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Did Kenjutsu ever have techniques for dealing with armored opponents?

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  • Did Kenjutsu ever have techniques for dealing with armored opponents?

    Hello,


    Curious if Kenjutsu was ever intended to be used on armored opponents like European fencing was way back when. I've heard the katana was intended to just cut human flesh and bone whereas the rapier, long sword and the zweihander were all made with both armored and especially in the case of the zweihander pike and armored Calvary.

    Also, how would this apply to modern kendo? While Olympic fencing has changed from what it was, a lot has been retained like the amount of pressure needed to depress the metal tip in an epee is just enough to pierce human flesh and clothes so it wouldn't take much more to go right through mail, so I wonder if any (assuming Kenjutsu had any to begin with) techniques of dealing with armor transferred over. Know Japan never had plate armor, but what they did have would have been a pain to deal with.
    Thanks!

  • #2
    Yes, I can't point to any specific schools, but I do know that some have kata and techniques for armored fencing. Search around enough on Youtube and you should be able to find them. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the reason it is so rare is because the sword was not a primary battlefield weapon, and they were used mostly for unarmored duels. It makes sense too, because why would you use a close range cutting weapon against an opponent in armor who can't be cut? It's the same in Europe, there are treatises that depict armored sword fencing, but many of the techniques involve half swording and wrestling because cutting is impossible.

    It does not apply to kendo at all. All of the targets that we attack would be covered by armor, so any attack you would do in kendo would be useless against an armored opponent.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Missingno. View Post
      Yes, I can't point to any specific schools, but I do know that some have kata and techniques for armored fencing. Search around enough on Youtube and you should be able to find them. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the reason it is so rare is because the sword was not a primary battlefield weapon, and they were used mostly for unarmored duels. It makes sense too, because why would you use a close range cutting weapon against an opponent in armor who can't be cut? It's the same in Europe, there are treatises that depict armored sword fencing, but many of the techniques involve half swording and wrestling because cutting is impossible.

      It does not apply to kendo at all. All of the targets that we attack would be covered by armor, so any attack you would do in kendo would be useless against an armored opponent.
      Yeah that was my understanding, the samurai were mostly archers. Even the armor they wore looks like something thats more inclined to archery, not so much heavy infantry but what do I know. Saw something from Katori Shinto Ryu, that looked neat.

      Oh man some of those treatises the Germans made were awesome. Gothic plate and later on maxmillian plate were sights to behold, hence the invention of the long sword, and even then a lot of the techniques involved grappling/wrestling as you said. Think that more often than not people just used maces and warhammers against opponents in plate as it was just easier.

      That makes sense. The bogu kendo players wear looks pretty though, but man I remember going to college with a few kids who thanks to anime and the semester of kendo they took thought the katana could slice through a tank.

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      • #4
        In some online videos you can hear Otake-sensei's explanation of how kenjutsu of Tenshinshoden Katori Shinto-ryu targets points that armor does not cover or covers poorly, e.g. neck, armpits, inside of thighs. I've read somewhere that (various flavors) of Itto-ryu, from which kendo derives a great deal of influence, could be adapted to armored combat.

        The primary weapon of the samurai varied throughout history. Traditional archery whether mounted (kyubajutsu/yabusame) or unmounted (kyujutsu) required a high degree of skill so was the reserve of the elite bushi class until it was adapted to modern budo. However, it ceased to have a central role in warfare from the Nanboku Period when firearms were introduced by the Portuguese. The armor changed accordingly from the archery influenced O-Yoroi to Sengoku style armor that did sometimes incorporate plate armor in some places (in fact some examples clearly copied European breastplates). But even when archery was central, samurai would have had to learn to use spear, naginata, nagamaki and of course the sword. Until the late Sengoku Period, formalized kenjutsu that we see in ryuha today were not institutionalized. I've read a very good argument on the forum some time back that as ryuha arose during the peaceful Edo Period that its purpose was most likely as much cultivation as it was to teach practical combat. It was also from the Edo Period that the sword took on its full central place in the mythology of the samurai (if I remember my reading material correctly).

        In my opinion it is not useful to discuss the practicality of kendo strikes in the context of using a real sword whether against armored or unarmored opponents. Kendo techniques are an abstraction of only the most basic sword techniques. Kendo is more about applying combat strategy, psychology and instinct in a stressful situation against an unpredictable opponent, something that kata based koryu kenjutsu and iaido/iaijutsu are not able to impart as efficiently.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Missingno. View Post
          It does not apply to kendo at all. All of the targets that we attack would be covered by armor, so any attack you would do in kendo would be useless against an armored opponent.
          I see what you mean though the wrist joint is quite close to the forearm area that is attacked. As I understand it sections that require more flexibility/articulation were vulnerable to certain strikes. I was told by my Koryu sensei that a slash to the wrist or finger joints would cause damage. As for the rest of the armor he said you would use thrusts to get into the articulations/openings. Also, the throat... I believe if the person rears his head back it causes the neck plating to lift and for the neck to become vulnerable.

          This comes from another thread: http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/for...hinkendo/page5

          Armored Japanese swordsmanship doesn't concern itself with breaking armor. It targets the weakpoints of Japanese armor -- joints and unprotected areas.
          Are the name of such techniques "Kaisha Kenpo"? I was told that most utilized the Katana as a thrusting weapon into crevices in the armor. Does anyone know of any schools that teach techniques for use against opponents in armor? Is 'Kaisha Kenpo' the right term for these?

          Originally posted by greywolf View Post
          Oh man some of those treatises the Germans made were awesome. Gothic plate and later on maxmillian plate were sights to behold, hence the invention of the long sword, and even then a lot of the techniques involved grappling/wrestling as you said. Think that more often than not people just used maces and warhammers against opponents in plate as it was just easier.
          They also use 'half sword' techniques! Also, the use to the dagger in close quarters or after a hip throw. Preferably by taking your opponent's dagger instead of your own.
          Last edited by Sakabato; 10th November 2014, 02:48 PM.

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          • #6
            The 20th soke of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, Yagyu Toshinaga, wrote the following in one of his lectures.
            In armored swordplay, the fierce method of the elite warriors of all ryuha was not to make a forced cut over armor, nor to simply rely on one's own armor for protection. As the enemy cut, the swordsman would in the same rhythm strike at the space inside the enemy's arms, and immediately in one movement, without letting up, strike at the face, the throat, or other openings in the opponent's armor. At times they would step on the foot the enemy cut with, and as they thrust into the enemy they would knock him down with a powerful body check. So the essential method of winning in armored combat was to cut down the arms, stab the eyes, or grab the kusazuri and stab the thigh. Other openings, such as the throat, the underarm, the knee were the objectives, and the swordsman took care to protect his own hands, feet, eyes, and groin.
            Here are some other posts I've made on the subject.

            Here is a clip of a Shinkage-ryu kata done in the style of armored swordsmanship.


            Some commentary -
            The participants utilize deep stances, because armor would be heavy, and a lower center of gravity is needed. They do not raise the sword overhead, since the kabuto (helmet) would get in the way.

            In the first part, shidachi adopts the sha kamae, since it is most defensively strong position. Only a slight point of articulation at his shoulder would be a target. Uchidachi, from hasso, attacks this point. Shidachi strikes at uchidachi's hands, cutting at where the seams would be on the inside of the wrists and forearm. There is also an artery there. Uchidachi retreats and raises his sword in a high hasso; shidachi follows up with a tsuki to the face.

            In the second part, shidachi takes a deep chudan kamae. Uchidachi, from hasso, attempts to strike at his hands. He avoids the cut and strikes uchidachi at the hands. Such a blow would not, and is not meant to, sever the hands. But it would, at the least, disrupt uchidachi's balance, allowing for follow-ups. As uchidachi retreats, shidachi follows up with a tsuki to the face.

            In the third part, shidachi takes a deep seigan kamae. Uchidachi, form hasso, again attempts an attack at the weakpoints in the armor at the hands. Shidachi avoids the blow and strikes inside uchidachi's forearms again. The follow-up is repeated as above.

            In the fourth part, both shidachi and uchidachi adopt deep seigan kamae. They do small "weaving" cuts, at which point uchidachi attempts to invade maai. Shidachi slips his sword behind uchidachi's, and cuts at the arm. Uchidachi retreats to avoid this blow, and then counters with a strike at shidachi's arm. Shidachi blocks the strike with his sword, letting the moment swing it around as he attacks the opposite side.

            In the fourth part, they do the weaving cuts again, at which point shidachi drops his defense, inviting uchidachi to strike at his shoulder. When uchidachi does, he responds in similar fashion as in the first part.

            In this clip here, Mr. Risuke Otake explains targeting the weakpoints of armor in this breakdown of one of their kata.


            As far as extant ryuha, off the top of my head, Katori Shinto-ryu kenjutsu, Kashima Shinto-ryu kenjutsu, Yagyu Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu, Yagyu Shingan-ryu jujutsu, Takenouchi-ryu jujutsu, Hozoin-ryu sojutsu, and Owari Kan-ryu sojutsu are all ryuha that focus, in whole or in part, on armored combat. Often, the difference between an armored kenjutsu ryuha and an armored jujutsu ryuha is where they put the focus. Kenjutsu ryuha generally "yada, yada, yada" the part where you grapple with the guy and cut his neck or groin with your tachi or kodachi. For jujutsu ryuha, that's the meat and potatoes. But you'll see a few grappling techniques in kenjutsu ryuha, and some sword techniques in the jujutsu ryuha.

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            • #7
              Great stuff as always Josh!

              (Ohisashiburidesu)
              Last edited by dillon; 10th November 2014, 09:55 PM.

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              • #8
                You haven't watch this yet.. NHK Real Samurai 2014,,, http://youtu.be/J0mo4CR7qJk

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                • #9
                  Let's see. To answer this question I guess I'd ask. Did Japanese wear armor. If kenjutsu is intended to train one in combat swordsmaship, then if Japanese wore armor the answer would be most likely yes, there were techniques for fighting in and against armor.

                  http://tokyo-samurai-armor.com/samur...i_red_140.html

                  Yeah.. they wore armor.

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