On Saturday July 14th, three of us traveled with Master Kwon to the rural spa town of Bugok (부곡) where in an outlying farm, we cut ‘bales’ with jin-keom (진검). Unlike the session in June, despite the monsoon rain, it was surprisingly cool. However, the humidity was still in the air and at the end of the session my suit was soaked.
My focus on this session was to cut from both the left and right side. On my previous visit I found myself getting in a muddle over how you arrive at the target to cut from a specific side. As a result my first cut was almost exclusively to the right (우내려베기). I’ve since learnt that the first step you take after drawing (발도) matches the same side of the target you will strike. My second focus was in placing the heel of my lead foot on the floor at the same time as launching the strike and the ball of my foot following on contact with the bale. I also wanted to focus on reducing my power and trying to relax more. If you miss the bale, as I did on two upward slashes, it’s quite amazing the exertion you dispense and most of it isn’t required. The bales will slice quite easily with correct sword angle and trajectory and no amount of power will cut them in their absence.
Each bale, which this time consisted of three cuts: oblique downward slash (naer-yeo begi – 내려베기), oblique upward slash (ol-lyeo begi – 올려베기) and a parallel slash (su-pyeong begi – 수평베기), was initially practiced under speed followed by the actually cutting. In all, I cut twenty bales at 2000 Won (£1) a-piece. On two occasions, towards the end of the session, I cut two bales with successful and clean cuts on each stroke. To finish, we collected all the larger cut segments and stacking them, cut these.
LC, the American serviceman who has joined the school, owns his own impressive katana which is quite different to the Korean jin-keom. It was his first experience cutting bales and he was a little frustrated at his initial attempts but by the end of the session he was beginning to cut successfully.
LC making some nice cuts: