Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman

by Jerry A. Sierra

Zatoichi

Swordplay

Ichi is a practiced master of the fast, accurate draw/strike/re-sheath method known as I-Ai-Do. It’s not a stretch to believe that his senses are more effective up close, and he’s able to fend off opponents by anticipating their attacks and leaning into them with I-Ai-Do. (In the last battle of Akira Kurosawa’s 1962 “Sanjuro,” Mifune uses the I-Ai-Do technique to dispatch an equally talented foe. It’s the only time in the film that he uses the technique.)

While Ichi’s cane sword (shikomi-katana) is not completely unique to movies, his style of fighting is rare, even in the movies. The reverse hold of his weapon might be less advantageous to a sighted person. He swipes most of his lethal blows, often bouncing off one opponent while striking the other.

Ichi loves to show off his sword skills in a non-lethal way; in one example he cuts a candle straight down the middle, creating two flames. He’s also fond of slicing dice or flies in midair, which happens so fast the sword is back in the sheath before anyone is sure what happened. Of course, usually these presentations are for those trying to cheat him at gambling or threatening him in some way. Such spontaneous displays, which appear in almost every movie, tend to warn off some predators but can attract others.

When given a choice, Ichi would rather not fight. “What would it prove to kill a blind man,” he humbly tells a predator or two. He’ll also warn the guilty to cease and desist their actions in advance. But power has a way of intoxicating those who possess it in excess, and those who don’t heed this blind man’s warning are often dealt with in battle.

Zatoichi duel at the beach

NEXT: Shintaro Katsu

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