Okita Souji's Killing Move: San-dan Tsuki 三段突き
Okita Souji, nicknamed Tensai Kenshi (Genius Swordsman), had a famous killing move called "Sandan-Tsuki" (3-stages thrust). This move is documented in detail inside Shimozawakan, Shinsengumi Ibun (the Shinsengumi Literary Remains.) This move is about thrusting and pulling back continuously 3 times very quickly, Sekka no Hayawaza.
In other words, this is thrusting 3 times in a single beat. Thrusting techniques is to aim at a point on your opponent, almost like shooting a gun, which has a high rate of missing. The more shots you fire, the higher the chances of hitting the target. With this sort of mathematical analysis, has Sandan-Tsuki lost some of its Secret-Move romance to you?
This is not the case however, as Okita's Sandan-Tsuki adapts to changes quickly in the opponent, targeting primarily his throat, chest and solar plexus. In a text by Chiba Shusaku, founder of Hokushin Itto Ryu, the "Kenjutsu Rosshu Hachite", there is also a move called Sandan-Tsuki.
Starting with both you and your opponent in the center stance, swords pointing at each other.
You demonstrate the intent of hitting your opponent's right hand. When you do so, your opponent will attempt to protect his own right hand and thus changes his stance.
Then you demonstrate the intent of hitting your opponent's left hand, and your opponent will change his stance again to protect his left hand.
Now you make use of the opportunity and deliver a 2-handed thrust to the right side of your opponent's body, concluding the final stage of Sandan Tsuki 3-stages thrust.
There were many theories from the streets about Okita's Sandan-Tsuki, and details were unclear.
According to the Shinsengumi Ibun, in order to be able to still deliver a cut to the opponent even when your thrust has failed, the sword is thrusted out with the blade flat, so that the cutting edge is facing horizontally to the side. This is method of thrusting is also seen in other Koryu Kenjutsu (traditional sword schools), and not something unique only to the Shinsengumi. There are also some Koryu Kenjutsu schools which taught their students that "A spear is for cutting, a sword is for thrusting".
A thrust means to bring the tip of your sword in the fast manner possible into your opponent's body. In the teachings of more recent Kenjutsu schools, a thrust is a "dead sword". This is because after thrusting, it is difficult to quickly deliver a 2nd attack.
If Okita Souji's Sandan-Tsuki managed to overcome this difficulty, isn't that something interesting to think about?
Source: Bakumatsu Kenshin Den
Translated and edited by: Jack Chen Jiayi
All translation mistakes are mine alone.
Please email me if you have any comments.
Thank you for reading.