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jatslap
30th October 2003, 21:35
I've a question.

Why did the Japanese swordsmen not use shields as was done by the Europeans? Was it because of the weapons used? Social outlooks? Warrior ethos? What?

Now to some on this forum this may sound sort of silly, but I'm not a Kenjutsu student and this is an honest question.

John Atslap

glad2bhere
30th October 2003, 23:43
I was given to believe that Japanese warriors, perhaps not retainers of standing such as the Samurai, were known to use a small hand shield after the fashion of a European "Buckler". I have also seen references to light defenses of wicker which could provide modest shelter from archers but I must defer to folks who are better schooled in Japanese traditions. If it is of any help whatsoever, both Korean and Chinese traditions have included the use of wicker shields in their martial practice. Judging from the proportions I have seen sketched the wicker shield is approximately 24 inches or about 60 cm in diameter. FWIW.

Best Wishes,

Bruce

Jock Armstrong
31st October 2003, 00:11
Since most Japanese weapons were designed for two handed use, shields were not used at a personal level. Large wooden shields were used in siege warfare however and were wheeled out to protect musketeers and archers as they bombarded the castle. I have seen a woodblock print showing a mounted samurai firing a matchlock pistol while fending off another warrior with a buckler shaped like an old style shoulder guard from a early period yoroi. Thats the only instance of a personal shield I have come across.

TimothyKleinert
31st October 2003, 11:53
This topic came up a little while ago. Here's the link.

http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=16168&highlight=shield

Hope that helps.

--Tim Kleinert

rinpoche
6th November 2003, 14:10
Here is a site that has a painting from the 14th century that shows the use of shields - basically big portable planks used to block arrows.

Interestingly, the warfare being carried out seems to be primarily with bows. Seems to make sense.

Click this (http://www.theeast.co.jp/2001/366/history366.htm)

glad2bhere
6th November 2003, 14:16
Dear John:

".....Interestingly, the warfare being carried out seems to be primarily with bows. Seems to make sense....."

I noticed this too. I had been given to believe that the typical Japanese samurai seemed to consider the archer and to a lesser extent the spearman as somehow less valiant maybe even bordering on the cowardly because they never truely closed with their enemy. Still it seems there was an awful lot of these folks around on the battlefields. I am pretty sure the swordsmen probably thought similarly of the musketeers who turned up later in the 16th century.
Can you hear it now?
"Hey, you shot my buddy--- from a hundred yards off! Thats not fair!
You better start fighting right or I'm taking my sword and going home!" :-)

Best Wishes,

Bruce

Jock Armstrong
6th November 2003, 14:57
I think you might be getting them mixed up with European nobles. The Japanese were horse archers in the Asian tradition. The sword and spear did not become their primary weapons till they started fighting the majority of their campaigns in areas unsuitable for horses, mainly in the heavily forested mountain areas away from the coastal plains [14th century onwards] Far from despising the bow, they revered it so much that in the 16th century they deliberately gave the ashigaru [footsoldier of non samurai lineage]the arquebus, thereby preserving [in most feudal armies] the bow as a samurai weapon. The warrior way in japan in early times was actually "The way of the horse and Bow".
The Japanese were not afflicted by the Germanic distaste for projectile weapons. The celts preferred to fight on foot, hand to hand but did not eschew the bow [the welsh are the prime example]. The mounted "knight" stems from Charlemagne's Frankish nobles who came off second best to the steppe bowmen such as the Avars, Turkic/Hunnish tribesmen and later the Magyars. they adopted the horse to counter the enemy mobility but they really never got a grip on the steppe bow technology, besides they really wanted to get in close and take a head in single combat.
To keep the story short [or me running of at the gob] the Japanese were not averse to bows. Many of their early heroes were bowmen. [Minamoto Tametomo for example] :beer:

Soulend
7th November 2003, 03:58
This is my understanding too. The bow seems to have been the "revered weapon" of nobles long before the sword was - at least from what I have read.

glad2bhere
7th November 2003, 13:02
Dear David and Jock:

Thanks for helping me reframe that perspective. I followed your example and did some digging and there are, in truth, a number of legends about feats accomplished with the bow. Makes me wonder how the sword got such top billing! In Korea the martial culture had long been revered for its archery. Even in the modern world Korean archers are a force to be respected in Olympic competition. Still there seems to be a real effort to represent the sword as having more influence than it did. Strange.

Best Wishes,

Bruce

Soulend
7th November 2003, 15:49
I think the sword became more prominent during the Edo period when few battles occurred anymore. Essentially battlefield weapons like the yumi and yari (also a revered weapon in more ancient times) became somewhat neglected, or relegated to use by women, as with the naginata.

Naturally, carried day in, day out as much a badge of status as it was a weapon - the sword came to the fore, especially in an era when any fighting was usually in the form of single combat. Archery was still considered a noble pursuit, although not as pragmatic a one as it had been in days of yore.

John Lindsey
7th November 2003, 16:08
fyi:

glad2bhere
7th November 2003, 16:19
Thanks, John.

Is there a time frame or era suggested for your post?

Best Wishes,

Bruce

John Lindsey
7th November 2003, 17:00
Not sure about that. It is from a book I picked up in Japan. It is from a series of books called Strategy, Tactics, and Warefare. The subject of this volume seems to be castle constuction and seige warfare. Not a bad book for 1,900 yen...

Here is another pic:

Martyn van Halm
8th November 2003, 01:28
Looks like a nice book, John. Can you post specifics, maybe the publisher or ISBN?

John Lindsey
8th November 2003, 01:33
ISBN4-05-601755-7

Gakken

Brian Owens
8th November 2003, 09:28
Originally posted by glad2bhere
Still there seems to be a real effort to represent the sword as having more influence than it did. Strange.
Reverence for the sword goes way back into Japan's prehistory. The sword had ritualistic use as well as combat use, and the sword (in this case the ancient tsurugi) forms part of the Three Sacred Regalia of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The bow may have been the preferred weapon of the military in pre-Edo times, but the sword was an object of awe and mystery.

Kwan Gong
31st March 2004, 22:48
Were shields used in ancient Japanese warfare? I have been looking/reading about JMA and warfare in old Japan and I have not really seen any mention of the use of the shield anywhere. If not, then what is the reasoning/story behind the de-emphasis on shield work?

Blackwood
31st March 2004, 23:13
There is some reference. See:

Tinpe and Rotin (http://www.wonder-okinawa.jp/023/eng/013/images/007.gif)

Kwan Gong
1st April 2004, 00:37
Thanks, but that site mainly refers to Okinawan history and warfare. And the type of shield I was thinking of was more long the lines of what you'd find in European/Middle Eastern arms and armor from the classical periods to medieval. I am curious about sheilds as they pertain to Japanese military history - i.e. you don't really see much reference, if any, about samurai using shields of any kind during any period prior to Tokugawa when the whole country was often at war in some part or another.

David_Teczely
1st April 2004, 08:35
What I know they used shields. They where big wooden constructions with a "support-stick" that made it standing freely. wich gave the footsoldier the opportunity to stand behind and fire his musket or shoot with your bow. The shields was not of the type that you carry around on your arm for parrying purposes. They where more similar to the type that where used by bowmen in europe. Many shields could form a shieldwall or make an extra protection in a trench or similar.

xensu
6th April 2004, 03:58
I asked my teacher - said bead shields were used made of volcanic materials - volcanic ash I think for the beads. It could also be used as an abacus. It was mostly used by the ainu. I have'nt practiced any technique with it yet but hopefully will later.

Jock Armstrong
6th April 2004, 06:16
Xensu, sign your real name or the moderatore may well delete your account. Forum rules. BTW I couldn't see any info on your MA or your name in the profile.
What MA do you practice?

xensu
6th April 2004, 12:01
Jock - I practice Aizu O Dome. It's an underground art so I did'nt bother to put it in my profile.

Oda
6th April 2004, 14:14
I had a feeling that the subject of shields had been discussed before. I did a quick search and found this old thread. This is by far the best thread about shields.

http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=16168&highlight=Shields

Bullbrand
2nd November 2004, 21:31
I recently read something that made me think a bit. It was out of the 35 articles Musashi wrote on swordmanship. In the one article subtitled "naming my fencing style the two-sword style", it has the following line.

If a man were galloping along a narrow path near a river or if he were in a battle crowded with samurai, he would hold his shield in his left hand, thus restricting the free use of that hand.

Shield?

I know shields have been discussed on this forum before but this seemed a bit weird. To which shields would he be refering to? As far as I know there were no handheld shields used as such. I know there were the sort of barricade fortification shields used as cover for arrows, but these weren't handheld. Perhaps I am mistaken. Just wondering.

BTW the quote was taken from here:
http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Pagoda/8187/Niten.htm

Any ideas anyone?

Jock Armstrong
3rd November 2004, 10:18
He might just have meant the short sword in his left hand [being the weapon mostly used to parry] as being his "shield". I think I've read the same translation as you- I was a bit confused by that. However, I have seen a an Edo period print showing a mounted, armoured samurai shooting a horse pistol, carrying an object in his left hand as a buckler which looks like a square shoulder guard from a yoroi as a shield. Shields were used way back in the early Nara period, as were short double edged swords. Very mediterenean looking.

rurouni69
4th November 2004, 02:27
Hi!

Just to put my two cents in, I think that it doesn't necessarily pertain to any martial arts, like he said

qoute:

Because I hold two swords, I call my fencing style two-sword swordsmanship. Holding a sword in my left hand [as well as my right] implies nothing special...

If a MAN were galloping along a narrow path near a river or if he were in a battle crowded with samurai, he would hold his shield in his left hand, thus restricting the free use of that hand...

[Without training] he will feel that sword inordinately heavy. Only when a man has experience and is accustomed to wielding a sword with one hand [can he excel in battle.] When an archer becomes experienced by shooting arrows in training, his shooting ability soars.

I think he was just trying to get a point across. See what I mean?
Well, that's my 2-cents. :)

W.Bodiford
12th November 2004, 21:36
The translation is faulty. Nothing in the original Japanese suggests "shield."

Jock Armstrong
13th November 2004, 01:12
I suspected as much- what is the actual Japanese / translation? I haven't tried to read it in the original vernacular- my kanji skills being what they are.............

W.Bodiford
19th November 2004, 06:52
Rather than a translation, I will give you a "reading" or interpretation that conveys what the text would say if it were written more clearly. I am not sure how much of the first sentence is being negated, and I do not have time this year to read more of the text to gain a better sense of how it uses negative statements. Except for the first sentence, I think the rest of this reading is very reliable.

===========
Number 1: Why I call This Style the "Two Sword Method"

I call this style the "two sword method" not because carrying two swords implies wielding a sword with the left hand, but because I want learn how to wield a sword with only one hand [i.e., only my right hand]. There are many times when being able to use a sword with only one hand would be advantageous, such as when holding a gunbai ["war fan"], riding a horse, forging a river, walking on a narrow path or climbing over rocky terrain, when surrounded by people, or when running fast (etc.). If you are holding a weapon or other item in your left hand, then even if you would prefer otherwise, you have no choice but to wield your sword with only your right hand. [People might object, saying that a sword is too heavy and awkward to use in only one hand. It is true that] when first taking up the sword [with the right hand alone] it does feel heavy, but with time one can learn to use it freely. [It is the same as when learning any other physical task.] For example, someone who learns how to shoot a bow becomes able to handle a stronger bow, someone who learns how to ride a horse becomes able to handle a stronger mount. It is likewise with the tasks of manual laborers, such as the boatman who becomes strong enough to handle an oar and rudder or the farmer who becomes strong at using a hoe and rake. If you practice using a sword, then you develop the strength to handle it. Nonetheless, depending on one's level of strength, one should select a sword of a weight and length that matches one's physical abilities.
============

I hope this is helpful.

Endboss
5th March 2008, 15:48
Hi all

I was wondering why there appears to be no history of shield use in the koryu in the same way as there is in western martial arts.

Just about every western nation I can think of that produced professional soldiers also produced systems for shield use (or at least used shields).

Even the later dueling styles had systems that used bucklers.

One would think that the common factors in combat would mean that at some stage its use would have been present in Japan.

Did the shield truely not make any appearance in Japan or is my knowledge of koryu just lacking?

Kind regards
Benny Macarthur

cxt
5th March 2008, 17:33
End

Different cultures, different focus.

You see very few actual "battle axes" as the west would use the term, used in combat either---oh they had them,and some used them....but not like the numbers in the West.

Mongols were not known for their shield use, nor the Huns..again, they had them, just not as focused on them as say the Romans etc.

And your right, even some of the later dueling systems used bucklers---but they stopped using them as well...why do you think they evetually stopped?

lucky1899
5th March 2008, 17:52
End,

One perspective:

If shields were used, their use isn't congruent to giving your life to your retainer and therefore largely left out of history. Samurai considered themselves dead; a shield (protection), perhaps, was seen as too overt an extension of defense or protecting your life (in comparison to say armor). Samurai were trained to kill not to stay alive.

Second perspective:
Samurai weapons, particularly the sword, are historically trained with two hands. Footwork/postures were more largely emphasized to avoid attacks.

Regards,

A. De Luna

pgsmith
5th March 2008, 19:13
I think someone has been putting a bit too much stock in Hagakure. :)

As far as I've been able to figure out the samurai, from their inception all the way into the Edo period, were primarily horse archers. The bujutsu were referred to as "the way of the horse and bow". This is in pretty large contrast to the European way of waging war, where the knights were primarily heavy cavalry (shield and lance). It is pretty much impossible to shoot a bow from horseback while holding a shield. This is also true of the Mongols and the Huns, two other Asian forces that pretty much eschewed the use of the shield.

The Japanese did employ large shields on the battlefield, but they were primarily to protect their slingmen, or later their gunners, from enemy fire. They were not carried individually.

Max Chouinard
6th March 2008, 01:01
This subject comes up once or twice a year it seems.

For yabusame, it was pretty much fadding away as a military tactic in the sengoku period. Horses became rarer and infantry combat was much more important, depending on the different factions.

As for the shield, it was used in the 700's, but then the focus was put on two handed weapons and shields were replaced by standing pavises (http://sanditan.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/a418_koushin1.jpg). Why? Surely not because of honor; many soldiers were not bushi, many battles were won by utter treachery and backstabing, and even then why would tate be acceptable if a shield was not? It just doesn't make any sense.

Was it forgoten? Surely not. Japanese forces had contacts with many people who used shields (sometimes against them) but did not adopted the concept. Even if they have a long history of borrowing what they deemed useful and adapting it to their needs.

But then the japanese had efficient armors and all weapons they used were two-handed (except for some back up weapons).... It's pretty obvious I think. A shield was just deemed a useless encumbrance for them.

Josh Reyer
6th March 2008, 01:42
European warfare has largely been influenced by Greek and Roman infantry, in which the shieldwall was highly developed. To this end, spears were short and light, able to be wielded one-handed, and swords were also short and designed for one handed use.

Japanese warfare, OTOH, never developed the shieldwall strategy, for any number of mundane reasons. They utilized the bow, the naginata, mounted cavalry, and later, the long spear. Shields have always been an integral part of Japanese warfare, but they were the tall kind used to protect troops from in-coming arrows.

Buckler-type hand shields were used by individual Japanese warriors, and can be seen in Yagyu Shingan Ryu demonstrations.

Endboss
6th March 2008, 04:22
Thanks to all who replied.

I never actually thought about the (lack of) axes either...

Interesting point about having a history of using the shield-wall / phalanx as opposed to a history of mounted warfare.

I shall have to read more.

Thanks
Benny

Earl Hartman
6th March 2008, 06:24
IIRC, the "buckler" used in Yagyu Shingan Ryu is a jingasa-type helmet. The guy takes it off his head and uses it for a shield by grasping it by the chin straps. Or at least it looks that way in the demos I have seen.

Josh Reyer
6th March 2008, 06:34
IIRC, the "buckler" used in Yagyu Shingan Ryu is a jingasa-type helmet. The guy takes it off his head and uses it for a shield by grasping it by the chin straps. Or at least it looks that way in the demos I have seen.

My copy of "Nihon no Kenjutsu" has a YSgR fellow holding a "buckler" and wearing a helmet on his head. I'll have to check what the name of that particular thing is...

Earl Hartman
6th March 2008, 07:29
Yeah, I'd be interested to know.

Also, what does the Anglo-Saxon in your signature line mean? And how do you write it using a computer?

Louvere
6th March 2008, 09:50
One example of the jingasa being used as a shield in the Yagyu Shingan Ryu is when one is also armed with the jingama defending against a swordsman. The sword is deflected by the jingasa and the enemy taken down with the jingama.
The other example is if the person armed with the jingama has the weapon knocked from his grasp, he then throws the jingasa towards the face of the enemy and proceeds to follow up with the kodachi.
The techniques of the Jingasa are still used today in the Yagyu Shingan Ryu of Shimazu Kenji.
These examples are also shown in the book Kacchu Yawara Yagyu Shingan Ryu written by Shimazu Kenji. There are a number of other excellent examples displayed by Shimazu Kenji and Hoshi Kunio in their book Shoden Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu.

Simon
Simon Louis

Fred27
6th March 2008, 11:03
One example of the jingasa being used as a shield in the Yagyu Shingan Ryu is when one is also armed with the jingama defending against a swordsman. The sword is deflected by the jingasa and the enemy taken down with the jingama.
The other example is if the person armed with the jingama has the weapon knocked from his grasp, he then throws the jingasa towards the face of the enemy and proceeds to follow up with the kodachi.
The techniques of the Jingasa are still used today in the Yagyu Shingan Ryu of Shimazu Kenji.
These examples are also shown in the book Kacchu Yawara Yagyu Shingan Ryu written by Shimazu Kenji. There are a number of other excellent examples displayed by Shimazu Kenji and Hoshi Kunio in their book Shoden Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu.

Simon
Simon Louis

Demonstrated briefly here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Yl5M0Ox4gU

Josh Reyer
6th March 2008, 13:57
Yeah, I'd be interested to know.
According to the article in the book, it's called a 陣盾(じんだて) jindate. Interestingly, the only hit on a google search was a discussion in Japanese on this very subject, and someone brought up the same exact book and picture.


Also, what does the Anglo-Saxon in your signature line mean? And how do you write it using a computer?

I use a Windows machine. I bring up the characters by holding Alt and then typing in certain sequences on the keypad. Alt-0230 is , Alt-0254 is , and Alt-0240 is . It's all in Character Map. If you use a Mac, though, I don't know what to tell you.

The line is from Beowulf. Beowulf goes down the mere to fight Grendel's mother. He carries with him Hrunting, a famous, proven-in-battle pattern-welded sword. As he engages Grendel's mother, he swings the sword and....nothing. It doesn't cut, it doesn't bruise, it doesn't deal any damage to the mother. So Beowulf tosses the sword away and, trusting to his own formidable strength, engages her hand-to-hand. The poet suddenly interjects:

"So must a man do when, going to battle, he thinks of long-lasting renown; he cares not for his life."

I used to have it paired with "Bushido to wa, shinu koto to mitsuketari." (The way of the samurai is found in death), the famous line from the Hagakure. Not that I'm a fan of the Hagakure by any means, but I think I was making a statement about the universality of man...

Incidentally, Grendel's mother has a much better ground game than Beowulf. It looks like all is lost when Beowulf manages to push her away, stands, and sees another sword in her treasure sword. This one is also pattern-welded, and is huge -- "the work of giants" -- so that no mortal man (save Beowulf) could possibly wield it. As Grendal's mother comes for him, he grabs and wheels around with a kesa-giri...

Earl Hartman
6th March 2008, 18:55
Interesting.

Does the "gangen" mean "to go"? If so, perhaps that is where the Scots "gang" (as in "the best laid plans o' mice and men gang aft agley") comes from.

Great line, though, especially since it appears to mean that for Beowulf and, presumably, all other warriors, renown is more important than life (or, at the least, that renown is worth risking your life for).

Guess I wouldn't have made it back then. I'm happy to be alive and unknown.

Did you see the most recent 3-D Beowulf? And what about the one made a few years back where Grendel is just a misunderstood troll who has every right to hate the Danes since they murdered his father for no good reason? I rather liked the idea of the story, although the modernity of the dialogue was a little jarring.

pgsmith
6th March 2008, 20:31
For yabusame, it was pretty much fadding away as a military tactic in the sengoku period. Horses became rarer and infantry combat was much more important, depending on the different factions.

According to the Kōsaka Danjō Masanobu, which details the Takeda family's military exploits, Takeda Shingen's army consisted of 33,736 individuals. This was broken down into 9121 horsemen, 18,242 followers for the horsemen, 884 ashigaru within the hatamoto shoyakunin (personal attendants to the lord), and 5489 other ashigaru. Since Takeda Shingen was a major player in the Sengoku Jidai, I would hardly call having the majority of your army be horse archers as "fading away".

Also, we cannot forget that by the Sengoku Jidai, the samurai had already been a separate classification of profession for about 600 years. Yabusame did not begin to lose relevance until the latter part of the Sengoku Jidai, when firearms and volley fire by ashigaru became too much of a force to be overcome. However, after Tokugawa Ieyasu won out the Shogunate, he promptly eliminated firearms which propelled yabusame back to the forefront.

So, I stand by my statement that the samurai, for pretty much their entire existence, were first and foremost horse archers.

Kendoguy9
6th March 2008, 22:31
Dear Paul et al,

While the musket did reduce the importance of the bow on the battle field it never killed it completely. The muskets took quite a bit of time to reload and fire, and weren't much use in the rain. An archer could fire a large number of arrows in the time it took to reload.

Although, if memory serves (and it seldom does), while the Takeda clan did have a number of men with muskets it was Oda Nobunaga's superior firepower that sealed the deal for Katsuyori.

Best regards,

Max Chouinard
6th March 2008, 23:39
Yes the Takeda clan was known for having one of the most important cavalry (that's what I meant on depending on the various factions). But even then he seemed to have more infantry than cavalry. If you check on Uesugi Kenshin and many other major factions you will see it is not the same.