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Thread: Disarming a Swordsman

  1. #1

    Disarming a Swordsman

    Hi

    I'm not sure if this is where i should ask this but,
    I was reading an article in Blitz Magazine that tried to answer the question of whether or not it was realistically possible to evade and disarm a swordsman with a katana empty-handed. After reading i was quite disappointed since the writer didn't provide a very strong argument and ended up with a "how would you like it?" kind of attitude that didn't sell me on the credibility of his arguement either, so my question is (all bias aside ) is it realistically possible to evade and disarm a person with a Katana?

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    Hi Matt,

    I find Blitz is generally marketed more to the Open Hand side of the MA spectrum. This topic is covered quite often there. Who was the author?

    There are quite a few threads on E-budo. If you search for "muto-dori". There are some very long threads on it there.

    NB, Blitz is an Australian Martial Arts monthly for those of you not from the Antipodes.
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    Is this article written on the internet or the like? Might be interesting to read. In Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, we have without sword techniques and I enjoy reading other people's take on them.

    ***to elaborate***
    I remember a long while ago my teacher said, "against a longer weapon, a swordsman closes" and this applies just as much to the decision/necessity of fighting without a weapon against a man with a long sword as it does using a long sword against a spear or halberd (in my limited experience anyway). Basically you want to get in close and neutralize the distance advantage he has on you, bind him up, hurt him, and ideally get the weapon away from him and kill him with it. Better than that, don't be caught unarmed. :-P
    Last edited by Chris deMonch; 03-07-2008 at 11:24 AM.
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  4. #4
    If I'm not mistaken, Daito-ryu aikijujutsu has quite a few techniques for disarming someone wielding a sword. The men that served as a police force in the Edo and early Meiji era where certainly trained to do such disarming techniques, for although they had weapons such as the jutte, which was used as a swordcatcher, sometimes they couldn't get them out quick enough or perhaps they had been dropped or knocked from their owners hand. What these people had trained in is as varied as the men themselves. Some may have trained in aikijujutsu, some in other styles. Some techniques may have been made up on the fly. Neccessity is the mother of invention and nothing neccessitates the forming of a new sword disarming technique more than some guy swinging one at you.
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    realistically possible to evade and disarm a swordsman
    Yes and Yes. Chris and I are of the same Ryu. We have a teaching of No-sword or Muto.


    It is kinda of like this

    Evading a sword is almost the same irrespective if you have one or not. You can not block but you can move off line just the same.

    Muto (in my Ryu) is more about not getting cut rather then the taking of someones sword. But if you must take the sword then you have to get in very close after avoiding a strike.

    So it can be done, you have to have crazy honed skills and some kind of balls to do the unnatural closing (irimi (sp)) to hand range.

    If I'm not mistaken, Daito-ryu aikijujutsu has quite a few techniques for disarming someone wielding a sword.
    They Do .. and I know non of them.... if you could even call what I do Daito-ryu
    Last edited by Richard J. Smith; 03-07-2008 at 11:25 AM.
    "The Shinkage-ryu practitioner is both formless and ready to strike like thunder and lightning."
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  6. #6
    Matt

    "Possible?"

    IMO, sure its "possible"....but unlikely....a vastly low precentage shot.

    If you have no choice and can only try it and die or die not trying.....I think I'd rather die trying...got nothing to lose at that point anyway.

    I'm sure there are exceptional circumstances and exceptional people that are capable of extraordinary things..........but most of us ain't that.
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    My fairly new to studying Shinkendo, but already I'm learning exercises that have me unarmed vs an armed opponent. They are simple and just getting off line, out of the way of the attack. Don't know if more advanced stuff involves actually disarming the opponent. I would bet that at least Aikibujutsu would have these techniques.

    When I studied Aikido, there were lots of techniques vs armed opponents. Whether it was a sword, staff or even a knif, every one ended with the opponent dispatched, and disarmed. The key was to get control of the weapon so it can't hurt you or anyone else anymore.

    So I would say the answer it yes, there are techniques involving disarming someone while unarmed yourself. I'd imagine many arts have such techniques.

  8. #8
    Everyone knows that various arts have techniques. The basic idea is to get off the line of attack and close the distance.

    The question is, "do they work"? The informed answer is, as Chris already said, they are a last-ditch effort when you have nothing to lose. Odds are low. Furthermore, most of the people practicing these techniques have no idea how fast a real attack is, as they don't train weapons seriously themselves.
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    most every one here knows I do not do JSA. that being said to quote an Akido instructor in class, "Wow, that is really differ ant when some one knows how to swing a sword"

    A Group class using sword disarming techniques with clubs, bats and 'street' weapons in mind and some one who knew how to swing a sword ( a student) who was picked randomly to demonstrate the technique.

    so...
    Yes, there are ways
    Yes you have to be as said above "crazy" good.

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    A little historical perspective. Muto-dori was essentially a "homework" assignment given to Yagyu Munetoshi by Kamiizumi Hidetsuna, the founder of Shinkage-ryu. When Munetoshi demonstrated it, Kamiizumi was impressed enough to give Munetoshi inka (menkyo kaiden). Years later, Tokugawa Ieyasu (before he was Shogun) heard of Munetoshi's skill, and asked for a demonstration. Munetoshi demonstrated it by letting Ieyasu came after him with a bokken, and then performing muto-dori.

    So, Munetoshi was pretty much an expert in this skill. He could demonstrate it on unwilling partners, like he did with Ieyasu. However, he also wrote a poem that runs like this:

    縛者斬るに劣らぬ無刀さへ十に五つは取られぬるかな
    Shibarimono kiru ni otoranu muto sae, tou ni itsutsu wa torarenuru ka na.
    "Even when muto(-dori) is easier than cutting bound men,
    I suppose it works about five in ten times."

    So, that's the view of one of the foremost practitioners of this technique, at a time when men actually used their swords to kill each other.

  11. #11
    Hi

    Part of the reason i asked is I'm studying Aikido at the moment which has techniques against bokken and i was really disappointed that a practitioner of japanese Swordsmanship held a real poor attitude towards such techniques.

    Personally, i'm in agreement that the chances of sword evasion and disarms being successful are slim against a competent swordsman, but even competent swordsmen make mistakes and if a person can keep their head on untill then it could work.

    I had no idea that there were sword schools that taught unarmed defences against a sword. I'm guessing the author of the article was not one of those shooled in these.

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    I'd say it kinda boils down to your training and how you go at it. Maybe the guy who wrote the article trains in a style that has empty hand techniques but for whatever reason they don't train them seriously. But then, it's been mentioned before that empty hand against sword is tough to pull off and a crap shoot in the best of circumstances. For me personally alot of budo in general and kendo in particular is about cultivating a degree of comfort and confidence in the face of danger.
    As an example, most of the folks in my dojo train with shinken, and I (who admittedly have a tendency to run at the mouth sometimes during class) will talk about how I feel it's important it is for people to acknowledge exactly what the things they're wearing on their hips are and what they're capable of. Once you've got that understanding, you learn to get over it.
    Back in my youth I trained in TKD with a guy who loved knife fighting and after class we'd train in it alot. He always used to say "when fighting with knives, expect to get cut." Now that I train in kendo I hold pretty much the same philosophy, especially considering alot of waza in Shinkage Ryu you stand a pretty good chance of getting cut (the trade off being that you're taking a shallow cut to the chest or leg or something, whereas tekki is getting his head split in two). Just so you know I'm actually going somewhere, when you train going in with the acceptance that you're going to take some cuts in order to injure your opponent more, it gets you into the mindset where you might actually have the balls needed to make muto work.
    Hopefully I got my point across without sounding like a psycho or a guy who's watched too much chambara. Pulling off muto is tricky enough even in the best of circumstances, and in the rare instances where I've shown it to someone I pull it off at best 3 out of 5 maybe. The ins and outs of it are kinda hard to articulate verbally.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt A. View Post
    Hi

    Part of the reason i asked is I'm studying Aikido at the moment which has techniques against bokken and i was really disappointed that a practitioner of japanese Swordsmanship held a real poor attitude towards such techniques.

    Personally, i'm in agreement that the chances of sword evasion and disarms being successful are slim against a competent swordsman, but even competent swordsmen make mistakes and if a person can keep their head on untill then it could work.

    I had no idea that there were sword schools that taught unarmed defences against a sword. I'm guessing the author of the article was not one of those shooled in these.
    It is correct that someone trained in using a sword is going to be very skilled, and the chances of successfully getting out of the way, and then disarming are reduced. But the same goes for going against someone in an open handed technique, who is superior in skill then you. Doesn't matter what the art is, or weapons or not, if they are faster and better then you, there is very low chance of survival for you.
    That being said, I think two practitioners of JSA and Aikido respectively, at equal skill level, the Aikidoka has a better then 80% of getting out of the way, and a better then 50% chance of disarming. I think some techniques/arts are more feasable and likely to work then others, but it's kind of all perspective regarding skill level and the arts in general.

    My MA experience is limited to Aikido and Shinkendo, and IMHO, I think an Aikidoka has pretty good odds of avoiding a sword attack and disarming. Remember, Aikido is firstly about getting off line. That in itself is a great survival tactic when facing a weapon, and that is one of things I loved about Aikido training. Many of the techniques in Aikido also get you closer to the opponent, closing the gab. This is the best defence and offence vs a melee weapon. Get in close, where the weapons usability is greatly reduced. At this closeness, a decent Aikidoka should at least be able to knock the person down, if not pin them. Even if you just get them knocked over, this is a good time to back off and run. No point is continuing a fight with poor odds.
    Last edited by Gyan G.; 03-07-2008 at 10:49 PM.

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    Good Topic!

    In YON MU KWAN the belief is that a person trains to use the weapon that they were issued, as it were. As a result if that weapon were lost or broken during battle the first choice was to get another. I believe the Korean word for attempting to disarm a skilled swordsman is "suicide" so pretty much all of these techniques bespeak a sense of desperation. In this way, for instance, the use of the "Jul" or cord by which a sword is suspended was taught for its garrotting techniques as for binding. A sheath was used as much to strike out at a person as to house a sword. But, as I say there was a sense of desperate staits in the use of these techniques.

    As far as policing responsibilities, the idea was to subdue using a variety of hooks, ropes, polearms and sticks. A favorite was introduced by the Mongols---- what we here in the States would call a lasso or lariat. There are a number of moves in Korean sword for dealing with this. In these cases the items used were intended to encumber the swordsman so that a person might close with him and subdue him. FWIW.

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
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    Something that should also be kept in mind: wrestling (yawara/jujutsu/aikijutsu, etc.) was often taught side-by-side with many systems of swordsmanship, or would be at least somewhat expected. You also see this in WMA where they talk about the importance of learning the close fight.

    Thus, avoiding a sword, disarming a swordsman, and winning the fight are all three different things.

    That said, there is some evidence that muto-dori techniques were considered possible by those who should have had a clue--and those same individuals seem to have doubted their effectiveness, even by a trained individual.
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    Just as a side comment, I think we also have to consider the nature of the swordsman as well.

    When we practice disarms, I assume that we are reasonable well-trained, healthy, well-fed individuals. Considering the subject, we also need to consider that the swordsman may be inebriated, exhausted from fighting, half-starved, sick or isolated. I mentioned this because I have recently finished condensing material on the IMJIN WARUM (1592-1598). Despite the terrible opening weeks of the war, by the time the first year was over the Japanese had been worn thin by starvation, sickness, frostbite and exposure. Things became so bad the Japanese forces pulled back to strongholds along the coast where re-supply and communication were relatively more secure. In the years that followed the fighting men impressed to take the places of the sickened or fallen may not have been of the experience and skill of the original invading three armies. I mention this because I don't think that the fighting man who started off in August of 1592 could be characterized in the same way as that same fighter a year later.
    No real point other than to kick in a couple of cents to the discussion.

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
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    i was really disappointed that a practitioner of japanese Swordsmanship held a real poor attitude towards such techniques.
    If I may put forth a supposition.

    In my way, the taking of life is a last resort. To us it is better to disable and present the choice of withdraw rather then straight away dispatch. This being the case with a ARMED adversary.

    My supposition is Therefore...

    Honor would be diminished by the act of attacking an unarmed person. So there is no need for Muto-dori.

    Just a thought in the spirit of debate.
    "The Shinkage-ryu practitioner is both formless and ready to strike like thunder and lightning."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard J. Smith View Post
    If I may put forth a supposition.
    Honor would be diminished by the act of attacking an unarmed person. So there is no need for Muto-dori.
    In my experience the problem is that that is a very naive supposition given the nature of koryu heiho. In the Heiho Kadensho, Munenori said that swordsmanship is about winning, with double dealing being at the core of it. In a number of parts in the book he advises being tricky in order to be victorious. In the waza of Shinkage Ryu alone there are many many techniques which involve things violate the honorable, squeaky clean image of the samurai the average Joe seems to have.
    As mentioned earlier, one of the tricks to not needing muto is to never be caught unarmed, but sometimes you are unarmed and then it comes in handy to have an idea of how to tackle a person without your weapons. In bugei I've always been of the mind that you're training to be able to walk away from a confrontation. What you had to do and what state you left the opponent in (whether you avoided the confrontation entirely, hurt him and ran, or put him down so he wasn't a threat any longer, etc) that enabled you to be able to do so depends on how far the situation went. It doesn't hurt to train to be ready for whatever might come at you. The guys who created these arts thought that muto was important apparently.
    Last edited by Chris deMonch; 03-08-2008 at 05:26 PM.
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    1) The concept of 'honor' is an ideal--the fact that it was written about so much, however, is likely due to the lack of its practice.

    2) Even an 'unarmed' person can be a danger and may require being subdued through whatever means necessary.

    3) We have plenty of historical accounts of armed men killing unarmed men.

    4) Especially on the battlefield, there is rarely any consideration for armed or unarmed opponents.

    BTW, if we talk about the early and pre-Edo battlefields, we are into a different situation. With a good suit of armour you can likely take a blow to the right areas (shikoro, maedate--heck, most of the helmet is likely to withstand all but a very direct, strong blow. I'd say much of the rest of the armour would likewise give adequate protection against any glancing blow, as long as it isn't just cloth or one of the openings). So this becomes a very different animal.

    I believe most questions of muto-dori are more to do with unarmoured, civilian combat, when you have no other protection.
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    It was just a thought... not an Idea I subscribe to.

    I am with you

    This is a good place to note. No-sword does(did) not mean empty handed or without resource. No-sword is just a frame of mind.

    The kaden sho asks "shouldn't you be able to make use of whatever else you my have on hand?" Then states "Even with a fan you should be able to defeat an opponent equipped with a sword."

    It is what it is.
    "The Shinkage-ryu practitioner is both formless and ready to strike like thunder and lightning."
    - Josh Reyer


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    I would think that in most warrior cultures there would be more honor in dying in combat rather than running away.

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard J. Smith View Post
    If I may put forth a supposition.

    In my way, the taking of life is a last resort. To us it is better to disable and present the choice of withdraw rather then straight away dispatch. This being the case with a ARMED adversary.

    My supposition is Therefore...

    Honor would be diminished by the act of attacking an unarmed person. So there is no need for Muto-dori.

    Just a thought in the spirit of debate.
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    Hello all,

    This is from an interview with Kondo Katsuyuki sensei of Daito-ryu. I think the original question was about punches and kicks but he brings up sword as well. You can see the interview here: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=398

    Kondo: As Stanley said, having Ushiro Sensei here has indeed been an important reminder that our understanding about punches and kicks may sometimes be too simplistic or overconfident. I have to agree, and I would add that the same might be said about our attitude toward the sword. After all, swordsmen train for decades refining their thrusting and cutting techniques, entrusting their survival to these alone; yet so many—too many, I think—of our demonstrations feature so-called “sword-taking” techniques done very easily. Such demonstrations might even be considered disrespectful to those in the world of swordsmanship. The same is true regarding karate; people punch and are thrown so easily, and that is disrespectful to the real nature of karate and those practicing it. We should be more aware of these things and study them much more deeply.

    Best regards,
    Chris Covington

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    disarming a swordsman? NOT!

    Several people here have alluded to the Mutodori techniques in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu. Other schools or arts may have such techniques as well. That's all very nice, but it is unrealistic to think that the waza will work in a "real" setting.

    I have studied Yagyu Shinkage-ryu directly under the school's headmasters, Yagyu Nobuharu and Yagyu Koichi, since February 1979. Here is what Nobuharu Sensei told people in my dojo when he was explaining Mutodori waza (I am paraphrasing here): "Yes, mutodori techniques exist. They are what my ancestor, Y. Sekishusai developed as a response to a problem set him by the founder of the ryu, Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Nobutsuna. He was given the task of creating methods of taking a sword away from an opponent when he himself was unarmed. This would require a supreme level of understanding of the fundamentals of combat: ma-ai (distancing), hyoshi/choshi (timing and rhythm), hassuji (trajectory/line [of movement]), and kurai (physical/mental state [of preparedness]). If one can perform any of the mutodori waza, he has mastered the art of swordsmanship. Even so, it's not as easy as the techniques may seem. Only one who is very skillful, an absolutely top-level swordsman, can hope to do them; even then he will only be successful one time in three, if he's very lucky."

    So, there we have it. A 30% chance at best. IF one is a "highly skilled swordsman." That's by the standards of Yagyu Sensei. Anyone want to bet there are very many people like that in Japan, let alone in other parts of the world? I think... NOT!!

    I've done mutodori waza in Ueshiba-style aikido. I also know these techniques do not, and cannot, work against a trained swordsman who *intends* to hit you. For one thing, the issoku itto no ma and nibyoshi used in aikido is unrealistic and would almost certainly never be used by somebody who has trained in kenjutsu. For another thing, few people actually intend to actually "strike" tori, the person essaying the technique. If they're using a bokuto, they hold back for fear of hurting their partner. If they use a fukuro shinai, both of them agreeing that tori will undoubtedly take a couple of very hard shots (with the risk of minor injury), the situation immediately changes. I have yet to meet *anybody* who can perform mutodori waza in a freestyle situation, where ma-ai, hyoshi, and hassuji are changing and uke is not holding back.

    Best solution? If you are facing an opponent who has a sword... bring a gun.

    Meik Skoss
    Shutokukan Dojo
    Koryu.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meik Skoss View Post
    Best solution? If you are facing an opponent who has a sword... bring a gun.
    I like a bow. With a flunky next to me holding a naginata (or maybe a bunch of flunkies in front of me with yari). Maybe a sword. Or two. And a dagger. Maybe even another, just for good measure.



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    Finally a voice of reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by Meik Skoss View Post
    Several people here have alluded to the Mutodori techniques in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu. Other schools or arts may have such techniques as well. That's all very nice, but it is unrealistic to think that the waza will work in a "real" setting.

    I have studied Yagyu Shinkage-ryu directly under the school's headmasters, Yagyu Nobuharu and Yagyu Koichi, since February 1979. Here is what Nobuharu Sensei told people in my dojo when he was explaining Mutodori waza (I am paraphrasing here): "Yes, mutodori techniques exist. They are what my ancestor, Y. Sekishusai developed as a response to a problem set him by the founder of the ryu, Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Nobutsuna. He was given the task of creating methods of taking a sword away from an opponent when he himself was unarmed. This would require a supreme level of understanding of the fundamentals of combat: ma-ai (distancing), hyoshi/choshi (timing and rhythm), hassuji (trajectory/line [of movement]), and kurai (physical/mental state [of preparedness]). If one can perform any of the mutodori waza, he has mastered the art of swordsmanship. Even so, it's not as easy as the techniques may seem. Only one who is very skillful, an absolutely top-level swordsman, can hope to do them; even then he will only be successful one time in three, if he's very lucky."

    So, there we have it. A 30% chance at best. IF one is a "highly skilled swordsman." That's by the standards of Yagyu Sensei. Anyone want to bet there are very many people like that in Japan, let alone in other parts of the world? I think... NOT!!

    I've done mutodori waza in Ueshiba-style aikido. I also know these techniques do not, and cannot, work against a trained swordsman who *intends* to hit you. For one thing, the issoku itto no ma and nibyoshi used in aikido is unrealistic and would almost certainly never be used by somebody who has trained in kenjutsu. For another thing, few people actually intend to actually "strike" tori, the person essaying the technique. If they're using a bokuto, they hold back for fear of hurting their partner. If they use a fukuro shinai, both of them agreeing that tori will undoubtedly take a couple of very hard shots (with the risk of minor injury), the situation immediately changes. I have yet to meet *anybody* who can perform mutodori waza in a freestyle situation, where ma-ai, hyoshi, and hassuji are changing and uke is not holding back.

    Best solution? If you are facing an opponent who has a sword... bring a gun.

    Meik Skoss
    Shutokukan Dojo
    Koryu.com
    Thank you Mr. Skoss! I was truly beginning to question the reasoning in this thread.

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