The Spirit of the Sword: Iaido, Kendo, and Test Cutting with the Japanese Sword This is an excellent book - required reading for any martial artist with an interest in Iaido/iaijutsu. Sensei Nakamura writes with total authority, based on a lifetime's practise, in a most informative and pragmatic manner. This is in no small part due to the excellent translation by Gavin Poffley. Too often books of this nature lose in translation, becoming very formal and stilted, detracting from the content. However, in this case the fluent translation gives real added value making the author's experience and commentary very accessible, and very readable. Excellent stuff.
the author spends a great deal of time describing the different characteristics of many different blades, highlighting which will be useful depending on your size, strength, experience and usage.
ie) a mid-range iaito might be good to start iaido/kata with, but as your technique improves and higher quality blade will be better for you, maybe even moving onto shinken (not recommended for anyone below 3rd dan, despite what some instructors push)
the author also is keen to see a unification of the different sword styles, as they are all part of the same. if all you do is kendo, then your sporting ability on the techniques you are allowed to use (based on the current rules) will be good, but your overall sword technique will be bad. equally, if all you do is iaido kata, you will never be able to prove your cuts are noteworthy. they may sound good in thin-air, but without putting it into practice with regular tamashigiri, then you will never get the instant feedback of a good or bad cut.
this book is a very interesting read that throws away the politics of different associations and gets to the heart of the matter - - that by buying/reading this book, YOU are interested in learning about the sword, and not the petty restrictions made by shallow minded people. the author is very critical of bad technique he has witnessed over the years, despite the world level competition due to the petty politics and bad teaching.
This book is a very good translation of Nakamura Sensei's original text published in 1980 and is full of practical and detailed information covering a range of topics valuable to any practitioner of sword arts. The book begins with a discussion of the development of modern iaido and kendo and how the practice of each of these arts benefits from greater integration, along with the importance of incorporating tameshigiri - test cutting - to refine technique and learn the principles of correct grip, movement, and trajectory / blade angle, that keep practice of any style grounded in an understanding of what is actually required to produce an effective (and safe) cut with a sword. The style of writing is very engaging, incorporating many anecdotes and personal stories, and explaining the results of the many researches into different aspects of sword technique that Nakamura Sensei carried out over his decades of experience as a teacher and swordsman. In particular, I found the chapters dealing with topics of sword selection and maintenance and training with a tanrenbo to be full of very useful information, along with the chapters outlining the kata of Nakamura Sensei's school. These are illustrated with hundreds of photographs and are set out very clearly for the reader to follow. This book is essential reading for anyone practicing or interested in sword arts or martial arts more broadly.
The Japanese sword fascinates many. A lot of people also take the further step of finding a school to study it in. The real thing however is hard to find, even in Japan, where so much is clouded in tradition and lack of realism. Nakamura Sensei is the probably the last of the real swordsmen, who taught a martial art and not a sport or dance. Anyone who trains in a sword art MUST read this book for proper insight into Japanese swordsmanship. The book itself does not aim to teach, but provides insight based on actual combat experience. The fact that the author shares a lot of his personal experiences, offers more instruction than gold can buy. I only hope a Hardcover edition will be released at some point. A leather-bound edition should be in a every swordsman's library!
This book is great and very explanatory of its content. Moreover it contains images of each move included in slow motion photography. I highly recommend it to everyone who would like to self train for the Japanese sword. PS: start with wooden training swords or you WILL hurt yourself. :)