A couple of us from Aikido West went to Livermore today for a sword seminar, focused on how to actually use your sword as a cutting instrument, complete with some practice cutting rolled-up reed mats. In aikido our sword movements tend to be more "chopping" than "cutting", which is sort of a bad habit to get into inasfar as one would like to know how to actually use a sword effectively.
And it was glorious. It's a bit of a trick to cut properly: if the angle of the blade doesn't match the angle of your swing, the blade will bounce off or get stuck, and even hugely experienced people screw up. But all nine of us who tried did a pretty good job. I also jumped to cut the full-size roll, about 5-6 inches thick, as well as the half-size we did first. It's astonishing how sharp and effective the things are, slicing through the 5-inch roll of matting with just a swishing sound. In our aikido movements we often immobilize a person by blocking their wrists with the blade, saying that if they move into the sword they'll sever their hands; it seems this is not exaggeration.
(Apparently, in Dave Barry's Guide to Guys he distinguishes between "guys" and "men" [sort of menschy and normal] by your response to hearing that a guy someplace has built a catapult, so he can launch Cadillacs. If you answer "Why?" you're a man, and if you answer "Cool!" you're a guy. I think it's a bullshit litmus test, but for humor value, when I was done cutting, I sat down and said "Wow, you can swing it and destroy things!". Sadly, the dojo-mat who brought Dave Barry up, and isn't quite as funny as he thinks he is, kept referring to it. But it was a good joke.)
The other fun bit is that I'd been looking at a certain dull-edged sword, called an iaito, that I was going to order online, and the teacher at Livermore actually had one and recommended it. Most iaito have lightweight zinc-alloy blades (because of weird Japanese laws about the export of steel swords) and handles that are about 3 inches too short (I have no idea why), which make them (a) really unpleasant to handle, and (b) very unlike a real sword. The one I'll get is carbon steel and properly proportioned, so it handles just like a live sword. It's also cheaper than an iaito, $190 to $300-900, which is fine for just learning how to draw and sheath the thing without slicing my hand open.
My laptop has been received at the repair center, and they're waiting on a part. I miss it. *cry*