Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cutting Edge

This Japanese sword exhibition at the British Museum has been there for a while. And this day I finally get a chance to pay a visit there.

As someone who practices Iaido, sometimes I feel embrassed not being able to talk about different parts of swords, names of fittings, etc. etc. To me those are the tools and gadgets - and using the cheapest-of-all sword in the division still get me a First at the Nationals.

Nevertheless this is an exhibition in the museum and not some display of currently available sword models. For everything modern there must be a historical background. There I learnt about different period and schools of sword making - and all those poetic ways they used to describe hamon (wavy lines of folding at the edge). They even have one of the "demon sword" Muramasa on display. Previously I've only heard of it on computer games. Got to see the real thing is a completely amazing experience.

This exhibition is curated by my own kendo sensei Victor Harris. He is now retired but had been a keeper of the Japanese Antiquities Dept for a long while, probably since he was active at the IKF. Also he was the first person to translate "Book of 5 Rings" into English. To gain my respect a sensei isn't like a teacher standing there lecturing people. Harris talks little but undoubtably his knowledge, experience and devotion in kendo, Japanese culture, history had impressed anyone in the world, both inside and outside of Japan, and inside and outside of kendo.

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