Basic Katana Exercises
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The katana, or daito, is a Japanese sword commonly associated with the samurai warrior class of historic Japan. Traditionally crafted by condensing multiple layers of iron in a folding technique, the katana is a curved two-handed sword that is used for offensive and defensive techniques. Since most katanas are sharpened, beginning sword students in the traditional Japanese sword arts of iaido and kenjutsu often begin training with a bokken, or wooden sword.
According to Toyama Ryu Batto Do Konjau Kioi Dojo, the gedon attack is a downward vertical cut commonly practiced in katana exercises. Designed to cut an opponent’s body in a single vertical slash, the gedon exercise offers a repetitive workout for the arms, shoulders and core muscles. Grip your katana so your right hand is an inch down from the tsuba, or hand protector. Place your left hand at the bottom of the handle and fully extend your arms so the sword is poised at a diagonal in front of your body. Raise the sword over your head and cut down in a single, controlled motion, keeping the blade from wavering. Repeat 50 to 100 times for two to three sets as desired.
This exercise requires a little more room and can be safely performed in an empty garage or outdoor space. Begin by adopting the gedon grip and positioning your legs so your right foot is 2 to 3 feet in front of your left, with your weight evenly distributed. Imagine an opponent of your height in front of you and raise your katana over your head. Guide your blade down at a diagonal so your sword enters the base of your imaginary opponent’s right neck, proceeding through the body and exiting through the left armpit. Tighten your abs as you finish the cut to maintain an erect spine and support proper posture. Raise the sword over your head once again and repeat the cut on the opposite side, imagining your sword entering the base of the left neck and exiting the right armpit. Continue for 50 to 100 repetitions as needed.
Iaido is a traditional Japanese sword exercise that involves drawing the sword from the scabbard and cutting an opponent simultaneously. Practice a basic iaido cut by sheathing the katana in its saya, or scabbard, and placing it through a belt, sash or belt loop on the left side of your hip. Position the sheathed sword so the blade will cut upward as you pull it from the scabbard. Grip the scabbard with your left hand so your thumb gently touches the tsuba, or hand guard. Reach your right hand around your body and grip the handle so your four knuckles are pointing directly upward. Slowly pull the sword forward and out from the scabbard, twisting your hip back slightly to fully release the sword. Place your left hand on the bottom of the sword handle in the gedon grip position and perform a diagonal cut at your imaginary opponent.
The katana is an extremely dangerous weapon and should only be practiced in the company of a skilled sensei or other credited sword instructor. If you are just beginning to learn the techniques of a katana, the safest method for solitary practice is to utilize a wooden bokken training sword, or an unsharpened iaito training katana. Never practice your katana cuts in the proximity of animals or children, and always select a spacious environment before practicing your exercises.
Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Brian Connolly is a certified nutritionist and has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a licensed yoga and martial arts instructor whose work regularly appears in “Metabolism,” “Verve” and publications throughout the East Coast. Connolly holds advanced degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and the University of Virginia.