© 2012 niall. All rights reserved.

death of a samurai: swordfights

This week another video clip of a cool swordfight. And how this clip and last week’s clip relate to aikido. It’s from Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai directed by Takashi Miike. It’s the trailer not the complete fight so try to get hold of the movie.



In it’s hard being a samurai I wrote about The Twilight Samurai directed by Yoji Yamada. There is a superb fight sequence. The actor Hiroyuki Sanada enters, breaks the balance, gets behind his opponent, and completely controls his opponent’s weapon. A couple of times he deliberately leaves an opening for his opponent to attack and then counters expertly. As I mentioned he has extensive experience in martial arts and in action movies and his sword work is very natural.

This other excellent recent samurai movie is Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai from 2011 directed by Takashi Miike. The Japanese title is Ichimei. Another movie directed by Takashi Miike I really liked is 13 Assasins. I’ll talk about that movie another time.

In fact Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a remake of a great classic Japanese samurai movie Harakiri directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The Japanese title of that movie is Seppuku. That’s another movie I’ll talk about some other time.

For now there is also a wonderful fight sequence in Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai. The kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo XI plays the main character. I doubt if he has any direct martial arts experience but I’m sure his long career in kabuki helped him with the fight movements. And he has charisma too.

There are some differences in the approaches to fighting. Sanada fought a duel. Ichikawa is a lone fighter against dozens of opponents. He uses them against each other entering and spinning and moving and letting them get in each other’s way.

There are some similarities in the two fights too.

Both of the samurai main characters use swords without real blades. They both deliberately spare the lives of their opponents. Although the outcomes of the fights cannot be compared both these samurai make the points that they wanted to make.

Great movies, both of them.  Don’t miss them if you are interested in Japanese culture or in martial arts. And if you glance at the lines above again you will see: entering, spinning, breaks the balance, gets behind the opponent, completely controls his opponent’s weapon and spare the lives of their opponents. That’s a pretty accurate description of aikido.


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photo: Ichimei by Alexis Lê-Quôc http://www.flickr.com/photos/alq666/6221892438/
Alexis Lê-Quôc’s photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alq666/

this post is published simultaneously on the aikido site aikiweb

my columns on aikiweb

I have an essay in a charity e-book put together by some writers and photographers to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku on 11 March 2011. It costs $9.99.

© niall matthews 2012


  1. niall

    Sure Carina. Takashi Miike’s movies are a little over the top for blood and violence so might want to close your eyes at the bloodiest moments…

    But it is a very impressive movie. And the spirit of the fight is very like aikido. He doesn’t do any lasting damage to his opponents. Even if we the audience think it would be justified.

  2. Thank you for the recommendation Niall, I’ll try to see them.

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