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fifthchamber
28th May 2001, 13:00
Hi all,
This question has been on my mind for a time whenever I train using Shinken/Bokuto, I was wondering...
The Japanese sword was designed to have a harder Shinogi section and a softer Ha to facilitate cutting easily. But in training we seem to use the Ha to stop an opponents cut rather more than the (Harder) Shinogi area, I am unsure exactly what way to block these cuts, having researched all the various styles that I can find out about it seems as though the pattern is the same in many of the Bujutsu.
Are there specialized kata that use the Shinogi or was it considered a special knowledge that was passed on later. I ask because I cannot find these things out otherwise and it does seem strange to see so many Ryu using the Ha when the Shinogi area was designed for the type of heavy blocks associated with any 'meeting of blades'
Thanks for any help.

Paul Steadman
28th May 2001, 13:11
Hi Ben,

Actually the ha (edge) is harder than the body of the blade due to the manufacturing process (differential tempering/cooling and all that). The Japanese sword is desined for specific use which requires a hard sharp edge and a flexible but strong blade.

Most swords will not take a lot of pressure or impact on the shinogi or flat of the blade, swords have been known to snap or bend when struck on the side or when incorrect hasuji (blade angle) and/or kiri-sen (cutting angle) are used in tameshigiri.

Thus all blocks IMHO should be recieved on the edge. The kenjutsu/battojutsu kata of most of the koryu I have seen or experienced teach this method.

Cheers,

Paul Steadman

Soulend
28th May 2001, 13:37
I am not sure if I misunderstand, but the ha (cutting edge) should be the hardest part of the blade..harder than the skin steel of the shinogi, or ridge line area, except in blades having a maru-gitae type construction.

I often see the ha used to block in different ryu, and have wondered why, as it is so susceptable to chipping and cracking in edge to edge contact. I can only conclude that it is because it is the most convenient and quickest part of the blade to use.

In MJER Iaijutsu, the shinogi area is used in ukenagashi type blocks quite extensively, although I would term ukenagashi as more of a parry that a true block.

It seems to me that the mune would be the best part of the blade to block with. Are there any styles out there that utilize this?

fifthchamber
28th May 2001, 13:44
Yeah, sorry about the confusion on the Ha being the harder area area of the blade, my mistake. However the question is still why do so many styles use the Ha to defend?
I have never seen a technique that uses the rear of the blade (and thinking about it that is probably the best way as the Sori would allow room for 'accidents' I think) But the Ha of a blade is the easiest to damage and so maybe there are techniques out there that do use the Mune. If so does anyone know any of the Ryu or techniques, or have any info on where they could be found?
Thanks.

Richard Elias
28th May 2001, 19:57
Ben,

In our style blocking is done mostly with the side if the blade and sometimes with the back. Shinogi and mune respectively. The back is used intechniques to control the opponent's sword by using the curve to direct or apply pressure to the opponent through the blade. We very seldom use the edge directly to block, seldom but not never.

It is best when useing the side of the blade to block, that you close in and use the lower third of the blade to recieve the blow. This area in often thicker and has better support, whereas further down the blade you may have less control and the blade may bend under the force of the opponent's cut. We also press the handle (tsuka) into the middle of the chest with the body turned sideways and the blade covering the side of the head/temple and neck areas.

Not to sound like a salesman but if you are interested in the actual form of the block we use, and several others, we have a couple of videos out that have them on it. They are available from Bugei Trading company at www.bugei.com. The one that has the blocks on it is called "Yanagi ryu kenjitsu Vol. 2".

John Lindsey
28th May 2001, 21:25
Richard,

Funny you mentioned Vol 1 of the sword video series. I was just watching it again yesterday. I need to get vol 2 in the near future. If John was nice, he would send me a copy to review and plug here on e-budo :).


About mune... I have been shown a technique called mune uchi in which you strike the head of an opponent with the back of the blade (mune), hopefully sparing his life..maybe :).

yuushi
28th May 2001, 21:39
I too have seen that technique.
In fact I was hit on the head by it when I was a kid. (by a bokken)
I've never seen so many stars in my life outside of NASA.


Umihara Yu

hg
29th May 2001, 00:42
[QUOTE]Originally posted by John Lindsey
Richard,

About mune... I have been shown a technique called mune uchi in which you strike the head of an opponent with the back of the blade (mune), hopefully sparing his life..maybe :). [/QUOTE


The contrary, I think. You spare the cutting edge of your blade, and will almost certainly crush your oponents skull. Miyamoto Musashi crushed ganryus scull using only a bokutou, a narrower mune of a steel sword yould be more effective. But if you hit bones with the cutting edge, you risk damaging the blade, so you avoid that.

hg
29th May 2001, 00:50
Originally posted by fifthchamber
However the question is still why do so many styles use the Ha to defend?
I have never seen a technique that uses the rear of the blade (and thinking about it that is probably the best way as the Sori would allow room for 'accidents' I think) But the Ha of a blade is the easiest to damage and so maybe there are techniques out there that do use the Mune. If so does anyone know any of the Ryu or techniques, or have any info on where they could be found?
Thanks.
When I was in the international Budo Seminar this year in the Katsuura Budokan, the soke of the Katori shintoryu (Otake-sensei) claimed that a sword hit on the mune could break. He also stated that in Katori, in practice you do a lot of blocking, but in a real combat situtaion you would not block at all, but cut the oponent (in the hand etc), so you only pretend blocking during training to confuse uninitiated deshi. Actually, I have seen a 300 year old sword with two deep ridges on the mune which seem to have come from using the mune for blocking, and it did not break, and somebody actually used the mune. In general, the ha is the hardest part and there is a general consensus (I also asked a conservator of a museum who gave a talk in Katsuura), and he said: use the ha. The mune is supposed to have softer, more ducticle steal, and getting damages in the soft backside probably seriously undermines the overall stability of the blade.

carl mcclafferty
29th May 2001, 04:08
Hans

Otake Sensei knows quite a bit about sword technique we might listen to his comments. Most the Koryu sword styles, including the ones I practice i.e. TSKSR/SGR, use the opponents boken to strike instead of his hand/arm, hitting the hand and arm at full strength makes practice a once a year occassion if ever again.

I would also caution that just because a three hundred year old sword has cut marks on the mune you should not conclude that its owner was actually a competent swordsman or survived the encounter nor that the cuts were obtained in actual combat. But it is refreshing that the blade survives so it can be examined.

Thanks
Carl McClafferty
PS I hoped you enjoyed Otake Sensei and his Son's enbu.

Richard Elias
29th May 2001, 09:49
John,

"If John was nice, he would send me a copy to review and plug here on e-budo"

John who?

As far as striking with the back of the blade is concerned, it was often considered a sign of contempt. To break someone up (striking limbs, clavicle, knees etc.) using the back of the blade rather than killing them outright was cruel and showed that you wanted that person to suffer. Back "in the day" they didn't have the ability to set shattered bones, so the person was left a cripple. A warrior who is unable to fight is no warrior at all. He was left without a means of making a living and would probably end up commiting seppuku.

As to blocking with the back. The fact that the back side of the blade is of softer steel would make it less likely to break when recieving a blow than the harder, and therefore more brittle, edge. I personally have seen several blades that have nicks and the like on the back of the blade, presumably from blocking. The back protion of the blade is specifically designed to be able to withstand the shock of blocking. Were the whole sword of harder steel it would snap from the blow. That's why they used that method of tempering the blades in the first place. So that you could have a sword that could withstand heavy blows and yet retain a sharp edge.

I don't really think that you risk damaging the blade too much from cutting through bone. That's partly what they were designed to do. Sword testing included cuts through various parts of the body, very many of which were through bony areas. A good sword could cut through the hips (which has the most amount and greatest density of bone) in one stroke. I once read a report of a sword test where the tester cut through seven bodies at the hips with one stroke. I am sure that sword fetched a very high price.

Incidently, the direct blocks we use are kind of an "Oh my god" defence. When you get struck at unexpectedly or for whatever reason were not able to use a proper avoidence or deflection. We do not clash blades if we don't have to. But sometimes things don't always go the way you'd like them to and you should be prepared to deal with what you get. Circumstances prevail.

Dan Harden
29th May 2001, 10:51
Sensei , Shihans, Soke's and whatnot aside, their considerable skills do not make them all knowing.

Many men have considerable skills in some areas, and simply "opinion" in others. Very often we draw unfair corollaries from one area of experties to another, which is why "endorsements" by top athletes works so well in producing greater sales.
While I greatly admire the skills of Tiger Woods, I would not be counted among those held in rapt attention whilst he expounded on the physcal properties of titanium and graphite.
Just cause he knows how to use it, doesn't mean he knows how to make it or even the "why" of; why it works so well for him.

How many swordsman expert or other, have ever done testing to determine if a sword can take that kind of abuse? I have, as well as others.

I also know of a few other gentlemen who test their blades by cutting steel cable or brass rod. Do you know how hard it is to cut through tiny unhardened 3/8 sections of this stuff? I am a 6' 210 lb. male with more than a few years of test cutting many objects. I consider mild steel cable and brass rods a formidable test.

Ever considered how little force it takes to cut flesh and bone (or grass) while moving in and out of Maai?
Now try to cut steel, or a helmut. You will plant your feet , wind WAAAyyyy back.. then cut while lowering your center and legs.
Try that in a sword fight and you wont have to worry about finishing your technique.

Does anyone really believe you are going to get a *full on* power strike to someones mune when they are moving against/with you (Not! Kata). Even if you did, do you think you can "cut through" a Katana when it doesn't have a stationary base. The hands holding it will absorb much of your direct impact, the open end will move with the force, depressing the blade.
Properly made, a katana can absorb tremendous impact stresses for its cross section size.
Lastly I wanted to mention that a softer back responds differently than a harder edge when cut "into," which is another interesting topic.

*************
Knicks

Over the years, I have seen many old Katana with cuts and nicks on the Mune and shinogi at the Boston Museum of Fine arts. They have the largest collection of Japanese swords and weaponry outside of Japan. They rotate them quarterly.


***************
Blocking

The notion of "blocking" is a rather complicated concept to say the least.
Very rarely, if ever, should you be in the sort of position where you have to "block."
Sliding parry's to cut the hands, arms or inner legs would seem more in keeping with that altered state we call reality.

The type of blocks that Richard mentions are a sort of "Oh S#$%!" kind of block that uses the lower (and stronger) portion of the blade to protect your side or head.
Most of the time one would be using the monouchi area to do the work. "IF" we are going to discuss the use of various areas, (and think we can connect there everytime) then consider:
the mune as soft and thin
The shinogi as thicker, a little harder
the ha as hard and thin

I prefer to receive in the area between the Shinogi and the ha (hira niku). It has more cross sectional strength then the ha alone and has both soft and hard areas combined. It also makes use of the curve of a katana to reverse and control a vectored linear attack without much use of force by the defender.

Dan

carl mcclafferty
29th May 2001, 12:35
Mr. Harden:

As an old Americal bush-beater and 10 point vet, I know how easy the human body comes apart. Thanks for reminding me I might have forgotten after 30 years. Hope everyone had a happy memorial day.

It is obvious from your "Sensei, Shihan, Soke and Whatnot" comment and the way you expounded on the properties of a blade; that someone who heads a 600 year tradition that kept extensive records of clashes between men whether they were involved or not, in no way reaches the level of knowledge obtained by a modern smith cutting steel cables and brass rods. We bow to your superior knowledge.

Carl McClafferty

Dan Harden
29th May 2001, 20:46
Hey Carl

I offered no Sarcasm nor pointed to anyone in particular. Now reading back I see who you are refering to- or more correctly Hans.
The one reffered to in your post has serious credentials and I bow to his "skill."
Beyond that "He" is citing written records to verify theories or as basis for theories in a ryu-is he not?

I have heard too many tales of swords and steel- from the improbable to the fantastic- from known sensei.
However, "records of old" and "tales of the blade" I look at with a jaundiced eye, since some are practical and others are not. I weigh them against my own and others research. And that seems practical and reasonable to me.

If I disagree with written age old records as to what may or may not be practical limits of steel....shoot me. I wasn't disparaging any man, just the notion of cutting blades in half as they are held in a human beings hands. Thats sounds far fetched to me by everything I know steel to do. And I didn't dismiss it off hand either, I asked for consideration in realizing how difficult it would be.....and that is reasonable as well.
Steel is steel in any culture, and at any time, and its properties are known.

You may disagree with that, and that's fine.
I may disagree with trusting unproven or non-verifyable battle accounts from hundreds of years ago. Thats not to say they may be wrong. You just can't verify them as 100% accurate.
If that puts a fly under your bonnet.....well , sorry

By the way the research that has been done by American, German, and Austrialian smiths (that I know of) in the last twenty years support what I wrote, it is not mine alone.
It is one thing for us (as smiths) to have been told for years how the Katana was so perfect, how the forging was so sublime, How it would part silk, cut rocks and divide petals in water, and jump out and kill enemies for you..... and quite another to know the hows, why's and wherefores of the fallacy of such statements.
I wish more people would spend time trying to prove out this nonsense.
Next to hear what they can or cannot do because a scroll tells me so.... I don't buy either. Technique is one thing, but the physical properties of steel are another.
Steel is steel


As an aside I would add that Agreeing or disagreeing can be "on point" and not sarcastic. As an example Several people here had some lengthy exchanges on steel and swords; and we agreed and disagreed on points regarding steel, edge type and sword types and did so in an informative and intelligent exchange...as gentlemen. Many people enjoyed the exchanges.

Cite your disagreements by point. I would love to hear them-and discuss them. We all may learn something.
If you are defending the voracity of old scrolls-do so. That does seem to be the very heart of the disagreement.


Dan

W.Bodiford
30th May 2001, 00:12
Ben Sharples wrote:


Are there specialized kata that use the Shinogi or was it considered a special knowledge that was passed on later. I ask because I cannot find these things out otherwise and it does seem strange to see so many Ryu using the Ha when the Shinogi area was designed for the type of heavy blocks associated with any 'meeting of blades'


Good kata do not reveal their secrects to casual outside observers. Moreover, many sword kata can provide an effective means of teaching multiple levels of skill simultaneously. For example, a single kata can be used to teach control, timing, and distance to beginners, to teach an infinite variety of edge/mune/shinogi combinations of deflections, paries, blocks and stops to intermediate students, and to teach non-contact counters and reverses to more advanced practitioners. Full mastery of the kata is special knowledge that is acquired over time. It can only be learned from a good teacher.

Good luck,

hyaku
30th May 2001, 00:42
Again many theories put forward by many Ryu. The word block seems to be a bit inappropriate and a last resort technique. A parry would give one more time to deflect another weapon but ultimately as mentioned the answer to a cut is another cut, not a block. We find this problem in beginners Kendo where people tend to block a strike rather than cut back .

I keep saying this but nobody listens to me. Perhaps I should get plastic surgery to change the shape of my eyes?

Invariably blocks or parries should be accompanied by a countering body movement avoiding the cut.

Also if one has to block or parry one can dismiss it as being ineffective without some form of strong physical counteraction. The classical styles I practice use an edge up method. No time to think, no time to explore the technicalities and no thought of the chance of the blade getting damaged when ones life is at stake!

It is unlikely that anyone is going to receive a head on ninety degree confrontation. There is bound to be a certain amount of deflection and sliding involved.

I assume through reading that a lot of (most of?) the people use blades that or not forged in Japan.

Here in Japan they ďareĒ soft. A lot has been lost over the years not only in the sword techniques but also in the making of blades. But we still bear in mind Hikaku and Jinkaku when we buy one.

In Tameshigiri circles a bent blade is not uncommon. Even experts make mistakes! The point is to stop cutting if you have one bend which can be taken out. Two (a donkeys hind leg) and you have a rather expensive mistake

Also ZNKR prefectural groups use specially made Kata swords to take the impact. These too are scarred and gouged beyond recognition after a few demonstrations.

Hyakutake Colin

Nippon Todo Renmei

Hyoho Niten Ichiryu

Kageryu

http://www.bunbun.ne.jp/~sword
:cry:

carl mcclafferty
30th May 2001, 21:02
Dan

Perhaps if I could get my hands on a Masamune (Soshu)tachi from the mid 1300s in my hands I would fill comfortable to take full strike on it. Unfortunately I don't believe any survived over the years.

During the Sengoku Jidai (Age of Wars) there were hundreds of thousands of Katana produced of such poor quality that they would not make good chisels. In fact the training manuel for the ashigaru, the Zohyo Monogatari, allegedly told the common soldier to cut at a opponents legs because the swords issued to them would break easily on armor. Not exactly the kind of blade you'd want to block/clash with another sword while moving, standing or crapping your self in fear.
Hence just because a katana is 300,400 or 500 years old does indicate it should have been used to block with. Perhaps my earlier point should have stated it a little clearer.

As far as sticking up for Otake Sensei. He doesn't need my help, but Memorial Day always reminds me of the friends and mentors I lost as a youth. It makes me defensive about the ones I have now.

Carl McClafferty

Den
30th May 2001, 23:04
In the JSA I study we block with the Ha, but the more I study the more I realize these are not blocks at all. As has been discribed by others, when properly done, these blocking techniques are either faints or parries. At no time would a swordsman be static. Therefore what looks like a block is usually the precursor to the next aggressive movement, or it is an aggressive movement in itself. I do not believe either combatant would ever stand around long enough to need to block unless in a dire situation.

One of the real things that is lost when looking at old instruction books or drawings, is an appreciation of the actual movement - the action around a given image.

-Anthony

31st May 2001, 16:07
Hi Guys,

In the two sword traditions I am familiar with blocking with the ha is only done as a last resort. ( The oh @#@#% example described by Richard and Dan ) Most of the blocking / parrying is done with the shinogi or mune.

Despite all the speculation and mythology I tend towards siding with Dan here. I have seen several old japanese swords used in kumitachi where the parrying was done with the ha. They looked like hacksaws and were virtually ruined. Some even had cracks deep into the ji. Also, the guys at Bugei Trading Co. probably have more realistic experience with abusing swords than anyone I can think of. I saw one sword they put it in a vise and struck full bore on the shinogi and mune with another blade, over and over and over. I also saw a blade they used in blade on blade testing. Cuts into the shinogi for sure but no breakage or even bends in the blade. Given that the swords held up so well struck on the mune and shinogi it is an important thing to consider ....or it says a lot about the superiority of their products durability over most older forged Japanese blades.


Toby Threadgill

James Williams
31st May 2001, 17:52
Gentlemen,

In my experience a sword that will break when using the mune or shinogi to parry is an inferior blade. I have personally done extensive testing with Japanese and Japanese style swords. The martensitic edge is brittle, it will notch, chip, and possibly crack when struck with another sword of realitively comparable quality. The mune and shinogi of a properly forged sword will take considerable abuse without cracking or breaking. The edge of the attacking sword will usually cut into the mune and shinogi to some degree however there is not damage that would impair the function of the sword. To take a full cut from another swordsman without a parry of some kind is indicative of a serious mistake in the flow of combat. In my opinion using the edge to block is only done in a desperate circumstance. Even a parry with the blade at an acute angle to the cut will usually damage the edge to some degree. If you were in a situation, such as a battle, where the edge was used numerous times to block with the sword would suffer serious damage to the point where it's cutting ability would be compromised. Your training should entail protecting the asset that you are using to fight with. If you are a boxer it is your hands. Modern military it is your rifle. Ancient Samurai it was your sword. Proper training and ability should allow you to make minimal contact with an opponents sword when engaged. Proper parrying and passing with not only protect your sword but will significantly enhance your chance of victory.

James Williams

James Williams
31st May 2001, 17:57
Please excuse the double post.

GaryH
1st June 2001, 08:52
Hi everyone,

Well, I suppose this issue will never be completely solved as everyone has their own logic for why _their_ way is best.. but it does seem that the "more experienced" (Mr. Threadgill's post about the modern day testing was good to hear) practitioners believe that blocking with the mune/shinogi (sorry if I speeled that wrong ;) is the best way, so that should be a good indicator.

Personally, since everyone has said that the back of the blade is "softer" and more malable than the ha, I would think blocking with the ha would be the best course of action... let me list my reasons! =)

1) Mr. Threadgill's post said that the test left cuts in the mune, well, if I was in a battle I wouldn't want a cut in the mune... that would weaken the entire blade. If you made a cut with the main portion of force centered after the cut in the blade, it could easily snap in two. (followed by your demise!)

2) Again if the mune had a cut in it, and you blocked with any part of the mune that is after the cut, it could (less likely, but still could) break and send that broken piece flying at you.

3) I wouldn't feel comfortable blocking with the mune.. the ha should be pointed at my opponent, not me.

4) Bocking with the shinogi makes me feel uneasy as well, since the blade is much thinner sideways and could bend if the attacker put enough force into it.

That is my logic, chop it up, chew it up, and spit it out =) These are my opinions and my opinions only.

But to add some illogic to this post, I get a general feeling of safety when I think of blocking with the ha... I haven't even held a sword before but something in my mind nags me when I think of blocking with the mune/shinogi... hehe, maybe when I am in college I will calculate the exact physics involved and answer this questions for everyone! =)

Sincerely,

--Gary Hill

Dan Harden
1st June 2001, 12:34
Gary writes
but it does seem that the "more experienced" practitioners believe that blocking with the mune/shinogi (sorry if I speeled that wrong is the best way, so that should be a good indicator.

>much snipping<

I haven't even held a sword before but something in my mind nags me when I think of blocking with the mune/shinogi... hehe, maybe when I am in college I will calculate the exact physics involved and answer this questions for everyone! =)

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


To be clear
The more "experienced" do NOT all agree on this issue at all. In cyber land you just heard from several who agree. But there are some very serious men here who play with pointy things who would do not.

As far as your physics lecture on the sword.........
The answer to your questions will best be found in metallurgy. Morover, a far better answer will be found, not on draft paper and calculater but in shop, in vise, in the held hands of a practitioner.

I disagree with your presumption that a soft back will be more prone to breaking then the edge. In fact, I think you are exactly wrong.
To be clear- the opposite is true.
The edge will crack, thus leaving you a notched edge that will give an avenue for a stress riser in the next impact. The harder the steel the more prone to a stress fracture upon deflection.
If I had to bet my life, I would much prefer to have a notch in the shinogi or mune then in the ha.

In your theoretical scenario;
We have our intrepid soldier trundled up in his little beetle bug suit stoically marching out to make dozens of edge to edge contacts, or edge to armor contacts, thus completely destroying his edge. I donít buy that either.

*****************
No one has discussed the other issue of Ha blocking. Not only do you have the obvious notching, you will also have entire sections of the blade with a curled edge or scraped off edge.
Since much of sword work is sliding and deflecting- not dead on blocking; you will have occasion to meet and slide "on edge." This will expose small sections to abrasion. The edges of both blades can curl or be scraped off.
Your blade will not like it.
Buy some blades and try it.
Put it in the vise and continually hit it edge to edge.

Next
Since you just destroyed the blades with this stupidity.......
Buy two more
put them in the vise

Continually strike the shinogi and mune of another blade with yours. Check your edge. You will find it is usually still servicable.
Check the other sword. You will find it is usually servicable as well.

The results of these tests tell me something.

Many.... sensei, and all manner of students have told me otherwise. They were wrong then and their wrong now.

Lets move on........

While we are on the subject of testing
Please realize that anything held in a vise behaves differently then that held in the hands.

IF I could I would send up banners and fireworks with the following statement I would.
"Lab testing can fail to comform with reality."

Example: The absorbtion of the force of impact is much greater when the sword is held fixed in a weighted base.
In reality; the impact force would be less-as the hands absorbed the impact as they moved, and the tip went with the force, as well as being deflected off. So, in the hands it would have to withstand less force.
A blade surviving impacts in a vise test as quoted by James and Toby is substantial evidence of its strength.
And further evidence of the "validity" of the use of mune and shinogi.
Whether or not other ryu do it is not the point and is of no consequence or importance to me.
It works and works well, regardless of any teachers "opinions" to the contrary

In fact, the people who have done this testing have arrived at the same conclusions. Anyone else who has opinions on the subject has just that. I have never considered my teachers all knowing, neither are martial art teachers.

***************
Next:
the theory that Notched edges are stronger than notched backs

Do you know what a common test is for failure in hardened and shaped steel? To put a notch in it and try to break it.
Do you know what you do to try to prevent that?
You round off all inside and outside corners.

A while back there was some discusion of Aluminum Iaito that broke in the habaki and people wondered why- I waited for someone to state the obvious answer but no one did.

The answer is that the Ha and mune machi create a perfect venue for a stress fracture. With aluminum being softer and more flexible; the number of fractures is low but the failures are self evident to people experienced in metals.
The same thing happened to commercial knife manufactures when they began mass producing blades. They would harden the entire thing (mass producton!) from point to tang. THEN CUT OUT NOTCHES FOR THE HANDLE. Results.............snap!

In the old days (and today among blacksmiths) you had a knife with a hard edge, slightly softer tip, spring tempered body and softer tang. Results............put it in a vise and bend it it will return to straight- pushing you with it.

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

More nonsense has been written about the sword then I care to shake a stick at.
Technique is technique and we better listen to our betters
But steel is steel, and regardless of all the stories, and the teachers opinions, and petals parting in the water.......It behaves as steel.

Dan

lok
1st June 2001, 15:22
Originally posted by fifthchamber
Yeah, sorry about the confusion on the Ha being the harder area area of the blade, my mistake. However the question is still why do so many styles use the Ha to defend?
I have never seen a technique that uses the rear of the blade (and thinking about it that is probably the best way as the Sori would allow room for 'accidents' I think) But the Ha of a blade is the easiest to damage and so maybe there are techniques out there that do use the Mune. If so does anyone know any of the Ryu or techniques, or have any info on where they could be found?
Thanks.

Regarding my very limited Kenjutsu training, the more experienced practitioners consistently used the rear of the Blade/Boguto/Shinai to meet the opposing weapon. I understood this to be standard practice. In fact, I often heard students indicate that Katana marks only on the rear of a blade about an inch or so down from the tip indicated a swordsman of considerable skill...

Dan Harden
2nd June 2001, 11:17
I just wanted to add that the type of testing I decribed above was done with old Japanese swords and new ones forged by different folk. I have also done side impact testing against flat bar from dead soft "pure" iron, to 1018 steel to 1095 to my own smelted steel. I also did it with shaped bars (raised shinogi, flat shinogi, flat ground edges, rounded apple seed edges etc...

I did all this to find out what shape body was the strongest to absorb impact, and what shape edge was the strongest to cut with, and what shape edge was the easiest to cut with.
Guess what?
*NONE* OF IT BENT, BROKE, OR WAS RUINED FROM THIS PARTICULAR TEST.
So if people tell you that swords will always break from being hit on the back or sides, I offer two possible conclusions; the *occasional* sword that did break was a mistake by a smith and was some of the worst steel ever made by man, or........
it simply isn't true.

I will say that in bending tests, the Kobuse folded blades were the worse. They sheared at the weld line. They didn't break mind you, they just opened at the weld line.
Due to the widely different hardnesses and therefore tensile properties; they deformed at different rates, so the stresses were multiplied.
But even under these extreme stresses they did not break


Dan

carl mcclafferty
2nd June 2001, 14:08
Dan:

You're smith and I'm just a swordsman . People out there cutting will get the impression from all your writing on this subject that swords won't break on impact. I pretty much quoted the soldier's manuel from when they were really used, not good enough. Many we're playing with words here.

According to people on the "Sword Forum" Tony Alvarez was doing a cutting demo last year (you'll have to get the pictures from him) with a Paul Chen sword. Not on iron bars, brass rods or cable but on straw mats on wood stands. According to him and everyone at the demo the sword snapped, came apart at the seams, fell apart into two in an instant. To a mere swordsman like me when a swords is in two peices after you cut with it "it broke". It might not have been from the impact but from the torque he was putting on the other end (he's a huge fellow), but the damn thing was allegedly in two peices.

Would you, as a knowledgeable smith, contact him, look at the pictures and explain what the cause was? Please! That way the impressionable young people 18-35, who read this and don't have 30 years behind a sword, will know what to look for, not do to keep a modern cutting blade from ending up in two peices when they work with it. If you've done that already, how about posting the pictures with a detailed explanation.

Thanks
Carl McClafferty

Dan Harden
2nd June 2001, 18:14
Double post sorry

Dan

Dan Harden
2nd June 2001, 18:15
Dan
You're smith and I'm just a swordsman . People out there cutting will get the impression from all your writing on this subject that swords won't break on impact. I pretty much quoted the soldier's manuel from when they were really used, not good enough. Many we're playing with words here.

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

Carl
I am both a smith and a swordsman, and I never play with words. I can't...... I am one terrible writer :wink:
I frequently come across as flat and course when I don't mean to be.

The soldiers manual should be listened to but it should also be qualified for its day and the materials used then VS now. You didn't think to do that, or at least take that into account in your writing when you quoted the record here.
I did.
Further, so much "hoo ha" has been written in Japanese accounts "of things past," I would trust independent researchers more than in-house writings in general.
Most people would as well, that's why we do research :)

I hesitate to enter into a dialogue with you because the last time you took it as a slight to one of the finest swordsman alive, which was not my intent, and it bothered me greatly to have you take it that way. I don't know how to get across that I am in no way doubting "the man," instead I am simply questioning old writings.
For you to think otherwise bothers me. I care about such things.


To be clear, swords do break, I was arguing the validity of the mune and shinogi as parrying, blocking, areas and their ability to do so and remain intact. That was it!

When it is drawn back to soft- spring steel it is pretty tough stuff-quite capable of absorbing deflected strikes.
Even in a Kata form receiving and reversing with hicho-ken or te-ura to strike the mune or shinogi (instead of the body) should not destroy it.

As for Tony

Test cutting and getting the sword to turn one way while the cut vector is stressing it in another is a sure way to bend it. But snapping it is highly unlikely and unsual

This is the version I heard
Tony wanted a sword in the ridgeless style (hirazukuri) to cut with. Have you ever seen Tony?? I would not have recomended he use that type of sword to begin with. But hey.....who would argue with that guy :)
Anyway,
1. continual test cutting with a ridgeless style blade might have bent it several times and he straightened it. Thus setting up metal fatigue.
2. Or the torsion of it being vectored through the cut and then hitting the stand while his hips were turned still "in the cut" might have set up two opposing stresses in the blade from the side.

With a ridgeless style that is inherently weak in that direction anyway; it was always predisposed to failure some time in the future in my humble opinion
And it did not "come apart at the seams" it snapped. (It was only a matter of time as far as I'm concerned)


IT BEARS NO REFLECTION ON PAUL CHEN OR BUGEI.

Hira-zukuri has inherent weaknesses in the design, couple this with a huge man, have him hit the stand after a cut and....viola

He is having Howard Clark look at it I think, although not much will come of it I believe without extensive testing.



As for young men dreaming dreams........
Young people or old; without training should not be playing with swords anyway. One fast way to get hurt in my opinion.

Dan

carl mcclafferty
2nd June 2001, 18:24
Dan:

Thanks for your clarification. It was the "words", but probably my reading, not your writing.

Thanks
Carl

Jason Dingledine
2nd June 2001, 21:15
I'm not attempting to add any more fuel to this fire, but for those that are interested in reading it, here is the address for the "Post Mortum" that was performed on Tony's sword by Keith Larman.


http://home.earthlink.net/~kdlarman2/break/break.htm

Tony Alvarez
3rd June 2001, 23:19
Gentlemen,

It seems that this thread went from swords that get cut to swords that got broken!

In ether case . The style of swordsmanship that i study and all of the other sword systems that i have been involved with dictate blocking or parrying with the Shinogi or the Mune.Not the Ha!
However, to say that the Ha was never used to block with in a combative environment is stretching it a bit. Iv seen plenty of evidence from blades that have survived over the ages that the "Oh shit block" did exist. It just isn't suggested.
As Mr. Harden and several others have mentioned . The blade is made of hard and soft properties. The hard being the "Ha" of the blade and the sorf being Just above the Hamon through the Mune.
Blades that have had regular contact on the Ha are more suseptable to chips and cracks that will most likely lead to irreversible damage. When i say this i mean that the blades are beyond being put back into full polish and are deemned un-structurally sound for combat. I know you guy's know this , but i had to cover all of the finger pointer's out there!
Anyway, a blade in my oppinion that has been struck either on the Mune or the Shinogi is more likely to "Live to fight another day".
Why, because the softer areas of the sword will not cause the harder areas to fracture in a contact situation.
The reason that i say this is because when the "PROTOTYPE" blade that i was using in the demo last year broke. It had a consistant crack or fracture line all the way to just below the Mune. From there it seemed as if it just peeled away at he softer end of the blade.

As i stated in my response to the SwordForum thread regardless of what had happened, I was the one taking responibility for the blade breaking.
I sent the blade to Howard for his evaluation of it and then sent it to Paul Chen to do a final study of the steel.
Since then, i received confirmation that the blade was a forging flaw as it had been hardened close to 3/4 of the way up from Ha to Mune.
I then took this information to Howard and the conclusion was that it was very realistic given the way that the blade came apart.
Again, I still take the blame as i gave the cut to much power . Thus having to exit the target the way that i did and driving the Kissaki into the leg of the stand. From there Snap, Crackle, Pop!
The outcome of Paul's testing goes back to what i said about the blade having a straight fracture area and then looking as if the top layer's kind of peeled away .
Again, Howard seemed to agree with this synopsis.
Also, for the record. Even though the Hira Zukuri design is structurally weeker than the Shinogi Zukuri. That blade had never been bent before it broke.
This is why that type of blade is only a prototype and not a production piece.

I hope this gives light to what you are thinking

BIG TONY

Bugei Trading Co.

hg
4th June 2001, 01:04
Hmmm, a lot of metallurgical statements in a lot
of posts, accompanied by some rather high-handed remarks about Japanese sword teachers. If one devises some "objective" tests to test the blocking abilities of swords, then one should not use a test in which the sword is used in a way which is not possible or reasonable in combat. In this forum, some very proud person announced the superiority of modern steels above un-enlightened Japanese medieval steel in bending tests. So what? Even my Japanese Kitchen knife came with the explicit instruction: Never use it to wedge or lever (written in English). And you did not wedge or lever open an opponents armor, though the analogy between a warrior and a canned sardine is tempting.



1. I don't think that putting a sword in a vice is a good test for a sword. Maybe one reads about a vice-like grip on a sword in some Fantasy-Novels, but in general Japanese sword teachers will tell you not to have a vice-like grip. Your muscles will cramp, and the opponent will easily circumvent your block because you cannot loosen your position and counter in time.
Even if you try holding your sword in a vice like grip with both hands at the handle, the impact at the blade will create a leverage which does not allow the same "full inelastic impact" as a sword in a vice. The most "vice like grip" you can have if you gave the right hand at the handle, the left hand hold the mune behind the monouchi. Then there will be no leverage effects, but- then you can only use the ha for blocking, else you cut yourself. Musou Jikiden Eishin ryu has such techniques in the Tsumeiai (Kata/Kumitachi, Namigaeshi and Yaegaki, not to be confused with the kata of the same name), but it is pretty last-minute-stuff. All other impacts will be much softer.

2. Musou Jikiden Eishin ryu has another "block" with the ha with both hands at the tsuka which works in two stages: The uchitachi is cutting
vertically (kiriorishi) down on the shitachi.

a) The shitachi receives the cut: From a position holding the sword horizontally in front over his head, the ha faces the incoming blade, he strikes (kirikomi) the opponents ha
(slightly from the side, not from the front). Because the shitachis blade impacts vertically, but the uchitachis ha is struck from the side, the damage on the uchitachis blade should be heavier then on shitachis blade. It should also dissipate a lot of kinetic energy.

b) After the impact, shitachi is slowing down the opponents blade by holding against uchitachis downward motion and tilting the sword so that the final position is with the mune of the shitachi blocking the ha of the uchitachi. (Can be continued with a sideway move, freeing the blade and cutting the do of the uchitachi, sideway move would be difficult if ha is against ha with
notched blades)

This technique (Deai, Mappou in nanahon no kata) is not always performed correctly in exhibitions, and then it looks exactly like a daft block with
the ha.

3. Usually, there is a life after the block, at least there should be. If you do a one-handed block, at the moment of the impact it does not
matter very much whether you use ha, shinogi or mune (only for the sword). After the impact, literally push can come to shove, and though a
"backhanded" impact may be as strong as a forhanded one, it is much more difficult to mobilize strength one-handed in the backhand-direction.


4. If you are doing Iai and you have to draw and block, the fastest block is with the ha, because the fingers are already in the right direction, if you want to block with mune or shinogi, you have to additionally twist your wrist and you are loosing time you may not have.


5. What happens in the case where the block fails? Some poster argued that one should protect ones assets, and me meant the sword. But if the
block with the mune fails, and you cannot withstand the impact of the opponent, you own ha will go where you wanted the opponents ha not to
go- usually into parts of yourself. If you block with the ha, you will be struck by your own mune- not nice, but definitely preferable to getting
struck with ones own ha. Blocking with the shinogi usually involves twisting ones wrist (at least if doing the block kata-te), and if you cannot withstand the impact, who knows which part of your sword will meet you first.


6. Above I cited Otake-shihan of the Katori, saying that the sword will break if it receives a cut on the mune, and I also said I saw a sword
with cuts on the mune which did not break. What I should have explained was, that I am sure Otake-shihan knows that there are swords around
which did not break (after all, he is also sword surveyor of Chiba prefecture or something like that). What he means is: Use the
ha for the impact in the kumitachi, because in the real combat situation you will avoid blocking anyway and will try to cut into the
opponents hands and arms. Testing swords in a vice and saying: "see, it did not break" is besides the point: Use the sword in the way it was intended to
used, cutting into soft parts.

hg
4th June 2001, 01:13
Originally posted by carl mcclafferty
Hans


I would also caution that just because a three hundred year old sword has cut marks on the mune you should not conclude that its owner was actually a competent swordsman or survived the encounter nor that the cuts were obtained in actual combat. But it is refreshing that the blade survives so it can be examined.

Thanks
Carl McClafferty
PS I hoped you enjoyed Otake Sensei and his Son's enbu.


Actually, I am shure that the current owner of the shword would have mentioned if the previous owner was killed. Actually, I am shure the current owner would not have bought the sword if a previous owner was killed using it. I got a lecture on who was killed at which occasion with the sword, and which parts of the victims have been cut. If you want a night with really horrible dreams, spend half an hour in said sword owners companies listening to his accounts of historical suicides, killings, battles and duels and I guarantee for the result :)

And I really enjoyed Otake-Shihans Demonstration:)

carl mcclafferty
4th June 2001, 02:32
Uh, The current owner knew the previous owner that cut off peices 300 years ago?
Okay. I'm having nightmares already. I think this post is dead, goodbye.
Carl McClafferty

Dan Harden
4th June 2001, 03:17
[QUOTE]Originally posted by hg
[B]Hmmm, a lot of metallurgical statements in a lot
of posts, accompanied by some rather high-handed remarks about Japanese sword teachers.


There were no high handed remarks.
Experience in one area does not equate to experience in another.
Free thinking, testing and analysis usually win out for me.

****************
Hanz:
If one devises some "objective" tests to test the blocking abilities of swords, then one should not use a test in which the sword is used in a way which is not possible or reasonable in combat.

me:

I disagree
It is far more reasonable to devise a test that exceeds the demands of the test object. This ensures the design parameters or "in-service" use of the object will be below its test demands.
I explained this in some detail. If you did not "hear it" there is no use in repeating it.
It is incontrovertible logic to me

I am quite content that the structural engineers I employ disagree with you as well.
It makes me feel safer with thousands of people walking about my Buildings.

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

Hanz
In this forum, some very proud person announced the superiority of modern steels above un-enlightened Japanese medieval steel in bending tests. So what? Even my Japanese Kitchen knife came with the explicit instruction: Never use it to wedge or lever (written in English). And you did not wedge or lever open an opponents armor, though the analogy between a warrior and a canned sardine is tempting.

Me:
Other than your obvious sarcasm, there was a point in my posts. I fail to see any value in this contribution of yours
There is no pride in the tests or materials stated. It is simply fact.

Would you like to discuss the hard won knowledge through repeated failure by many smiths?
Would the discussion of years of testing, sweating, bleeding and failure make you realize the humility and tenacity involved in gaining that knowledge?
There is no pride in that. Just confidence, hard won confidence
At least our knowledge is first hand.
I and others I know, take nothing at face value, regardless of the source.

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

Hanz:
1. I don't think that putting a sword in a vice is a good test for a sword. Maybe one reads about a vice-like grip on a sword in some Fantasy-Novels, but in general Japanese sword teachers will tell you not to have a vice-like grip.

me:

Your techniques and descriptions are not really relevant to the test limits. They are far below the limits of an adequetly forged blade
You do not, or cannot, uderstand the concept of a testing procedure that exceeds the design parameters of the weapon.
Further, the use of the Vise and the comparison to the softer hand held grip was explained in detail.

Are you being sarcastic, or dismissive, or did you have trouble understanding the explanation?

Vice like grip? For a sword?
Your kidding right?

*******************
Hanz:

Use the ha for the impact in the kumitachi, because in the real combat situation you will avoid blocking anyway and will try to cut into the opponents hands and arms. Testing swords in a vice and saying: "see, it did not break" is besides the point: Use the sword in the way it was intended to
used, cutting into soft parts.

me:
Agreed.....but

Although the truth of the techniques lies in cutting the opponent and using position instead of blocking, Get out of Kata and into randori a bit; you may be surprised at what will and won't work for you, regardless of teachings.

Training is training
Ryu's teaching is Ryu's teaching

From the onset of a soldiers training to his facing an opponent was much shorter then than now.
Now we have the twenty year men; then you had soldiers in training to fight.
How long do you suppose it took to get Menkyo then as opposed to now?
Do you think the technical aspects of relevant techniques got better? Deeper? It would be interesting to go back in time and see how much any of them got to absorb prior to having to use what they learned in battle. And when the long protracted training syllibus started up.
So in talking about techniques of the average Johnie- soldier VS the one year trained guy VS the five year "Master." As compared to the twenty year men- where do you suppose all this sublime technique was to be found?

How much do you think they really used the weapon in combat?

In the combat scenarious you were quoting do you think that an antagonist was able to get through armour openings and cut without clashing everytime?
Do you think contact with armor didn't happen?
Do you really think are intrepid little beetle bug man ONLY touched soft parts with his blade??

I just think your explanations are a bit simplistic.

At any rate,
IF you want to be sarcastic and dismissive and allege "fantasy" as you did in your response; we could get into a lengthy discusion of Martial arts and artists in general.
There is much to be said in that regard.

I agree with Carl ....... this is played out

Cheers

Dan

hg
4th June 2001, 07:22
Originally posted by Dan Harden
Hmmm, a lot of metallurgical statements in a lot
of posts, accompanied by some rather high-handed remarks about Japanese sword teachers.

There were no high handed remarks.

I didn't like the: Sensei , Shihans, Soke's and whatnot aside, their considerable skills do not make them all knowing.

Originally posted by Dan Harden
[B] I disagree
It is far more reasonable to devise a test that exceeds the demands of the test object. This ensures the design parameters or "in-service" use of the object will be below its test demands.
I explained this in some detail. If you did not "hear it" there is no use in repeating it.
It is incontrovertible logic to me
I disagree. It is pointless to test a part (the sword) of a mechanical system (sword-arm-shoulder) under conditions the rest of the system cannot sustain. If you build a building to withstand a earthquake of strength 7 , but your
foundations will yield in an earthquake of strength 5, something is wrong. The point of blocking is not only a problem of the blade, it is
a problem of arm- and shoulderstrength.
Just because you can reach the yield point of the blade in a vice does not mean you can reach if it is hold in one hand.


Originally posted by Dan Harden
[B] Iand others I know, take nothing at face value, regardless of the source.
I never take anything on face value.
If someone says: Something is proven under this and that condition, I allways think: Do these conditions really apply?

Originally posted by Dan Harden
[B] Your techniques and descriptions are not really relevant to the test limits. They are far below the limits of an adequetly forged blade
You do not, or cannot, uderstand the concept of a testing procedure that exceeds the design parameters of the weapon. Further, the use of the Vise and the comparison to the softer hand held grip was explained in detail.

The thread started not about test limits, but about which part of the sword is used best for blocking. That is not only a matter of the blade, but also of the technique. A combat situation is not a situation where you can choose your initial conditions arbitrarily.

Richard Elias
4th June 2001, 09:50
Hanz - et all,

"if you want to block with mune or shinogi, you have to additionally twist your wrist and you are loosing time you may not have."

"But if the block with the mune fails, and you cannot withstand the impact of the opponent, you own ha will go where you wanted the opponents ha not to go- usually into parts of yourself."

"Blocking with the shinogi usually involves twisting ones wrist (at least if doing the block kata-te), and if you cannot withstand the impact, who knows which part of your sword will meet you first."

I'm not trying to be confrontational but the above statements are untrue, based on what system you study. And implies that perhaps you do not have techniques for blocking with the mune and shinogi within your practice.

I am not a smith I am a swordsman. I understand why our system uses the mune and shinogi for blocking because I have seen and felt the results of both types of blocking that have been dicussed here.

Performing such blocking and deflection techniques is not simply just a matter of doing the same technique you usually do, but with the mune or shinogi. Your techniques are designed to work in a particular manner and the specifics and mechanics of such things are not necessarily interchangable.

Most of the posts on here that speak out against using the mune or shinogi have been by those who have not been given instruction in how they are to be done, have seldom or never done them themselves, or haven't even used a real sword before.

If you have not been given proper instruction, in any technique, and do not use it in your regular practice then you cannot properly judge the efficacy of those techniques. It all becomes academic if not actually put into use.

We have direct blocking and deflections performed with the mune and shinogi, they are practiced regularly. I have also done such with live blades at full speed. In one such practice the person I was working with was unable to properly position the blade, due to reasons of his own, and the blade he was using is now a saw that is beyond repair. The blade I was using had some cuts and scratches on the side and back but the edge is usable, the sword was not bent, and I was never in danger of getting cut by my own blade.

"That is not only a matter of the blade, but also of the technique. A combat situation is not a situation where you can choose your initial conditions arbitrarily."

I agree here completely. But if you do not have those techniques and know how they are done then you cannot with any authority or experience speak on how they don't work, the effects they have on the blade, or how dangerous they are.

Dan Harden
4th June 2001, 11:25
Hanz

I would agree with Richard here. In fact, I find no instance where the blade was returned to me when parrying/blocking.
We sometimes practice the Kata with much force "added" for training purposes. This type of training has built up positional, center based, strength (no not muscle) and speed wthout any sacrifice of mobility. I have never seen any of my students waiver or falter with someones Bokuto coming at them to the point their bodies collapsed.
The ability to hold off a committed power strike and use its power to counter with, is really not that difficult. I have taught many novices to do it and have seen other stlyes do it with ease. I struggle to see where you are having difficulties with it

Are you perhaps refering to one handed Iai parrying / blocking? I have seen that fail many times. But that is one hand against two.

The times I have seen or felt other Kenjutsuka of differing styles, I have seen no essential weakness to the pont of their shoulders, arms collapsing.
To be in a position where your shoulder/arm is the support mechanisim suggests a fundemental strategic failure to me anyway- that is not where your power should be coming from.


>Deleted diatribe of structural engineering from the foundations up-as well as explanation of testing that exeeds use. <
It doesn't seem to work with you

I question whether or not we are still having an informative exchange or a merely arguing.
I don't want to waste time arguing

Dan

4th June 2001, 15:45
Guys,

Here is the bottom line to this whole thread.

Talk is cheap. Experience isn't. Experience entails consequences. Talk is well.... talk.

If you think that blocking or parrying with the ha is the way to go... heck... go out and do it with your own shinken sometime. Full power, full speed. Stop talking about it.

But... be prepared because swordsmen with experience are telling you that it will likely so severly damage your sword that it will be compromised as an effective weapon. After your experience send us here at e-budo pictures of your new Katana mounted..... saw.

BTW..

I am familiar with the blade Richard Elias described. It was a sound and servicable blade before the person in question performed his kumitachi (with witnesses) incorrectly by parrying with the ha instead of the shinogi. The resulting damage to the blade was sobering. In only minutes the blade was irreparably converted into a coarse hacksaw. It is now beyond repair. Ruined, wrecked, unservicable.

Like I said, if you don't believe those posting here with actual experience, put down your bokken and go out and wreck your shinken by blocking or parrying with the ha. It's called learning! And experience is.... the ultimate teacher.

Good Day,

Toby Threadgill

dbeaird
5th June 2001, 01:39
Throughout this thread I've seen a lot of discussions about how swords work and don't work under conditions that frankly, none of us have experienced. We talk about battlefield conditions against armored opponents and blocking full strength cuts if it be on ha or mune or on your grandma's petunia pot. I have two perspectives on this, a historical perspective and a practical perspective.

From the historical perspective Japanese swords are not optimized for facing an armored opponent. Japanese armor would most likely turn any cut that hit it unless, (and possibly even if) the wearer braced himself to take the impact. On the battlefield, facing men in armor the sword was a secondary weapon, much like a modern machine gunner might carry a pistol. The steely eyed killers used weapons that were capable of defeating armor; when it came time to draw your sword, chances are you were already losing. Talking about the effectiveness of swords against armored opponents is like comparing the effectiveness of a .45 Colt automatic against a tank. Yeah we all know Audie Murphy captured an enemy tank with one, but it was hardly an every day experience.

From a practical perspective and I might add one without extensive training in JSA but good experience in other sword arts, when someone swings a sharp weapon at you, the correct answer is to do whatever it takes to keep the blade from hitting you. If your sword winds up looking like a crosscut saw afterwards that's not as important as being alive to buy a new one. Swords are tools that are meant to be used, like any tool they will break and they will wear out with use.

Finally, I see the term block being used quite a bit in these posts and it implies that the motion of an attacking blade is stopped and absorbed entirely by the blocking blade. In actual use a block is the least efficient of defenses, an attack should be parried which isn't a block but a deflection of an attack in preparation for your own attack, the force of the attack is redirected (often combined with voiding) and allowed to spend itself rather than having to be absorbed in a sword breaking block. I'm sure all of this is obvious to most of you who have been following this thread but from appearances many of the posters have adopted either an unrealistic view of armed combat or are describing it in terms that don't seem to make sense in my own experience.

Dan Harden
5th June 2001, 02:38
Dan

Some good points, some not so good

As far as youíre opener;
"Throughout this thread I've seen a lot of discussions about how swords work and don't work under conditions that frankly, none of us have experienced."

I realize you your intent was to clarify that we were not "there" in battle.
But you should at least come to terms with the fact that there are men who have tested these blades (old and new) to destruction, and who train with live blades using the shinogi and mune. In that regard you may be talking to men who have decidedly more experience than many out there.
You do not have to like it or agree with it. But there is a knowledge in it all its own.

********

Your comments about historical accuracyís I may agree with. Further, One needs to concede that many Ryu teach ha blocking. If you belong to a Ryu that does it that way, that is what you will do.
Since no one has to create a NEW sword style for combat anymore that should be enough.
If one were to "choose" to optimize his training though, There are people out there using old Ryu techniques, and pushing the limits. A cross comparison could be jujutsu, there are a few people taking Koryu principles and techniques and updating them for modern application. It is "outside" and quite viable in and of itself.
There is knowledge to be gained there that is within, yet apart from the battlefield paradigm.

*************
Blocking

You said
"From appearances many of the posters have adopted either an unrealistic view of armed combat or are describing it in terms that don't seem to make sense in my own experience."

What statements are you referring to? And what personal experiences are you referring to? I recited several, other recited more

Several were specific in stating that "blocking" is an oh @##$$ technique. Parry/sliding and reversing would be more appropriate.
But we are talking about parrying, sliding with the shinogi / mune

Did you miss that?

Secondly I discussed "in some detail" the superiority of positioning,

Did you miss that?

Thirdly, the reality of the encounter should be to avoid and cut.

Did you miss that?

Further, at least one other contributor agreed to all of the above

Did you miss that?


Wherein do you see anything unrealistic?

***********

Your description about encounters and "bracing yourself to make an impact on a hard object, I covered as well. Going further to state that planting your feet and bracing yourself would probably be suicide. I made a distinction between planted feet power and moving power
But I also examined that further; stating that one would be going for openings in the armor

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

You stated:
The correct answer is to do whatever it takes to keep the blade from hitting you. If your sword winds up looking like a crosscut saw afterwards that's not as important as being alive to buy a new one.

I disagree
For me
The correct answer is to train to do what is best. Inculcate that response / movement into your wiring.
Otherwise you can throw the idea of Mushin out the window and revert to the flight or fight adrenaline dump.
We should be training to install instinctive movement in ourselves.
If I have to beat my body into an OH@##$% response. I will endeavor to make good use of that.
To simply say "who cares, I'll wreck my sword and buy another doesn't cut it for me. I'll take the thousands of hours to teach my body to say "I'll respond better than your average bear and win as well."
Even having to stick within the governing techniques of a Ryu, I would personally go for broke to make "me" better.
Excellence and all that.........
It takes no more time to train one way then another.
There is superior technique out there to be had.


Should I ask you pay ten grand for a shinken and I told you, you absolutely had to use it to save your life then kill an opponent; then I offered you four thousand hours to perfect your skills before the event what would you prefer to do?
Since you had to learn one way or the other, I would choose to train to use techniques that preserve the blade and kills the foe, to one that sacrifices the blade and uses a portion of the blade to kill the foe
Seems reasonable to me


On the whole, I found the arguments for those who use the back and edge to be sound and experiential to their training.
The detractors have not submitted anything of merit, other than.
"Sensei told me not to do it"

None of this is important in life anymore, So I hope for a reasoned discussion without anger and sarcasm.
We all like Budo. Think of it as shoptalk

Dan

dbeaird
5th June 2001, 08:24
Hi Dan,

I'm not going to quote your entire post or try to respond to all of it, as usual it was well written and to the point. Like always we disagree on a few things so I'll pick at those. I'm sorta grabbing out of your stack here at the things that stuck most in my mind.

First off, about testing to destruction. This is an important part of testing, but it's not the only part or indeed even the most important part of testing. What's important is does the tested object work reliably and efficiently within it's required scope of operation. Any sword can be broken and the fact that one sword breaks before another does not necessarily make it inferior to the second. Since swords are handcrafted items (any that are worth using anyway) testing to destruction does not necessarily prove anything about other blades made by the same hand. Smiths have good days and bad days too. Like art, it's by judging an overall body of work in a non-destructive manner that a smith's work is judged. Destroying a sword to test it only allows approximations of data on similar swords.

Since you admit that blocking is a defense of last resort in the fight, it becomes more obvious that the ability of the sword to block is subordinate to the other qualities that it requires. In this case most sword construction would probably follow Stalin's Dicta that perfect is the enemy of good enough.

My entire post wasn't meant to disagree with everything I've read here, just parts of it and the overall impression made upon me about the subject of blocking. My experience is adequate to discuss the subject intelligently, but I don't feel the need to post a resume in order to participate in this discussion.

The idea of going for "openings" in armor seems to ignore the dynamics of combat. Certain targets may present themselves but with both combatants moving, attacking and defending these targets will be fleeting and hard to hit. Still a strong blow to an armored opponent while perhaps turned by the armor may be enough to stun or incapacitate a limb. More likely a swordsman finding himself against an armored opponent would attempt to use the point of his weapon perhaps even using half swording techniques to be able to deliver thrusts which can possibly punch through the armor. I've seen examples of a few of these techniques in my studies.

Your final statement seems sort of at odds with itself. You admit that blocking is a defense of desparation, but also seem to think that by training you'll learn how to use this desparation tactic in a battle winning manner and keep your sword intact. Put it like this: every pilot who flies over water learns or at least reviews the method used to ditch the plane. Not one of them ever expects to be able to fly it again afterwards, they only hope to survive. A block can result in a broken, chipped, bent or otherwise damaged sword, superior craftsmanship and training may mitigate this to an extent but the fact remains that blocking is to be avoided when possible, and when blocks are made the swords will be damaged by the impact.

I approve of trying to achieve excellence through training, but you're an engineer, that sword is still a sword whether it's held by Musashi or some guy who learned to swing from watching the WWF. I've probably broken twenty or thirty blades in my life in one manner or another, I know that the sword can break and that it will break if I do things with it it was not meant to do. Even normal use and practice will damage a blade through stress. Like any tool, swords wear out. A good craftsman learns to recognize when the reliable life of a tool is spent and replaces it.

hg
6th June 2001, 01:52
Originally posted by Richard Elias

Performing such blocking and deflection techniques is not simply just a matter of doing the same technique you usually do, but with the mune or shinogi. Your techniques are designed to work in a particular manner and the specifics and mechanics of such things are not necessarily interchangable.

..... If you have not been given proper instruction, in any technique, and do not use it in your regular practice then you cannot properly judge the efficacy of those techniques. It all becomes academic if not actually put into use.

Agreed. I wanted to point out in my above post that we have some blocks, which are actually blocks- attempts to bring the blade of the opponent to a halt, because you have no space or time to deflect the opponents blade and move your body out of the way. As far as parries and deflections are concerned, we have those too, usually with shinogi or mune, depending on the situation. But I have never been able to perform a block (in the sense of stopping the opponents blade as a last resort) without anything other than the ha (if the opponent was comparable in strength and speed with me). Not that I didn't try. If your ryuha has blocks which with something other than the ha, i would be very keen to know in which situation they are applied and how the sword is held.

hg
6th June 2001, 01:59
Originally posted by carl mcclafferty
Uh, The current owner knew the previous owner that cut off peices 300 years ago?

Carl McClafferty
The current owner showed me an article on the sword in one of these "Nihon no Bujutsu Reikishi" or what they are called magazines. There article showed also reproduction of a drawing of the
duel (in color, of the moment where the blade went into the opponent).

James Williams
6th June 2001, 18:01
Both Yanagi ryu kenjutsu and Komagawa Kaishin ryu kenjutsu have blocks that stop the blade. The techniques are quite different however there is commonality in that all are done using either the shinogi or the mune. There is a picture of one such shot on the Bugei website. I will try and post some others when I get my dojo website up and running.

James

Richard Elias
6th June 2001, 20:29
Hans,

We hold the sword as you normally would. Most of it is in the positioning in relation to the body and the opponent's blade. We also will loosen the grip of the forward hand slightly and use the back hand to make small turns of the blade, then regrip with the forward hand. It takes less than an instant to avoid using the ha.

Now not all are done in the above manner, some don't require turning the blade at all. And I will reiterate that it is not just a matter of doing the same form as others would but with the mune or shinogi, though this can sometimes be done, it has to match the rest of the movements that are in your style. A lot of it has to do with where you put your body, blade position, and make contact in relation to the opponent and his blade.

It's all very specific and difficult put across in just words alone.

ghp
7th June 2001, 03:43
Just a few disjointed words.

I have a tanto made from a (I think) broken katana blade. It has two "chips" on the mune where the former monouchi would have been. The form of the cuts makes it clear that an opposing blade struck mune (the cuts are triange-shaped, with the apex facing the kissaki). I have no clue if this was combat damage, of someone playing around.

Nakamura Taizaburo was a combat-kenjutsu teacher, teaching kendo/jukendo from 1932; then, army sword techniques from 1939-1945. I'd say his experience is worth listening to.

1. "Blade to blade [that is, metal-to-metal] contact is to be avoided because swords break in combat." This point was made very clear last year when Joe Svinth posted a copy of a 1936 Nichi-Nichi Shinbun article about a swordsmith being contracted by the army to repair over 30,000 broken/damaged swords in China. Because of the damage that can occur in extremis, Nakamura sensei's kumitachi drills have none of the neat weapon-to-weapon exchanges as do other schools; instead, we are supposed to apply "issun maai" (one-inch interval) and "taisabaki" (body maneuvering). I never asked him specifically about edge-to-edge contact as by that time, I had already been taught it is a last resort measure.

2. "Blades struck on the mune will break or bend." Sometime after the war he experimented on 5 meito (swords by well-known smiths). All 5 either bent or snapped when struck. I presume the blades were supported, lacking any flex; however, I don't know how the support was rigged. Sensei's admonition is "Supported blocks [uke-tome] are bad; sliding parrys [ukenagashi] are good." However, he states the ukenagashi is a very weak defense -- the weakest element is the wrist, followed by the elbow. What I learned: it looks nice for kata, but just try to avoid the blade in the first place.

Granted, he maintained no notes about his experiments -- which really frustrated Chris Bowen when he stopped by one evening during his research of Tokyo swordsmiths. And, I have no idea who the blades were made by, what condition they were in, what sort of blade sensei was using, etc. All sorts of questions which I'm sure we'd all like to have answered. Oh ... but there are two photographs of two different blades that were bent at about 45 degree angles due to Nakamura sensei's informal test! If you want a scan, e-mail me and I'll send them (give me time to get the book scanned first, okay?)

3. Finally: a sword can chip even when hitting a human. My assumption is extrapolated from Nakamura sensei's experience in killing three head of cattle at the war's end (to feed villagers & troops). Even he chipped a borrowed sword because his technique was not quite on target that day. Read the article http://rudy.bay-ad.com/~guypower/kenshinkan/cattle.html

Wish I had more anecdotes to relay.

Oh, Dan ... many of us old-timers (and perhaps a few not-so-old)really do understand a Japanese sword is just a man-made tool and that will eventually fail either through intended use or unintended abuse. It you smiths who are pressured. You are self-driven to produce the best weapon that your ability will allow(and always trying to exceed your current ability). I hope you guys never get fed up and quit.

Carl,
You and Dan have more in common than you know.

Regards,
Guy

W.Bodiford
8th June 2001, 19:43
An essay by Fukunaga Suiken titled "Nihonto no oremi" (Breakability of Japanese Swords) in the book Nihonto wazamono nyumon (Introduction to Japanese Swords of Noted Cutting Ability; 1972, pp. 23--82) is relevant to the above discussion. Fukunaga reviews the history of sword durability tests and their results.

In 1943 the Japanese Army devised a 3-fold test for new swords: 1 - impact test, 2 - straw bundle (makiwara) cutting, 3 - iron rod (3 mm by 10 mm thick) cutting.

The impact test consisted of placing a sword on a stand where it was supported only at each end and repeatedly dropping a 3-kanme (about 25 U.S. pounds) iron weight onto the center of the blade from an ever-greater series of fixed heights. First the weight would be dropped from a height of 15 cm, then 25 cm, then 35 cm, and so on until the sword broke. Blades from each smith were subjected to three kinds of impact tests. The weight was dropped on the side (hira), on the cutting edge (ha), and on the back (mune) of the blades. Fukunaga (pp. 40--44) analyzes the results of the first round of tests conducted in November 1943. He charts the performance of blades from each smith on a graph that shows the height from which the weight was dropped, how much the swords bent, and when the swords broke. Here are the results for side vs. edge vs. back.

=======
Side (hria): the worst results were from a blade from an unnamed smith which bent 40 cm (or 40 mm?*) on the fifth impact dropped from a height of 55 cm. The best results were from a blade made by Takefuji Hisahiro (Fukuoka Pref.) which finally bent 35 cm on the ninth impact dropped from a height of 95 cm.
* The text says "mm" but the charts say "cm" (same for all three results)
=======
Cutting edge (ha): the worst results were from a blade from an unnamed smith which bent 11 cm on the eighth impact dropped from a height of 85 cm. At that same point in the test a blade by Takefuji bent only 3 cm.
=======
Back (mune): the worst results were from several blades that broke when the weight was dropped for the first time from a height of 15 cm. The best results were from a blade made by Sakurai Shinkoku (Nagano Pref.) which bent only 8 cm on the sixth impact dropped from a height of 65 cm.
=======

The bottom line:
Objective tests performed by the Japanese Army showed that stationary sword blades supported at each end broke most easily when struck on the back of the blades. Sword blades withstood the greatest impact force when struck on the cutting edge.

Fukunaga notes that in spite of the fact that everyone always identifies the main defect of Japanese swords as being their inability to withstand blows to the back (mune uchi), Sakurai proved that it is possible to create a sword that can overcome this weakness.

After the tests were completed, the blades were cut in half and subjected to metallurgical analysis. The smiths had used a variety of construction techniques (i.e., makuri gitae, hon sanmai awase gitae, kofuse gitae, etc.). Interestingly, the construction technique did not seem to be a major factor in blade performance, although blades with hard skin steel on all four sides (shihozume gitae) tended to perform worst while all the best performing swords were simple makuri gitae or kofuse gitae. Fukunaga states that the critical factor was the depth of the core steel, particularly how close the core came to the hardened edge (ha). Blades in which the softer core steel extended down almost to the hardened edge steel performed best, while the worst performance was by blades with edge steel so thick that the core steel began further away from the edge. Since the cross sections of the blades are so small, minuscule variations mattered a great deal.

Fukunaga also reports on many other kinds of tests. I will just mention two more.

(1) Tokugawa Nariaki (1800--1860), the ruler of the Mito domain, devised the following series of tests for the swords used by his men. 1 - bo tameshi: one person holds a sword in a seigan stance while a second person strikes it forcibly on each side with a stick about as thick as a human wrist. 2 - makiwara tameshi: cutting straw bundles. 3 - tsuno tameshi: cutting deer antlers. (Fukunaga reports that it was very difficult to produce an edge angle that could cut both straw bundles and deer antler equally well.) 4 - mizu tameshi: striking the flat side of the blade against the surface of water. Supposedly this final test produced the most failures. Unfortunately, detailed results were not recorded.

(2) In 1937 the magazine Token kogei (Sword Industry) wanted to determine whether Japanese swords could withstand the rigors of warfare during the cold Mongolian winters. They took 12 swords and chilled them to minus 60 degrees Celsius. Then they asked Kurimoto Shinzo (who is identified as a "Yagyuryu" shihan) to cut with them. All 12 either broke or bent immediately.

By the way, the term wazamono was popularized in the book Kaiho kenjaku (1815) by Yamada Asaemon Yoshichika who personally rated the cutting ability of swords produced by about 180 smiths. The essays collected in Nihonto wazamono nyumon are not concerned with those traditional rating, but attempt to summarize the state of modern (ca. 1960s) knowledge about the cutting ability of Japanese swords. Other contributors include Yoshikawa Kentaro (on the relationship between polish and cutting ability), Tokuno Kazuo (on lineages of sword testers), Wake Yutaka (on metallurgy and durability), Nakamura Taisaburo (on swords that can cut and cannot cut), and Hyakutake Masayu (on standard methods for tameshigiri) as well as a round table discussion with several other swordsmen and smiths.

ghp
8th June 2001, 20:03
Dr. Bodiford,

Thank you for an extremely interesting post. You saved the best (to me) for last:


...Nihonto wazamono nyumon are not concerned with those traditional rating, but attempt to summarize the state of modern (ca. 1960s) knowledge about the cutting ability of Japanese swords. Other contributors include Yoshikawa Kentaro (on the relationship between polish and cutting ability), Tokuno Kazuo (on lineages of sword testers), Wake Yutaka (on metallurgy and durability), Nakamura Taisaburo (on swords that can cut and cannot cut), and Hyakutake Masayu (on standard methods for tameshigiri) as well as a round table discussion with several other swordsmen and smiths.

Any chance of me obtaining the pertinent section by Nakamura sensei?

Regards,
Guy

Richard Elias
9th June 2001, 10:14
I totally agree that if you have a stationary blade supported on both ends and dropped a weight on the back it would break.

You are allowing the weight to strike it in the same direction that it is curved. Because only the ends are supported, the greatest stress would be on the opposite side of the blade where the weight is dropped. And since the ha is harder and brittle it will not flex with the weight but crack and cause the blade to break. Itís like how some who do board breaking demos will make small cuts in the under side of the wood to make it break easier.

When you turn the blade over you are putting the pressure against the curve (where it is stronger to begin with) and the area of the blade that is receiving the greatest stress is the mune which is softer and will absorb the shock better.

Itís also like striking the top of a triangle, the force of the blow in distributed throughout the base. Blades are somewhat triangular with the mune being wider and the ha sharp and pointy.

Swords are designed to withstand the force of a cut along its edge.

I will reiterate what I said earlier. Itís not just a matter of the structure of the blade, itís a matter of technique. The mune and shinogi can be used to deflect and block a strike without bending or breaking the blade. And without having to take a blow on the edge. Itís mostly a matter of body positioning and timing. Also the body can be allowed the bear the brunt of the force so the blade doesnít have to. Just because the blade is the point of contact doesnít mean it will take all the force. The body and the arms are flexible and absorb the shock just as the mune does when the weight is dropped on the edge. The force of the blow is distributed throughout the body. It's simple physics really.

Basically, if you want to block with the edge, and that is what is taught in your style, then do so. But I personally train with live blades on occasion and canít afford to be buying blades and polishes. And besides that, itís not what is taught in our style. I donít know that it is really any better or not, thatís just the way we do it and it works for me.

Both will work and you should do what you are taught to do. Just know that (like in every other aspect of martial arts) not all styles do things the same way, and if you are not taught how to do it properly it may not work for you and may even be dangerous.

Dan Harden
10th June 2001, 12:51
Thank you Mr. Bodiford for proving my case
The test proved that placed in a devise that puts the maximum stress on the ha (back up, belly down) the ha failed. That is why the one hardened deeper toward the shinogi failed.
Placed in a device that puts maximum load on the back (Ha up, back down) the back was the strongest.

The test need not have been done, and those swords ruined.
The results could have been predicted once the conditions of the test were made known.
I am quite surprised that no one explained this to them before the test.
Do you suppose that that the shape of a Katana has anything to do this?
How do you think the test results would have turned out had the same convex curve been presented- but with a soft edge and hard back?

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

Perhaps this is another case of "expert" sword people doing something entirely out of their field of expertise, and being given mistaken credibility in one field; because of their expertise in another.
Since some of these men were ďsenseiĒ their statements will be listened to and quoted ad-hominem.
Now we only have to sit back and watch as the misbegotten results of this test are quoted throughout the years; from one dojo to the next, and the results are ďanalyzedĒ by still more *swordsman* who don't know or understand what they are seeing; culminating on a day when the student of one of these men walks up to another practitioner who does otherwise....... and says
"HEYY!! you can't do that. My teacher told me it won't work."
I can picture the practioner looking at him askance and saying "Gee, thanks for telling me."
Then continuing to do what he knows works and works well for the next thirty years
Its sort of like staring at the big white mushroom and telling Oppenhiemer ďYou can't do that. My teacher told me it wouldnít work.Ē

As I said before
Technique is technique
But Steel is steel
*********************

Testing:
Two people submitted first hand test results to counter the notion that the Mune/shinogi would fail. They were done independently and without either party knowing the tests or results.
The conclusions were identical

The point was rather simple
The test was devised to determine if a sword could absorb impact from an edged weapon from the side and back.
They did
The test also revealed they could do so and then continue to cut

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

For some, this is an academic exercise; others "do it" on a regular basis. I do not know most of these men who are agreeing with me, nor have I seen their technique-but it is obvious that like me, they have experience in using a sword this way- they have also done destruction tests like I have and donít have failures like the ones quoted either.

At the end of the day...If your style defends with the ha, or doesn't use the ha, or whatever- that is what you will do and that is enough. No problems there.
Telling others their technique will fail if they parry/block whatever with the Mune or shinogi, causes a problem for some people here who know better and have a serious background doing otherwise.

Oh well
Dan

Dan Harden
10th June 2001, 13:22
Other interesting topics could be the shape of the blade
One of the tests commented on edge angle and its ability to cut straw VS deer antler
Modern smiths call this edge geometry. Since very little written information survived, modern knife/sword smiths have been testing on their own for decades now and comparing notes.
For our discussions here a few things of note:
a flat edge angle; easy to polish will cut soft objects well (straw)
a rounded angle; called cannard or appleseed edge will cut hard objects well.

So your Iai-yo is nice for constant swinging
tameshigiri-yo with flat edge for cutting grass
tameshigiri-yo with rounded edge for battle

flat shinogi-with hi-for constant swinging
raised shinogi-with hi-for stronger constant swinging
Flat shinogi-no hi-for tameshigiri with grass (best cutter)
raised shinogi-no hi- for cutting hard objects (strongest cutter)

Flat ridgeless design for ..........machetes
and not much else (imho)


Dan

Dan Harden
16th February 2002, 13:39
I was digging around the archives for a friend and ran into this from a while ago. Haven't seen such in depth talk for awhile.

People agreeing and disagreeing, and in general just being ourselves-opinionated budo people. And all so gentlemenly like....gees

Dan

the Khazar Kid
4th March 2002, 17:49
Weren't strikes with the back of the blade mentioned way back at the beginning of this thread? James Williams has mentioned some Japanese swords with short back edges near the point, like their Chinese or Western equivalents. Could these techniques have originally been designed as back-edge cuts?

Jesse Peters

Dan Harden
6th March 2002, 12:38
Jesse
So few of those were made that it isn't worth discussing. It's like talking about those late nineteenth century single shot, gun /knives. Just curiosities.

The thread is more on the debate of slide blocking, and parrying with shinogi and mune. Not stiking or direct blocking. On the whole it leaves open the question of research done by modern smiths and Kenjutsu exponents:
1.Those who have worked with steel on a regular basis and are long time Kenjutsuka who have opinions about their research.

That matched the same results of those across the continent who had...

2. Repeatedly tried to cause failure in swords and have whacked, bent, slammed, and abused blades on purpose and in vises in direct contact-a far greater stress then anything hand held would offer.

Add to that...

3. The WW2 tests quoted that support that. The backs- when placed in tension under heavy weight; held. The edge under tension? Failed.


In contrast to:
1.Field manual reports of what may have happened to some Japanese swords produced in the Sengoku Jidai. A very valid opinion by the way, since many of those swords were reportedly substandard due to the pressures of having to equip large numbers. Sort of like what we did to our boys in Nam.
2. A plethera of Koryu arts that support edge blocking- possibly due to the uneven quality of swords produced and handed to them due to the steel and Kobuse forging methods used in their time. Soldiers are very practical you know.

Just some interesting information and contrasting opinion to put under your bonnet.

Dan

Earl Hartman
6th March 2002, 18:33
Dan:

I seem to have understood Dr. Bodiford's post to mean exactly the opposite of what you seem to believe it means.

First, I think that all of us are in agreement that parries, sliding blocks, wards, or whatever you call them, that is, techniques where the full impact of the enemy's blow is not absorbed by the blade but is either redirected or completely avoided if possible, are far to be preferred to any technique where you just stand there and take the full brunt of the enemy's attack. This really goes witout saying, it seems to me.

That being said, Dr. Bodiford's post clearly states that, UNDER THE CONDITIONS OF THE TEST, which seemed simply to be a test to gauge how best the sword would absorb a direct impact (that is, a reproduction of a "worst case" scenario) that the sword best absorbed a direct impact if it took it on the edge.

It seems that you interpret the results of the test otherwise, if I am not misunderstanding you completely. Throughout this thread, and in other threads dealing with the same issue, if memory serves, you have maintained that blocking with the egde is the worst thing to do (because of potential edge destruction) and that using the shinogi or the mune is the best approach. If we assume that you believe that STOPPING the enemy's strike with the shinogi or the mune is the best approach, then I would say that Dr. Bodiford's post directly contradicts this view. If we assume that you are advocating using the shinogi or the mune to REDIRECT the power of the enemy's strike (which is what you are advocating if I understand you correctly), so that the blade never statically receives a great deal of energy, then I am not sure what, exactly, the test Dr. Bodiford describes proves other than that the mune and the shinogi are the worst parts of the blade to use for STOPPING a blow.

This does not address the issue of whether the test was properly conceived or not, of course, just what it is supposed to prove.

carl mcclafferty
7th March 2002, 12:47
Folks:

This was probably one of the best discussions on the subject, I've seen in a long time. Maybe one of the best discussions I've seen on E-budo.

Carl McClafferty

Dan Harden
8th March 2002, 22:08
Earl

To make it simple when the load is placed on the mune (edge down)- The opposite side and the ends (complex calculation) will carry more load. They will either deform or fail. And the edge cracked and failed.
When a load is placed on the Ha side (edge up) the mune carried the load and the shape distributed the load more evenly over the arc.

Again the subject is a complex one in that during the time period where they were used the most-the swords were nowhere near uniform in quality. Mostly due to the realites of fielding an army with weapons made under the pressures of mass production. Add to that the simple fact that some methods are just inferior to others. The kobuse method frequently will leave a very soft and courser structure exposed on the mune. This lower foundation forged piece will not absorb impact as well as tempered steel (Otake's soldier manual quote). Others were using more complex folding methods, some simpler but methods that still afforded more refined steel which did not expose such a weakness. If one Japanese smiths research is correct- Masamune did not use a core method, just folded his steel like many of us do today. This would leave a much higher quality peice of steel throughout the piece, greatly reduce the chances of unseen weld failures and overall leave a higher quality piece of steel in the back.
The idea that they needed a soft core was simply not true. Complex folding is not always better with steel- in fact you increase the the chance for a weld failure. Go past a point and you will ruin your efforts entirely. The Japanese NBTHK researchers in Leon Kaps book attribute it's resurgence due to shin shinto smiths trying to recreate the look of the Koto blades. I'll leave that question to my betters.

So the questions are really
What is the quality of the piece?
Who made it?
And how?

Again as James And I have put forth;
While some older blades did fail. Others (ones we have purchased )
And new ones (Made by myself, by Howard Clark and Paul Chen) have survived surprisingly similar "tests to destruction." And these were done independently, on opposite ends of the continent, without the knowledge of either party. For the first time they were revealed here.

I think that in summation the best weapon is:
Simple folding with no core
A raised profile shinogi
No Hi
Significant Hira Niku (which will also spread a cut)
and proper distal tapering
and a low clay application to the body to produce more strength

Nothing is indestructable-but that's about the best you will get.
and THAT along with $1.50 will get ya a cup of coffee


Carl
Has been fun eh?
Who says Budo people can't get along.

cheers
Dan

Nuutti Kotivuori
10th March 2002, 06:03
Originally posted by Dan Harden
3. The WW2 tests quoted that support that. The backs- when placed in tension under heavy weight; held. The edge under tension? Failed.

Oof. This comment was a bit hard for me to understand - atleast before your second explanation.

So what you meant by this is that when pressure is applied to the edge, the backs held? And that when pressure was applied to the back, the edges did not hold?

Sorry about this rehashing, I'd just want to get it straight in my mind for once and for all.

Thanks,
Nuutti Kotivuori

James Williams
11th March 2002, 17:07
I agree with Dan's opinion on the strongest most functional katana design and construction. My opinion comes from personal experience as one who uses swords extensively. I have never forged a blade so I cannot speak to that side of the equation however I have used many different swords made with various design and construction techniques.

Because of my relationship with Bugei Trading Company as well as my interest in ancient Samurai military arts I have spent considerable time cutting with, testing and abusing Japanese swords both modern and ancient. And for those of you who block with the edge, if that discussion is still viable in this thread and I don't recommend the practice, you will be looking for new swords and that may be good for business.

Modern sword construction has evolved to the point where many blades will equal or exceed the performance of ancient blades. From an aesthetic standpoint this is not yet the case in this country, however I believe that most American smiths are probably more performance oriented. There are some very beautiful swords being made here however and some have the Japanese believing that they were forged in Japan.

Speaking to some of the testing that has been done, it is may experience that if you can hold a sword absolutely rigid that most can be broken or badly damaged. This is not however the reality of combat usage, unless say you smash the blades together. As I have expressed in previous posts it behooves the warrior, even in battle, to use his blade in a way that will preserve itís integrity and function. To fail to do so is perchance to die. In our most recent Bugei catalog I chronicle two such instances in which samurai, just pre-meiji, broke their swords in fights and subsequently died in that conflict. I have no idea the quality of their swords or the exact circumstances that caused them to fail, however that failure was fatal. Knowing how hard it is to break a well made blade I would have to guess that technique and or circumstance put them in that position.

I am not one who accepts everything that is taught as traditional/classical in Japanese swordsmanship without trying/testing how it would work in the real world. I am fortunate in being in a position that if I damage a sword in that process it is not the only one that I have. Many of the motions that are taught as a part of particular ryuha do not translate well to actually cutting with a blade. While tameshigiri is not combat and many of the cuts are not necessarily combat cuts the sword must still be able to cut with the motion that the practitioner is using. This is what swords do. If this is not the case, if you are interested in what would actually work in combat, than the practice needs to be looked at and not just accepted on account of because. While this may seem blasphemous to some this is actually how swords styles evolved from the old days. This questioning keeps the style alive, blind imitation is certain death.

Yesterday, as part of a seminar at my dojo, I cut for six hours. Opportunities like that give you a chance to really explore how to cut, why some techniques work or work better than others. You get to explore how different blades and designs perform in regards to particular aspects of cutting and stress. This is only one aspect of sword work of course however it is an important one.

I agree with Toby Threadgill, Dan Hardin, and others on this thread. If you really want to know, go out and try it. Then we can have a real discussion and perhaps further all of our knowledge on this subject. Whether or not a samurai several hundred years ago could do this or that has only minor relevance to whether or not that would work for us. Be careful, some of this can get dangerous and expensive. There is, however, no substitute for first hand knowledge and experience.

Yours in verbosity,

Earl Hartman
11th March 2002, 20:04
Originally posted by James Williams
Whether or not a samurai several hundred years ago could do this or that has only minor relevance to whether or not that would work for us. [/B]

I don't understand what this means. Could you please explain it? Are you saying that what bushi did with their swords during the time that they actually used them as weapons has no relevance to modern sword techniques?

I don't believe that anyone in this thread advocates that the best way to stop an enemy's sword is to block it forcefully with the edge. Nor do I believe that anyone is advocating that the best way to fight is to constantly block the enemy's blows forcefully, that is, to just stand toe to toe and hack it out. Everyone seems to agree that the best way is to either avoid receiving the enemy's cut in the first place or to respond in such a way that one uses one's sword and body positioning to deflect/redirect/ward/parry the enemy's blade so that one's own blade receives as little of the energy of the enemy's blow as possible.

The only question is, if by "blocking" one means "to stop the enemy's blow cold with one's own weapon", what is the best way to do this should it be necessary? No one is suggesting that such a technique is optimal, only that if one must do it, how would it best be done?

I agree that if one was a good enough swordsman, one would be confronted with this possibility relatively rarely. However, a fight to the death is a fight to the death, and one never knows what might happen in extremis. Maybe the other guy is way better than you and it's all you can do to keep him off you. Who knows? One must be prepared for all possibilities and have a weapon, ideally, upon which one can rely in such a situation. Many people posting here seem to be rephrasing various versions of "the Japanese sword was not designed to do that" or "the edge couldn't take the punishment", essentially saying that a Japanese sword will suffer catastrophic failure if the edges clash.

If the Japanese sword will fail so readily in a situation which probably occurred quite often, regardless of the best intentions of the swordsman, then the only conclusion to be drawn is that it is an inferior weapon. I just cannot believe that smiths kept on making blades with a warning sticker that said "Danger: May shatter if you strike the enemy's sword edge to edge. This situation not covered by manufaturer's warranty. Manufacturer not responsible for consequences of misuse. Always follow instructions in the user's manual" and didn't stop to think about how to correct the siutation.

Dan mentioned a European sword from the Battle of Agincourt that was so well spring-tempered that he could bend it over his knee to a 60 degree angle and watch it spring back to its original shape after the pressure was released. Maybe it would never be as sharp as a katana. Maybe it was not as pretty. But the thing is not going to break and leave you defenseless just because you're not an expert swordsman.

PS:

Dan, you mentoned that some smiths in Japan speculate that Masamune did not use a soft core in his swords or make use of the kobuse method or other elaborate forging methods. Is not Masamune considered to be one of the best, if not the best, smiths that Japan has ever produced? Hmmmmmm.....

Dan Harden
11th March 2002, 21:39
Earl
If I may- I think I understand a bit of James's warped mind ;) so I'll give it a shot. He was adding to my point that many of the blades we now make are in fact equal, if not superior to, many of the blades they had to work with back then. Hence his statement:
"Whether or not a samurai several hundred years ago could do this or that has only minor relevance to whether or not that would work for us."

James does not buy into the Japanese myths and tales any more than you or I do. That said, he is acknowledging a fact that I thought you and I had settled a year ago. Any discussion of Japanese swords can be had as "then" and "Now."
Even the Japanese agree to eras of the sword. Koto, Shinto, Shin-Shinto etc. Some of us take it a step further and state that the era of men using swords has not ended. Whether or not the Japanese agree is of little importance.

Let me explain
Some argue that the Koryu house the only information on the practical use of the Katana in a battlefield environment-that anything done currently cannot be proved as effective technique. While this is theoretically true-thats all they got-theory. Do you suppose all Koryu are effective uses of weaponry? Or that all exponents really understand what is supposedly within the Kata? I don't. There are inept people now as then. Some argue as well that modern exponents could not equal or rival "Ye men of old" who sauntered off a' merrily swinging yon blade and faced a theater of war.
I say utter Hogwash.
Men are men. They were taught then- they are taught now. Some were terrible then-they are terrible now. I believe there are men alive today that are superior in skill to many of the warriors of our ancient cultures of all ages and types.
I think there are men who spend a great deal more time training now then they did in the eras we seem to want to "Coo" about. I think any culture is able to produce sound and fit fighting men in any era they happen to be in.

OK, we now have modern steels and methodologies. Some are not interested in them because they are not traditional and archaic-that's fair. They are not old and "not Japanese."
I say fine your right.
Mechanically they're better.
They're not as pretty but they are better made now then they were then.
See? Very simple
As I said Men are men. Steel is steel. Myths are myths.


James's referenced the tests of holding the blades in your hands or in a vice. My findings were well covered earlier on, so I won't repeat them.
His other reference to "swords being destroyed edge to edge" are valid and incontravertable. Yes, I know that bothers you. But in fairness bud-how many swords have you destroyed testing? I would wager James and I may be at the top of the game for tests to destruction. I have never seen his results or he mine- didn't even know he was doing them. Just read them here. I welcome anyone to prove me wrong. Bring your sword to my forge. You'll bring home a saw. The rest is about technique.

Cheers
Dan

Earl Hartman
11th March 2002, 22:46
Dan:

I'm not denying that it is well within the realm of possibility that a Japanese sword could be destroyed by an edge-to-edge clash. What I am asking is 1) was this commonplace and expected, and 2) if so, why did the Japanese smiths not design a sword that wouldn't break so readily in this manner? Were they incapable of this?

Philosophically, I find it very hard to accept the idea that a man could fight comfortably with a weapon that he was afraid would break if he made a slight mistake in its use.

Based on your experience, I have a few other questions: would a sword typically go the first time it took a blow on the edge? Or would it take, say, 50-100 hard blows for this to happen? Would the edge be chipped, severely or otherwise, or would the sword actually break or bend? If a sword is going to break right out of the box if it gets hit on the edge, then sorry, it is a bad weapon. If it is going to come through a battle with a lot of nicks, chips, and dings, but essentially intact, and its owner is still alive, then it is a good weapon that has done its duty and deserves to be either repaired or retired with thanks.

Regarding present-day weapons, I have no real comment except to repeat what I have said before: I am sure that modern smiths, armed with the most "cutting edge" technology and materials (ha ha) are capable of making better blades than medieval smiths of whatever nationality. It would be absurd if they could not. And if the sword is better then the parameters of its use will expand accordingly.

James Williams
12th March 2002, 14:32
Earl,

My personal experience is that edge to edge contact , depending upon the particular sword and the power/angle of contact, will not break under these circumstances if it is well made. The edge will be damaged in several possible ways again depending upon the force and angle of contact as well as the metal characteristics of that particular sword. The least that happens is a nick in the blade. Again how deep this is is a function of force/angle/forging etc. With several deep nicks the sword starts to resist cutting cleanly and tends to drag and catch in the cut, again how much depends on what you are cutting etc. Blades made with the kobuse method will have a tendency to bend especially if the edge to edge contact is slightly off angle. Swords that have not been tempered/drawn back after they were hardened have a big tendency to chip. This tendency is exacerbated if the welds are not real clean which is a tendency if the sword was forged using tahamagane. The most beautiful swords that I have personally seen are forged from tahamagane however the very thing that makes them beautiful can compromise their structural integrity. I think that Dan has spoken to this and can do a better job of explaining it than I can. I have seen chips as long as two inches from one edge contact that was at an off angle. This chip followed a weld.

Practically speaking any hard blocking produces some damage to the sword. If the sword is well made and the mune/shinogi are used to block the opposing blade you just get cuts in the softer steel of the blocking blade. These do not affect cutting performance however donít try noto, like someone we know, and chew the saya up. Blades made from the kobuse method can bend under some of these pressures. The attacking sword may or may not have some edge damage depending on forging/angle of attack etc. If you attack an L-6 bainite blade they are nasty on the opponents sword. They are harder on the mune/shinogi and have a tendency to ďgrabĒ the edge of the opposing sword which can lead to chipping. This is however a modern example and has no bearing on classical combat.

My experience is that if you have to block the opponents blade, rather than pass it by at an angle, you leave your hands firm but relax your arms and shoulders enough that your sword can move slightly and kind of muffle the contact between your sword and your opponents. This alone will benefit your sword regardless of how it is made. I would practice this extensively with bokken and maybe even a dulled sword before doing it for real. I do not recommend doing these tests with live blade on live blade. It is fraught with potential danger both for the parties involved as well as the swords. I do this for two reasons, one is that I was probably born in the wrong century, but them some of you suffer from that same dilemma, and two I feel a responsibility to know how swords work and why because of my position at Bugei as well as the fact that I teach kenjutsu.

In regards to my comment about ancient Samurai and their techniques please donít think that I do not value and honor that knowledge from the past that has been passed down to us. I have studied kenjutsu extensively and am currently studying Komagawa kaishin ryu kenjutsu with Kuroda Tetsuzan senei always seeking to broaden my knowledge and glean whatever I can from these ancient traditions. However with that said much has been lost over the centuries and I personally believe that I need to be able to practically apply those techniques learned in the dojo of a particular ryuha. It is only when I can move and cut, defend and counter and cut again that I know that I could apply what I have learned. In the process sometimes the techniques change to suit my perspective/anatomy/ability. What worked several hundred years ago for a 5í2Ē samurai who started training when he was 5 and had actual combat experience may be the basis for my training however it is up to me to make it work now. I believe that this keeps the knowledge alive.

Because fighting with swords is no longer practiced it is easy to learn techniques in the dojo that are no longer effective. In my experience I have seen a good number of ryuha who practice ways of moving the sword in the dojo that do not then cut or sometimes even parry effectively when put to the test. I realize that many of these styles are no longer interested in the combative applications and this is fine. My particular perspective is that I want to be able to fight effectively with what I know and that this is ultimately my personal responsibility. Part of this knowledge is how my sword will react when it is put under pressure. Another part is how it cuts various materials and the different ways in which it can do that. It is also important for me to be able to move rapidly while cutting and transition between cuts including rolling into and out of the cuts with drawn blade. I know this is anachronistic behavior and I am not suggesting that everyone should have this perspective. I just want you to know my viewpoint for the purposes of discussion and elucidation. I donít know that we have met however people whom I respect think well of you and I am far more interested in exchange of knowledge than in arguing a position which. like certain parts of our anatomy, we all possess.

I know this is a bit long however it has been an informative and enjoyable discussion and i can be a bit long winded, unlike Dan.

Regards,

Earl Hartman
12th March 2002, 17:26
James:

Thank you very much for your reply. It answers a lot of my questions, and it is clear that you have put a lot of thought into this and have a lot of experience to back it up.

If I may paraphrase:

1) Edge to edge contact will damage a blade. This goes without saying, and I have never argued that it would not. The only question I really had was how extensive the damage would be. The extent of the damage, as you have clearly pointed out, and which should be obvious if you think about it for a while, depends on a number of things, these being, in general: 1) the angle of contact, 2) the force of contact 3) the resistance given to that contact (hard or soft "blocking") 4) the quality of the opposing blades, and, finally, 5) the relative skill of the combatants.

Thus, if I understand you correctly, it seems safe to assume that if one had a good blade and knew how to use it, that the sword could take a certain amount of edge-to-edge contact which, while damaging the edge, would not necessarily destroy it forthwith and render the sword useless. This is a GREAT deal different from saying that "Japanese swords will be destroyed by edge-to-edge contact" and has serious implications for how the sword could be used.

This does not mean that I advocate edge-to-edge blocking as a first resort. I was only trying to establish whether it was possible to do it and still have a weapon with which to fight.

Regarding hard blocking and the technique of receiving the enemy's attack in a relaxed manner so that the blade receives as little energy as possible and subsequent counterattacks are more easily done: my experience in kenjutsu is limited and my main experience is in kendo, but nobody is easier to hit than a guy who just stands there and blocks. Because his arms are so stiff he is incapable of rapid movement, so he is an easy target. Also, such people hit very hard, but because their arms are so stiff their blows are slow and quite easy to stop. And, finally, it is intetesting to note that these people break their shinai very frequently, since they do not understand how to apply force and their angles of attack are all wrong (hasuji is important for shinai too, believe it or not). The more skilful the fencer the longer his shinai lasts. I must assume, of course, that this would be even more true with real swords.

Scott Irey
13th March 2002, 04:47
This has been a very interesting thread, with some very insightful arguments. One issue I find conspicuously absent in all this (an issue I find absent in all the other threads concerning blocking on any of the other forums I read) is nobody seems to take into account that it is not only the sword on the "recieving" end that stands the risk of being damaged, but also the sword on the "giving" end. Regardless of which surface the recieving sword uses to block or deflect with,the sword on the giving end is almost always going to take the brunt of the impact on its edge. Based on most of the arguments I have read here, it then stands to reason that the sword doing the cutting is going to be damaged in much the same manner as a sword that has its edge used for blocking or deflecting. Or maybe I am just missing something.

13th March 2002, 05:08
Hi Guys,

I'm currently visiting the Yanagi ryu hombu dojo in Long Beach. I will try to get photos of a couple of swords that were used in the filming of a video sequence where the ha of one blade was used instead of the shinogi or mune to parry a mengiri. The actual sequence where this sword was damaged can be seen on one of the Yanagi ryu kenjutsu videos so you can judge for yourself the power of the cuts and the angles of the deflection. This occured during an exercise called "walking the circle". Despite a considerable angle of deflection the ha of the blocking sword was so seriously damaged that the sword now looks like a hacksaw. As per Scott Irey's musing I may be able to include a photo of the other sword used in this demo that was used correctly by Rich Elias. Curiously it demonstrates little damage from the encounter beyond a couple of deep scratches on the shinogi along with some abrasions and one chip. This sword did not bend as is easily visible on the tape. Both these particular swords were in excellent serviceable condition before the students began the filming. Unfortunately one of the students in this series screwed up and just choked due to inexperience during the filming. I about died when I saw this wonderful sword reduced to a saw. It is too bad that a beautiful sword was virtually destroyed in this effort but it definitely put to rest any questions I ever had surrounding this debate....however eloquent it's excellent debaters.

Toby Threadgill

Dan Harden
13th March 2002, 12:43
Scot
I was never in doubt about the issue and took much heat for it. I believe that was covered much earlier in the thread. Neither edge will survive-period. The sword will-the edge will not. It is one of the reasons I can be so confidant in saying "Bring a sword to the shop-you will return with a saw.
If you want to accent the truly relavent points of this thread the questions should be.......


Shinogi/Mune

"If the Mune and Shonogi are NOT capable of defending why do so many swords survive with cuts in the mune and Shinogi?"

1. This is the heart of the position and James and I put forth.
Over the years I have seen perhaps 50-60 swords with cuts on them this way. None were destroyed (naturally, the ruined ones I would not be seeeing would I) They survived. This matches the results we both documented during our testing. Therefore we support the same argument. Shinogi mune deflection is the way to go.

2.I have conducted my own studies which cost me thousands and I have been unable to cut through one in the this manner. And that, with the sword in a fixed base.

3. On his own James has done the same thing

4. A fixed base applied far more force to the point of contact then a human hand connected to a body. Cutting a sword in half in someones held hands would place trememendous strain on that persons grip. I put forth that the hand would release the blade-and not absord the same energy as a vise.

5. Our remaining point is that the newly made blades have increased the performance levels of the Japanese Katana to new levels.


Edge chipping
I am trying to make some definitive points here so read carefully. Of course you will probably disagree but we can move >forward< in the discussion.

1. The edge once it reaches a rockwell of say 58C or better will not sustain a direct blow to another sharp edge. This has nothing (NOTHING) to do with that same edge sustaining itself during the cutting of softer objects or in the case of helmut cutting(blunt hard objects). Do you see what I mean?
2.A hard edge with the proper edge geometry (and the early Japanese smiths knew quite a bit about edge geometry) will survive repeated blows to blunt objects.

3. Sharp edges that are hard- chip. Spring tempered edges tend to roll. This means you can use a steel to roll/strop the edge back with no loss of metal. The Tibetin Kukri is intentinally made ths way. So are most of the European blades.

4. Chipping
James this discusses your earlier question to me as to why the chip is limited.
One of the reason for ashi in a hamon are to control the chipping; both in depth and in length. The softer pearlite will absorb the shock and not crack; which BTW seems to make the case once again for the mune and shonogi being supportiev NEH? Thus leaving a servicable blade. The less ashi the more prone to longer crack or chip.

5. Earl this is for you
I never put forth the argument that the sword would fail due to edge to edge contact. That was some ill desiged engineering test from ww2 that was qouted here. They braced it like a bridge and produced artificial results from the test. Foolish test-foolish results.
The tests James and I conducted (again independantly) were thought out and planned to simulate real conditions- far more in detail then the Japanese tests were. That is why we garnered more accurate information. Better test-better results.

My contention is that the sword will not FAIL from edge to edge-the edge will be chipped or scraped off. And due to the excellent design of the Japanese sword that chip will be limited.
A whole other facinating discussion is on cutting methods that over-arching cut that produces a ha-biki draw back or a bent arm more lever cut-in that produces a more vertical force. One will scrape a large percentage of the edfge over an object-the other will produce more direct load to the receiving target.
in edge to edge which produces less damage to the cuttinf sword and more to the receiving object?

As for technique. Anything done with the has can be done with shinogi. And to change to the mune is very simple. I am well into my second decade doing TSKSR kata this way-with no problems at all. The resultant change of hands even accentes the strength of some of the winding techiques and seems to use the swords curve to a significant degree. The art that Toby and James now share performs kata with live blades. That would place them in a whole other realm of experience than any thousand or so other Budo people.
Their results?
As Gomer Pyle said "Surprise surprise."

So.......As for debate? There isn't one.
The ones who have tested agree.
The others are not quoting test results. They are simply stating opinion based on what they were told by others- who as far as I can tell- are only quoting what they were told by others or reading in a manual.
I encourage one and all to put THEIR money, their blades, and their views on the line.
I did
James did
Toby did
no debate there


cheers in verbosity
Dan
"trying not to be as long winded as James"

Cady Goldfield
13th March 2002, 13:22
Gentlemen,

I am following this discussion with great interest. Thanks for using lay-terms so that us newbies can follow and understand the issues and points.

Just a small observation from the "peanut gallery" regardiing what Dan wrote -- "4. A fixed base applied far more force to the point of contact then a human hand connected to a body. Cutting a sword in half in someones held hands would place trememendous strain on that persons grip. I put forth that the hand would release the blade-and not absord the same energy as a vise."

To that, I'd add that the human body and its limbs are not rigid and dense like a metal vise. The force of impact of blade-against-blade would be absorbed by the soft tissues (including bone, which is "softer," less dense and thus more shock-absorbing than the steel or iron of a vise). Also, the arms and body bend and move with the force of impact, unlike a vise and its base, which remain largely unyielding. So, even before the hand lets go of the sword, there has already been an absorbing and dissipating of force.

Ellis Amdur
13th March 2002, 17:52
A very informative thread. The information about sword configuration, metallurgy, etc. is all new to me and very valuable to me. One observation (and I apologize if I missed someone noting this already among the 68 posts) - I don't recall any ryu of which I have familiarity ever advocating blocking with the katana - PERIOD. My understanding has always been that every ostensible block within a kata is, in reality, an attack to the flesh of the enemy - that the weapons "collide" in the kata is due to:
1) a deliberate redirection of the strike to chain the kata techniques
2) the assumption that the enemy also is good - and if they are simultaneously attacking or striking a counter-blow or suppression of your attack, what do you do now that the weapons have some together?
3) Shinogi uke (is sliding parries and also "inadvertent" clashing of weapons, with yours (and his?) directed at the body of the enemy.

In a 1987 lecture, Otake Risuke stated, referring to frequent collisions of weapons in the kata of his ryu, "Actually, however, if an attack were to be blocked with the sword as is done in the kata, it would chip or damage the blade, so this movement is done only as a last resport, when it is impossible to avoid being cut. Gnerally, if one is going to be cut and is able to block the atack, one can and should cut the opponent in turn. Rather than block an attack, then it is better to "parry" or to deflect the oppoent's blade. . . . kenjutsu shown in movies will often portray the swordsman striking an opponent with the mune . . ., but this is incorrect as it will very probably cause the sword to break. . ." Later he stated, ". . . it is best to attack that part of the heart (or circulatory system) that is usually nearest to oneself, i.e., the arteries of the wrist or the leg."

In this presentation, Otake, who was a sword examiner at the Naritat airport, stated that you NEVER see swords with any "scars" or chips on the mune, but you very frequently have old swords with chips or repairs to the ha. He then took a confiscated sword and cut with it forcefully into a four-by-four. The blade bit deeply, and he worked it out. He then struck the same piece of wood with the mune and it snapped.

Finally, I think it is instructive to consider Jigen Ryu, which focuses on all-out attack, not blocks or parries whatsoever. Rather than an anomaly, Jigen Ryu accentuates one of the dominent aspects of kenjutsu, which is that it is not a sparring art, it is terribly powerful attack, through the study of spacing, timing and will, going into all-out/yet focused attack.

I think one has to make a distinction between carrying a weapon onto a battlefield, and later periods where the weapon was a dueling instrument, rarely deployed and idealized as a symbol ('soul of the samurai", etc). My guess would be in the wild melee of a battlefield, most of those returning came back with chipped blades. Warefare was so enervating and fatiguing that many men tied their hand around their swords - after the initial clashes, the combination of adrenaline, fear and fatigue (fighting in summer in armor for hours? In winter?) almost assures that technique breaks down, and only the simplest of engrained reflexes remains. Blades were probably broken or chipped not only colliding with the other's weapon, but hitting the ground as well. Pole arms snapped, or the blade snapped or broke out of the shaft (a lot of old ryu's bojutsu is really a contingency for just this event). Some had enough skill in close-combat (kodachijutsu, kogusoku or kumiuchi) that they were able to continue fighting, and then, most likely picked up someone else's weapon. (I wonder what percentage of men who survived a battlefield came home with someone else's katana - not just spoils of war, but grabbing something on the ground to continue fighting)?

In the one-on-one duels of the edo period, however, I imagine that, unarmored, one was a lot more careful, not only of one's sword, but of one's body. The roots of kendo, which wins by a forceful "touche," are in the Edo ryu in which mere contact of the blade against naked flesh (some arteries mere fractions of an inch below the skin), might be fatal.

with respect

Ellis Amdur

James Williams
13th March 2002, 18:36
Ellis,

Good post, I agree with Otake sensei's assessement. I know that Toby and I, and I believe Dan also, adhere to this view of sword combat.

Regards,

Dan Harden
14th March 2002, 01:15
Ellis writes
In this presentation, Otake, who was a sword examiner at the Naritat airport, stated that you NEVER see swords with any "scars" or chips on the mune, but you very frequently have old swords with chips or repairs to the ha.

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

This is simply not true. No reflection on Otake Sensie and I doubt that under direct one-on-one questioning he would support that broad stateement either. There are enough people here who can ask him.
I have seen, felt, and handled many- including a Nagunobu and a Kotetsu. The Boston Museum of Fine arts have dozens. They had a Koto blade there last year;
Koto Tachi: slender, nick on Omote, shinogi to mune transverse diagonal slash from front to back. It was the first sword facing the door, one of two housed edge down in the diplay.
Seen a Katana with the mune sliced through to a corner dig in the shinogi as well. It was up toward the monouchi. Last sword opposite side facing the armor.
IF you would like- I will start talking pictures-they rotate the blades regularly. They have the largest and most costly collection outside of Japan.


Ellis qoutes

He then took a confiscated sword and cut with it forcefully into a four-by-four. The blade bit deeply, and he worked it out. He then struck the same piece of wood with the mune and it snapped.

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

Yup. and the next one? the next?

I guess I'll have to start taking pictures. Dissagreeing with well known people sets you up as a straw man.....nowhere to go but down.

Both James and I have stated our real world test results-oh well.

Ellis
Good points but the "cuts to the heart", in place of kata are well known by the posters here I believe. And these were covered earlier on-as James stated above, as well as the Kuzushi VS kata applications.But you can repeat as often as you like it's how we get to drag interesting sutff out of you ya know. I'm kidding but I am serious as well. I think you realize that your contributions are appreciated.
Actually this all began when someone said that mune cuts will ruin the blade.
Small point-well covered
70 posts later we are back to square one.



cheers :wave:
Dan

Ellis Amdur
14th March 2002, 05:01
Dan -

I know nothing about metallurgy - I hope I made that clear. Hell, it's clear even if I tried to hide it. Since I witnessed the exhibition and heard Otake, who supposedly is an expert on nihonto, thought it would be relevant. BUT I don't have a vested interest in him being "right," either.

Where I do have a little bit of knowledge is in traditional usage of Japanese weaponry, as based on that passed down in a number of ryu, and I mostly react to the whole concept of blocking. I assume there is a good chance that weapons will make contact in battle, among those of roughly equal ability, or in a melee, where one has second or third enemies coming at one from different angles. My assumption is that those who survive combat will be those who have "scars" on the edge, or perhaps on the shinogi (the latter due to parries, not blocks - am I wrong in my assumption that a full impact direct blow on the shinogi may bend the weapon?), as they will have their edge directed at the vitals of the enemy. In any event, the survivor(s) will be attacking, not on the defense. Let us all pray for enemies who block, with either mune or ha.

With respect

Ellis:toast:

Dan Harden
14th March 2002, 12:07
Ellis
I see where your coming from-this was to much to read for anyone unless you have been reading from the begining.
To be clear no one was talkig about a stop-block but a parry. Although The occasional OH-SH$%&# block was covered.

Dan

James Williams
14th March 2002, 22:54
Ellis,

In my personal experience a very hard blow that is stopped by the shinogi of the receiving sword can cause deflections in the sword. I think that if would be very difficult to break a blade striking it on the mune. Perhaps someone has more experience in this area.

I concur on passing and parrying as opposed to blocking whenever possible.

James

Ellis Amdur
14th March 2002, 23:22
James and Dan -

Thank you for the info that is based on your experience with actual impact. The only experience I have even slightly close to that which you describe is a crazy period in one dojo where, at the instructor's behest (and our idiotic acquiesence), we did our kata with relatively hard impact (say about 1/3 force), using those cheap pot-metal sword replicas. All the replicas quickly became saws, and the single practice ended within a 1/2 hour when one was hit on the shinogi and snapped, one piece nearly spearing someone on the other end of the dojo. And that, thank God, allowed a return to bokken, and the much more acceptable, under the circumstances, risk of cracked knuckles and other broken bones. BTW, I'm not using this as evidence regarding nihonto and shinogi uke - even I know that pot metal aint folded steel - it's just a lead in to wondering how impossible it would be to do "stress tests" with two people doing kata or even one move with impact at full force. A sword blade helicoptering across the room or a chip lodging in someone's eye would be a high price to pay in proving once and for all how swords perform in the kind of impact. and then, of course, you'd have to repeat it lots of times to get any reliable data. Much less the possibility that one really did attack with integrity and the other person couldn't block - whoops, I mean parry. Anyway, great discussion. I always look forward to reading what you guys have to say about an instrument I love to swing, but know all too little about in terms of its structure and capabilities.

With respect

Ellis

James Williams
15th March 2002, 02:30
Ellis,

One point I did forget to bring up, if people want to do some live blade on blade, which I do not recommend, is that you get little pieces of steel that can come off when you make contact. Most blocks therefore entail a slight averting of the eyes so that there is not a direct line of flight. Don Angier sensei taught me this technique a long time ago and it served me well is some testing where i had a small piece of metal stick in the side of my head instead of in my eye.

Marc Renouf
15th March 2002, 18:59
This has been a really interesting thread. Kudos to all who have participated.

While I can't really add much to the discussion from the practical experiment side (I've never subjected a sword to those kinds of punishment), I can offer some insight to Earl Hartman's question as to why Japanese smiths didn't design a better weapon.

The answer of course, is that like everything else, the katana was a product of its environment. People are quick to point out that European battlefield weapons were very robust, made of springlike steel, and unlikely to shatter. They are less quick to point out that compared to the Sengoku Jidai samurai, the typical Teutonic Knight was armored like a tank. They are also less quick to point out that most European swords didn't really have much of an edge, and there's mounting evidence that most casualties from these kinds of weapons were actually due to blunt force trauma or internal bleeding caused by compound fractures of major bones.

Weapons and armor are developed for good reasons, and those reasons are as many and varied as the cultures that spawn them. European smiths very early on developed extremely sophisticated armor, and the counter-response was to develop weapons that were capable of circumventing and surviving heavy blows against that armor. The Japanese, on the other hand, used much lighter forces. Their armor was much less protective and tended to be made of lighter (but weaker) materials. Their weapons aren't designed to batter through 10-gauge steel. They are designed to lay the (relatively exposed) femoral or brachial artery wide open. The best way to do that is with a (relatively) light, quick weapon that has an exceedingly sharp edge.

But even armor development happens for different reasons. Japanese horses tend to be fairly small. They are hardy and sure-footed, but not as strong. Central Europe, on the other hand, is home to some truly massive varieties of horse (a la the Percheron), that can easily carry a heavily armored man. Japanese warriors were noted for mounted archery. European warriors were noted for the use of the lance. Even something as simple as when the stirrup was first discovered in these different societies can have strong ramifications on military development.

Before we are too quick to make comparisons between weapons of various cultures, we need to look at the big picture, look at how wars were fought in those cultures, and how those weapons developed in response to armor, tactics, availability of materials, outside influences, and a host of other factors. To do anything less is to compare apples to oranges.

Finally, I'd like to make a note about the assertion that modern materials and methods always make a better end product. Say what you want about 440 stainless, but the finished product that is a sword is as much a product of the process as it is of the materials. My wife is a metallurgist, so I hear about this kind of stuff all the time. ;) Yes, modern forging methods can make some very hard, very strong steels. But part of the strength of a katana made by traditional methods arises from the fusing of metals of different hardnesses. Differences in quench time, grain size, inclusions, and impurities can cause vastly different properties between the individual types of steel. If you want a sharp edge, the best way to get that is with a very hard steel. But hard steels are brittle, and will shatter easily. Similarly, if you're not as concerned about your edge but want something more robust, use a softer, more ductile steel. It may deform, but is less likely to fracture.

The beauty of the traditionally-forged katana is that it combines these two principles. The body of the sword is a steel that's far more ductile than the steel that comprises the edge. So you get a sharp edge, but if anything happens (edge-to-edge block), you'll lose a chip out of the edge. But you don't have to worry as much about shattering the entire sword. Further, the layering process yields a sword that is actually less likely to snap in two because no single grain boundary passes all the way through the body of the sword. You may crack individual layers (which will weaken the sword), but the sword as a whole is more likely to stay intact.

Most modern swords are mass-produced. They are stamped, rolled, and machined. Sure, the grade of steel may be higher, but that steel is homogenous. To imply that this yields a "better" weapon than a hand-forged blade made of differing qualities of steel is to imply that your garden variety gunto is a better weapon than a Masamune katana. I.e., it's patently ridiculous.

Even smiths who hand-make swords may be largely unaware of the subtleties behind traditional swordsmithing methods. I went to a Highland Festival once where a gentleman was selling suspiciously katana-like swords. When asked about them, he replied proudly that they were made of a single piece of hand-forged 440 stainless, and that they were stronger than original katanas. Idiot. I've seen similar swords snap under what I would consider less than strenuous conditions, and I wouldn't try tameshigiri with one to save my life. Just because it's curved and only sharp on one edge, does not mean it's a katana.

Dan Harden
16th March 2002, 03:27
Marc

Thank you for contributing. But before you make statements like
"People are quick to point out that.."
And
"They are also less quick to point out that most European swords didn't really have much of an edge...."
I suggest you go back and read the "Stainless steel" and "edge to edge" threads as well as the other armor threads in the archives. We covered these topics in much greater detail and Earl was a major contributor there as well. You will find some VERY detailed discussions on metallurgy as well. Like many modern smiths I have extensive experience with metallurgy, and testing. Not to put too fine a point on it- but your example of 440 stainless whether it be A,B,or C sort of detracts from your overall point. Regardless of the method it is unwise to consider a sword from that steel. Even one that could be hand forged and differentially tempered from one of us who can do the job.
There are some excellent comparative discussions on European and Asian armors as well.

Just thought I would add that it is good to review the archives to see who's who. That way you can offer these same opinions as a continuation of a given thread and move that thread forward to spawn further discussion. You will probably find like minded people.

Earl sits at home chained to the computer with a glass of Pink Zinfendel wine cooler in his hand waiting for talk on arms and armors
He has to keep wiping the saliva off the keyboard when someone mentions the comparative attributes of European weaponry and actually compliments them.

Good points all around Marc.

Cheers
Dan

James Williams
16th March 2002, 04:52
Dan,

You are getting entirely to easy to get along with.

James

Dan Harden
16th March 2002, 14:23
Dan,

You are getting entirely to easy to get along with.

James

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

Ya wiseguy
Actually there are many who know me or study with me who post here. They tell me my writing style is didactic, demonstrative and dry- (and that was the good stuff)-and does not reflect my natural good humor (hey! They said it). To that end I am being more careful.
But lets not get me started on Aiki-bunnies or what some people call Martial Arts these daysÖ..

Cheers
Dan

Earl Hartman
18th March 2002, 02:13
Originally posted by Dan Harden
My contention is that the sword will not FAIL from edge to edge-the edge will be chipped or scraped off. And due to the excellent design of the Japanese sword that chip will be limited.


Dan:

As far as I am concerned, this is the end of the discussion. My sole contention throughout this thread has been NOT that edge-to-edge blocking (or parrying, or deflecting, or whatever you want to call it) is desirable, it has been ONLY that the sword will survive it and that if it does not it is an inferior weapon. I believe that your statement supports that contention and that we can assume that a PROPERLY MADE Japanese sword will survive whatever edge to edge contact that may occur in the heat of battle. It will be damaged, but the damage will not be fatal.

That being said, I believe the story that Toby tells of the destruction of a shinken due to a mistake in a kata by an inexperienced student who was nervous about being filmed. But that just begs the question: would not an inexperienced person be just that much more nervous if it were a real battle? My gut tells me that what Ellis says must be true: that in the stress of battle, the fine motor control will go out the window and that no one will have time to worry about his sword when his life is on the line. We would all like to imagine that a "sword saint" would be able to do whatever he wanted with perfect results, but how many such people really existed? The vast majority of swords were undoubtedly handled by some pretty terrified people and certainly must have been designed with that in mind. The destroyed shinken may have been very beautiful, and it is too bad that it was ruined, but how good a sword could it have been if a simple mistake like that will destroy it?

Regarding the differences between European and Japanese weapons and armor, the reasons for the differences in the way weapons and armor developed are in themselves a whole?@field of study, and I do not pretend to be an expert. However, while horses were stronger in Europe and the European knight developed tactics based on the heavy cavalry charge, as opposed to relying on mounted archery, Mr. Renouf is entirely incorrect in intimating that the European knight went into battle encased from head to foot in 10 gauge steel and that such armor was a cosntant throughout the Middle ages. As I have stated before, at the acme of its development a typical full plate harness of Italian armor of the mid 15th century weighed only about 45 pounds or so, excluding the arming jacket (which was provided with mail for the gaps in the plates) and the helmet. The ponderously heavy and restrictive harnesses of plate armor which one sees in many museums are tournament armor, which could be made excessively protective and restrict certain movements, since the joust for which they were designed was held according to very strict rules. These armors were never worn in battle. Up until the power of the English longbow made it imperative to design armor that could withstand it, most knights were armored with mail, a typical hauberk weighing somewhere around 40 pounds or so. Also, AFAIK, the idea that European swords had blunt edges is a?@myth.?@Yes,it is true that they were probably not as razor sharp as a katana, but Hyakutake san has already said that the razor-sharp, and, consequently, exceedingly delicate edges on modern katana are a result of the art polish that collectors prize, and that a battle edge was nowhere near as sharp, precisely because such an edge would easily chip. In any case the whole "heavy, ponderous armored knights armed with blunt battering weapons" thing is just not true, and there was so much change and development over the years that one cannot just say "medieval European armor" and be done with it. The Vikings, who beat the crap out of everybody in Europe for a couple hundred years, discovered America, founded the first Russian sate, and laid siege to Constantinople, were usually equipped with a razor-sharp broadsword, a wooden shield, a fairly light helmet, and a hauberk of mail (if they were rich). Japanese armor, especially the kabuto, was probably just as good as a lot of European stuff (I still don`t understand the "gap-osis" though.)

Oh, yeah, Dan: I never said that I drink White Zinfandel wine coolers. I only said that wine coolers are all that White Zinfandel "wine" is good for.

Dan Harden
18th March 2002, 12:49
Originally posted by Earl Hartman


Dan:

As far as I am concerned, this is the end of the discussion. My sole contention throughout this thread has been NOT that edge-to-edge blocking (or parrying, or deflecting, or whatever you want to call it) is desirable, it has been ONLY that the sword will survive it and that if it does not it is an inferior weapon. I believe that your statement supports that contention and that we can assume that a PROPERLY MADE Japanese sword will survive whatever edge to edge contact that may occur in the heat of battle. It will be damaged, but the damage will not be fatal.

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


I have no problem with that statement Earl.
As stated, it just needs all the qualifiers that go with it.
1.Serviceable edge VS razor edge,
2.Ashi to limit cracking,
3.Tempering to limit brittleness (not all smiths did this),
4.Edge to blunt object-fine (armor The Shinogi and mune etc.)
5.The Shinogi and Mune will absorb shock. So sword techniques that parry with Mune and shinogi will preserve the blade.
6.Edges that cut the mune and shinogi will survive.
7.Repeated edge to edge contact=saw
8.Depth of hamons effect on strength
9.Placement of clay effecting body strength
10.Not all Japanese blades (of any era)were good or even passable. SO there is no "standard" of Japanese excellence or superiority.

on and on

As we covered- there is just a tremendous amount of half-thought out, misinformed opinion that goes along with any discussion of the Japanese sword.
Colinís opinion about the serviceable edge matches my own. I would add that the serviceable edge VS the razor sharp one is so well known that I do not often talk about. To smiths, that topic is rather mundane and has been covered well. I frequently neglect repeating it more often when talking with Japanese sword "experts." Neither will Japanese swords part leaves in water or cut a silk scarf dropped on it. Only a Wootz blade will do that-and they're not a martensite product so the hardening/tempering model goes out the window.

I say love Japanese swords for what they are-but broaden your knowledge base.


Ellis's thoughts on fine motor skills going out the window are true enough but there are qualifiers there as well. Not all people will react the same way. Some people with training may surprise you.

Most groups that have to deal with stressful environments train to deal with those same environments. Granted the Martial arts are sorely lacking in that regard. But there are means to induce stress in training and make steps toward that goal. Is it perfect?....please. Is it better then nothing-I would think so. Good training always helps. But stress is an unkown till you've been there.
A healthy 4 tour Nam vet may respond differently to stress than a beat cop in Maine
A beat cop in N.Y may respond differently than one in rural Mass.
And two cops standing next to each other may respond differently as well.
EMT's respond well to stress as well. I was part of an EMT response team that out-shone the cops at an accident scene.
How would your average MA who trains in Solo Kata respond-or any art for that matter? Who knows!
Cops and soldiers alike are full of stories of the average Joe doing amazing things both good and bad while under stress. And most of them -we could presume- have little, if any, training. So who knows for sure.

The resultant fine motor skill loss as mentioned by Ellis comes from increased blood pressure and rapid breathing-which can reuslt in narrow vision, "freezing" of responses, poor judgement, etc. And at a point it can all cascade resulting in "flat affect" response, compliant behaviour, or passing out.
At any rate the initial response to stress is not the same in all people. I'm a pretty cool cookie under stress (been there-done that) but so is my wife. She was the one who took command of that accident scene.
People are full of surprises. You don't have to be some super-duper combat vet to respond well to stress. Who do you suppose is giving the cops so much trouble on the street pissed off average people. Even they will tell you to avoid domestics. Play that against several stories of Soldiers (affiliation left out- though it may surprise you)who panicked under stress.
In the end we're all just folk. You train as best you can. Effective training will only add to someoneís abilities to deal with stress.

Kata training-that frequently ill spoken of methodology- is laive in Cops and Soldiers as well. Doing something until it becomes an automatic response has a lot of wisdom when the crap hits the fan. But it all boils down to what your training yourself to do.

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


Earl says
Oh, yeah, Dan: I never said that I drink White Zinfandel wine coolers. I only said that wine coolers are all that White Zinfandel "wine" is good for.


Earl my good man-it was a J-O-K-E.
I know WHAT you said-that's why I picked "pink" Zinfandel to kid you.
Just another example of my fine ability to communicate:(
Just love talking with ya Earl

Back to work
Cheers
Dan

Ellis Amdur
18th March 2002, 14:09
Dan -

Agree that 1) training 2) experience allows the greater possibility that one can respond without panic, adrenaline sickness or chaotic terror. But recently read an account of a seasoned Vietnam vet talking about a close combat incident at night with knives et al, and he said that the first thing he did in the fight was accidentally stab himself.

Within koryu, there is an implicit debate : some schools, like Jigen Ryu, "state" - "look, it's gonna happen - fine motor skills will deteriorate, gross motor skills will deteriorate - we, therefore, will train in a one-size-fits-all response, so that when combat starts, the body will have no alternative but to act in that one way." (note that young Satsuma warriors also used to train by getting very drunk, suspending a matchlock by a cord in the center of their circle, lighting the fuse, spinning it, and holding still - Satsuma roulette, as it were - they cultivated a particular attitude, more or less a willingness to run right into the face of death). Other schools believe that the high intensity repetition of sophisticated movement and technique 'rewires" the nervous system so that one responds appropriately whatever angle of attack, etc., comes. But often their contingency plan brings them back to Jigen Ryu thinking. Yagyu Shinkage Ryu's "Marubashi" technique and a similar one in Jikishin Kage Ryu essentially says, "In the end, go straight forward without thought of anything else and cut them down." As I recall, Kashima Shinto Ryu has a similar teaching as well.

I think that most of the really strong ryu, whatever the form of training they went through, assumed that in the end that only highly trained reflex might survive battlefield chaos and panic, and that given the breakdown of such reflex in heightened states of arousal, simple methods which really didn't worry about parries, subtle attack, etc. would survive. And techniques to minimize such arousal (de-sensitization, forms of bio-feedback, breathing methods, etc.) would also be part of training

Another aspect, expressed in a Spanish proverb : "he was a brave man - that day," is that success on one battlefield doesn't guarantee success on the next. Witness very brave men who psychologically break ("battle fatigue," now called PTSD.) So even if, in one battle, or at one point in the battle, one fights with grace and efficiency, there is a substantially unpredicable possibility that these skills will break down even in trained warriors. And the flip side - that one can fight "in a state of grace," (as you say, trained or not.) A friend of mine once described flying thru a narrow valley in North Vietnam, with a heat seeking SAM fired at him, and flack fired "horizontally" from both valley walls, and him cutting the engines to go into free-fall to get under the flack and erase his heat trail, and reigniting the engines at the very last moment, almost at the valley floor. Another example would be John Glenn - if I recall correctly, when his Space Capsule seemed doomed to crash, he flew it by wire, so to speak, and his heart rate didn't rise at all.)

In sum, then, one trains to use the sword correctly. One assumes one often won't be able, or one's enemy is good enough to bust your intentions up, and one carries a weapon most likely to both make trained reflex possible and stand up against inevitable errors.

With respect

Ellis Amdur`

P.S. I posted this, and noticed you edited your post - now I'm repeating you.

Marc Renouf
18th March 2002, 14:34
Once again, Earl raises some very good points. You'll note, however, that nowhere in my post did I imply that I was talking about a full suit of tournament-grade Maximilian armor. But the point remains that a knight clad in leather gambeson, chain hauberk, coif, and leggings, and a fully enclosed steel pothelm (a typical battlefield get-up) is much more protected than most of the o-yoroi we see from Japan. This level of protection necessitates a difference in weapons and tactics.

That said, Earl and Dan both accurately pointed out that "medieval Europe" comprises such a wide timeframe as to make comparisons difficult. That was precisely my point: comparisons are difficult. :)

Earl Hartman
19th March 2002, 00:07
Thanks, once again, to Dan and Ellis for their well-considered replies.

My main point in discussing European armor was to call into question the assumption that the typical European knight was, as Marc said, "armored like a tank". It was simply not true. A full harness of high quality mail was nowhere near as heavy and cumbersome as most people think, nor did it render a man invulnerable. Indeed, I have heard that it was expected that a well-trained man would, while in full harness, be able to 1) swim, 2) climb a ladder from the underside using only his hands, and 3) vault into the saddle of his horse without using his hands. Even assuming that not everyone could do this, it indicates that the armor was not that heavy. Mail was good proof against an edge, or against a thrust with a broad-bladed, single-handed weapon, but if the blow was powerful enough, and the edge of the sword was better tempered than the mail, which was surely most often the case, then the mail would probably lose that encounter. Also, a full harness of high quality, close mesh, riveted mail was EXTREMELY expensive and so available to relatively few warriors. The chances are that most of the fighters in any medieval battle were not that well armored.

Differences in armor will of course lead to differences in weapons and tactics. No argument there. However, I would wager that in all times and places a warrior would rely first and foremost on his skill to protect him. Even pothelms have eye slits.

Marc Renouf
19th March 2002, 14:30
Perhaps I should have chosen a better expression than "armored like a tank." My intention was not to imply "slow, cumbersome, and invulnerable," but rather "well-protected." To carry my analogy to modern times, I don't think anyone would imply that an M1A1 is slow or cumbersome. Like the knight who can vault into the saddle and climb ladders hand-over-hand, the Abrams is very fast and surprisingly agile given the amount of armor that it carries. Does this make more sense?

So broken down to its basics and using no analogies, I assert that the medieval European knight (ca. 960-1200 AD) wore armor with more comprehensive protective capability than the typical Sengoku Jidai samurai (ca 1300-1600 AD). Do you disagree with this assertion?

It is of note that the differences one sees in weapons developed to combat these types of armor give us a number of clues. For instance, the prevalence and quality of mail armor in Europe in the early middle ages led to the development of weapons like the flanged mace and flail. Mail protects very well against slashing, bladed attacks, but is flexible (which gives the wearer excellent mobility). But its lack of rigidity leaves the wearer open to the risk of blunt force trauma. Hence, "bashing" weapons were developed to exploit this weakness. Why worry about cutting your opponent when you can stave in his ribcage?

Using a sword against these kinds of opponents is fine, because the edge of the sword will still concentrate the force along a thin line. You may not cut your opponent, but you'll probably break bones and cause internal bleeding. And if you're not worried about cutting your opponent, it beomes much less important to forge a sword that can hold a keen edge. But if you're just going to bludgeon someone to death, it becomes more effective to use a weapon that concentrates its weight at the business end of the weapon (hence the mace and hand-axe, rather than the sword).

That's the most interesting thing about some of the archeological finds in Europe. In some cases (an excavation of an area raided by Danes ca. 600 AD), we see that the combatants were not heavily armored. Their bones suffer a number of nicks and cuts, showing that they were attacked with bladed weapons that cut into flesh and bone alike. But at other, later sites, we don't see the same kinds of nicks and cuts to the bones. Bones are broken wholesale, in some cases crushed. By examining the nature of the wound (along a line or centralized around a single point of impact), the depth of the wound, etc, archaeologists can make some guesses as to what type of weapon killed them. It's really fascinating stuff. I'll go through some of my journal articles and dig up a few references for you, if you're interested.

Later in the middle ages, when rigid armor became more readily available (plate cuirass), you again see a change in weapon types, as piercing weapons like the pick, lucerne hammer, and eventually the pike begin to emerge. These weapons concentrate an immense amount of force upon a very small area, which is perfect for piercing rigid metal armor. The wearer may not have been encased head-to-toe in rigid armor, but weapons still changed to deal with that capability.

Earl Hartman
20th March 2002, 07:32
Like I said, I never argued that weapons, armor, and tactics didn't change as they developed in an intimate relationship with each other. I was only taking issue with the picture presented of the European knight as a lumbering gorilla, weighted down with heavy and cumbersome armor. If that is not what you meant, fine.

However, one thing that has always puzzled me is, since good mail is such good protection against an edge, why the Japanese did not employ it more. It also works quite well against arrows; as I have said before, it was, among other things, the power of the Welsh (English) longbow, unequalled by any continental European bows, that made it necessary to develop better body protection, eventually leading to all plate harnesses, since even the best riveted mail could not withstand it. Much of this development took place during the Hundred Years War, precisely when the English armies, which were made up primarily of yeoman archers, kept defeating vastly (numerically, at any rate) superior French forces at places like Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt.

However, I do not know if I can accept, without some documentation, the contention that European smiths did not care too much about developing swords with really hard, sharp edges since it was impossible to cut through mail anyway. This sounds like a chicken-and-egg thing to me. Did mail work against swords because the edges were not sharp enough, or vice versa? We'll probably never know.

Regarding the types of wounds dealt by European weapons, the one case with which I am familiar is that of the mass graves excavated at Wisby, on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. A battle took place there some time in the mid 1300s, I think, and many dead were hastily buried, some still in their armor. This allowed scholars to get a very good idea of they type of armor prevalent at that time. Also, a study of the wounds showed that many of the dead had been cut with bladed weapons in the lower leg and the junction of the neck and shoulder, indicating that these areas were favorite targets. There were even some corpses who had had one or both legs hewn clean off.

Granted, the better the armor the more chance of being killed by blunt trauma than with a clean cut. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that European swords couldn't cut. It is all relative, anyway. As Dan has said, that depends just as much on edge geometry as pure sharpness, something I wish he would talk a little more about.

Getting back to mail for a second, I have seen some Japanese mail body protection, probably Edo period, linked in the European fashion (called, appropriately enough "Nanban kusari", or "Southern barbarian chain"). The mail was quite light and, consequently, probably was little protection against a good sword of whatever type. Part of the protective quality of good hauberk is due not only to the 4-to-1 link pattern common to all European mail, but to its weight, which helped absorb shock, and to that fact that it was riveted. Without the rivets, it is not that hard to get a point through a hauberk.

At any rate, I still wonder why mail never became as popular in Japan, since it is a fairly light and flexible defense which can be made in such a way that most weak points are covered. I'll bet you anything that, given the skill with which Japanese swords are made, they could have made some seriously kick-ass mail as well. Perhaps it was just a matter of what the Japanese were familiar with and natural human conservatism.

Chidokan
20th July 2002, 15:48
edge or not? depends on how desperate your situation is, but if the sword is nicked you can always buy another one, your leg, head, etc. is a slightly different matter....:D

Tim

Paulo K. Ogino
19th August 2002, 15:28
I practice Muso Shinden Ryu Iai and thereīs a kata in the shoden waza called Ryuto, where you are supposed to receive an attack from the left and the first movement is to (or attempt to) block the first katana strike. Well that's how I learned the kata from my sensei. I guess there are some videos on the web...:)

Andy Watson
24th February 2003, 11:20
The Ryuto deflecting/blocking argument is an interesting one but I think it shows where someone has really thought about the reality of attempting to deflect a blade.

When performing the kata it looks as though the blade is received at a 90 degree angle as that is the posture at which one "pauses" to show what you have done.

The argument goes that if you want to deflect an attack then you need to provide an "escape" route for the attacking weapon to be deflected to. Most people seem to think that Ryuto does not provide that escape route as the relationship between attacker's and defender's sword is perpendicular.

However, if you watch someone performing ryuto slowed down through video media you will see that even the most skilled exponents have a slight lead with their hand in comparison with the kissaki. The effect of inertia will of course cause this - it would require immense strength to prevent the tip of the sword slightly trailing behind when performed at speed.

So the first point to note is that Ryuto does in fact provide an escape route for the sword and does cause deflection.

The second point is the question, why not provide that angle from the outset? This is where I believe Omori knew what he was doing. If you receive an attack with a sword, no matter how strong you are, there is a slight reaction movement of the defender's sword being beaten down by the attacker's. If the slope of the defenders sword is too steep then when the attack is received, the defender will actually get his own sword stuck in himself in reaction to the attack. So how much slope should you give the sword?

If Omori knew that the action of raising the hand already created a slight decline of the sword and that receiving the attack would cause an even steeper decline, you can probably see how he decided that the form was best constructed with the exponent attempting to keep the sword level. If you try this with bokuto and a strong attacker, a correctly executed form should see the attacker's sword deflect quite efficiently. Keep the angle too steep as people are prone to do in Ukenagashi and you will find it all too easy to be struck by your own sword.

I know that the rest of the form relies on stepping out and away from the attacker's body but this interpretation is actually facilitated by the tai sabaki if performed at the right tempo.

Dan Harden
22nd June 2003, 20:46
As I have stated in my earlier posts-I have seen dozens of blades with cuts in the mune and Shinogi on dislay at the Museum of fine arts-Boston over the years. Some here have stated catagorically that that they will all break or fail when struck on the back or side. James, Toby and my own research has countered that. I thought I would try to start posting pictures of the strikes on back and side.

I am uninterested in any further debate on the matter. We have all said what we have felt. Some from extensive forging and torture testing of existing Nihonto and newer modern American and Japanese blades, and others have simply quoted from known "Sensei" countering our findings.

Attached is an image (sorry I had to use a GIFF for file size here) and also a link to the sword.
http://nihontoantiques.com/fss21.htm
This is a Koto blade with a sword-cut into its mune and shinogi It also has bo-hi.

Desciption as follows:

****************************
This Daito comes with Kan-teisho papers issued by the NTHK (under Mr.Yoshikawa) authenticating the sword. It is in very good condition and is in a new polish, Shirasaya and a very nice Ni-ju Habaki with gold foil. This sword has a sword strike in the mune and shinogi, so it would seem that it was used in a battle at some point in its history.
The Nio group dates back into the Koto era. This this sword was attributed to a later generation Shinshinto smith from the Nio group, Kiyoshige. The Kiyoshige is very well made. The hada has a very tightly made Itame and Masame mixture. It has a very beautiful whitish Jigane and has no openings or Hada-ware or Kizu of any kind. The Gunome Hamon is also well done and has a lot of Sunagashi and other Ha-taraki.

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

Dan Harden
14th March 2004, 11:26
Hi Guys

This one is more in keeping with the many I have seen at the Museum of fine arts-Boston.
A clear cut into and across the Mune.

The best bet is to copy and paste it and then to zoom in on the cut
********************************
http://www.aoi-art.ab.psiweb.com/sale/sale02.html

Blade length: 73.2cm or 28.82inches. Sori: 1.2cm or 0.47inch. Width at the hamachi: 3.00cm or 1.18inches. Thickness at the hamachi: 0.62cm or 0.24inch.
Era: Early Muromachi period, circa Oei era. 14 to 15th century.
Shape: A shinogi-zukuri tachi. Chu-kissaki, Iori-mune. The shape is close to the sword of Namboku-cho period. Deserving special mention, there is a flaw by crossing swords on the mune.

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


cheers
Dan

Dan Harden
17th March 2004, 23:58
Anyone know how to cut and enlarge the sword cut section of this Jpg?

the cut is lost in the picture.

cheers
Dan

Walker
18th March 2004, 17:01
How about this?
Detail of lower circle in Dan's photo above.

Dan Harden
18th March 2004, 18:12
Thanks Doug -you rock.
I'm still computer challenged.
I'll draft anything for ya-but then I send it out for photo shop work

Thanks again Bud
I'll see if I can get more from MFA Boston as the years go by. I lost track of how many blades i have seen their with cuts in the mune and across the Shinogi ji
As I, James , and Toby have said- the notion of blade destruction from a mune cut is just simply not true.

cheers
Dan

Dan Harden
26th September 2004, 15:15
Another blade with several cuts to the mune and shinogi
The text is from the web site.

Again I think the idea of consistent blade failure to mune or shinogi parries or blocks is a myth. It is probably attributable to the crap that was mass produced during war in all eras. Properly done-the various forging methods the Japanese used should withstand in-service use. Like all cultures- mass production simply lowered the bar. There are numerous written records of the Bushi themselves testing their own swords and smiths to separate the garbage from quality work. With several colorful commentaries on the crap they discovered in their own posessions and arsenals due to poor workmanship.
The Japanese sword as the perfect weapon?
There is no perfect sword or smith. It is case by case.

Cheers
Dan

Blade length: 83.0cm or 32.68inches. Sori: 1.0cm or 0.39inch. Width at the hamachi: 3.1cm or 1.22inches. Thickness at teh hamachi: 0.78cm or 0.31inch. Blade weight: 1,025g.
Era: Late Edo period. Spring 1851.
Shape: A very long shinogi-zukuri tachi, chu-kisski, iori-mune. The blade curves slightly for the blade length. There are several Kirikomi-kizu, honorable flaws by crossing swords in actual battle on the mune.
Jitetsu: Itame-hada.
Hamon: Nie-deki, pointed gunome-midare. Sunagashi appears on the ha.

jest
3rd October 2004, 12:57
Originally posted by Dan Harden
Blade length: 83.0cm or 32.68inches. Sori: 1.0cm or 0.39inch. Width at the hamachi: 3.1cm or 1.22inches. Thickness at teh hamachi: 0.78cm or 0.31inch. Blade weight: 1,025g.
Era: Late Edo period. Spring 1851.
Shape: A very long shinogi-zukuri tachi, chu-kisski, iori-mune. The blade curves slightly for the blade length. There are several Kirikomi-kizu, honorable flaws by crossing swords in actual battle on the mune.
Jitetsu: Itame-hada.
Hamon: Nie-deki, pointed gunome-midare. Sunagashi appears on the ha.

Dan, have you got the link for that last blade?

Dan Harden
3rd October 2004, 18:12
Its the Aoi art site . The sword is number 4104 under the Katana link on the left menu. Scroll up from the bottom about six swords or so. Or try this


http://www.aoi-art.com/sword/katana/04104.html

They just had another "32" up and it went fast.

Cheers
Dan

Dan Harden
8th October 2004, 19:12
Strike to corner of mune-it still has a piece of the blade that cut it wedged in the cut. It was attributed to the Taema school in Yamato province in 14th century.

Dan

Peter Ambrus
24th May 2005, 14:07
A quick question. You stand before your opponent, both swords out. The opponent will attack. What do you do?

A skilled swordsman will know the proper distance to be sure to hit you (even if you step back), and the attack will probably go against the upper part of the body to be fatal (men or kesa most likely).

So, what would any of you do?

You are grappling your sword tightly, so will you have time to rotate it to block with the mune? How to counterattack then? If the attack is a kesagake, then you won't even have enough the space to step sideways...

pgsmith
24th May 2005, 14:45
You stand before your opponent, both swords out. The opponent will attack. What do you do? ... ~ snip ~ ... You are grappling your sword tightly, so will you have time to rotate it to block with the mune?
Hey Peter,
First, I would not have both swords out if I was only facing a single opponent. Second, I would not wait for the opponent to attack. Third, I never grip my sword tightly, that counteracts the abilities of the sword and goes counter to how I've been taught to move and cut. My grip only tightens when I contact the target.

Just my thoughts on it.

Peter Ambrus
24th May 2005, 18:58
Sorry for not being precise. I meant, both you, and the enemy has the katana out, and ready to attack or be attacked.

And let's say that you hold the sword as you learned from your sensei, I don't want to go in that too deep.

I want the opinions on blocks, that's why I want to ignore any iai solutions, and I assumed that the opponent attacks, to create a defending situation (If you want to attack, than imagine what would the defender do.)

The attacker will come close enough to reach you, and initiates a cut. So. I wanted to show, that in a serious situation, you cannot avoid blocking. Or can you? (Yeah, of course, you can run.. :) )

pgsmith
24th May 2005, 20:08
Ahhh, sorry for the misunderstanding. What I have been taught for something such as what you describe, is what our school calls ukenagashi. Most ryu have variations of this wherein you slide the opponent's sword off of yours and to the side to enable the return stroke. This is accompanied with a movement to the side. In the words of the venerable Mr. Miyagi on Karate Kid ... best defense is no be there! :) And yes, in our school at least, ukenagashi is performed with the shinogi/mune and doesn't work properly if you grip the sword too tightly.

Michael Powell
17th February 2006, 19:45
[FONT=Palatino Linotype][B][I] I have no qualms with Boken or Shinai training and still continue with the former as is traditional dispite the fact that my Swordsmanship background is Iaido. This is why you question about blocking with the Ha is very interesting to me. Most Iaido Shu frown on Ha Blocking nearly to the point of being a sacrilige. The formal block is with the Mine, often spelt Mune. The Shinogi is actually the side and this slapping method is not seen very often in Japanese styles but is the correct method in Chu'an sword.

The very reason the well made Shinken had a Diamond head Mine is for blocking. The idea even missed by many modern Iaido wannabees is the essence of a kata seen in all Iaido schools called Ukenagaishi. The basic form is a defence against Shomen Kiri when seated, but can also be done from the draw Tachi style. This technique is is sometimes referred to as receiving sence the cut is deflected, not stoped drawing the Mine about 45% and about 6 inches from th hidari men.As the Ha verses Mune clap the mume held with a flexiable grip turns towards Heaven the footwork flanks and boom gaishi! Boken and Shinai cannot immitate this action well at all.

Another more formal block is often mistaken to be a shin guard. This too is from Nuki. As the agresser attempts a yoko ichi monji nuki he is deceivedv by the fact that you appear to be doing the same slightly behind in time,howevre as the sword leaves the saya the Tsuba and your postue is higher than his and the kissaki is lowered while begining a hidari flank. The swords click with the cross resembling the first two strokes for the Kanji for right or left. The flanking pattern moves in and at the right instant furiage and boom Gaishi or gaeke. This can also be done in a kind of reverse kind of Chuden no Kamae but is not so general an approach.

Michael Powell
17th February 2006, 20:27
[FONT=Palatino Linotype][B][I]
Wm' Beiford made an interesting point reguarding the various stages of developement. That is to say, many Ryu are referred to as secreat yet what I have found, especially sense many Iaido Schools are rooted in Jushin and are thus common Tosa Ha, is that the real secreat is in the subtlitiies of developement and understanding individually. for example when considering Ukenagaishi, Tora Issoke, and like Iaido kata that I have previously mentioned in the context of explaining blocking deflections I also mentioned that many Schools have some variation of this technique but few actuallycomprehend the true dynamics. Many even today don't even understand that the fastest and best Nuki is with the index finger. In Muso Ryu, either ,many even assume the suffix -to in Shoden kata means sword when in fact it means attack! This kind of thing is the bread and butter of many so-called Antiquated and Esoteric studies!

Michael Powell
17th February 2006, 20:53
[FONT=Palatino Linotype][B][I][SIZE=2]

Another interesting point that Hyaku intuites is that I have yet to see any Japanese Sword that really has a worod for a full block though Mugai Ryu does use one. The general japanese theory is that the best defence is an attack and the best attack is to defend.

In another context Yagu tought the Iidea of miss by an inch: eggo if you can force the opponet to miss by an inch than an immediate counter should be fatal. Vom Kreig by Clausewitz says the same in a different way: he averred that the greatest casualties in a Battle do not occure during the main engagement but during the defeated armies attempt to retreat....In deed this ins the nature of deflection and flanking waza. A careful read of Go Rin no Senwill concurr as will the Nabeshima Hon.

Of course sense I concentrate on Iaido one may consider my fortay what the Chinese Schools call floor technique and in fact not so clearly a Samuri style.

bushikan
22nd November 2006, 17:29
Shindo Munen Ryu Kenjutsu uses several blocking methods however this is a unique one used in Shindo Munen Ryu as well as the tachi no kurai of Muso Shinden Ryu:

http://www.kendo-bergen.com/images/nh.jpg

This picture showes Nakayama Hakudo preforming with Hashimoto Toyo Shihan(I believe it to be Hashimoto but I could be wrong). The block allows and immediate perry which allows the Shidachi to immediatly to perry the uke's sword to a neutral position allowing the Shidachi to (with the blade turned parallel to the deck, so the sword can pass through the ribs) tsuki the opponent in the lower or mid ribs. In the tachi no kurai and in Nihonme of Shoden from Shindo Munen Ryu this tecnique is used(and in many kumitachi subsequently after). Fukui Hyoeimon studied Shin Shinkage Ichiden Ryu its self a system based off of Shinkage Ryu and Ichiden Ryu. Shin Shinkage Ichiden Ryu's founder Nonaka Shinzo Naritsune studied under Kamiizumi Ise no Kami I am unsure who he studied Ichiden Ryu under. So Shindo Munen Ryu utalizes several blocks used in Shinkage and Ichiden Ryu methodology. Yagyu Shinkage Ryu uses a block very similar in which after the perry then they tsuki uke in the nodo (throat). Again there are many blocks used but I felt that I could best illustrate to tecnique.

Just some input

Dan Harden
19th September 2007, 12:51
Almost at the end a small dissertation on the use of the blade. And 8:25 into the video a small discussion on blocking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZoU25ljEMs&mode=related&search=

So, we have discussed smithing, steel, and the intelligent understanding of the materials used-contrary to pedestrian "wisdom" and even degraded teaching over these many centuries- And finally the many, many, surviving blades with all manner of cuts, and dents in the mune and shinogi. A few of which I posted here. All that is left to do is ...think.

awall
31st March 2009, 01:01
I thought that I would add my experience here also. I have taught and competed in Kendo and European Fencing for the past nearly 20 years and have given this topic much the same thought. What I have found is that sword fighting uses many of the same principals in all styles.

Some of these same principals are the following. Parries (the blocking of an opponents attack) can be grouped into a few categories. 1 counters attacks 2 distance / timing 3 blade blocks. Kendo favors the first two while fencing favors the first 2 while discouraging them.

The first 2, counters and distance, will preserve the edge of the blade but open the swordsman to dangers. If he misjudges distance or timing he is simply dead. However, in the words of a sword master in fencing, he said that your first attack and defense should be timing and distance. But, should that fail or if you are planning on a blade block you will need the blade block parry. The blade block parry will give you greater protection but if used over much will give you, by the middle of the battle, nothing more than a large metal club instead of a sword. For this reason in kendo and fencing there is limited blade contact. However, for swords that rely on thrusts this is not much of a concern.

The parries with the blade are the following, as I teach them to my students a mixture of fencing and kendo. There are 9 numbered parries with 3 variations of each, 4 parries that allow the swordsman to slid a cut or thrust off and away, and 4 that allow the swordsman to bat his opponents blade away, 2 which are specific for the head and one that encompasses specifically the back.

None of them use the back of the blade specifically. The back may come into use by accident, the "o my heck effect", or the simple change of position as the swordsman rotates through the parries, attack and defense. It should also be noted that sword fighting often happens at such speeds that some parries are favored over others for their speed and efficiency. Using fencing terms, the same actions are in kendo under different names, the parries which are most common are: the thrust parries 4/6/7/8 , the cut parries 3/5 and head cut. From years ago the cut parries 1/2 and saint George were great although I have found use for parry 1 against thrusts in modern matches. The other parries or using the back of the blade look cool in films, slow motion and if well planned. But with an unwilling opponent they are impractical, with the exception of the dangerous but effective, counter attacks, distance and timing. There may also be an argument for parries 1 and 2.

So, to sum up.

Counter attacks (avoiding your opponents attack while doing your own attack), distance and timing should be your first attack and defense but are extremely dangerous if mistimed.

Although there may be a parry that uses specifically the back of the blade I know of none. Any cuts on the back of blades I would not ascribe to blocking with the back, rather to random contact or moving between parries or through parries.

Lastly, some parries and the use of the back of the blade would simply take too long or too much space with an unwilling opponent. This makes the parries 3,4,5,6,7,8 and head cut the quickest and most broadly applied parries in both kendo and fencing.

tameshigiriguy
22nd August 2012, 07:36
Hello Dan,


I think you gave a great reply and expanded most peoples knowledge on steel.
Some of the people here may get offended as you are debunking thier favorite myths about something they have been regurgitating for decades.

I know who you are and if I had the money to buy a custom sword you would be at the top of a very small list of smiths to buy from-most of them American as they mostly don't belive the hype and do the real study on how and why certian steels and heat treatments work so well at certian tasks.

I started using swords at 17 but made my first one at 14 in my parents bar-b-que(got a beating for that) from an old car leaf spring.
I got better at smaller blades then finally got Jim Hirsollous's book "The Pattern Welded Blade" in 1994 and learnt so much more.Now there is so much good stuff on the internet as well.

I think that some of the blades made today are superior to anything that has ever been made.

Keep up the good work
John Williams

p.s. I think 10mm rod steel and brass is easy to cut-I use a 90mm angle grinder with a .9mm thick stainless steel cutting disk at about 10000rpm-the right tool for the job

tameshigiriguy
18th September 2012, 08:50
I have read most of this discussion and really enjoyed the educated responses from the smiths on the reality of steel and how it should behave if used as a sword when made by a competent smith.

I have an observation to add that may help perpetuate the "myth" of one sword being able to "cut" another in use.

There is a little parlor trick used by physics teachers(at least when I still went to school).
A 10 mm(3/8") wooden dowel about 1m(3 feet) is placed on top of crystal glasses,one each on two workbenches.
A swift strike with a suitable stick to the 10mm rod will snap it cleanly without any damage to the crystal glasses.
However,a slower strike will cause the rod and the glasses to break.
This trick is used to highlight "inertia"

Steel is a known quantity,the harder it gets the more brittle it becomes,making it possible for a short sharp blow to shatter it.

Now if one person had a blade made by an inferior smith that was too brittle in a particular spot and his opponent happened to strike that spot hard and fast enough it would be possible to snap the blade clean(this has happened to rapiers) giving the impression to observers that the sword has been "cut" by another sword(and the owner of the "cut" sword not long after).

This could have started such a myth,and as far as the observers are concerned it was "real" so it gains credibility.



John Williams