Training two swords, or dual wielding is definitely a different kind of practice, a more risky one. I mean for one, it has no practical application so instantly I've lost the interest of anyone who is still in someway imagining that backyard or freestyle cutting is in anyway applicable as an actual combat sword art. It's also a lot more dangerous than using one sword as you run the risk of for example, partially severing a limb if you get your timing wrong. I don't mean to be an alarmist but these are very real risks that you have to consider when you start thinking about using two swords.
The absolute worst thing that you can do is to pick up two swords and wander into the garden, going from using one, to using two without any training with your off hand. The majority of people who try it for a while get away with it but I put that down to most people only trying it for a little while before losing interest or going back to single sword techniques. Better safe than sorry, a trip down to casualty impresses noone. ;)
After all this talk of how dual sword patterns can go horribly wrong, I'm going to embark on a little mini series including details on how you need to get started yourself. This will be particularly interesting because I have not long started doing this myself and have a very long way to go. The rather optimistic idea is that I will make mistakes, learn from them, pass the experience down to you and therefore you run a better chance of succeeeding.
So, Class #1 - Starting with the adventure that is one handed cutting.
Dual wielding is all about preparation and so the first thing you're going to need to do is to learn to cut one handed with your dominant hand. From now on in, if I say right hand and you happen to be left handed, then thats the hand I mean. ;) So, with your dominant hand only, you need to become confident with the 6 basic cuts.
Diagonal ups and downs from either side and the horizontal left and rights.
This is going to be tougher than you think and you will become very aware of exactly how much you rely on your off-hand to stabilise and control the sword. This is ok though and everyone will begin to understand how much they can put into their cuts without it becoming unsafe. As you progress with this practice, the muscles in your arm and your grip will get used to the exertion. I should mention at this point that if you overdo it, wrist injuries will occur. Because of this, it's better to go slow, use your body more and in this particular case, use more repetitions rather than more strength. You need to do enough cutting one handed that it no longer seems awkward. Learn to cut more starting with the elbow and rely slightly less on the wrist and pay attention to where your cuts end, being as over extension whilst one handing can lead to dropping the sword. Remember how you learnt that you should have most of your grip in the thumb and two smallest fingers on each hand? Well you're down from 6 main fingers to three so bear that in mind.
Start with dry cutting and continue with it until you're happy with your movements, only then try with targets. It's always better to get the technique down first and then put obstacles in the way and talking of obstacles in the way, you may find that you need to put your left hand in your pocket or something in order to keep it out of the way. I'm actually better than I thought I would be at not cutting off my fingers, but I still keep the fingers of my left hand in my pocket. you know, just in case ;)
That's job number one to be getting on with. Don't rush it or there will be little point you even trying it. You need to build your confidence slowly in order to succeed. All of these cuts are going to feel horrible to start with and you're going to learn exactly how little grip it seems that you have on the sword and how that 'flick' that you learnt when cutting bottles has to be carefully managed in order to retain control of it. This is all part of the process of learning of course and this deeper understanding of your body mechanics is valuable knowledge to have, not only for nukitsuke but for all of your cuts.
So yes, there are advantages to learning to use your off hand to cut with and the most profound is that in doing so you will shift your reliance from your dominant hand, back towards that happy medium in the middle where either hand is useful. Shaking things up like this will allow you to reappreciate the job that both arms do in normal two handed cutting and hopefully improve upon that technique as well. I mean your experience may well differ but thats the fun of freestyling it, we get to try new and interesting things purely for the sake of trying them. Get working on that and in the next article we'll be looking at off handed cutting and the challenges it presents.
As always, I'm interested in othe peoples experiences with this so please, comment or get in touch with any questions or suggestions.