View Full Version : Japan and the Military Saber

8th January 2004, 14:37
I have a question concerning the Japanese use/perception of Wesern fighting arts (specifically the Western military saber) at the time of first contact (1600-1900+/-). To what extent did the Japanese of the late Tokugawa and Meiji eras utilize, adapt or otherwise react to Western close quarter combat arts? Here is what I think I know with a fair degree of certainty thanks to the work of a slew of E-Budoists and MA historians:

- Despite stereotypes to the contrary many samurai and feudal elite were enamored with Western ideas and technologies, e.g. Christianity in the 16th century, industry and steam power in the 19th century and military adaptations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

-There existed a fair amount of accomodation of new technologies in traditional fighting systems, e.g. some koryu included firearms techniques in their repertoire.

-Some late pre-modern and modern MA in Japan include bayonet skills combining drill from Western fighting arts with some techniques and philosphical beliefs from the Japanese repertoire.

-Western fencing experts travelled to Japan in the 19th century.

-The Meiji and post-Meiji regimes adopted Western style military sabers for dress and/or adapted traditional blades with Western hardware.

-At least one of these Western experts, Norman, wrote a piece comparing Western fencing and Japanese fencing (in which he was extensivley trained, but I'm not sure in which ryu-ha). In the peice he stated that on flat ground Western fencing was superior because of its speed, but in rough terrain and battle conditions Japanese fencing was superior. (Although I haven't read the peice for about five years and this is certainly not a direct quote).

So, any sources other than Norman on the subject? Any Japanese schools teaching Western-style technique? What have I got wrong?

Geoff Wingard