Yari Vs Sword #1

I hope between the photos and this description I can do this technique justice.

1. A spearman and swordsman meet

2. The swordsman prepares to draw and the spearman counters by striking the forward hand and pushing the swordsman to the rear and off balance. (Why the spearman doesn’t just kill him outright is for speculation, but this was taught as an arresting technique, so I imagine the attacker had to be taken alive.)

Once contact is made with the forward arm, this pressure cannot be released. This is how the swordsman will be controlled. From this point onward the spearman must dictate all directional movements of the swordsman. Of course the swordsman cannot be aware that the spearman is dictating the action, and must “feel” that the movements he is making are being unchallenged. This requires subtlety and refinement, and there is a fine line between too much force and too little.

3. Because of the position of the spear, the swordsman must drop his hip back in order to complete his draw. As the sword leaves the scabbard, the spearman applies more downward pressure on the front hand, while at the same time starting to extend the front hand in a forward arch. This is done by pulling the forward elbow back towards the hip, while pushing the forward knee towards the swordsman. These are small movements.

Note the swordsman’s poor posture, and how he is leaning at a forward angle to the right side of the spearman. Most of the swordsman’s weight is on his rear leg, and his hip is still to the rear. His forward elbow is facing the ground and the arm is not allowed to fully extend forward.

4. The spearman steps around the swordsman, using the force of his rotation to “push” the attacker downward and forward. We call this “back-pressure.”

At this point in the technique, the position of the swordsman’s elbow comes into effect. The push should drive the elbow straight to the ground at the specific point that off-balances the swordsman. We refer to this point as his “triangulation point;” simply put, it is a place where the attacker can’t regain his balance and must fall down.

I cannot overstress the importance of proper extension, or the importance of remaining in contact with your opponent’s wrist at all times. The wrist must be controlled from the very beginning so the swordsman cannot properly grip or use the sword. Note how awkward the swordsman’s hand position is on the draw.

Keep in mind that there is nothing between the swordsman’s sword and the spearman’s body. This is on purpose! You want to make the swordsman believe he can swing and cut, because any forward motion on his part can and will be used against him. In fact, any forward momentum generated by the swordsman will make doing this technique easier.

Of course if you mess up, you are going to get cut. That is one reason the spearman rotates his body. If the spearman rotates properly he should place himself in a safer position. However, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

I should also mention that if one use to much force the technique will not work. You will lose your connection and the swordsman will regain his stability. The spearman’s motion has to be smooth and light, so that the swordsman doesn’t feel he is being controlled. Any use of force (strength) will be felt and the swordsman can react to it, nullifying the technique.

5. The swordsman is taken all the way to the ground and the spearman’s grip is released. The spear is flipped over, and the swordsman neutralized.

This technique is not easy to accomplish, but it’s worth the effort to learn. A lot of scientific principles can be found within this technique, principles that can be applied to numerous other forms.

Naginata Vs Sword #1

Clearly, my teacher preferred the yari to the naginata or sword. However, the curriculum of the school covered all of these weapons, and proficiency using them was required in order to progress within the system.

I’ll be the first to admit that I only have basic skills when it comes to wielding a naginata, however the similarities to the yari are unquestionable. Fortunately, the insights my teacher instilled in me in the usage of the sword and spear, as well as those related to unarmed (aiki) techniques, has helped me develop a more comprehensive naginata curriculum for my students.

This does not mean I’ve made up new techniques, or changed what my teacher taught me. The techniques he taught are still the same, as are the core principles that make them work. All I’ve done over the years is discover variations, and when possible added to my arsenal of techniques by studying with others more skilled than myself.

In this sequence the spearmen is attacked with a horizontal attack to the throat. The attacked is neutralized with a side-augmented block.

In order to do this block correctly several factors must take place.
1. First of all, the naginata must be at a 45-degree angle.
2. Secondly, the rear bottom hand must be placed against the hip to maintain stability.
3. The forward hand must be kept tucked, elbow facing the ground.
4. In this sequence I have elected to step forward into the attacker’s midline, which helps to reduce the amount of impact from his weapon. This helps prevent the possibility that my blade will be broken due to the impact. In some situations a side step or a back step can also be used, though these motions are not as optimal.
5. When using this block NEVER meet the attacker’s force. NEVER! And don’t flinch either. Either trust the form or don’t do it. CORRECT POSTURE is essential in all forms!!

Use the tsuba push the sword straight up and towards the attacker.

This movement has to be done quickly and smoothly while there is still resistance against the block.

Note, how the swordsman’s body is leaning slightly backward, and that the sword is now above the head of the defender.

(To make this lift more effective, and harder to perceive, one can raise the rear foot, instead of using a lot of arm action.)

Right before the tension between the two weapons stops, do a dropping motion with the naginata. If done correctly the swordsman will slip off the naginata and fall to the side.

I tend to use a slight body-drop at this moment, but that isn’t really necessary. In fact, since it is imperative that the position of the arms remains unchanged, I advise against using a body-drop if one cannot maintain their hands while doing it.

It should also be noted that I lean slightly forward when doing the dropping motion and my lead elbow faces my opponent. By knowing where my elbow is positioned I know exactly where the midline of my opponent is, and any follow up motion I make will be a straight line—the quickest way between two points.

In addition, by keeping my elbow forward I reduce the likelihood of letting my arm extend away from my body which would reduce my stability and control. It also keeps me from placing my arm in a position where it could be attacked by my opponent or a possible accomplice.

Those who feel they need to drop in order not to be hit by the sword are wrong—or they are doing the form incorrectly. If the sword is raised properly prior to this movement, the sword will "float" over your head.

The main objective when doing this technique is fluidity. This technique is not effective if not done in one progressive motion. Any pause will give the attacker time to adjust, and possibly attack again. If nothing else you will lose your advantage, and have to start over.

At this point in the technique numerous counter attacks can be done. The obvious one is to make a circular action and cut the attacker down the midline, or across the shoulder. For this sequence I elected to use a strike with the pole/end-cap to the back of the head.

I find this counter attack to be quicker, and as my opponent stumbles, or recovers from the blunt trauma to his head, I have time to be more selective as to which technique to use to finish him off. Of course, for the more merciful, this attack also allows one the option to not use lethal force (Yes, I’m aware that a hard blow to the back of the head can kill also).

I find that this from is very versatile and I teach it using almost every weapon in our arsenal. The nice thing is that except for distancing, this form requires only slight changes in order to be effective with other weapons.

Basically, the main difference would be that weapons without a tsuba or catch-bar don’t utilize the push up and back, and a proper body drop is essential at the moment the attacking weapon is passed over and downward.

One-Handed Yari Technique #3

This technique is basically the same as One-handed Yari #1 except this time the rainbow block is done with the spear and not a sword.

The technique starts again with a 45-degree forward step and block. Once the attacking sword is deflected, draw your dagger and stab or cut the attacker.

It should be noted that maintaining a solid grip on the spear at this angle is not very stable with one hand, so any drawing and stabbing/thrusting action must be done quickly to avoid a counter attack.

Due to the awkward position of the spear it may be necessary to drop the dagger in order to defend against a counter attack, though my teacher taught several variations where the dagger was used to block, and the spear was then repositioned for attack.

One of my favorite variations of this technique starts with the underhand dagger thrust position as depicted in photo #2. After the initial block and thrust, I will re-grip the top portion of the pole in a manner where the dagger blade extends beyond the tip of the end-cap. This grip position basically allows me to have a blade on each end of the spear, and allows me to thrust at my opponent, or use the pole to fracture his shoulder without having to change my position.

This grip requires a little practice in order to be able to fully control the dagger and the spear.

One-Handed Yari Technique #2

One element of my teachers sojutsu (spear) system was one-handed usage of the spear. This allowed him to wield another weapon, often a short sword or tanto (dagger).

When wielding a spear with one hand, I strongly suggest that the spear be less than 6 feet in length. I prefer to use one just slightly longer than a jo. Of course that decision is up to the practitioner and his ability.

I also suggest when wielding a second weapon that is either lighter than or of equal weight to the spear; this helps maintain stability.

This technique involves a forward 45-degree evasion with a simultaneous spear block, and horizontal cut with the sword. Note: the spear is at a 45-degree angle and slightly angled away from the body. This spear position deflects the attacking weapon—in this case a sword—away from the body and downward. It also allows the practitioner to lower the spear to follow the movement of the attacker’s weapon as it descends.

Once again for optimal stability the spear-wielding arm should be kept close to the body, and the elbow should never pass the point of the hip.

The sword cut should be to the neck or other vulnerable points of the body. It is also possible to thrust the sword to the mid-section

This photo depicts the same technique but with a dagger instead of a sword.

Like the first one handed yari technique this form can be done in various configurations, two swords, sword and dagger, tessen (iron fan) and sword, etc..

One-Handed Yari Technique #1

One element of my teachers sojutsu (spear) system was one-handed usage of the spear. This allowed him to wield another weapon, often a short sword or tanto (dagger).

When wielding a spear with one hand, I strongly suggest that the spear be less than 6 feet in length. I prefer to use one just slightly longer than a jo. Of course that decision is up to the practitioner and his ability.

I also suggest when wielding a second weapon that is either lighter than or of equal weight to the spear; this helps maintain stability.

This technique involves a forward 45-degree evasion with a simultaneous rainbow block with sword. Note: the spear is thrusting to the attacker’s midsection during the body shift. (The spear side elbow should never pass the point of the hip, and the body must remain square.)

In order to be successful the spear must be tucked against the body and the body must be used to thrust the spear. Using only the arm would be too weak, and could cause the spear to become unstable if hard tissue such as bone were hit.

While not pictured, once the thrust is complete the attacker is open for a cut from the sword such as Kesa–geri.

Clearly this technique is not “rocket science,” and it can be done in various configurations, two swords, sword and dagger, tessen (iron fan) and sword, etc..

Hidden Fortress Yari Duel

I just came upon a clip of one of my favorite samurai movie-duels, Toshiro Mifune’s yari (spear) fight from Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress:

http://www.stolaf.edu/depts/asian-studies/projects/kurosawa/films/Hidden.html

While famous as the film that inspired (in part) Star Wars, it isn’t one of Kurosawa’s best. However, this scene is far and away the best one in the movie (at least for those of us partial to the yari).

Some other clips are also on the site: http://www.stolaf.edu/depts/asian-studies/projects/kurosawa/films.html