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Jess Rozek




Location: Burlington, VT
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 4:29 pm    Post subject: Armor Piercing Techniques         Reply with quote

So, I wanna preface this with I have no idea if this should be here. If it needs to be moved elsewhere, feel free. Also, I don't want a flame war on which technique is better or whatever...

Here it is: how does one defeat traditional samurai armor and how is it different from defeating European plate and maille?

Background: I'm writing a paper on osteological trauma on the battlefield and how it can be attributed to class differences (i.e. different classes have different bone trauma) and I'm using knights and samurai as the elite warriors and their infantry counterparts. Yeah, I know knights and samurai are totally cliche, but because they are, there's a ton of osteological and archaeological research done on them. I ran into a snag when, in trying to describe the kinds of trauma I might see on a samurai, I realized that there's no halfswording (that I know of) with a katana and therefore wondered if the European way of halfswording a guy in the gaps of the armor was a viable way to defeat the armor of a samurai.

Thanks much!
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 4:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since you mentioned the appropriateness of where to post this:

The Historic Arms Talk forum is described as "Discussions of reproduction and authentic historical arms and armour from various cultures and time periods". You aren't discussing arms and armour, but instead weapons usage, making it more appropriate for the Off-Topic forum.

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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 4:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Armor Piercing Techniques         Reply with quote

Jess Rozek wrote:
So, I wanna preface this with I have no idea if this should be here. If it needs to be moved elsewhere, feel free. Also, I don't want a flame war on which technique is better or whatever...

Here it is: how does one defeat traditional samurai armor and how is it different from defeating European plate and maille?

Background: I'm writing a paper on osteological trauma on the battlefield and how it can be attributed to class differences (i.e. different classes have different bone trauma) and I'm using knights and samurai as the elite warriors and their infantry counterparts. Yeah, I know knights and samurai are totally cliche, but because they are, there's a ton of osteological and archaeological research done on them. I ran into a snag when, in trying to describe the kinds of trauma I might see on a samurai, I realized that there's no halfswording (that I know of) with a katana and therefore wondered if the European way of halfswording a guy in the gaps of the armor was a viable way to defeat the armor of a samurai.

Thanks much!


Samurai armour is technically a form of lamellar for the most part, although some forms of it have a solid metal breastplate as opposed to a lamellar breastplate.

As such, crushing attacks are effective (maces, hammers, etc). Arrows may work; it's worth noting that archery was one of the main weapons of the Japanese military and often used by samurai.

In fact, look at the fighting techniques of the samurai and you can translate them easily enough in some ways to Western martial arts. The focus on cutting techniques, from what I understand, derives largely from the more recent periods of Japanese history where the nation was unified under the later Shoguns and active warfare declined, so Samurai were more likely to fight in civilian dress rather than armour. When they were actually warring, they didn't use swords as much as they were likely to use spears, bows, clubs and such.

For your specific question of half-swording, yes, it would work on a person wearing samurai armor.
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Jess Rozek




Location: Burlington, VT
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry and thanks Nathan.

Jeffrey, I was wondering more how samurai would defeat other samurai in armor. I realize halfswording would work, but did they actually use that technique? As I understand it, katanas aren't used as a thrusting weapon. Like we know knights used halfswording techniques on each other because wailing away on a plate harness is pretty useless, so stabbing the joints becomes necessary. But did samurai use the same technique since lamellar, while still hard, is not as impenetrable as metal. Also, it seems there are more gaps in samurai armor than in knight armor, so how did that affect were samurai would cut to?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 5:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No sword can cut through armour. Fighters aim for gaps both with the point and the edge.

Otake-shihan wrote:
"However, Japanese armor has, for the sake of easier movement, unavoidable and exposed weak points, and it is this design defect that is targeted by the omote set of techniques in Katori Shinto-ryu."
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 6:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jess, your assumption that the katana was the primary battlefield weapon of the bushi is incorrect. The katana is a street fighting weapon: the tachi, the field sword, was on average several inches longer, and most katana were cut down tachi (from the REAR, not the front! Big Grin ). The primary weapon was, for fighting on foot, typically what Europeans would call a 'pole weapon'. I am particularly fond of the nagamaki.
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Mon 14 Nov, 2011 7:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While I can't speak to how true this is, it not being my area of interest, I believe these videos are more accurate than most things on the web:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9HR7TTOReE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEeW-CFyJVc&feature=related *This one features an equivalent to half-swording*

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX9Zn6k1poE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IreQsNHSoK8&feature=related

Though it has been a while since I watched the videos, I believe they feature no test cutting (something I understand is a modern invention), drills rather than free-play, spirituality, etc. The second video cuts right to the chase as far as fighting goes, opening up with a segment on attacking where there is no armour and some techniques similar to half-swording. (Yes, he actually tells his students not to try cutting through armour with their uber curved metal lightsabers. Wink )

If the videos are to be believed, this guy is teaching a program that has changed very little since the 15th century. I rather like to think it's all true. The details about drilling instead of free-play and no test-cutting match other things I've heard from what I thought were those quoting reliable sources, but as I said, it's not my area of interest.

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Werner Stiegler





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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2011 4:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I believe they feature no test cutting (something I understand is a modern invention)


I remember portugese priests mentioning that townfolks in Japan were having cutting parties during the 16th century already. Of course, they used the bodies of convicts after the executioner was doned with them rather than tatami mats and pool noodles...
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2011 11:53 am    Post subject: Re: Armor Piercing Techniques         Reply with quote

Jess Rozek wrote:

Here it is: how does one defeat traditional samurai armor and how is it different from defeating European plate and maille?


Musket. 16th century Japanese warfare featured the musket as the key weapon. Before that, the arrow was an important anti-armour weapon; Japanese military archery was very optimised for armour penetration.

A lot of Japanese cavalry lances had blades that were square or equilateral triangle in cross-section, a classic armour piercing design. For infantry hand-to-hand weapons, the main anti-armour weapons would have been spear and dagger. The spear might not go through the heavier armour, but should work against lighter parts of the armour.

Wrestling in armour, with dagger to finish off a pinned opponent would work in Japan as well as in Europe. Think of the ancestors of Judo and Aikido!

Half-swording was done with big swords (odachi/nodachi), with the top of the blade being wrapped with paper, cloth, or cord to make it easier to grip. To what extent this was used as an anti-armour method, I don't know - it turns the large sword into effectively a nagamaki.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2011 12:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Armor Piercing Techniques         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Before that, the arrow was an important anti-armour weapon; Japanese military archery was very optimised for armour penetration.

Not sure about that. Japanese lamellar is more than capable of stopping arrows. That's what it was designed for. Most injuries were caused by arrow strikes to unprotected areas - just like European ones.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 12:39 am    Post subject: Re: Armor Piercing Techniques         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
Before that, the arrow was an important anti-armour weapon; Japanese military archery was very optimised for armour penetration.

Not sure about that. Japanese lamellar is more than capable of stopping arrows. That's what it was designed for. Most injuries were caused by arrow strikes to unprotected areas - just like European ones.


Japanese (military) archery has lots of optimisation for armour-piercing, to the point where range and accuracy are sacrified for the goal of more energy. But the other side of the coin is just what you say, that Japanese armour is optimised to resist arrows, and it appears to have been expectional for arrows to pierce good armour, even before bullet-resistant armour was around. But even piercing the lighter parts of armour, or lighter armours, is not a trivial task.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 1:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Um1EaoRRLRc#!

Some Japanese armored combat work demonstrated from 3:00.

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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 3:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jess Rozek wrote:
I realized that there's no halfswording (that I know of) with a katana


Yes there is. Such techniques can be either cut, parry or thrusts with the support of a thumb and index finger grip or palm support at the back of the blade. It's most commonly seen straight from the draw. This seems to me to be mostly for precision than added power to punch through armour though. But to aim for eye slots or armour gaps, or to cut bindings in the lamellar at close range -certainly useable.


Dan Howard wrote:
No sword can cut through armour. Fighters aim for gaps both with the point and the edge.[/i]

A normal practical sized sword will have a rather hard time cutting metal perhaps, but then a Katana wasn't a battlefield intended weapon to begin with anyway but made for dueling.


Let's say one weilds a proper sword of War instead, a huge O-dashi, or a mighty greatsword in Europe. There is a level of simply having a large enough sword it might actually cut metal, especially thin metal. And if it doesn't, the opponent may become incapacitated or even die of blunt trauma all the same, such a s a closed head injury, broken bones or severe torn musculature.
Plate armour protects better than anything else versus most of this and makes a warrior a lot tougher, but one doesn't ever really become invulnerable to it. When plate is dented in so deep it contacts surface bone it no longer protects the wearer from bone indentation and resulting shattering inward. In the case of a skull this means bone fragments spread in the braincase. This doesn't require one to bifurcate a helmet.
Closed head injuries are common today from traffic and fall accidents, these occur from the brain being jarred inside the skull hard enough for it to get internal bleeding and/ or shock great enough to simply shut it down for good. Typically one can walk around a bit, even for hours and then die from a stroke-like symptom. This doesn't even require denting a helmet, just a hard enough jarring of the head.

Then again, not all armour was made of metal, or all metal for that matter. Samurai armour was made up from a lot of materials and most had fabric lamellar bindings exposed to surface draws from sharp blades. Then a gap will be created to work further on. In this case you wouldn't initially be aiming for a gap, but to open one in the armour for follow up on.
Or as you say, one can go for an existing gap. Though this is a great deal harder than most realise in actual battle. An experienced and cool opponent won't simply stand still and open their guard volontarily to let you access their armpit or inner thigh area for one. To futher make a case against going for gaps as a blanket statement, voiders were used in Japan as well as Europe, often woven into fabric on the inside of the arm and armpit. Then you'd have to go through armour there as well, though it'd still be weaker than say a breastplate or heavy lamellar.

Though not the best weapon for armourd combat, there are records of "normal sized" Japanese swords being blunted on purpose before battle. This shows they understood it could not easily cut armour, but would be useable for other things. Blunt force trauma and peircing come to mind.
That a Katana can peirce plate armour with thrusts is a given, the tip is actually pretty good at it as modern tests show.

I expect other weapons actually made for war such as the Yari, pikes, heavy bows and various mass weapons are superior for a battlefield though for obvious reasons.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 3:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan Gemvik wrote:
Though not the best weapon for armourd combat, there are records of "normal sized" Japanese swords being blunted on purpose before battle.

I'd like to learn more about this. What primary sources are available?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 6:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This one isn't an anti-armour technique as such, but it shows that both thrusts and halfswording were not uncommon in Japanese swordsmanship:

http://www.truefork.org/KampaiBudokai/Gyakuto.htm
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 8:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Johan Gemvik wrote:
Though not the best weapon for armourd combat, there are records of "normal sized" Japanese swords being blunted on purpose before battle.

I'd like to learn more about this. What primary sources are available?


It was mentioned with sources in a thread I was part of a couple of years ago on another forum. I'll see if I can find it again and post here.

There's always the Kabuto Wari blunt swordlike helmet/armour- and swordbreaker of course, but what I meant was sources that refer to normal blades being blunted so as not to get nicks and cracks in the edge from connecting with (I assume plate-) armour. Perhaps this practice then led to the birth of the Kabuto Wari, who knows?

Here's a modern repro of a Kabuto Wari by Bugei:

http://www.bugei.com/kabuto-wari-827-prd1.htm

It looks undersized for a sword but is some kind of hybrid of sword and mace, made from solid Iron (or possibly steel), getting this whacked over your helmet seems painful. I guess if a helmet is heat treated to be hard it could shatter it, and if not it could dent it pretty deep with a possibility of reaching the skull. Anyway, the name shows the Japanese thought it was capable of breaking helmets. If it really can, who knows? It wasn't a common weapon though, but a Jitte which was common is similar but not as massive.

-Note the can opener on that thing... Wink I guess it's a sword catcher, but it gives me slapstick images of wrestling an opponent down and using it to open plate.

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Nicholas A. Gaese




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan

You brought up some interesting ideas in your post and I wish to enlighten on some misconceptions. First, the weapon you refered to is more properly called a hachiwari/hachiwara, and was most certainly unsutable to dealing blunt trauma to armoured opponents. The weapon was normally the size of a tanto or wakizashi and served a dual perpose as an off-hand parrying dagger (think of the use of a main gauch in rapier fighting) and as an armour piercing weapon, much like European rondel or ballock daggers. The thick, edgeless blade was good at prying between metal lames and piercing the cloth-over-mail "voiders" used in Japanese armours. The comparison between the hachiwara and the jitte is only because they share a similar shape and can be used similarly, but historically weren't. The Jitte was used by law-enforcment and as such delivered strikes and blows to clothed folks in civilian dress, not armoured soldiers.I think people in general would be amazed as to how much impact force good and properly fitted armour can absorb. Japanese armour is actually designed to take blows on to the helm and shoulders, as some armoured fighting techniques show. The tetsubo is far more effective in terms of delivering blunt trauma.

Also the term kabutowari refers to the act of testing swords by attempting to cut open the helm with a heavy edge blow. These tests are heavily biased against the helms and historically the results varried from surface cuts to the helm, to bending and even breakage in the swords. If you use the search, the topic of kabutowari has been discussed here before at good lengths.

Lastly now about the blunted swords. I have no clue if this has ever really been done. However, a while back I had the chance to view many online images of nihonto as well as see some in person. Many tachi (battle swords) had rather robust apple-seed blade cross sections, and as many here know, this allows for sharp yet strong edges. A good example of this would be Nathans Swiss saber by Arms and Armor.

Like I said, I have no idea if swords were ever actually blunted for battle use. If it were true however, then it probably occured during the events prior to the Maiji restoration/ at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, since most of the swords in use then were of the duelling kind.


Regards.
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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 11:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some nodachi used in Yakumaru Jigen ryu were said to be not differentially heat treated and left blunt intentionally due to their style usage employs rebounding force from hitting something to return to the stance, so they were nicknamed "iron staff".
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I find the idea of intentionally blunting a sword before combat to be hard to believe for a number of reasons.
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 12:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Japanese swords generally had some thick, solid spines, so if somebody would really want to give a good whack to something, couldn't he had used it?

Just wondering.
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