Posted by: B Gourley | November 9, 2010

Ni-To Jutsu: The Strong and the Weak

I attended the Jinenkan 2010 North American Seminar in Connecticut last month, and one of the two subjects of study was the ni-to jutsu of Jinen-ryu. Ni-to jutsu is the skill of using two swords (daito and shoto) simultaneously.

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading a biography of Miyamoto Musashi recently. Musashi was the most famous proponent of using both the large and short swords at once, and is, perhaps, the most well-known practitioner Japanese swordsmanship of all time. Despite Musashi‘s  immense popularity, owing both to this demonstrated prowess in duels and his well-regarded treatises on strategy and swordsmanship (The 35 Articles on the Art of Swordsmanship and The Book of Five Rings), the use of two swords seems to remain, for lack of a better term, a fringe method. In the first of his 35 Articles, Musashi emphasizes that it is not the value of the left hand that he believes makes the practice with two swords invaluable, but rather the need to be able to competently wield a sword with one hand.  

The wielding of two swords presents a mix of strength and weakness. If this were not the case, it would have overtaken the two-handed approach to sword-wielding long ago. While Musashi brought the method of using two swords into popular renown, he was not likely the first to use such an approach. 

The strength of two swords may seem readily apparent. One can deflect at the arms and apply lethal cuts or thrusts simultaneously. One can, theoretically, deliver twice the damage in the same instant. One may be able to more effectively spread one’s attention in a manner needed to engage two or more opponents at the same time.

On the other hand, there are also weaknesses to ni-to jutsu that will be readily apparent to practitioners of kenjutsu. A sword wielded in one hand is more easily deflected. This means one must be able to flow freely with deflections using superb footwork and well positioned guards.  One’s cuts will lack the power of a two-handed cut. This means that one must be able to employ the hips, spine, and legs (i.e. thoses muscle groups that generate power) exceedingly well.

Some might say that Musashi was abnormally (re: freakishly) powerful and could get away with employing a daito in one hand, while for a typical swordsman it is not feasible. Musashi, after all, was known to have bludgeoned a swordsman to death with a bokken he widdled from a boat oar.   Musashi, himself, suggests that using the daito in one hand may appear unwieldly at first, but that one can grow accustomed to it with practice.

I believe there is benefit to practicing these techniques even if it is not one’s “go to” method. The two sword approach teaches one to use the core rather than the limbs, and it forces one to coordinate one’s body.


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