A real-life analysis of the Rurouni Kenshin sword techniques (6/4/01)
Undoubtedly, the growing popularity of Rurouni Kenshin has inspired many anime couch potatoes to take up arms and become aspiring martial artists. I suspect that kendo schools and martial arts suppliers everywhere owe a great debt to Rurouni Kenshin for revitalizing interest in the sword arts. I've been interested in the martial arts and Japanese swordsmanship for a while now, and Kenshin definitely sparked my renewed interest in the subject. (I even recently bought myself a bokken.)
The sword techniques portrayed in the anime had both realistic and fantastic elements that I found appealing. The techniques were clever, unusual, and awe-inspiring, and not always impossible. The techniques had strong realistic elements, pushed beyond their normal limits and taken to their extreme. Having practiced some kenjutsu on my own (with a bokken), I've been exploring some of the techniques of Rurouni Kenshin and analyzing their real world fighting applicability. I've been a martial artist for several years now, but I haven't received any formal kenjutsu training, so any input (especially from more experienced sword practitioners) is welcome.
Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu
Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, practiced by both Himura Kenshin and Hiko Seijuro, is a full-featured style with many techniques to accommodate many different fighting situations. Let's examine the real life usefulness of some of these techniques:
[note: My post will make more sense if you have a basic knowledge of what these techniques look like. For that info, see this Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu explanation page: http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Shrine/2727/hiten.html.]
Ryu Tsui Sen
Ryu Tsui Sen - Zan
Hi Ryu Sen
Ryu Kan Sen
Ryu Kan Sen - Tsumuji
Ryu Sou Sen
Ryu Sou Sen - Garami
Ryu Shou Sen
Dou Ryu Sen
Sou Ryu Sen
Sou Ryu Sen - Ikazuchi
Kuzu Ryu Sen
Ama Kakeru Ryu no Hirameki
1. Surprise Factor
It easily makes sense that leading with the left foot results in a slightly faster attack on the draw, since the sword is closer to the opponent than if one led with the right foot. Beyond speed however, the technique has an element of surprise to it--most swordsmen do not perform a left foot-leading battou-jutsu. Why not?
In the anime, it's mentioned how leading with the left foot is dangerous because one might cut one's own leg on the upswing if the technique is performed improperly. This is true, but I think there's an even more important reason why opposing swordsmen don't expect the left foot to lead on the draw, and that's the fact that most sword-drawing techniques tend to be high-to-low, as opposed to low-to-high (like the Ama Kakeru Ryu no Hirameki). For high-to-low slashes, a right-handed swordsman would invariably lead with the right foot because the full follow-through of a high-to-low slash ends with the sword more on the left side of the body than the right side, so one wouldn't want the left leg in the way of the down swing. Since most swordsmen are used to encountering high-to-low slashes on the draw, they'd find it surprising that one would lead with the left foot.
2. Efficient Utilization of Body Mechanics
Leading with the left foot instead of the right completely changes the body mechanics of the technique (a low-to-high slash on the draw). The technique becomes much stronger. In boxing, for example, it would be the difference between a jab (attacking with the lead hand) and a cross (attacking with the rear hand), the cross being much stronger. Or from a baseball perspective, it'd be like a right handed pitcher pitching with his right foot forward versus pitching with his left foot forward. Punching or pitching with the hand opposite and rear of the leading foot is much more powerful because it allows for greater torque, with the whole weight of the body behind the movement. Notice that Kenshin's succession technique is not weak and jab-like. In fact, it's strong enough to lift his opponents into the air. @_@
In addition, the motion of making a full step forward with the left foot is stronger than the motion of shuffling one's right foot forward. When Kenshin performed this technique against Aoshi, his left foot left cracks in the ground!
And very importantly, leading with the left foot makes the second part of the succession technique possible. With the right foot forward, one would have to spin a full 360 degrees in order to make the second slash. On the other hand, leading with the left foot, one only has to spin 180 degrees, which is much faster.
So use this knowledge wisely, and be careful not to become a hitokiri, or Master Hiko might have to kick your butt ^_~
If you have any other comments, questions, or technique observations, let's talk!
If you are interested in Rurouni Kenshin, similar manga titles, or Japanese martial arts in general, I recommend any of the following products:
Manga:Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 1
Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1
Flame of Recca, Vol. 1
Kenshin guidebook:Rurouni Kenshin Profiles
Japanese sword arts:Bokken
Set of bokken
The Book of Five Rings
Back to Anime
Home Last updated on December 16th, 2010