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Old 08-01-2005, 06:30 PM   #1
Tenor_Jon
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"blocking" with japanese sword

Hey, I wanted to discuss parrying with steel blades, and how it was done in Japan through the ages.
I've looked at a few articles from western blades, and have learned that the whole edge on edge passive blocking you see in the movies is very unrealistic in actual fighting, as it 1 does terrible damage to a sword blade (an edge with force to another edge, regardless of whichever blade is "better" steel, will do damage simply because it's a matter of surface area), and 2 is done mainly because of safety concerns in sword choreography.
But yes, I definitely agree with a lot of buki-waza principles that ideally, if at all possible, the ideal defense with a blade is to void the opponent's blade while moving into a position to counter attack.
But if one is deprived of that, or you just don't have enough time to react, what part of the sword should one deflect/bind their sword with?
(In my opinion, one should use the flat because it has more surface area and can withstand a blade impact, and also because your blade end is facing THEM, so a counter attack is easier and you don't have to worry about pivoting the blade to counter)
what about parrying with the short side (blunt side, I'm sorry I forgot the japanese term...is it mune?)?
It's probably better than exposing your edge to trauma, but since it is made of softer more flexible steel than the hard, crystallized, clay tempered ha, maybe that would do a lot of damage to the sword too?
So yeah...I'm wondering about the realities of what happens with japanese sword against sword contact.
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Old 08-01-2005, 08:42 PM   #2
Don_Modesto
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

I was at a DR clinic with Kondo Katsuyuki once and he overheard us discussing this and chimed in vehemently admonishing that you MUST use the edge. As you say, above the edge, the blade is soft and easily broken. But I think the ideal is to avoid defending at all (this from readings and discusssions; I'm not a swordsman...)

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Old 08-01-2005, 11:13 PM   #3
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

The back (non-edge) is soft precisely because softer steel does not break, it bends, and can then be repaired. The edge is hard, and therefore brittle. The back and sides of a blade can be repaired, but once the edge (inside the hamon) cracks or chips, it can never be repaired (although the blade still works). Sword makers would make swords completely soft if they did not have to hold and edge. Some schools use the back of the blade for parrying, but I believe most schools use the "omote" side of the blade, which is the side that is facing away from you when carrying the sword.
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Old 08-02-2005, 01:09 AM   #4
Tenor_Jon
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

alright, I got another flat of the blade vote! righteous ^_^!
something I saw in a dvd demo (aikikai south florida) of buki waza, was the tori stepping back from the uke using a shomen/yokomen uchi, and then did their own shomen/yokomen TO THE BLADE to "knock the other blade down" (it was called a "block" on the dvd), and was the tori's blade edge hitting against the back edge of the uke's sword. I thought this looked really weird though, as it might work for those thick bokken, but a sword at it's tip is much thinner (not to mention it's actually pointy), and I'd be afraid of missing their sword if I tried to do that. Maybe it was actually at more of an angle, and I just didn't see that because the video was only from them going back and forth on a fixed camera. Or perhaps it's just the nature of this exercise, to get the blending action and maybe feel of the opponant's blade (are they "weak" or "strong"). And I don't even remember what this was called, but if anyone can enlighten me if they know what I'm talking about?

Also, if one must displace the opponant's sword should you use the strong (part closest to hilt, what's the japanese term?) or the blade end, or the middle to make contact?
I know that in most western swords, the strong is preferred, as it's 1 the strongest (hence the name "forte", or strong) part of the blade (closest to hilt guard and hilt that absorbs shock of impact, blade is widest and thickest at this place, with the blade (depending on use) usually tapering to a thinner point at the end), 2 the hand is already protected by a developed hilt guard, and 3 was often purposefully made blunt because cutting from here was unecessary and so it could take abuse from impact.
But with the katana, the tsuba (hilt guard)is smaller comparatively to western counterparts, and occasionally ornamental in design (I think...unless the tsuba I've seen are from swords that are ornamental anyways then they don't count), so I wouldn't want to trust that skimpy little ring for protection against another blade unless it was a desparate block or something. So maybe a trying to displace with the flat of the tip? Or at least near the hilt but farther away?
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Old 08-02-2005, 02:01 AM   #5
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Edge vs body blocking:

The theory and practice varies from ryuha to ryuha. Some do edge to edge, some roll the blade from edge to flat, some block flat to edge.

ZKNR seitei iai uses the flat to edge approach in the kata Uke Nagashi (sanbonme), for instance.

One of the things to remember is that the Japanese sword was seldom used in a direct block, but almost always in a sliding or redirecting block (think of aikidome vs a karate-style age uke).

cg

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Old 08-02-2005, 12:10 PM   #6
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

I've always been told not to block but to deviate the opponent's weapon
there are many parades, but I don't thik there's such a thing as a "blocking" like we can see for very strong (or flexible, depends of the period) european swords
I wouldn't even try blocking with a bokken! enough vibrations when deviating already ;o)
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Old 08-02-2005, 01:42 PM   #7
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

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.

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)

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?
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Old 08-02-2005, 02:12 PM   #8
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

I'm for edge blocking if you have no other choice. This is strongest part of sword and can really block even strong cut without too much damage. Better to damage a blade then one's own head, isn't it? Flat side will bend or brake very easy and one gets cut/kill.

Redirect fast, strong cut isn't always easy to do, that's why one may practice first hard blocks with bokken and slowly move to redirection. If you can't block strong cut, you can't learn more subtle elements of art like sliding blade on attacker's blade to redirect movementů.etc

The techniques that "knock the other blade down" are numerous, and are excellent to develop right feeling of sword. But it is higher level of art.

Nagababa

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Old 08-02-2005, 02:55 PM   #9
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
I'm for edge blocking if you have no other choice. This is strongest part of sword and can really block even strong cut without too much damage. Better to damage a blade then one's own head, isn't it? Flat side will bend or brake very easy and one gets cut/kill.
how do you know the flat will bend or break easily?
it is true that the blade edge is stronger harder steel than the back or upper half of the flat, but it's not simply a matter of which is stronger
it's a lesson in physics: a larger surface area will have more space to absorb a blow. A narrower surface area against an equally narrow surface blade concentrates so much force against that area, and though the edge is the "hardest" part, it will break before it bends, resulting in potential for catastrophe for your sword (mutiple small nicks on the blade edge will hinder your sword's cutting ability, an edge to edge blow in the same place over and over will increase the risk of your sword being rendered useless (the other blade chops through your blade end into the softer steel, and if it's bad enough you have to reforge your blade) or even shorn completely off!). Whereas the flat has both hard of edge and softer steel (which is flexible, and therefore can absorb such an impact with greater ability). If you don't believe me, then get a couple of knives (or swords if you have them, but preferable something slightly expendable) and bang them togethe forcibly edge on edge. Then take another knife, and bang it against the flat of another knife. See which one is more damaged. (former should have little nicks, latter should have almost no damage to either blade). I know knives aren't the same as swords, but it's the same concept.

And I do realise that given the alternative (i.e. death), defending with the edge is better than not defending at all. better your blade than you, so you're right about that part.
oh, and here's a link for an article about edge on edge, and though it's with western swords so might be a little confusing, it's close enough:
edge on edge realities

Last edited by Tenor_Jon : 08-02-2005 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 08-02-2005, 05:58 PM   #10
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

If you are absorbing the totality of an enemy's blow with the side of a blade, the blade will bend and the edge will crack (because the blade is more thin side to side than front to back). To absorb a full blow you should most certainly use the back of the blade. I personally have never seen a shinken technique which involves taking a full blow, however. If such blocks are taught to you, it is likely kihon waza and is meant to address underlying principles rather than teach field technique. I believe that redirection, "slapping" blocks, and sliding displacements are generally more reasonable. In addition, if you enter conflict worrying about your weapon taking damage, the day is surely lost. A sword's value is the life of the human that wields it, not how purdy it is.
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Old 08-02-2005, 06:25 PM   #11
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Kashima Shin-ryu have a couple of blocks that use the side and back of the sword - and I really like them. You don't meet sword to sword straight-on though, you meet with a slight but strong twist of the blade so that more surface area of your own weapon meets less of the other - it is not a class at all - and such as very useful applications to staff, and ordinary Aikido techniques.

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Old 08-02-2005, 09:28 PM   #12
Keith Larman
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

There are a lot of opinions about this and depending on the ryu you'll hear different informed opinions. As a guy who gets to see damaged swords a lot... Edge to edge, edge to back, straight on, deflected... they all damage both blades. The "hollywood" conception with guys whacking each other's swords left and right would result in one thing only -- ginsu knives for both.

Which is better? Well made blades generally won't snap due to edge to edge or edge to back strikes. It simply takes too much force to do that and consider that both swordsmen are holding the swords with their wrists. Notice I said well made as a caveat.

A while back Tony Alvarez and I (along with a group of other swordsmen, MA's, polishers and smiths) tested a theory about blocking a sword with a jo strike while we were taking a break when we were being interviewed for a short film. He cut through my jo but it took one hell of a whack by me to get the speed up while he swung full speed (what the hell were we thinking?). Cut it like it wasn't there. The first time we just kinda let the jo and sword meet and the sword took zero edge damage but a huge chunk came out of the jo. Wood is much softer than a martensitic edge so with proper hasuji by the swordsman the sword generally won't take damage.

But whack even the soft back of another sword and the edge will get a bit of damage. I've seen it. We've done it in testing swords.

Folk argue over what would most likely cause a break. During that same weekend when we were being interviewed we took a couple blades out back and rigged up a test. We went edge to back using a Clark L6 bainite as the cutter and a well known "beater" brand 5160 sword as the unlucky recipient. The 5160 blade was bolted to a thick post that had been sunk into underground concrete slab. The strikes to the mune left serious cuts to the 5160 steel (an "idiot proof" heat treat steel that is very tough). But nothing to break it. The L6 took minor damage to the edge, but it was slightly damaged. Nothing fatal and nothing a polisher couldn't remove, but there was a small hakobori.

We then flipped the 5160 blade over and tried edge to edge. The first strike by "Big Tony" was so powerful it knocked the bolt clean out and the blade fell. Serious edge damage to the 5160 blade. Repairable in a sense, but it would be a serious repair. The edge damage to the L6 was considerably less even though the 5160 blade was thicker. But it did take a bit of damage. On the next strike edge to edge the 5160 blade snapped clean in half. But the odd thing was that the blade didn't snap at the point of impact. The cut against the edge cause one of the cuts to the back nearer the tip to propogate towards the edge and the blade snapped that way. And that was the "free floating" end of the sword. Surprised us all including the two swordsmiths who were there.

So the question is whether the ha strike or the mune strike "broke" the blade. The blade survived both in a sense. But one ha strike cause the prior mune strike to propogate the blade failed.

So, does this answer any of the questions? I was there and I still don't know the answer. I've repaired a lot of blades that have taken damage over the years. Mostly from guys hitting pegs and stands at off angles. Also, remember that mune cuts on antiques are considered by some to be "valuable" in that they show the blade saw use. I wouldn't even try to say which is better.

And I must also add that with each style I'm familiar with (a small handful and more from discussions with my customers when they need repairs), none of them advocate ever trying to take a strike head on. There are lots of deflections, redirections, etc. taught. When it comes down to the "oh-God" moment and you realize you're going to do a hard block, well, I've heard very high ranking people say the ha is best and very high ranking people say the mune is best. One sensei I met had the best answer, I think. He said block with whatever the hell is closest and pray to survive...

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Old 08-02-2005, 09:48 PM   #13
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Jonathan Scott wrote:
how do you know the flat will bend or break easily?
well, Jodo guys do it every day

Keith,
Thanks a lot for most interesting post! I would love to see a result of a test where shinken cuts a jo, when jo is turned along axle in the moment of impact. I saw one day such block, I'm really confused.

Nagababa

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Old 08-02-2005, 10:10 PM   #14
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote:
well, Jodo guys do it every day

Keith,
Thanks a lot for most interesting post! I would love to see a result of a test where shinken cuts a jo, when jo is turned along axle in the moment of impact. I saw one day such block, I'm really confused.
You mean the jo rotating along it's long axis? There is no way on God's good earth I could have rotated it fast enough with a full force cut by "Big" Tony. The moment of impact is so fast and with a significant draw if done correctly. If I could rotate it that fast it would likely be flying out of my hands from the force of the sword's strike. The first time we did it the pain in my wrists was very real. We didn't strike at full force but the impact was strong. That took a massive chunk out. The next time we both swung at full force. For the briefest moment I thought we'd managed to miss -- but no, the top 1/4 of the jo was simply gone.

I won't say it's impossible to block with a wood jo, but with a committed, powerful cut by a talented swordsman... I'd have serious doubts what you could possibly do short of trying to deflect the angle. Anything going into the edge is going to get cut. Turning the jo might just help the cut more...

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Old 08-02-2005, 10:18 PM   #15
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

By the way, we also tried me holding the jo out straight with both hands while Tony cut down on it. The problem was Tony had the advantage of leverage. A strong swordsman gets their hips and body behind their cuts. So there is a lot of power and leverage involved. And with a long jo floating "out there" I simply couldn't hold it out -- he'd blow through me every time. I had to seriously commit to a strike to even meet the sword but the failure point of the jo was certainly before the edge. Against the flat of a good sword is possible, but someone would really have to hold onto that other end of the sword with some serious strength. I understand many in jodo do a very powerful, snapping "strike" against the side of blades to snap them, but I've never seen it done for real against a real blade. That I'd love to see for myself in some sort of real scenario.

But then again, Japanese swords, contrary to popular conception, range in quality from fantastic down to downright terrible. Even the old ones... Of course that's not something you're supposed to say out loud, but it is the truth...

It was an interesting weekend for us, however. With all of us together with the express purpose of testing a number of swords we had on hand, well, we had some fun. Some was videotaped but the more, um, shall we say stupid stuff we did wasn't. We simply didn't want anyone else trying it. We even had an emergency room Physician standing by...

And no, I will never reproduce the jo vs. sword test. I have that on private video tape and I must say my scowling face was *way* too close to a sharp sword moving at high speed for my comfort level. We did it, but... Not again...

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Old 08-02-2005, 10:29 PM   #16
Tenor_Jon
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

ok so flat will break or bend if passively blocked. (as in just putting it there and waiting for an impact rigidly instead of intercepting it, slowing it down, the concept told in (warning! obscure quote!) Mighty Ducks: "soft hands" heehee I knew I'd find a practical use of that quote someday ) gotcha !
And thanks Keith you're helpin me out. I appreciate it (well not sure if you were supporting me or not, but I still learned somethin from your testing stuff) did you guys ever try blade against flat? just wondering..
oh yes nother question: is the katana's flat somewhat rigid or flexible (if you shake it a little horizontally blade down, does it even wobble a bit? or is that those cheap ones?)? (cause if it was a little more flexible then it would give a little in any impact (though yeah passive blocking not being a good idea in any case cause the person can always strike at you again)
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Old 08-02-2005, 10:55 PM   #17
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

So how did Musashi get beat by the Jo guy - inquiring minds want to know.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 08-02-2005, 11:26 PM   #18
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Despite smacking of apocrypha, I suspect it was through deep deep irimi. Would love to have a video of that one.
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Old 08-03-2005, 10:14 PM   #19
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote:
You mean the jo rotating along it's long axis? There is no way on God's good earth I could have rotated it fast enough with a full force cut by "Big" Tony...
Thanks all gods, average swordsmen is not cloned from "Big" Tony! I saw that block both hands above the head and jo is in horizontal position.
May be it works only against bokken?
Anyway thanks for good stories!

Nagababa

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Old 08-03-2005, 11:56 PM   #20
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

just to clear up any confusion about tsuba one might have, it is not by any means meant to protect the hand from another blade. It is only meant to stop the hand from sliding up onto the blade after a thrust (tsuki) or strike. "Blocking" with a katana is more like redirecting the blow to the side, or in the case of a tsuki, either using the edge (yes, the edge) to redirect the opponent blade or getting out of the way and striking to the back of the head (the most common killing move, though there are others).

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Old 08-04-2005, 02:37 AM   #21
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Another point - also briefly brought up in the article linked above - is how much force such a block (whether with a jo, a sword, or a bokken) would actually transfer into the arms and hands. That force, in my opinion, is in a lot of cases the more likely point of failure. This is also why you see so many redirecting/deflecting "blocks" in swordsmanship.

I would say that any time you could see a jo in a horizontal position and block a downward striking bokken, you saw one of two things:

- the bokken strike was stopped along its intended path of action (usually at the point of contact with the jo).
- the bokken strike was not delivered very effectively/powerfully.

I have seen several practitioners attempt to do such "blocks" against shomengiri with a bokken - relying upon the idea that the rotation of the jo would stop it from being sliced in two (an opinion I too have never held) - however, I have always personally considered this an improper application of jo techniques like makiotoshi or makiuchiotoshi, etc. To do these techniques properly you don't block the bokken at all - you attack the sword at the source of its arch. When you do this, there's no blocking involved - making the downward motion of the bokken an aid and not a hindrance to your efforts.

dmv

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Old 08-04-2005, 02:47 AM   #22
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Adding more to my last post:

In my opinion, one reason, really, why folks opt to block with the jo, in techniques like makiotoshi and makiuchiotoshi is that it is a lot "easier" to do it that way - in the same way that it is easier to block in Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage (omote). It's much harder to blend with the attack and/or to penetrate through its Yin aspects to its source.

If it might help, here is a video where you can see makiuchiotoshi and junteuchiotoshi being used against a bokken. In the first and third pairing, you can see (what I consider) the correct timing used (involving no blocks). In the second pairing, you can see my student (2nd kyu at the time - still learning) utilizing the incorrect timing and me being forced to not really penetrate in the cut past his jo (unprescribed) block - thus not stressing his hands/arms to the likely point of failure.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/jobokken2.html

David M. Valadez
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Old 08-04-2005, 03:05 AM   #23
Michael Cardwell
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
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.


Quote:
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.


Quote:
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.
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Old 08-04-2005, 06:05 AM   #24
Nick Simpson
Dojo: White Rose Aikido - Durham University
Location: Gateshead
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Another point on tsuba: You need one to draw the sword correctly. Koiguchi No Kiri Kata is the movement used to flick the tsuba to free the seal keeping the blade in the saya, I believe.

As for 'Samurai armour' It changed over the centuries/decades and so did the swords in accordance.

In the heian Period the armor was what people think of as typical samurai armour, wood/leather/bamboo and had the huge shoulder pads (which you could argue were shields) which were for trapping/deflecting arrows as most warfare was horse mounted archery in those days. Swords in these days had very hard, very sharp edges as the armour didnt offer much resistance.

In the 16th century after the introduction of the matchlock to japan, armour was modified to make it shot proof. More metal was used, particularly steel/iron. Chain mail was introduced underneath the plate, similar to european armour. This armour was very resistant to gun shot and so swords were given a broader, slighlty softer edge so that they would not damage as much upon striking the armour. Also, european armour modified to japanese taste was seen as a status symbol and display of wealth. See the suit of armour Tokugawa Leyasu wore during the battle of Sekigahara, it is housed in Nikko Shrine Mueseum at the minute I believe.

Also there were several other contraptions such as a wicker cage worn across the back with a cape over it to catch arrows, it was generally associated with messengers on the field who would be racing to deliver a message to a general and needed to reach their goal before they were shot in the back by the enemy.

Last edited by Nick Simpson : 08-04-2005 at 06:14 AM.

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Old 08-04-2005, 11:17 AM   #25
Keith Larman
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
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Re: "blocking" with japanese sword

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote:
Thanks all gods, average swordsmen is not cloned from "Big" Tony! I saw that block both hands above the head and jo is in horizontal position.
May be it works only against bokken?
Anyway thanks for good stories!
Nah, it isn't Tony's size, but his ability with the sword. Just like in Aikido it isn't so much about power but proper form. Let me post a photo I took. If I remember correctly the exposure time was 1/15th or 1/30th of a second. Probably 1/15th but see how far the tip travelled in that time.

It ain't the force, but the speed, angle and draw. And by the way, he had started the cut by cutting up leaving the piece free standing to follow up with the straight down cut. The reason for the photo is to show how fast the blade is moving. Remember the piece was still standing there freely after being severed with the first cut and he had to reverse direction and cut down before the target fell...



And by the way, I hope he doesn't mind me posting this photo of him. He wasn't happy with that cut because the target was falling over a bit more than he wanted. Me, well, I'd be happy just to get the first cut cleanly. It is a serious rarity for the bloody thing to just sit there long enough for me to do a second cut. And to make sure the big guy is happy, I should give full credit. Senpokan Dojo in Southern California is his baby. And also his new venture, Tozai Imports ( http://tozaiimports.com ). Tony is involved in a lot of things including now representing Mugai-ryu (a koryu Japanese sword art) in the US.

But back to the topic at hand... Many of my customers are increasingly practicing tameshigiri as a method of validating their technique. And one thing that happens more often than it should is that people cut too low on the target on the stand. It is tempting because targets aren't cheap and if there's enough left there to practice something, well, you may go for it. Unfortunately what tends to happen is that they clip the pin used to hold the target on the stand. They're usually a couple inches long and about 1 inch thick. Solid oak usually. And if the person's form is decent usually they'll just cut right through the dowel. Sometimes they don't even realize they cut through the pin until they're trying to put on a new target!

How thick is the average jo? Hmmm...

Also, some of the more serious guys will also roll multiple mats around a 1" oak dowel for the entire target and soak the whole thing. Their idea is to emulate flesh and bone in a "real" target. And they cut them regularly. My only concern from the craft side is that if their form is off they can (and sometimes do) damage the blade. But usually the damage is more a slight tweak in the blade from the blade being off a bit in angle. I.e., poor hasuji and the blade "wraps" a bit around the target as they hit it. That sometimes leaves a "kink" in the sword. Or a chunk taken out of the edge depending on the blade quality, shaping, etc.

Holding the jo over your head two handed while someone is cutting down? Could work sometimes if the swordsman isn't very good. But if they get the angle right and are cutting with any proper form and velocity you'll likely end up with two smaller sticks. Look at that photo again. Notice how the sword is being drawn back. And how bloody fast that's happening.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 08-04-2005 at 11:22 AM.

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