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Henrik J. Fridh




Location: Gothenburg, Sweden.
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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jun, 2012 7:54 am    Post subject: The preference of the spear in 16th century Japan.         Reply with quote

Hi everyone! My name is Henrik and as you can see by my post count, I'm new to this excellent forum although I have been reading it for quite a while. I'm looking forward to discuss arms and armour with all of you!

Now, on to the topic at hand.

Recently I have been reading up on Japanese history, namely the Sengoku Jidai in the 16th century. In the books I have read they all point to the fact that the Yari (spear) became the preferred weapon of choice for Samurai and Ashigaru alike in this period. This is quite a contrast to Europe, where in warfare during the 16th century seemed to swing more and more in favour of the sword amongst Knights, especially during the second half of the century. Knights dropped the use of the lance and instead favoured the sword, to my understanding at least.
Now in terms of arms and armour in Europe and Japan in this period, they are to me similar enough to make comparisons, so why did the Japanese favour the spear over the sword and vice versa with knights/soldiers (Cuirassiers rather than lancers) in Europe? Had it anything to do with the cost of weapons manufacture (I.E. cost and availability of iron in Japan) that influenced samurai to adopt the spear as the favoured weapon rather than the sword?
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Cole B





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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jun, 2012 2:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think our perception of the sword is distorted by the whole mystique - my understanding is that they were hardly the main weapon on battlefields, especially during the time period you're talking about, where armor was quite good, and if they were used it was often as a secondary weapon.
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Zac Evans




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jun, 2012 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the 16th century the sword was a nobleman's civilian weapon. Generally in portraiture they wear a sword and have some form of mace included with their armour. Some garnitures appear to have maces included with the design drawings, while there are some examples of rapiers with matching clothing.

Pole weapons became the favoured weapon in armoured combat around the time maile was switched for plate. I assume something similar happened in japan, as their armour improved.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jun, 2012 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henrik, welcome to the site and hope you enjoy the exchanges of ideas, information and opinions here. Big Grin Cool

I think that the spear was always very popular in Japan and as in Europe the polearms where like the rifle in modern times as the primary weapon and the sword was mostly comparable in function to the handgun as a secondary weapons when one lost the use of ones primary weapon ( Spear/polearm and bow/crossbow for missile troops ).

The sword is also the " have it with you at all times weapon ", when travelling at least, and in civilian wear where laws and custom permit.

Actually the shorter Wakizashi in Japan and daggers in Europe where even more the " have it with you at all times weapon " because at different times and place a sword wouldn't always be socially acceptable: In Japan I think a guest would leave his sword at the door and retrieve it on leaving, but it was more than acceptable, it was a tradition to always have the Wakizashi on one's person .... Removing the sword was being polite to the host, keeping the Wakizashi was being polite and respectfull of the guest. ( Anyway, I think that the previous is reasonnably accurate ).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakizashi

Getting back to the spear: It has reach, one can use the butt end also and effectively all of the spear could be used offensively and defensively and fighting with the spear was as sophisticated and technical as swordsmanship.

Earlier the Naginata was more popular that the Yari and was also the weapon of choice of warrior monks and became later associated as a woman's weapon to defend home or honour, I believe that many women of the warrior classes trained in using the Naginata and probably the Tanto also.

As to swords as a primary weapon this could be true with the very large twohanders in Japan and in Europe

The spear or rather the lance became less popular with cavalry in the 16th century when wheelock pistols and carbines became an important cavalry weapon.

Ultimately from the 17th century on firearms slowly became dominant as the primary weapon of the common soldier but polearms continued to be used fairly late and there was a return of popularity of the lancer in the late 18th and into the 19th centuries, and even into the early 20th.

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William P




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jun, 2012 10:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

its also worth remembering the prevelance of pole weapons among armies in both places during the 1500's
in the form of pikes.
the pike remained a significant infantry weapon until the late 17h century and by the time of the 18th century, the pike had been completely supplemented by the bayonetted musket.
and even during the 15th century, the sword was largely largel second fiddle to items like the poleaxe a

its also worth noting that the japanese for reason never really caught the bug of using flintlocks and wheellocks the most common reason ive seen for this is because the japanese didn have the supplies of flint or iron pyrites needed to use these guns (although they could in reality have just imported flint, at leas hypothetically)
and just as importantly the sengoku period ended and the tokugawa peace aka the edo period,came about before the japanese could truely appreciate the wheellock so they simply never got the chance to develope the caracole tacics of their european contemporaries.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Jun, 2012 6:05 am    Post subject: Re: The preference of the spear in 16th century Japan.         Reply with quote

See, this is where a little bit of background might come in handy. The spear/lance became the favoured weapon of the samurai in the 16th century, but the weapon it nudged away from this position wasn't the sword--it was the bow. Before the Sengoku era, Japanese warfare (for both samurai and common soldiers) was largely dominated by archery with occasional pulses of hand-to-hand fighting in an attempt to force the decision.

On the other hand, the European men-at-arms didn't "dropped the use of the lance and instead favoured the sword" either. The lance remained an important cavalry weapon into the mid-16th century or so and remained in use until at least the first decade of the 17th. The weapon that replaced it wasn't the sword but rather the long-barrelled cavalry pistol, whose sheer penetrative power was quite important for punching through the heavy armour of the late 16th century. In the end, the pistol and other firearms worked a bit too well and made soldiers reluctant to wear the increasingly heavy armour needed to resist them, so the sword once again became a highly useful weapon in the increasingly lightly-armoured or even unarmoured world of late 17th century warfare. By that time (say, the 1650s onwards) the comparison becomes rather irrelevant since the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate had put an end to large-scale organised warfare in Japan. (That being said, the sword also became more important in Japan since it was a handy tool for putting down major urban riots and organised crime in the civilianised climate of the era.)
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Henrik J. Fridh




Location: Gothenburg, Sweden.
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PostPosted: Sun 01 Jul, 2012 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First of all I'd like to thank all of you for your replies to this thread Happy And thank you for the welcome.

I think you all bring up many good points. It's true that in Japan the samurai was for many centuries mainly mounted archers, and lower-grade troops in the gempei war and probably all the way up to the Onin War the Naginata was preferred over the spear and sword. I've read theories on why the spear became the weapon of choice for the samurai in the sengoku period, one of which says that due to the increasing presence of ashigaru archers in the beginning of the period made it dangerous to be a mounted archer on the field, so the samurai instead opted to use spears on horseback to chase down ill-disciplined ashigaru archers. But then the pike becomes the dominating weapon on the battlefield and yet the samurai retain the spear as their main weapon of choice? Why? I'm not sure, might have to do with that they mostly fought other mounted/dismounted samurai or acted as officers amongst ashigaru pikemen.

In Europe it seems that swords with needle tips and very narrow blades were developed (sabres, rapiers) to combat armour in close combat, whilst in Japan they had a huge amount of variations in spears instead of developing a new kind of sword.

At the same time, the ones of you whom have pointed to the fact that the pistol became a very important weapon for mounted troops in the 16th century are correct of course, that is a fact that I had somewhat overlooked or misunderstood. Reiters, Pistoliers and Cuirassiers all made good use of the pistol, and maybe that is what actually replaced the lance moreso than the sword in Europe. As far as I know, the pistol never became widely used in Japan due to the peace after the Tokugawa Shogunate had been established and after the Osaka Campaigns and the Shimabara rebellion and thus perhaps allowed the spear to keep its importance during the sengoku period. As a result of the peace, the spear largely lost it's importance to the samurai and the sword instead became the preferred weapon as well of course as the symbol of the samurai-class itself.

Also, another question, how common was use of the "normal" spear amongst knights/men-at-arms in the 15 and 16th century? As far as I know, it was almost completly dropped in favour of the pollaxe and halberd by this time.
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rapiers and sabers are not anti-armor weapons. While sabers can be used against an armored opponent I'm sure, rapiers are civilian weapons.
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2012 12:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Rapiers and sabers are not anti-armor weapons. While sabers can be used against an armored opponent I'm sure, rapiers are civilian weapons.

not to derail but id imagine a rapiers needle point seems better suited to taking out a man in Armour than a slashing sabre due to being able to get into he gaps of the plate more easily.

bu ive gnrally heard that line of reasoning falls short because unlike esocs and hrusing arming swords, a rapier poin isn designed o mechanically withstand such applications, being, as was mentioned, a civilian dueling weapon.


also do we have a definitively good reason why the japanese didnt adopt he wheel-lock with the same eagerness as they did with the matchlock?

i hear that it was that japan is poor in pyrites and such materials needed for wheellock and flintlocks
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Cole B





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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2012 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
Michael Curl wrote:
Rapiers and sabers are not anti-armor weapons. While sabers can be used against an armored opponent I'm sure, rapiers are civilian weapons.

not to derail but id imagine a rapiers needle point seems better suited to taking out a man in Armour than a slashing sabre due to being able to get into he gaps of the plate more easily.

bu ive gnrally heard that line of reasoning falls short because unlike esocs and hrusing arming swords, a rapier poin isn designed o mechanically withstand such applications, being, as was mentioned, a civilian dueling weapon.


also do we have a definitively good reason why the japanese didnt adopt he wheel-lock with the same eagerness as they did with the matchlock?

i hear that it was that japan is poor in pyrites and such materials needed for wheellock and flintlocks

The pinnacle of sword evolution against armor was the highly pointed longsword that could be halfsworded.

Rapiers were not used against armor.
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2012 5:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cole B wrote:
William P wrote:
Michael Curl wrote:
Rapiers and sabers are not anti-armor weapons. While sabers can be used against an armored opponent I'm sure, rapiers are civilian weapons.

not to derail but id imagine a rapiers needle point seems better suited to taking out a man in Armour than a slashing sabre due to being able to get into he gaps of the plate more easily.

bu ive gnrally heard that line of reasoning falls short because unlike esocs and hrusing arming swords, a rapier poin isn designed o mechanically withstand such applications, being, as was mentioned, a civilian dueling weapon.


also do we have a definitively good reason why the japanese didnt adopt he wheel-lock with the same eagerness as they did with the matchlock?

i hear that it was that japan is poor in pyrites and such materials needed for wheellock and flintlocks

The pinnacle of sword evolution against armor was the highly pointed longsword that could be halfsworded.

Rapiers were not used against armor.


i was more making he point that he rapier stood a MUCH better chance of defeating Armour than a saber.

although its a fair point to say is not ACTUALLY designed for taking on armour.

but lets not get into that

as for japanese spear use it is noted that the adoption of spear hedge like formations of semi professional asigaru came around about the similar time that muskets were introduced in the 1540's

bu they didnt experience the similar phenomenon of 'push of pike hat apparently characterized European battlefields, im no sure why this is however.
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Henrik J. Fridh




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2012 1:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh I'm sorry gentlemen! I didn't mean to write rapiers! I meant the Estoc of course! A few posts in and I'm already derailing my own threads Eek!

Next time I won't watch a movie and write a post at the same time.

EDIT: Also, disregard the sabre part too. A better question would perhaps be why the Samurai did not adopt maces or warhammers? I can not really find any evidence that suggests that clubs (such as the kanabo or tetsubo) or smaller warhammers or maces gained widespread use in the 16th century.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2012 2:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
also do we have a definitively good reason why the japanese didnt adopt he wheel-lock with the same eagerness as they did with the matchlock?

i hear that it was that japan is poor in pyrites and such materials needed for wheellock and flintlocks

Wheel-locks are incredibly complex to make compared to a matchlock and requires both highly skilled craftsmen as well as spring steel of the highest quality to work well. Even in Western Europe it was difficult to create mass production of wheel-locks outside the cities that specialised in making firearms.

For example Gustavus Adolphus was able to create im just a few years an arms industry in Sweden capabale of making 20.000 muskets each year. But at the same time the arms makers struggle to deliver even 100 wheel-lock pistols a year. It took over 30 years to create an arms industry capable of delivering a modest supply of wheellock pistols & carbines.

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2012 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henrik J. Fridh wrote:
A better question would perhaps be why the Samurai did not adopt maces or warhammers? I can not really find any evidence that suggests that clubs (such as the kanabo or tetsubo) or smaller warhammers or maces gained widespread use in the 16th century.


It looks like the proportion of weapons such as the tetsubo, warhammers (otsuchi), axes (ono) declines in the 16th century. (This might be a figment of artistic convention.) As the best armour improved, why would traditional anti-armour weapons decline?

The gun is a better anti-armour weapon than those. Also, much of the army was wearing armour much worse than the best armour.

For hand-to-hand work, the dagger works well against armour. As noted in the recent related thread, http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=26207 , grappling (in order to use the dagger) can be a bad idea on the battlefield. Ideally, you want you supporting spearmen to protect you while you grapple-stab your opponent.

If an enemy soldier has bullet-proof armour,
(a) shoot/spear his horse
(b) shoot him in the arms/legs (which will have lesser armour)
(c) swarm him with infantry and capture him - he's probably a high-ranking officer

You don't have to grapple one-on-one, when ten-on-one will work better!

"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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William P




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jul, 2012 12:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Quote:
also do we have a definitively good reason why the japanese didnt adopt he wheel-lock with the same eagerness as they did with the matchlock?

i hear that it was that japan is poor in pyrites and such materials needed for wheellock and flintlocks

Wheel-locks are incredibly complex to make compared to a matchlock and requires both highly skilled craftsmen as well as spring steel of the highest quality to work well. Even in Western Europe it was difficult to create mass production of wheel-locks outside the cities that specialised in making firearms.

For example Gustavus Adolphus was able to create im just a few years an arms industry in Sweden capabale of making 20.000 muskets each year. But at the same time the arms makers struggle to deliver even 100 wheel-lock pistols a year. It took over 30 years to create an arms industry capable of delivering a modest supply of wheellock pistols & carbines.


so essentially the Japanese didnt have the spool of skilled craftsmen needed o make wheel-locks?

i guess that makes sense since the wheel-lock wasn't invented there, but had to be spread through the country which would slow their adoption,

but even within japans gun making centres wheellocks are rare..

they just seemed to use a big variety of matchlocks.

including ones that shot a form of rocket called a bo-hiya
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henrik J. Fridh wrote:
I've read theories on why the spear became the weapon of choice for the samurai in the sengoku period, one of which says that due to the increasing presence of ashigaru archers in the beginning of the period made it dangerous to be a mounted archer on the field, so the samurai instead opted to use spears on horseback to chase down ill-disciplined ashigaru archers.


Sounds a little odd, since there had always been fairly large numbers of non-samurai archers since the 10th century at the very least (and probably the 8th). In fact, there are indications that sometimes the samurai's horses were specifically trained to rear up or jump and knock down the large pavises that protected these archers. There was even one early battle where the government side (which eventually won) suffered a temporary setback when a strong gust of wind brought their pavises down on top of them!


Quote:
Also, another question, how common was use of the "normal" spear amongst knights/men-at-arms in the 15 and 16th century? As far as I know, it was almost completly dropped in favour of the pollaxe and halberd by this time.


Well, the lance was often used (whether cut down or not) as a makeshift pike when the men-at-arms had to dismount. Sir Charles Oman even proposed the idea that the Swiss converted the majority of their forces from halberd to pike after their defeat against dismounted Italian men-at-arms who drove them back with lances at Arbedo (1422).
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