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Japanese Sword Technique in the New York Sun, 1904

October 28, 2014


The following illustrated article appeared in the New York Sun on March 20, 1904, several years after Japanese kenjutsu instructors began demonstrating and teaching their art in New York City. This piece was supposedly reprinted from the Scientific American. It contains an interesting discussion of the Japanese swordsmanship practiced at the time, as well as descriptions of various techniques, such as fencing with two blades:

“When the fencer is using a sword in each hand, it is the left foot which is advanced. The long sword in the right hand is held upraised over the head, the point directed backward ready to deliver a cut, while the left hand, holding the smaller sword, is extended forward en garde. The user of two swords has a decided advantage over an adversary who wields but one.”

The article proceeds to relate an interesting account of a Japanese policeman who defeated five swordsmen at the same time (killing three, and putting the other two to flight), and later became an instructor of swordsmanship.


The article concludes with an overview of the great Japanese swordsmiths, and the expert native sword appraisers who still lived. Of these, the author notes,

“The skill of some of these experts is little short of magical.”

Before closing, the author waxes fondly,

“My interest in the sword brought me into contact with a class of Japanese little seen by foreigners. I mean the genuine old fashioned type; and from contact with these men, and knowledge acquired thereby, I think that one of the finest types of humanity was the mediaeval Japanese. They were possessed with a sense of honor, a devotion to duty regardless of consequences, unsurpassed elsewhere.”

The full article, with illustrations, can be read and viewed by clicking on the following image:



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