higher degree. They tell a clear story on what you are
doing by how they react to your cut. I wish I knew about these
tatami mats sooner. You cannot beat the price, even if you
make your own targets. To top it off, Mugen Dachi tatami targets
are just the best medium to use for developing advanced cutting
-Christian Fletcher; Owner,
It was a real pleasure
to speak with you at the Schola, and to gain some insight
into the techniques of the EMA. I was very intrigued to find that
there appear to be many similarities between the two fields of
I believe that cutting practice is an invaluable part of the practice
of any martial art involving swords. In my opinion, a sword which
does not cut is not truly a sword, although blunts and wasters
have their places in the teaching of technique. One must understand
the process of cutting in order to understand the nature of the
weapon. Personally, I am committed to this learning process.
With this core thought understood, European swords vary greatly
in design and intended use. A light tapered riding sword will not
handle in the same way as a heavy wide single hand blade, or as
a longsword because the swords were designed for different combat
styles. Test cutting with different designs allows one to appreciate
those differences on a very fundamental level. Since practitioners
of the WMA tend to focus on areas of personal interest and the
specific style and equipment complimenting that interest, it may
be difficult to have enough swords in a personal collection to
experience these differences. Test cutting at seminars will expose
one to a variety of cutting experiences, while allowing useful
input about style and performance from other practitioners.
With regard to cutting media, I have only
used three types: water filled bottles, cardboard tubes and the
tatami mats. Here is what I have discovered:
filled plastic bottles cut easily if the technique is correct,
but will send a considerable shock back through the blade if
the technique is off. As a cutting medium, the bottles offer
only a "black
or white" perspective of the cut--it is obvious if the cut
is good, or if it is completely off, but there is little incremental
evidence of what transpired during the cut. I do not believe they
provide as much useful information about how to improve the cut
as do other media. This medium also has the potential to damage
the blade if the edge alignment of the sword is especially poor.
boxes and tubes provide more information on the quality of the
cut than water bottles. For example, one might examine the angle
of a cut and determine possible improvements from the evidence;
however, the abrasive impurities found in the paper can dull and
scratch the blade. A poor cut may not completely sever this medium
yet still offer some useful information. Catastrophic damage to
the weapon is also somewhat less likely than with water bottles.
From my thus far limited experience with tatami mats, I find that
they offer better feedback than cardboard concerning the quality
of the cut. The visual record of what occurred during the cut is
better due to the solid structure of the rolled mat, compared to
the hollow tubes, boxes and bottles. The mats also seem less inclined
to damage the blades, as the material is of uniform consistency
and lack of abrasive impurities. I highly recommend the use of
these mats in test cutting.
Crafted Swords, Scabbards, and Belts-