These are the fight scenes in kabuki. They are leisurely and stylized and the blows are mimed. They are usually accompanied by music and use a wide variety of props. Often the props are associated with a particular character or with the location where the tachimawari takes place. The tachimawari in jidaimono history plays are very stylized, while the tachimawari in sewamono domestic plays are more realistic. Even the props change and in a jidaimono play the fighters might use branches of cherry blossoms instead of realistic swords or jitte batons while in a sewamono play the fight might use the things found around sumo wrestlers or the tools of firefighters.
"Period piece" or "history play."
These are very stylized plays. Although they often concern real historical characters, they are really not very interested in historical facts or the different styles of different eras. This is a kind of elevated style which allows stories on a grand scale, which sometimes can be a covert way to tell stories of the samurai class. A jidaimono has stylized costumes, wigs, make-up and stylized ways of moving and talking.
These are plays about the commoner class and the first pure sewamono was Chikamatsu's "Love Suicides at Sonezaki" which dramatized a true love suicide, but also was the first play to make tragedies of the lives of commoners into a drama on the level of the stories of the upper classes. Sewamono plays are relatively realistic and even though since they are kabuki they are stylized, the costumes, sets and props and ways of speaking are all based on the real customs of the Edo period.
Tsuke are the clappers played on the right side of the stage and sounds are attached to movements, like running or when something is dropped. In particular, the sound of the tsuke draws attention to the mie poses. The tsuke are not considered to be musical instruments and now are played by a member of the stage set crew.
In a tachimawari the tsuke add energy to all the movements, but also accentuate the mie poses, which are particularly important in a tachimawari.
The tateshi is an actor who is particularly knowledgeable about the fixed patterns of tachimawari and is particularly skilled at combining them and creating new movements to stage interesting tachimawari that are beautiful, appropriate to the play and show off the star actor to best advantage.
Tachimawari are staged to flatter the star actor who is called the "shin" which means something like "heart" or "center." The shin is always the focus of the action and moves relatively little. The other actors in the scene are called "karami" which means something like "mix-ins." They do the bulk of the movement and to suggest being killed or defeated they do flips called "tombo."
These are the flips performed by the karami and there are many different types, but the most fundamental type starts from a standing position and then uses a kick to propel the body up and around.
In the Edo period since the cities consisted mostly of wooden buildings, fires were terrifying. To fight these fires there were organized bands, one set that covered commoner neighborhoods and also bands maintained by samurai lords. The commoner bands were designated by hiragana of the Japanese syllabary as in the me-gumi "me gang" and this character was put on the basketwork banner called a matoi. Instead of using water to put out fires, the only way was to create firebreaks by demolishing buildings and so firefighting tools mostly consisted of hooks and hammers.
"Danmari" literally means "silent scene"and is a fight in the dark. The actors all move as though they are groping around in total darkness. The actors move in different ways and carry props that indicate the personalities of the characters they play. Sometimes they move all together like a dance. In the context of a play, often crucial objects move from character to character and this creates plot complications that are unraveled in the rest of the play. Sometimes a danmari is interesting enough that it is performed as an independant play.
The basic movements of a tachimawari all have names and these names are called fucho. For example, "yama-gata" means "mountain shape" and this means cutting from the center down diagonally first on one side then the other, like tracing out the shape of a mountain. "Ai yama-gata" or "mutual yama-gata" means that two actors face each other and do the yama-gata movement in opposite directions. "Kara usu (Asian mortar and pestle)" has the arm coming down like the beam of large pounding mortar and pestle used to hull rice. "Ten" means "heaven" and "chi" means "earth" so this means movements above and below. New movements can be created, but the bulk of any tachimawari are these standard movements that all kabuki actors understand, so a tateshi can just speak his instructions and the actors will know what to do.