View Full Version : Aiki Kogeki/ Emonodori

Nathan Scott
2nd April 2003, 00:09
[Post deleted by user]

2nd April 2003, 00:40
I don't have much to add, except that I agree completely. My first art was aikido, which I did for about four years. I used to think that I knew something about swordwork, and that tachidori waza were fun and theoretically useful.

These days, I do kendo and iaido, and dabble in judo. It only took me few months of kendo, even with all its limitations, to dissuade me of the notion that I knew much more about swordwork than which end to hold. And I now put aikido tachidori waza in the catagory of "I suppose its better than nothing."

And oddly, from a few times messing around after class, the person I've seen whom I think had the best chance at successfully performing some sort of tachidori is my kendo instructor, not any of the aikido people I've seen.

Nathan Scott
2nd April 2003, 00:40
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Ted Howell
2nd April 2003, 08:06
Hello Nathan,

I don't usually post, but felt it necessary to do so. I agree and am interested in what type of response you will receive. If you remember, I posed similar concerns in a letter submitted to Aikido Journal last year. Although some people agreed, most responded negatively. Well, a week later Stan published his essay regarding the same issues and received a lot of positive response. I guess it is all in the delivery, something us east coast boys are short of. But hopefully people will start to see the truth in these statements.

Kondo Sensei has stated on numerous occasions that the casual manner in which many practitioners disarm weapons, as shown in public demonstration, is unrealistic and insulting. This has been one thing that has impressed me from the beginning. He is about truth! There is no question in Kondo Sensei’s understanding of the seriousness of such a situation. This is why he continues to train assiduously and is never satisfied, ever striving towards perfection.

With a background including not only Japanese, but Chinese and Filipino arts, I would venture to say that most Japanese martial artists would have much difficulty in disarming a skilled knife fighter. 1) These people train against the disarm 2) they usually have more than one knife on their person 3) they are extremely reflexive and are quite capable of changing movement immediately. For heavens sake, even Dan Inosanto has stated on a number of occasions that he doesn’t feel comfortable engaging a skilled knife fighter! And this is Dan Inosanto, let alone some average practitioner who is lulled into some false sense of security.

Keep it real.

Ted Howell

2nd April 2003, 14:07
Hello Nathan,

Let me throw my proverbial oar in the water. First, my personal response, bet your mortgage on the knife / sword wielding person over the unarmed person. When we talk of "ma" (space / distance) the armed person has the obvious advantage. Staged theatrics are not the same as realistic combative situations.

It reminds me of some of my colleagues who were tonfa / tuifa exponents as the impact weapon of choice for police officers. They noted that it had tremendous blocking capabilities, for example being able to block an overhead swung baseball bat with jodan uke (upper block). As "proof" they demonstrated this defence but uke used a hollow piece of ABS piping. I took up the challenge, but I used a baseball bat. With some smug satisfaction, I still remember the cry of pain from my uke when I swung the bat (not even full force since I ostensibly liked this guy). I think his elbow has gone back to a normal size now.

With respect to tachi dori (or shiroha waza - white edge techniques) in the martial arts, I concur that these are training techniques. To this end let me explain two aspects of the training.

Critical to any encounter is "ma", in particular "toi-ma" (long space) a distance where one cannot effectively attack and therefore no defence is necessary; "issoku no ma" (single step space) which is the distance of engagement; and, "chikai ma" (close distance) where the battle has already been lost or won, a point of decisiveness. Many traditional jujutsu ryu have cognate weapons training which use some iteration of these three "ma." However, when there is no weapon the "ma" does not change. One's kamae (readiness posture), creating ma-ai (blending space), closing the critical or reactionary gap etc. stays the same. In terms of tactical advantage, the jujutsuka trained in this manner approaches his / her unarmed encounter quite differently than one who has not.

Secondly, the possibility of someone attempting to disarm, or disarming, is real. This does not necessarily occur with one-on-one encounters It may occur when there are multiple attackers / opponents and one grabs your weapon (tanto, tachi, hanbo etc.) or weapon arm. At this point, "desperation" defences are critical; hence the reason some Sensei may teach waza like hanbo/tsuka nikyo etc. These, de facto, are either "weapon retention" techniques or "last resorts."

I could provide more rationale, but this post has become a bit lengthy. (Sorry)

Best Regards

Frederick D. Smith

2nd April 2003, 16:13
First off I think you guys are right on the mark, Its about time we started to say so. Hollywood and t.v still shows the "good guy" disarming "bad guys" knives with kicks(thanks Chuck ). And this perception become most people's reality. Try that ¤¤¤¤ against a knife fighter and say good buy to the tendons/arterys in your leg. Even modern movies like "The Hunted" featuring Tom browns "Tracker knife", the knife fighting scenes are drawn out and unrealistic, and in one scene the knife is thrown thirty feet without spinning and is shown going throw a two inch tree. Boy, I wish I could do that. Furthermore, in the Hunted movie, disabling cuts to the wrist, arms and even stomach fail to "defang the snake, so to speak. But thats hollywood. In support of the movie(which was very entertaining IMO) the training scenes where "very realistic" and like I told my wife when we we watching the movie at the theatre ,"the cats out of the bag now". Meaning if they pay attention everyone who watches the movie will know how to "take someone out with a knife". So be it. In another forum the knife trainers for the movie(FMA) admitted that the fight scenes where drawn out for hollywood. "In real life a fight with those experts it would be over in seconds". And there right.
But for some reason, that wouldnt be very entertaining to the general public;).
The up side is ,I think a movie like the hunted will draw more folks to take up the study of the high art(knife fighting).


Gregory Rogalsky
Rogalsky Combatives International
Calgary Alberta Canada

Cady Goldfield
2nd April 2003, 16:27
I doubt we'll ever get Hollywood to make realistic fight scenes. Too boring and over too quick. You'll notice that Chuck always has to kick and hit a badguy about 20 times before the guy goes down... and he still doesn't bleed.

2nd April 2003, 19:25
I too think Nathan's observations are right on the mark. In my dojo we train with a set of tachidori techniques as part of the shodan curriculum. However, our instructor characterizes the attacks as "crazy housewife" attacks which would not likely happen in an encounter with a trained, skilled knifefighter, and more important, he's very quick to point out and reinforce that the techniques are meant to teach kamae, taisabaki and maai, not sophisticated knife defenses.

Howard Quick
3rd April 2003, 13:04
As Nathan mentioned, my jujutsu instructor who has been practising jujutsu for 34 years removed all of the swordwork including mainly disarms from our system. Actually it was Paul Pocock Kyoshi that he witnessed demonstrating Shinkendo techniques at the annual general meeting and seminar of the Australian Ju-Jitsu Association Inc in Sydney at which he was a guest instructor.
John Beckman, my instructor described what he thought it would be like to try and disarm Pocock Kyoshi as "like trying to catch lightening". I think it takes a great deal of courage to be able to admit that something you have been teaching for so long is completely ineffective (not the jujutsu, just the swordwork). Also, nothing looks worse to a swordsman than seeing practitioners of their own jujutsu system swinging a sword be it bokuto, mogito or shinken with little to no idea of what they're actually doing. In my opinion, tachi dori is right up there with cutting pineapples and watermelons on peoples necks and stomachs.
For anyone out there who likes to perform these 'tricks/stunts', good luck to you! :rolleyes:

By the way, John Beckman, my jujutsu instructor of nearly 20 years is also my Shinkendo student of 2 years!

[combined two posts. NS]

P Goldsbury
3rd April 2003, 15:18
Hello Mr Scott,

So, what would be a good aikido weapons demonstration for you, in the context of Aiki Expo? I ask as someone who participated in the 2002 Aiki Expo and deliberately ignored the whole question of weapons.

Best regards,

Ron Tisdale
3rd April 2003, 15:44
Hi Peter,

I know I'm not Nathan, but I thought I'd chime in here...

My idea of a good buki exhibit would be one where uke didn't get bashed in the face...

I really like to see paired work well done, timing, spacing, focus all strong and correct. Some of the weapons against mutliple attackers seemed a bit frenetic, some of the solo kata were hard to really make sense of if you hadn't perhaps trained under the teacher in question. I thought some of the jo dori was pretty kool, and Goss Sensei's hanbo work was excellent. But personally I'd share Nathan's reservations on bokken dori in *that* venue...too many of the people there really *knew* sword.

That said, I think there is a venue for the bokken dori technques; in class. I still feel uncomfortable demonstrating such techniques. In a recent demo I participated in, it was made very clear that they were used to illustrate certain principles of covering distance and changing timing in the empty hand practise. Not that they were used to illustrate how to disarm a swordsman.

I have a dojo mate who's spent some time in koryu...none of those bokken "take aways" seem to work on him...until he starts to cooperate to some (often a large) degree.

Ron Tisdale

3rd April 2003, 21:34
Originally posted by SBreheney
However, our instructor characterizes the attacks as "crazy housewife" attacks which would not likely happen in an encounter with a trained, skilled knifefighter....

A friend who spent some time as an MP told me that he had seen just such attacks on a number of occasions in married military housing, usually sometime between 2 and 4 am on a Friday or Saturday night when hubby had just come home, the typical object in the wife's hand being a cast-iron frying pan.

Fred Little

3rd April 2003, 23:56
Originally posted by kokumo

A friend who spent some time as an MP told me that he had seen just such attacks on a number of occasions in married military housing, usually sometime between 2 and 4 am on a Friday or Saturday night when hubby had just come home, the typical object in the wife's hand being a cast-iron frying pan.

My Japanese is almost nonexistent. Would those attacks be shomenuchi no frying pan, yokomenuchi no frying pan . . . ? ;)

Seriously, though, training exercises do not good demos make.

Howard Quick
4th April 2003, 01:24

Seriously, though, training exercises do not good demos make.
Whilst traveling in Europe as part of a jujutsu group, we were asked to perform a demonstration at the WKF(World Kobudo Federation)seminar in England (1996-97?). It was a huge event with groups from all over the world.
Unfortunately, the jujutsu we practice doesn't 'look' that special(it aint eye candy) so we declined.
The demonstrations were definately entertaining, however there was an obvious difference between those demonstrating training techniques and those demonstrating the stuff they win 'demo competitions' with.
What we practice would have just looked crap!:eek:

By the way, the team from Norway won!;)

5th April 2003, 01:02
Nathan et al. As everyone else here has, I agree with you. I know very little about sword work. What I do know is that in the hands of someone even modestly skilled, a sword is something to stay away from (maybe even in the hands of someone with no skill...especially in the hands of someone with no skill). I've enjoyed the responses to this post in this forum. I don't really have anything of substance to add to this post, other than I think it would be really interesting to see the reaction to a post like this on an Aikido bulletin board. I'm interested in how some of the mainstream Aikido practitioners might respond, both for and against.

Nathan Scott
5th April 2003, 08:11
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Nathan Scott
5th April 2003, 08:40
[Post deleted by user]

Dan Harden
5th April 2003, 18:27

Great topic choice Bud!

I am very pleased that sillywood hasn't a clue about weapons technique. It is very well that most people who pick up a weapon can have it taken away from them or have it controlled and depressed with relative ease by those of us with the experience to do so. The more uninformed and stupid looking the general public is regarding weapons the better. Moreover, the more unable they are to be able to describe to you exactly why what they do IS stupid in the first place- the better. Then you don't have to worry about the talk the talk-walk the walk Hype.
The internet is raising a whole new breed of "educated idiots" who know what to say or not say because they have read it-but have no real skills. It is well that they haven't a clue about what true technique can do in a very small space and time.

Why does the lack of any real credibility in the martial arts -particularly with Aikido-weapons (there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one)trouble you?
It is what it is, we cannot convince anyone on an interent forum anyway. Do what I used to do; stand across from them and engage them with weapons. I have never, ever, not even once, had anyone of them able to do virtually anything- not a single thing- at all with Aikido technique against classical weapons. After they shut up (and as you have witnessed to- they will) you can have an intelligent conversation. Most I have met were intelligent just uninformed.

We have spoken before about knocking the weapons out of peoples hands-and making their imagined ever-ready response into the sham it is. It is still the best way to go. Many martial artists want it to be a mental and academic pursuit as well as a physical one and fool themselves into thinking they have managed that level of readiness. Their body and weapons skills often reflect that. Let the martial art Fuantlaroy's yack and let those willing keep following them. Its a very good thing Nathan. Yes it's all so embarrassing to watch. But it is a very good.

1.Most people who have entered dojo know little or nothing about weapons or have never been in serious physical encounters.
2.They are largely taught by teachers who know little or nothing about weapons who have never been in serious physical encounters.
3.These teachers in turn learned from Japanese teachers who know little or nothing about weapons and have never been in serious physical encounters.

Comparative values
I have listened to men with collections of Highlander swords go on and on about weapons.....We frequently laugh about them here. In truth I see only a small step up between them and some men who have been in the Japanese arts for decades who know little or nothing about weapons or have never been in serious physical encounters. They both are dreamers of a different type. Whos worse?

How "impressed" is the average guy who enteres a Dojo? How valid is his opinion about anything he may see? Yet we were all these men at one point in time. Anyone of them/us moves on to teach what we have learned. What is the inherent value of that knowledge?
What is our number of those who are great men and truly knowledgable teacherswith a skill that is viable compared to the number who know little or nothing about weapons or have never been in serious physical encounters yet still teach?
How much value is there in the judgement of anyone to tell the difference? Who can? What is our comparative ability to judge. How oftn have we heard "go see him" or go feel that-only to arrive and see more sillyness?

As for the big demos- Why not let them continue with their displays of cooperative play and weapons take-aways and offer no fix or critique. Let those who get it and get it all to well be the ones who know- let the masses be the masses.


5th April 2003, 20:34
I don't disagree with you nathan, however, i am silghtly confused. Are you talking about attacks with knives, swords or are you talking about disarming. I'm just asking as almost all the techniques from Daito-ryu are from sword attacks. Are these simplistic, just training methods? Are you saying that these techniques would not work against skillfull sword attacks? Are you saying that skilled knife man V skilled unarmed man, the former will always win?

Regards :)

Dan Harden
6th April 2003, 12:00
Sam writes
I'm just asking as almost all the techniques from Daito-ryu are from sword attacks. Are these simplistic, just training methods? Are you saying that these techniques would not work against skillful sword attacks? Are you saying that skilled knife man V skilled unarmed man, the former will always win?

First off, you are incorrect about "almost all techniques from Daito ryu are from sword attacks." DR has several sections. These deal with varying intended attack forms inside and outside of buildings, captures, escaping from capture, Knife work, etc. There are a limited number for defense against sword and also from chops to the head.

Secondly, they are not simplistic, but are indeed stylized Kata. If you want to learn how to fight-you fight. Kata is Kata.
Third, no martial art can instill true fighting ability in you. Some people can fight- others cannot regardless of rank or time in. That's why you see so many inept martial artists and “technique junkies.” They know techniques of all types and put them in little boxes inside their heads. Make them think outside of their box and I have seen seasoned martial artists actually stall and go “tilt” on the floor.

Last, your points about sword and knife. There are no absolutes. Nathan was talking about able and qualified swordsman-not typical martial artists at the mall. Take an able fighter-put him up against a boob with a blade and anything can happen. I have been around a while and seen what passes for sword work in several Aikido dojo and Daito ryu dojo.
Anyone who thinks the majority of Aikido or Daito ryu teachers are able swordsmen needs to get out more. I doubt you will find the man who can unarmed take a live blade out of the hands of a competent swordsman without dying; before during or after their attempt. There are many men who do not fight with a sword as a stand up, wind up, Japanese doll. There are very viable Japanese sword styles that are quick, decisive and divisive to any body parts that would enter in. I think that Nathan would agree that you allow us to pick the swordsman and you are not going to see anyone of your choosing getting in to take it away. Heck, I would take that challenge any day of the week.

Knife fighting
Ever been in one?
Ever hear the room go dull while yur staring at one pointed at you?
The same qualifiers above apply here.
Who has the knife? Put it in the hands of some people I know and you're pretty much dead or in the hospital.
Typical Aikido or Daito ryu against it? Please.
Aikido against Aikido knife? Sure. But my wife could defend herself against what passes for some knife work I have seen. Typical Japanese knife work is really not a place you want to go to learn knife. There are far better things out there.

All of these add up to the post I entered above.
Who is seeing these things?
Who is judging?
Who is impressed with Sensei Johnny or Shihan Kato?
What has enabled them to judge anything related to heightened aggression?

Impressions and balance
I have several times impressed the hell out of a hall full of Budoka at seminars. Did it offer an ego boost to me or those with me? No. I wouldn't have given you a nickel for the collective martial opinions of every man and woman in that room. I could just as easily have shown how to take apart everything they just saw that impressed them in the first place.They should have been impressed with their collective ignorance and assumptions about what Martial arts are supposed to look like and are indeed sometimes limited too when placed in the hands of people who cannot see.

Unarmed sword take-aways express the same ignorance.
There is a discussion in the Daito ryu section of Aikido journal where a fellow just stated that taking a kknife away from some muffer could have been done easily. This is more martial art fantasy.


P.S. Often you will see a general disdain and dismissiveness for the martial arts from the public at large. I think it is well deserved.

Ron Tisdale
6th April 2003, 15:56
well, I didn't mean it to be cold Nathan... :) Just an observation. Look, the demonstrator in question is much better at what they do than I am at what I do. Lets be clear about that. Still, I think I would choose a different way to demonstrate what I do, knowing the risk involved in swinging wooden sticks around somewhat frenetically.

As to what makes a good demo, the last one I was invovled in showed quite a bit of "training methods", and the visiting instructors seemed to feel that it was quite a good demo. We wanted to give a fairly good representation of our training methods. That is, after all, what we do. We don't fight, we don't disarm swordsmen, we train. So in showing the public and the instructors that were there what we do, we thought it best to actually do...that. In the end, its worth what ever its worth to the people invovled.

Ron (no disrespect intended) Tisdale

PS. Good to see you back and in good form, Dan!

[combined two posts. NS]

6th April 2003, 16:56
As to what makes a good demo, the last one I was invovled in showed quite a bit of "training methods", and the visiting instructors seemed to feel that it was quite a good demo. We wanted to give a fairly good representation of our training methods. That is, after all, what we do. We don't fight, we don't disarm swordsmen, we train.

Great point Ron! I really wish more people would approach demos like that. I think it would go along way to furthering understanding and perhaps even a short way to checking some egos:-)


6th April 2003, 19:45
I'm everso sorry dan but those chops to the head you speak about...they are tanto or shoto attacks. That said, yes, most attacks in daito ryu are from sword, usually short.

Could you tell me where your knowledge of DR comes from. The sections of daito ryu are not split in the way you describe.

Yes, i have been in situations with knife attackers. And I've been in enough fights to know that your third point is spot on, and a sentiment i'm trying to convey on a DR thread on AJ.

For my interest could you tell me what DR Dojo you saw this swordwork, to my knowlege there aren't that many DR dojo around, outside of japan. I do agree, though, that a lot of Aikido Dojo do teach sword work which isn't as skillful as their aikido.

I practice Enshin-Ryu Iai, so i completely understand your point. What i was getting at was that sokaku takada, the "founder", for want of a better word, of DR was an established and skilled swordsman. So why would he learn, use, and teach the DR techniques against sword attacks if he though they were unrealistic?

Personally if your friend, who is a skilled knife man, confronted me with a knife, i would find the nearest heavy thing and bash him to death with it, i have no delusions. Use my jujutsu...only if it was necessary or the guy was obviously a pussy. :)

My two experiences with knifes are as follows. The first was when i was a bit younger, i was boxing at that time. some kiddy put a knife to my throat, for whatever reason. I grabbed his hand, moved off his line and smashed his hand against a fence post until he let go, and then i beat him up. The second time was a few months ago. 4 guys started on my friend and i stepped in to help. in the end 3 tried to punch me and i blocked all punches, which im quite proud of, took one of the guys out and as i was about to go for another one of his friends pulled out a knife. i stood there ready for him thinking "fu*k me i actually have to use real jujutsu" when my friend screamed at me to get out of the way, reason took over and i walked back. i stopped again with a macho "i'm gonna ave you" look and then again reason took over and i walked back a little more. The kid turned around, his mate got up and they walked off.

Sorry for those long winded little bits of my life explained, but it did seem as if you thought i was some inexperienced kid who shouldn't have the cheek to ask such questions.:) :)

EDITED - Sorry make that not most but many attacks in DR are from sword. In the first series 10 out of 30 are from sword attacks, i think there is more in sankajo. Any DR people able to correct that, elaborate, it would be much appreciated.

[combined two posts. NS]

Dan Harden
6th April 2003, 21:01
I don't think you are a kid with cheek-please don't take it that way.
And there are some 2,800 techniques in Daito ryu. You are only talking about the Hiden mokuroku. You are forgeting all the grabs, escapes, cross lapel chokes, (I did this one on Kondo the years of his first visit) rear grabs etc. Not to mention many of the seated techniques. There is much more to it then the first 118 techniques. There is much to the anti-arrest/seizure techniques that lead to many advanced aiki waza as well. If you one of the new guys working with Kondo Sensei you may not have seen these yet. There are other (legitimate) styles that have been in the states for over twenty years.


Brently Keen
6th April 2003, 21:56

I think what you said in your last several posts was well put, I have to agree.


Don't misunderstand what Dan was saying, he's been around DR for longer than most any of us on these boards. No one ever said that DR does not have techniques for dealing with sword attacks (that I recall) - it clearly does. But not all (or even most) of the techniques are tachi-dori waza. Although shomen uchi and yokomen uchi are said to represent sword attacks - not every technique practiced as such was designed or intended to be used against a swordsman to disarm him - that is a very dangerous assumption.

I think that Dan is well-aware of the close relationship between edged weapons and DR techniques. IOW I thnk Dan knows what he's talking about. However, regardless of what some teachers may try to tell people, if DR (or aikido) practitioners are not really familiar with, and do not practice weapons seriously, I don't think they can realistically have any idea about the true nature of the relationship between those weapons and the 'empty-hand' techniques of their tradition.

I understoood this thread to be about the demonstration of tachi-dori type techniques against poor unrealistic attacks of which no trained swordsman would ever make. I think Nathan's beef is with the presentation of "swordsmen" in demonstrations with such untrained skills, and then proceed to take away their weapons (often with equally dismal skills) in order to show the capabilities of the demonstrator and/or the "effectiveness" of the art is offensive to trained swordsmen. With that I whole-heartedly agree.

What I think many people fail to grasp and see (and just as many demonstrators fail to point out) is the purpose behind the technques and skills shown in their demos - are they showing training methods, actual tactics, techniques, kata, or drills and exercises? What's the real purpose of whatever it is they're showing? Is it to show how their school actually would fight, or just how they train, or teach? What are they teaching? How to disarm swordsmen? Self-defense? How to actually fight? Or how to avoid fighting? Or are they just teaching principles applicable to combat and/or life? How might a demonstration of such principles differ from the actual way that such conflicts and combat occur?

Why do we expect martial arts demonstrations to be so "realistic" anyway - are we that bloodthirsty? :saw:

On one hand, we have piss poor demonstrations of sword disarms by and of people who in all likelyhood have no real idea how to weild a sword properly much less effectively, and OTOH we have some who may give demonstrations of principles and/or skills - and still be criticized for being "unrealistic". Of course it's not real it's a demo, duh. That however, does not mean that the principles and skills shown, taught, and/or trained in by those practitioners are not real or at least realistically applicable to and valuable in real situations.

Like Dan, I've found myself in situations where I was demonstrating for a roomful of folks who had no idea how to even hold or swing a bokuto - one situation, I recall however did feature several guys experienced in Indonesian and Philipino knife styles as well as NHB style grapplers. Interesting to say the very least.


Dan Harden
6th April 2003, 23:23
Ditto Brently

Brently and Nathan know this story so I am going to forego naming names.
At a very famous Daito ryu gathering of all the schools (that was being filmed) a prominant Top-of-the-line higher up DR teacher started showing sword technique and take-aways. An equally famous particapant (a TSKSR man) berated all of them- saying in effect "You DR guys don't know sword." and instructed his students to get their swords and do a demonstration. It would be a mistake to think that there is a majority or even a small minority of people in the body arts who know anything resembling classical sword arts. While some do most don't spend the time at it. And don't think just because they are Japanese and teachers means anything. People like Saotome readily admit he made his two sword style up out of thin air. There are some EXTREMELY competent Daito ryu teachers in the states who will readily admit they are not swordsman. I know of a guy who I think puts me to shame with his DR but he would never face me with a sword willingly. While he is excellent in the one- he is learning the other. Body arts and sword are two different things for most schools. Not all-just most.
Lots of people own and play with swords in the Japanese arts. Yet Many people here who know better will tell you of the nonsense they have seen in many places. It can be pretty though.
Nathan has a very viable and excellent point to be made here in that it is highly improbable (I think it is neary impossible) to take the sword out of the hands of a competent adept. I would venture to place a few grand on the table to anyone who could take a live blade out of my hand without dying in the process or soon thereafter. The idea is silly and should not be considered credible.

Kata is kata and thats all.
A training tool

Hey Brently
Philipino knifework with Japanese jujutsu is a very good way to go!


Dan Harden
7th April 2003, 13:47
Ippon dori is an excellent example of training to understand Maai its place in timing, in understanding of the skeletal structure of an opponent and how to manipulate it-in fact it is a good first step in feeling invasive aiki on a small scale- and in your fist feeling of kuzushi; Daito ryu style.
You are a bit confused about who is doing what though. It is the Defender who is using the short sword to stab after he stops the the opponents cut at its theoretical inception- not the attacker. The idea is to stop the swordsman before he initiates an attack by stuffing the right arm and feeling that control the center line and double weight (a Yanagi term for a Daito ryu principle) his feet. It is where Ikkyo comes from in Aikido though Daito ryu effects the center line and shoulder differently than Aikido.
Nathan’s point is exquisitely demonstrated here. The kata affords an exaggerated opening for the defender and even then I have watched people struggle with its timing and manipulation.

Nathan’s point and mine
In real life I have never seen a swordsman cut like that. I could go into detail about where the Daito ryu guys feet are, where his weight is, and where his delivery of momentum is when he is supposedly offering that strike but I won't. From what I have seen, experienced and was taught it’s a cartoon cut for Kata purposes. Further, the style of sword I practice doesn’t even use that standard Kendo, Itto, Yagyu, style of out, arch, down, slice back. I cut with bent elbows and lever out and in. The whole premise of Ippond dori will not work against that style of cutting to begin with. Not that it would work on any of the other guys either.

Is there value then?
I do not practice ippon dori against chops. No one is allowed to Shomen or Yokomen in my Dojo unless we are practicing rote kata. Though I have been stabbed that way and had too many beer bottles and a Jack Daniels bottle used on me that way.
We use ippon Dori against boxing jabs and direct karate style punches and other things.
How? Practice, practice practice.
Why? real world.
The vectoring works in other things. You just need to do it- to know it. You cannot –of a sudden- switch and think you can make it work. It took us years of research. It works well in a freestyle boxing other direct punching forms, you just don't attack the arm the same way or even in the same vector. I would bet you dollars to donuts few could make it work because they don't see it or practice it that way.
So why is ippon dori so good then?
Lets look at sword work. When you practice sword you are engaging at a 5’-6’ distance. When we fight in kata and have to enter in to a killing maai it is done from a different distance or gap that we have to close and make work.
When we practice body arts-I feel like the guy is fight in front of or on top of me (2’-3’). It is too close for my mindseye and training safety range and thus it feels ridiculously easy to close with. In fact I have had that instant, closing, smothering, feel we instil in our people commented on by many. So it is with ippon dori. For those who do not know sword it is a practical way to learn how to close the distance in a Kata form used to disseminate that.

Other things
Think outside of the box and you will see the ippon dori mindset expressed without you (the defender) being in that ridiculous over-stretched position but rather being able to move up and body slam the opponent with other more advanced techniques

Overall if you perceive that you are learning an art that can take a sword away from competent swordsman you’re fooling yourself. Should we meet I would be happy to let you try with a Bokuto. Neither you nor Kondo could pull it off. True to Nathan’s scenario; you would be theoretically cut down.
Don’t take it personal though bud- we are just debating a point where we disagree. I submit this with respect for your view though I strongly contend with it.

Please realize that you are debating with guys who consider the sword their primary weapon/ art. We may see things you don't


Nathan Scott
7th April 2003, 21:30
[Post deleted by user]

Ellis Amdur
7th April 2003, 23:06
A lot of the tanto-jutsu in Japanese koryu is "weak" in that what people see in most ryu is an inadequately researched and developed (in the Edo period) innovation of tantojutsu that was a component of grappling.

In the Edo period, those who changed with the times didn't create something new - they augmented and innovated. Battlefield sword became dueling sword (Kogen-Itto-ryu, for example). They stood upright, made quick cuts at the wrists, but didn't take the next step and end up with a one-handed rapier, like the Europeans. In the same way, the tantojutsu, which was a component of grappling, on the ground or upright, became "knife fighting in kata," or "knife defense in kata." But unlike dueling sword styles, which had a lot of action, and also were researched in shinai-geikko, the tantojutsu of the Edo period was pretty rudimentary stuff - no longer the close-combat grappling of the Sengoku period, nor blade-on-blade fighting, as in Southeast Asian cultures. (One has to ask in an American context if the idea of training for "knife fighting" is as "impractical" as training for sword fighting. Not wrong - but both, I think, are a kind of koryu).

The older schools practiced knife work as a finishing stab (like the European misercorde - did I spell that correctly???) and in close combat situations, when one had dropped one's long weapon, gotten tied up close, or was taken unawares in a situation where one's usual weapons were not accessible. Elements of these methods of using the knife remain in the assassination techniques still used by the Japanese right wing - note the widely disseminated photo of the killing of Asanuma, the socialist vice-premier of Japan. If you can locate that photo, imagine tanto-dori against the kid in the student's uniform. In truth, tantodori against one using the methods of tantojutsu as they were developed in the period of combat is at least as difficult as tachi-dori.

A very enjoyable discussion.


Ellis Amdur

Nathan Scott
8th April 2003, 01:37
[Post deleted by user]

Ellis Amdur
8th April 2003, 02:32
This thread started out on a discussion emonodori, and what one is capable of accomplishing. The problems in understanding weaponry also apply to dealing with unarmed attacks in aikido (and perhaps Daito-ryu, but that's not my field). If I read Dan Harden correctly, the response of his dojo/ryu-ha, has been to study dealing with the most effective ways that a person can attack with the hand - a boxing jab, for example. In other words, keeping up with the times, and the best that the enemy can threaten with.

The problems in aiki-arts, regarding strikes, closely parallels that of tanto-jutsu. Kempo, in it's original form, was similar to tantojutsu - a pin - Knee-chest, for example, the enemy immobilized and then one or more strikes to a vulnerable area, precise and very hard. (In another thread on the AJ website, there was reference to Hisa of Daito-ryu, speaking about using the feet to crush or damage joints after a throw which is similar). The bulk of early kempo was part of ground-work. That's why the early jujutsu schools did stuff on the knees - it was not "hip-conditioning" or practice for inside the palace - it was a simulation of rolling on the ground in the heat of battle, formalized in that inimitable Japanese way. In the Edo-period, people practiced their jujutsu ryu, and wanted something "for the street." Among other things, they tried to enhance kempo skills by adapting strikes that really are downward strikes to kyusho in such things as a knee-chest pin, and doing them standing, in motion, from a separated ma-ai.

I think my thesis is proved by some of the fist formations, still retained in koryu jujutsu, that would be damaging to one's fingers, unless one were absolutely sure of the target because the head couldn't move - enemy pinned, in other words. If they shifted their head, and you hit the cranium, you wouldn't hurt them much/enough, and you'd hurt your hand.

In a lot of jujutsu ryu, these kind of attacks became the strikes that they countered with locks and such. Overhand and lateral strikes - yokomen and shomen. If, in fact, there were a lot of real fistfights (unlikely, because most people who had fighting skill - bushi and plebian alike, had some kind of edged-weapon) the strikes would have gotten a lot more sophisticated, as would footwork, etc.

Thus, when karate hit Japan in about 1920, it was a total revelation - among Funakoshi's first serious students were sumo-wrestlers, and Kano was also very interested.

In aikido, these jujutsu strikes were "philosophically blended" with the idea that aiki techniques are derived from sword, and hence you have shomen-uchi and yokomen-uchi.

BTW, a final point. Tsuki-kotegaeshi. Ostensibly a counter to a punch to the mid-section, a counter that makes every karateka roll their eyes. T. Dobson told me that Osensei expected a swinging - strike from the hip, sort of like the action one uses to bowl. The hand stays near the hip until the last second and then swings up, with perhaps a knuckle projecting under the ribs. It is my understanding that this is a simulation of a knife -attack. One technique of olden times was to carry a naked tanto in your kimono sleeve, hand-and-arm also tucked in, as we do with our hands in our pockets. You approach your unsuspecting enemy, the hand drops out of the sleeve, knife in hand, along the hip, and in synchrony with your stride, swings in at close range. In this attack, a close hand deflection, and twist of the hips into a "tenkan," spining away from an unexpected stab, makes some sense.


Ellis Amdur

Ted Howell
8th April 2003, 03:25
Amdur Sensei,

In response to your observations regarding Tsuki Kotegaeshi, this is one of the ways in which Kondo Sensei has demonstrated and explained such an attack. The hand is held slightly behind the hip as if hiding the knife and then the attack is a swinging or gutting (blade up) like motion. This motion is similar to that of the ateme found in Daito-ryu's Gyakuudedori where the strike to the opponent's chin comes from a blind angle. I guess it would make sense that O-Sensei would have a similar understanding of a surprise knife attack.

For what it's worth,

Ted Howell
Daito-ryu Study Group
Baltimore, Maryland

8th April 2003, 14:27
If you knew that the other person is going to try and take your sword away then of course it would be almost impossible to take it away. however if you don't know something is coming then this would change everything, and a disarm would be easier.
who is faster, the swordsman or the openhanded fighter? you have to raise into jodan, or up, if you are in a lower position, to make the cut. that is just enough time to move in and take the elbow. the only advantage the unarmed man has over someone armed with a sword is speed, they are that little bit faster(lets not get pedantic about this word compared with quick)
With regards to knives, weapons that can be used at the same speed as openhanded fighters, i would have to say that an advantage is gained by the armed man not knowing that the unarmed man is going to try and disarm him.:)

8th April 2003, 15:04
Hi Nathan,
First, this is a great thread you’ve started Nathan, it’s too bad I’ll be gone for the next two weeks to see how it unfolds.

Mr. Scott wrote:

"Kogeki" means attacking methods. "Emonodori" is what I believe DR uses to refer to weapon disarms and weapon retention practices. The subject of this thread allows discussion in grabs, punches, knives, swords, jo, spear, etc. Personally I happen to be most experienced in sword, which is why I'm focusing on this issue, and along those lines I am objecting to both the way the swords are handled and used as well as the techniques shown for disarming them. I was hoping that others more experienced/credentialed in the other kogeki methods would offer their point of view as well.

Allow me to comment on your observation and try to respond to a question posed by Mr. Peter Goldsbury, who had asked you “what would be a good aikido weapons demonstration for you, in the context of Aiki Expo.”

Generally, the thread is talking about those weapons with an edge (ha) and a particularly sharp one. There has been little mention on impact type weapons such as the jo, hanbo, tonfa/tuifa, rokushaku bo etc. I note this because many of these weapons are more susceptible to some of the defences previously described. This is not due to ma (distance); rather it is owed to the fact that there is no “edge.” BTW, hanbojutsu is the cognate weapons training at my jujutsu school.

Admittedly, the unarmed person who attempts to “bridge” the gap (ma) may get struck and even seriously injured. It is a mistake to believe that even an effective strike will stop the attack. In my many years of law enforcement, I’ve witnessed what appeared to be effective strikes and dealt more than a few of my own. Having travelled extensively and trained with many other riot squads, including training with an instructors from the Kidotai (riot police), this phenomenon is not unique. It is amazing the resilience that the human body has as well as what illicit drugs can do for it or sheer goal-oriented determination. Thus, kogeki waza (attacking techniques) of hanbojutsu ,at least in our school, tend to be combinations as well as controlling techniques. We also teach “retention techniques” and disarming techniques for the hanbo.

To answer the question about “realistic” demonstrations, or what would be a “good” weapons demonstration, IMHO this includes any properly executed defence against an “impact-type” weapon. In real life tori / nage may get hit but very possibly will still be able to execute a viable defence.

Finally, for the record,
1. I will still bet on well-trained hanbojutsu exponent over the unarmed person.
2. I defy an unarmed person to disarm me of my hanbo but I don’t hold the belief that she or he may not enter my chikai ma (close distance)
3. If a well-trained sword exponent and a well-trained hanbojutsu exponent meet in combat, look for bumps and bruises but bet on the sword!

As always, just my opinion

Frederick D. Smith

Ron Tisdale
8th April 2003, 15:59
Good posts all...


I think there is a critical difference between speed and timing. A person can have very fast reflexes, and yet not gain control over an opponent's movement, not move or enter with the correct timing to disrupt their attack, etc. I'd rather have timing than speed.

And as to what the unarmed person will do...If they don't run away, I'll assume they'll want my weapon. Since I'm trying to cut them and all, and they are unarmed. I just don't think there's any question that there are simply too many not very dramatic ways to cut someone with a 3 foot razor blade, and not let him have the razor blade to use on you in the process.

Nathan, you said:

With all due respect, unless there is a specific reason for demonstrating training methods at the exclusion of the "oyowaza" (applied techniques), I don't see what the point would be. At what point do you show "Aikido"? "Budo" is still considered to be a martial art, by definition at least, so focusing soley on training methods while not ever performing the techniques in which the training methods were devised to develop is contrary to logic. If you do perform/practice the applied techniques, then why not offer them at the end of your demo so that people can see what the end result of the training methods are? No offense intended Ron, just trying to follow your logic.

Please note that I said "quite a bit" and not "all" or even "most". Of course we demonstrated applied technique...but when it came to demonstrating weapons disarms, these "techniques" were not classified as techniques to be used to disarm a swordsman. They were classified explicitly as techniques to train to cover a wider distance with a different timing than you might face when training with someone without a bokken. So we demonstrate the method used to train the basic movements which enables us to dramatically control and throw an unarmed opponent, as well as the actual application. Is that more clear?

Ron (no offense taken :)) Tisdale

Ron Tisdale
8th April 2003, 17:14
thrust, slice, use the methods others have described here. I don't have to cut you in half, just slice a major vein or artery. That can be done very quickly, with little fuss, and without presenting major openings.

And from the history that I've read...samurai were sometimes just like anyone else when faced with the option...

Ron (lets see, die now, or run and kill opponent later...)Tisdale

Ellis Amdur
8th April 2003, 17:58
Because he's still alive (hopefully for many decades more), I'm not going to use his name, but the original question has been raised before.

With considerable laughter, the man, himself, told me what follows:

The guy, an older Aikikai shihan, in a meeting the shihan have once a year, with 2nd Doshu presiding, suddenly spoke up and said that he felt that they should cut down if not discontinue the emonodori. He stated that being as it was a national demonstration, there were surely members of the audience who were trained in sword and other weapons, and he felt it would be seen as insulting to them, as well as the general audience, to do things that can't really be done.

He said there was absolutely dead silence in the room. And then someone simply changed the subject. Laughing, he told me that after the meeting, Saito Sensei, of all people, came up to him and said, "Yoku itte kuremashita" - (Thanks for saying what should be said). To this day, I've wondered if Saito Sensei thought himself exempt from the general criticism, or he was conceding something he knew to be true.

Frederick Smith does make a good point about sticks however. (Remember Rodney King?) I've been cracked on the head a few times with wooden weapons, (with the exception of one momentary knockout, each time I saw stars as well as heard that indescribable SNAP sound inside your skull), but have kept on moving.

I am not saying that a staff or stick, used properly cannot end a person's fight or life. Simply noting that there is a greater possibility of doing something than against an edged weapon, even taking a blow and getting a bone fracture, but in the process, getting close enough to grapple. (On the other hand, an EMT friend has gone on a number of calls after fights, and he has said in most cases, the person stabbed with the knife is bleeding, but talking, whereas those who meet a baseball bat are mostly pulp.)


Ellis Amdur

Earl Hartman
8th April 2003, 19:02
I normally don't post on this thread, but I saw Ellis' name, and since his posts are always educational, regardless of the subject under discussion, I thought I would drop in. An interesting thread.

As I have mentioned before, when I lived in Japan I paracticed Nagao Ryu Taijutsu for a couple of years and learned the first 24 forms. While there are no disarms as such, as I recall, many of these techniques are unarmed defense against a man with a weapon, usually a sword. So, I thought that the perspective of Nagao Ryu as presented by my teacher (and as well as I remember it after all these years) might be of some interest.

To make a long story short, my sensei said that, basically, if the guy has got his weapon out and has had time to take a kamae against you, you are pretty much hosed, and the best thing to do is to run away (as I recall, his tongue was only slightly in his cheek when he said this). However, if that is not an option, then the ONLY way to defend yourself is to stake everything on a "sutemi" defense.

However, this is ABSOLUTELY NOT done with the INTENTION of disarming him. The intention is only to render him hors de combat absolutely as quickly as is humanly possible. The absolutely best thing to do, if possible, is to prevent him from drawing his weapon at all, and there are a number of techniques for this. This is to be preferred over any other option (well, duh, I hear you say).

However, if he has managed to get his weapon out, the only way to protect yourself is, as he attacks, to instantly close the distance and get in under his blade. Needless to say, this requires the rawest kind of courage and the most impeccable timing. This depends, ultimately, on the ability to sense what is called in Nagao Ryu the "kizashi", or the unmistakable signs of impending attack. (I am sure this must be true for any art and that each art has its own way of describing this critical moment.) It is only when the swordsman has fully committed to an attack that the unarmed man has even the slightest chance.

Now, this is not to say that such a technique will always be successful. But my sensei said that entertaining the idea that you can dance and avoid and then get his weapon away from him is a really good way to get youself killed pretty much instantaneously.

Essentially, in Nagao Ryu, you either 1) prevent him from drawing his weapon at all by closing the ma-ai and disrupting his movement, or 2) as he attacks, close the distance instantaneously and control his weapon hand. However, this is not the heart of the technique, really; the entering is always accompanied by an atemi, usually a finger in the eyes.

Anyway, it all depends on 1) the timing of the entering, 2) the angle of the entering, 3) a successful atemi attack, 4) closing that ma-ai to a distance where the enemy cannot use his weapon, and 5) always controlling the weapon hand. If even one of these are unsuccessful, you will certainly be killed if the guy is even minimally competent.

8th April 2003, 19:12
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
...note the widely disseminated photo of the killing of Asanuma, the socialist vice-premier of Japan. If you can locate that photo

Ellis Amdur

DOZO: http://balder.prohosting.com/jerryku/asanuma/

Ron Tisdale
8th April 2003, 19:17
Hi Sam (I smiled when I read your sig),

I'm almost willing to do a Dan...and offer money to you if you can avoid a thrust without getting sliced when you do so. A simple turn of the wrist, and even if you got to the side, you are still getting cut. But I'm a total clutz with a sword, so will leave the bets to Dan. I also think Earl summed it up pretty well.

Ron Tisdale

Nathan Scott
8th April 2003, 21:23
[Post deleted by user]

Earl Hartman
8th April 2003, 21:50

Nagao Ryu absolutely will NOT work if the unarmed man tries to approach the swordsman to attempt to grab him in some way. It must be timed at the last possible moment when the swordsman is in the midst of his attack or in the act of attempting to draw his sword. There is no other time when a good swordsman is at all vulnerable against an unarmed man, it seems to me. If you don't get your finger in his eye at once and get him on the ground a split-second later, you are a dead man.

Also, Nagao Ryu does not attack the wrist. It controls the weapon HAND (a very different thing) in a manner that, properly done, does not allow the swordsman to release his weapon or do any aiki-style wrist maneuvers (whatever it is you call those twisty-twirly things you guys do). There are also techniques to control the elbow of the sword arm to prevent the draw. Real Nagao Ryu requires a very strong grip; my teacher had a grip like a vice, and once he got his hands on you it was pretty much all over. Hurt too damn much to think about much of anything.

Anyway, like any of this stuff, Nagao Ryu is all courage, timing, and angle of attack. In that sense, it is not particularly special, perhaps; and in any case I can't imagine any fighting art that is not based on that fundamental concept, however it may be expressed in specific techniques.

But I know what you mean about people who are unimpressed with real techniques since they don't look "cool". Nagao Ryu is nothing much to look at, and most techniques are over very quickly. In any case, if the guy has got a sword and knows how to use it life or death is determined in the first second, and if you miss your shot, you can kiss your ass goodbye, pretty much.

Howard Quick
8th April 2003, 23:35
Not to jodan but at least up above the head
Jodan is above the head (high section).

yea you could slice upwards but i'm thinking they would get out the way until the swordsman did raise above his head.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble Sam, but there is no way you could get out of the way. Whether it be moving backwards, forwards or to one side or the other. Oh! And as for 'cartwheels' which I've seen performed as sword evasion techniques; have you seen the way a salami gets cut as it is put through a meat slicer at the deli :eek:

The last time I was in the U.S at the Honbu dojo, Obata Kaiso demonstrated to me some defences against a person trying to disarm a 'competent' swordsman. He had me going at him from all angles in any manner I liked. There is absolutely no way I could get to him or his sword (I guess he'd been reading a similar thread to this one somewhere and was trying to proove a point....which he did very convincingly).
As for a recommended type of weapon defence demonstration at a demo. Why do people seem to insist on using traditional weapons to attack?
Is it the whole 'it's a Japanese art, therefore only Japanese weapons can be used'?
I don't know about you guys but, I've never been attacked with a sword, kusarigama, hanbo, rokushakubo, 'ninja-claws', etc.
It's always been slightly more modern weapons such as bottles, garden/tree stakes(the night club I worked at made the mistake of landscaping the front garden/entrance area and staking the trees with 6' long 1.5" square garden stakes. They were used on a number of times and caused some horrific injuries, from broken bones to massive cuts), knives, cricket bats(baseball bats) etc.
A very popular weapon in Europe is a car, C/B antenna. They can be slipped down the back of a jacket and drawn out very quickly. They not only cause percussive injuries but also cut very nicely. Also, as they're black, they're almost impossible to see(particularly at night.
Why not use these weapons in demonstrations?
Are people afraid there art wouldn't look authentic/Japanese enough?
I attended the 'Aiki-Expo' last year(not especially, I just wanted to go to Vegas) and I was extremely disappointed in the amount of (don't anyone get your feathers ruffled) bull$%^t attacks with all sorts of weapons. I'm a Jujutsu practitioner so it didn't reflect too seriously on what I practice, however there were also alot of disappointed 'Aiki' practitioners present. Actually, to totally contradict myself, it reflects badly on all arts!

9th April 2003, 03:17
This has been an excellent discussion. Way to go Nathan!

I always simply thought of such things as bullshido, tending to confirm the lack of understanding of combative realism in the training and outlook of the demonstrating teachers and practitioners, and overall insulting to anyone with a modicum of actual experience with violence involving edged weapons, let alone skilled swordsmen!

I would only add this, from the springboard of Ellis' comments. I am of a similar belief regarding the short blade work of the Japanese grappling arts - the early stuff, anyway - in what are generally grappling encounters finished with one or the other gaining superiority in position (standing or on the ground) and using the blade to finish....

I feel this far more relevant, when trained realistically, to the actual situations one would encounter in a close engagement with a knife wielding assailant. Certainly more relevant than are the popular "knife duelling" systems that seem to have a better reputation as blade arts, and which have enjoyed a lot of popularity in military and police combatives circles (which incidentally appears to be waning).

I am privy both personally and through fellow officers to exeriences and accounts of numerous edged weapons incidents that occur in our fair city on a regular basis.

Most often, such assaults occur at very close quarters, and in a fashion where one party is not immediately aware that the other is armed. A recent incident involving two females started as a standing tussle in which one got the better of the other. The second (on the losing end) drew a knife from a back pocket and re-engaged, and then the first took her in a head lock to administer some more punishment.

The second simply repeatedly punched the knife into the back of the head and neck of the girl holding her in a lock. It took a number of stabs for her to even realize she was being stabbed, and after bystanders took the knife from the hands of the second, the first, now incensed that she had been stabbed, took the second to the ground for some good ol' fashioned ground and pound.

Now all sorts of second guessing can occur here, but the fact is knife encounters in the real world are typically at grappling ranges and occur suddenly and dynamically and with little preparation time. There is none of the standing off and knife-sparring or knife-duelling that is found in the dueling oriented arts, or the standing off and waiting for the attack so the disarm can be neatly done in the more stylistic and theoretical martial arts applications, some Japanese as well. Stabbings are often done by complete surprise (which junior did to daddy in another recent local incident) or by group attack where one or two buddies hold the stabbee while the stabber goes to town (yet another encounter recently documented). "Knife fights" usually mean one guy brought a knife to the fist fight. If Mr. A draws his knife you can bet most often it will be wet before Mr. B can draw his so a "fair" fight can commence.

Tactical options, which I think Nathan mentioned, while they won't have much relevance to non-professionals will be pretty much as Nathan lays out - a very close quarter incident in which a major weapon is somehow out of commision and a sidearm besides the knife is not available (say, due to an awkward position on the ground). This is why many tactical operators will wear an edged weapon on the vest - utility purposes first, but as a readily accessible backup weapon if the long gun goes down and the handgun is for whatever reason not accessible.

All of these are situations addressed appropriately in some of the Japanese arts that involve grappling with edged weapons. Things like what Earl talked about with the Nagao-ryu - fouling the draw or initiating the response before or while the weapon is being drawn are realistic options to actual edged weapons encounters, and the type of thing that should be trained well before any tanto-dori style stuff is considered. A sword in the mix would make it that much worse.

I think that perhaps the reason why they are not considered "good knife work" in light of other blade arts is because of the way they are trained, not because of the weakness of the tactics in the situations for which they were designed.


Kit LeBlanc

9th April 2003, 13:11

Not to jodan but raised so there is room to enter in. And No way? how much do you weigh mate?:D why cartwheels why not RUN away Dive Dodge whatever it bloody takes. don't be silly!!! cartwheels my ar*e

Do you honestly think that no swordsman has ever been beaten by someone who is unarmed. If you think it has then you think it's possible. therefore there is no no way about it.

Howard Quick
9th April 2003, 20:55
Sorry Sam,
We'll have to agree to disagree. I don't believe there would be anyone in history who would have defeated a 'competent' swordsman in the situation of 'unarmed against sword'. If you put the best Jujutsu practitioner up against the best sword-art practitioner...the sword guy will win every time!
My primary art is Jujutsu, a very realistic form of Jujutsu which I have been practicing for almost 20 years. Therefore I understand about distancing, timing, smothering an attack etc, but I hold no delusions about my abilities.
However I also study the art of Shinkendo, a very realistic, dynamic form of swordsmanship. I promise you, there is absolutely no way you would get close to me if I was brandishing my shinken, or for that matter a bokuto. Simply, with the shinken things would be severed. With the bokuto, things would be broken!
As for the cartwheels thing, that was not directed at you. I was simply stating another ludicrous form of defence against a sword which I have seen(actually have on tape) performed and taught by a so called 'Japanese Master' of Jujutsu.
As for weight, I don't see what that has to do with anything but, I weigh in at about 240lbs.

Ellis Amdur
9th April 2003, 21:54
In concrete support of what Howard Quick writes, it was very common (Araki-ryu being one example) for the mokuroku of the oldest grappling schools to divide it up in several sections. Terminology may differ, but in Araki-ryu's case, (like many others), it is Torite (taking hand) and Kogusoku (literally "light armour" - (Takenouchi-ryu also uses this term to refer to the dagger they use). Torite forms essentially have the STRONGER person win - you can be in the stronger position, you practice taking the initiative, opponent is on the ground as you run towards him, etc. Kogusoku forms, the ancestor of what is usually considered jujutsu, are COUNTERS, where the ostensibly weaker defeats the stronger. In the oldest schools, this was usually unarmed against knife (used like described in K. LeBlanc's post) or sometimes short- sword against long in close grappling range. The Araki-ryu lines I am aware of had NO empty-hand against unsheathed sword forms. What I was rather explicitly taught was, in the kogusoku forms, the Uke, if trained, will win. But this (the kata) is the best you can do under the circumstances - perhaps they aren't skilled, perhaps they are wounded or for some reason the attack is inept, perhaps the stars are in line. This is the best you can do but expect to die. How else to regard a form where, for example, the uke is straddling the prone tori and drives a dagger at his throat with body-weight behind it, or you are on your knees, the enemy behind you, with the dagger's edge against your throat, a hand on the hilt, and the other one encircling to brace the back of the blade?

What people "outside" don't understand is that a sword is NOT slower than the empty-handed individual, or the one with the shorter weapon. For example, in my line of ARaki-ryu, we were handed down three forms of Ryofundo (short weighted chain/manrikigusari) used against sword. After many years, I've made an executive decision to change these forms to chain against short sword. The latter is an intriguing and challenging training situation, where the chain has enough opportunities for success that the short-sword is threatened. It's not equal, but there's a "fight." Against a long-sword? I discontinued that practice because it was as impossible as the situation faced by the Fedayeen in Iraq, some of whom, as a Marine captain was quoted as saying, "They have balls. I'll give them that." He went on to say that with the difference of firepower, all it was getting them was dead.

To underscore, I'm fairly well-trained in Japanese weaponry. I have some understanding of what a sword can do, and what a chain can do. A chain is certainly a LOT better than empty handed. (Another subject, but surely true, unless you are fighting in a blackberry thicket). Yet against my own students, in free-style practice, I never beat any of them, with a weighted short chain against a sword. Nor have they beaten me in the reverse. Against a short sword, it has happened enough times to make it a valid practice. Against a dagger, it is equal enough to be very very scary and therefore truly challenges one to hone one's ability on either side.

The principals Earl cites from Nagao-ryu described to "fight" a swordsman are correct. Therefore, concerned about the possibility of same, one trained one's reflexes so that if escape wasn't possible, one did one's best. But I view it the same way I view my options were I to fall off a 100 foot building. I'd do better to fall in a parachute tuck-and-roll, I believe, but my expectation is that I would die.

With respect

Ellis Amdur

Earl Hartman
9th April 2003, 22:44
Apropos of all this, for some reason reading Ellis' post reminded me of the single occasion I have actually used a Nagao Ryu technique in a non-scripted situation.

I came home one day to find my 16-year old son messing around with my fukuro shinai. He hurriedly tried to put it away as if I had caught him with a copy of Huslter, but I told him that it wasn't a problem, he could play with it.

Before I knew it, he was sizing me up, getting ready to take a whack at me (he is 16, after all, and he kind of has it in for the old man like most kids his age). I could see from the look in his eye that he was actually going to try to hit me. I immediately took a right hanmi stance and looked him straight in the eye, waiting. He continued to twirl the sinai around, looking for his shot.

Suddenly he tried to hit me with a straght overhead cut, and as the blade descended, I immediately closed and attacked and controlled his weapon hand with my right hand, circled around in back of him and took him down. The blade didn't even graze me; I had successfully entered into a maai where it was useless. He immediately tapped out. The whole thing had taken less than 10 seconds from square-off to tap-out.

Of course, he has no experience with a sword (except for the short time I dragged him to kendo, vainly hoping he would get interested in it), so I am under no illusions I could do this against a trained swordsman, who would probably have the sense to try to stick me as opposed to raise the sword above his head from such a close distance. (That was his undoing; if he had attacked from a further maai he probably would have gotten me.) Still, it was fun.

10th April 2003, 17:38
Originally posted by Sam17

does anyone know of a situation where the unarmed man won?

Perhaps not only unarmed, but unhanded.

There is a tale of a sword master (his name escapes me at present) who had his hand cut off at the outset of a duel. His opponent then stood laughing at his vanquished (or so he thought) victim; bloodied but unbowed, the master proceeded to rush his opponent and firmly stuffed the bloody stump of his arm into the open mouth, stopping both the laughter and his opponent's breath, with fatal consequences.

Not quite a takeaway, to be sure, but a compelling demonstration of what other posters have pointed out as a need to definitively end any engagement with edged weapons. And I'm sure one of them knows this notable's name as well.

Fred Little

Cady Goldfield
10th April 2003, 18:13
Good story, Fred. Actually, it kind of reminded me of the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail ("Come back here! I'll bite your legs off!") :D

If you find the source of the story (the swordmaster one, not Monty Python), would you mind posting it here? I'd like to use it as reference. Thanks.

Story notwithstanding, I have to agree with Ellis that most of us would expect to die under the circumstances. While still maintaining utmost confidence in our skills, of course. ;)

Howard Quick
10th April 2003, 20:44
I don't mean to be inflammatory but this pretty much sums it up!

By all accounts i know almost nothing about using a sword, but the cuts i have seen are usually done by raising up first.

Cuts can be made from any angle you can imagine, and probably alot you cannot. There is also the issue of multiple cuts. If the first one misses or only wounds you, you will certainly be finished by the second or third or fourth or...so on.

And this would be the certain outcome of any unarmed attempt at defending yourself against a 'competent' swordsman.

Sam (die now) Roberts

Fred, nice story.
I guess the laughing swordsman couldn't breathe through his nose:rolleyes:
I think you could be pretty certain this is just a story/fairy tale.
And yes, I am a cynic!;)

12th April 2003, 19:54
I have read some of the above posts talking about how impossible it is to take away swords from swords men and how the techniques are unrealistic and there fore would not have been used in reality. Before we disregard these techniques as worthless lets bear a few things in mind.

1) I have read how some people have failed on many occasions to take swords away from their friends. The thing is that unlike the Japanese warriors they were probably not brought up by practicing martial arts every day of their life. Or maybe they are simply doing something wrong. Just because you cant do it it doesnt mean no one else can.

2) These sword disarm techniques exist in many schools including Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Bokuden Ryu, Gyokko Ryu, Shinden Koto Ryu Karate Koppojutsu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, Asayama Ichiden Ryu, Togakure Ryu etc. Do you think they were put there for the sake of it. No. They were put there because samurai were allowed to cut you down if they felt like it. Therefore one practiced these techniques as a means of survival. Incidently sword disarms also appear in medieval western martial arts.

3) Warriors often wore armour and so this may have aided in blade disaming techniques. It was also the last thig that a samurai expected when a warrior suddenly leaped in and took their sword away. The element of suprise may have been on their side. This happened to me once when i was held up at knife point. I struck the robber with a technique called Kappi. He was so shocked that he not only fell over but did not continue his attack. He was later arrested.

4) Knowing the dynamics of the Japanese sword also helps in disarming the sword as do Kuden. Mouth to mouth teachings that are taught to students by masters only when they are ready. These teaching contain the real secrets to making these techniques work. Its a little like being able to drive a car but not being able to read the road signs. Doesnt matter at what speed you can drive, pretty soon your gonna end up dead.

Please remember thatse techniques evolved over many hundreds if not thousands of years lets treat them with respect. And if you cant do them find a master who can teach you and then spend the reat of your life practicing them.

Gary Arthur.

13th April 2003, 10:24
No one stated it was impossible, just improbable. There are disarms/immobilization technique in Kodokan Judo, as well, and Kano did include them in the syllabus. That doesn't make them any less improbable, just possible, if even a sliver of hope. Besides, I thought Earl gave the two absolute possibilities and explained them well-enough that most who have practiced unarmed against armed understand the relation to the reality of such a thing.


Nathan Scott
15th April 2003, 20:07
[Post deleted by user]

Earl Hartman
15th April 2003, 21:05

Yeah, I'm watching Musashi. It's pretty funny. Typical romance story, with dashing, driven hero, damsel in distress, etc. What's especially funny is watching all of the scenery chewing. The guy playing Musashi is especially bad. It's kind of like the director TOLD everybody to overact and that he would cut their pay if they didn't nail every cliche in the book in every scene. Still, it's fun.

I think an unarmed man could have a chance against a swordsman if the respective difference in skill were great enough and the swordsman were stupid enough to feel safe just becasue he has a sword and the other guy doesn't. It is also within the realm of possibility that if the unarmed man has a better enough grasp of strategy than the other that he could lure the sworsdman into attacking in the manner he wants. However, this is all speculation.

The thing is that in training in these techniques, one must assume the worst-case scenario, not the best one. That is a given. Therefore, one must ASSUME that the enemy is an expert swordsman and that you have only one shot at coming out alive, and a very, very slim one at that. Only if you are prepared for ai-uchi can any of these techniques work, I think. Therefore, since I think it is the rare man that is really prepared for that, I think that in almost all cases the unarmed guy is going to lose.

Also, just to clarify again, in Nagao Ryu (at least in my experience) the unarmed man is not going to initiate an attack against the man with the sword in the sense of actually physically striking first (although there are attacks from behind, usually "yuki-zure" type stuff where you just drop the guy without a warning). I know it sounds odd, but it is necessary for the swordsman to have initiated his attack, or at least clearly decided on an immediate course of action (the "kizashi") for the techniques to work. If the unarmed man makes a mistake in judging this timing, he will certainly be killed. But again, that's the same with any technique.

Nathan Scott
16th April 2003, 00:37
[Post deleted by user]

Earl Hartman
16th April 2003, 00:48
Yeah, Otsu is kinda cute, if a little cross-eyed. If you want to see a REALLY gorgeous Otsu, rent "Sword of Fury". Musashi is played by Takashi Hideki, one of the better chanbara actors, Sasaki Kojiro is played by Tamiya Jiro, also pretty good (he committed suicide a number of years ago), and Otsu is played by Matsuzaka Keiko, who, when she was in her prime, was one of my candidates for MBWITU (Most Beautiful Woman In The Universe). I saw her in a TV drama recently, and even in her 50s she's still a beautiful woman.

I agree with you on tachidori in general. However, like I said, the object in Nagao Ryu is not specifically to disarm the enemy, it is to take him down and not get killed in the process. And, once again, you cannot try to take the sword away from him, he has to attack you first. And, yes, if the guy knows what he is doing the chances are you are going to get killed.

Re Yagyu Shinkage Ryu mutodori, I have had it done to me in practice, but that is in a kata situation and was intended to show me that my maai was too close. Also, significantly, the other fellow has a sword. Other than that, I really don't know. I figure what was shown on TV (and, yes, I knew that was why you brought it up) was just for the drama. But you'd have to ask Meik, and I figure he won't tell.

16th April 2003, 15:12

Ron Tisdale
16th April 2003, 15:22
Sam, how the heck do you come to that conclusion (a)? Nathan would probably kick most of the butts (sans weapons) in this forum...have you ever SEEN him do empty hand? Do you have a clue who his teacher IS?

Ron (sheesh) Tisdale

16th April 2003, 15:49

To come to the conclusion that most of the 'sword people' on this forum have no clue about unarmed techniques, based mainly on the fact that they disagree with you, is a completely ludicrous statement that has no solid foundation or support for such a claim. Bear in mind this is the aikijujutsu forum, and for the most part (as a generalization) most of those who are commenting here on the sword, have just as much experience, if not more, with unarmed techniques, as they do with the sword.

To use two examples, Sensei's Nathan Scott and Howard Quick. (using them as examples because I can't speak for anyone else) They are both just as adept at various unarmed aiki and jujutsu techniques, as they are at swordsmanship, and have been training in their respective arts for years.

Those speaking do not necessarilly have a bias towards one art or the other, but, we may assume, are just as knowledgable with both, and therefore are able to competently analyze the two, and in general, have an understanding of what the potential outcome would be were the two matched up. Also bear in mind that no one has stated outright that it's completely impossible. There are many different factors and dynamics that could cause any sort of outcome between an unarmed opponent and a sword weilding attacker. But for the most part, it is highly improbable that an unarmed defender, irrespective of their technical proficiency, would have any luck in disarming a competent swordsman.

When you say that "MOST UNARMED MARTIAL ARTISTS HAVE ABOUT THE SAME KNOWLEDGE OF THE SWORD" are you referring to unarmed martial artists as compared to one another, or unarmed martial artists compared to actual swordsman? If it is the latter, I must assume that you are completely ignorant to all the dynamics involved with the sword, and have no grounds with which to make such a statement.

No one REALLY knows how things would turn out on a battlefield, given all the different aspects that come into play. (adrenaline, rage, fear, ground and weather conditions, etc.) but we are able to ascertain some sort of clue based on practicle applications. As Ron Tisdale stated, do you even know whom Nathan Scott's teacher is? He is a personal deshi of Kaiso Obata Toshishiro. Nathan is a very competent martial artist, unarmed and armed, within his respected arts. If he couldn't disarm Obata Sensei when using a fukuro shinai, or whatever type it was, while Obata Sensei was smiling and laughing basically....what makes you think it could be done if Obata Sensei, with his caliber of swordsmanship, had every intention of killing him with a shinken?

Perhaps we're all just short of your enlightenment, and things will change when we all reach 'jushichi-dan'. But to make the assertions you have made, towards the people who are commenting in this thread, is completely disrespectful, completely groundless, and completely ignorant.

Blessings, Uriah W. Nielson

Nathan Scott
16th April 2003, 18:41
[Post deleted by user]

Neal Hinerman
16th April 2003, 22:21
Given that the vast majority of the posters on this thread agree that techniques for separating a swordsman from his weapon are good for a quick trip to visit your ancestors, how does everyone feel about the time honored technique of Jotori?

Neal Hinerman

The 2 Secrets To Success

1. Don't Tell Everything You Know.

17th April 2003, 02:37
I also am part of the Yudansha kobu jitsu karate doh federation with sensei smith. And sensei I completly agree with ma ai if your distance is to far your vunerable to thrusts with the katana,wakasashi,tachi,tanto and if your to close your open to knee strikes or other concealed weapons for disarming it can be very complicated because at the range you have to be for a de arm you are already to close for confort PLEASE KEEP IN MIND TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN THAT I AM ONLY A BROWN BELT AND MY KNOWLEDGE IS VERY VERY VERY VERY LIMITED

domo arigato goziumusu

17th April 2003, 06:45
my god calm down it will do no one any good to be offensive, especially when you are a thousand miles away and cannot back up your mouth. i think it's a good idea to be as civilized as possible on the internet, uriah.

First of all i meant no disrespect to nathan, i don't know him and have never seen him. my comment was a general one and did not include everyone. It has been said many times on this thread that most of the taijutsu people are outsiders and their lack of knowledge with a sword is the reason for them believing that these techniques would work. However, when i made the comment that the reason for sword people thinking they wouldn't work is because of their lack of knowledge concerning empty hand techniques everyone blew up. (you might say it's a case of calling the kettle black) So Ron, (a) is ridiculous but (b) isn't, why not?

I personally think that this tread has been concluded. It is possible to disarm a swordsman, Sokaku takada and O-sensei are examples, however it is improbable that it would happen. Howard seemed to think that it would never happen and has never happened, my point was that it is possible and it has been done before.

Dan Harden
17th April 2003, 13:13

I think people are being calm. You are mistaking their answers for anger. I think you will find it is far more a dismissive attitude and not anger-which in my book is worse. Most would not even bother to reply to such statements as you make.
While you acknowledge your lack of experience in the matter -you do not appreciate who you are talking to. Some here would find it amusing that you think we do not have an understanding of jujutsu and weapons. You are talking to people with decades of experience in both.
Secondly, your opinions here will be judged on the information and words you type-as well as your attitude. While everyone is entitled to an opinion you may have to pardon us for dismissing yours due to the way you present. As an example I can say that in our brief exchange your arguments were ill-thought out and lacking accurate information. We don't know you and from out of the gate you are back peddling on statements of techniques you clearly do not know first hand, you challenged my experience and knowledge to correct your misinformed statements along with my corrections and then back peddled and agreed with me! You are arguing with people we know who "have the stuff" and have had the the stuff for years. Just now you are responding to people who clearly have a more in depth knowledge than you with words like like "can't back up your mouth." Statements like these are not condusive to communication-which is the currency here. Please argue your opinion and leave it at that. If you wish to communicate WITH and not rant AT people-you might consider just who and how many are telling you you're off base. Or you can be like many here-and just leave with the opinions you obviously came in with-and learn nothing in the exchange.
As for backing things up? Well, I did more than that didn't I? I offered two grand for you to take a live blade out of my hands. While I do not entertain this type of nonsense often- I have had great success in setting certain martial artists "beliefs" in order in the past. You will find I am faaaar more rude than Ellis or Nathan. You are welcome any day.

I haven't had time to respond. I have some thoughts on your reply and I'll get to it. This is yet another case in point on my arguments about the new internet expert though isn't it?
I love the open debate forum though. It is always fun to see the equivelant of TKD teenage mall rats or erstwhile newbies (no Sam- not you) argue Japanese weapons with Ellis. A great commercial break from my work day. It would be fun to here Meik argue Naginata with a kid from New Jersey.


Cady Goldfield
17th April 2003, 18:02
Originally posted by Sam17
I would love to challenge you, dan, at any price, to do ippondori against one of my boxing jabs. in fact you can have as many attempts as you want.:cool:

Oh, Sam. I would be very careful of what I ask for, if I were you.

BTW, I happen to be a highly skilled puncher -- boxing jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts -- I do it all, and have been punching (and studying the science of punching) for nearly 3 decades. I also happen to train with Dan. At his request, I punch at Dan with full power, fast and accurate punches that have made knockouts on opponents over the years.

Wish I had a photograph of my arms the first time I trained with Dan, 5 years ago, and had asked him to show me how "his arts" dealt with punches. Wish I had a photo of the look on my face, too. Although I have the next best thing to photos -- the memories of Dan and my dojomates as they gleefully recount that day and what I looked like after my first encounter.


You know, it's very easy for you to be a bigmouth on your side of the pond. Do you think that people like Dan and Nathan haven't had their fill of challengers and smarta$$es who don't have the wisdom to respect those with greater experience?

Instead of insulting your seniors and betters, why not just be an earnest seeker. A little humility really doesn't hurt.

Ron Tisdale
17th April 2003, 19:08
Originally posted by Sam17
my god calm down it will do no one any good to be offensive, especially when you are a thousand miles away and cannot back up your mouth. i think it's a good idea to be as civilized as possible on the internet, uriah.

No one seems to be excited or uncivil here...or offensive. If you took offense, I suggest you look to your own motivations. Take note, for instance, that you posted in all caps, known as "shouting" on the internet. People often consider ***that*** rude.


However, when i made the comment that the reason for sword people thinking they wouldn't work is because of their lack of knowledge concerning empty hand techniques everyone blew up. (you might say it's a case of calling the kettle black) So Ron, (a) is ridiculous but (b) isn't, why not?

We simply called you on a ridiculous statement. (b) is not ridiculous, because it is a fact. The people here however (particularly Nathan and quite a few others, are exceptions to these rules. Your lack of familiarity suggests that you have not taken the time to familiarize yourself to a new environment...a weakness no martial artist should be guilty of.

I personally think that this tread has been concluded. It is possible to disarm a swordsman, Sokaku takada and O-sensei are examples, however it is improbable that it would happen. Howard seemed to think that it would never happen and has never happened, my point was that it is possible and it has been done before.
Are they? Has it? Can you provide references for where this has occured in a combat situation, as opposed to a demo situation?

Ron Tisdale

17th April 2003, 19:38
"Sokaku used ippondori to pin the bandit on the left who had drawn his broadsword intending to kill him"
there is more but i don't think i would be allowed to post it
this is from an article on aikido journal (Sokaku Takada biography 8)

18th April 2003, 17:35
Whew! Took awhile to read through all that.

Anyway, just wanted to add a comment related to Earl's posts.

As is pretty clear from Ippon dori, however unlikely or unrealistic against a real sword, nage must wait for the attacker to be committed to slicing him down before he can move in to take it away. Any attempt to move in before a committed attack is a 100% loser. During one day of training in Japan with Kondo sensei, he moved us back against a wall and pulled out a bokken to practice ippon dori. At least he probably found the practice humorous. We couldn't do anything. Then he pulls out one of those cheap aluminum blades, assures us it isn't sharp, and then makes another point by stabbing the point of the sword through a cabinet door or something (forgive me, here, for not remembering exactly what he stabbed. I just remember the stabbing and the congenial grin he was wearing).
Well, the ippon dori practice was even worse than with the bokken.

Then he pulls out a wooden tanto. I committed to the disarm and before I had even entered fully he "stabbed" the back of my hand. I guess that was just a love tap to show me it could have been my throat, or anywhere else he wanted.

Anyway, I agree with Earl that if you absolutely have to disarm such an opponent, the only feasible way (aside from some kind of trickery: sand in the eyes, etc.), is to wait for the attacker to commit fully, and pray your timing is good enough.

Also, as for jodan sword cuts. In the style I study, there are armored and unarmored versions. The older, armored versions do not have jodan cuts because with the heavy armor, and especially if one is wearing a helmet, you can't efficiently raise your arms over your head to perform such a cut. Instead, the cuts are done from hasso, jun, gyaku, etc., etc. The jodan cuts are only practiced in the unarmored versions - and the target areas change as well.

Good thread everyone,
Best regards,
Arman Partamian

Nathan Scott
18th April 2003, 19:29
[Post deleted by user]

18th April 2003, 21:21
Sorry about that nathan i didn't know whether i could post all of it as some at the end were just for members. i thought that was a good example, one person had a sword and the other didn't. the conditions weren't perfect for the man with the sword but why should they be. i love that story as well, mate f.in excellent

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaha i have found it by golly.
"One summer night a group of men, whose master had been defeated by ittosai, attempted to assassinate him...ittosai...managed to take one of the assassins swords"
(The Shambhala Guide to Kendo)

I will start another thread regarding ippondori to a boxing punch only with Dan's permission


22nd April 2003, 00:03
This is a very interesting topic, with alot of good information....though there seems to be an air of Aikido bashing...not saying it's intended...just that the mood is there.

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion..and I personally like different points of view...how else can one learn?

I would like to say though that I personally know someone who had an encounter with an atacker who weilded a knife. He currently holds the rank of Godan in our style of Aikido. The person who attacked him with the knife wound up stabbing himself several times....once was in the eye.

I will say that this individual was on drugs..and was not to my knowledge experienced in knife fighting....but there has to be some merrit to anyone who 1.) can even survive being attacked by someone weilding a weapon. and 2.) coming out unharmed.

Not all Aikido is alike.....there are a few styles out their that known when to give up something that doesn't work. Teaching it for tradition sake can even be dangerous in my opinion...cause you mimic what you know. As for disarming a person with a weapon...not very likely. Hopefully you are aware enough to keep yourself out of possible situations like that...and if you do get into one....run away....and if you can't....don't just stand there. Move!!

Not too insightfull...but I wanted to say something.


PS. My prior comment was from a cursory overview of the topic....I retract my statement about Aikido bashing..to some extent...

[combined two posts. NS]

matt little
23rd April 2003, 04:40
I am hopping on this thread kind of late, haven't had much time for the internet lately. I had an observation to offer, which by no means is meant to be contrary to the general consensus already reached-that tantodori and tachidori waza represent an extremely bad situation for nage to be in. I have studied FMA, JKD, and Karate prior to taking up Aikido, and agree wholeheartedly about the lack of realism prevalent in Uke's attacks in most Aikido practice. I can claim no great knowledge of Kenjutsu, but also agree that Tachidori as commonly practiced is a dismal situation for nage at best. My take on this is a bit different though. I teach firearms and defensive tactics for a major police department, and spend a respectable amount of time on retention and disarming of firearms. This time is not spent because an unarmed officer has any sort of realistic chance against even a semi-skilled shooter at any sort of distance, but because combat is fluid and unpredictable, and all kinds of interesting and improbable things can happen when multiple combatants come together at close range (also because people in hostage situations [yeah, cops can get taken hostage too] often point guns at you in ranges WAY too close for gunplay and give you orders rather than shoot you-but that's a different scenario). I envision tachidori as being something that occurs in a tsuba-zerai (spelling?) sort of clinch between two swordsmen, or when the swordsmans maai is all messed up for whatever reason when he engages you, perhaps because more than just two people are involved in the conflict or perhaps for environmental reasons. Just as I have no doubt that facing Ken Good from 20 feet and telling him I'll take his pistol away will get me shot (no doubt repeatedly in a nice tight shot group), I am sure that attempting tachidori against, say, Kuroda Sensei will get me eviscerated. However, I still train weapons disarms against both sidearm and long gun because in the chaos of CGC the necessity may arise. By the same rational, I think tachidori and tantodori have value as long as we realize that realistically speaking possible practical applications are extremely limited indeed.

Nathan Scott
23rd April 2003, 07:15
[Post deleted by user]

23rd April 2003, 14:53
I’m not sure, but I think, maybe, that when people imagine these techniques being applied, or not as the case may be, they see it as a stand off between swordsman and unarmed man. However, I don’t think the techniques were intended for this type of situation, which you would have to stupid to get yourself into in the first place. Usually in this situation, a stand off, both opponents would have their swords, weapons. Generally the only times when an armed man would become unarmed is either in the palace or if his opponent(s) have come in close enough to take it or force it off of him, or if he is taken by surprise. In these instances, excluding the exception of palace, a skirmish will take place. In this type of circumstance it is easier to apply the techniques. Notice easier not easy. I think this is what they were intended for, the skirmish, not the stand off. In a stand off situation the unarmed man should be armed in the first place. In the palace only short sword were allowed to be worn, not by everyone, though, and it is, again not easy but, easier to disarm someone wielding a short sword, where they must act quick and will probably only have one chance at the attack.


Nathan Scott
23rd April 2003, 18:32
[Post deleted by user]

24th April 2003, 19:18
Originally posted by Sam17
Sam (things that make you go “what the f**k”) Roberts


Well golly gee, here's one more:

I know that 1) it's a long, expensive flight out to the left coast where Nathan is located and 2) I can understand that you might want to work your way up to the big boys with a tune-up match or two as you test your theory.

Please allow me to offer my own tiny measure of unranked raggedy ass assistance.

Plane fare from London to Newark is pretty low and I'm about thirty minutes by train away from the airport. We can set you up in a university dorm room for about $20/night if you fly over in the summer. Get the right ticket from a charter-jobber and we could bring the project in at under $200.

Unlike a number of the individuals who have written careful and thoughtful replies to your assertions, I can make no claim to any ranking in AJJ, kenjutsu, or any other koryu art, magical or mundane, although in the interest of fairness, I should let you know that I did worked in restaurants for long enough to learn the difference between a cleaver and a boning knife and I may even still have my old Boy Scout Tote 'n' Chip badge tucked away in a shoe box somewhere. The things a lad will do in order to earn the right to carry a pocketknife and a hatchet at summer camp.....

But that was long ago, and on this occasion, I'll happily stick with a fukuro shinai. You are welcome to try to take it away with any AJJ or other emptyhand technique you care to attempt. I WOULD suggest that you bring a kendo men and throat protection, because mentsuki is a legitimate attack and I wouldn't want you to get hurt in what is intended as a friendly experiment. I'm betting Rodizio Dinner in the Ironbound -- that's all the Portugese-style grilled meat you can eat for one low, low price -- you can't average one out of ten on a hundred attacks. Make it easy on yourself...fifty attacks.

We videotape the whole thing, get somebody from the CIS department with a codec in his back pocket to do the video conversion and post the mpg files on the web.

Maybe Ron would drive up from Pennsylvania to referee! I'll buy him the short-sleeve button down ring judge's shirt and a REAL BOWTIE (not one of those cheap-ass clipons) so he looks PROFESSIONAL in the video, and I'm sure we can find someone to do a first-rate Michael Buffer impersonation to kick things off. OK, maybe a second-rate Buffer imitation is more likely....

Sound silly? Certainly no more silly than a continued series of "can not!" "can too!" "can not" "can too" when the guy shouting "can too" doesn't seem to realize just whose sound advice he has dismissed out of hand.

Fred "my apologies to all for beating this dead horse once again, but it just won't keep its head down, I just can't help myself sometimes and no, Matt and I are not related as far as I know" Little

Ellis Amdur
25th April 2003, 02:38
I just read today the following from K. Ueshiba's bio of his father:

The founder didn't try to teach me and as a child I had only "played" in the dojo. I had been practicing kendo and Kashima Shinto-ryu classical sword work, though, since the later grades of elementary school. But in middle school, I began to consider the art seriously and to devote myself to aikido. Perhaps part of the delay was a teenager's contrariness toward his parents, but I was not exactly into sword work (kenjutsu). Now he started swinging the sword frequently for his own research, especially after aikido started dealing with empty-handed techniques against weapon attacks. He remained convinced that the secret principle of the martial arts was to be found in the empty-handed natural stance and for him the sword was seen as unified with and an extension of one's body. Aikido remained the ultimate budo. Yet, he felt that a person who did not know correct sword work was incomplete in his martial arts training so students were allowed to practice with the sword.

Apropos to this discussion, Ueshiba didn't learn emonodori, or even much kenjutsu, from his previous teachers (Takeda, mostly), but developed it as a means of practice that, as far as aikido is concerned, he created himself as a means of study.

That said, for the "historical record". . . . .

Nathan -
This thread was, for a time, one of the best I've followed in e-budo. One of the things I dislike most about e-budo is not the stupid threads - that's mostly what one expects on-line - but it is when we are fortunate enough to have a consistently intelligence exchange of ideas, that, even there, it usually tails off with people making either a series of stupid, adolescent jokes, or what this has degenerated into - young Sam, with a little book reading and a lot of imagination just has to prove he is right, and keeps posting new fantasies. It has become a "dominance-hierarchy" game for the boy - if he can pick apart a post and find something to disagree with, he is "winning." Knowledge be damned in the process.

Not that I have any entitlement in the matter, but I would smile greatly were you to
1) Close the thread
2) Cut a number of the posts so that we actually could archive a thread worth preserving - with the valuable input of a number of seasoned individuals.

Thereby, a thread of uncommon worth might be preserved with some integrity.

Ellis Amdur

Cady Goldfield
25th April 2003, 03:02
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
Apropos to this discussion, Ueshiba didn't learn emonodori, or even much kenjutsu, from his previous teachers (Takeda, mostly), but developed it as a means of practice that, as far as aikido is concerned, he created himself as a means of study.

That is an interesting point. Given the aikiken I have seen, in comparison to koryu kenjutsu, it makes sense. The kenjutsu I know attacks at specific vectors and angles that, were you to practice empty handed, would be the same you'd use to "cut" and control joints and other particular targets in jujutsu.

In that case, "ken" came before "te," and the hands, body and mind operated as though with a sword.

The movements of aikiken -- at least that which I have observed -- don't have either the angles/vectors or the mindset that accompany kenjutsu or it's empty-hand extension, jujutsu (that sounds paradoxical! How can empty hands be an "extension" of ken?). The idea of Ueshiba creating sword exercises after developing his aikido movements makes a lot of sense. In this case "te" came before "ken," yes? Sword becomes an "extension" of what already exists as "empty hand," and is being used for something other than sword's original intent to cut.

I've read that in recent years, Saotome has developed his own system of aikiken exercises to assist in the inculcation and understanding of aikido movements as he interprets them.

P Goldsbury
25th April 2003, 05:08
Originally posted by Cady Goldfield

That is an interesting point. Given the aikiken I have seen, in comparison to koryu kenjutsu, it makes sense. The kenjutsu I know attacks at specific vectors and angles that, were you to practice empty handed, would be the same you'd use to "cut" and control joints and other particular targets in jujutsu.

In that case, "ken" came before "te," and the hands, body and mind operated as though with a sword.

The movements of aikiken -- at least that which I have observed -- don't have either the angles/vectors or the mindset that accompany kenjutsu or it's empty-hand extension, jujutsu (that sounds paradoxical! How can empty hands be an "extension" of ken?). The idea of Ueshiba creating sword exercises after developing his aikido movements makes a lot of sense. In this case "te" came before "ken," yes? Sword becomes an "extension" of what already exists as "empty hand," and is being used for something other than sword's original intent to cut.

I've read that in recent years, Saotome has developed his own system of aikiken exercises to assist in the inculcation and understanding of aikido movements as he interprets them.

Yes, this is very plausible, but I am not quite sure about it. I agree that (1) Ueshiba appears to have studied weapons as he went along and nothing resembling a theory appeared until his Iwama period (and the actual theory appears to be as much the work of K Ueshiba and M Saito as from M Ueshiba himself); (2) he did not actually 'teach' weapons, or even taijutsu, as far as I can see. In fact, M. Ueshiba seems to be interesting example of Shaw's famous adage: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" (except perhaps that the last part is unfair to many postwar aikido shihan).

However, the explanations in "Budo Renshu" (1933), reproduced in the 1938 "Budo" book, seem to me to show a very close awareness of the relationship between the taijutsu practised at the time and the weapons that Ueshiba was familiar with. Ueshiba himself did not write the explanations, but both books obviously had his imprimatur. It is perhaps anathema to say so, but the two persons who were M Ueshiba's main partners in his Kobukan and Iwama weapons training (K Ueshiba and M Saito) were not weapons experts in their own right, unlike some of the other students in the Kobukan.

In this connection, the late R Shirata's attitude to weapons is interesting. When Shirata resumed training and teaching after the war, he also trained with the bokken and jo, but the reason seems to have been that M Saito had already set a precedent in the Tohoku region, where Shirata lived. In the volume entitled "Misogi", which commemorates an anniversary of the Tohoku Federation and which was presented as a gift at Shirata Sensei's funeral, there is a complex jo kata (I suspect similar to M Ueshiba's earlier jo exercises), but no ken.

Anyway, your observations have stimulated some more research on this matter and it so happens that Hiroshi Tada has announced that he will teach weapons on his next visit to Hiroshima. Tada Sensei's demonstrations are always a sight to see, and usually include the Aikikai staple of weapons-taking. (So don't close the thread yet.) Ellis, what was H Tada like when you trained at the Hombu?

Finally, I wonder if any research has been done on the development of koryu weapons systems from, say, later Muromachi till around the Meiji Restoration. I am thinking particularly of what one might call 'kata-rization': the degree to which battlefield conditions or principles have been enshrined in kata and then have developed as such, with less and less reference to the conditions from which they originated. Starting from the general premiss that all martial arts are artificial to some degree, I wonder if there have been any studies of the extent to which this artificiality has become a distinct tendency, overlaid, perhaps, with a 'spiritual' superstructure.

Best regards to all,

Ellis Amdur
25th April 2003, 05:46
My sentiment still holds, however, regarding letting the thread degenerate into an unpleasant whine.

That said, given that we have some new life here:

1) when the first Int. Aikido Federation get-together happened, in either 76 or 77 - I can't remember - (I've got some lovely stories to tell about that whole circus) - but anyway,
Shirata sensei presented a class - and no one knew who he was. He was simply marvelous, but regarding our discussion, he took a bokken and did some simple movements, to show his interpretation of shihonage, and then said, in a mock apology, "I'm sorry I can't show you more impressive sword, but when I studied with Osensei, he hadn't invented it yet."

2) I never saw Tada-sensei do work with weapons. Almost every class I remember with him was a ryote-mochi grab. He had a startling precision and power, as well as a combination of intensity and dignity. Within the aikido corpus of techniques, I would say that the way he executed technique would offer a "better chance" to get not only close, but were he to get ahold of the tsuka, it would have been in the right place, with the right line up of body weight. (no, I'm not going back on what I've said previously - I'm saying that the way he did things would be the right way to "try," no other option available, in the nearly impossible position of trying to fight an expert with a weapon empty-handed.)

Never once did I see him injure a student, but he always "could." He remains one of the directions in study that I have some regrets not following.

Ellis Amdur

Nathan Scott
25th April 2003, 07:23
[Post deleted by user]

25th April 2003, 17:28
It is interesting that Shirata sensei has come up. I will be seeing my local Shirata student this afternoon so I’ll check, but I seem to remember him saying that Shirata had sword from elsewhere. The stuff they do seems different from some of the other aikido sword, but I’m not all that familiar with it.
I do understand that Shirata sensei had strong opinions about many things, but was very loyal to the Ueshiba family.

Greg Jennings
25th April 2003, 19:03
Thank you for leaving the thread open. The end has taken a little different direction, but one that connects quite a few dots for me.

OT: A quick "Thank You!" to all the senior folks that are contributing. Being out here in the budo wilderness, the forums are very much my extended dojo.

Best Regards,

25th April 2003, 20:49
Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
I've read that in recent years, Saotome has developed his own system of aikiken exercises to assist in the inculcation and understanding of aikido movements as he interprets them.

Cady --

His explanation has been that he organized his memories of the spontaneous weapons teaching given by the Founder.

The two-sword work has been explicitly presented as a tool to develop appropriate kamae.

With regard to the one-sword work which appears in "The Sword of Aikido" videotape/dvd, I have my own perspective based on my own experiences of learning the basic forms from several different senior students at different times and places, who themselves learned them at differing times and places and at differing stages of development. This leads me to regard each of the kumitachi as a "basic shape" which can generate alternative scenarios depending on the habits and reactions of one's partner, rather than as something more concrete. And sometimes I see a variation and think "ah, version 1.7!"

The first major point cross reference is that the "system" is composed of basic suburi, paired "ken-awase" exercises, and 15 kumitachi. Dr. Goldsbury can correct me if I'm off base linguistically, but my understanding is that "kumitachi" ("matched swords")has a very different flavor than "kata" ("form"). Kata are generally very tightly scripted. As exercises, kumitachi may be considered more of an experimental situation in which one can study the effect of particular changes in timing, dynamics, ma-ai, etc. etc.
A number of likely variations on basic forms are presented in the tape as well.


Everybody wants to do forms, few people are interested in doing lots of suburi or many repetitions of the awase exercises. Even fewer are interested in doing the very, very slow variations of these that connect directly with kokyu practice. This leads a lot of folks to fast-forward the videotape and skip the fundamentals. I indulged a group of students who felt this way a few years back. The result was empty sword-dancing. As dance, it was sorta pretty in its way if the sun was shining and everything went right, but basically, it was worthless and didn't even approach good amateur dance in its internal integrity. One odd move from aite and the whole form fell apart. So I gave up on that approach.

On the other hand, I've found practice of the suburi and awase -- with a controlled setting and a baseline of agreed upon timing -- to be quite instructive, particularly if my partner and I trust each other enough to start introducing modifications to the speed, distance, and even/uneven pulse of the practice. Since I moved to working primarily this way, it is my experience that a student who doesn't stick around long enough to make it through the basic 5-6 forms but has done a lot of this kind of work has a) less of a delusion that s/he knows what to do with a sword and b) a much more solidly grounded physical sense of what to do with a sword.


Just as a series of "standard variations" on a number of the kumitachi is presented on the tape, anybody who works with one or another of the individuals who learned these directly from Saotome Sensei will quickly find that each deviation from good basics in form, timing, or spacing will leave an opening that can (and will) be exploited. This makes the practice alive in a way that simply reproducing a videotape is not. The qualities of aliveness and connection that are developed in this sort of practice are an essential element of (dare I say it) "aiki" as we practice it.

In relation to the ostensible subject of the thread, tachidori against someone who has simply "learned the forms" is relatively easy in comparison with someone who has "practiced the kumitachi."

The latter case is an exercise in ego deconstruction, even when (maybe even especially when) the partner with the sword uses it as a deft slicer rather than a crude bludgeon. "Dead again.....and again....and again"

A serious discussion with your partner about what s/he "read" that enabled the deadly adjustment is useful in working through our self-betraying gestures like habitual grimaces, eyebrow lifts, preliminary steps, etcetera.


In both cases, the suburi, awase, and kumitachi are occasions to study these more fundamental things; my experience is that this is how this material has been presented to me.


A significant number of Saotome Sensei's senior students have sought out other instruction in sword. I don't doubt for a second that this has informed their aikiken in a number of ways.

Offered in the hope that the above actually sheds a bit of light,

Fred Little

26th April 2003, 07:57
OK, stuff I found out about Shirata sensei and sword.

His Misogi no Jo and Misogi no Ken were by his own admission his own creations.

His family were samurai and his father and grandfather encouraged an early start by building him a kendo dojo at a young age. Later he turned to judo where he excelled due to his size. I wasn’t clear about whether his family had an association with any sword styles.

At the Kobukan he was part of the group that did kendo (organized by Ueshiba’s adopted son who’s name I forget).

Went with Ueshiba to the Toyama school to teach (may have attended the Toyama school himself). Was an officer in Manchuria.

Opinion of my source is that Shirata’s jo shows some similarities with Iwama jo, but the sword is different.

Ernesto Lemke
26th April 2003, 14:34
I have followed this thread with great interest and as the name of Shirata Sensei was brought up, am even more interested. It so happens I have written an essay on his life, an unauthorized biography more or less.

Firstly, to comment on Peter Goldbury’s statement on Shirata Sensei’s jo as described in the book “Misogi”, it is my understanding that there IS a misogi no ken in the book next to misogi no jo. Perhaps you can check that Peter, it’s either on page 50 or page 53.

Mr. Walker, might I inquire to the name of your source? If not publicly perhaps you are willing to send me a private e-mail at ernestolemke@hotmail.com ? Any new leads to new information on Shirata Sensei hold my interest though I suspect I probably know your source. Well, that is.
Regarding your post, my own findings regarding history are similar. A lot of “perhapses” and “maybees” concerning possible family sword influences or exposure to the Kashima Shinto-ryu instructors but no facts whatsoever. I could share factual information of the similarities between Shirata Sensei’s jo vs. that of Saito Sensei’s but you’d have to be familiar with both systems. I’d estimate at least 90% is identical though I would add in basal form only.

Now as for his sword work, that’s directly based on O-Sensei’s teachings but was his personal systemization….

“He [Ueshiba Sensei] did not teach us the sword directly. He practiced by himself. We learned the sword by watching him.” (Aikido Masters page 168).

Off course, his study under Nakakura Sensei who led the kendo department inside the Kobukan would have been of influence in some way or another. To be sure, Shirata Sensei’s ken curriculum, which is quite elaborate, is unique when compared to other aiki-ken systems in aikido circles, at least to my knowledge. It is basically a solo kata system, partner practices are few. The riai in this specific curriculum is evident though a great number of movements are still quite puzzling to me. It seems these are kata that were formulated in order to fixate O-Sensei’s pre-war experimentation. Whether there is more to it then just that seems unsure at this time. Sword experts such as Meik Skoss hold Shirata Sensei’s skill in high regard so it’s not like he was merely trying to have a carbon copy of the movements. The naming of misogi no ken would tell you as much.

For what it’s worth.

Best regards,

Ernesto Lemke

P Goldsbury
27th April 2003, 00:35
Originally posted by Ernesto Lemke
I have followed this thread with great interest and as the name of Shirata Sensei was brought up, am even more interested. It so happens I have written an essay on his life, an unauthorized biography more or less.

Firstly, to comment on Peter Goldbury’s statement on Shirata Sensei’s jo as described in the book “Misogi, it is my understanding that there IS a misogi no ken in the book next to misogi no jo. Perhaps you can check that Peter, it’s either on page 50 or page 53.

For what it’s worth.

Best regards,

Ernesto Lemke

Hello Ernesto,

Alas, the dangers of relying exclusively on memory! I found the book in question and checked. Yes, you are right. Apologies for the error.

The section on Misogi no Ken is on pp.53-55 of the book and is preceded by Misogi no Jo. Detailed explanations of the kata (I suppose you could call them--they are solo exercises) are given in Japanese. The contribution of Morihiro Saito in the same volume covers the 20 suburi and the 31-count jo kata.

I think it is doubtful whether these exercises can throw any light on the previous question, namely, whether M Ueshiba himself considered weapons training as a later extension of his taijutsu. Obviously not as a complete system, as in e.g., kashima shinto ryu, but as a blend of several influences.

Best regards,

Dan Harden
27th April 2003, 07:57
I have been in D.C all week and just got back. Were I to have been present I would have been hesitent to add anything else. My own thoughts regarding the new internet "verbiage experts" have been stated. Ellis's observations about a "dominance-hierarchy" with the attending "pick-a-post-apart" mentality echo my own....

Thread drift comments
I haven't been impressed by Aiki-weapons-including the Iwama weapons. In my minds eye they are just sort of "wrong" in shape, approach, and mindset to what I know. But hey..thats me. They work with Aikido real well and thats what they are about after all. They are not meant to be classical weapons.
Those who know me know I am not a general fan of what Aikido has become-But I have maintained that we could be seeing a whole new revolution of the art through the people involved. It could be interesting to watch.

Old and new
There are any number of guys who got serious weapons elsewhere and included some of it in their Aikido. There are current adepts doing just that right now. It will be interesting to see what it does to Aikido movement theory-though I would guess it will never be anything more than a case-by-case study -who knows.Thus my comments above.


Saotome stated he made his Nito work up out of whole cloth. At least thats what I read in his own words.


27th April 2003, 21:34
Originally posted by Dan Harden Fred

Saotome stated he made his Nito work up out of whole cloth. At least thats what I read in his own words.



Not exactly the phrasing I would use, but if I had been being a bit more careful, I would have said:

Saotome Sensei's explanation has been that, in developing the single sword kumitachi, he organized his memories of the spontaneous weapons teaching given by the Founder.

The two-sword work has been explicitly presented as a tool Saotome Sensei himself developed to model appropriate kamae and aikido movement. [/B]

If you can recall, please let me know which interview/article you're citing, as I don't recall having seen it, and would be interested in what he saw fit to commit to print about the two-sword sets.

More generally, based on some of your previous posts, it sounds as if my observation about the difference in end result between memorizing movement vs. studying basics and forms isn't solely a gendai phenomenon, and just as distinctions between the aikido of organization x vs. organization y are less meaningful than individual x and individual y, the same is true with koryu vs. gendai comparisons.



Nathan Scott
15th July 2003, 00:34
[Post deleted by user]

Mike B. Johnson
15th July 2003, 17:05

I'm getting into this conversation late but have a couple of questions.

On the Expo tapes I have, Sensei Threadgill of the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu demonstated several sword disarms. His teacher Takamura Sensei was a very accomplished swordsman. I know this to be a fact because I attended a sword seminar of his once and was very impressed. I can't remember the particular style associated with his swordwork but it was very fast and slick.

During the demo I couldn't help notice that likewise, Sensei Threadgill appears to be quite adept with a sword as well. Some of the disarms he performed looked pretty plausable to me while others were stretching it to say the least. Interestingly during the same demo he also performed several kata where an empty handed opponent tried to disarm the swordsman, was countered and cut down. I personally thought this balanced out this demo.

My question is, could disarms be practised for different reasons than is obvious. And, in all classical jujutsu systems wouldn't disarms obviously be a part of the curriculum?

As this thread moved along I got confused as to where it was headed. Nathan, was you point that all sword disarms are a silly waste of time or that crummy swordsmanship mixed with disarms was inappropriate in demos and insulting to adept swordsmen?

Personally, the goofiest thing i saw was an aikidoka using a machete in the demo. What was that about?

Nathan Scott
15th July 2003, 19:32
[Post deleted by user]

Mike B. Johnson
16th July 2003, 00:28
Mr Scott,

The following is an e-mail I sent to Sensei Threadgill. He promptly replied with the answer I posted below.


Dear Mr Threadgill

An interesting discussion has been going on over at e-budo concerning tachi dori techniques and whether they are practical or not. Mr Nathan Scott has offered his opinions as have several others. Since you performed some of these techniques at the Aiki Expo last year I was wondering if you could offer any insights on them as they are related to Shindo Yoshin ryu and its reputation as being unusually practical?

Also mentioned in the discussion was whether anyone unarmed had ever actually disarmed a swordsman in a duel.

If you don't mind I would like to post your response on e-budo as Nathan Scott actually encouraged me to seek your opinion and report back.


Mike Johnson


Sensei Threadgill's reply:


"Hello Mike,

Nice to hear from you again.

So Nathan sent you to seek me out...lol...hummm.

(He's a sneaky guy.)

Actually, I scanned that thread over on E-budo you mentioned several days ago. It ‘s nice to see such a decent exchange of ideas for a change.

Buki Kumiuchi......... That’s a complicated topic. Actually I remember discussing these kata you mentioned with both Nathan Scott and Ellis Amdur at the Expo last year. If I remember correctly, we were all on the same page concerning this subject.

First lets qualify this discussion shall we. I hope no one seriously thinks a adept swordsman is just going to let some unarmed guy take their sword away. As a swordsman myself I can say that an unarmed opponent attempting to remove my sword from my hand would probably experience a very disappointing afternoon and afterlife.

However....Lets also consider how just one element of potentially many might change the scenario. That element is armor.

If the swordsman was cutting at an unarmed but even lightly armored opponent the possibilities could change a lot. Body positioning could be used to take advantage of the protection offered by the armor so that the unarmed man could close the distance and apply a kaeshiwaza. This experience, while no walk in the park probably did occur from time to time during a battlefield melee. But this begs another question. Why practise these kata and techniquies if unarmored? What value beyond simple preservation of technique exists in these practises?

In our ryuha training with weapons adds perspective. It allows us to examine the what for’s and why’s of techniques. Weapon disarms actually take a back seat to weapon retention in our study. By investigating how a disarm might be applied we are able to study how to apply the weapons advantage in different ways. Takamura Sensei frequently expressed his opinion that Nihon Jujutsu’s roots were more likely related to weapon retention and mutually armed grappling than disarming anyway. Lets face it. If you were roaming around weaponless on a fuedal Japanese battlefield you probably didn’t live long enough to spit.

This past weekend I taught a seminar in Portland OR. One of the attendees was a police officer I have corresponded with for several years. This very subject came up. I reiterated our Ryuha’s study of weapon retention in a discussion with him. I explained that it is the theory of movement and physical dynamics during weapon retention that are important here. Technical exection although important must be driven first by theory to be adequately understood. As an individual with no experience in police work, all I can responsibly offer him is theory and basic technical direction. It is his utilization of the theory and examination of technique based on that theory that will possibly be of value to him. It is these theories that are reinforced thru the various weapon kata we study in TSYR

Another reason we practise weapon disarms and retention is that they instill a higher level of situational stress into the training. Takamura Sensei felt that dealing with bladed weapons presented an especially frightening element of seriousness to the training. Of course if approached improperly such training can encourage an almost delusional level of security when confronting a weapon. Takamura Sensei enthusiastically embraced several methods of training that effectively discouraged this false sense of security. The most obvious was that our steel weapons be sharp and our wooden weapons be swung hard.

Toby Threadgill / Kaicho
Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai

( BTW. Concerning an actual unarmed disarming of a swordsman. Takamura Sensei knew aikido's Tadashi Abe quite well. He was supposably challenged by a rapier master in France who witnessed him performing aikido tachi dori techniques. The story as Takamura told it was that Abe Sensei was successfull in disarming the rapier master but he lost part of his ear in the process since the rapier was very sharp. I don't know if this story is mythologized or not. Perhaps someone could ask Stan Pranin over at AJ what he knows about this incident.)

Nathan Scott
16th July 2003, 01:57
[Post deleted by user]

25th July 2003, 15:42

Another typical use of jujutsu by warriors was when a high-ranking warrior was attacked by one of lower status. In such a case, even if the low-ranked warrior, an ashigaru (foot soldier, the lowest level of bushi) for example, were to attack, say, a general, with a drawn sword, it would have been unseemly for the higher officer to use a weapon against such a common person; thus warriors also needed to be able to control and subdue such opponents in a manner befitting their status

Nathan Scott
25th July 2003, 20:11
[Post deleted by user]

Ellis Amdur
26th July 2003, 12:31
Szczepan -

The quote, for those who haven't read it before, is from one of Donn Draeger's books. I think this is one of the times that Donn violated his own precepts - that the martial art scholar should have "etic and emic" knowledge. (I always forget which is which, but one means book learning and the other practical). Had Donn referred to his own practical knowledge, I don't believe he could have written that with a straight face - (Actually, had he accurately considered Japanese history, he couldn't have written it either - so his was neither practical nor well-read historian at that moment - merely carelessly reproducing a myth).

The bushi were an officer class in sengoku period. The ashigaru were the grunts - and they actually had far more experience in the trenches, so to speak, than the officers. That is not to say that there weren't lots of combat hardened lieutenants and captains, then, just as there are now. But the idea that there was such a vast gulf between lower and higher ranks that a bushi could so easily defeat the armed farmer/warrior is highly unlikely.

Donn's statement is hung up on a lot of historical realities, as well.

1) In the Edo period, when bushi had greatest access to ryu training, they usually were defeated by farmers in initial clashes in farmer revolts - the latter using hoes and rakes. They bushi would retreat to castles, get out the stored muskets and decimate the farmers at a distance. (This is common knowledge in Japanese junior high history textbooks - it just doesn't make it to romanticized English language martial arts writing)

2) A consideration of the actual curriculum of ryu show a fair number of unarmed vs. tanto kata, which are taught at a fairly advanced level. They end with the disarming of the attacker, and then, in the older ryu, those closer to the period where such encounters actually occurred, with the killing of the attacker with his own weapon. The disarms into pins without a finishing blow are mid-to-late edo, and are self-defense tactics in ryu that were practiced as much by non-bushi as samurai.

As for disarms of long weapons, they are usually a gokui technique - with only one or two kata, this was obviously considered a very unlikely occurence.

3) This was the same period of history where the bushi had a right to kiritsute-gomen ("the right to cut down commoners because I don't like their face, their smell, their behavior, etc.). It probably was not that common - loss of temper being considered not dignified - but since this was acceptable, how could it be unacceptable to use a weapon in defense against an actual attack by someone of lower rank?

4) Consider the ryu Donn arguably had the most expertise in - TSKSR. I've seen some of the yawara techniques, and they are very simple - arms' length jujutsu. (It would be very believable to me were someone to submit that they were added to the ryu at a much later date than the weaponry - they are not yoroi kumiuchi - they are sort of like the thing in Kiyose Nakai's jujutsu book). They are also not the kind of techniques one would want to rely on were one attacked by an angry farmer with a hoe, much less a somewhat trained ashigaru with a naginata or spear or knife.

5) On some level, I am familiar with most of the top-level koryu practitioners, at least of 20 years ago. Some of them are amazingly good, really scary guys. But unarmed, wearing a short and long sword that they don't use and are therefore that encumbers their movements, I wouldn't give them much of a chance against a tough kid from the Cuban sugar cane fields with a machete, or a goatherd from the Ethiopean highlands with an olivewood staff - not if either of the latter had any hand-to-hand combat experience with their weapon whatsoever.

In short, I think Donn, here, was reproducing the kind of "information" found in novels and kabuki drama, not what actually happened in the period.


Ellis Amdur

Earl Hartman
28th July 2003, 20:14
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur

But unarmed, wearing a short and long sword that they don't use and are therefore that encumbers their movements, I wouldn't give them much of a chance against a tough kid from the Cuban sugar cane fields with a machete.....


I don't quite understand this. Are the really scary koryu experts in this imagined scenario armed or unarmed? Or are they jujutsu guys who happened to be wearing a daisho that got in the way because a) they didn't know how to use it or b) they couldn't get to it in time before the kid with the machete jumped out of the sugar cane fields and got the drop on them?

Or is something missng here in this sentence, as I suspect?

Since we're dealing with an unarmed man's chances (or lack thereof, which seems to be the general consensus) of disarming someone armed with a blade, I assume your point is that even really scary koryu exponents, if they were unamred, would have a hard time dealing with someone armed with a machete, provided he knew how to use it.

Ron Tisdale
28th July 2003, 20:35
I think I'd have a hard time dealing with someone with a machette with anything less than 30 feet of space and a Glock...and the Glock had better be already drawn. I've seen the panga (type of machette) they use in East Africa...those things are ***sharp***. One slip up, and you'd be missing appendages. No way I'd try taking one away unarmed unless there was ***absolutely*** no other choice whatsoever.


Nathan Scott
28th July 2003, 21:09
[Post deleted by user]

Ellis Amdur
28th July 2003, 21:46
Thanks Nathan - that's what I meant, written in a hurry.

Donn's assertion is that the bushi, who was armed with edged weapons on his belt, eschewed their use, and instead "fought" empty-handed against an armed attacker.

So, in addition to how difficult it is to fight an armed attacker emptyhanded (didn't we just spend about 100 posts on this), now we try to do it with two sheathed swords on the belt. Do you use one hand to keep the daisho from sliding out of the scabbard in the process? Or even if that is not a problem, the jutting weapons would certainly get in the way. In my opinion, the samurai were not such romantic idiots to try. If they were, they certainly couldn't have achieved ruling status.

Finally, re machete: A close friend of mine, a capoeira practitioner, went to Bahia with his teacher (mestre) and they visited a floridly gay dancer, who, in the course of the evening, asked if anyone wanted coconut juice to drink, and when answered in the affirmative, he walked to the veranda, picked up an unhusked coconut and a machete, and flipping the nut in the air multiple times to turn it, went whackwhackwhack with the blade and completely and smoothly husked it. Eric said it was one of the smoothest, fastest and most efficient things he'd ever seen.

Which leads to the obvious conclusion that I wouldn't give these scary koryu exponents I know much chance, empty handed, against your average gay Brazilian dancer with a machete either.


Ellis Amdur

Earl Hartman
28th July 2003, 22:05
Oh. I see. Yep, that went sailing miles over my head. It just never occurred to me that anyone would be so foolish as to try to disarm an attacker via ampty-hand methods if he had a couple of swords stuck in his belt. I mean, what the hell are they there for, anyway?

Ron Tisdale
29th July 2003, 17:28
Not to mention that if you don't keep a hand on at least one tsuka, you stand a good chance of him taking the blade himself...weapons retention, anyone?


29th July 2003, 18:11
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
his was neither practical nor well-read historian at that moment - merely carelessly reproducing a myth).

Ellis Amdur

What is funny, Donn Draeger is sometimes The reference for Bujutsu, and sometimes neither practical nor well-read historian, interesting, no? :D

thx for very informatif thread.

29th July 2003, 21:54
Originally posted by szczepan
What is funny, Donn Draeger is sometimes The reference for Bujutsu, and sometimes neither practical nor well-read historian, interesting, no?

I think that's knee-jerk on the part of us Draeger-lovers. I recall that when Draeger published, there was...Bruce Tegner! Yuck.

Draeger set the standard. He made his mistakes, but what he did so upped the ante on martial arts writing so much that it's very easy to forgive him. Robert Smith, his early collaborator on Asian Fighting Arts, says that Draeger got sort of closed minded in his older age. But he was still correcting himself. Cf his treatment of Zen in kenjutsu in 1974 where they were seemingly the same thing(Classical Budo) with that of 1982 (Japanese Swordsmanship) where he qualifies the seemingly sacrosance Takuan as counseling Taoism (!) rather than Zen.

But you're right, szczepan, he did make his mistakes.

29th July 2003, 21:55
In very known video Kondo sensei explains first series of techniques in Daito ryu.
First technique is ippondori. He explains that one face a somebody armed in sword who is going to cut shomen and then suddenly we hear :
The technique is to responde to this attack with empty hands. Looks like he seriously thinks he can face swordsmen. May be he's never seen a scary koryu swordsman? Or he misunderstood hidden meaning of this kata?

Nathan Scott
29th July 2003, 22:15
[Post deleted by user]

Ron Tisdale
30th July 2003, 13:05
Well Nathan, if Mr. S. ever bothered to get out more, he would know what you just said...Kondo Sensei is **very** clear in his seminars about this point. He also advocates not doing sloppy technique against strikes and kicks (read, too close a maai) because doing so disrespects karateka. But some people like taking pot shots so much, they disregard reason, and ettiquite. Oh Well,


30th July 2003, 14:01
Hi Nathan,
I understand point about stabbing. But key element in this technique(as well as in all tachidori) is how to enter under the striking sword. How to close ma ai. I imagine, that students are learning this element?
It is also said, that all secrets(principles) of ryu are contained in first series of kata. So if ippondori is not for real, a fake, how students can learn right principles?

All this is very confusing...

It is like in sword practice - some ppl practice with false ma-ai(much bigger that necessery), they say for "safety" reason. They will never learn anything.

Ron, relax. I've never said thet Kondo sensei practice sloppy techniques.

30th July 2003, 16:18
I don't think that Nathan (Nathan, please correct me if I am wrong) is saying that Ippondori is fake, but rather better applied when you have another weapon and, in this case, when you have studied it for 40 years or the equivalent in experience. I think one reason for Kondo Sensei's demonstration of Ippondori is to highlight the importance of this technique with regards to the Mainline Daito-ryu. I know for a fact that he emphasizes the importance of practicing this technique over and over again every time we see him. From my experiences, Ippondori against any weapon (tanto, bokken, Iaito, etc.) is very scary and produces an adrenalin rush that is difficult to manage.

I can't describe the feeling I had when I faced Kondo Sensei with an Iaito in the Shinbukan dojo, but I think I got the point. It is a very difficult technique to master, one that takes a lifetime of dedication and study. When performed against someone with skill, you will lose.

My understanding of Ippondori is that there are many principles and lessons contained within this one technique. Through continuous training these can be discovered and learned. If nothing else this technique teaches rei, maai, metsuke, kokyu, kozushi and zanshin. Hardly a waste of time to study and definitely not fake (IMO its just damn near impossible to complete).

30th July 2003, 16:19
Originally posted by szczepan
It is like in sword practice - some ppl practice with false ma-ai(much bigger that necessery), they say for "safety" reason. They will never learn anything.[snip]

Wouldn't that invalidate many JSA (TSKSR springs to mind as a classic example)? Are you implying that the daiashi/hanashi method of transmission doesn't work for teaching effective combative skills, while allowing kata to be visible by 'people outside of the fold'?

Be well,

(spelling corrected)

31st July 2003, 22:36
Originally posted by kenkyusha

Wouldn't that invalidate many JSA (TSKSR springs to mind as a classic example)? Are you implying that the daiashi/hanashi method of transmission doesn't work for teaching effective combative skills, while allowing kata to be visible by 'people outside of the fold'?

Be well,

(spelling corrected)

I don't pactice that, so can't say is it validate for them.

In my opinion one can't learn how to swim in empty pool, by wayving hands and legs in different directions.
IMO all elements must be present, correct ma-ai, contact, feeling of exchage(giving/receiving), correct angles, everything. Otherwise it will be castrated sword work.