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Alex Mac





Joined: 17 Mar 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2007 11:21 pm    Post subject: Single source of information to debunk katana myths.         Reply with quote

Hi Guys.

Is anyone aware of a page which systematically debunks the myths and actually gives sources for it's material?

Alex.
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George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2007 11:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Single source of information to debunk katana myths.         Reply with quote

Alex Mac wrote:
Hi Guys.

Is anyone aware of a page which systematically debunks the myths and actually gives sources for it's material?

Alex.


Do a search for myths here or on swordforum, and you'll find lots of information. Cited sources is a little harder. What you might want to do is to find a source on the Katana itself, as real JSA students are often the first to debunk those myths. They have to be or they would be breaking their swords all the time.

Any specific myths you are interisted in?

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
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PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2007 2:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are also a few great articles over on Bugei's website, and the Bugei Sword Forum is probably a better place to look for a focused and realistic discussion about nihonto. I've noticed that SFI seems to have a greater number of twelve year olds who think their 440 stainless steel sakabato can slice through brick walls and such. James' crowd is far less tolerant of that sort of thing. But I haven't spent a great deal of time on SFI in a while, so things might have changed over there.
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
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PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2007 3:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Barris wrote:
. I've noticed that SFI seems to have a greater number of twelve year olds who think their 440 stainless steel sakabato can slice through brick walls and such.
<SNIP>
But I haven't spent a great deal of time on SFI in a while, so things might have changed over there.


Those fellows are educated rather quickly.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2007 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

George Hill wrote:
Those fellows are educated rather quickly.

That's comforting. As I said, it's been awhile since I spent any time over there.

Alex, there are also a number of good books on the subject. And myArmoury was kind enough to post a list of them not so very long ago! That way, you'd debunk your myths and have the source material in your hand at the same time. Big Grin

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Steven H




Location: Boston
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PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2007 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wrote a short essay on various Samurai myths. I don't have great citations in the essay, but the embedded links point you in the right direction. I like to cover the evidence and reasoning behind the debunking.

The kabuto-wari link is a slam dunk though. An Aikido practitioner performed 'helmet breaking' with a modern sword from a highly respected maker. He made a 13cm cut. That's it. Not saying I'd like to be hit like that in combat but the sword simply didn't cleave the helmet.

(Twice in one week: see a similar thread on SFI)

Kunstbruder - Boston area Historical Combat Study
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2007 12:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, in addition to the links mentioned earlier, you might also want to check this page:

http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm

It has more in the way of general information than a debunking of myths, but the FAQ section does a fairly good attempt at refuting some of the myths.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2007 1:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
I wrote a short essay on various Samurai myths. I don't have great citations in the essay, but the embedded links point you in the right direction. I like to cover the evidence and reasoning behind the debunking.


Well, while we're at it, I guess it wouldn't be a bad time to poke in with a few feedbacks on that page.

First, curved edges confer no great advantage in "push" or chopping cuts but they do seem to work better with draw cuts/slicing cuts since the curve of the blade naturally drags the edge across the target and forces it to do a slicing action against the target material. Needless to say, this works best against soft targets like garment fabrics (not padded or quilted armor) and unarmored flesh but would meet difficulties against bone or hardened leather, let alone steel. And this feature is by no means unique to the katana--it's common to all swords with a curved edge. Including the curve in the edge near the point of many straight-bladed, double-edged swords.

But it might also be a good thing to mention that the katana is actually quite straight as far as Japanese swords go. Wink

Second, curved swords were not restricted to horseback use. Sikh and Afghan infantry used them with considerable success against the British in the 19th century, especially since the British at this time no longer wore armor. Chinese dao also saw widespread use among the infantry in certain periods.

Third, the katana is actually lighter and smaller on average than a longsword. The regulation length was 27 inches, though there were certainly shorter (down to 24 inches) and longer (up to nearly 35 inches) blades as well. 40 inches would only be correct if you include the length of the hilt as well, which is usually around twelve inches or so. On the other hands, 40 inches sounds like a rather meager total length for a longsword, though we can't deny that longswords could and did get as short as that.

A better comparison would be between the katana and the arming sword (or whatever you choose to call the one-handed European sword), since the katana is technically not a two-handed sword but a one-handed sword that can also be used two-handed. And sometimes it might actually be most appropriate to compare the katana with the rapier since, during the relative peace of the Tokugawa shogunate, the katana's primary role was as a weapon for urban dueling and street fighting!
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Steven H




Location: Boston
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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2007 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, I appreciate constructive feedback.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

First, curved edges confer no great advantage in "push" or chopping cuts but they do seem to work better with draw cuts/slicing cuts since the curve of the blade naturally drags the edge across the target and forces it to do a slicing action against the target material. Needless to say, this works best against soft targets like garment fabrics (not padded or quilted armor) and unarmored flesh but would meet difficulties against bone or hardened leather, let alone steel. And this feature is by no means unique to the katana--it's common to all swords with a curved edge. Including the curve in the edge near the point of many straight-bladed, double-edged swords.

But it might also be a good thing to mention that the katana is actually quite straight as far as Japanese swords go. Wink

I agree here with the assertion that in a slice the curve is useful, so perhaps I should add that caveat to the essay.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Second, curved swords were not restricted to horseback use. Sikh and Afghan infantry used them with considerable success against the British in the 19th century, especially since the British at this time no longer wore armor. Chinese dao also saw widespread use among the infantry in certain periods.

Here I am referring specifically to back-curve sword patterns and not leaf or forward curved designs. The dao incorporates features of all three types (like the Hungarian saber), and so isn't the kind of sword I'm talking about. The Sikh swords are a clear exception to the point I'm making, but as I'm talking about broad trends I'm okay with that.

Follow-up question: did the Sikhs earlier in there history fight from horseback?

I know very little about Afghan swords, are they back curved like the Sikh swords?

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Third, the katana is actually lighter and smaller on average than a longsword. The regulation length was 27 inches, though there were certainly shorter (down to 24 inches) and longer (up to nearly 35 inches) blades as well. 40 inches would only be correct if you include the length of the hilt as well, which is usually around twelve inches or so. On the other hands, 40 inches sounds like a rather meager total length for a longsword, though we can't deny that longswords could and did get as short as that.

A better comparison would be between the katana and the arming sword (or whatever you choose to call the one-handed European sword), since the katana is technically not a two-handed sword but a one-handed sword that can also be used two-handed. And sometimes it might actually be most appropriate to compare the katana with the rapier since, during the relative peace of the Tokugawa shogunate, the katana's primary role was as a weapon for urban dueling and street fighting!

When talking about the weight of the sword I am including the hilt since it effects the total weight. From my own searches it looks like the lightest katanas and the lightest longswords were about the same weight. So, while long longswords weighed more, shorter longswords (those that are of a similar length) show a similar weight. And the point I'm making is the basic metallurgy that that much steel weighs the same no matter who forged it.

Thanks,
-Steven

Kunstbruder - Boston area Historical Combat Study
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sat 19 May, 2007 11:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Thanks, I appreciate constructive feedback.


You're welcome. Wink

Quote:
Here I am referring specifically to back-curve sword patterns and not leaf or forward curved designs. The dao incorporates features of all three types (like the Hungarian saber), and so isn't the kind of sword I'm talking about. The Sikh swords are a clear exception to the point I'm making, but as I'm talking about broad trends I'm okay with that.

Follow-up question: did the Sikhs earlier in there history fight from horseback?

I know very little about Afghan swords, are they back curved like the Sikh swords?


What are your definitions of "leaf," "forward," and "back" curves on sword blades? You should put them in that page as well--preferably with examples--so that the reader wouldn't be confused.

As for the swords themselves, not all dao widen towards the center of percussion. If you'd take a look at Manouchehr's thread on the Chinese daos ( http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=9726 ), you can actually see many that have an even taper or even a straight, untapered blade until the last few inches nearest the point.

The Sikhs fought both on foot and on horseback, and both types of soldiers were known for their use of swords in battle. At the time of the Sikh Wars against the British their cavalry mostly consisted on irregular light and heavy horse very similar to other Indian models, while their infantry included both irregulars and khalsa regulars trained and uniformed along European models. All of these troop types were supposed to carry swords and be proficient in their use.

And then the Afghan swords--they're just a variety of the shamsir. Nothing special. There were models with and without yelmans (false edges on broadened sections), with various degrees of taper and different forms of curvature.

Quote:
When talking about the weight of the sword I am including the hilt since it effects the total weight. From my own searches it looks like the lightest katanas and the lightest longswords were about the same weight. So, while long longswords weighed more, shorter longswords (those that are of a similar length) show a similar weight. And the point I'm making is the basic metallurgy that that much steel weighs the same no matter who forged it.


Still, I don't think the simple comparison with longswords really works because, if we go by the way you mention it on the page, people will be tempted to compare the average katana with the average longsword, a very misleading comparison at the very least. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak in broader terms and compare the katana with European swords in general instead of longswords. And don't say "the same" but use some less restrictive wording like "roughly equivalent" or "of comparable weight."

Being a fiction and nonfiction writer myself, I take these implicit nuances very seriously since--like I said--they may convey an impression that differs radically from what you're actually trying to tell the reader.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sun 20 May, 2007 6:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

ARMA has an article on this, somewhere.

M.

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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 3:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh. That'd be Hank Reinhardt's article. Two articles, in fact:

http://www.thearma.org/essays/nobest.htm (There is No Best Sword)

and

http://www.thearma.org/essays/hype.htm (Hype: As Ancient an Art as Swordmaking)
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 5:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.thehaca.com/essays/knightvs.htm also has a section on this.

My theory is that curved swords are better for slipping out of binds. This would be an advantage when fighting on horseback, where footwork and similar movement is limited, or when rushing polearms. (which the japanese do a lot)

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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