Use of the Odachi

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by PhotonGuy, Mar 25, 2015.

  1. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    So I've seen literature that talk about how the Samurai would sometimes use the Odachi which is even bigger than the Katana. I've also seen pictures of the Odachi. It seems quite big, just how often would they use something that big?
     
  2. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    As often as you like. Before the Meiji era there was no limitation on the length of blades. It's just that Japanese being smaller people generally use a shorter blades. By the same token it would be rather stupid for a non Japanese to use say a 2.3 (Ni shaku sanzun).

    A longer and heavier blade can also be used to get one used to being able to handle a lighter one easier. The head of komei juku decided to use heftier blade some time ago telling me as I already knew that modern day forged shinken bear no resemblance to older battle weapons. Nowadays they mostly make blades for Iaido. If you want one for cutting it's a lot different.

    Katana is just a loose word used for Japanese swords. No one that uses one says "katana".
    Its a Nihonto (Japanese sword). Formerly they used Mozoto which is an unsharpened blade to practice until proficient. When sharpened they lose a lot of weight.

    Kage 1
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015
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  3. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    I thought Samurai typically carried the katana which was the long sword, the wakizashi or the short sword and the tanto which was a dagger but you're saying that "katana" could refer to just about any Japanese sword and the Nihonto was in fact the long sword with an approx. 24 inch blade. Often people are referring to that when they say katana.

    As for the Japanese being small and thus not using larger blades too often, there could be a large Japanese person that might use an Odachi. Even if most Japanese people were on the small side there were and are exceptions. I wonder what a Japanese person with gigantism would use.
     
  4. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    The first post said use. Second one said carry. I'm confused. Maybe its best you read some more.
     
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  5. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

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    The Odachi, if worn at all, was hung from the obi with the ha (cutting edge) downward. Due to its length (and specific use) this was done out of necessity as well as convenience. If the sword were too cumbersome to where into battle, a personal carrier held onto it until the Bushi chose to draw it. The Odachi (from my understanding) was used for taking out riders and/or their horses. After they started to fall out of fashion and eventually decreed to be replaced by the shorter blade, many good Odachi blades were cut down into shorter versions... My own shinken was originally an Odachi that had been cut down. Sad, really, because no way to tell who the maker was, with the nakago cut off and refitted.


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  6. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    No, not so much.
    You should follow the link provided by Hyoho in post #2 of this thread to read more about Kage ryu, one of the few still existing schools that use oversize swords. You will find it interesting.
     
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  7. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    That's what spears and other polearms were for...
     
  8. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

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    I should have been a bit more specific in my explanation. Sorry. Just a pain to type on a phone. Anyways, there are different Types/lengths of Odachi. One of the longest that was used was referred to as the Nodachi, which was sometimes worn on the back unless mounted on horseback. If on horseback, it was attached to the belt with the cutting edge down instead of up. This was to help facilitate in the drawing due to its extra length and being mounted. It was used against other mounted warriors as well as foot soldiers quite effectively due to the extra reach it provided. There were certain Nodachi that were so long and heavy that they were only effectively used two handed and on foot.


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  9. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

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    'No, not so much.' What exactly are you disagreeing with in my post? The entire post or a portion of it? I was in a bit of a hurry to type it and was a tad vague with some of my info. Sorry about that. I WAS referring to well documented historical information though.


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  10. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    Not quite all of it, but a goodly portion of it is not as black and white as you made it seem.

    First, you said that if an odachi was worn at all, it was hung from the obi ha down. That is why I urged you to visit the web site for the Kage ryu that Hyoho posted (which you haven't done it seems, I still think you'd enjoy it) as it is one of the very few schools still in existence that uses outsized swords. They carry them through the obi just as the rest of us would a normal sized sword. They also refer to them as Choken rather than odachi.

    As for the rest, while there are historical examples of what you are referring to, they are by no means all inclusive as you seemed to indicate from your post. I've heard anecdotes about samurai using swords the way you described. but I've yet to read a well documented historical account, so I would be very interested in a link or book citation so I could check it out.

    Your post just seemed very definitive for a subject that has a lot of variance.
     
  11. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

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    Again, apologies. Just my writing style. I do not profess to be an expert historian. A couple of my English resources are 'Secrets of the Samurai' by Ratti & Westbrook and 'Classical Bujutsu' by Draeger. The Japanese source names escape me at the moment but once I recall or find them I'll be happy to provide them. As for the link you mentioned, I did take a cursory look at it. Looks interesting. I look forward to reading more about it.


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  12. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm… "Secrets of the Samurai"? Not to put it too bluntly, but get better sources… myriad issues with that tome… Draegers work is much better, but he did have a tendency to try to fit everything in particular boxes, and apply the approach of the couple of historical systems he was knowledgable about to all classical systems… which simply doesn't work.
     
  13. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree with Chris's statement above in that you need to get better sources than "Secrets of the Samura" way to many issues with it.
     
  14. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    I concur with Brian and Chris..
    Ratti and Westbrook did a good job of making an interesting read, but they took historical accounts, oral traditions, and outright myths as sources. They presented them all without attempting to differentiate or research the veracity of the various offerings. Lots of good stuff in there along with a lot of misinformation, and it's very difficult to tell one from the other.

    The Kage ryu and the swords they use are very interesting. I had no idea how they managed to draw or use swords of that size until Watkins sensei posted a video a number of years back of a demonstration they did at one of the shrines. Sadly, I don't think it's available any more as I haven't come across it in years. Maybe we can manage to talk him into posting it back up for us as it's definitely worth seeing.
     
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  15. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

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    I appreciate the feedback and everyone's opinions on my reading resources. If you could maybe list a few resources that you you have found to be credible/useful, I would deeply appreciate it. I had heard some things about 'Secrets of the Samurai' before but never would have given much thought to negative comments on Draeger's works. The man lived and studied in Japan and was considered one of the authorities on Japanese martial traditions and history... Regardless, I'm always open to new information and look forward to anyone's reading suggestions.


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  16. Uchinanchu

    Uchinanchu Green Belt

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    I almost forgot to ask, if someone could please tell me which pages, passages & chapters to avoid in 'Secrets of the Samurai' when referencing. It would be deeply appreciated. Thank you.


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