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Thread: Tsuka length

  1. #31
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    Devon,

    OK, sorry I misunderstood.

    Though I don't think that the photo has been altered, I think it's just old and poorly reproduced.
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

  2. #32
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    Richard,

    Thanks for understanding. I know better than to be vague with comments like the ones I left, and I'll try to do a better job of being clearer in expressing my observations.

    Regardless, I find this thread to be among the more interesting and informative! I'm sorry to have dragged it off-topic a bit.

    Back to your regularly scheduled discussion...

  3. #33
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    Toby Threadgill on 06-20-2001 wrote
    The mystery I find in all this concerns the long handles obviously existing in older Japanese swords. What I want to know is not whether the Japanese ever used swords with long handles because I have sufficient written, photographic and actual "in my hand" proof of that. I'm trying to figure out what a 4'10 to 5'5" tall "Warring States Era" samurai was doing with a 14" handle that obviously stretched beyond his elbow. . . .
    Actually it is difficult to estimate the physical body size of Japanese during medieval times. About 10 years ago I visited an ethnographic museum in the Snow Country region of Niigata Pref. They had model reconstructions of many of the mountain fortresses in the local area where many famous battles had been fought. The reconstructions were based on archeological excavations of the original sites. As part of the excavations they found many human bones, which they measured. One of the museum displays showed the changes in body size over time. Every 30 years or so the average size and weight increased until it peaked around 1550 to 1630. Thereafter it steadily declined. Average body size did not start to increase again until the early 1900s, then it declined. Now it is increasing again. I do not remember the precise measurements given in the display, but I think it is safe to assume that many medieval combatants were taller than 4'10 to 5'5."

    I asked the museum curator why the size declined after the 1600s. He said no one really knows, but it is usually assumed that the post-1630 policy of the Tokugawa regime to establish Buddhist temples in every village lead to widespread adoption of vegetarian diets. The lack of protein, in turn, caused people to decline in size. Of course, we do not really know how widespread vegetarianism actually was. Butcher shops of various kinds always existed. Evidence for actual lifestyles requires painstaking archeological examination of garbage pits (etc.). That kind of research is still in its infancy.


    Dan Harden on 06-20-2001 wrote:
    Do you suppose techniques could have changed over a few hundred years to accommodate what johnie felt comfortable with?
    HHmmmm......
    Changes in techniques due to changes in lifestyles and social conditions have been examined by many historians of martial arts. They are well documented, both in the traditional documents (densho) of many koryu and in contemporary literature (i.e., premodern accounts). These passages usually are quoted in the standard historical works. Very briefly, two of the most well-documented transformations occurred in the early 1600s (at the beginning of the Tokugawa regime) and in the 1840s to 1860s (when the Tokugawa regime fell apart). In the early 1600s styles like the Yagyu family's Shinkageryu and the Ono family's Ittoryu demonstrated that new techniques designed for use in ordinary clothes could easily defeat older methods that had been designed for use while wearing body armor. These new techniques used more up-right stances and shorter swords (with much shorter tsuka). In the 1840s Oishi Susumu Tanetsugu demonstrated that new techniques based on one-handed thrusts with a longer, thinner, lighter, straighter sword were more effective in duels. He forced everyone else to develop new thrusting methods and new counters to thrusts. In between those two major shifts in approach, swordsmen constantly innovated and tried to develop techniques that would catch opponents off guard.

    The idea that all koryu preserve techniques unaltered since the times of "classical warriors" is a romantic myth. At best, some koryu preserve variant versions of their kata which they believe represent medieval versions, early Tokugawa versions, and late Tokugawa versions of their techniques. At worst, many Tokugawa period documents lament that the meaning of old kata have been completely forgotten since no one retains the first-hand experience of how they once were applied. That said, even koryu that have abandoned many of their older traditions still preserve a depth and breadth of practical knowledge beyond the imagination of most would-be imitators. That depth and breadth of knowledge is retained by thoroughly mastering the traditional techniques and by testing them in a wide variety of contexts. For this reason many texts quote the old saying that a student who can merely do what his teacher does reduces his teacher's ability while a student who can do more than his teacher enhances his teacher's ability.
    William Bodiford
    Professor
    Dept. of Asian Languages & Cultures
    UCLA

  4. #34
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    I am late to this discussion and have not read the previous posts, so I apologize if this has been discussed already, but according to a book entitled "Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iai Heihou Chi No Maki" (The Earth Book of Muso Jikiden Ryu Iai Heihou) written by my teacher Masaoka Katsukane (Kazumi), who was a direct student of Oe Masamichi, the swords used by Tosa warriors had extremely long tsuka, so long, in fact, that Tosa warriors travelling outside of their fief were instantly recognized as such due to the peculiar nature of their swords. This may have changed with Oe Sensei who, in spite of his above average size and strength, apparently preferred shorter, lighter swords. FWIW.

    One handed thrusts with longer and lighter blades, huh? Hmmmm....broadsword to rapier transition, anyone?
    Earl Hartman

  5. #35
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    What you would use a long tsukam, if you are not very tall? You would not use all of the tsuka. Your grip would be farer away from the tsuba, which would give you a wider reach. Especially if you are not so tall, you may have trouble drawing a long sword. All of the blade has to come out of the saya, and if your arms are too short, it is not very fast and does not look good.. If you put the additional length in the tsuka, instead of the blade, there is already substantial length out of the saya which you don't have to draw. As you in general won't use the last 5 cm of your blade to cut down the opponent, you can put this length on the tsuka as well. And especially as a not so tall warrior you are better of if you put the additional length=reach in the tsuka, instead of the blade, your drawing speed will be faster.

    Actually, some nagamaki work on these lines. They look like "normal" swords, with sword-saya, except that the tsuka is as long as the blade itself, and there is no tsuba. I forgot the ryuha-name which performed with them this year in the Budokan-Kobudo-Taikai, but they are the same which in the Skoss-Book on Koryu Bujutsu are described as using "sleeves" on their very long yari. Actually, they look very much like the sword of the Lindsey-ryu, just they don't have a tsuba and 4 meguki.

  6. #36
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Hans writes
    >snip<
    Especially if you are not so tall, you may have trouble drawing a long sword. All of the blade has to come out of the saya, and if your arms are too short, it is not very fast and does not look good..
    >snip<

    ***************
    Hans
    As for drawing difficulties:
    with the blades worn properly; the Long sword handle vertical and the short horizontal, there is no problem.

    If you are looking for validity of sound principles for technique with a long tsuka; look beyond the draw. Its use in enganging the blade of an opponent is interesting, with little effort-it has a power all its own.......

    I can't say that its simply a matter of taking a look though. You have to train to use it that way.

    Just a thought
    Dan
    Last edited by Dan Harden; 22nd June 2001 at 12:46.

  7. #37
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    I didn't really want to get involved in this thread as I find it a little unusual that people are weighing up the pros and cons of something that I do almost everyday. Are my web pages the people that do it and the manuscipts we have date back many generation fictitious.

    Yes people did use longer tsuka and swords some times. Most of it you won't find in books or on the web. And size has nothing to do with drawing longer swords or using longer tsuka. There is a small book full of active ryu in the Kagoshima area using some unusual weapons and doing some styles. It would take some one a few years to travel around Japan and catalogue all these ryu that are not a member of any association and are not listed in any Jiten and perhaps never will be.

    Please check out the photo of Takamuku Sensei to see a short armed man who used a long tsuka

    http://koryu.com/photos/aj1042.html

    In the picture of the sword and shinai together it has been taken at an angle. Looks quite normal to me

    The shape and weight of the shinai has changed over the years. Nowadays they are very light and balanced and a bit fatter. There are a few old ones lying about the dojo that were used around the end of the war similar to the one in the picture. Very straight and quite heavy and the tsuka is a bit shorter.

    At this particular time the kendo was quite different. I have a video taken from a film of the Ten-ran-Jia (A shia performed before the Emperor showa) showing my teacher's teacher Oasa Yuji (Judan) and other well know experts.

    Watching the video:On stretching out to cut forward and down, the back foot remains stationary and twists to a right angle on the cut. After the cut the attacker returns to a more upright position and does not follow through. It does resemble some of the batto techniques.

    The length of the tsuka is governed by which tsuka you put on the shinai when you make it up. There are childrens, youths and adult shinai. Althought the minimum is I think 520gms (perhaps someone will tell me otherwise), I use an 800 gram. Like the sword, the shinai was also standardized.

    Oishi Susumu, burakucho and retainer of the Tachibana clan used a 4 shaku shinai. Some people do prefer to use a youths tsuka on an adult shinai. One well known hachidan I know prefers to use kote with no palms.

    Hyakutake Colin
    Last edited by hyaku; 22nd June 2001 at 07:45.

  8. #38
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    Professor Bodiford,

    Thanks for your interesting info on changing body sizes. I still wonder if there were ever any Japanese in that era approaching 6 ft tall... but heck... who knows. One certainly couldn't rule it out.

    Hans.....I'm not sure what the length of the tsuka has to do with a sword being too long to draw as the topic here points out that tsuka lenght was not necessarily related to blade length?... I'm still trying to figure that one out but I do love the picture linked by Colin Hyakutake of Takamuku Sensei. Whoa!!!!

    Fun Stuff!

    Tobs

  9. #39
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    >many Tokugawa period documents lament that the meaning of old kata have been completely forgotten since no one retains the first-hand experience of how they once were applied. That said, even koryu that have abandoned many of their older traditions still preserve a depth and breadth of practical knowledge beyond the imagination of most would-be imitators. That depth and breadth of knowledge is retained by thoroughly mastering the traditional techniques and by testing them in a wide variety of contexts. For this reason many texts quote the old saying that a student who can merely do what his teacher does reduces his teacher's ability while a student who can do more than his teacher enhances his teacher's ability.


    That was a great post by Prof. Bodiford.

  10. #40
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    This is sort of related, I guess. I was discussing Jo a few days ago with someone and I told him that I was once told that the length of the Jo should be the distance from your arm pit to the floor. My friend said no, all jo are X length ( i believe he said 50.75 inches but i not sure) because the Jo's purpose is to counter the katanna. Well if swords drastrically vary in length I find it interesting that Jo disciplines settled on a absolute standard length for their stick.

    In terms swords lengths changing over time. I believe around the end of the Edo period swords got longer and straighter and with it the tsuka got longer. Particularly in southern Japan. I guess thrusting and stabbing techniques gained in popularity as opposed to cutting and slashing techniques.

    Since the ability to whip it out real fast and look cool doing seems popular I guess shorter with more curve would be back in style.

    All you expert guys be nice to me now. I'm just a piano player.

    C.E Boyd

  11. #41
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    Dan,
    In what ryu is it considered 'proper' to wear the long sword with the tsuka vertical (trying to understand what you mean-tsuka pointing upwards towards the sky?)?

    AFAIK, this is called otoshi zashi, and was done to signify one's status as ronin. Anyone know anything else about this?
    Regards,
    Brian Dunham
    MSR SanShinKai

  12. #42
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    Janty,

    You Posted:

    "By the way, nice one handed cut Toby"

    Yeah.. well.. thanks but there were some bad ones too.

    Those got left on the uhh... editing floor... as they say.



    Tobs

  13. #43
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    Originally posted by Toby Threadgill
    Professor Bodiford,

    Thanks for your interesting info on changing body sizes. I still wonder if there were ever any Japanese in that era approaching 6 ft tall... but heck... who knows. One certainly couldn't rule it out.
    Actually, Sazaki Kojiro, who lost the duell on Ganryushima against Miyamoto Musashi, is supposed to have been about 6 feet tall. He is also famous for his long sword of 3 shaku bladelenght, and typically, in the modern movies in Japan, they also give him a sword with quite a long tsuka. So this is a case where a tall guy used a long sword with a long tsuka.

    Originally posted by Toby Threadgill
    Professor Bodiford,

    Hans.....I'm not sure what the length of the tsuka has to do with a sword being too long to draw as the topic here points out that tsuka lenght was not necessarily related to blade length?... I'm still trying to figure that one out but I do love the picture linked by Colin Hyakutake of Takamuku Sensei. Whoa!!!!
    Sorry, reading the things which came after my post I think I messed up my explanation.
    What I wanted to say was this: Suppose you want a sword which as much reach as possible, but you still want to be able to draw it in a Iai fashion. That would mean you have a maximum bladelength,
    in my case (I am about 1m 84, don't know how much that is in feet) that would be about 3 shaku 4 sun, if I use MJER-drawing methods. If I want more reach than that, and still be able to draw my sword in IAI-fashion, I would have to put the length into the tsuka, and grip the tsuka more near the end.

    Colin, I was wondering wether there is an Iai-drawing possible with your sword. If yes, what is the trick, is there a slit in the upper side of the saya?

    Best wishes

  14. #44
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    Talking Kojiro and Musashi

    I was under the impression that Musashi was the giant. All records of him I've ever read have him looming over the normal Japanese by being 6'2 or something to that effect.
    From what I'd heard, Sasaki Kojiro was of the build of a typical Japanese. The sword he used was his family's battlefield tachi which had been refitted as a katana (straight tsuka as opposed to a curved one, etc.) and that's why it was so large.
    Increase My Killing Power, Eh?
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