View Full Version : Sword hunt

8th July 2003, 16:55

I wonder how effective the so called "sword hunt" was during the Tokugawa and exactly which weapons that were banned. I have read that a peasant could carry one sword while traveling, but not two. If that was the only thing about the sword hunt it is not much to talk about, is it? Also, is the kiseru and aikuchi of the yakusa a result of a weapon ban or is there some other reason?

And what about Okinawa and Korea? Can we asume that the japanese government were more strict about weapons with these people? Is the okinawan weaponry such as sai and tonfa really a result of a ban of other weapons?

8th July 2003, 23:19
the most famous swordhunts was started by toyotomi hideyoshi, the second of the three unificators of japan. that was in 1588. iīm sure that there have been more hunts later on, maybe even on regular basis but those were the most famous.
the tokugawa shogunate formulated even stricter laws about who was allowed to carry what kind of weapon. these laws have been around eversince though.

as far as i know the koreans as well as the okinawans were completely disarmed, at least as far as it was possible. i think the establishment of many kobudo weapons was due to that.

as for your yakuza and aikuchi question: i am curious about someone elses answer since i donīt have a clue about it.


Joel Simmons
9th July 2003, 03:43

As far as the Okinawan disarmament goes, I do know that it occured before the Japanese arrived on the scene. I believe it was the Sho (?) Dynasty that began the disarmament of its peasants. When the Japanese showed-up on the scene, all the work was done!

9th July 2003, 09:27
Thanks for the replys!

But has someone heard of a disarmament of japanese peasants and how far it went? Where they allowed to carry one sword? As for the okinawans - wearing two sai, tonfa and kama would be, if not as effective, at least as agressive as to carry one sword.

9th July 2003, 14:00
i am not an exponent on ryukyu history but i would bet that the term "wearing" did not fit for the situation the peasants were faced with. those were tools of daily life or at least parts of them and it sounds odd to ask a craftsman "are you wearing our hammer today ?" doesnīt it ?
try to post the same question in te history section because there are a lot more historians around than here.


9th July 2003, 14:11
I thought this was the history section...:confused:

While the okinawan issue was not my main question this time, I think it would be perfectly alright for a peasant to go around with one kama or a bo. To go around with two tonfa or sai seems a bit strange, though, unless it was considered ok to arm oneself.

9th July 2003, 14:41
Dear Jakob:

Quite coincidentally I was doing some reading on the Okinawan history and found that the "disarming" of the Okinawan peasantry was actually something ascribed to the misinterpretation of references. Also significant in its absence was any mention of the role the Wa-Ko (aka: "Japanese pirates") played in the arming or disarmourment of the populace.

I would check-out OKINAWA: A HISTORY OF AN ISLAND PEOPLE for a fuller picture of this culture or at least to check the bibliography for more specific resources. FWIW.

Best Wishes,


Bruce Mitchell
9th July 2003, 15:40
Having read the above post I feel compelled to interject a few things. First off, is the romanticied notion of everyone living in the "enchanted asia" of the past being skilled in martial arts. I believe that you can get a good sense of how things were by looking at the agricultural/semi-industrial societies that are still around. It ain't the "old west" with armed peasants wandering around and bumping heads with the villinous samurai.

Mostly what you see is people working very hard everyday to squeak out a living. Not entirely the Hobbsian "Harsh, brutish and short" lifestyle, but not little house on the prairie either. I would posit that this applies to most of the countries discussed in the above post. Now, for instance, I am aware that teaching boys to fight is a part of many cultures both in the past and currently. And that in many places (the Indo-Pacific region springs to mind)boys are taught village fighting systems and carry around useful weapons for when coming across not so friendly folk. What I am saying is that being a swashbuckling hero is not the primary thing on their mind.

I'm at works so I can't find the titles of my sources (sorry), but I believe that it has been firly well established that the tonfa, sai, kama, and bo were never farm implements. They may bear a resemblence to farm implements and who knows where their creators got their ideas, but they were constructed solely as wepons. So if anyone was wandering around with a couple thrust through their belt they were as surely looking for trouble as anyone doing the same thing today would be.

It is also my understanding that the weapons edict in Okinawa was also pretty loose, both in it's writing and in it's enforcement. There are some notable exceptions, but I think it is also important to recognize that not every sword carrying samuria was a master swordsman either.

My apologies for contributing to thread drift here.

9th July 2003, 16:13
hi bruce,
the small amount i read about it made me think that at least some of them were parts of farming tools or constructed to resemble them. the tonfa beeing the handle of a small stonemill for example. anyway i think that since times changed in oinawa as well the sole purpose of beeing a tool for martial arts brought some changes in shape and size of the weapons. they didnīt have to serve both purposes anymore.
i would love to have this clear once and for all though.

for the sections i was thinking about the ryukyu traditions for the tonfa/sai part and the general japanese history for the swordhunt and laws restricting the posession of weapons. itīs not that i think we canīt find answers here but i think posting there is a more efficient way to get your answers.


10th July 2003, 09:34
Hi Karsten,

Originally posted by kabutoki
the tonfa beeing the handle of a small stonemill for example.
I have heard that too, but I find it unrealistic to go around with two stonemill-handles for the purpose of self-defence. My guess is that tonfa are dueling weapons mostly used and trained with for fun.

For plain self-defense you would use a staff, for peasant-revolts you would use an improvised pole-arm (as peasants always have done), and if you could afford it and needed one you would carry a sword (given that the "sword hunt" was not to the latter).

10th July 2003, 21:56
Disclaimer(s): 1) I do not do, nor do I know a blessed thing about Okinawan arts, 2) Sassy, work-inspired mood alert

The claim that some people still make, that the sai was used as a farming tool is preposterous. Lifting bails of rice-straw with those... hmm, no mechanical advantage, bad for the wrists, in short, just the sort of thing folks who work in agriculture for a living would have adopted... huh?!!?!

Sure, Indonesia has the tjabang (sp?), and there are Chinese (weapon) antecedents to the sai, but this outlandishly assertion that they were a useful tool persists. The story must go like this:

Once, while beset by the evil Samurai, uncle Enzo defended himself with what was at hand. Having only his (too small to be functional) 'pitchforks' he repelled his attackers using arts that he trained after a hard day of picking rice.

Seeing the success with which Enzo applied these common tools, other villagers began to adopt similar methods, leading to the eventual removal of the defeated Satsuma clan...

Be well,