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Thread: A question for Karl Friday about swordsmanship.

  1. #16
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    Default Re: The sword

    Originally posted by Chris Baker
    Simply put, there is just somthing about this weapon that touches up and fasinates us. Just look at the fact that we are around our computers talking about a weapon that has effectively lost its military use and is considered more a thing of beauty than a thing of war. Yet, here we all are, many of us devoting our lifes to the study of a weapon that is in many ways obsolete.


    Personally, I have wondered often about this fascination with the sword too. Why not the spear? Or the jo? Or the manrikigusari? Or the European lances and the big-spiky-steel-ball-at-end-of-long-chain flails? While I can offer no plausible answers of my own, according to my old English teacher:

    "Men are obsessed with swords because swords are LONG, made of HARD steel, and requires some MUSCLES to use. The ideal phallic symbol"




    Anyone want to offer their non-Freudian explanations?

    [Edited by Leo Chang on 01-12-2001 at 02:16 AM]
    Leo Chang
    Student of:
    Vancouver Eishin-Ryu Iaido Club

  2. #17
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    Default Been there, done that, glad I graduated!

    Loe Chang,

    I know exactly how you feel about the phallic symbol philosophy. Having a B.A. in English and being an English teacher here in Germany I hear enough Freudian psycology to make me want to barf. I do think that the Phallic symbol idea can be thrown away right off the bat because this really only gives more reason that the Spear or lance should be the subject of fasination instead of the sword given that they are both LONGER, HARDER, and requier even more MUSCLE to use. Phallic imagry would take away the apeal for the sword instead of giving it. Not only that but, given that a knight was far more likely to be using a spear or lance to the sword, which even in pre-renisance Europe was still a secondary weapon as in Japan, it is also more likely that a spear or some other weapon like that would be hailed as supreme. I won't get started with the Mace, a Long, Hard Woody with a BAll at the end.

    Phallic Symbolisum is usually a cop out today which I personally think could be better worded as saying "Well, Darn! I don't know". Having delt with a great number of English teachers, as well as being one myself, I can tell you that this is the last thing that any english teach will say and it doesn't matter what you are talking about.

    Anyway, As for my Personal take on the Fasination of the sword, and here should be when every English teacher or Prof in the world coulnts me as a naive idiot, I simply think that the sword is such a demanding weapon that truly requiers a great amount of skill, though not really all that much muscle as I've seen from my expiriance. We must remember that, though it is not the main reason that the Spear was made the primary weapon of must foot solders around the world, one of the very infuencial reasons was because that the spear simply does not need that much skill to use in battle. Most of the spear training that a solder got was how to stand in line and then how to walk in line. Then you were about done. It isn't that hard. Thought there are many techniques, the masses were not taught them. A perfect example would be Oda Nobunaga's campains to unite Japan. His secret weapon was spears that measured over 12 feet long. Doing most of the spear techniques I know would be almost impossible with a weapon that size. The Same is true of the Firearm for that matter. Though they were popular, they didn't need that much skill. Though the Bow needs skill, you are also usualy a a great distance from the attacker and this doesn't demand as much of you mentally ( I say this from Personal expiriance by being an Archer as well as a Kenshi).

    However, the Sword is a very demanding weapon that requires a great deal of skill to uses. First off a sword though it is a wonderful machine is still scienitficly speaking a Machine, no differant than your computer or your car. This means that, just as they do, a Sword needs to be givien a spesific kind of power to cut an object. If your angle is wrong or you have not achived the right amount of inertia, which is the force than actually causes an object to be cut, then the sword will just slam up against the object and not do its job correctlly. There is a great deal of physical skill involved in learning how to cut effectively. Then you need to be able to move into position to cut effectively with out getting kiled yourself. This is also not very easy. Then All of this gets magnified by ten thoughend when you take into account that Sword duels and generaly very close quarters fights when you and the attacker are so close that you can look into each others eye and smell each other's breath the entire time. A sword duel it truly an intence act and requiers the uptmost skill and ability to survive. Then one must take into account that if you are using a sword on the battlefeild then you are also fighting Spears, Axes, Halberds, Maces, all of which are weapons that requier less skill than yours and must of which have a much greater reach as well. If you go into battle with a sword and live to talk about it, you were definatly a skilled fighter.

    Just one last note on this one before I go. You do get this in Modern warfare as well. There are reports of people who were in the Army but claim that they were actualy Navy SEALs or some other high profile S.F. force. This is for the same reason. Though being in the Army infantry does demand a lot of some one, it is generaly thought that being a Navy SEAL demands more and therefore people want to say that they belonged to the more prestigious, and therefore better, group.

    Well, I think that I managed to clog E-budo with enough bites of info. I hope I don't crash the System with this one. I also hope that this gives some people the answer they were looking for.

    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

  3. #18
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Facinating subject, and one that can get you into a hot water with people who want to beilieve in the "myth" of the sword. In august I wrote the following here on E-Budo

    ***********************************

    I always find this fascinating. If you read the writings of the occidentals who have studied the combative history of Japan, a common thread shines through. The Warriors of Japan rarely if ever used their swords in combat. In fact they were almost never used. It seems studies of actual combat sites showed the skeletal scars of arrows, and hand thrown rocks in far greater abundance than any other weapons. Yet here we sit in the twenty first century prattling on about the nuance of sword.


    and this was one of the reply's I got (from a Menkyo in a Koryu art no less)


    *********************************

    Are you smokin' Dannyboy

    Dan posted:

    The Warriors of Japan rarely if ever used their swords in combat. In fact they were almost never used.

    ____________________________________________________________

    Pardon me Dan, but thats the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time. Let me see, that explains why swords were produced in a ratio of 30/1 to 50/1 over other bladed weapons (excepting tanto) during the Warring States Era.
    Oh , I see, they never used them. That explains all the fascination and obsession with swordsmanship. Maybe the Japanese swordmakers were actually pasfists and purposely making weapons that were " almost never used " to discourage warfare Hummmm. I wonder how the Japanese were able to amass the knowledge required to create the finest edged weapon in the world 700 years ago if they never actually used them? And the mention of the Japanese swords devestating effectiveness by the mongols... must have been because they looked so scary I guess. ( Shudder, Shudder )
    ____________________________________________________________

    Dan Posted:

    "It seems studies of actual combat sites showed the skeletal scars of arrows, and hand thrown rocks in far greater abundance than any other weapons."

    ____________________________________________________________

    ROCK FU TOO! Gotta love it

    Even if this were true it would conclusively prove nothing to support your contention that " swords were almost never used in combat " Find me a pathologist that claims to be able to consistently recognize a 700 year old bone wound from a steel sword and a 700 year old bone wound from an steel arrowhead and I'll present a pathologist that says your guy’s full of B.S.
    And then, even if swords were "almost never used in combat" how does that dispute the fact that aiki principles were originally principles of swordsmanship.

    Dan this is just silliness. Are you being contrary for the heck of it?


    **************************

    There is no changing what men WANT to believe is true. Is there?
    Add to all of this that there is no credible way to prove that any of the surviving schools have techniques and or technicians (too very disparate subjects) that can manifest martial prowess. We hear stories of early twentieth century duels but that doesn’t prove anything either. The opponent might have been a so so practitioner of a lousy Ryu. A terrible practitioner of a great Ryu. Or a great practitioner of a great Ryu on a bad day. Who knows?
    We all seem to have found a style we like.
    Some are old ryu so infused with kendo that there is no way to tell where one left off and the other started. There is one old school that was revamped by the techniques and principles of another old school.
    What’s the original? What’s the new (old) stuff added?
    Are some better than others? Yes, we all seem to agree that is true.
    Which ones?
    Can you prove it?
    No way, no how
    Or, is it more a case of an individual making good use of effective principle to garner effective technique?
    Outside of battlefield troop tactics, this, I suspect has always been the case. There is more to be seen in an individuals interpretation of an art, than in any given art as whole

    So, are there martially viable techniques? Well, as you have read, based on what? They never used the damn things in any martial context. So, Is Koryu’s supposed martial validity all smoke and mirrors?
    Was the modern research all smoke and mirrors with the researcher trying to make a name for himself by validating a hypothesis?

    I believe there are schools that are more martialy viable than others. I have personal expamples of kenjutsu and Iai encounters that were startling to the Iai people involved. Would it hold true as a case by case study to validate the technqiues of an entire Ryu? I doubt it. As I stated above, how much is up to the individual?

    Fascinating stuff

    Dan


    [Edited by Dan Harden on 01-12-2001 at 07:25 AM]

  4. #19
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    Default Very interesting.

    Mr Harden,
    I have to admit that your last post was very interesting. I do agree with you in most respects though not all. I couldn't agree more that the sword was not as widely used as any other weapon in the Japanese battles (Namely the Bow, Spear and lets not forget the Gun). The sword really is, for lack of a better way of putting it, not the best weapon for the battlefeild in conventional Japanese warfare. Which is why it was the secondary weapon.I do have to admit that you frind there, insert ironic snikker here, did go off on a bit of a tantrum there and as a Koryu student myself I do have to say I'm a bit embarased to hear a responce like that. Shoudl one disagree that is expected however, it just simply could have been worded in a more mature manner.

    However I do have to point out two things that your post does over look. Firstly I would like to point out that your post itself says that SOME studies have shown that the bow and rocks caused more injuries that any other weapon. Though this is interesting, to say that this is proof that the Samurai Hardly ever used their sword is overstating this event to say the least. On this note, it should also be pointed out that Suprise attack and night raids were every bit the Japanese tacktic as they are in the west. Using a bow in such cases, such as the Minamoto mountain raid on the Tira clan for example, would make the bow and the gun counter productive weapons as they both would give the enemy the chance to responce with like power and, given that the Minamoto were attacking the Tira on their grounds, this would have made the entire attack some what, well, stupid. This is not to say that they must have used the sword but, the weapon being used would need to be somthing with a closer range.

    Secondly, though it could have been pointed out in a more polite manner, your frind does have a point about the producton of the sword. The sword prodution in Japan was exceptionally high. There have also been numerous sword found with battle chips on them and even blood stains. Also, when considering that the rate of production was so high, one must also consider that only the Samurai were able to carry a sword, unlike the Spear or wakazashi or tanto. Given that sword sword produton exceeded most other bladed weapons and was also a fairly close second to the tanto, this does lend credit to the sword being unsed and also destroyed as the were a far lower number of Samurai than of other classes yet their weapon still was produced more often.

    Thirdly, I would like to point out that though some of these studies have found that many remains were injured or killed by rocks, to suggest that these weapons were used more often than the sword is a little strange to say the least. Combatively speaking, a sword has much better reach and can do more damage than a hand held rock. Now were the rock thrown, then it seems that it would be more of an annooyance than a fatal weapon as it was bouncing of the Samurai armour, which was designed to deflect long range weapons in the first place. Also I would like t point out that these findings are on the REMAINS of the dead. You must remember that the Samurai needed to remove the heads of his victems to advance in the army. Then the heads would be displayed and though I don't have any proof as yet, my reading thus far leads me to believe that the bodies were used for Tamashigiri tests that Japanese smiths used to test newly made swords ( which frequently use corpses for this work and all of the illistrations from the prosedures that I have seen all have the head already removed. Also, let's not forget the remains that were taken and given a funeral or hung as examples ect. This would make it pretty impossible to state exactly how many people in this fight were killed with what. Infact those that were killed with arrows and rocks might have been left simply because noone was sure exactly who killed the man and there for couldn't take credit, to say nothing of killing someone with a rock instead of a sword not being all that honorable and the person doing it didn't want to admit it.

    I do agree that the extrem of thinking that the Samurai used the sword in everday of his life is simply not historicly acurate. However, taking the opposit eextrem and say that these were weapons that the Japanese hardly ever used and perfered fighting with stones to would be every bit as blind.

    I do hope you don't find me being to combative here. I just wanted to point out a few holes that I found in your argument.
    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

  5. #20
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    Default Re: Euro Swords

    Originally posted by Deshi
    Guy,

    In fact, over this weekend, I'm hoping to have my MA instructor do a goza cut with his katana and my basket-hilt broadsword to compare damage differences. (Of course, I suspect the broadsword won't fare well.... but why not?!?! :-) )

    Good luck in your pursuits. There is as much garbage and speculation in the Euro side of things as there is in Japanese. Keep clear of the SCA and you should do alright.

    Gary Beckstedt
    "He who dies with the most toys... is still dead."
    If you want to know why not, it's a matter of blade geometry and the design of the swords. Your basket hilt sword was designed essentially for hacking, hard straight cuts with no perpendicular motion to assist the cut. These weapons were used with shields, and the sword had to take abuses that the katana was not meant to withstand. The katana on the other hand is designed to slice. Although both swords should cut, each is designed with different tactics in mind, so the cut shouldn't be about determining which sword is "better".

    And there's really nothing wrong with the SCA, I used to be a member way back when it was just people getting drunk and hitting each other with sticks. I admit it's gone too wierd for my personal tastes and if you remember that SCA combat is to historical combat what Taco Bell is to fine French cuisine, you'll be all right. Say what you like about them, they have the best food and usually all the mead and homebrew you can drink...forget the stick fighting and just go to eat.
    Dan Beaird

    The best time to be a hero is when all the other chaps are dead, God rest 'em, and you can take the credit.

    H. Flashman V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E.

  6. #21
    Jerry Johnson Guest

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    Wow, what a subject, I didn't know this would cut an major vein. I guess after reading, I hear what some are saying. The sword is important because of what we project on to it. The japanese sword because of it's advantages.But, not because of its utility, its history, or how it was originally looked as.

    I agree with many, it seems the role and the importance of the Japanese sword is over blown. That many may be worshiping or a great zeal for the Japanese sword, no insult intended. Don't think that I am against this, I do see a lot of "+" s because of it. But I am glad the whole idea is being discussed the pros and cons.

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    Lightbulb Symbolic Value

    By co-incidence I had a discussion with GM Koo, my sword teacher and there is something that he related that touches on some of what you folks have batted back and forth.

    Our school and organization progress forward from the formation of the Korea Kundo Association in the later
    1890-s. A goodly portion of our tradition has its roots in Kendo as taught to the Korean population by the Japanese. It is not uncommon for this fact to put-off a number of potential students who are looking for gen-u-wine Korean swordsmanship. Nor did it keep a number of individuals from spinning off from the KKA to start such things as Hai Dong Kumdo, often touted as the REAL Korean swordsmanship. Still Korean students come from great distances to study under GM Koo, while it is the Anglo students who seem most put-off by our mixed heritage. Perhaps, then, it is neither the actual history, or usage of the weapon but the romance surrounding it that has most to do with whether the art survives or not. I corroborate this by pointing out that in my experience most students come to me for the opportunity to do MA-like things as opposed to being seriously interested in studying a MA.

    Best Wishes,
    Bruce W Sims
    http://www.midwesthapkido.com
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

  8. #23
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    Default Re: Very interesting.

    I think maybe it's worth adding a bit of factual correction to Chris Baker's post:


    However I do have to point out two things that [Dan Harden's] post does over look. Firstly I would like to point out that your post itself says that SOME studies have shown that the bow and rocks caused more injuries that any other weapon. Though this is interesting, to say that this is proof that the Samurai Hardly ever used their sword is overstating this event to say the least.
    This is true enough, on the surface of things, but it ignores the fact that we're not talking about just "some studies" but ALL of the studies of the topic that have been done during the past several years. There are a handful of scholars (including me) who have recently been attempting to take a careful look at battlefield practices during various periods in Japanese history, using careful analyses of various kinds of documents, including battle reports and casualty lists. All of these scholars have argued for the conclusion that swords were a secondary, not a primary weapon during the period under study--which collectively accounts for the whole of pre-Tokugawa samurai history. Granted, Dan's "hardly ever used" statement is an exaggeration that goes beyond what historians are actually arguing, but it's certainly not so off-the-wall as to deserve the kind of response he got ("what have you been smoking?"?!).

    On this note, it should also be pointed out that Suprise attack and night raids were every bit the Japanese tacktic as they are in the west. Using a bow in such cases, such as the Minamoto mountain raid on the Tira clan for example, would make the bow and the gun counter productive weapons as they both would give the enemy the chance to responce with like power and, given that the Minamoto were attacking the Tira on their grounds, this would have made the entire attack some what, well, stupid. This is not to say that they must have used the sword but, the weapon being used would need to be somthing with a closer range.
    Ok, first of all, the family name Chris is referring to is "Taira," not "Tira"; and second, the war he refers to, the Gempei War, was fought in 1180-85, almost four centuries before the introduction of the gun. More importantly, if you actually read the sources for the battle (even the ones that have been translated into English, such as the *Heike monogatari* or the *Azuma kagami*), it's abundantly clear that bows were the main weapon in the "raid" (which was in fact a full-scale seige, involving 3000 Minamoto attacking 20,000 Taira troops [according to the *Gokuyo*] or 60,000 Minamoto vs. 7000 Taira [according to the *Heike monogatari*]) on the Taira fortress at Ichinotani. Swords came into play only after the warriors ran out of arrows or lost or broke their bows.

    Chris is correct that raiding and ambush were common tactics in early samurai warfare, but his assumption that the raiders used swords rather than bows is in error. The principal tactic in such raids was in fact ringing the house under attack, with archers, setting fire to it, and shooting anyone who tried to crawl out.

    The sword prodution in Japan was exceptionally high. There have also been numerous sword found with battle chips on them and even blood stains. Also, when considering that the rate of production was so high, one must also consider that only the Samurai were able to carry a sword, unlike the Spear or wakazashi or tanto. Given that sword sword produton exceeded most other bladed weapons and was also a fairly close second to the tanto, this does lend credit to the sword being unsed and also destroyed as the were a far lower number of Samurai than of other classes yet their weapon still was produced more often.
    Swords were NOT the exclusive preserve of the samurai until the Tokugawa period. During the years in which samurai were actually fighting battles, soldiers of all ranks and levels carried them as back-up weapons. Moreover, the Japanese also produced large numbers of swords for export--to China and Korea. Frankly, I have questions about the "30/1" and "50/1" statistics that one of Dan's critics cited for sword production vs. the production of other bladed weapons--I'm having a hard time imagining what kind of sources could be used to give reliable figures on this kind of question. But even if you accept the ratios and numbers given, the facts that most warriors carried swords as battlefield sidearms, and that both warriors and non-warriors carried them as symbolic and self-defense weapons off the battlefield are more that enough to explain the high numbers of swords produced, even without factoring in the export market.

    Thirdly, I would like to point out that though some of these studies have found that many remains were injured or killed by rocks, to suggest that these weapons were used more often than the sword is a little strange to say the least. Combatively speaking, a sword has much better reach and can do more damage than a hand held rock. Now were the rock thrown, then it seems that it would be more of an annooyance than a fatal weapon as it was bouncing of the Samurai armour, which was designed to deflect long range weapons in the first place. Also I would like t point out that these findings are on the REMAINS of the dead. You must remember that the Samurai needed to remove the heads of his victems to advance in the army. Then the heads would be displayed and though I don't have any proof as yet, my reading thus far leads me to believe that the bodies were used for Tamashigiri tests that Japanese smiths used to test newly made swords ( which frequently use corpses for this work and all of the illistrations from the prosedures that I have seen all have the head already removed. Also, let's not forget the remains that were taken and given a funeral or hung as examples ect. This would make it pretty impossible to state exactly how many people in this fight were killed with what. Infact those that were killed with arrows and rocks might have been left simply because noone was sure exactly who killed the man and there for couldn't take credit, to say nothing of killing someone with a rock instead of a sword not being all that honorable and the person doing it didn't want to admit it.
    First, the reference to rock wounds was for wounds caused by rocks THROWN, by hand or by sling, NOT to rocks held in the hand and used as crude clubs. Rocks are, in point of fact, a VERY practical weapon, particularly when you keep in mind that, contrary to the image we see in movies, large numbers of the participants in medieval battles were not equipped with full suits of armor--many wore none at all.

    Second, the evidence for the preponderance of rock and arrow (and later gun) wounds over sword (and other bladed weapon) wounds comes from DOCUMENTARY sources--especially casualty reports--NOT the examination of corpses. The only attempt that's ever been made to analyze human remains to determine battlefield casualties is Myra Shackley's examination of skeletons dating from the 14th century, found in a mass grave at Zaimokuza, near Kamakura. And there are a lot of problems with this analysis, not the least of which is that no one has any real knowledge of who the bodies in the grave were or how they got there.

    Third, the bodies of fallen soldiers were NOT used for tameshigiri--at least not as a matter of regular practice. During the Tokugawa period, the corpses of executed criminals were sometimes used in this manner by swordsmiths, but this is an entirely different thing from chopping at the bodies of battlefield casualties.
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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    Default

    I stand . . . Catsrated. Well I guess I need to read up a bit more before I open my big mouth. Hope I didn't sound to disrespectful. I think I'll go hide in a hole for a while now.
    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

  10. #25
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    Default Oh by the way . . .

    Just so everyone knows, the "What are you smoking" crack was not mine.
    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

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    Smile

    Hi All,
    Very interesting thread with lots of good ideas all around. There is one that I haven't seen and so have to put forth to answer the earlier question of why the sword was so revered. I agree that the sword was primarily a back-up weapon. Everything I have read on the subject seems to point to this fact. It seems to me though that the reverence for the sword doesn't come out fully until during the reign of the Tokugawa. Coincidentally, this is also after all but the samurai were forbidden to carry swords. The samurai were a high class, the epitome of the Japanese male so to speak. He was also the one swaggering around with the daisho thrust through his belt. The sword thus came to symbolise the samurai, and the samurai to symbolise the epitome of the Japanese male. It is no wonder to me that the sword came to be so revered in Japanese culture, nor in western culture for that matter. People as a whole tend to be more reverent of Japanese swords than their European counterparts for this very reason. Of course, all of this is just my opinion on the matter.

    Cheers,
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  12. #27
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    Lightbulb

    Would anyone be willing to give credence to the possibility that the sword is endowed with the same romantic energy that perhaps we in the US give to Civil War firearms, handguns from the Western Expansion part of our history, or the high-power weapons associated with the urban warfare of modern media? I have read a couple of Mr. Fridays' contributions and give them credence as coming from the author of what I have found to be two well-written books on the issue of Budo-development. If I am drawing the correct conbclusions overall, it seems that the fires of Budo passion in Japanese history have traditionally been more smoke than flame and the heat often comes from the oddest directions. Am I misreading your take on this , Mr Friday?

    Best Wishes,
    Bruce W Sims
    http://www.miswesthapkido.com
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

  13. #28
    Jerry Johnson Guest

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    I'd venture to say the root of romance is power. I am sure as others are thinking that our love for guns i.e. power and emotion guns provide is the same for the sword. The sword being more primative could be the appeal for some over guns. The sword too is very more symbolic for what it means and what can be expressed. This whole thing is a transmission of emotion to an instrument or object to express power or emotions as a form of communication. The feeling of power.

    Any one remember the commericals for the Marines and the Army a few years ago? The sword was a distinct symbol and instrument of power.

    Which leads me to the idea it is about what a sword provides it's holder, a combination or relationship rather then the instrument itself.




  14. #29
    ben johanson Guest

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    WOW!

    I was away for a week and I come back to find 2 pages full of replies to my question. In fact, I guess I should mention, Dr Friday, that I was in Athens, Georgia this past week and that I am the one you just talked to on Wednesday night after Kashima Shinryu practice about the problems with the Japaneses language program at UGA. I forgot to tell you then that I'm a member on e-budo.

    Anyway...thanks to everyone for your input and for starting this great discussion. I have another question to add to it:

    It seems to have been firmly established here that the sword assumed a secondary role on the battlefield, like that of a side-arm. If that was the case, then it would have been used by a samurai only after his primary weapon (probably a spear) had been lost or cut through in the thick of hand-to-hand fighting, right? Then wouldn't that often times necessitate the use of a quick, single drawing-cutting motion (battojutsu or iai)?

    I have read many posts on this forum condeming iai as a "non-battlefield art" and have even read something in Koryu Bujutsu by Diane Skoss that said that the ability to draw the sword and cut in one super fast motion would not have been a necessary skill in battle, as weapons would have already been drawn at the start of an engagement. But, in the case of the sword as a back-up weapon, it seems to me that battojutsu would have been a very usefull, perhaps even crucial, skill to possess on the battlefield. What does everybody think?

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    I don't think that the ability to draw a sword quickly would have been any more crucial to samurai on the battlefield than the ability to draw a handgun or knife quickly is to modern infantrymen. Most of the time a samurai forced to have recourse to his sword because he lost his spear or whatever would either have had plenty of time to just draw the weapon normally, or, conversely, not enough time to employ even the quickest batto techniques. Then too, quick-draw-and-slash techniques would not have been particularly effective against armored opponents anyway.

    The rarity (as far as I know, the complete absence) of quick-draw sword training in the military traditions of armies elsewhere around the globe would tend to bear out this line of reasoning. Similarly, the parallels between the American fascination with quick-drawing handguns and the Japanese development of batto techniques are suggestive: Both developed around weapons carried as part of everyday dress, both developed apart from the battlefield/military martial tradition, and both seem to have seen far more combative application in popular imagination than in real fights.

    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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