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  • Samurai Era Training

    Let me start this thread by saying sorry. I think it's the only fitting section for this kind of thread but if it's not Moderator is welcome to move it at anytime

    So I've read quite some few historical books/articles about training samurais were doing.(talking about sword fighting here atm) Since they were using bokuto I wonder how the hell they survived their practices e_e And what's the real damage done by bokuto to a human body? Could bokuto crush forearm, skull? Wrist, collarbone, ears, eyes etc. are quite easy to damage(break, gauge) but what about organs inside the body?

  • #2
    The vast majority of koryu schools train kata with bokken. Bokken are very dangerous, and can easily kill someone. That was the reason that the Itto ryu developed shinai and bogu, to do the type of training they desired without killing off their students. It was due to the large number of injuries and deaths incurred during the Edo period when students of different schools wished to challenge each other with bokken that led to the advent of kendo matches with shinai and bogu.

    Most schools get around the hazard of training with bokken by choreographing the movements of the two people involved in the kata. The movements begin at slow speed, and gradually get faster as the skill level of the practitioner improves.

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    • #3
      The first one who comes in our mind if we are talking about duels with bokkens is Miyamoto Musashi.
      But even in Bujinkan there is a story about one of the Kukishinden ryu soke who hold a demonstration in front of one daimjo. His opponent made him so angry, that he made a perfect kesa giri with a bokken, oppened the opponent's body from the shoulder till the stomach. You also have to note, that the old bokken shape was closer to the katana form as we use it today. Today safety goes first that means that the edge side of the common bokken is round shaped. In the old days, it looked more like a blunt katana so it had an edge form as well. But it's not hard to imagine how easily you can crush bones and skulls with a bokken.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by pgsmith View Post
        The vast majority of koryu schools train kata with bokken. Bokken are very dangerous, and can easily kill someone. That was the reason that the Itto ryu developed shinai and bogu, to do the type of training they desired without killing off their students. It was due to the large number of injuries and deaths incurred during the Edo period when students of different schools wished to challenge each other with bokken that led to the advent of kendo matches with shinai and bogu.

        Most schools get around the hazard of training with bokken by choreographing the movements of the two people involved in the kata. The movements begin at slow speed, and gradually get faster as the skill level of the practitioner improves.
        Thanks for the answer pgsmith -san. I knew this though. I was more interested in damage done by those practice matches. We all understand that it's dangerous but could one strike with bokuto actually kill the person?

        P.S. Thank god for them developing Bogu and Shinai otherwise we wouldn't have beautiful kendo we have today.

        bloo
        The first one who comes in our mind if we are talking about duels with bokkens is Miyamoto Musashi.
        But even in Bujinkan there is a story about one of the Kukishinden ryu soke who hold a demonstration in front of one daimjo. His opponent made him so angry, that he made a perfect kesa giri with a bokken, oppened the opponent's body from the shoulder till the stomach. You also have to note, that the old bokken shape was closer to the katana form as we use it today. Today safety goes first that means that the edge side of the common bokken is round shaped. In the old days, it looked more like a blunt katana so it had an edge form as well. But it's not hard to imagine how easily you can crush bones and skulls with a bokken.
        This is amazing and terrifying at the same time. Somehow though I doubt you could do "that" damage even if boken had closer shape to katana than those we have today. It's still a wood.
        And if I'm correct Musashi was beating people to pulp with his bokken not actually one striking them down like you'd do with a sword. I'd even draw some parallels to a baseball bat. Lol. Can debate a lot on this but guy was apparently amazing o_O
        Last edited by Edgar; 27th March 2013, 06:18 PM.

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        • #5
          Musashi's most famous duel was against Sasaki Kojirō. He killed him with a bokken (if it was carved out of the our is still in the "legend" part of the story), but he killed him with a fatal blow to the skull.
          You can say it is only "wood", but well... once I read that a man pushed his walking stick through the attacker's rib basket in the stress situation.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bloo View Post
            Musashi's most famous duel was against Sasaki Kojirō. He killed him with a bokken (if it was carved out of the our is still in the "legend" part of the story), but he killed him with a fatal blow to the skull.
            You can say it is only "wood", but well... once I read that a man pushed his walking stick through the attacker's rib basket in the stress situation.
            I guess "size" does matter after all. And that man is crazy scary.
            Still beats me how they were practicing with bokkuto during that period. No wonder they developed bogu/shinai and kata.

            P.S. shame on me about forgetting Musashi vs Kojiro

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            • #7
              Killing with sticks is not confined to the samurai. Here in the UK Hawthorn sticks were highly sought after for their effectiveness as a weapon. If the hawthorn has grown in the right situation, the resulting stick has a sort of an edge which, when wielded correctly can rupture things internally, and there are stories of the carotid artery being ruptured, which tends to be fatal.

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              • #8
                Oh bloody hell. Quite terrifying but quite interesting at the same time. I'd like to see that stick o_O

                I wonder if modern days bokken is only for swinging. Hmm

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by bloo View Post
                  The first one who comes in our mind if we are talking about duels with bokkens is Miyamoto Musashi.
                  But even in Bujinkan there is a story about one of the Kukishinden ryu soke who hold a demonstration in front of one daimjo. His opponent made him so angry, that he made a perfect kesa giri with a bokken, oppened the opponent's body from the shoulder till the stomach. You also have to note, that the old bokken shape was closer to the katana form as we use it today. Today safety goes first that means that the edge side of the common bokken is round shaped. In the old days, it looked more like a blunt katana so it had an edge form as well. But it's not hard to imagine how easily you can crush bones and skulls with a bokken.
                  That is a fantasy story. Many of the koryu have definite guidelines written long ago regarding just what their bokken look like. None of them looked like a blunt katana with an edge form. The only wooden sword-like implement that looks like that is a tsunagi, which is a wooden blade made to store the sword koshirae, not for any sort of useage. Bokken are rounded in shape so contact does not shatter them, not for safety.

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                  • #10
                    How did the samurai practice with bokuto.

                    The operative word is practice, so the answer would be "with care". Both partners would agree on what they would do and follow that script (do a kata). If there was any sort of freestyle practice the blows would have been pulled so that contact was not made. If it were a sporting contest with bokuto the same would have applied since yes, bokuto can injure and kill, as can any other sort of implement that looks like a bokuto. I suspect this is not news to anyone who reads this.

                    If bokuto were used in duels of any sort I suspect the damage would be proportional to the rules agreed beforehand (to first contact, to "pinks" (blood), to submission...) I doubt you'd have anyone agreeing to a match "to the death" with bokuto because beating someone to death with a stick might be pretty tiring, be more efficient to use swords.

                    Kim.

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                    • #11
                      I agree that most injuries with bokken were accidents. But I think you are talking about the romantic edo period...
                      From the chaotic sengoku period I even heard stories that some of the poor ashigarus went to battles with wooden swords (in that time the main weapon was the bow, so...).

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                      • #12
                        Why would you send someone into battle with a wooden sword when you could give them a wooden spear instead? Especially troops that are likely to be low on training or those which are going to be fighting in tight rank and file, both of which apply to ashigaru.

                        You'd have to be in a pretty sorry state of affairs to be arming your ashigaru with wooden weapons in the sengoku period anyway. In the Sengoku period many provinces were arming their ashigaru with mass produced armor (usually plate and chain) and matchlocks (tanegashima) or yari. I wouldn't say that the bow was the main weapon of the Sengoku period at all, rather, the Sengoku period saw the rise of the prominence of ashigaru and firearms on the battlefield. The bow was the primary weapon in earlier periods, like the Heian period.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Winterflea View Post
                          Why would you send someone into battle with a wooden sword when you could give them a wooden spear instead? Especially troops that are likely to be low on training or those which are going to be fighting in tight rank and file, both of which apply to ashigaru.

                          You'd have to be in a pretty sorry state of affairs to be arming your ashigaru with wooden weapons in the sengoku period anyway. In the Sengoku period many provinces were arming their ashigaru with mass produced armor (usually plate and chain) and matchlocks (tanegashima) or yari. I wouldn't say that the bow was the main weapon of the Sengoku period at all, rather, the Sengoku period saw the rise of the prominence of ashigaru and firearms on the battlefield. The bow was the primary weapon in earlier periods, like the Heian period.
                          And If I'm not mistaken Samurai's weapon of choice was spear/bow on while riding a horse and only then a sword (if he had lost his main weapon). Basically mounted spearman during 15th century and Ashigaru with long su yari were the real scary force. Spartans, anyone?

                          And I think bamboo spear is even more efficient than bokken for some untrained person who has to fight.

                          Too bad we don't really have popular spear schools around the world, I'd be really interested in that.

                          Anyway, thanks everyone for educational information on bokken.

                          Now that we touched historical theme even more (spears, ashigaru etc.) I realized that most of people who went to war, samurai or not, they weren't well trained or experienced in fighting. At least waste majority of soldiers. Of course mounted archers/spearman had some knowledge, skill and experience but God, what a waste of people.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kim Taylor View Post
                            If bokuto were used in duels of any sort I suspect the damage would be proportional to the rules agreed beforehand (to first contact, to "pinks" (blood), to submission...) I doubt you'd have anyone agreeing to a match "to the death" with bokuto because beating someone to death with a stick might be pretty tiring, be more efficient to use swords.

                            Kim.
                            There are many records in edo period works about bokken killing / maiming in duels - both officially sanctioned and not....

                            "Of course, Bokuden had sent his messengers only as a ruse, and he easily won crushing his opponent's forehead, nose, and lips" from a non-official duel.

                            Wooden swords for duelling were not always just bokken as we know them, this is a description from a 1593 duel where the protagonists were limited to wooden weapons (it was an officially moderated duel) but were both intent on killing the other.

                            "He (Negishi Tokaku) had made especially for this day a long wooden sword that was thick with hard edges, reinforced with iron bands and studded here and there with metal tacks."

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                            • #15
                              Reading this, I thought of the many books I've read and what my Master says, "Wooden sword, metal sword, doesn't matter." In the hands of a skilled swordsman, anything can be a weapon.

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