Iaijutsu vs Fast Draw


Japanese discussion of the art of iaijutsu and its supposed “unbeatability” has led to some interesting comparisons of Japanese swordsmanship to other martial arts.

The original discussion centred on the faintly ridiculous issue of the “unbeatability of the Japanese sword when attacked by a unarmed opponent,” although this was later succinctly dismissed with the observation that nobody in their right mind would attack a man with a sword barehanded in any case.

The martial art at issue is “iaijutsu” or “battōjutsu,” a subdiscipline of kenjutsu concerned exclusively with drawing a sword and striking in a single motion from any position.


Luckily, 2ch is packed with martial arts experts well equipped to discuss this sort of issue.

Some are sceptical:

“A spear would have him.”

“Certainly, it’s hard to tell when he drew. But wouldn’t the guys with their swords already out still have the advantage?”

“This is not really a practical technique for actual combat. Don’t believe the stuff in Rurouni Kenshin.”

“In real combat there is no referee or floor with springs in it either.”

“Useless unless you are sat opposite someone on a tatami floor – what if you are sat across a table, western style?”

“In any case you wouldn’t bring a katana to a meeting.”

“Who would challenge someone with a katana barehanded anyway?”

“Fencing is faster!”

“However you look at it, these sort of things are just performing arts.”

Some are not so sceptical:

“What, seriously?”

“It’s so fast I couldn’t even see it!”

“I couldn’t even tell when he drew it the second time.”

“The Japanese sword is the most practical, western swords are heavy and unusable.” [see the previous discussion of this]

“Chinese techniques are full of unnecessary movements and are impractical as a result. In Japanese martial arts, the sword and soul are said to be one and stuff, but theirs are just about overdoing things.” [see the previous discussion of this]

“Can any weapon win against this?”

Unfortunately, somebody presented the video below:

Even this does not persuade adherents of the mystical cult of the katana however:

“Even if he got off a shot, the inertia of the draw would continue and he’d be cut down. If his arm were hacked off the sword would have the advantage too.”

More realistic observers are forced to admit the katana is in extreme difficulty:

“With a pistol the shooter will be out of range of the katana so the ‘sakki’ [the sense that someone is intent on killing] and stuff don’t matter.”

“They can draw and shoot in 200 milliseconds. A Japanese sword stands no chance.”

Fortunately for kenjutsu admirers, the legendary status of the katana is immune to mere bullets in a way actual practitioners are not.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    20:55 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    I still prefer Katanas over Guns no matter what. Like what motaku96 said if there's a zombie apocalypse swords are the best choice. If someone were to have very keen eyesight and could see the bullet that person would be the closet thing to a god in my opinion, it'd be like Black Lagoon and the Bullet vs Katana demonstration.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:20 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If there's zombies, I'd rather have a gun with a bayonet for shooting and throat/head stabbing, or a spear for long range. Katana on Zombies mean splatter, and infectious blood is always a bad thing to have.

    Even a Naginata is better than Katana in a situation like that.

    Avatar of jamesownsall
    Comment by jamesownsall
    21:23 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Only for the immune ones though.

    Blood splatters from cut wounds will hit you, thus infecting you too. Also, the fat kid in High School of the Dead was right: katana blades can become dull, and in our boring real world, there is no Saeko.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:16 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ya keen eyesight. First the human body reacts slower than a bullet. Second you cant slash a bullet cause of the impact will knock you off balance = still dead (its been tested on myth busters)

    Avatar of Kyon
    Comment by Kyon
    20:41 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    The internet is always filled with experts in of all kinds.

    Kids nowadays watch too much Dexter, Dr.House, Big Bang Theory etc. etc.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:33 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    And play too much Halo, COD and whatever...

    Avatar of jamesownsall
    Comment by jamesownsall
    20:30 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    Japanese swords are cool, no doubt.

    However, today's warfare demands that a soldier knows his guns too. Same with explosives and assault vehicles.

    All weapons have advantages and weaknesses. You can worship one or two, but you're a fool if you sideline ANY of them.

    Avatar of Nozomu
    Comment by Nozomu
    01:07 20/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    “The Japanese sword is the most practical, western swords are heavy and unusable.”

    omg! They have NO IDEA!
    Broadswords are great for parrying.
    Sabres are great for slashing and stabbing.
    Katanas are great for bending and shattering itself.

    If I had to fight against someone using katana I would use sabre of gladius.

    Btw imagine blocking katana with iron shield ^^

    Avatar of Kitsune9Tails
    Comment by Kitsune9Tails
    03:01 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    There was a MythBusters about this. Katana vs. various western swords. Katana did not fare well due to its thin cross-section. So, as long as you don't have to block or parry an overhead slash from a western sword, you're prolly okay. Which I guess is the point of kenjutsu anyway (quick movements and agility, not strength and strike/counter-strike).

    But still, 2ch has gone a little overboard with their katana-love.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:51 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's 2ch. Somehow, I am not surprised.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:14 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    A katana isn't built for blocking. Its design while providing a great cutting blade, means its only good for one thing: cutting. One Katana colliding into another, edge to edge, is going to irrepairably damage the sword. Likewise trying to use the flat of the blade to block is impractical, as it puts the wrist in a weak position. Also the design of the hilt itself doesn't allow a strong grip to facilitate this blocking.

    Iaijutsu is a wonderful discipline if you consider it's origins. Japan is the only nation with a formal way of sitting(Seiza), which is where a number of Iaijutsu techniques stem from. If one were to take Iaijutsu for what it is: a way to defend yourself when you and potential enemies are sitting in Seiza, it works. However taking it for what it is also reveals it as a specialized method: When you remove it from the setting it is specialized in, you remove it's efficacy.

    Therein lies the major problem with the Katana and it's disciplines, which is largely the result of Japan's history. For countless years Japan was a civil war, techniques and disciplines were created to counter other Japanese techniques and disciplines. While it may be bad writing the line serves as a summary for this section as well: Remove the Setting, Remove the Efficacy.

    /end college dissertation.

    Avatar of Misakite
    Comment by Misakite
    22:03 19/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Once we invent lightsabers swords will have the advantage again.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:26 19/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    Better start training your jedi powers now.

    Avatar of Yuuki
    Comment by Wisteria Berlitz
    00:48 20/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    May the force be with you

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:57 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Use the turbo button, nO0b!

    Avatar of ルーカス
    Comment by ルーカス
    04:27 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    first a Rx78-2, next a 'lightsabre'/'beamsabre' or whatever you call it

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:06 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Use the FORCE.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:38 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Don't forget the person using the weapon, it's all up to them the moment they wield it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:16 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    sorry but sword cannot beat , a gun . Plus katana , one of the crappier swords out there .

    Avatar of Rick
    Comment by Rick
    12:06 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    JamesownsAll makes some excellent points. My long-winded reply seems to be caught in the software, never to be found again.

    TLDR-there is strategy, and then there is doctrine. Never allowing a fair fight is strategy, carrying a metal club (or midget bat) is doctrine.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:48 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    But the progression of technologies as the time passes, means some weapons will indeed get phased out of battlefield completely. Katana, along with the rest of swords, being one of those.

    Even if we disregard the obvious efficiency of the firearm technologies. Quick drawing with katana might have been effective at a time and place when people deemed hanging out with a katana by your waist as totally normal things. These days no matter how fast you can draw your katana, as soon as they see you wearing the big stick they'd know you're up to no good. You'd have better luck with a 5 dollar knife instead.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:14 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Swords & Guns are in different category afterall...
    its Meele vs Range, if people wants to put all together, why not add a tank? or better, ICBM.

    Avatar of jamesownsall
    Comment by jamesownsall
    21:12 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Of course, man. I don't think the JSDF themselves would carry a katana in a heated battle, CQC or not.

    I'm just laughing at the kids who assume katana being superior just because they look cool. It's long, which makes it hard to conceal. A professional soldier will have better luck with a bayonet attached to his gun in case an enemy went samurai in close quarters.

    For sheer cool points though, I prefer a .45 JSP or JHP. Mushrooms as it penetrates your tissues, inflicting greater -somewhat sadistic- injuries, and ideal for avoiding your shot from going through your target into a hostage or comrade.

    Avatar of General Jack D. Ripper
    21:36 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I have to agree over this. At present, research is being done in downsizing precision weapons into hand-held weapons. For example,the XM-25 Assault weapon which is a computerized grenade launcher. If more of this type of weapons are developed, expect the traditional machine gun (like the M60 machine gun and M2 machine gun for example) to be phase out.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:47 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    ak-47 is lethal in the hands of an adult. or a child..

    Avatar of BisayaBoi
    Comment by BisayaBoi
    Comment by Anonymous
    20:29 19/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.9)

    Didn't Indiana Jones settle this shit decades ago?

    Avatar of Kyon
    Comment by Kyon
    20:39 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+0.8)

    Jones would easily take them out with his whip.

    Avatar of Darkrockslizer
    Comment by Darkrockslizer
    21:14 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.1)

    I want a gun now.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:09 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    I think an anon or two are worth sacrificing. Oh wait...

    Avatar of POKI
    Comment by POKI
    01:28 20/12/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    you know that fat man in the video isn't a noob... the guy unlocked the golden revolver.

    Comment by 666
    23:34 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    And I want armour, helmet with horns, white cloak with black cross on it and ak-47. And then I'll play... with people. ^_^

    Avatar of TFish
    Comment by TFish
    23:46 19/12/2010 # ! Quality (+0.8)

    Looks like some people on 2ch need to watch the last samurai.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:09 20/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    All I need is a good chainmail (its made to stop slashing weapons) and a pistol.

    Avatar of Megidola
    Comment by Megidola
    00:29 20/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    That guy could probably shoot the sword out of their hand first and then kill them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:40 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Chainmail >> Katana

    Western swords can still cleave through chainmail because its a semi blunt object that breaks the chains then cuts into flesh, unlike a Katana which emphasizes slicing over force.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:02 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I'd take the sword any day since the sword doesn't need reloading.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:47 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Just use both and your one hell of a badass(Dante or Deadpool)

    Avatar of Shippoyasha
    Comment by Shippoyasha
    16:52 21/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Katana could stab, but probably nowhere nearly as efficient as western swords that were chiefly designed to stab though. Not to mention that many western martial arts since thousands of years ago utilized shields, most of which were good enough even against heavy mace and western swords. So I doubt a Katana could singlehandedly win against a western fighter with sword and a shield. At least not without a fierce effort.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:45 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Just be a badass an use both.

    Avatar of OhYeah
    Comment by OhYeah
    04:04 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That counts as skill then! XD

    Avatar of Crim
    Comment by Crim
    03:44 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You can make a massive feeder belt for guns...

    No need to reload

    Just need to be hulk strong to carry the 500lbs of bullets

    Avatar of alidan
    Comment by alidan
    04:22 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    do the people on 2ch not know anything about their own past?

    the sword techs up there are using an art that was developed for sitting across from each other, which happed ALLOT BACK THAN.

    and western table... you are talking about a time in japan when they were at there most xenophobic.

    these techs basically made it so you you had no way of defense if you weren't already trying to do this yourself.

    Avatar of shiroki
    Comment by shiroki
    19:52 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's less about which tool or art is better but more about a person being skilled enough to actually beat that fat guy using a melee weapon while that fat guy uses a minigun. That I want to see

    Avatar of Shippoyasha
    Comment by Shippoyasha
    16:56 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Arguing over legitimacy of martial arts is just too overdone and filled with vitriol.

    I wish people would just respect these arts as they are and stop trying to put them over the other.

    As for the 'unbeatability' of stuff like Karate, Kendo and now Iaijutsu, they always had a flashier part to them more so than their outright battle applicability.

    A lot of Japanese culture and its martial arts is about the aesthetics sometimes even a bit more so than how useful they may be in practice. That's not to downplay them, but sometimes they are more celebrated as an art than due to the specific reasoning that it is unbeatable. Even Sumo, the way it has been glorified through the Japanese culture is somewhat similar. The art is appreciated, not always the practical uses. And that is fine too.

    Martial arts being an art of the human form and discipline is its own point. Of course, there's a certain use in battle regarding almost any martial arts in the planet.

    It's a shame people have to keep comparing which is better like it is their moral right to.

    Avatar of OhYeah
    Comment by OhYeah
    03:23 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    But Guns can have expanded clips. The chances of dodging 10-15 bullets in the span of 2 seconds is a bit astronomical.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:40 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Unless your assassin creed you can kill them with your awesome.

    Avatar of alidan
    Comment by alidan
    01:55 21/12/2010 # ! Neutral (-0.2)

    with a katana you can thrust stab, which, unless the chain mail is welded at the chain points, or uses an 8 or 12 link chain (you have to know how to make it to know what that means) there is a good chance the katana will go through

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:38 19/12/2010 # ! Drivel (-0.8)

    As long as your not pointing it at me.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:55 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    except Indie used a gun

    Avatar of Vekou X
    Comment by Vekou X
    00:25 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    but i don't think Indiana Jones would be a match for a japanese sword... especially when Chuck Norris is using it!

    Avatar of The Kiss
    Comment by The Kiss
    06:32 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You mean like the Nutty Proffesor blowing up a city with a giant fart?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:48 21/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Chuck Norris once sucked dick for coke, and then let the guy keep the coke.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:10 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah but Chuck Norris got killed by a chinese dude...

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:28 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Chuck Norris just farts and it's a overkill.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:08 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    chuck norris only need a BB gun for an easy kill

    Avatar of Yoshii-kun
    Comment by Yoshii-kun
    00:42 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I thought this was something like iaiken, where you can't even see the draw..... damn

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:53 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    These guys clearly need to practice swordsmanship before they make such rash assumptions. The katana is designed for close combat in open spaces. It has a lot of weaknesses outside of that. Cutting a limb off requires a lot more than momentum. It requires precision from the swordsman and force to cut through.

    That aside, many martial arts from all over have techniques designed to deal with someone wielding a sword. No skilled martial artist would be unable to see that when you have the hilt of a katana positioned in your center, it is positioned for immediate use. This presents no openings from the front. Ultimately iaijustsu is designed to not be used because having such skill simply prevents you from being attacked at all when you are in certain settings.

    Avatar of torappu
    Comment by torappu
    05:03 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    My eyes must be bad if this isn't what one considers 'fast', but I already found the draw at 0:51 of the first video to be quite fast.

    Now that I know what to expect it's less impressive than when I first saw it, ofc, but it's still quite a feast for the eyes.
    Drawing a katana out at that speed with minimal movement is no joke, I would think.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:01 19/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    A funny story about the scene in Indiana Jones, Ford had food poisoning the day before the scene was to be recorded and couldnt move around as much as the scene really required so he improvised, resulting in the scene we all know today.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:21 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    The way I heard from a conan interview was that ford just told spielberg "why don't I just shoot him?" The swordsman who worked on the choreography for weeks was not pleased.

    Avatar of Indofag
    Comment by Indofag
    22:26 19/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    Yes, and I always laugh when I see that.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:29 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Whether if he's Indy or Han Solo, Harrison Ford SHOT FIRST...

    Avatar of TheBeast
    Comment by TheBeast
    07:32 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    to all the 2ch folk that think katana are better then guns:
    swords are better for making cool samurai movies. swords are better for having duels. swords have the advantage of never having to be reloaded or jamming in battle. swords cost less to practice with. they are quieter for sneak attacks. finally, they can be enchanted to do extra damage.

    but on the flip side of that argument: guns make cool car chase scenes in movies. they resolve duels faster. although a gun has to be reloaded, it takes a few seconds. a sword has to be sharpened and it takes hours to do it right(reforging)but a gun never loses it's edge. a sword never jams, but most handguns never jam even after firing 1000+ rounds before being cleaned properly. a sword will break before cleaving through 1000+ people with armor. a gun costs more to practice with no matter how you look at it, but if battle is your way of life, that should not be an issue. swords are quieter, but you could always buy a silencer. finally, even if swords could be enchanted to do more damage, a gun can swap out to hollow points and do more damage too.

    in the modern world, modern weapons are used. that is why when america, germany, russia, britain, and even saudi arabia go to war, they don't tote around a chest full of swords to take out the incoming attack. they uses guns and explosives. if you need a weapon to protect your family, buy a gun, not a sword.

    i have an XD45 and a korean katana. as a boy i would play fantasy, and creep around the house with the katana planning how to deal with intruders, but as a man i got a firearm, because it's logical.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:33 21/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Katana is Limited in wide space, have 1 man with knife ambush the guy with katana in closed space, the sword long posture will have disadvantage in turning.

    Ambush the guy with katana in crowded place, and the sword will have disadvantage to knife.

    In long range combat, The Gun wielder will always gunned down the katana guy first, even if the wielder can acuratly cut the flying bullet. if the Bullet is Armour piercing round the sword will break, say the shooter use barret Anti material Rifle /lol

    The katana like all muscle powered weapon, depend on wielder strengh. sure some karate guy can karate chop bull with bare hand. but ordinary guy can also tackle bull with a gun.
    and There is a limitation of material strengh, Even if the wielder as strong as hercules, The sword is still made of steel.
    therefore they still can break

    and for the light saber, laser gun traveling in speed of light. it take less than 1 second from the time you pull the triger, to your beam land on Moon soil

    If you see the oponent was puling the triger, than the laser beam has already cut you through.

    The fastest railgun now can travel the object at Mach 7, if a Nendroid Saber traveling at that speed. the energy is enough to cut through a Tank, maybe even 2 or 100 Chinese Motorcycle

    so Misaka makoto, should have greater Destruction power than on the anime

    Avatar of Dreck
    Comment by Dreck
    11:14 20/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Question is, which would you much rather have during a zombie invasion? All I know is that mcgraw there better not be using any pussy cowboy reloads if that's the case :)

    Avatar of Tokeijikaku
    Comment by Tokeijikaku
    21:08 19/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    But Indiana Jones is... Indiana Jones, dude.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Didn't Chuck Norris settle this shit decades ago?


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