View Full Version : Kodachi

Magnus Andersson
9th August 2000, 14:23

I have a question concerning the kodachi. Sato Kanzan and other authorities on the Japanese sword have claimed that the practical use of kodachi is somewhat unknown because they were manufactured during a limited time and not in all areas of the country. Some theories say that the sword could have been used by younger people before they were big enough to handle the tachi.

My question is to all of you who actively train with the kodachi. What explaination does your sensei give as to the origin and practical use of the kodachi?

I hope I made myself clear.

9th August 2000, 15:22
Originally posted by Magnus Andersson

Some theories say that the sword could have been used by younger people before they were big enough to handle the tachi.

My question is to all of you who actively train with the kodachi. What explaination does your sensei give as to the origin and practical use of the kodachi?

I hope I made myself clear.

Yes I use a kodachi. Because I wear two swords. The waza for the short sword is for use when the opponent is closer.

Kodachi work is quite popular Even the ZNKR has a three kodachi kata.

I do know of a ZNIR childrens club. They all use wakizashi until they get bigger.


Hyakutake Colin

Meik Skoss
9th August 2000, 16:18
I believe that Sato Kanzan was a sword appraiser, but have not heard that he was a practitioner, or knowledgeeabel, in terms of the martial arts. In any event, there are enough kodachi waza, in enough ryu, to indicate that it was a very important part of traditional study. Indeed, since a bushi would *never* wear his long sword (daito) inside, but had a kodachi/tanto/aikuchi to hand at all times (which obviates a need for seated batto waza as far as I can see), it makes sense that they'd look closely at these weapons/how they're used, dunnit?

As Colin mentioned in his post, the Nihon Kendo Kata has a set of three kodachi waza, even though they're seldom used in gendai kendo. They were included because there's a great deal to be learned in their practice; the waza contain a number of very important lessons for swordsmen.

Hope this helps.

Earl Hartman
9th August 2000, 17:54

Regarding your comment that since a bushi would never be wearing his daito in a situation where he would be sitting seiza (as a guest in someone's house, for example) there is no need for seated batto waza: I think that from a practical point of view you are quite correct, and wondering about this myself I checked into what my late MJER iai heiho teacher had to say about this. According to him, the 11 Omori Ryu techniques done from seiza in MJER are primarily for the purpoe of teaching certain basic things about how to handle the sword properly; they are purposely done slowly for that reason and they are done from seiza specifically to train and strengthen the legs and hips. This is all in preparation for the tachiwaza that comes later in the curriculum.

Any and all comments would be appreciated. And, yes, I have always wondered why MJER has no solo kodachi forms, although MJER has paired kodachi vs. odachi forms that are taught after the solo odachi forms have been mastered.


[Edited by Earl Hartman on 08-09-2000 at 11:56 AM]

Tony Peters
9th August 2000, 22:24
I'm pretty much a Koryu beginer so take what I say with a grain of salt. That said both SMR and Takeuchi ryu Have kata's that use the Kodachi. Takeuchi ryu has a whole slew of them as the kodachi is an important part of the cirriculum (at least as far as I have seen). The Kodachi in Takeuchi ryu is differant than most, it's bigger than a tanto but smller than an average Wakizaki. Interesting stuff though.

Magnus Andersson
10th August 2000, 07:14
Thank you for your replies, gentlemen!

Does anyone train with the tachi and kodachi mounted edge down? I mean, it was not until the end of the 16th century that swords were worn with the egde up. All of you who study ryuha created earlier than the 16th century, do you train with the swords mounted as tachi/kodachi?

Ulf Lehmann
10th August 2000, 08:54
All ryu (what I know) wear the sword in training in "modern" edge-upward-style. There is no different from batto or ken jutsu.
One point of wearing a sword in this different kinds is the use in battlefield. To wear a sword in tachi-style is comfortable for horsemanship or in armor. If you meet your enemy - you pull out your weapon some times before.
To use a sword edge-up is good for a quick draw and a better control about the weapon. Your sword is nearer to your hips and better to handle in batto or iai actions. This point is more important out of battlefield.


Ulf Lehmann

10th August 2000, 19:46
Hi Magnus!

Since it's also been asked about wearing the blades edge up or down, let's look at both weapons!

The long sword, as it has already been pointed out on a previous post was worn edge down making it easier to draw when on horseback...absolutely true.

The reason the Tachi was worn edge down, beyond the fact it's being easier to draw while riding your steed, was because the blade was longer than the Katana. As a result, if a tachi were worn edge up it would be alot more difficult draw, and for some people impossible. I had alot of fun at the dojo, by taking some people who were short and giving them a bokken of tachi length and having them attempt to draw it from their belts edge up...they couldn't do it....

Ok, so why did I use short people to demo this...because back during the Fuedal Age of Japan, like the Middle Ages of Europe, people were smaller back then. Further more, do to diet and climate the Japanese build was different.

In addition to physically being shorter than, the Japanese of today, because of the extreme cold of Japan during the winters the Japanese bodies were designed to economize heat...this was done by having a long body and shorter arms and legs ( no not perversly so...but this is one of the reasons as to why the Japanese sword arts did not develop the lunge...which was a natural evolution of the longer legged and armed Europeans of the mediterranean << an adaptation to help blead of the excess heat of their climate >> ).

Even some of the taller students had trouble drawing the tachi with the blade up. But when worn blade down all were able to do so easily.

The Katana, shrank in size in comparrison to the Tachi, and this happened for several reasons. As Japan entered it's age of peace, and wars began to give way to the age of deuling city sizes continued to expand. The third largest city at one point had over 500,000 people living in it!! The Tachi shrank due to the close proximity of others around you ( one of the reasons ), not to mention that within the confining space ( at times ) between buildings allowed the user to draw faster and swing more freely.

Because the Katana was smaller, it could be worn edge up, and because of this, it could be drawn in many more ways than the tachi. As a result, this is where iai really began.

As to your origninal question regarding the kodachi...no it wasn't relegated to teaching children. Let's say for the fun of it that you were a lord, and I was visiting....I would not be allowed to enter your presense with my katana...I would have to leave it outside...definitely placing me at a disadvantage...to mitigate this I was allowed ( by Japanese custom ) to retain my short sword ( be it referred to as shoto or kodachi ). In addition to this I'd have a fan ( which could have iron instead of wood slots to give me an additional mode of defense or a metal truncheon that looked like a closed fan called a tessen ).

When fighting indoors, the kodachi often was better suited since it's length would not inhibit its use. While a swordsmen due to walls or pillars would not have the same freedom of movement.

On the battlefield if I were a spearman, and you as a swordman got through my defenses...by doing so you would be to close for me to resort to my katana...going for it would be suicide...but because of its shorter length I would be able to draw my kodachi in time to defend myself.

The Kodachi is a beautiful weapon...someone earlier alluded its use to the hanbo.

For Example: Let's say you're down to your short sword because your long sword was broken on the field of battle.

Uke: You've got a tachi or katana, from Dai Jodan, Jodan, or Hasso, you strike with a shomen.

Tori: With the Kodachi in your left hand you step to your left, as your right hand grabs the attackers right wrist. From here you take your kodachi and strike across the chest ( but under the right arm of your attacker ). From here you pull the attackers right hand toward you while pushing with your left hand ( holding the shoto ) against uke's right tricep.

This locks uke's body causing him to pitch forward while the blade of the shoto cuts the unprotected area in the armpit ( where you have immediate access to the lymph glands, and where you are so close to the body that there is no access for a tournaquette to stop the bleeding.

Once Uke's body has slid along the blade to where the point of the shoto is, you take the tip and plunge it into the armpit ( if your on the right side the blade you'll puncture the lung, if on the left you'll puncture both the lung and the heart.

From here tori takes uke's katana and moves on to his next opponent.

Suffice it to say that the short sword was an integral part of the Samurai's armament...unfortunately however, when someone joins an iai or someother Japanese sword system...many of them neglect to teach about the kodachi. If you take the time to look, and you're interested however...there are several styles that do!!

Eric Bookin

11th August 2000, 19:20
Hello all,

There have been some very interesting comments about the kodachi in this thread, and while many of them true, it is my belief that there is a language/translation problem with all of them (wow that's bold of me). Everyone on the list thus far has said that training with a kodachi or shoto is alive and well, but I think the definition of what a kodachi is has not been explained. I believe the kodachi as mentioned in Kanzan's book is from a different morphology then the kodachi as used by budoka today.
In budo circles, a kodachi is any short sword, or more specifically a wakizashi. This sword would be, and is used as, the companion sword of the katana, worn edge up, with a smooth saya, thrust through the belt. Unfortunately anyone who has studied nihonto, as an art form, knows that there are so many terms among collectors it's enough to fry your brain. The kodachi that Kanzan sensei is explaining is not a wakizashi. As Magnus said, "because they were manufactured during a limited time and not in all areas of the country." Anyone who has gone to a gun show knows that, if they were talking about wakizashi, this surely wouldn't be the case, as many more wakizashi have been made then any other type of sword, and they have been made through all eras. They could be carried by almost anyone except farmers I believe, so many were made for artists, merchants, police of non samurai status etc. The kodachi that Kanzan is referring to is a miniature tachi. It is worn edge down and has all the pomp and flair of the larger sword. The proportions of this small tachi are much different then a wakizashi, the weapon used in budo today, though.
The kodachi used in budo training, the wakizashi, has dimensions of about 2/3's the length of the katana. The width from edge to back (hamachi to munemachi) is almost as large as the katana, sometimes even larger. These were made from Heian to present day time. The kodachi as referred to by Kanzan has different proportions They often look like smaller versions of the narrow tachi of the Heian era and were made mostly in the late Heian and early Kamakura eras. While their lengths were similar to the wakizashi, about 2/3's the length of the tachi, their width (from edge to back) is also greatly diminished. That means they are much narrower then a wakizashi of similar length. From an evolutionary stand point the wakizashi and the katana both grew out of the uchigatana. The uchigatana, was, as the name implies a companion sword, with the slung tachi. this sword was thrust through the belt edge up, so it could be drawn faster, historians believe to quickly behead felled opponents. The uchigatana is a one handed sword (the tsuka is about the length of the wakizashi's) with a blade about 23-25 inches long (shorter then the common tachi of the time, about the length of a katana). Why this sword developed into two I do not know for sure. Any ideas are well beyond my willing scope to develop here right now. The kodachi has less clear cut development. It just appears to be a miniature tachi. This is a big reason why no one knows what they are used for. Many have speculated that they are used by children not old enough and large enough to handle a full sized bladed. Suits of armor and other such things were made for children, and a full suit of children's armor can be seen in "Arms and Armor of the Samurai" by Bottomly and Hopson, on page 116. If they made armor of child sized proportions why not swords? This could also be why they are found made in a few places. I think the most popular provinces they were made in were Yamato (modern day Nara) and Yamashiro (modern day Kyoto). These were the largest cities in Japan at the time many of these swords were made, and probably had the richest clientele, who would have no problems spending a lot of money on something their child would grow out of anyway soon. Just a thought. The other theory is that they were carried with the tachi on the field, just a smaller tachi, worn next to the larger one. It never hurts to have different maai. Their odd proportions could easily have just been an odd fashion statement, much like large swords during the Bakumatsu, or swords with hamon that look like cherry blossoms, or Mt. Fuji. This is why they are such a mystery.
Having seen several of these small tachi, I do not think any martial art still practices with these odd weapons, and that they are an evolutionary dead end. I also think that the amount of people who do claim training with them (in response to the inquiry about Kanzan's statement) are simply confused by the rich and sometimes extensive jargon of nihonto collectors.
As a quick side note when I first saw kodachi used in a budo context (meaning wakizashi) I was very confused, seeing a wakizashi because the only kodachi I knew was this oddly proportioned tachi.


[Edited by Kendoguy9 on 08-12-2000 at 10:37 AM]

Magnus Andersson
12th August 2000, 11:41
Thank you Chris!

This was my point exactly. (I don't think I made myself clear...) So my question still stands: By the definition just given by Chris, do you still train with the kodachi? Or just the wakizashi? Or is this just an unnecessary question since the practical use is the same?

Any comments?

Richard Elias
13th August 2000, 05:23
Just my two cents.:)

The term kodachi has the meaning as mentioned above, in collectors and appraisers circles. But terms, especially in Japanese, tend to have different meanings peculiar to subject, and the people using them. Kodachi has been used as a generic term for a short sword, as shoto and wakizashi, for quite some time. I have read many noted authorities of Budo/bujutsu use the term thus, including persons such as Don Dreager and Otake Risuke. I'm not trying to argue the point of definition. But that it is a commonly accepted term to use for any short sword. If your going to get specific about the proper term appropriate for each type of short sword the list gets very long. Each sword is named differently based more on the fittings it is in than anything else. Terms like; on ken, sashi gatana, osoraku tsukuri, sun nobi, and many others are all in reference for some type of short sword, but seldom used by anybody in the martial arts.

13th August 2000, 07:16
Mr. Elias and all,

I have no doubt that jargon between collectors and swingers is different, and am a vitim of both ;). However Mr. Andersson had a very specific question, about this collector termed weapon, that many did not realize how specific the question really was. It was really something along the lines of what style koshirae do you use Higo or Satsuma (very different in looks and shape), or do you prefer a hiza-zukuri katana or a shinogi-zukuri katana? And since the question came from a collectors book, and not a budo book it is only fair, I think, to have an explanation for those budo-ka who do not collect.