Many new students make the mistake of discounting the value of sword training. The common thinking is that training with a weapon that you are highly unlikely to ever face is probably a waste of time. On the surface this logic makes sense. The advanced, or unusually savvy, student will look beyond the surface to the very rich value of good sword training.
For starters, something about the history, legend, and presence of the Japanese sword creates a unique feeling and energy just by having it in your hands; even if it is a wooden training sword. As a sidebar, it is worth mentioning that history records the legendary Miyamoto Musashi having fought many of his duels with a wooden sword. Beyond that notable fact, let’s look at the essential dynamics that proper sword training will help us to master.
Unified body movement. With both hands connected to the weapon you must learn to move them together in most instances, which supports basic unified body movement. Further, if my hands are moving, my feet should be moving, and/or my knees should be bending, and my spine should be twisting. Unified movement is an essential key to good To-Shin Do.
Timing and distancing. When you are dealing with a three-foot razor blade, or a wooden replica, the volume on your sense of timing and distancing is turned way up. Good timing is a function of being connected to your opponent and moving in a way that supports natural speed. This increased sense of understanding and awareness naturally spills over to your unarmed training.
Moving from your center. This is the real key. Learning to move the sword from your center is fundamentally critical. This concept can be quite difficult to grasp in the beginning. Your center, for our purposes here, is located about two or there fingers below your navel, and, if you were lying flat on your back about an inch above your spine. Learning to initiate movement from your center (hara), as well as keeping it connected changes everything. In my experience, good sword training dramatically shortens the time it takes a student to fully grasp this.
Then of course there is the fact that it’s just plain fun. We learn best and most fully when we are having fun. So, if sword training is available for you reconsider the idea of taking advantage of it. You will very likely reap benefits you did not expect.