Its cold blade, collecting on its surface the moment it is drawn the vapour of the atmosphere; its immaculate texture, flashing light of bluish hue; its matchless edge, upon which histories and possibilities hang; the curve of its back, uniting exquisite grace with utmost strength–all these thrill us with mixed feelings of power and beauty, of awe and terror. Harmless were its mission, if it only remained a thing of beauty and joy! But, ever within reach of the hand, it presented no small temptation for abuse. Too often did the blade flash forth from its peaceful sheath. The abuse sometimes went so far as to try the acquired steel on some harmless creature’s neck.
– Bushido, The Soul of Japan, Inazo Nitobe, p. 135
On October 7, Aaron David Simoneaux was sentenced. At the trial, he claimed to have a fear of dogs due to some incident in his youth, but nevertheless he received seven years in prison. (A dog killing in Chesapeake, Virginia involving a Western sword resulted in a sentence of only 12 months.) Local animal lovers’ groups used a variety of social networking sites, such as Facebook, to fill the courthouse with animal rights supporters for his sentencing. According to American Press, the presiding judge noted wryly that such crowds are not drawn to trials of people who kill people.
This incident sadly illustrates the dangerous side of weapon possession. Japanese traditions recognize the potential for abuse, and philosophers and martial artists have railed against it for as long as there have been written records of swordsmanship. Shinkage-Ryu proponent Yagyu Munenori wrote in 1632, “In our school the sword that is positioned for attack is called the death-dealing sword, and the sword that is not, the life-giving sword.” Despite the historical warnings, some Japanese sword enthusiasts are tempted to actions which make all otaku look bad.
Cop just said there are 40,000 officers on the street this weekend because of the UN. Glad I’m running an event filled with kids with swords.
Collectors would do well to reflect on the discipline involved in Japanese swordsmanship before they arm themselves with live steel.