14 Sep 2019

Katsujin-ken Satsujin-to

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In dojos offering training in kendo and aikido, the above phrase written in the grass script on a scroll is commonly hung for purposes of admonition and inspiration.

These Japanese radicals are pronounced Katsujin-ken Satsujin-to (sometimes, Katsujinken satsujinken) meaning “The sword which kills is the sword which gives life.”

They are often rendered more explicitly in English as “The sword which cuts down evil is the sword which preserves life.”

This adage is attributed to the masters of Yagyu school, the Tokugawa shoguns’ personal instructors in swordsmanship.

And those Yagyu school sword sensei-s were right. The rightful use of weapons is essential in an imperfect world to defend innocent lives against unjust violence.

A wider commitment to skill at arms and a more common readiness to defend the innocent would be infinitely more effective at saving the lives of victims of attacks by madmen and criminals than a totalitarian program attempting to enforce universal disarmament.

Katsu-tempo satsu-tempo.

In case after mass shooting case, a gun in the hands of the right bystander could have been the gun which destroyed evil and the gun which preserved life.

The latest couple of manifestations of a trend fostered by devoted media coverage and attention resulted again in all the typical expressions of the phobic attitudes of members of our over-domesticated, metrosexual intelligentsia toward firearms.

Guns are regarded as detestable and intrinsically dangerous objects which need to be kept under official control at all times, ideally in bank vaults. Their complete removal from American society is so unquestionably desirable that even house-to-house searches, and the shredding of the Bill of Rights, would be a perfectly acceptable price.

Obviously, this kind of policy proposal represents not a practical response to a real problem, but rather an irrational and emotional outburst, indifferent to benefits and costs, oblivious to process and law, expressive of an overwhelming combination of fear and aversion so profound as to dispense completely with practicality, proportionality, and cause and effect.

This kind of hostility toward firearms, this hoplophobia, needs to be recognized as the kind of irrationalism that it is.

In a sane society, familiarity and skill with arms, possession of the ability to defend oneself and others would be looked upon as essential components of every man’s education.

(A revised posting from 2007.)

3 Feedbacks on "Katsujin-ken Satsujin-to"


403 – Forbidden.

Gee! Thanks.

Seldom Seen

You are gonna cut in a knife fight, I am a front sight, trigger squeeze guy, but what do I know about it?

Erik Kobayashi-Solomon

Those characters you have there do not read “Satsujin-Ken / Katsujin-Ken”. They read “Eiyou, Yuuki, Chuusei”, which mean something like “Nutrition, Bravery, Fidelity”. Satsujinken is written 殺人剣・活人剣。
I have studied Judo, Aikido, Jodo, and Kendo for nearly 50 years, and have crossed swords with some of the greatest living swordsmen in Japan. On one occasion, I truly believed I was going to be killed by my teacher’s teacher in a dojo situated between a graveyard and a rice paddy in Agui, Japan. I am not sure that I properly understand 殺人剣・活人剣 and would like to suggest that your extrapolation of this concept to the case of firearms is deeply in error.


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