Killing & Life-Giving Sword

  • September 13, 2013


Japanese martial literature discusses two styles of fencing: the “killing sword” and the “life-giving sword.” A lot of nonsense has been published about these two terms.


Setsunin to, “killing sword.”  When combatant uses force of will to overpower, immobilize, and strike down an opponent before he can react: “sword that transfixes or sword that kills response.”


Katsujin ken, “life-giving sword.”  Involves drawing out the opponent, inducing him to strike and then going inside his technique, countering it at either the moment of its origination or at the point of its most complete extension: “sword that animates.”


Setsunin to is an egotistical and risky approach to combat, the slightest miscalculation will result in the swordsman walking straight into the opponent’s counterattack.  Katsujin ken, by contrast, involves a sophisticated manipulation of the opponent and his actions by means of other selflessness; properly conducted it is virtually undefeatable.