Friday, July 15, 2011

What I Didn’t Know About Samurai Swords

Six years ago, when my first novel, The Spell of Rosette was still an unfinished manuscript, I showed some chapters to an author friend. I felt so nervous, hoping she would love it yet knowing there would be a critique. She’s a Sagittarius—brilliant for sure but she doesn’t pull any punches. She’s also a sensei in the Japanese sword tradition Hokushin Shinoh Ryu Iaido. (I hoped she wouldn’t be using her weapons on the page.) After a few weeks, she came back, ms intact, with one main comment: Brilliant story Kim but you don’t know 'squat' about the sword.

Her response shocked me. I thought I knew plenty about the sword. I’d watched ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ at least ten times and saw Kill Bill on the big screen twice. Could my fight scenes really be that off? She assured me they were. She also invited me to train with her and since then I have had the privilege of learning a most remarkable and deadly art. Iaido (ee-I-doh) is the way of the peaceful warrior, the ancient Japanese art of drawing the sword and cutting in a single movement. Don’t be fooled by word peaceful. It refers only to the warrior’s state of mind. Iaido was created hundreds of years ago for the physical and mental preparation of the Samurai before battle. As a student of this art, I was taught techniques against single and multiple attackers, against spears and armor and horsed opponents. I learned the same traditional ‘wazas’ that have been handed down for centuries by samurai masters.

I now train on my own, usually at the beach though in the beginning I broke more than a lamp or two on rainy days. The cats ran for cover when I got out my Hakama (traditionally clothing) and sword to choreograph scenes for the Enchantment and Encryption Series. Some of my character’s moves are extraordinary, I admit, but I’ve done every one of them myself.

The reward for following the way of the sword, besides a feeling of serenity and power, came when my publisher and I discussed the manuscript for the first time. She said, ‘Kim, your sword fighting is so authentic.’ I beamed! Those years of research really paid off! Some people think you can only write what you know but I say, if you don’t know it, learn!

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing epic science fantasy novels. Kim’s latest series is Quantum Encryption. Book #1, Path of the Stray, and book #2, Road to the Soul are out now. Book #3, Journey by night is out Sept 1, 2011. Currently she’s writing an entirely new series. You can find out more about her at She posts on the 16th of every month.


Sharon said...

I haven't put in years in like you, but I have had some training with a gumdo sword (Korean version of the samurai sword). They spend 3 years learning how to just draw the sword, 3 years to sheath it and 3 years to wield it.

Kim Falconer said...

Sounds very familiar, Sharon. You get right away that the objective isn't so much to be good at the sword but to simply 'be'.

I found it such a good confidence builder though, once I got over the super awkward phase. You know? Holding a sword in your hand? It's empowering!

Thanks for dropping by :)

juliana stone said...

Wow, I loved reading this post Kim! Very cool!

Kim Falconer said...

Thank you, Juliana. Glad you enjoyed it and dropped in to say so!

Mel Teshco said...

Kim I love the picture. I think that would be a beautiful art to learn =)

Kim Falconer said...

Thanks, Mel. That's the beach just a short nature walk from my little shack. It's the perfect place to train...very few people! The learning is humbling. I was so uncoordinated for the first year even. Just when I got a handle on something, there was a new and harder move to learn. And the knees....a lot of duck-walk moments! I guess that's why it's so rewarding. The sword makes you earn it!

AA Bell said...

I'm trained in the dark art of balancing craft with tax laws: hope you kept all your receipts and log all those hazardous miles to the beach! LOL. (Not sure about vet bills for missing cats ears)

Kim Falconer said...

Anita! I think I need to book a session with you! My home office spread sheet is perhaps incomplete!

Great to see you here. Going to read your post now! xxx