Sword Etiquette - Honor and Respect

Is there such a thing as sword etiquette? As odd as it may sound, there really is! Let's review what it is and why it is important. 

In order for your sword manners to be appropriate, you need to understand some of the mentality behind the sword and its owner. 

When speaking of the Katana, this is the Japanese sword used by a samurai. As you know, the samurais were trained and focused on respect and honor. If they were to die in combat, they wanted it to be in an honorable way and be running away or something cowardly. 

Because of their training, they believed that there was a relationship between the sword and the samurai. Much of the way they treated their sword had to do with cultivating this relationship and maintaining proper respect. 

My whole family is involved in martial arts. As we train on the sword, our instructor frequently mentions that the sword should be a very meditative weapon. As we learn, we are taught that sword etiquette is to be aware of surroundings, and contemplating the value of life. We are not taught to kill, but many of the sword forms we perform are based on contemplating the value of a life taken in a symbolic way. 

With that in mind, there is one part of almost every form we do called Chiburi. Chirburi is a move at the end that is representative of flicking off the blood from your sword. Chirburi is a Japanese term that means "shaking off the blood" as a sign of respect for the sword. That is part of the sword etiquette is to keep the blade clean and not stained by the blood of the enemy. 

Outside of martial arts, how do you show proper etiquette for the sword? Ideally, you should never unsheath a sword without permission. A lot of this has to do with the relationship between the person and the sword. 

For safety reasons, you should never hand the sword to someone with the blade towards them, or with the sword tip towards them. Once they have taken the sword, they should point the blade away from the person that just handed them the sword. 

The sword should be stored in a horizontal position. If a sword is placed vertically (imagine that you put the sword leaning against the corner of the wall) it can actually warp the blade depending on the quality of the sword. 

If you treat a sword with respect like this, you will definitely win over the owner of the sword. In fact, they will wonder where you were trained in the martial arts! That is what sword etiquette is all about.

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