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#111237 - 10/31/01 09:32 AM armored vs unarmored
P Carney Offline
Member

Registered: 04/10/01
Posts: 100
I was wondering if the various sword arts you studied were designed to be used primarily against unarmored opponents, and why? The reason I ask is two fold- the first is the sword arts I have seen (limited experience) use drawing the sword through a opponent. Would this slicing be effective against someone in armor? The second is the katana itself. Compared to the 'generic' european sword, it is light, relying more on the edge then the knights sword, which used weight as well. I've also been told that katanas were not designed to take an impact- despite how they're shown used in the movies and such- and so it seems they wouldn't withstand impact against armor very well either.
If these points are true (and I could easily be mistaken), and the sword arts practiced today are primarily geared towards an unarmored opponent, is this because of the time period in Japan the current arts were developed? From the scant history of Japan I know, it seems there were periods in which there were no great wars, and samurai did not walk around in thier armor all the time. As a result (I'm guessing) the sword techniques were adapted. Perhaps these were the origins of today's art?

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#111238 - 05/24/02 02:13 PM Re: armored vs unarmored
TAZ Offline
Stranger

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 4
Loc: Regina, SK, Canada
I think you're right. Most of the sword technique out there seems to have evolved / adapted for use with unarmoured opponents (such as the iaido draws you mention). However, I think they began originally for use against armoured opponents, and evolved later into unarmoured opponent technique as samurai found the social and political climate causing a shift away from organized warfare towards personal duels on the street.

In analyzing some of the moves in my sword training, I can see how they were originally developed for use against armoured opponents. The attacks are against "weak points" in the armour -- the neck, armpit, groin, elbows and wrists (where, for obvious reasons, armour is kept to a minimum). It doesn't make sense to attack an armoured breatplate. You will shatter your sword, despite what you see in the movies. But poke your sword through an opponents defenses and draw your blade through the underside of the armpit, slicing the humeral artery . . . ouch!

But yeah, most schools teach a style of swordsmanship more geared towards duels against another unarmoured oppoent in some castle courtyard in Japan than on a battlefield with thousands of armoured warriors by your side. So the techniques you see nowadays are adapted to fit this new idea.

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#111239 - 08/08/02 02:51 PM Re: armored vs unarmored
arioch@qwest.net Offline
Stranger

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 2
Loc: Yakima, WA
I've read numerous times that the katana was not the primary weapon on the battlefield (where one would wear armor). In particular, it would seem that the Yari and Naginata are the primary battlefield weapons of the samurai (the match lock was used a lot by the ashigaru - foot soldier). These weapons are ideally designed to penetrate armor (equiv to the european pike and glaive).

I would suspect that when drawn, the katana would be used against the unarmored areas of an opponent. And, as you state, I would suspect most of modern swordsmanship is designed to combat a kimino wearing, or lightly armored opponent.

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#111240 - 08/13/02 01:26 PM Re: armored vs unarmored
raggedclaws Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/13/02
Posts: 6
Loc: new york, ny, usa
it's important to realize that mounted, armored samurai (and their western counterparts) tended to kill less well-armored and unarmored infantry. In a given army, the vast majority of soldiers were the more disposable less well-trained and well-equipped infantry. while a katana or knightly arming sword would not be very effective (and would most likely break) when used against other armored foes, it was very effective against lightly armored foot soldiers.

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#111241 - 03/15/03 12:35 AM Re: armored vs unarmored
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
We all know how the refinement of firearms led to the impracticality of plate armor in the west, and the subsequent rise of the rapier and other "light" swords. How much did this same phenomenon affect the samurai?

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#111242 - 07/24/03 03:36 PM Re: armored vs unarmored
MAGon Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/22/03
Posts: 1737
Loc: Miami, Fl.
Two cents worth: The kenjutsu ryu I study is considered to be one of the most ancient that survive. It was therefore geared towards combat in armor, because it came to be during that period of Japanese history of constant civil war. The sword, spear, naginata and kodachi kata are ALL geared towards a scenario of two opponents fighting in armor. For that reason (God! I can almost hear Sensei!) great care is taken to aim the cuts at those areas not protected by armor (The proverbial chinks). The operant theory is that aiming elsewhere is useless, and it goes without saying that what would work against an armored opponent will work just as well, if not better, against one not in armor.
In contrast, the Iaijutsu portion of the curriculum is geared towards an unarmored opponent. Sensei's explanation to this is that the Iai was added to the ryu later on, and was geared towards situations away from the battlefield, as the surprise draw had no place on the battlefield (True. Can you see SEALs going into combat with sheathed rifles?). Many of the ryu's Iai kata have bodyguard (Yojimbo) applications, as in protecting a daimyo against a potential assasin. There's even one in which the person performing the kata IS the assasin!!!
Sensei has gone on to explain to us that a particular ryu's emphasis has to do with when it came to be, or how much it was willing to change itself. If it was created during the civil wars period, emphasis was on battlefield techniques against armored opponents, the reality of the times. If, on the other hand, the ryu was founded after Japan's reunification under the Tokugawa (A period of relative peace), emphasis shifted to the reality of the day, duelling in soft clothes. Some ancient ryu adapted to the changes of the Tokugawa period. As a result, they either divested themselves of the techniques against armor, or kept them and developed new ones against a duellist, and taught both.
Note I'm merely repeating what I THINK Sensei said. I make no claim to any vast knowledge on the subject.

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#111243 - 08/25/03 09:30 PM Re: armored vs unarmored
Arn007 Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/25/03
Posts: 6
Loc: El Centro, CA. United States
[QUOTE]Originally posted by P Carney:
I was wondering if the various sword arts you studied were designed to be used primarily against unarmored opponents, and why? The reason I ask is two fold- the first is the sword arts I have seen (limited experience) use drawing the sword through a opponent. Would this slicing be effective against someone in armor? The second is the katana itself. Compared to the 'generic' european sword, it is light, relying more on the edge then the knights sword, which used weight as well. I've also been told that katanas were not designed to take an impact- despite how they're shown used in the movies and such- and so it seems they wouldn't withstand impact against armor very well either.
If these points are true (and I could easily be mistaken), and the sword arts practiced today are primarily geared towards an unarmored opponent, is this because of the time period in Japan the current arts were developed? From the scant history of Japan I know, it seems there were periods in which there were no great wars, and samurai did not walk around in thier armor all the time. As a result (I'm guessing) the sword techniques were adapted. Perhaps these were the origins of today's art?
[/QUOTE]

well I think it's the skill of the warrior the filpino's with no armour, no steel used burnt treated pieces of rattan to fight the spainards who were with armour (breast plates, helmets, steel swords) they made up for the lack of armour, steel with speed and technique. when the spainards invaded, they battled for over three hundred years some islands were never conquered ,some did fall because they were out numberd. ferdinand magellan fell to the hands of an escrimador

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