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Thread: A question for Karl Friday about swordsmanship.

  1. #31
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    Originally posted by ben johanson
    WOW!

    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?
    Perhaps it might be useful, but not necessary. Just like you don't have to be a quick draw artist to unholster a pistol, you don't have to be an Iai expert in order to take a sword out of the saya. Considering the construction of the sword and the saya, I would think it likely that everyone who used and carried these swords practiced drawing them in some fashion. We've all read the horror stories of the split scabbards and missing thumbs. I would think that would be intensely more embarrassing in front of a bunch of fellow Samurai than it would be for anyone today. Proficiency in Iai is just one of the things that separated the exceptional swordsman from the more common sort.

    The whole concept of battlefield/non-battlefield art is misleading in any case. It's a battlefield art if you happen to be in a battle when you do it. Other than that, it isn't. I believe we can all agree that people who studied Iai did participate in combat. I think a more appropriate question would be along the lines of: Does Iai provide training in valuable skills that are appropriate for the ruling warrior class? Since a great number of these busy men paid enough attention to it to keep it alive should be sufficient evidence that it is a worthwhile pursuit for a warrior.

    I heard something a few weeks ago in class, just sort of a line that dropped into the conversation while we were discussing one of the earlier threads that went this route. The statement was to the effect that the people the other Samurai were afraid of, the real bad asses, were Iai guys. A couple provinces and I think schools were named, but I don't really remember details. Maybe Dr. Friday or one of the people who participated in that conversation could share a little more about that.
    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.

  2. #32
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    Default Iai

    My own thoughts on Iai, hopefully I can avoid sounding like an idiot this time, is that I do think that this was used long before the first Iai technique was ever invented. I've noticed from some of my friends who were in the military being pretty skilled in Quick Draw techniques for example. Though Dr Friday is correct that he never recived any really training in Quick Draw in the military. I think it's just practical to know how to get the sword out of the Saya as fast as possible when you have someone charging you with a 3 foot razor blade wanting to mount your favorite head on his wall. I just believe that no one bothered putting any set techniques on paper because it just seemed like common knowlage. This seems to be the trend I've noticed.

    On a side note to this, I was wondering if anyone could recomend any books on the history of japan, and the Sengoku Era, or anything else along these lines in German. Most of the books I've heard referance to are english books that have proven hard to find in American Bookstores. I think that Finding them in Germany would be near impossible. I don't speak enough Japanese just yet to worry about the Japanese ones.
    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

  3. #33
    Dan Harden Guest

    Default For the several comments on sword geometry and cutting VS slashing

    It is too early, and I don’t feel like writing an essay on the sword. If you go to the "stainless steel" thread on the sword forums
    http://204.95.207.136/vbulletin/show...4&pagenumber=1
    you will find exhaustive commentary (by me) on swords, steel, manufacture and design and steel use for specific purposes in cutting. Of course it is just my opinion. But, read it for yourself.

    The comments here about the broadsword VS the Katana are not so simple as blade geometry. There is blade design, blade geometry, steel type, and the all important, (but never written about here in E-budo since its inception till I broached the topic) THE HEAT TREATMENT and carbon content of the blades in question.

    Geometry aside,
    If both weapons were of traditional manufacture
    Your broadswords edge was designed to be blunt NOT sharp. It smashes it does not hack. It is spring tempered just like the body of the blade. It will not take, and hold, an edge for long. Its strength is in stabbing or smashing. it will not bend as easy as a Katana.

    Your Katana was designed for cutting Not slashing. Its steel and edge(the decent ones anyway) will cut objects well. But it will not stand much lateral abuse. In fact the very thing they tried to accomplish in the "Kobuse" folding method actually contributed to its potential lateral weakness. If you try to hack at hard objects with a katana I wouldn’t place any bets on how long it lasts till it breaks or bends and "sets."


    As for the Iai battlefield comments

    lets settle for a discusion where we may have opinions that may openly disagree and leave it at that.

    The idea of being able to use the sword should be of paramount importance in any sort of training. How fast you can draw it, and (to carry the absurd to the sublime), how fast you can re-sheath it, is so secondary in nature as to be of little consequence compared to the need for combatively sound principles in its use.
    In other words, learning to draw it fast is one thing. Being able to account for yourself with its use against someone intent on seeing you undone, and having both the means and the wherewithal to see it through, is an entirely different topic.
    Most of the derogatory comments written here and elsewhere, toward Iai, is not about the “Idea” of Iai. No one is questioning the validity of being able to draw the thing. It is first clarifying the highly improbable history of its practical use, and the subsequent “need” to spend SO MUCH TIME mastering a simple draw from a seated position or otherwise. Secondly it is the result of what most of us have seen in the combative mechanics and rationale of Iai, seated or standing, even by highly ranked exponents.
    Perhaps a twenty year study of stand up kenjutsu, including shiai and tameshigiri, should be accompanied by a just a few years training in Iai. Rather than spending a ridiculous amount of time on your knees (it takes this long to strengthen your hips don't you know )ruining both them and your elbows before ever getting to two man kata. IF! you ever get to two man Kata. And/or spending such and out of balance time in a syllibus geared toward kneeling, and drawing, or standing and drawing and deflecting and cutting with one hand...etc etc. When the time could be better spent on the more historically accurate pursuit of standing "sword already drawn" and facing a similar opponent, and then learning how defeat the ready opponent.
    Again, not that the "Idea" of Iai is wrong, it is the lack of combatively sound body mechanics or principles. Principles that would hold you in good stead and enable you to press and control Maai and effect body positioning to generate power in small spaces and increase mobility. And more importantly, to be able to do this against an opponent intent on your demise who knows how to use a sword.

    Making analogies to the quick draw artist may be sound

    Kenjutsu Sword combatives go hand in hand with Gun combatives. Drawing and moving off line while maintaining target aquisiton, as well as vectoring. Also, the effective management of your targets and controling their response is an exacting study. One best done on your feet, through exhaustive Kata, and then free style.


    Dan

    [Edited by Dan Harden on 01-13-2001 at 10:17 AM]

  4. #34
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    Couldn't AGREE more.
    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

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    [Edited by Cady Goldfield on 01-13-2001 at 03:51 PM]
    Cady Goldfield

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    Default Re: For the several comments on sword geometry and cutting VS slashing

    Originally posted by Dan Harden


    As for the Iai battlefield comments
    ...lets settle for a discusion where we may have opinions that may openly disagree and leave it at that.

    Sounds good to me.

    The idea of being able to use the sword should be of paramount importance in any sort of training. How fast you can draw it, and (to carry the absurd to the sublime), how fast you can re-sheath it, is so secondary in nature as to be of little consequence compared to the need for combatively sound principles in its use.[/QUOTE]

    The point isn't (or shouldn't be) drawing fast, and certainly not a fast noto, either of those could cost you fingers, blood, or a saya. The point is doing it correctly, smoothly, to segue into an attack or defense. For most iai, the draw and noto are mostly just the beginning and end of a form. The emphasis should be on the application of the same principles you are talking about. Can you get there or will someone see that (oh impatient Americans) in a year or two? Probably not. The Omori set or the shoden set is just the beginning. I agree with you about seiza, but unfortunately most of us do not have a great deal of choice in the styles available to us. For those of us advanced in years , I would recommend Nakamura-ryu or Toyama-ryu. No kneeling forms, good two-man forms, plus tameshigiri. Not a lot of either around in the states (Guy Power, Bob Elder). I agree that iai by itself is not enough, a bit of kendo, and aikido, maybe some ju-jitsu will round it out nicely. I hope that whatever style we are doing it is to improve ourselves, strengthen our body and spirit, not to 'kick ass', at least not over here in the sword forum. I won't say anything bad about kenjutsu (notice the respectful restraint? ) but are combative mechanics with a wooden sword substantively different, better, or more realistic, than with an iaito? Historically accurate pursuit? Please. OK, you are not a fan of iai, got it. Enjoy what you do.

    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

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    Default Re: For the several comments on sword geometry and cutting VS slashing

    Originally posted by Dan Harden

    The comments here about the broadsword VS the Katana are not so simple as blade geometry. There is blade design, blade geometry, steel type, and the all important, (but never written about here in E-budo since its inception till I broached the topic) THE HEAT TREATMENT and carbon content of the blades in question.

    Geometry aside,
    If both weapons were of traditional manufacture
    Your broadswords edge was designed to be blunt NOT sharp. It smashes it does not hack. It is spring tempered just like the body of the blade. It will not take, and hold, an edge for long. Its strength is in stabbing or smashing. it will not bend as easy as a Katana.

    Your Katana was designed for cutting Not slashing. Its steel and edge(the decent ones anyway) will cut objects well. But it will not stand much lateral abuse. In fact the very thing they tried to accomplish in the "Kobuse" folding method actually contributed to its potential lateral weakness. If you try to hack at hard objects with a katana I wouldn’t place any bets on how long it lasts till it breaks or bends and "sets."...

    Dan

    [Edited by Dan Harden on 01-13-2001 at 10:17 AM]
    I'm going to suspect you've never handled a Highland Basket Hilt before. They are indeed sharp, certainly they aren't polished to a razor edge like a Japanese sword, but they are sharp enough to cut. One thing to keep in mind about some Western swords and especially more recent Western military swords (Which includes most examples of the Highland Basket Hilt)is that they are delivered unsharpened and intended to be sharpened only before going into battle. I collect old sabres and I only have one that has ever been sharpened, and I know it was carried in the Second Afghan War.

    I handled a couple of antique basket hilts dating from the early 1700's. It was obvious that both had been sharpened and certainly not anytime recently. It's true that some 18th and 19th Century cavalry units went into battle with unsharpened swords. Either the commander couldn't be bothered, or he wanted to provide some incentive to get his troopers to use the point.

    As far as carbon content, heat treatment and so on, it's not a matter of Western vs. Japanese so much as who is making the blade. The Japanese weren't doing anything that wasn't being done elsewhere.
    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.

  8. #38
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Dave writes

    The point isn't (or shouldn't be) drawing fast, and certainly not a fast noto, either of those could cost you fingers, blood, or a saya. The point is doing it correctly, smoothly, to segue into an attack or defense. For most iai, the draw and noto are mostly just the beginning and end of a form. The emphasis should be on the application of the same principles you are talking about.
    **********************

    The application of combative principles and the resultant techniques that I am talking about are probably substantially different than any applicable principles that you are talking about. The way you lump substanially different arts together below sort of guarantees me that.
    The use of the sword is by no means the same from school to school, style to style.And some are so radically different as to be night and day

    Dave again
    Can you get there or will someone see that (oh impatient Americans) in a year or two? Probably not. The Omori set or the shoden set is just the beginning. I agree with you about seiza, but unfortunately most of us do not have a great deal of choice in the styles available to us. For those of us advanced in years , I would recommend Nakamura-ryu or Toyama-ryu. No kneeling forms, good two-man forms, plus tameshigiri. Not a lot of either around in the states (Guy Power, Bob Elder). I agree that iai by itself is not enough, a bit of kendo, and aikido, maybe some ju-jitsu will round it out nicely.

    *****************************
    To try to mix disparate arts in this way is a recipe for mediocrity in my opinion. It is a way to go nowhere....slowly.
    The advanced in years comment has no merit either. There are oh so many adepts in their 70's who still practice.

    Your mention of Aikido with the above is odd. Aikido is about as far away from effective weapons use as you are going to get while staying with Japanese arts. What they do works fine within Aikido. But compared to what else?
    If you have your Kendo and iai in the same school you might as well stick to it till you get somewhere else.
    And Aikido , kendo and setei-iai do not function the same way that effective weapons do. Or atl least in the way that I and apparently dozens of others here have come to know them. I would find the concurrent study of any, or all of the above, to be self defeating.


    Dave again
    I hope that whatever style we are doing it is to improve ourselves, strengthen our body and spirit, not to 'kick ass', at least not over here in the sword forum.


    **************************
    Well, without sounding too blatant, I do not pick up a gun, knife, Naginata, stick, bokuto or shinken to strengthen my body or spirit. I lift weights, stretch and run for one, and I volunteer, give to charity and pray for the other respectively.
    I study weapons, and body arts as a pragmatic means to an end, within the paradigm of their use as an antiquated yet thoroughly relevant art. And I find it does not alter my caring, loving, self
    I disavow any embarrassment at discussing better ways to defeat an opponent (or to "kick ass" as you put it) with weapons or without. It is what these arts were about. To make a practical study of the killing potential of antiquated weapons and a possible link to modern combatives and to explore that in depth does not make monsters out of men. Niether does the medatative study of solo weapons work make pansies out of them either.
    However, If one were to spend years studying to defeat one self, and to be fine with that.
    The other, studying a more pragmatic approach, may be pursuing that same goal :wink:

    A critique of both methods can be relavant and amusing on a winters night.


    Dave again
    I won't say anything bad about kenjutsu (notice the respectful restraint? )
    ************************

    Its not a question of bad as much as critque. And kenjutsu is no different than any other art. It has weaknesses and strengths. There are so few people on the earth studying these things anymore that we can all stand a little banter and disagreement, It does not weaken us.

    Dave:
    but are combative mechanics with a wooden sword substantively different, better, or more realistic, than with an iaito?

    ***********************
    If you are including a live opponent in there to thwart your every effort....Yes they are, substatially so! add other weapons and body arts then even more so.
    The crucible of Kata, and Shiai is frequently humbling, surprising, and ever changing. Even as you grow in skill and your speed decreases and you relax and you are simply always "there," where you need to be, to strike, or to drive Maai. All this with an exponent who is growing and ever challanging you as well.
    But of course that depends on the school doesn't it?


    Dave:
    Historically accurate pursuit? Please.

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

    AS opposed to?
    I would have to say that there are many arts with surviving scrolls of study. Are these modern adepts still imbuing the arts with the same ardor? Or even the same technical skills? Who knows.
    But even casual observers can sometimes spot when the emporer has no clothes. As one fellow put it here (thanks Mark F). You do NOT necessarily need to study an art for decades to critique it. Have you ever read a book on boxing by even ONE champion boxer. All the coaching, techniques, stances, training, writing and judging, is done by men who do not box. Many who have never been in the ring at all.


    OK, you are not a fan of iai, got it. Enjoy what you do.

    Likewise Dave

    Dan

  9. #39
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Dan writes
    I handled a couple of antique basket hilts dating from the early 1700's. It was obvious that both had been sharpened and certainly not anytime recently. It's true that some 18th and 19th Century cavalry units went into battle with unsharpened swords. Either the commander couldn't be bothered, or he wanted to provide some incentive to get his troopers to use the point.

    As far as carbon content, heat treatment and so on, it's not a matter of Western vs. Japanese so much as who is making the blade.

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

    This is not true Dan. If you look at studies done on weapons you will find fairly consistent data in era's and locales. The use of carbon content and the use of various methods to obtain it is a study unto itself. The decisions governing rockwell hardness were knowing and based on cultural use (en masse)Not based on billy the smith VS jimmy down the block in 1585
    Get them rockwell tested. Then we’ll talk


    Dan writes
    The Japanese weren't doing anything that wasn't being done elsewhere.

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

    As far as the Japanese forging methods and them not doing anything others were not doing in the same era;
    that is not true.
    I included a link below to some lengthy discourse between Joe Svinth, Earl Heartman and myself I don’t feel like repeating it all here.
    The discussion of medieval forging methods and the various indigenous peoples approaches; they exhibited radically different solutions to common problems.They dd this by combinations of Carbon content, forge folding and/ or smelting methods, and heat treat. Advances were made culturally not individually. Withholding small little secrets form smith to smith is fine. Wholesale withholding of warfare arms improvements was a fast way to meet the man in charge and his henchman. It would be tatamount to treason

    The viking forging methods of low carbon core with high carbon wraps , the east indians solution of Wootz that stymied all attempts at European forging of the cakes (interesting little secret to it)
    the Europeans with blister and shear steel and the Japanese with an inner core (much different than the Viking core and the inclusion of clays to conquer the differential heat treat were different. AS well were its use and the final rockwell rating of the steel. Those in and of themselves made it unique. Not the best,.not by a long shot just different
    more here
    http://204.95.207.136/vbulletin/show...4&pagenumber=1




    Dan

  10. #40
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    Dr Friday,

    I have a question.

    I believe it is a commonly accepted fact that in large battlefield troop engagements ( pre firearms ) various pole arms were the principle frontline weapons of choice along with various forms of archery. However, was it not the sword that was most often used to engage the vast numbers of wounded, injured and healthy that evaded death from these essentially long range weapons. The contention that the sword was "secondary" is fine as long as the implication is that long range weapons obviously engaged the enemy first but to use this obvious strategic employment to somehow minimize the swords importance as a battlefield weapon once the combat distance became a clash of bodies seems untidy to me.

    I specifically remember written accounts of the Greeks making light of the Spartans short swords until they were trampled down by phalanx of Spartan warriors with spears and shields only to be finally dispatched with the Spartans handy "short" swords.

    And like the person quoted earlier I am suspicious of supposed "data" to support a greater numbers of deaths from spears over swords from studying bones and such from battlefields. Am I to understand it is really possible to tell by bones fragments whether a sharp spear, sharp sword or sharp arrow resulted in final mortal blow during a pitched battle?

    I suspect the truth is something we really don't know for sure. One thing that is for sure despite the debate over the actual place of swords on the battlefield. Japanese swordmakers spent an inordinately enormous amount of time perfecting their craft when compared to that of other Japanese weapons. They must have been useful for something besides chit chat.



    Interesting discussion as always on this subject.

    Tobs

  11. #41
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Hi Tobs
    happy new year

    IF you re-read Karls responses in this post, he addresses several of those questions directly. I believe he said the studies included casualty reports and lists of various nature

    AS far as your comments about the Japanese spending an "inordinately enormous" amount of time perfecting their sword making skills over other weapons........

    Actually their sword making skills were ways to control the placment of carbon in the steel they used to make weapons and armor of all types. So, stated properly. The skills they used to make steel were evidenced in all of their weapons. Why did they lavish such special attention on the swords?
    Their swordmaking skills did not require an inordinate amount time compared to efforts of other cultures either. Neither were they "advanced" over other cultures. The polish does take a heck of a lot of time, but that too is in doubt in the medievel era. It is generally agreed that no one knows what the level of polish was back then. Records show that many of the qualities we see today were visible in the blades but it remains inconclusive.
    While the Japanese "cult of the sword" may be true, the Japanese sword as the penultimate sword is utter hogwash.
    Their forging skills were not even unsual compared to other cultures of the same eras. Their methods were different but the skills used to produce forge welding in order to distribute carbon were becoming rather mundane in all cultures. I remember a comment that an American smith made while watching a Japanese smith work his trade . A comment that made it into print.
    "Nothing new here. The only amazing thing is how well they do with such lousy material and primitive methodology."

    In fact, the Indian wootz smelting techniques and the swords they produced were more difficult to make and were a better product. The viking swords exhibited far greater control and manipulation of material than the most complicated of the Japanese folding methods. Hell even the Javanese Kris with its meteorite forge folding method and intricately carved blade and fitting is more complicated than a Ken. Ever try to forge meteorite? What a pain!

    The thing that set the Ken apart were

    1. the visible perfection of the polish. The Japanese polish cannot be matched. It has no modern or anochronastic equivelent. Everyone else used acid to etch the grain. If your into looks (in other words, you want to se the visible results of the folding process, and want a servicable weapon) then acid etching is the way to go, and what the rest of the world used. You get to see the grain, the etching is deep and will last through cutting and field use. Since the surface is oxidized already a coating of oil will keep it longer and it will restore easier.

    2. The fittings. Everything else pales to the quality of the sword fittings on your average Japanese blade? Not true either.
    The warriors blades were simple. And the temple swords of Japanese culture had peers in the fittings produced by many other cultures.

    2. Overall it was the quality of the Japanese processes COMBINED that produced the legend; forging, Yakiba, fittings and polish. It is the quality of each process that combined to make a work of deadly art. It does make one pretty package doesn't it?

    Beyond that, I doubt we will ever know WHY they placed so much importance on swords. IT is more than likely a culutral thing.You had an insular culture with a lot of wars which produced a warped view of the important things in life. While I admire some of the arts perfected as a result I do not Admire the process that got them there, nor the way they expressed it.
    When the country opened up there was a great deal of mystery surrounding the Japanese Archipelago and we sucked up the myth of the Japanese sword like everyone else.

    Please dont anyone read this and tell me I am "down on" Japanese swords. READ!
    I love them too. I just try to see them in their proper place on the world stage.

    Dan

    [Edited by Dan Harden on 01-14-2001 at 01:13 PM]

  12. #42
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    Dan,
    we're getting a lot of air time with this. I can see that we're not going to agree on some areas, but that's ok.

    Dan:
    1. The application of combative principles and the resultant techniques that I am talking about are probably substantially different than any applicable principles that you are talking about.
    - maybe, maybe not, guess we'll have to compare notes one of these days.

    2. (Dave)
    ... a bit of kendo, and aikido, maybe some ju-jitsu will round it out nicely.
    Dan:
    To try to mix disparate arts in this way is a recipe for mediocrity in my opinion.
    - I'm not talking about mixing, I'm talking about learning. I think each of those arts and many others have something valid to teach. Wish I had another couple of lifetimes to work on them. Learning only one art is like reading only one book. It might be a good one, but you're missing out on a lot. If you're looking for historical accuracy, samurai learned a number of weapons and arts, such as spear, bow, horsemanship, sword and others. Single style schools that we see today became the rule during the peaceful Edo period, after the need for war arts had passed (Dr Friday, you out there?). The fact that a style may date from this period is interesting, but no more likely to be realistic or 'combat-effective' than a modern art.

    3. The advanced in years comment has no merit either. There are oh so many adepts in their 70's who still practice.
    - I was talking about seiza. After a couple of knee surguries, I no longer enjoy it. Well aware that this is a lifetime pursuit. My sensei in Japan was 89, most of his senior folk were in their 70's. I should be in such good shape.

    4. Well, without sounding too blatant, I do not pick up a gun, knife, Naginata, stick, bokuto or shinken to strengthen my body or spirit...
    - I do. Anybody else?

    5. To make a practical study of the killing potential of antiquated weapons and a possible link to modern combatives and to explore that in depth does not make monsters out of men. Niether does the meditative study of solo weapons work make pansies out of them either.
    - fully agree

    6. A critique of both methods can be relavant and amusing on a winters night.
    - something to look forward to.

    7. There are so few people on the earth studying these things anymore that we can all stand a little banter and disagreement, It does not weaken us.
    - agree again.

    (Dave)
    ... but are combative mechanics with a wooden sword substantively different, better, or more realistic, than with an iaito?

    Dan:
    8. If you are including a live opponent in there to thwart your every effort....Yes they are, substantially so! add other weapons and body arts then even more so.
    - weren't you just saying not to mix arts?

    9. But of course that depends on the school doesn't it?
    - without a doubt. Perhaps even more on the instructor.

    Regards to all,


    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

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    Originally posted by Dan Harden

    This is not true Dan....
    I hadn't meant to imply that the forging methods were identical, or that there were not cultural differences in the "standard" way of making weapons. What I was trying to say is that everything that was done by Japanese smiths in creation of their swords was known by those in the West and used at various times or places. I think we'd agree that the Western battlefield differed considerably from the Japanese battlefield and that weapons and therefore weapon construction was different between the two. To sum up, the Japanese sword isn't superior in construction or design than Western swords. Each evolved into what was needed to supply the warriors.

    Sadly, Western swords tend to be in much worse condition than the Japanese counterparts. Although the Japanese have had a tendency of preserving only the best. My understanding is that there were blades mass produced during the Singoku period that were out and out awful. I think this happens in any culture where they decide they'd rather have swords in quantity than swords of quality. Testing blade hardness doesn't prove much really, I'll freely admit that Japanese blades tended to be harder than Western blades. Not because Western smiths couldn't make steel that hard, but because the intended use dictated a certain hardness for the weapon.

    It's true in both cultures though that the quality of steel could fluctuate wildly depending on local sources. I think that Japanese smiths had an easier time of refining their iron sand than their counterparts did iron ore in the West. Up until the time foundries were established there wasn't much consistancy anywhere.
    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.

  14. #44
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    Hi Dan,

    Happy New year to you too.

    You stated:

    "Actually their sword making skills were ways to control the placment of carbon in the steel they used to make weapons and armor of all types. So, stated properly. The skills they used to make steel were evidenced in all of their weapons. Why did they lavish such special attention on the swords?"

    Then if spears were so much more important than swords why do they seem generally less sophisticated in design and execution? Maybe they were made more quickly, in greater quantity and therfore more haphazardly? And if true, where are they all? Ever tried to find a nice old yari blade?
    Not impossible by any means but really tough compared to finding great old swords.

    And you never really answered that last sentence. If the sword was used in battle as little as you seem to claim, why so much attention to it? There can be much enormous speculation concerning this phenomonon but ultimately I don't think any of us know the answer for a fact, despite scholary study & conjecture.

    I know this is hypothetical but lets try a little common sense here... If you were in a pitched battle and your distance of engagement had left archery and spears ineffective, what weapon would you have chosen. A sword sounds good to me. Some might call that choice "secondary" I however would not if the implication of the term "secondary" was in level of importance. I guess this is where the confusion/disagreement comes from. What is mean't by "secondary" to one person may mean a completely different "secondary" to another. I might call the sword in that capacity "complimentary" insted of "secondary"

    Dan, generally I agree with almost all you contentions to one degree or another.... it's just in the "degrees" where I find reason for comment and ocassional skepticism.

    Also:

    "While the Japanese "cult of the sword" may be true, the Japanese sword as the penultimate sword is utter hogwash."

    As a past student of western fencing and appreciator of middle eastern weaponry I whole heartedly agree. A mail sleeved and caged rapier is a work of practical genius to behold. Truly, the various sword designs are kind of a case of rock, scizzors & stone aren't they!

    Now if we can get back that discussion a while back about quenching ... was it Viking steel in Yak piss... or something like that. God the stuff I learn here on E-budo from you guys cracks me up! Joe Svinth, where are you!

    Keep the fun coming!

    Tobs

  15. #45
    Dan Harden Guest

    Default


    D Bierd writes
    I hadn't meant to imply that the forging methods were identical, or that there were not cultural differences in the "standard" way of making weapons. What I was trying to say is that everything that was done by Japanese smiths in creation of their swords was known by those in the West and used at various times or places.

    Well..Its not that I am trying to be contrary But....

    Everything that was done by the Japanese smiths was not known by the west for hundreds of years. Once they "showed" their methods of manufacture it become sort of "Oh Yeah, Got it."
    What I was also trying to explain was that the forging skills were are all common, right down to wetting the anvil to blow off scale, and using clay fluxs. BUT, the "methods" (not skills)were different. Particularly the application of clay to differentially harden. Differnetial tempering was accomplished differently in different cultures by different methods, but the intent and skills were common

    ****************************
    D again
    I think we'd agree that the Western battlefield differed considerably from the Japanese battlefield and that weapons and therefore weapon construction was different between the two. To sum up, the Japanese sword isn't superior in construction or design than Western swords. Each evolved into what was needed to supply the warriors.

    agreed except I could easily discuss many different methods not just TWO

    ********************************
    D again
    Sadly, Western swords tend to be in much worse condition than the Japanese counterparts. Although the Japanese have had a tendency of preserving only the best.

    This isn't entirely true. Famous makers made lousy blades so so makers made great blades. And do not EVER think some collector who loves the look of a blade or its pedigree may necessarily know "diddly" about the potential weakness of his prized blades. I knew a Japanese sword society guy who loved his Koto blade with very pronounced Nie and with a groove. He thought it would be an excellent "cutter" due to its size. It had lousy distal taper, the ha was worn down to a fraction of itself, it was to thin, and the Nie exhibited such a large grain that I jokingly said make sure your insurance is paid and no one is around when you try it.
    In essense, smiths are smiths. We are a decidedly pragmatic bunch and probably have a better understanding of what's going on with steel then many of the collectors
    There are, I would guess, tens of thousands of blades by unkown makers that are every bit as good as the well known ones. Some may even be better. Men make legends out of other men, and then those poor slobs either have to live up to the artifial construct, make money selling wares to the morons who elevated them, or simply try to ignore them and go back to work.

    ***************************************
    D again
    My understanding is that there were blades mass produced during the Singoku period that were out and out awful. I think this happens in any culture where they decide they'd rather have swords in quantity than swords of quality. Testing blade hardness doesn't prove much really, I'll freely admit that Japanese blades tended to be harder than Western blades. Not because Western smiths couldn't make steel that hard, but because the intended use dictated a certain hardness for the weapon.

    Testing blade hardness when researching manufacture and intended use is VERY telling and proves many things.
    Without going into detail. IF you give me a blunt,double edge weapon of light weight that has a single handle. I am going to check its rockwell hardness and others of its type and compare it to the materials maximum obtainable hardness Then I would research any records of warfare, including: armor worn and by what perecentage of the combatants and any records of strategy of both large scale and small scale tactics of the culture I can find. I would speculate you would find that it used to have sharp edges as part of its design. And hardness was sought after to produce the best edge retention possible. It is in the design parameters of the weapon.
    Give me a huge broadsword with blunt edges, and find that it was made out of a product capable of produsing high hardness. Than let me find that many of the combatants wore shield and armor, and then let me rockwell test it to find that the smiths used methods that produced a rockwell hardness below that attainable by them for the materials used and I will speculate that the edges were blunted, and the blade tempered back to afford the user greater impact strength.
    This is all to simplistic and shot full of holes but my only recourse is to write an essay
    Suffice to say that rockwell hardness is very, very important as a "piece" of the overall intent of the weapon

    **********************************
    D again
    It's true in both cultures though that the quality of steel could fluctuate wildly depending on local sources.

    I dont know how much I can agree to that. The Japanese had centrally located sources for smelting and the smiths knew what to do with the steel to de-carborize or recarborize the steel. The europeans had blister and shear steels made in locales and sold to individual smiths. Indians smelted Wootz in samll crucibles and had tight control over the product, Scaninavians had bog ore to smelt as well.
    I would expect the failures were more often those of individual smiths not the smelted steel they used.

    *********************************************
    D again
    I think that Japanese smiths had an easier time of refining their iron sand than their counterparts did iron ore in the West. Up until the time foundries were established there wasn't much consistancy anywhere.

    I think you would find that wootz production (the original damascus)was the easiest smelting method. It was NOT the easiest to work after though. And blister steel was a hell of alot easier to make than standing at a tatara smelter for days on end feeding the damn thing. The Japanese would have been MUCH better off dealing with a sealed crucible method. A lot less material to load due to reduced loss. And the quality control of the carbon distribution would have risen dramatically.

    Dan

    [Edited by Dan Harden on 01-14-2001 at 05:24 PM]

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