Here's my thinking on this: How tall was a Japanese guy in from 1470-1550 when katanas were in use? Maybe 4'5" to 5' ? If so, then a 36" katana would come up to... his solar plexus...? For a sword to come up to my solar plexus it would need to be about 50".
The point is that when I fight with a katana I feel like I'm holding a toothpick, and I might as well just use it one handed. I think the Japanese tendency to "keep tradition alive" in this case has served us poorly, and has kept the katana to the same length as it was in 1500. It seem like to have the same proportions, and therefore the same distance/technique, the length should be updated for modern sized people.
A standard bokken is 40" long from the end of the tsuka to the tip of the kissaki. My bokken is 35" long from the end of the tsuka to the tip of the kissaki, because I'm 5'2".
It sounds to me like you're using a katana that is too short. According to my iaido instructor, when you hold the katana in your right hand, pointed down at the floor, the tip of the kissaki should touch the floor at the distance of your toes.
Post by roninpenguin on Feb 21, 2013 21:28:17 GMT -5
The way I was taught, the best sword was in proportion to your body. Handle (Tsuka) should be just above the elbow when held in the right hand and placed along the fore arm and the blade should be an inch or so off of the ground when you hold your arm down in a relaxed position.
That is how I make my Hard Suit swords (plus a little for gauntlets on the Tsuka) and when I bought my Katana I went looking for those proportions and it is extremely comfortable to use. Of course I'm only 5'6" so it was a little easier to find a sword to my proportion.
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Even with the right proportions, the blade seems too small. When standing, with my arm at my side, the blade extends from my hand and touches the ground. Perhaps I've fought with an SCA broadsword for too long, but it just feels like there is no point using it with two hands. It feels easier to use in one hand. Also, when I'm sparring with armor using katana vs katana, the distance seems incredibly close. Everything feels jammed and too close. I can easily reach out and grab my opponents arm, or armor, and block up all his attacking lanes. This is much more difficult to do when using a nodachi or yari. When armored I feel the distance is much more comfortable with a nodachi. Incidentally I don't feel this way when I'm sparring without armor on. It feels much too dangerous to grapple like that without armor on, like I might get badly cut. What does everyone else feel like?
Post by Ii Katsumori on Mar 3, 2013 9:13:34 GMT -5
First off, Japanese swords are measured from the notch of the habaki (the collar above the guard, or tsuba), so when talking lengths, that is the general length that is typically discussed. The tsuka should be as long as needed for your hands, in my opinion. For some schools, this is enough to have both hands on the tsuka, very close together. Others want at least two fingers between them. When you wear gauntlets, you need more.
Second, the Japanese sword lengths that we use today in traditional ryuha were set in the Edo period by the shogunate. There are a few ryuha out there that that use longer swords, e.g. Kage-Ryu (www.hyoho.com/Nkage1.html).
Third, tachi for the battlefield were typically longer, and even then they weren't used as your primary weapon. Remember, the classical progression was along the lines of: bow and arrow, pole weapon (spear or naginata), staff (i.e. broken pole weapon), long sword, short sword/dagger, wrestling.
Fourth, cutting with one hand, even against just a target of tatami omote, isn't so easy, let alone getting enough force to actually do anything to an armored opponent. Though we can club people in the SCA, cutting requires more than just delivery of force. You can get the requisite force for SCAdians to take it, but if the katana is too short, I would just rather suggest using another weapon, personally.
Finally, rattan weights are much different than steel. During the Nambokucho period, many of the swords were thicker, with a wider blade and more body (niku). When I've felt those blades today, there is no way I would want to use it one handed for very long. A lot of the later blades, though, are much thinner, and there are plenty of techniques for using both a katana and wakizashi, though I've only seen them for unarmoured combat.
As to the comment on length and grappling: I concur that grappling seems a logical course of action when protected by hardsuit, and many of the techniques I've seen that are described as being specifically for armored combat appear to be bent as much on manipulation of the opponent as attempts to cut or find openings and weaknesses. Even unarmored, there are a lot of techniques that are specifically designed to safely get into grappling range.
PS: Personally, I tend to prefer a blade of about 30" outside of heavy; for heavy I will probably go at least 6" longer and a longer tsuka--or just opt for polearm.
Thats very good information Katsumori-san. Yes, I absolutely prefer a pole weapon to a katana any day. I'm also very interested in playing around with some of the heavier Nambokucho blades. Got any idea of what the weights were?
About cutting someone in armor (using a sword)- I'm curious if historical Japanese combat would have used a "cutting" motion against armor. I think the armor would have deflected it quite well. It seems like just bashing it against the persons body would have done the trick. In either case, I want to do some destruction testing against iron armor with a historically accurate blade using both techniques to see what happens. This won't happen any time soon, but I'll be filming it when it does...
In combat in yoroi, you dont try to cut the armour. The idea is to manipulate the opponent to such a point where you cut the unarmoured areas as they become exposed. In armoured combat you use your opponents armour against him!
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Post by Ii Katsumori on Mar 6, 2013 8:07:11 GMT -5
Agreed. You want to manipulate the armor, or you cut into the openings or against cords.
As for weights: I honestly don't have a good place to look at weights; it is mostly just what I have felt, so it is hard to describe. If you want to take a look at Aoi Art you can look into the lengths, widths, sori, etc. of various blades; though one thing to remember is that a lot of older blades may have been cut down, so the length may have been greater than what was listed.
I'm working purely off of memory and I'm really more of an arts and sciences kind of guy. Another strike against me is I don't do Iaido or Kenjutsu, but used to do the non period one, kendo. That said, I seem to remember hearing or reading somewhere that in the old days, swinging a tachi was much like swinging a bat and relied and just hitting the opponent, unlike the later style of combat with the Katana which needed a bit more skill and showed more results. If true, there you go. Longer sword, worn edge down, just whack the person lol! I can't remember where that came from, could have been garbage, so take it with a grain of salt.
Post by Ii Katsumori on Apr 7, 2013 21:49:11 GMT -5
Well... for our purposes, tachi = katana. The only real difference is how it is mounted: tachi are mounted to hang from the "ashi" and thus are worn edge down, and the katana are meant to go in the obi and so are worn edge up (though there are some paintings in the transitional period with people wearing a sword in the obi edge up like a tachi--it is really strange, though). A blade is usually determined to be "tachi" or "katana" based on the "mei" (inscription on the nakago--the part under the handle); if you imagine that the mei should face out when worn then that determines what the blade is supposed to be. Mumei (no mei) are more troublesome--I believe it is based primarily on the shape and age of the blade. Regardless, many tachi were converted into katana by switching out the koshirae (the sword fittings). In the Edo period, many swords were cut down to meet bakufu regulations.
From what I've seen: Kamakura period blades and earlier seem to generally be long and slender--and that isn't just because of sharpening over time (though that can affect a blade's geometry). The Nambokucho period, on the other hand, is renowned for producing big, beefy blades. I've heard the theory that it has to do with the post-Mongol invasion changes to warfare, but I don't know if that is accurate or not, and it certainly isn't a universal thing--just a generalization. Still, a blade pre-1600 can be as long as it needs to be for you, from 30" on up. Since most of us don't have saya (scabbards) that will work with rattan, it doesn't matter much if it is a katana or tachi, imho.
In both cases I would argue it is *not* like swinging a baseball bat. How you use the sword has to do with your opponent (armored or unarmored) and you need to still make sure that your strikes are performed with good blade control and technique--it isn't about how *hard* you hit with the sword.
But this is SCA heavy combat. Long piece of rattan and hit them hard enough so that they will take the blow.
Thanks for the info on the inscription on the Tachi vs. Katana. I read that earlier and forgot which side the inscription was on. Facing outwards is a great way to remember now, and makes very much sense. I can also see how the changes could have been inspired from the Mongol invasion as well, it makes sense at least. So my big question now is are you suggesting that even back in pre Kanakura era, swinging a Tachi was not like swinging a base ball bat, so to speak? I'll trust your knowledge on this sense you've studied further into this subject than I have
I think I am agreeing with a post from above: a sword with the right proportions should have the blade go from my hand to the ground while standing upright. A sword of that length feels to me like it only needs one hand, not two. Anyone ever fought with a 42" broadsword? I did, back in the day, and that sucker felt like it almost needed two hands, sometimes.
I guess the point is... I'm more comfortable with a spear! ;D
Last Edit: Apr 9, 2013 19:56:53 GMT -5 by pallidus