Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan..

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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby Thearos » 23 Apr 2014 15:16

Of course, cult of the offensive and cold steel in 1914-- thanks for the reminders. A particularly interesting case is in Rommel's "Infantry Attacks", his first taste of action. During a skirmish in a village, young Lt Rommel stumbles singly upon 2 Frenchmen. He remembers stuff he was taught about cold steel and offensive spirit, and rushes them with the bayonet. The Frenchmen shoot him (in the thigh)-- which cures him of all the rubbish about cold steel and convinces him of firepower.

The irony there is, of course, that it's 1914 French infantrymen who teach Rommel that lesson.
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Re:

Postby NeilG » 23 Apr 2014 19:11

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
Is kendo sparring more intense than foil or singlestick?

It is fair to say when according to the rules you could crash into your opponent, then bring him to the ground with a takedown (e.g. single leg takedown), land a cut on your grounded opponent or tear away his fencing mask... Well... For me this gekken stuff (pre-WWII kendo) is definitely more intensive than foil. Just a sidenote: my friend recently saw an unintentional knock-down during an overheated foil bout.

Crashing into your opponent is common and not penalized. If you crash into him and knock him out of bounds as part of an attack, it's a penalty on your opponent not you.

If your opponent is knocked to the ground due to the body crash, you can hit him while he's on the ground, and get a point from that action. The cut needs to be without delay, ie obvious that you intentionally took advantage of the downed opponent. You don't see the point awarded often, but a lot of guys hit the dirt in a kendo competition.

Can't rip off the men anymore, and sweeping your opponent is a penalty (half-point only, no DQ).

During the 2013 European championships, one of the Hungarian guys basically suplexed his opponent (ie, grabbed him around the waist and tossed him back over his shoulder), and he just received a half-point penalty. It was controversial, and many believe it should have been a DQ, but the refs on the floor saw it differently.

So yeah, kendo is a different beast aggression-wise from foil.
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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby Max C. » 24 Apr 2014 05:11

Going back to F.J. Norman (1905) who, having had experience in European and Japanese swordplay, pretty much agrees with my conclusion.

With regard to the training of the rank and tile of the
Japanese army and navy, it may here be pointed out, little
or no attention is paid by the officers to the teaching of
parade and show movements to their men, or to what is so
generally and so falsely termed '" smartness" among us, and
perhaps more especially so is this the case when we come to
such matters as relate to the instructions given the recruit in
the use of the sword and bayonet. Loose play and plenty of
it is invariably their rule, and so, though a squad of
Japanese soldiers or sailors may not be able to go through
the sword or bayonet exercise with the same precision as a
squad of our guardsmen, it will certainly be found that far
and away a greater proportion of them will know how to use
the weapons they are armed with better and more effectively.


Note that he also says later on in the book that kenjutsu is not perfect, and that it would benefit to be merged with the best elements of western fencing.

And one more mention of a duel (read at the end), this was published again in many journals in 1904.

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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 24 Apr 2014 07:34

A fascinating period!
Many-many lessons which could have been learned, and the same stupid mistakes committed 10 years later at much larger scale here in Europe. Very sad indeed ...

After the end of the Russo-Japanese War, General Nogi wrote a short poem:

"A Song of Triumph

As a leader of the Imperial Army, I took a million soldiers in hostage.
The battle resulted in a mountain of dead bodies.
I am so ashamed of facing their old fathers.
A song of triumph? But how many men can return home?
"

General Count Keller died 10 days after the publication of the above article. General Nogi lost both of his sons: one at the Battle of Nanshan (25 years old) and another at Port Arthur (203m Hill) (23 years old). Later he and his wife committed ritual suicide.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 24 Apr 2014 07:36

Neil,
Informative as usual. Good to know all these points.
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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby admin » 24 Apr 2014 10:32

Max C. wrote:Going back to F.J. Norman (1905)


Not to disagree with anything you said, Max. Just to point out that we established previously that Norman was a trooper before becoming an officer and at that date is therefore likely only to have learned the simplified cavalry sword exercise, which only had four cuts and four guards. This is not even a fair comparison with more advanced British systems, such as Hutton's. No doubt therefore, he may well have simply received more training in Japan than he was ever exposed to in British service.
Having said this, he did compete against British single-stick players - this is all covered in this old thread:
viewtopic.php?f=31&t=20672
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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby Thearos » 24 Apr 2014 17:14

When will Bondarchuk do a movie on the Russo-Japanese war ? Mud, sword duels, night battle-- and imagine the scene with the Japanese volunteer force, thousands strongs, moving up with the bayonet, and repulsed with dynamite sticks.
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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby Max C. » 24 Apr 2014 20:30

Again Matt I am not criticizing the quality of British swordsmanship, although my point still stand that gekken would have prepared a man better for warfare as allowing one to experience a wider variety of engagements during fencing as well as expressing aggressiveness more realistically. Now this can be debated but this is not the point I was initially trying to make, which was why did the Japanese swordsmen fascinated the public like that and were seen by many as superior?

My main point is that more people in Japan received more training in fencing than in most European countries, including troopers, in and out of the military. I think this is also the point of Norman, and this is why I highlighted "in greater proportion". Again put two swordsmen of equal skill and you won't see much difference, but here lies the problem. If we take the specific example of the Russo Japanese conflict, you had more highly trained swordsmen on Japan side than on Russia's. William Barnes Steveni commented 1914 after observing the Russian army for 25 years that their swordsmanship was sub-par, but that they excelled in bayonet play.

Probabilities alone will dictate that the Japanese will then be seen as superior swordsmen and then if you are not aware of the numbers you might try finding all sorts of reasons: because their swords can cut through steel, because their art is superior, because of their zen state of mind, Sun Tzu, Musashi, whatever... but no it only boils down to numbers. More trained on one side, less on the other.

You will not find much about this in military analysis of these conflicts as swordsmanship was by then seen - and probably rightly so- as pretty much useless. The Russians didn't care, and actually very few military men did because swordsmanship wasn't the reason why they lost the war. Talk about cannons, ships, guns and even bayonets. Those were the things that helped shift the balance. At most officers winning duels was good for morale. The only one who seemed to give attention were the newspapers, because sword fights were something, old fashioned, strange and exciting and people wanted to read about them. I think this reliance on the sword should receive more attention by military historians as it might help to understand the way armies approached war.

Another example found today from Japan's fight for freedom by Herbert Wrigley Wilson, 1905.

The battle of Telisse, june 14th 1904.

One sub-lieutenant two or three in used his drawn sword on his men when they hung back, cutting down in quick succession ; and then, realizing the hopelessness of such action, he gallantly advanced alone to
meet the Japanese. He ran towards them till a bullet, one of the last remaining, struck him in the
stomach; as he fell he stabbed himself with his sword sooner than fall into his enemy's hands. Another Russian followed in shouting in defiance to the Japanese, and as he came on, a Japanese officer hurried to meet him. The two closed in an Homeric hand-to-hand in sight of the two armies and as they whirled their swords at each side rent the air with cheers. Now It seemed that the Russian was winning and the Russians thundered applause. Now again the Japanese had the upper hand, and hoarse " Banzais ! " rose from the
Hiroshima infantry. Then the Russian went down before the skillful swordplay of his opponent, and
a moment later he lay a corpse upon the hill. The Japanese officer ran calmly back to his line and
took his place at the head of his men amidst a tumult of cheers, and almost at the same moment the long-
looked-for ammunition arrived.

The star of Japan was now in the ascendant. The Japanese troops poured a terrible fire into their opponents, and instantly charged with the utmost resolution. For a moment the Russians stood ; bayonets were crossed ; a Japanese bayoneted a Russian and was immediately impaled on the bayonets of the Russian victim's comrades. The officers fought with swords and revolvers, the Japanese officers making dreadful play with their sharp Samurai blades, and hewing off the limbs of their less skilful antagonists. But the combat was too unequal when one side could not use the rifle ; the Japanese speedily obtained the upper hand, forced the Russians from their trenches, and sent them reeling back in terrible confusion, while they poured into the retreating mass of infantry a decimating fire.


An interesting sketch was made here. This officer is fighting off two swordsmen and observe how he is holding his one handed saber. It isn't clear if it is Lt. Kono.

Image

Once more there was a hand-to-hand encounter ; Lieutenant Kono, who commanded the Japanese, used his sword with such effect that the edge was nicked like a saw; then as time was gained, more and more Japanese arrived and opened fire, driving the Russians back down the western slope of the hills.
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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby admin » 25 Apr 2014 15:13

Very interesting sources!
Max I don't disagree with anything you said. If anything, I support it - the standard sword exercise by this date in Britain was pretty crappy.
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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby Max C. » 15 May 2014 17:05

Finally here is my article on gekken/kenjutsu in the US around the turn of the 20th century. Not much in terms of "clashing" but you can see what was the overall feeling towards the practice.

http://hemamisfits.wordpress.com/2014/0 ... n-america/

One thing I didn't include was an article about two US army captains who visited the Japanese army in Tokyo and reported on the officers' training in 1904. They basically said that not much was to be learnt from the Japanese, but they had this to say about the fencing.

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Re: Culture clash in martial history: Africa, Russia, Japan.

Postby admin » 19 May 2014 12:28

Really good article Max :)
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