The Japanese sword … prized as much for its exceptional beauty as for it’s deadly cutting ability. It has endured for a thousand years as the pinnacle of Japanese culture. Now you can enter a world rarely seen by outsiders. To experience the true story of the Art of the Samurai Sword. A story told in the swordsmiths own words that separate the myth from the fact. Follow the swordsmiths dream of creating a masterpiece. From the quest to making an ancient steel to forging a blade equal to those of the Kamakura, a medieval period that produced the greatest swords in history. For the martial artist the Japanese sword is a precise cutting weapon and symbol of the Samurai. For the collector, it is an art form whose beauty is derived from its deadly function to cut. As our story of the Japanese sword unfolds, we bring together all the artists and craftsmen whose skills turn it into both a modern work of art and a window into the past. Produced in association with Paul Martin, a leading Japanese sword expert and filmed across Japan with the very best swordsmiths and craftsmen, each one a master of their art.
With unrestricted access we take you inside the forges and workshops to reveal techniques that until now have been the craftsmens best kept secrets. Follow us into the Shinto shrine and museums to look back at the history of the Japanese sword which also parallels the history of the Samurai. If that’s not enough for Samurai enthusiasts we feature the school of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, Japan’s oldest sword school where sword fighting is still taught in the traditional way of the Samurai. Art of the Japanese Sword is a truly unique exploration of one of the worlds most beautiful yet deadly weapons.
Featuring the following swordsmiths: Kawachi Kunihira, Matsuda Tsuguyasu and Manabe Sumihira and more. One Japan’s top sellers of Japanese swords includes the DVD Art of the Japanese Sword with each sale … a testament to the quality and accuracy of this unique documentary.
Kendo World Magazine Review. Summer issue 2011.
Art of the Japanese Sword is a new documentary from Empty Mind Films that focuses not only on Japanese swords themselves, but on the many detailed aspects of their production and use. The first thing worth mentioning is the quality of the footage. The unique processes through which blades are made, from initial steel production through forging, folding, quenching, shaping and polishing are all shown in clear detail. This has the effect of giving continuity to the various stages, bringing them to life in a way that step- by-step photos in a book cannot.
This DVD contains many interviews with craftsmen from different traditions, and the filmmakers have made the sound decision to subtitle them in English. This gives the viewer a chance to get a feel for the personalities of the craftsmen, and is much preferable to watching long stretches of voice-over.
As objects of artistic value, the beauty of the Japanese sword stems from fine detail, so it follows that they are the product of some very subtle and refined labour. Essentially, the value of this documentary is in its recognition that swords are not made all at once. Rather they are the cumulative result of the slow and careful work of multiple craftsmen. The narrative takes care to depict and explain all aspects of the process, right down to tsuka-wrapping, engraving, saya carving and more. Watching this, one can really appreciate how any given stage, no matter how fine, slow or small, contributes to the final product. Footage of the work is alternated with interviews with the workers, and we come to understand that in a sense, their distinct personalities become part of the blades they produce.
Kawachi Kunihara, one of the many smiths featured, states adamantly that a sword, “… does not cut well because it is beautiful. It is because it is designed to cut well that it became beautiful.” Art of the Japanese Sword conducts a thorough examination into our fascination with swords, and the curious notion that an object created for the express purpose of cutting people could be so beautiful in and of itself. Aside from swords themselves, there are also sections that explore how swords are used. There is a brief section on kendo, an explanation of Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū, Japan’s oldest martial art school, and a section on the relationship between swords and Shinto, Japan’s native animistic religion.