Slicing stuff with a sword, the modern samurai way

In this clip, a "modern samurai" called Isao Machii efficient slices a large variety of challenging objects in twain with his sword, including a round fired from a nearby pellet-gun. It's pretty astounding stuff.

Modern Samurai Isao Machii - Japanese (english edit) (via Reddit)


  1. I saw this guy on Stan Lee’s Superhumans…he’s AMAZING. The myth busters said cutting a bullet isn’t possible. They need to check out THIS guy.

    1. But were the Mythbusters trying to cut real bullets or airsoft pellets? 

      Maybe a .22 caliber bullet:  1,080 ft/s (330 m/s)
      104 ft·lbf (141 J)
      Probably a .45 ACP round: 1,225 ft/s (373 m/s)
      616 ft·lbf (835 J) also a bigger target.
      Seriously doubt: 30.06 round: 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s)
      2,913 ft·lbf (3,949 J)

      Any way you slice it, this guy is still pretty danged impressive.

  2. I agree with hymenopterid, it really looks like thin wall conduit.  Which really isn’t that hard to bend or cut.  Why don’t we give him some black iron pipe to “cut”?

    Well there is a pretty big difference between a bullet and a large plastic BB.  I’m betting that muzzle velocity was sub 300 ft/sec at best.  Either way it is still an extremely impressive feat.

    1. In Japan, airsoft guns have to have a muzle energy lower than 0.98 J to be legal, which corresponds to about 99 m/s ~= 325 ft/s for a 0.2 g BB. So, um, yeah, not exactly gunshot velocity (or energy).

    2. I assume you’re being sarcastic, but the impressive part of that wasn’t cutting the pipe, it was doing it without cutting the wooden stand.

      The thin walls of the pipe were key to the difficulty of the challenge.

      1. Except he did cut the wooden stand.  Sure, he didn’t cut it in two, but he did leave a pretty big gash in it.

        1. You’re right, I’m wrong.  On rewatching closeup there is a cut on the stand.  While I would hesitate to call it a big gash, I’m glad no one was playing William Tell.

          1. As a Katana is primarily a slashing weapon, his ability to generate enough force to snap the metal pipe, then stop the follow through without embedding the blade about 3 inches  into the stand is still impressive. 
            I have a few years experience with western swords (broadswords and sabres mostly) and what he did would be difficult, if not impossible with a western blade.  I imagine it is still difficult to master with a two handed sword like a katana.

      2. Part of the skill is pulling the cut, not following through, although with this cut it looked like he pushes the blade slightly, rather like a guillotine blade used for cutting thick stacks of paper, the blade goes sideways as well as down, pushing would help stop crushing the pipe. Good cut.

        1. Yes, you are right.  I totally underestimated the difficulty of the electrical conduit.  The galvanized outside is hard, but the inside is soft, so it wraps around the blade.  Its like trying to cut an overripe tomato.

          My first cut bit pretty well but on my second one I bore down on it and completely crushed the pipe.

  3. This guy on a rampage would be impressive – like Hiro Protagonist angry drunk in the park springing from nowhere to bisect softballs and frisbees

  4. A reminder that Japan stopped being feudal only recently, historically speaking. Unless one can consider their major conglomerates as a continuation…

      1. While the family-centered control structure is no more, many of their names live on in keiretsu form.

  5. While I’m pretty sure that Isao Machii is a expert with katanas – as is evidenced by the fact that he still has his left hand’s thumb – I’m always underwhelmed when the ‘evidence’ of someone’s expertise is heavily edited videos…

    1. Which is why they show slow motion videos from several angles, with several cameras, and then once more in front of a studio audience? How underwhelming indeed. Maybe you should call Isao yourself and ask him to perform at your Bar mitzvah. 

      1. Don’t get me wrong.  That guy has amazing skill.  I just didn’t expect his katana to have much trouble with that conduit.

        I think what PaulR is pointing out is that he could have gone through a whole bag of soybeens to get that one miracle cut.  No audience on those ones.  Either way, still cool.  There are cooler tameshigiri videos out there.

        1. Thanks, hymenopterid, that’s pretty much what I meant.  I’d be really impressed if this warrior was able to perform these feat with moving objects, much like the Belushi’s Samurai Warrrior slicing a tomato.

          I’ve worked as an assistant photographer in a design house.   I can assure you that when a bowl of breakfast cereal is photographed, they don’t just pour the box into the bowl, take a photograph…  Yes, I’d be surprised if there was only one take. 
          I’ll get Mr. Machii credit for cutting the standing bundle of straw without making it fall down.  (But it could have been weighted at the base…)

          Take the rubber ball thrown by the machine.  A, I’m quite sure, very well-adjusted machine.   Won’t the ball pretty much always be thrown the same?  You could probably set up an Arduino controlled Exacto blade to do the same thing.  Or even just a photocell, a relay, and a solenoid.

          I suppose the alternate view is ‘if it’s on TV, it’s exactly as shown’, eh?

    2. I’m always underwhelmed when the ‘evidence’ of someone’s expertise is heavily edited videos…

      Maybe you would have been more impressed if you had been present for the post-production, because the editor made all those cuts using a samurai sword.

  6. Whether it’s actually iron pipe or electrical conduit, I still wanna be on this guy’s team when the zombie apocalypse unfolds!

    1. Oh, yeah…

      For the last three Octobers, I’ve played in a big zombie airsoft game in Wisconsin called Operation Plague. I found out the fun way that a two handed sword is very effective against zombies. The last time I played, I didn’t fire a shot.

  7. I’m most astounded by the single-motion draw-and-strike.  Not only the most difficult, that would be the most useful skill in a zombie ambush.

  8. well considering 325ft/sec is roughly 220 mph and he cut it with the edge of his sword, i’d say this is a pretty astounding feat.  probably pretty close to the natural limits of human reaction time and hand/eye capabilities.  as a barometer of your own hand eye coordination,  go outside somewhere and have a friend lightly toss a grape into the air while you try and hit it with a whiffle ball bat.  if you manage to make contact, track down the grape in the grass and slowly place it into your mouth.  Let the grape rest upon your tongue and begin chewing slowly and with purpose.  now savor the sweet, succulent results of your success. 

  9. Wow. Especially to the BB-Ball thing (I wouldn’t have even SEEN it) and to barely nicking the wood in the last part (where he cut the iron rod – which is btw not that impressive…it’s what those swords where designed to do).

    Really, really impressive.

  10. What is with the internet and the need to piss all over everything? If you don’t think this is an astonishing testament to what a human being can do without modern technology, well, poop on you.

    1. It’s usually the host of the show or a special guest. It’s just there to show their reactions as they watch what we’re watching.

        1. “What guest? I mean, I fundamentally don’t understand what kind of show this is.”

          An AWESOME show. That is what it is, sir.

        2. The Japanese have a thing where they cycle (fairly quickly) through people famous for being famous (and ideally also interesting in some way, be it looks or personality) , and they guest in the various TV shows on their network. At a guess, the not-quite-hosts could be that kind of people. 

          I assume the point of the live audience is obvious. ;)

  11. Do you wonder why we don’t have great shows like this in the US? It’s because of people like the one’s posting on this thread. This is from an entertainment show, not a science show. Not everything needs to be debunked and dissected. I’m certain that it probably took multiple takes for most of these feats. Furthermore, I don’t think it was stated anywhere that he did it on the first try. The point is, no matter how many times it took to get it just right, he DID it.

    It’s not impressive when people start pulling out statistics and mathematical equations to debunk something that was done for pure entertainment, it’s annoying.

    1. Naw, we’re just crabby ‘cuz the days are getting shorter and we’re warming up for full-blown SADD in a month or so…

      …”great shows”?  Really?

      Maybe it’s because I’m getting old so I’m quickly running out of life left to live, but I’m SOOO getting tired of TV shows (and here, I’m even pointing fingers at the venerable CBC) which take a half hour to tell a story that can be told in three minutes….and STILL manage to provide less information than a three-minute telling will…  Sigh.

      1. Hell yea, out with the entertaining stuff from BoingBoing. I thought this was supposed to be a serious blog!

      2. I watch a lot of Japanese television so, to me, they’re great. I like escapist entertainment. Sue me.

    2. You must be pretty young.  There have been shows like this on American TV.

      “You Asked For  It” originally a live TV show,  aired between 1950 and 1959. Later versions, in 1972, 1981, and 2000.
      Ripley’s  ” Believe it or Not” TV series, a live show hosted by
      Robert Ripley, aired from 1949 to  1950.  A later incarnation aired from 1982 to 1986 hosted by Jack Palance.  It is still in reruns.  “Real People” was a similar series that aired from 1979-1984, and “Thats Incredible!” ran from 1980 through 1984.
      Don’t worry, the readers and posters on Boingboing are a minority of the TV viewing audience.  And generally, Americans are not noted for their critical thinking skills. Otherwise we would not have shows about Bigfoot, UFOs, ghost hunters, and ancient astronauts building the pyramids.

      Barnum’s Rule still applies.

      1. 42 years young, my friend. I grew up on those shows, but they don’t really exist anymore. To the Egress with you.

    3. You can be both entertained and seek to pick it apart.  I think that is part of the joy of Myth Buster, which is pretty similar except that they expose openly what they are doing  while they are making things explode.  If they have a guy on who can throw a card like a ninja, they show the guy with succeeding and failing, and they test the actual limits of what they can do.  When you look at this and suspect heavy editing to bolster the claim, people are right to be a little skeptical.  It is healthy.

      Personally, I would have appreciated it MORE if I had seen the failures.  A real understanding of that guys skills would  have been fascinating and I would have been just as tickled when  he sliced object X successfully in half.

      1. Mythbusters is essentially a science show. It must be terribly sad for some of you that have lost your sense of wonder. You’d probably go to a magic show and spend the entire time looking for the mistakes instead of enjoying the actual craft.

  12. Jeez, so many people calling bullshido on this guy! Lighten up on the nerd rage; it’s not like he claimed the Hulk could beat up Superman.

  13. Preliminary results from my highly scientific research indicate that if I hit a piece of electrical conduit with a sharpened machete it will cut about halfway through.  If I do it again it will snag and ruin the edge.
    Additionally I conclude that safety glasses are overrated.

  14. I actually think they had this guy on Mythbusters once, either that or the Time Warp show, but I’ve seen him on the Discovery Channel before.

  15. Wow.  You know it’s a bad day when even the boingboing commenters lose their ability to think, and become youtube trolls.

    As someone who has many years experience with katana, and a reasonable amount of time doing tameshigiri as well, what Isao Machiiis demonstrating is the culmination of many many years of perfect practice.  He has the fine level of control of his sword to make it do exactly what he wants.

    1. I am not entirely sure what you’re basing that on.

      If you mean androgynous in that he’s one of those guys who looks a little bit like a middle-aged lesbian, as men occasionally do through no fault of their own,  I can perhaps give that to you. It’s a pretty big stretch, but I can give it to you.

      If you mean androgynous in the sense that he is Asian and thus doesn’t look like a white dude, it’s a little less of  a stretch but it’s also kind of little bit ‘I meant well’  racist.

      Also, this entire thread is why we can’t have nice things.

      1. If you mean androgynous in the sense that he is Asian and thus doesn’t look like a white dude, it’s a little less of  a stretch but it’s also kind of little bit ‘I meant well’  racist.

        No… no… no…   I mean androgynous in the sense that he’s a wombat trying to release his scat after two weeks of being all backed up after eating too much cheese.  You know, the standard way androgynous is defined in the dictionary?

  16. Honestly, the most impressive feat I saw there was the horizontal cut of the cucumber and the pea pod. THAT has to require incredible fine motor control. Even with a whole bag of the damn things, I challenge any of you to swing a blade and cut one of those in half horizontally, much less bisect the thing on such a clean angle.

    I’m really far more impressed with his horizontal draw-to-cut technique than the BB shot cut.

  17. He must be using a Hattori Hanzo.

    (Seriously, 50 comments, and I’m the first Kill Bill reference?  What kind of nerds are you?)

  18. He really ought to be the go-to guy to play Hiro Protagonist in the Snowcrash movie I hope they make one day.

  19. I have a katana.  I have flailed around with that sucker for years: and I defy any and all haters to repeat the four tasks shown with even a portion of the skill and aplomb shown by Isao-san.

    News Flash!  You can’t do it.  Sure, the law of averages applies: try each task 25 times and (maybe) somebody is going to hit the mushroom or cut the conduit just right…but all?   

    I double dog dare and defy any and all to edit their own film of bushido derring-do: talk is cheap.

    Unless you are damned skilled or damned lucky; you ain’t hitting the BB.  Or cutting the bean so nicely for that matter…

    Anyone with enough upper body strength can take a heavy, sharp object and cut a pig in half (or boots filled with meat).  The magic of the studio aside, this guy is on another level completely.

    Yakimochi yakuna yo. (Don’t be jealous!)

  20. Somebody give that guy a baseball bat! I wonder if Derek Holland could strike him out? I know swinging a bat is a completely different thing but he’s got incredible hand-eye coordination and control, it would be interesting to see.

  21. For all of you knocking him with your “not a gunshot! Check out my calcs…” and “it wasn’t a pipe!” critiques I have a feeling if you tried this you’d miss at best and lop off your own kneecap at worst.

    1. One of my training accidents, was pulling a straight down strike so incredibly wrong, that my sword kept going, down onto my kneecap.  Not hard enough to crack bone, thankfully, but enough to pop the skin open.
      So, yes, it’s bizarre to think about it but it’s very possible to lop yourself in the kneecap.

      Thankfully, all I gained was a 2″ scar and 6 stitches.  No muscle damage, and minimal bone bruising.  Was back training 2 weeks later.  The most embarrassing and least debilitating injury I say.  (and I much prefer it that way)

  22. I dunno, I’ve seen better.  In Hero, Jet Li was able to stick his sword all the way through Zhang Ziyi’s body core without slicing any vital organs.  In the heat of a battlefight. Have you seen it?  Because it was AWESOME.

  23. Thank you, Cory, I enjoyed the vid.  This gentleman seems to have stripped his iaido down to nothing but the act of cutting – in some of the demonstrations, such as the pipe-cutting, he doesn’t even draw!  He does not conform to the niceties of stance, haircut, balance, etc. that are normally considered a vital part of traditional iai, but then he delivers cuts that are nearly perfect – cuts that are better than those of other martial artists who have superior classical form.  This leads inevitably to the process .vs. results argument…

  24. just goes to show haters gonna hate! seriously is there no wonder left in this world? Can’t anyone simply just watch someone else do something impressive without disecting it to death.
    Guess what, I got news for ya….
    the EAster bunney
    the tooth fairy
    fake FAKE fake

    happy now

    all I can say is maybe all the dobt is valid. OR Maybe this guy did something real cool.

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