View Single Post
Old 08-04-2005, 03:05 AM   #23
Michael Cardwell
Dojo: Snake River Aikido
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 78
Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Jonathan Scott wrote:
ok (this is great peoples keep it up!!!), that's why I put "blocking" in quotation marks, cause I was familiar (though definitely not proficient yet) with the concept that blade to blade contact is not ideal. And european swords weren't much stronger or flexible, they just had to deal with different situations, like much more diverse armor in middle to late medieval, and civilian needs in renaissance (like: the rapier was originally intended as a self defense weapon for civilians on the streets, then sort of evolved into the upper class dueling with smallswords)
And the europeans (at least the masters, there were your fare shair of people who had to figure this out the hard way) understood not to block passively with the edge as well (though in later periods this became less used as the sword became a more and more obsolete weapon on the battlefield), though they did tend to do a lot more deflecting and binding the opponant's sword than voiding (I suppose the masters thought it an advantage because you could "feel" your opponant's intentions through the blade), at least in the pictures of manuals I've seen (which is not that many cause I haven't gotten that deep into that subject yet), so maybe I'm mistaken here.
I just bought a interesting book about samurai a little while ago, and it address some of the questions you have. I'm just going off of memory here, so expect some flaws and gaps.

The book says that the samurai sword was a supier weapon to the European long sword in the fact that you could block with a Japanese sword, where as a European sword did not have the softness to absorb the shock of a hit. All of the blocking was done with a buckler, shield or the Armour itself in Europe. This continued on until the rapier became popular, and the long swords were changed to be able to block and attack.

Also I think in later periods the Europeans didn't worry too much about edge to edge blocking, as their Armour had advanced to the point that edged weapons where not very effective against them. I've heard that some of the broad swords they had were not even sharped, not much point after all, you would ruin a edge after a couple of hits against steel Armour. They were used to just break and smash people into pieces in there own Armour. Thats why impact warfare, the lance, war-hammer and maces were used so often.

Does anybody know much about samurai armor? I've heard it's not as durable as chain maile, but does a good job protecting against slicing or draw cuts (or light blows) from a katana while not inhibiting mobility that much (though japanese armor (and weapons) varies from age to age, and I'm not that familiar with the period names and dates)
I can't help with the names or dates either, but I can give some general info about it.

The Japanese had their own style of chain mail, it is more open then the European style, so it does not offer as much pertection, but allows much more freedom of movement. That is actually a good explanation of the whole set of Armour. They used mostly small plates to make their Armour with, either of steel, iron, leather or whale bone. The chain mail was mostly used on the arms and shoulders. The main part of the body was well protected by the men, breastplate, and the kabuto, helment. The arms and legs were left mostly open to allow freedom of movement. It was still much better Armour then just chain mail alone though. The advantage that their Armour had was that you could swim in it, which is important if you live on a island.

And anybody know why the japanese samurai never used shields very much? Was it part of the mindset of a samurai (so using a shield would be like cowering behind something?) or was it just something that the japanese didn't think of?

I've read several different ideas about this, so here goes.

Since, as noted earier, the Japanese sword could block and attack, they did not feel the need to have a shield. Also most of their weapons were two handed, so using a shied would force them to change a lot. While on the battle field the men was thought to provide enough protection. Or it could be that the shield just never caught on in Japan, kind of like the crossbow. But in any case the Japanese knew about shields, they had enemies that used shields, and I'm sure they could have figured out the idea fairly fast.

I can look this stuff up latter if you have any more questions.
  Reply With Quote