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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 2:38 pm    Post subject: How do you defeat Japanese armour?         Reply with quote

So this is similar to my japanese weight thread, question is how would one defeat japanese armour of an opponent? As we know harnischfechten dictates how this could be done with a longsword, and I assume that the gap thrusting idea would hold true in Japan, but the katana does not seem to be particularly thrust suited, nor have I seen any japanese halfswording (other than a few techniques which seem to be more of a temporary block). So does anyone know of any moves or techniques for how this would be done?
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Same way you defeat other kinds of armour: maces, polearms, warhammers, etc.

Did you mean to ask, how do you defeat Japanese armour using only swords?

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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 2:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yep, thats why I brought up harnischfechten and half-swording. Also I'm not aware of how popular warhammers were in Japan, were their any?

Also to clarify, I'm not looking for a simple, thrust into the openings answer. I was wondering if they had a system for doing so (like in Europe) or if there were specific techniques, like I have heard about a middlehau type cut to the torso that would land between do and kusazuri.

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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think Harnischfechten is even specifically a gap-thrusting sort of fighting method, is it? From what I've seen, it usually involves using the halfsworded sword as a lever with which to throw your opponent to the ground, where you could conceivably knife him through the visor or something. Perhaps I'm mistaken.
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well you can do all of that but it helps shorten the sword into a small spear, and you can definitely use the point on the face, groin, armpit, inside elbow, and palm.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 4:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Japanese kenjutsu kata are explicit about the methods for defeating armor with a long sword. Some examples include cuts to the inside of the thigh, inside of the forearm, and across the gap in the plates between the do, or torso armor, and the kusazori, or the plates hanging over the upper thighs (this gap is covered only by silk laces).

This video shows Otake-shihan of the Katori Shinto-ryu demonstrating some of these techniques:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3cpPRBlnwc&am...r_embedded

Many people don't realize this, but many schools of kenjutsu hide their armored techniques inside kata usually practiced without armor. In fact, one entire set of kata in Katori Shinto-ryu, called the Omote no tachi, are armored techniques, although the actual cutting targets are changed to different ones when you first learn them (the other set of kenjutsu kata, called Gogyo no tachi are the unarmored kata, then there are the Ryoto or two-sword kata--and yes, done long before Musashi became famous for it). Later, more advanced students are taught the correct targets for these kata.

There is relatively little halfswording in kenjutsu, although it does exist. For example, in Itsutsu no tachi, the first of the Omote no tachi, there is a cut to the inside of the enemy's wrist done with the tip of the sword while resting the left hand on the back of the blade. I haven't counted them, but off the top of my head, I can actually think of more *thrusts* at the halfsword (again, with the left hand just resting on the back of the blade, not gripping it as in European halfswording) done in unarmored kata than in armored kata. Still, the fact remains that the vast majority of sword techniques in armored combat are cuts done with both hands on the hilt, not thrusts, halfsword or otherwise.

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 4:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Connor Ruebusch wrote:
I don't think Harnischfechten is even specifically a gap-thrusting sort of fighting method, is it? From what I've seen, it usually involves using the halfsworded sword as a lever with which to throw your opponent to the ground, where you could conceivably knife him through the visor or something. Perhaps I'm mistaken.


With respect, yes, you are mistaken. Certainly there are a great many halfsword techniques that use the sword as a grappling lever, but there are also many thrusting techniques, with both the point and the pommel. In fact, Peter von Danzig tells us that there are four "points" in armored combat: the point of the spear, the point of the dagger and the point and pommel of the sword.

Even with the grappling techniques to which you refer, the text for the grapple usually refers to an opening attack with the point. For example, here is a play from Lignitzer's halfsword material:

"Note: stab him inward to his face. When he displaces this then drive through and attack him outward to his face. If he displaces you again and so strikes your point off, then twist with your pommel around over his right shoulder and spring with your right leg behind his left and throw him back over." (von Danzig fol. 73r)

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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 8:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you so much for the video. So if so many cuts were aimed below the do or to the inside of the arm why didn't they apply more mail there to protect against it? It seems like a very easy fix. For that matter, why does Japanese armour seem to cover less than European (even a hauberk seems to cover more), does it have to do with economics or notions of enough is enough.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 9:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Thank you so much for the video. So if so many cuts were aimed below the do or to the inside of the arm why didn't they apply more mail there to protect against it? It seems like a very easy fix. For that matter, why does Japanese armour seem to cover less than European (even a hauberk seems to cover more), does it have to do with economics or notions of enough is enough.


My sources don't say specifically why more mail isn't used to cover gaps, but I presume it's a weight issue. That also explains the less extensive coverage of Japanese armor in general: It represents a different approach to armor, one that emphasizes flexibility and freedom of movement over coverage. In Katori Shinto-ryu: Warrior Tradition by Risuke Otake (Koryu Books 2007), Otake-shihan says:

"However, Japanese armor has, for the sake of easier movement [emphasis mine--HTK], unavoidable and exposed weak points, and it is this design defect that is targeted by the omote set of techniques in Katori Shinto-ryu." (p. 49). Otake-shihan goes on to say that armor can weigh from 22 to 44 pounds, and that while it is impossible to move in armor on the balls of the feet as in modern sport kendo, omote practice trains one to be able to move as quickly as possible in it (ibid).

In essence, then, Japanese armor represents a choice: To allow faster movement at the expense of greater protection. This requires a more active defense than would otherwise be the case. Where a European man at arms might simply ignore almost all swinging blows of the sword, the Japanese cannot afford to, but is more easly able to avoid or negate them. This isn't an indicator of which approach is better, merely a different approach that's probably equally valid.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar, 2011 9:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam D. Kent-Isaac wrote:
Same way you defeat other kinds of armour: maces, polearms, warhammers, etc.

Did you mean to ask, how do you defeat Japanese armour using only swords?


Just to show the kind of anti armour weapons used there is the Tetsubo for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanabō

http://tousando.proboards.com/index.cgi?board...thread=573

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Mick Jarvis




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Japanses blades are great to stab with. and in the styles that i do there is alot of stabbing and then twisting while inside the body and ripping/cutting out to make the damage worse.

and the Tatsubo is a beast of a weapons!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Japanese agriculture might have had something to do with the less extensive coverage of their armour too--a European soldier could have walked clean through a ploughed European field without getting anything but his shoes soggy (and maybe his sabatons a bit clogged with sod), but a Japanese warrior would have had to be wading if he wanted to cross a rice paddy. Slogging through a paddy with a full suit of European plate...well, let's just say that if you could pick up a ton of mud and water in a pair of combat boots (before the advent of ventialted jungle boots) crossing a rice field, just imagine how much you'd accumulate inside a pair of metal shoes, with metal greaves, and all that kind of stuff....

(Not to mention that the Japanese--along with many other East Asians--used to fertilize their fields with human excrement. Try getting that inside your greaves.)
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 9:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Japanese agriculture might have had something to do with the less extensive coverage of their armour too--a European soldier could have walked clean through a ploughed European field without getting anything but his shoes soggy (and maybe his sabatons a bit clogged with sod), but a Japanese warrior would have had to be wading if he wanted to cross a rice paddy. Slogging through a paddy with a full suit of European plate...well, let's just say that if you could pick up a ton of mud and water in a pair of combat boots (before the advent of ventialted jungle boots) crossing a rice field, just imagine how much you'd accumulate inside a pair of metal shoes, with metal greaves, and all that kind of stuff....

(Not to mention that the Japanese--along with many other East Asians--used to fertilize their fields with human excrement. Try getting that inside your greaves.)


I'm not sure we can really see that as a factor. After all, consider the glutinous mud at Agincourt: It has been cited as a major contributing factor in the exhaustion of the French men at arms because of the way it pulled on them as they marched in full harness across the field.

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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, it just seems odd to me to build armour in such a way. I understand the interest in weight but especially considering that your opponent was always going to go for such openings it seems odd not to have protected it in some way, especially seeing how the Japanese have some very specific pieces such as the wakibiki that are meant to protect odd areas.

But then again you also have unarmoured knees in japan for awhile too if I recall (before they started extending the suneate and using kikko to cover).

I wonder if there was also less of a need to be so thoroughly armoured because of a difference in range weapons? I don't know how powerful the avg yumi was but I was under the impression that by the time of the sengoku, crossbows weren't particularly favored. Then again when teppo came in more solid breastplates were introduced.

So after this long rambling post I think that I agree with you.

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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bottomley mentions the problems with lamellar armour while on extended campaigns and suggests that this may be why later armours tend towards designs that don't need much lacing. He cites this passage from Sakakibara Kozan as support.
“When soaked with water the armour becomes very heavy and cannot be quickly dried; so that in summer it is oppressive and in winter liable to freeze. Moreover, no amount of washing will completely free the lacing from any mud or blood which may have penetrated it, and on long and distant campaigns it becomes evil-smelling and overrun by ants and lice, with consequent ill effects on the health of the wearer.”
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some questions just occurred to me and I wasn't sure where to put them, so I thought I'd put them in this thread as they are related.

I've seen a variety of reasoning for the lesser weight of samurai armour: They didn't know how to make good armour, samurai were all about mobility and speed, slogging through rice patties isn't all that fun in full plate, most samurai were too poor to own the full set, etc, etc. Now I can see where all of these reasons play a role, but it is that last one that really has my attention at the moment.

We (some of us anyway) look at samurai and assume that they are the equivalent of the richest knights, high-born and all toffed up to the max. However, as shown in various threads here, most weren't riding out with the full kit. They were similar to the knight in that not all were rich and had the best gear possible. Some were making do with whatever old out-dated armour they could afford.

Now for my question/questions: Is it safe to assume that many samurai were poorly equipped for money reasons rather than, say, mobility? Are we looking at a situation similar to a lot of poorer European knights, only worse because Japan wasn't making lots and lots of "good" armour in the first place? If given the choice would a lot of samurai worn the full suit?

If this was the case, does anyone know the proportions at any point in history off the top of their head? I.E. How many were truly rich and could have all that they wanted as opposed to those who just making do? How does it compare to the European situation at any given time period or region? (Yes, I am aware that these questions are rather open-ended, but in all fairness I said "off the top of their head." I'm not expecting a research paper on the subject, just wondering if anyone knows off-hand.)

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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 3:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Hmm, it just seems odd to me to build armour in such a way. I understand the interest in weight but especially considering that your opponent was always going to go for such openings it seems odd not to have protected it in some way, especially seeing how the Japanese have some very specific pieces such as the wakibiki that are meant to protect odd areas.


The problem with this is the classic arms race model : if you protect an "odd" area, your opponent will find another one to attack, then you'll have to protect that one too, and before you know it you're clad in full plate (which will give rise to its own counter-measures too). It is perhaps too much to assume the medieval Japanese could have seen the problem so clearly, but it is certainly possible to assume that the prevailing mentality could have been "instead of adding yet another piece to my armour, I will adapt my fighting technique so my opponent's attacks don't hit me there".

I find the rice paddy hypothesis interesting. Again it's probably too much to say everything is explained by that but it might have been a factor; terrain is after all very important in all military operations past and present and does tend to influe on the equipment used. On a similar note, perhaps the very mountainous nature of Japan has a role in this too. One would have to look closely into narratives to see if there are samurais who have to act like mountaineers, but should one have to do so, Japanese armour is probably prefferable to European full plate.

However, for this debate to be clearer, we should also note that the "mobility over protection" choice (and/or "I fight with the armour I can afford, not the armour I wish I had" factor) did also exist in Europe: notably the half-plate armour and the "3/4 plate armour".

I would like to throw one more hypothesis into the ballpark: the absence of tourneys in Japan (unless I am wrong on that one, there probably were some sort of martial competitions, but nothing similar to european tourneys). Quite a number of the full-plate armours we see (and certainly the most beautiful ones) are armours made exclusively or partially for tournament, notably the foot tournament. Of course, I'm not saying full plate is all about the tourney, it was used in war too. But perhaps the existence and importance of the tourney among the knightly european culture was a factor (among others) in the development of the full plate. This would warrant closer examination to be anything else than vague speculation, but I do remember reading about many improvements here that were first seen on armours for the tournament, royal armours especially. It would be interesting to see if some of those improvements then made their way to full plate armours in general, if they contributed to the birth and/or continued success of the type.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 4:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
Some questions just occurred to me and I wasn't sure where to put them, so I thought I'd put them in this thread as they are related.

I've seen a variety of reasoning for the lesser weight of samurai armour: They didn't know how to make good armour, samurai were all about mobility and speed, slogging through rice patties isn't all that fun in full plate, most samurai were too poor to own the full set, etc, etc. Now I can see where all of these reasons play a role, but it is that last one that really has my attention at the moment.

We (some of us anyway) look at samurai and assume that they are the equivalent of the richest knights, high-born and all toffed up to the max. However, as shown in various threads here, most weren't riding out with the full kit. They were similar to the knight in that not all were rich and had the best gear possible. Some were making do with whatever old out-dated armour they could afford.

Now for my question/questions: Is it safe to assume that many samurai were poorly equipped for money reasons rather than, say, mobility? Are we looking at a situation similar to a lot of poorer European knights, only worse because Japan wasn't making lots and lots of "good" armour in the first place? If given the choice would a lot of samurai worn the full suit?

If this was the case, does anyone know the proportions at any point in history off the top of their head? I.E. How many were truly rich and could have all that they wanted as opposed to those who just making do? How does it compare to the European situation at any given time period or region? (Yes, I am aware that these questions are rather open-ended, but in all fairness I said "off the top of their head." I'm not expecting a research paper on the subject, just wondering if anyone knows off-hand.)


Everything I have read and been taught indicates that the bushi made a conscious choice regarding the nature of their armor. Yes, there were poor warriors who had partial harnesses (e.g., ashigaru), but there were fabulously wealthy ones, too, Daimyo for example, who wore harnesses of a kind (albeit of finer stuff) with those worn by other fully-armed bushi. This suggests strongly that cost had nothing to do with the choices in armor but that, as most sources agree, the choice was made to rely upon less comprehensive armor in order to maximize speed and flexibility. Why does that seem so hard to believe?

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Hugh
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry, but I would say that the main reason I am reluctant to believe it is because the most common time I hear that the samurai were all about mobility is when someone who knows nothing but popular culture is talking about how great and skilled the samurai were and how they would wade through any European army. With that as my benchmark, it kind of seemed like it has more to do with ignorant geeks trying to explain away a possible flaw in the awesomeness that is the samurai than anything else.

That being said, I believe you when you say "most sources agree". I don't have much in the shape of sources, samurai are not really my thing and I'm not going around reading The Five Rings or whatever it's called. So if you say this is how it was, then I'll take you at your word. I just wanted a direct response to my questions rather than trying to connect the dots from various posts and whathaveyou. There's a difference between someone writing "I think it was so they could move fast" and "There were wealthy ones wearing light armour too, apparently by choice."


Edit: Basically I knew popular culture said it was true and I don't trust popular culture! Laughing Out Loud

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Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Mar, 2011 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
Edit: Basically I knew popular culture said it was true and I don't trust popular culture! Laughing Out Loud


A more reasonable statement I've never heard. Point well taken. If John Q. Citizen believes it, chances are it's *wrong*. And this may be wrong, too: After all, most people know nothing about the historical roots of their traditions, even people who think they do. In this case, however, the source material seems awfully consistent.

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