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Thread: Kodachi versus Shoto?

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    Question Kodachi versus Shoto?

    Is there a difference between a kodachi & a shoto? I was using my kodachi in MJER practice, but when I brought it to another dojo for practice, that sensei said it was a shoto, & that I needed to bring a kodachi.

    I can't find any difference between them! Is this just a case of how you read the Kanji, or are there really two separate weapons? If they are different, what is the difference??
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    小太刀= kodachi= short sword; small sword
    小= little; small
    太= plump; thick; big around
    刀= sword; saber; knife

    小刀= shoto= small knife; short sword
    小= little; small
    刀= sword; saber; knife

    太刀= tachi= long sword

    I'd ask the sensei for clarification. Maybe ask where one might obtain an acceptable kodachi.

    I thought they were the same thing, myself.

    Just to throw in some more to muddy up the water.

    Tanto= 短刀= short sword; dagger; dirk
    短= short
    刀= sword; saber; knife

    Wakizashi=脇差 = short sword
    脇= armpit; the other way; another place; flank; supporting role
    差= distinction; difference; variation; discrepancy; margin; balance

    Then there are-
    Kowakizashi
    Chuwakizashi
    Owakizashi
    Maezashi
    Hamidashi
    Kaikan
    Aikuchi
    Koshigatana
    Yoroidoshi
    Douglas Wylie

    Do not learn philosophy from fortune cookie.

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    I'm not really sure myself, Ken. Doug spells out the kanji up there, and I suspect it really has to do with what each school calls them.

    For instance, wakizashi and maezashi--from my common understanding, the wakizashi is truly a short sword--the "side companion" as it were. A maezashi is more akin to a tanto. I saw a bunch of guys at a ZNIR embu wearing what looked like wakizashi without tsuba. When I asked my sensei in Japan if it was a wakizashi, he said no, it was a maezashi--wakizashi is for the enemy, maezashi is for myself. Length and appearance wise, they seemed to be the same except for the presence of a tsuba.

    I'm really just starting to get into nihonto as a study in and of itself, and it seems like the length and appearance opens a whole can of worms based on school of manufacture, time period, etc. As to a martial weapon, kodachi and shoto seem to be referring to roughly the same thing.
    --Neil Melancon--

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    My own impression, though I dont train with a kodachi in iaijutsu we do use em in SMR, is that the kodachi is shorter than the shoto. Not by alot, but still shorter.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    Shoto usually refers to the shorter of the two swords in a daisho, the long one being the daito. But I think it's more or less the same thing as kodachi or wakizashi.

    In kendo, we call our short bokken the kodachi, but the short shinai used in nito is the shoto. Why? No clue.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    It is my understanding that "wakizashi" refers to the way of wearing the short sword, to the side.

    "Maezashi", by that logic, might mean to the front.

    My two inferred cents!
    The best part about training with the sword is that most of what you learn from it has nothing to do with swords at all...

    Julian Dupuy

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    Quote Originally Posted by gendzwil
    In kendo, we call our short bokken the kodachi, but the short shinai used in nito is the shoto. Why? No clue.
    And to add to the fun, sometimes, particularly in older stuff, you'll see descriptions of the kendo kata like:

    "Kodachi kata (uchidachi wa chouken, shidachi wa tanken)."

    "Chouken" and "tanken" mean "long sword" and "short sword", respectively.
    Kent Enfield
    Kentokuseisei

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    Doug just pointed out that Sukotto.com lists both shoto & kodachi on their Web-site, while I noticed that eBogu.com doesn't have a listing at all for kodachi, & only lists shoto. Go figure. Seeing the Kanji is also interesting. Wonder why the Samurai have so many different names for what is essentially the same physical object...?

    I honestly had never heard of maezashi before, Neil, but the translation does seem to indicate which direction it's worn, versus the wakizashi (which I've always worn to the front, too). Now I get to ask Sensei to clarify that at our next practice!
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    The reason for so many terms is that these things evolved out over a 1000 year period. And some phrases are used differently in different contexts. And some terms have connotations to mounting styles, some to length, others in reference to other swords.

    As an example. Daisho means a "matching" set of "big" and "small" swords. So a katana or a tachi can be a daito. The shoto can be a wakizashi or tanto. Together they're a daisho.

    Kaiken is a style of blade and mount. It is usually a short tanto mounted aikuchi style (without tsuba -- aikuchi -- "matching mouths") used primarily by women concealed in an obi sleeve. So it is a short tanto for a woman usually in aikuchi mounts. So a kaiken is an aikuchi which is a tanto. But not all tanto are mounted as aikuchi. Nor are all aikuchi kaiken.

    Anyway, the point is that the words in use weren't "made up" all at the same time. In the early days there were no katana -- tachi and nodachi were the daito of the time. But as people starting wearing them in a different style (edge up) with different mounts (kurikata to hold it in place in the obi rather than hung from cords) then the word uchigatana came into existance. And eventually katana came to mean any blade over a certain length. And heck, a tachi from the nambokucho period that is suriage'd and remounted in katana mounts is still a tachi but is also sorta correctly called a katana and a daito depending on context.

    Okay, now I'm confused too...

    Seriously, it is easy to tie your head in a knot on these things. There are all sorts of subtle differences in words and it just kinda depends on what you're looking at, what context, are you speaking of the mounting or the sword itself, are you speaking of it in relation to something else, and even are you using a term that might also have regional or ryu-ha specific distinctions.

    And even after studying those bloody distinctions for a long time a lot of them still get confused in my head as well. But that's how language works when you're speaking about a long, evolving history with lots of subgenres, different threads of styles, etc. Just go with it...

    I'm glad I could clear that up...

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    Oh, and fwiw I remember sitting at a token kai one day listening in on an argument that had me giggling away. They were arguing over what constituted a "true" daisho. Did the smith who made the swords need to be the same? Could two blades from the same school or style qualify if the mounts matched? Or did the blades have to be made intentionally as a matched set by the smith? Or could you mix and match similar blades by the same smith? Or is it more about the mounts putting two distinct pieces together into a matching pair? Or does everything have to be made specifically to be a daisho by the original makers? Or did the owner make it a daisho by just putting two blades together? Or was it simply any set worn by a 'real' samurai? Now what makes a 'real' samurai...

    You might as well argue about how many angels can stand on the head of a pin... There just isn't an answer because the terms aren't terribly precise to begin with. And without a larger context it is usually impossible to give an authoritative answer.

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    Very well said, Keith. I completely agree with everything you've said.

    Ken, you'll just have to ask the other sensei to describe what size, shape, mountings, etc. he wants you to have for use in his class, since shoto and wakizashi can be synonyms in some contexts but seem to mean different things to him.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Brian, that dojo is thankfully 3,000 miles away from us, & when we go back to Arizona, Linda & I will certainly go practice elsewhere!

    Keith, I do appreciate the, umm, clarification (yeah, that's it! ) on words & meanings evolving over time. Seriously, there are so many English words that have evolved just in the past few generations I've been around that I can definitely understand how weapons usage changed in Japan over a few hundred years, along with the meaning.

    I just wonder why certain senseis grin & kindly correct us, while others act like we've committed a major sin...?
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii
    ...I just wonder why certain senseis grin & kindly correct us, while others act like we've committed a major sin...?
    In some cases, it's because the latter haven't a clue what they're talking about but think they do.

    I remember attending a demonstration in Seattle a few years ago where the "master" explained to the audience that a bokuto was a crude wooden sword, a bokken was a middle-grade wooden sword, and a "bokto" was a fine wooden sword.

    I sent him a letter explaining that "bokto" was just a modern pronunciation of bokuto, that it should still be written "bokuto" since there is no seperate "k" in romanized Japanese, and that bokuto and bokken were synonyms.

    I never received a reply. I did, however, learn that he is no longer claiming to teach Toyama Ryu under Obata Sensei, as he had been, but is now the "Soke" of "Ishi Yama Ryu."

    It figures.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    how many angels can stand on the head of a pin
    42, of course.
    Douglas Wylie

    Do not learn philosophy from fortune cookie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    In some cases, it's because the latter haven't a clue what they're talking about but think they do.

    I remember attending a demonstration in Seattle a few years ago where the "master" explained to the audience that a bokuto was a crude wooden sword, a bokken was a middle-grade wooden sword, and a "bokto" was a fine wooden sword.

    I sent him a letter explaining that "bokto" was just a modern pronunciation of bokuto, that it should still be written "bokuto" since there is no seperate "k" in romanized Japanese, and that bokuto and bokken were synonyms.

    I never received a reply. I did, however, learn that he is no longer claiming to teach Toyama Ryu under Obata Sensei, as he had been, but is now the "Soke" of "Ishi Yama Ryu."

    It figures.
    Heh, sound like you have an entry for the Bafflin Budo section. His site is fun .

    Sorry for thread-drift.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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