Samurai Text tells secrets of Sword-Fighters’ “Supernatural Powers”

20 June 2019
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A newly translated samurai text called “Twelve Rules of the Sword” reveals the secrets of a sword-fighting school that mastered a technique that seemed to give supernatural powers.

Dating back to the 17th century, the text contains knowledge passed down from a samurai named Itō Ittōsai (born around 1560), who fought and won 33 duels in Japan. Researchers aren’t sure when he died, but historical records suggest he may have lived to be over age 90. Ittōsai never wrote down his “Twelve Rules of the Sword,” and instead passed them on orally to his students at the One Cut sword-fighting school. The descendants of his students later recorded them in writing.

The text describes rules for beating an opponent as well as two magical prayers to enhance a samurai’s spirit and mind, according to Eric Shahan, who recently translated the text. Shahan is a Japanese translator who specializes in translating Japanese martial-arts texts. He also holds a San Dan (third-degree black belt) in Kobudō, a Japanese martial art.

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