Monday, 31 August 2009


I had a kobudo lesson last night in which we focused entirely on the sword. As a complete beginner I am obviously focusing on the very basic components of iaido, namely: Nukitsuke (The initial draw and strike of the sword); Kirioroshi ( The primary, vertical cut after nukitsuke);
Chiburi (the shaking off blood from the sword) and Noto (Returning the blade to the saya).

I find the whole process quite difficult but fascinating and fun. I'm currently using a bokken which I find quite heavy and hard to control. Sensei suggests getting a wooden katana instead (at least for kata work) as they are thinner and lighter - I may take him up on this idea as my right wrist was pretty sore this morning!

The part that fascinates me the most though is the chiburi. I'm not sure if it's just the word that fascinates me - it almost sounds Italian, Chiburi! Or whether it's the idea of shaking blood off the sword that appeals to the darker side of my nature! Anyway I wanted to find out a bit more about this process:

The term Chiburi means "to shake the blood." In the days of the Samurai, after cutting down an opponent using a sword technique, the bulk of the blood was usually removed with a one handed flicking action. The reason for doing this was primarily to stop the sword from rusting and to prevent blood from being put into the saya from where it would be difficult to remove.

I was a bit dubious as to how effective a chiburi action would be at removing blood from the sword. I have a lot of experience with blood, (I used to be a dialysis nurse), and it is fairly thick sticky stuff! Not easily shaken off a sword I would imagine. In fact it seems that a lot of other iaido practitioners are also dubious about it as well. I checked out a forum that was discussing this issue:
and found several people appear to have practiced the chiburi with real blood - and found it wanting!

One contributor, Meik Skoss, said: "A student cut himself during iaijutsu training and, while he was being attended to, the teacher saw the sword lying on the floor, with the guy's blood still on the blade. "Waste not, want not." He picked it up and tried a number of different chiburi (beginning with that of Katori Shinto-ryu) and found out that, lo and behold!, none of them had ANY effect on removing blood from the blade. He concluded that chiburi, regardless of the way it is done, is a stylistic affectation. Looks nice. Doesn't "work.""

Another contributor, Richmond McCluer, clearly has macabre tastes, he recounts: "Years ago I did a couple of cuts on whitetail deer carcasses after we hung them during hunting season. Lessons learned included: chiburi, done a variety of ways, does not get the blood off the blade; chiburi will get some blood off, but not all of the fur".

However, perhaps chiburi is not meant to get all the blood off the sword - just the excess!

One-on-one samurai sword fights gave the victorious warrior time to also wipe the blade then proceed to clean the blade in a correct manner. However sword fighting moves delivered during a battle wouldn't have allowed the time for this, so a quick cleaning action and re-sheathing would have been more practical.

Nowadays it's a ritual action performed in sword kata (forms) to symbolize the act of blood removal from the blade. I love the flamboyancy of the chiburi movements - very showy!

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Littlefair said...

I think it may well be a psychological finishing to the entire process and a final assertion of authority and domination over the fallen foe...

Either way I enjoy performing O Chiburi, but it's a tough one to get right!

Sue C said...

....or maybe it's just blood lust! It's hard to do anyway - I find the hardest part resheathing the sword, I always seem to have the saya the wrong way round!

Littlefair said...

Yes, I know the feeling!

Feel for the kurikata (the knob through which the sageo passes) and that should give you a sense of how the saya is oriented.

Have fun!

(and well done on your win!)

Sue C said...

Thanks for the tip. I definately need to rely more on my sense of touch to work out how the saya is orientated rather than taking a sneeky peek when I think sensei's not watching!


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