斬下 Kirisage – dropping cut
Kirisage being the fourth technique
斬 – kiri – to kill, slice or cut with a blade
下 – has numerous related meanings and pronunciations – down, downwards, below, under, to descend, to lower, to drop, the bottom or lower level
Kirisage as the opposite of the previous technique, kiriage, means ‘to cut down’ or ‘cutting down’. Again this is a good description of a directional action, but not a reasonable translation of the bikenjutsu technique.
Kirisage is meeting the opponent’s sword and maneuvering so as to lower, or drop, the blade onto the neck for a pushing cut. This movement is utilising leverage and body movement/angling, to pivot the blade to cut uke. Think of the action that occurs during the technique – tori meets uke’s cut and then maneuvers to an advantageous position to ‘drop’ the blade on/in to uke. ‘Drop’ here fits better than ‘lower’ or descending’ as it summarises and acts as a translation of the technique.
The use of ‘drop’ here is different from the meaning of ‘to drop’ as seen in the kanji 倒 – otoshi, where this implies a strike leading to a plummeting drop, fall, topple, collapse. The ‘drop’ of kirisage is the descent of the blade, assisted by gravity, as part of the technique as opposed to the ‘strike-resulting-in-a-fall’ as implied with 倒 otoshi.
Now you may be able to see why the bikenjutsu 斬下 technique is best translated as ‘dropping cut’. ‘Descending cut’ or ‘lowering cut’ are alternative translations, but lack the dynamic implication of the act.
Translation is not the simple transfer of one language to another, translation is the art of rendering into another language, requiring interpretation. One of the best translators I know is Bruce Appleby – he is able to give succinct translation for Hatsumi sensei, he will happily not translate more than necessary, this being a fault of those that need to add their own perspective and embellish whilst translating. The task undertaken by Bruce, Doug, Craig and a many others for Hatsumi sensei is no easy one – it is not a case of simply translating into English as so many assume, their task is to render Soke’s speech/ideas into a generic form that can be understood by people who speak/understand English not as a first language.