The sharp blade of the antique Japanese sword was poised, its tip resting on my index finger by the sheath. Sensei – my teacher – stood two feet away from me. His sword was sheathed as he regarded me with fierce concentration. For the first time in 24 years, I saw fear in his eyes.
Only ten minutes ago, everything seemed fine. Our small sword class did our draws and our cuts while receiving ongoing corrections on how to handle our inherently dangerous blades better, with more control. The how, the why – and especially, the things we should never do.
“Don’t hand your sword to your attacker.”
When you draw, the handle of your sword shouldn’t to toward the bad guy. He’s supposed to get the sharp end of the blade – not an opportunity to steal your blade from you.
But to do that, you keep the grip close and draw almost up, not forward. Doing that, while you drop in the knee and bend the hips, lets you draw and sheathe a much longer sword, too. I was excited at the revelation. Me, with my short arms and stout, hourglass figure, could now draw and sheathe my husband’s rather long sword.
Well, barely. Sensei narrowed his eyes every so often and stopped to watch me, and told me to change this or that – and I tried. I really, really tried. He, after all, had looked so poised and balanced. His blade flicked out like lightining, he drew it back nice and smooth. Plenty of space, room to spare. I tried to emulate every nuance of his posture.
“You don’t need to make those big curves,” he said.
But there was a reason for me making all that “unnecessary movement.”
I raised my hand.
“Speaking of curves, Sensei,” I said, trying to find dignified words and failing, “The draw’s okay, but when I sheathe, I always feel like I’m gonna cut my boob off!”
Time came to a standstill.
Dignity, always dignity.
The senior student in front of me – the one who had so much fun proofreading my erotic fiction – choked back a snicker. We all worked hard to keep our grins in check. Sensei came close to me. “Go ahead, do it so I can see.”
And I did.
And he tried to fix it, step by painful step.
Yep, an accidental masectomy was definitely a possibility. My boob was in the way. No wonder I didn’t look like he did, all balanced and poised, with time and room to spare. He didn’t have to navigate dangerous curves.
Ten minutes of antique, razor-sharp steel moving between us. Minute adjustments. Large suggestions. Honest effort on both parts.
Yet the boob was still in the way.
“Move your sheath back some more. Even more. All the way back.”
The dangerous curves remained.
His eyes were wide with alarm by then. Had I really been cutting it this close all these practices? It doesn’t take much for a razor-sharp blade to slice through fabric, through skin.
“Move your sheath lower,” he said. He grabbed my sheath, belt and hakama and all, and yanked it down.
Hips, you see. Yet another set of dangerous curves to navigate.
“Would it help if I wore my obi lower on my hips? Instead of on my waist?”
“Most definitely.” He gave an empathic nod. “Work on that.”
We bowed. The class bowed, first to our swords, then to our teacher, and last to the shinza in the corner of the room.
Thank you, my husband’s sword, for not biting me. Thank you, my teacher, for guiding me. Thank you, Spirit, for opening my mind so I can learn.
No more snickers, no more double entendres on “getting the sword up.”
We all cut it a bit too close, every so often.
We each have our own set of dangerous curves.