Nukitsuke

Nukitsuke and nukiuchi are different. “Tsuke” means you are acting to forestall an opponent’s attack before it begins. Nukiuchi on the other hand means, precisely, to cut down an opponent. Without understanding the difference between these two, your swordsmanship will not be effective.*

  - Kamimoto Eiichi sensei, iaido hanshi 9 dan, kendo hanshi 8 dan

This short statement highlights and clarifies an important point about iai (particularly regarding Muso Shinden ryu, Muso Jikiden Eishin ryu and ZNKR iai). It is a simple linguistic point, but even if you speak Japanese it is easy to overlook.

Kamimoto sensei clearly states that nukitsuke is not merely the act of drawing the sword and cutting your adversary. Rather, it is the application (付ける) of the sword draw (抜く) to control an opponent. This is how nukitsuke differs from simply drawing the sword and striking.

In kendo, we aim to control the opponent rather than simply strike at him. It seems – logically – that the same concept is essential in iaido as well. According to Kamimoto sensei, this “forestalling” of an attack and the controlling of the opponent is part of what defines nukitsuke – the so-called “life of iai” (居合の生命). Therefore, it follows that an understanding of the distinction described above is vital for effective iaido.


* 「抜きつけと抜き打ちはちがう。〝つける”とは相手の機先を制すということですが、抜き打ちは相手を確実に殺傷することです。その差を知っていなければ刀は生きてこないものです。」

Source: 『居合道名人伝 上巻』  池田清代著 スキージャーナル刊 2007年

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Published by

Richard Stonell

Richard practises kendo, iaido, and koryu in Osaka and Kobe, Japan.

2 thoughts on “Nukitsuke”

  1. Nicely put Richard. That makes for a useful understanding in terms of ensuring that one’s draw is not delayed by trying to build up unnecessary power.

    I have never heard the word nukiuchi used in reference to a one-handed draw but that could be explained by my lack of broader iai knowledge outside of MSR and Seitei. I have heard it used as a double meaning for both draw-and-cut and “suddeness”. Obviously both meanings are present in both seitei and koryu forms of Nukiuchi.

    I understand in Jodo the meaning of kiritsuke (cutting to the opponent) and kirioroshi (cutting down through the opponent). Given that the kiritsuke in Gyakuto is to the middle of the face and not cutting through to the chin, I wonder if kiritsuke has a similar connotation to application and control as nukitsuke does…

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