If you have ever wondered how the blade of a Katana stays in the handle (Tsuka), then look carefully at the handle of a sword about a third up from the Tsuba and you will see a little pin of bamboo poking up from between bindings in the handle. This is called the Mekugi, and it is only this little pin of bamboo, only about an inch long, that attaches the blade to the Tsuka. Something to think about when performing strong men cuts in front of your instructor!
This clever yet simple idea allows the swordsman to remove his blade for cleaning or repair with just a few taps of a special hammer, thus removing the blade from the furniture of the handle.
In older times it allowed the swordsman to quickly change blades in battle, or simply to clean and service his most precious possession and even to allow him to change his Tsuka for a more ornate one during ceremonial occasions from his more basic day-to-day Tsuka.
Either way this surprisingly simple and yet strong solution to the problem of securing the blade to the Tsuka survives today and is still the method we use in our swords, everything held together by a little hidden peg of wood! In fact how often do we observe and yet fail to see what is important, be that in an event or even in the hidden quality of a person.
No student of sword cannot train with a weapon of death and not begin to realize the thin thread that attaches us to life, for around us is the illusion of stability and permanence and yet at any time we may depart this world, so much unfinished or unsaid. A swordsman must truly understand his own fragility to be great.
For training in a true martial art shows a student not just about his power and strength, but his vulnerability and humility, these are his true strengths.
Just like a small peg of bamboo, they lie unseen, strengths that holds all together.
One little piece…special.
Holding a man to his life
Hidden yet there.
Just one heartbeat from greatness,
and maybe just one more from rest.