View Full Version : Rolling with a sword?

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04-13-2005, 05:04 PM
I have question about rolling with a sword.
In old Japan many people walked around carry-ing swords. The sword would hang in it's sheath on a belt.

My question: how does this work with rolling (or actually falling in general)?

I tried rolling with a bokken in my hand. That's no problem. But if you have real sword, you'd have the sheath hanging on your belt all the time. So I tried rolling with the bokken in my belt. Well... I got to about 1/2 to 3/4 of the roll (forward) and then it got in the way and ended up flat on my back ^^. (It was a fun experience though. I kinda knew it would happen. But I tried to be sure).

Anyway, after that. I was left wondering. How would all those samurai roll?

Can anyone shed some light? Thanks

Janet Rosen
04-13-2005, 06:02 PM
What makes you think samurai would roll?

Zoli Elo
04-14-2005, 04:11 AM
What makes you think samurai would roll?
What makes you think not?

Move the bokken to one's front so that it parallel to one's hips and perpendicular to your legs for a front or back roll. For a side roll orientate (rotate) the bokken so that it is parallel to one's legs and perpendicular to one's hips.

Janet Rosen
04-14-2005, 12:54 PM
What makes you think not?.

I am not sure that rolling is part of the koryu arts.
It certainly was not an option for a warrior in full armor.
Any scholars care to share?

Zoli Elo
04-14-2005, 01:55 PM
The method that I have put forth is true for at least one Edo period koryu art - ono ha itto ryu. Though samurai at the time had become more administrators than warriors, duels still occurred. Duels in which the need to understand how to roll property while armed was needed, as seen by curriculum on how to roll while wearing swords.

Janet Rosen
04-14-2005, 05:21 PM
Thanks, Zoli--that's the kind of info I was hoping for.

Zoli Elo
04-14-2005, 08:29 PM
I had posted more on the topic over at the currently closed E-Budo... A shame that it is down.

Anyway, one key aspect that I left out is that at times it is necessary to hold one's swords in place during the roll. If the is the case, then the rolls become more of shoulder first,,,

Charles Hill
04-14-2005, 08:50 PM

The teacher from Yagyu Shingan Ryu on the Aikido Journal Friendship demo dvd goes into detail about this subject. Their art is divided by social rank in terms of the things practiced. If I remember correctly, those of samurai rank, did not do rolls. Some of the ukemi looked like cartwheels and the such. It was the level of those who assisted the samurai, help put on armour, fed the horses, etc, that did rolls. They were not allowed to wear a sword. It was at this level that sacrifice throws were practiced as well. The samurai (that did YSR) never went to the ground. I highly recommend the dvd.


04-15-2005, 02:53 AM
Many of the koryu include ukemi in their practice. Nothing new about learning to fall ... some say that 'modern' theory of ukemi came from Sekiuchi Ryu jujutsu, BTW.

Taking ukemi with weapons is, like learning to fall in the first place, a learned and trained skill.

You _can_ roll with a sword in the obi, but it's not necessarily the same thing as rolling unencumbered. More likely, the fall will be more breakfall than roll ...


04-15-2005, 04:04 PM
Hey, Chuck, Janet -

I guess I'm wondering about the utility of ukemi in koryu - you teach it to practitioners to facilitate training, sure. Still, it seems like at least most of the koryu jujutsu (that I'm only partially exposed to at best, of course) where somebody goes down, ukemi or not, somebody's going down on top of them, and knifing them at the same time. Janet's already pointed out the armor-related battlefield issues with falling down - and besides, ukemi or not, that guy with the spear's going to poke you a whole bunch of times. Even in the Edo period stuff, somebody who can knock you down or throw you <while you are holding a sword> presumably doesn't aim to give back all that ground.

Nice gendai judo, you're gonna try and get out of a throw or pin (well, mine, at least, they suck) but ...

I'd be curious to know the context of ukemi in ono ha itto ryu (or others) kata to get a better sense of this. Particularly if somebody does ukemi and goes on to 'win', eh?


04-15-2005, 05:45 PM
if you're going to be in combat. Once you draw your sword, cast away your saya (sheath). It will only get in the way. Plenty of samurai did this on the battlefield.

Zoli Elo
04-15-2005, 05:59 PM
I'd be curious to know the context of ukemi in ono ha itto ryu (or others) kata to get a better sense of this. Particularly if somebody does ukemi and goes on to 'win', eh?

To the best of my knowledge, for ukemi while weapons are in an obi, there is only one kodachi situation where the person who took ukemi goes on to win. The general setup of shidachi and uchidachi is simply not conductive to having weapons situated in an obi, taking ukemi, and winning... Nevertheless, learning how to roll is useful primarily for learning how to fall and recover quickly without hurting oneself or one's weapons is critical in a variety of situations - even if some are theoretical.

04-16-2005, 08:26 AM
Heya John!

Good points all. Ukemi in that paradigm is a last-ditch survival tactic. If you're going donw, might as well stay alive and functional as long as possible. There's always a CHANCE ... and you're better positioned to take advanantage of any lapse on your attacker's part if you control your plummet.

When you coming to Europe?


04-23-2005, 04:52 PM
What would be the point of rolling? Rolling was intended to keep you from injuring yourself when you fell, and why would you let someone close enough into your personal zone to throw you?

04-24-2005, 09:52 AM
Perhaps because someone has just killed your horse?

(My husband once did a beautiful forward ukemi off a horse. Not even scratched. When we caught the horse, the saddle was underneath its belly, so staying on was probably not an option. Even less so if the horse has actually fallen.)

Mary Kaye