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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Aug, 2013 5:28 pm    Post subject: Were there Western techniques similar to Battojutsu?         Reply with quote

While reading Medieval Sword and Shield: The Comabt System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 by Stephen Hand and Paul Wagner, I was interested by the authors' comments on page 93 that in the underarm ward, the sword is held in about the same position that the sword would sit in the scabbard, "perhaps making it difficult for your opponent to even judge whether your weapon has been drawn or not." This is not stating that a cut from underarm was ever performed by drawing and cutting with the sword in a single motion, but it did make me wonder a couple of things. My knowledge of Japanese old-school martial arts (koryu) is very superficial, and even my understanding of Medieval and Renaissance martial arts isn't all I want it to be, but I am always interested in both the similarities and differences between Western European and Japanese martial arts during the same time periods. I understand that comparing two cultures which each had too many different martial arts schools to lump together is a bit clumsy, but what interests me is both the ceremony and practice of drawing the sword.

From what I understand, it was the development of the mainly infantry-focused katana from the cavalry-focused tachi and the differences in how they were worn that made possible the development of Iajutsu or Battojutsu (These words are used interchangeably so often that I am ignorant of the nuances these terms signify). What most Western laypersons like me know about this art is that it includes cuts that draw the sword from the scabbard and cut one's attacker simultaneously. The curve and relatively shorter length of the Katana's blade, the way it sits in the scabbard, and the way the katana was worn as opposed to the tachi facilitated a style that incorporated drawing the sword and potentially using the scabbard as a weapon, but I wonder if these features are really necessary to use a sword and scabbard like this. Could it be done almost as well with a straight sword, whether double or single edged, either in a Japanese or European context?

Questions:

1) Is drawing and cutting in a single motion with a Western double-edged straight sword practical or even useful in any kind of combat?
2) Do any western sources from 1300-1700 talk about how the sword should be worn or carried, when and how to draw (and sheath) your sword, whether single-handed sword, longsword, or rapier?
3) Do any western sources mention drawing and striking in a single blow, or is there no such thing outside of Japan in a very specific time period and context?
3) For any Japanophiles, what is Battojutsu really for and in what context was it developed?
4) Are there technical reasons why drawing and cutting with the katana in a certain situation would be advantageous, or why doing the same thing with a European single-handed sword or longsword in the same situation would be impractical?

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Aug, 2013 8:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Were there Western techniques similar to Battojutsu?         Reply with quote

Michael Parker wrote:
... Medieval Sword and Shield: The Comabt System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 by Stephen Hand and Paul Wagner...

I'd strongly advise that you try to get a copy of SPADA II as it has some corrections and further observations you may be interested in.
Also, I guess the position is very natural given the nature of drawing from a scabbard on the left side, so it'd make sense that it's cross cultural. Being able to draw and defend or attack in "one" movement is quite important (i.e. Silver's True Gardant or Fiore).

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Aug, 2013 12:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This thread is relevant to your question...

To sum up, there are 2 techniques for using the sword in the scabbard (but detached from the belt) in Fiore dei Liberi, and one in Vadi. In all cases this is against a dagger-wielding opponent. This is close in spirit to iaijutsu, but technically a bit different since the sword and scabbard are assumed to be detached from the belt already. There is another plate in Talhoffer with someone appearing to perform the technique you're thinking of, that is cutting up from the scabbard, but the text is not very explicit.

In later texts, drawing the sword is described in Sainct Didier, Lovino, Capoferro and Thibault at least. The rapier position of prima is also described as the first one taken after drawing the sword in rapier texts. With the exception of Thibault, all of these are quite consistent and draw to prima or something close, putting the point in front of the opponent in order to prevent him from closing in, then eventually transitioning to another guard. There are variations and debates about which foot should be in front and how to deal with an opponent trying to prevent you from drawing. Thibault's draw is specific because he grasps his sword in a peculiar grip. I find his draw looks close to some Japanese techniques in that respect, but the length of blade modifies the motion of course. All of these are consistent in that the point of the draw is to be able to use the sword, with no expectation to wound the opponent in the process. At best the motion of the sword is expected to keep the opponent at a distance.

This is all relatively little compared to Japanese iaijutsu. It is closer to what happens in kenjutsu, where you just draw the sword at a distance in order to fight. I think it makes practical sense; the situations where a quick draw combined with a defence is called for are better handled with a dagger which is a lot easier to draw from any complicated position. The Japanese sword arts have built this unique emphasis on the draw, possibly also precisely because it is difficult to do well and makes for some good training and mental conditioning.

Regards,

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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Mick Jarvis




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Aug, 2013 12:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Iajutsu or Iaido are more focused on the drawing of the sword, following with some cuts and then returning the sword to its scabbard (saya), this is practiced in the from of Kata and is don't by yourself focusing on breathing and that your draw and returns are flawless and your cuts are true and in line.


Batto is more focused on the combat side and doesn't really deal with the drawing of the sword to much. it is usually done with at least 2 people and you do drills with cuts, blocking and movements in the flow drill to learn how to use the sword in a more combat focused way.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Aug, 2013 6:33 am    Post subject: Re: Were there Western techniques similar to Battojutsu?         Reply with quote

Michael Parker wrote:
3) For any Japanophiles, what is Battojutsu really for and in what context was it developed?


I'm not an expert, but as far as I see iai/batto techniques only really flourished in the Tokugawa era, when the principal use of the sword lay in civilian duels and brawls where a quick draw against an unarmoured opponent could really make a difference. There are some iai/batto techniques attributed to earlier era (as early as the Muromachi/14th century, I believe) but, even if this attribution is true, they only formed a very small part of a much larger martial art system where the vast majority of sword techniques assume that the sword has already been drawn (just like in Europe). I also don't think iai techniques for drawing and cutting in the same movement would have been all that useful on the battlefield against opponents who were likely to have had armour in the area targeted by that first cut (nukitsuke?); all that could be gained from it in a military context would be how to draw the sword quickly and cleanly with as little risk as possible of snagging it in the scabbard.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Aug, 2013 9:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Were there Western techniques similar to Battojutsu?         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Michael Parker wrote:
3) For any Japanophiles, what is Battojutsu really for and in what context was it developed?


I'm not an expert, but as far as I see iai/batto techniques only really flourished in the Tokugawa era, when the principal use of the sword lay in civilian duels and brawls where a quick draw against an unarmoured opponent could really make a difference.


Such as surprise attacks against the opponent before they can draw their own weapon, or defending against surprise attacks.

Techniques for doing things from quick draws must differ, depending on how swords are worn. Tucked in a waist sash is different from hung from a belt (and the different types of hanging from belts and baldrics must make a difference). The length and weight of the weapons makes a difference. Is it possible to quick-draw into a cut with a rapier with a 42" blade?

But there is at least one parallel: the first parry in modern fencing (prime) is basically a parry straight from the draw.

"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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Olov Tidemalm





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PostPosted: Sun 11 Aug, 2013 1:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I may have misunderstood the questions here, but isn't there is a passage in MS Thott.290.2 that illustrates this technique?

Pages 161-162
http://www.kb.dk/da/nb/materialer/haandskrift...2_290.html
or
79r-v
http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Talhoffer_Fechtbuch_(MS_Thott.290.2)
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Aug, 2013 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Thank you, Vincent and Olov! I am very satisfied with the responses I've been getting so far.
"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2013 10:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To add to what Vincent said, above.

Viggiani (c.1555, pub 1570) tells us that his first guard - underarm, is the same as the sword in the scabbard and even illustrates it sheathed. In the Ms edition, he has an additional plate showing the sword sheathed being drawn against an incoming thrust.

Interestingly he also tells us that the riverso is "the same as the motion of drawing the sword".

Monte (c.1490, pub 1590) has two techniques for fighting from the draw and tells us that any technique that is made from the left side can also be made "from the leather".

Talhoffer shows the same step offline and cut from the low left done with the sword out in his 1466 Ms as a draw from the Scabbard in his 1459 codex.

Falkner (1480s) shows a similar play from the scabbard.

Godinho (1590s) was a Portuguese who has a chapter called "Against Treason" - meaning basically assassinations and dirty tricks. (Ironically, half of the chapter is how to do them.) He has a few plays from the scabbard.

The Glassgow Fechtbuch (1508) has one messer technique done from the draw, interesting as being one of the few 'heaven to earth" draws, as opposed to a rising draw.

There is another German source that says if you are carrying the sword, cut at him when he charges, so that the scabbard is flung at him, then charge in under the distraction!

There are several sources for the following draw - Fiore is one, a German Ms c.1494, I think the rapier text by Heredia. Sword is carried in the scabbard in hand, as they attack - you parry from below (various parries for different texts), and step back with the right foot, drawing the sword from the scabbard and thrust to the body. This is also copiously illustrated in various texts, as is an overhand draw with the sword, in which the blade is parrying before the point has cleared the scabbard. (Scene in several 13th c French sources, at least one copy of Bellifortis and the Italian Meliadus Ms.)

I have cataloged about 20 in technical sources, plus the fair bit of advice on how to draw in Thibault, Lovino and Saint Didier, that Vincent mentioned. Speaking of non-technical sources it is interesting to note that in the Song of Roland, Oliver prevents Roland from drawing his sword from his scabbard by more than a finger (after being baited by Ganelon) because it constitutes assault, and Giovanni da Legnano tells us that a finger to two of steel is assault, more is attempted murder. Make of that what you will.

There is more, and I would argue that Viggiani's advice gives us some idea here that any play from the low left can/should be trained from the scabbard as well. But much as iai really became popular in the Tokugawa era, and prior to that every school had just a few batto techniques to deploy the weapon, the same was true in Europe.

I hope this helps.

Greg Mele
Chicago Swordplay Guild
www.chicagoswordplayguild.com

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Randall Pleasant




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2013 3:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Were there Western techniques similar to Battojutsu?         Reply with quote

Michael Parker wrote:
While reading Medieval Sword and Shield: The Comabt System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 by Stephen Hand and Paul Wagner, I was interested by the authors' comments on page 93 that in the underarm ward, the sword is held in about the same position that the sword would sit in the scabbard, "perhaps making it difficult for your opponent to even judge whether your weapon has been drawn or not."

Michael

The Under Arm guard is held just as it is shown in I.33 and as the name implies - directly under the left arm. When in the Under Arm guard the sword should never be lowered to the left hip. The only guard in I.33 even close to the left side is the Priest Special Longpoint (which Hand and Wagner also got wrong). The primary cut from the Under Arm guard is a left Zornhau. When you make a left Zorn from Under Arm your hand if well protected by the buckler because the hand is outside of the buckler. Also note that the primary play with the Under Arm is call "FALLING under the sword and shield". The primary cut from the Left Side is an Unterhau. When you make an Unterhau from the left side you hand is unprotected because your hand is on the inside of your buckler. The misinterpretation of the Under Arm guard as a Left Side guard is the reason there are so many interpretations of the "Falling Under the Sword and Buckler" play that actually starts with a rising cut rather than a falling cut, and since they don't include the falling action they can't include a real "under the sword and shield" action....go figure!

Ran Pleasant
ARMA
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