Skip to main content

Japanese Anecdotes in Regards to the Spear (Yari)

It is interesting to think about the decisions we make to record and pass on some pieces of information and relegate others.  There are small habits and 'rules' that people formulate through experience - even in today's workplaces this type of knowledge is difficult to capture.  The following is hardly a is a thorough collection of spear anecdotes.  Some of them are quite interesting in terms of the sort of information that was recorded and passed on - I presume they were based on experience.  Perhaps in any later version I will capture more, but don’t hold your breath.

Heike Jodan No Maki - Natori Ryu

The following are taken from The Book of Samurai.

KEEPING PRIMARY WEAPONS IN THE LIVING ROOM In your main room of use, when positioning your katana, wakizashi, spear, halberd or any other weapon you excel in, long weapons should be placed to the rear and on your right, while your katana, wakizashi and other things should be placed on the left.  Also, position spears and halberds at the main entrance of the living room with the tips of the blades towards the opening.  Long weapons and projectiles kept in the main room can be positioned depending on the circumstances of the room itself.

POINTS FOR WHEN SOMEONE HAS CROSSED THE OUTER WALL If someone has crossed over the gate or wall, be it day or night, do not attempt to stab or hook them with a spear or halberd while they are up high; instead, if they are crossing over, wait until they are on the inside and have just landed, then strike them. If they are in the process of leaving by climbing over the wall, then, again, attack them when they land. If they are in a higher position, they may take advantage and grab the handle of your spear and fight back. Generally, it is best to attack an enemy when he feels at ease, after he has either entered or departed.

POINTS ABOUT HORSES AND LUGGAGE As mentioned above, instruct your servants to closely observe the status of the travelling lodge. In addition, if you are travelling with important items then inform the house master of this and if travelling alone it is advisable to leave the items with the owner of the lodge. If you are travelling on horseback then tell the groom to be careful and, as the master, you yourself should also pay extra attention to your horse and periodically check the horse yourself – this is one of the duties of a samurai. Order your servants to pay attention to the stable, feed and allow the horses to interact. Spears should not be left outside of the room you are staying in.

POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND ABOUT BOAT-BRIDGES  It is desirable to pay the fee and cross as soon as possible. Avoid spending time arguing about the toll. Tell your servants to stay close and to keep an eye on your weapons at the point of landing on the other side until all the common people have disembarked and then you yourself should disembark when all the lower people have left. Sometimes you may carry a spear; in this case, when you are disembarking, hold it yourself and when you are on the bank you can pass it back to your spear-carrying servant. The teachings concerning weapon sets are given in detail in the scroll Ippei Yōkō. Boatmen and road-horsemen are often rude, but be patient with them. As with all lower people, you should avoid engaging with them. If you are taking a ferry and a boatman is so rude that it becomes intolerable, then take up the matter with him on the opposite bank once you have landed. If you reprimand him during the crossing then it will take longer than normal.

POINTS ON LONG AND SHORT SWORDS AND BLACK AND WHITE MARKINGS FOR SPEARS Here the term daishō is used to refer to carrying your swords in hand when you approach a rocky and narrow path. This is done to avoid the ends of the swords becoming stuck. Also, here kokugyaku – black and white – means black markings for daytime and white markings for nighttime. Markings on fire jackets and spears are used to prevent them from becoming lost.

THE THREE COUPS DE GRÂCE: Since old times there have been three places to which a coup de grâce is administered:•the first is the windpipe •the second is the solar plexus or around the heart •the third is the lower leg. When killing by stabbing with a yari, naginata or a katana, then it is not necessary to give a coup de grâce. But even if you have inflicted two great wounds upon someone, you should still give him a coup de grâce; this is a principle of bu. If no coup de grâce is given it is like a death offered by townsfolk or farmers.

THE HEART BEHIND THE SPEAR At night, sweep the spear horizontally and when you hit something, pull back and stab. When in a thicket or forest, do not stab using a cross-shaped spear, instead you should thrust with the butt of the spear. For this situation there are things to be kept in mind about the butt of the spear. The mind should be fully aware of the use of weapons.

Musashi & The Monks of Hozoin

Shortly after his series of duels with the Yoshioka Clan in 1605, Miyamoto Musashi went to Hozoin Temple in the south of Kyoto where he had a series of non-lethal contests with the monks, who were renowned for being masters of the spear.

He stayed at the temple for a few months, studying and exchanging fighting technique with the monks. Musashi also enjoyed talking about Zen for hours on end with the head monk.

Popular posts from this blog

Spear (Yari) in Owari Kan Ryu 尾張貫流 (Kudayari & others)

Owari Kan ryū is known for its use of the kuda-yari (tube spear). The e (shaft) is run through a kuda (metal pipe) that’s in the front hand of the practitioner.  Interestingly the school’s students start training by doing shiai (competition) and only after considerable training they learn the school's kata (forms). Most classical schools that practice shiai do so after learning kata. Thrusting using the kuda. Cross-stepping.                           Thrusting attack with kuda. Wide stance.   Shiai. Shiai using a spear with a cross piece. The original demonstration from which these stills were taken is here:

The Structure of the Tenshinshoden Katori Shinto Ryu Syllabus

It should be noted that the current head, Otake Risuke, has commented that not all of the parts of Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto Ryu survive.  I recall his comments in various documentaries that Archery was once a component, and only some of the spear survives. Through various sources, mostly Otake's book, I have put together this brief outline of their syllabus, however I have little idea of the exact stage each is taught except that I believe the students start with Omote no Tachi.  I will use this as the basis for further posts and may add to it over time. I believe their are important implications when Otake says that one of the main reasons for training all the weapons is to train the swordsman against them. Note in this section in brackets are my own comments and should therefore not be relied upon, those from the written work of Otake are clearly marked. Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto Ryu -Kenjutsu (Otake lists Tachi, Ryuto and Kodachi under Kenjustsu) --Tachi (Use of the singl

Kendo Shinai Weights & Measures

As a note the recommended length and weight for shinai are: - Women 38 inches 440 grams. - Men 39 inches 510 grams. The Wikipedia shinai page lists the following tables: Regulations In  kendo  competitions that follow the FIK rules, there are regulated weights and lengths for the use of  shinai .  Table A. FIK Specifications for competition use of one Shinai (Itto). Specification Gender Junior High School (12–15 yrs) Senior High School (15–18 yrs) University students and Adults (18yrs+) Maximum length Male & female 114cm 117cm 120cm Minimum weight Male 440g 480g 510g Female 400g 420g 440g Minimum diameter of sakigawa Male 25mm 26mm 26mm Female 24mm 25mm 25mm Minimum length of sakigawa Male and Female 50mm 50mm 50mm Shinai  are weighed complete with leather fittings, but without  tsuba  or  tsuba-dome . The full length is measured. Maximum diameter of the  tsuba  is 9cm. Table B. FIK Specifications for competition use of two Shinai (Nito). Specification Gender Daito (long shinai) Sh