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The Sword In Combative Measures
And Taiho-Jutsu

by Steven J. Kaplan

At first glance, the title of this brief article may seem absurd. Today’s military has weaponry which just a decade ago would seem like science fiction. Where and how would a sword even fit in? In terms of any branch of police work, there has never been a history in this country (and many others) of law-enforcement of the sword ever being used. We therefore find ourselves back to the question posed in the title of this article – is there a place for the sword in Combative Measures and/or Taiho-Jutsu? Let us first look at Combative Measures.
True Combative Measures is not a sport. Even the "biggest and baddest" M.M.A. fighter is not practicing Combative Measures, nor is Combative Measures seen in the majority of "realistic combat" videos lining the shelves of stores worldwide. Combative Measures is a deadly system of fighting, where the goal is to kill the enemy. This may be done unarmed or armed, but the goal is the same. There is no tapping out, no referee and no ringside doctors to stop the fight. From this perspective, a sound argument could well be made for the sword’s use in combat. Historically, members of every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, from enlisted man to officer, carried and used the sword in combat. With limited time for training, and the nature of hand-to-hand combat dramatically changed, there is simply insufficient time and reason to include swords use in today’s training curriculum. Prior to continuing this line of thought, let us turn to the sword and law-enforcement.
As mentioned above, there is no history of the sword in U.S. law-enforcement. While the military had knives and bayonets and swords as part of its training, all lethal weapons, police had the "billy club", and today have variations varieties of these in the form of batons, tonfas, and nunchaku as their weaponry. Even in old Japan police carried the Jutte. None of these weapons had killing or even offensive use as its goal (although the weapons are certainly capable of inflicting lethal strikes). If this is the case, how could the sword ever fit in?


Whether we are speaking of members of military or law enforcement, increasing the members’ efficiency is a goal. Given the physicality of the job, better hand-eye coordination and general physical conditioning is most important. To this end, even Nintendo games would be of some help. Yet, because of the skill involved, the body movement (taisabaki), the control, and the simulated lethal strikes employed in swordplay, qualified training with the sword would be a wonderful supplement and complement to military and law-enforcement training. The keyword here is qualified, since there are many martial arts instructors today who are either self-taught or have limited study of this art (which is not usually part of their art’s curriculum), but teach others nonetheless. The question now becomes, which systems would be "best" to study? While there are numerous countries, each with their own varieties of sword systems to study, this question will be looked at from the perspective of the Japanese systems, since both Taiho-Jutsu and Combative Measures have the Japanese arts as a foundation. It would be far beyond the scope of this article to analyze every sword system from every country.

There are two basic sword types to choose from: the katana, and the shorter wakizashi. While they are both excellent aids in training, it seems the longer katana has more graceful, controlled movements, thereby making it this writer’s choice. Once the longer sword is chosen, which system of sword techniques would best complement the techniques of Combative Measures or Taiho-Jutsu? Again, in this writer’s opinion, it really does not matter. The similarities are far greater than the differences. What is a factor to consider is the time involved in learning. Nearly every sword system takes a good deal of time to achieve a degree of proficiency. However, for those wishing to learn the basic elements of the sword, which would not only complement Combative Measures training but clearly resemble the principles and philosophy of Taiho-Jutsu, the Aiki sword katas developed by Morihei Uyeshiba would be excellent considerations.
While the sword will maintain its historic place of value and the U.S. military (the saber is still worn as part of the dress uniform, though the sword is not a live blade, fighting weapon), the true value in both Combative Measures and Taiho-Jutsu today is the increased proficiency in control of one’s body, which would be the desired result of the training. The sword is not for everyone, but for those who explore its use, it will enhance already acquired skills.

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