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Lucas Prassas

Joined: 31 Aug 2007

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 5:38 pm    Post subject: Questions about Japanese MA from a fellow WMA enthusiast         Reply with quote

Hey guys, I've been a lurker on these forums for a number of years (about 7, IIRC, though I discovered ARMA first), and I have to say, as a freshman in college, for better or worse I've learned far more from this forum than I have in any vaguely history-related class I've yet taken, in public school or otherwise. I honestly shudder to think what tales of divine, psychic, spell-slinging ninjas wielding weightless, indestructible, diamond-slicing katanas I'd have continued tell, were my knowledge of historical warfare still relegated to what I've learned in school thus far (in addition to l33t gamer wisdom from the almighty intarwebs, of course).

Blatant gushing aside, however, I recognize that there is only so much one can learn about a given subject without being willing to ask questions directly. As such, I have accumulated a humble list of queries to which I have not yet been able to attain a satisfactory resolution (probably because most pertain at least partially to Japanese weaponry and combat, even though I seldom venture far from actual HEMA material), condensed it into one topic (please inform me if I would do better to seperate them, henceforth):

1. How exactly does the nomenclature for nihonto work, on a fundamental level? I have extrapolated from these forums that o- prefix means “longer than the designated no. of shaku for each type of sword” and not necessarily ZOMGHOOGE like most people seem to think when they hear “odachi”. However, when you introduce “nodachi” (“field sword”, IIRC), things get a little more ambiguous. I mean, nodachi are longer than regular tachi, right? And usually that means they’re pretty big (though still well within the bounds of practical, I’d wager). So, would this not make them a type of odachi? And then there’s o-katana, which I’ve not heard nearly as often… though katana are basically post-battlefield era self-defense wepaons form what I understand, so I’m not as interested in them. Finally, how many different suffixes for “sword” are there in Japanese, and is there a difference between them: –to, -ken, -dachi, etc.?
2. In your opinion, has JSA truly “survived”? With as much historically accuracy as HEMA, overall (talking only a bout schools that actually know and care about such things)? What about actual combative effectiveness? I ask you this because I am under the impression that what most modern practitioners of JSA call kenjutsu (even if you ignore the more blatantly watered down/ non-combative arts like kendo and iaido) is just not a rendition of what bushi really used on the battlefield centuries ago that could be considered as accurate as HEMA is to medieval European combat. I don’t mean to sound harsh, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I could definitely see this happening quite easily, considering that, AFAIK, primary sources are not the basis for JSA material, and that there is less being done about that by the JSA community than there is for that of HEMA. I do believe I have watched every video on this site or any of its links that displays cross-training between HEMA practitioners and kenjutsuka (if they actually were that, I don’t recollect it fully), and that has led me to conclude that, for whatever reason, HEMA tends to stomp JSA in most free bouts; I *could* kind of see this being partially due to the fact that longswords in general probably have an advantage over the shorter, inevitably less balanced katana/other curved, stereotypical nihonto, but I would definitely say that, as a general rule, the fighter makes the fighter, not the weapon.
3. If there are indeed schools of kenjutsu that you believe would serve as a truer representation of historical, practical sword combat than my statements would indicate, which are they? Not trying to come off as rude or anything ( I apologize if I am); I ask this in earnest just because it makes me really sad that, thus far, to my knowledge, there’s either been a lack of tests between equally credible martial artists from both sides, or JSA has simply been destroyed by a lack of documented evidence for historical techniques.

EDIT: GAH, sorry for posting this in the wrong place. I know better, I guess I'm just more tired than I thought, lol.
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Bennison N

Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Joined: 06 Feb 2008
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 416

PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 6:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I studied Katori Shinto Ryu for 11 years, and that is one ryu that has fairly constantly maintained it's traditionalism. Our little group here in New Zealand was only disbanded due to my classmates moving to other countries and our teacher passing away. It's sad that we never really got more than a dozen or so students at any one time, because the training methods were very intense and have helped with just about every martial art/sport I have tried since, as well as preparing me for my military service.

As a result of Sensei passing, I moved on to Chinese Martial arts, but I have yet to be decisively beaten using Katori Shinto Ryu techniques (sword and spear) in sparring, and because of this I still regularly practice, albeit alone. Regular catchups with others from our school reveal the same sorts of records from them as well. This includes a mixture of European, Chinese, Korean, Indian and other Japanese exponents (so far). I'm hoping to add some Americans to this when I travel to visit my Floridian Grandparents in late 2012. Big Grin

So Katori Shinto Ryu might be one Japanese school you want to look into. There are others.

I'm not intending this to be some sort of violent CV or an open challenge (it might read that way), but I do think that Katori Shinto Ryu may be exactly the type of traditional Japanese ryu that you're looking for.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Lucas Prassas

Joined: 31 Aug 2007

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 6:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, thanks man. I know I've heard the name of that school somewhere, but I never really looked into it. Upon doing some very rudimentary research, (lolgoogle) it would seem that the States tends to be where you get a lot of the "all kata, no sparring"/ ego-fueled stuff, though I'm sure there's a fair share of decent stuff here too. Just seems like, at least in my immediate area, most martial arts interest is in MMA. Which is great; I mean, MMA is hardcore, I just have a greater penchant for armed combat. Appreciate that, though, definitely going to check out Katori Shinto Ryu.
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