The Spiritual Significance of the Sword

By: Shudokan Martial Arts Association
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - June 9, 2022 - PRLog -- Do you practice iaido?

One of the things that we in the West tend to neglect in our study of the Japanese sword is the spiritual aspect. We tend to forget the fact that in Japan the sword is considered a sacred object. We become too involved with questions and kantei ("appraisal"). There are many questions about swords that will never be answered, so we shouldn't get too wrapped up in it. Viewing swords has been associated with contemplation, and as we evaluate our appreciation of the sword we will come to realize the path that we are on and comprehend other aspects of Japanese culture such as; the silence of the tea ceremony, the moment a Zen master writes calligraphy, the natural glaze on a Japanese pot, or the moment sumo wrestlers face each other in a match, and bear it in mind for our future study. It is here that the essence of Japan resides.

The first time we picked up a sword we were probably firstly drawn to the purity of the steel, the elegant shape and the undulating line that we thought was a hamon (the crystalline structure along the edge of a blade), but was probably just the hadori polish. Then we noticed the wood grain-like pattern but could not determine whether it was well forged or well-polished. As we progressed in our study, and our mind was trained, it opened our eyes to be able to eventually see all the activities within the steel.

If we can adopt a more spiritual approach to our study, it makes other aspects of the sword more apparent. When we approach the sword as a spiritual object of moral guidance to a samurai seeking enlightenment, we instantly understand why in Japanese history the sword survived the gun. The sword was a sacred gift from the gods, intrinsically beautiful, encompassing elements of nature. The sword was a guide to the way and still is so to this day, not only in usage, but in viewing too.

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