Today in class we were able to do actual cutting of bamboo with a live (sharp) blade. The practice, called "tameshigiri", was for testing the quality of swords back in the day, but it is a good way to check your own cutting nowadays (given that we don't actually fight people). If you cut badly, the bamboo will splinter or even not cut all the way through. If you cut smoothly, without force, you'll slide through the bamboo no worries.
I thought I was going to go really badly (splintering the bamboo, bouncing off it Tales of the Samurai style) but it was actually ok. I kept a couple of the pieces of bamboo as souvenirs.
This first picture shows my first and second (ever) cuts.. the first is on the right. It was just two standard cuts from right to left, angled down.
This second piece of bamboo was a bit fancier. My first cut was right to left angled down like previously, but then I flipped the blade and cut left to right angled up. It's more difficult to do, which is why I'm really pleased with how it turned out.. you can see the two angles are pretty close to each other. The bamboo was nice and green, which made it easier. It was also a bit thinner than the first one, although I think it's more about the angle and quality of the cut than the thickness of the bamboo.
This third photo just shows the detail of the end from my second cut. Looking at this and seeing the angle, whether it's splintered at all or if there's cracks is how you can see how your cutting has been.
I was really lucky too, I got placed in a group with the senior students. Technically it was only supposed to be Sempai and above (the rank above me) but Sensei Matthew put me in that group. We only had 7 in our group, and the juniors had about twice that, so we got more cuts each :) It also meant we could try fancy stuff like that double cut that I did.