Hanare: Time to Let Go

The decision to cut and the action of cutting is made by both the swordsman and the sword. They work together in sensing intent and in performing action. The sword knows how to cut and often it is the swordsman’s job to get out of its way; to let go of the sword. This means both physically and mentally to remove your ‘ego’ from the cut. This is what is meant by the term ‘mushin mutou’, ‘no mind, no sword.’

If you cut too strongly with killing intent, often the sword wobbles, bounces, cuts at the wrong angle, or your body shows a hardness of spirit. If you cut too weakly, the sword and the opponent make no real contact. Ideally, the sword cut is smooth and relaxed; this makes it especially sharp and focused. Ken shin ichijyo is the harmonizing of the spirit/body and sword. So the question is, how do we cut ‘properly’ with the right amount of strength and the right amount of spirit?

Part of the answer is in hanare [to separate or part from]; letting go. By letting go we can often connect more deeply and become more open. This is yet another of the paradoxes of Iaido. We must let go of the need to win and the need to have a ‘strong’ cut so that our cuts truly become stronger and smoother. In the same way that we must let go of the idea that strength in cutting means you have to use a great deal of physical strength, in our personal lives many people live as prisoners of ideas no longer useful.

  1. What do you need to let go of in your Iaido practice?

  2. What do you need to let go of in your life?

  3. What does letting go mean to you?

  4. When is letting go necessary and when isn’t it?

  5. What false standards, experiences, or beliefs do you need to rid yourself of?

  6. What habits of action or thinking don’t work for you any longer?

  7. How can you let go?

  8. Knowledge is power: know then act. Knowledge without action is useless.


“The Master lets all things come and go effortlessly, without desire.”
“ When people think they know the answers, they are difficult to guide.”
~Tao Te Ching

“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then encourage them to create bridges of their own.”
~Nikos Kazantsakis


By Ken Maneker