The tsuba-arts are funamentally a way of knowing: tsubas must be "read", and subtle judgements made. This reading of a tsuba is carried out by the emotions as well as the cognitive faculties. "Emotion in an aesthetic experience is a means of discerning what properties a tsuba has and expresses." Thus, not only does understanding yield pleasure, but pleasure can stimulate people to make further judgments. And further judgments allow understanding of both the tsuba and the worlds to which it refers.

Certain cognative styles determine aesthetic taste. For instance, since tsubas are complex stimuli that require exploration, a high tolerance of complexity might lead to superior aesthetic judgment. The aesthetic value of a tsuba thus can be argued to be a function of its aptness for engaging the attention of an active mind.

The ability to make precise judgments is intertwined with the ability to make value judgments. If one is able to see more properties of a tsuba, one has more to judge. Thus, more subtle judgment leads to more skillful evaluation, and superior evaluation leads to more powerful judgment. Making sense of a tsuba, perceiving subtle differences and making fine judgments, are what give pleasure to the aesthetic experience. And the satisfaction granted by gaining an understanding of a tsuba is independant of whether or not it is considered pleasing. The ability to make relevant judgments does not unfold automatically; rather, it may well hinge on familiarity with the tsuba schools, on motivation, and perhaps even on cognitive style.


Elliott D. Long
Shibui Swords and Tsuba

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