Germany Meets Japan: Unpacking the Longsword vs Katana Cliche

Instructor(s): Braun McAsh , Keith Farrell

Timeslot(s): , , , ,

Primary Disciplines: Longsword, Katana

With a primary focus on the two-handed longsword and katana this track will explore the fundamental similarities and differences in posture, movement, tactics, and strategy between the medieval German school of Johannes Leichtenauer and the school of Edo period Master Miyomoto Musashi.

Japanese Katana Intensive

Our two session intensive on the Japanese katana will focus on techniques common to the majority of schools of Shinkendo/kenjutsu/Iaido – the stances, guards, attacks and defense, together with the dynamics of body movement that support and enhance these techniques. Also examined in context of the actual technique will be the works of Musashi, based on his famous work, the Book of the Five Rings (Go Rin no Sho) which evokes metaphors for the philosophical concept of swordsmanship which is applicable to any weapon or combat form.
Focusing on the single sword of the Ni-ten Ichi Ryu, “You can win with a long weapon, and yet you can also win with a short weapon. In short, the Way of the Ichi school is the spirit of winning, whatever the weapon and whatever its size.” Part of this methodology is the wielding of a two-handed weapon by a single hand, as demonstrated by his exploration of the use of both katana and wakizashi simultaneously and also using the katana one-handed as a single weapon.”If you hold a sword with both hands, it is difficult to wield it freely to left and right, so my method is to carry the sword in one hand.” In this approach (which, unfortunately cannot include the use of both these weapons due to availability of practice swords and time limitations) we can also explore the physical possibilities inherent in ability to utilize the free hand to support and create opportunities for the sword.

This is very applicable to the European Longsword as well, as we shall explore in the final day’s joint workshop with Keith Farrell.

Indeed, there are many similarities between the use of the katana and the Longsword which are predicated on the strengths and limitations of the human body and certain important similarities that are logically inherent in the physical design of the weapons.

The focus of the workshop is about the dynamic of fighting, using a very specific sword design with a long tradition of practice, and the exploration of its possibilities.

Equipment Requirements:
Fencing mask, gloves, bokken. (A synthetic or training longsword could work as a substitute with limitations).

German Longsword Intensive

Day 1: 16th Century Germanic “Common Fencing”

In this session, we will be looking at the “common fencing” of the 16th century, according to the various treatises that seem to describe the fencing methods that were commonplace and widely practised or known by people at all levels of skill. This will involve some discussion of the context of the practice of these arts in the free cities of the Holy Roman Empire and of the physicality they developed in the citizens.

Day 2: 15th Century “Core Liechtenauer”

In this session, we will be looking at the Zedel written by Liechtenauer, and at the glosses written in the 15th century to explain this method. We will be comparing and contrasting technical and tactical aspects with the common fencing of the previous session and will be discussing the more academic context that may have given rise to this particular conceptualization of a fighting system.

Equipment Requirements

Everyone will need a longsword and a competent CEN-rated fencing mask. Well-padded gloves might be helpful (although we will not be targeting hands deliberately) and a gorget may be quite intelligent. A padded jacket may make your life more comfortable (there may be some stabbing to the torso) but is not mandatory. Back of head protection and additional padding around the fencing mask is always recommended.