Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘Asian’


A Dojo is a Miniature Cosmos

A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves—our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside. The total concentration and discipline required to study martial arts carries over to daily life. The activity in the dojo calls on us to constantly attempt new things, so it is also a source of learning—in Zen terminology, a source of self-enlightenment.

Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, p. 4

Confucian Mandate of Heaven

According to Confucian principles, governments were maintained by their moral weight, their capacity to promote welfare and justice. Such a virtuous government enjoyed the Mandate of Heaven, and dynasties fell when they lost this mandate. Consequently the moral corruption of a ruler provided a harbinger of his fall.

John A. Lynn, Battle, p. 42

Five Skills And Four Desires of Generalship

There are five skills and four desires involved in generalship. The five skills are:

  1. skill in knowing the disposition and power of enemies,
  2. skill in knowing the ways to advance and withdraw,
  3. skill in knowing how empty or how full countries are,
  4. skill in knowing nature’s timing and human affairs, and
  5. skill in knowing the features of terrain.

The four desires are:

  1. desire for the extraordinary and unexpected in strategy,
  2. desire for thoroughness in security,
  3. desire for calm among the masses, and
  4. desire for unity of hearts and minds.

Thomas Cleary (translator and editor), Mastering the Art of War, p. 42

Capacities of Commanders

The capacities of commanders are not the same; some are greater, some are lesser.

One who spies out treachery and disaster, who wins the allegiance of others, is the leader of ten men.

One who rises early in the morning and retires late at night, and whose words are discreet yet perceptive, is the leader of a hundred men.

One who is direct yet circumspect, who is brave and can fight, is the leader of a thousand men.

One of martial bearing and fierceness of heart, who knows the hardships of others and spares people from hunger and cold, is the leader of ten thousand men.

One who associates with the wise and promotes the able, who is careful of how he spends each day, who is sincere, trustworthy, and magnanimous, and who is guarded in times of order as well as times of disturbance, is the leader of a hundred thousand men.

One whose humanitarian care extends to all under his command, whose trustworthiness and justice win the allegiance of neighboring nations, who understands the signs of the sky above, the patterns of the earth below, and the affairs of humanity in between, and who regards all people as his family, is a world-class leader, one who cannot be opposed.

Thomas Cleary (translator and editor), Mastering the Art of War, pp. 41-42

Cavalry Replaces Chariots in Chinese Art of War

…[In the Warring States Period], the art of war in China was radically transformed in weaponry, strategy, and army size. Iron now provided stronger, more durable weapons…. It was also during this epoch that cavalry replaced chariots as the primary mobile arm. Threats from nomadic horse people just to the west and north of the Chinese states encouraged the turn to cavalry. In fact, the king of the Choa reformed his cavalry dramatically in 307 [B.C.E.], ordering his soldiers to wear barbarian-style trousers and tight-fitting sleeves in place of robes and to ride horses and learn mounted archery. These cavalrymen lacked stirrups until the end of the Han [Dynasty], and saddles were rudimentary; understandably, this hampered the effectiveness of men on horseback. Therefore, cavalry at first supplemented chariots rather than replacing them, but chariots eventually gave way….

John A. Lynn, Battle, p. 36

Steppe Ponies, Not Horses

The steppe horse should probably be considered a pony rather than a horse, and the distinction between pony and horse is recognized by horsemen today, even if that distinction is not precise. Ponies are generally smaller than horses, usually no more than fourteen hands high, and in the common view this is their principal distinction. However, there are other equally significant differences between ponies and horses, and these are important in considering the effectiveness and threat posed by the steppe peoples who rode them.

Ponies are tough, often stockier than horses, and surprisingly strong. Some modern ponies, such as the halflinger, while not as tall as a horse, may be as heavy. As a rule their proportions are different—their legs may be relatively shorter and thicker and their heads proportionately larger. Their manes and tails are often longer and their hair more coarse. Their generally smaller size may account for the fact that they live longer than horses and require less food, and food of lesser quality. All of these factors, along with some Paleolithic evidence, suggested to a Scottish scientist at the turn of the century that ponies and horses were distinct “races” in ancient times and that size alone might be a rather arbitrary distinction. Clearly the two are very close and are often interbred, but the question of their lineage is not so much a concern here as are the pony’s excellent qualities of strength, stamina and ability to subsist on little food. All of this was well known in antiquity. In the fifth century the Roman author Vegetius wrote of Hun horses that they were ugly and small, but rated them as best for warfare because of their toughness and obedience.

Erik Hildinger, Warriors of the Steppe, p. 16

Emphasis mine.

Cuirass Versus Lamellar Armor

There were two types of [Japanese] armor: the solid iron cuirass (tankō) and lamellar armor (keikō). The former may have been introduced from Southeast Asia and is seen on many clay figurines of sixth-century [C.E.] fighters. Although it was composed of separate pieces of metal fastened together by leather or bolts, the cuirass permitted little freedom of movement, and lost its popularity after the year 400 [C.E.].

Lamellar armor was of Northeast Asian origin and was the accepted battle wear after 500 [C.E.] because it was lighter than the cuirass and allowed greater mobility. It was especially well-suited for mounted warfare. About 800 pieces of iron went into each suit….

William Wayne Farris, Heavenly Warriors, pp. 19-22

Hunnic Bow and Mongolian Release

The Byzantine horsed archer was an expert, capable of loosing arrows from either side of the horse while at full gallop, either shooting a fleeing opponent, or defending himself by a ‘Parthian’ shot over the horse’s rearquarters if he himself was fleeing. The method used was a full draw to the right ear which imparted greater poundage to the arrow. The penetrative quality of Roman equipment used at the battle of Callinicum was due to the adoption of the Hunnic bow and the Mongolian release. The Mongolian release, which uses a thumb lock, is faster, whereas the Mediterranean release, using the fingers to draw, is slower and with an oriental bow the fingers would be crushed. Procopius says the bow used by the Persians at Callinicum was much weaker and the arrows unable to pierce armour, even though the rate of delivery was greater.

Ann Hyland, The Medieval Warhorse, p. 22

Emphasis mine.

There Are Nine Types of Generals

There are nine types of generals:

Those who guide with virtue, who treat all equally with courtesy, who know when the troops are cold and hungry, and who notice when they are weary and pained, are called humanistic generals.

Those who do not try to avoid any task, who are not influenced by profit, who would die with honor before living in disgrace, are called dutiful generals.

Those who are not arrogant because of their high status, who do not make much of their victories, who are wise but can humble themselves, who are strong but can be tolerant, are called courteous generals.

Those whose extraordinary shifts are unfathomable, whose movements and responses are multifaceted, who turn disaster into fortune and seize victory from the jaws of danger, are called clever generals.

Those who give rich rewards for going ahead and have strict penalties for retreating, whose rewards are given right away and whose penalties are the same for all ranks, even the highest, are called trustworthy generals.

Those who go on foot or on a war-horse, with the mettle to take on a hundred men, who are skilled in the use of close-range weapons, swords, and spears, are called infantry generals.

Those who face the dizzying heights and cross the dangerous defiles, who can shoot at a gallop as if in flight, who are in the vanguard when advancing and in the rear guard when withdrawing, are called cavalry generals.

Those whose mettle makes the armies tremble and whose determination makes light of powerful enemies, who are hesitant to engage in petty fights while courageous in the midst of major battles, are called fierce generals.

Those who consider themselves lacking when they see the wise, who go along with good advice like following a current, who are magnanimous yet able to be firm, who are uncomplicated yet have many strategies, are called great generals.

Thomas Cleary (translator and editor), Mastering the Art of War, pp. 40-41

Art of Japanese Spear Fighting

Naturally, there were many ryu and many sensei of bujutsu who specialized, often exclusively, in the use of the spear in combat. Famous among the former was the ancient Hozo-in ryu, named after the Hozo monastery where spear fighting was widely practiced. The Shinkage ryu, famed for its skillful swordsmen, also included spear fighting in its program of instruction. According to the literature of bujutsu, an expert spearman trained in any of these schools was studiously avoided not only by single warriors armed with the formidable katana but even by groups of warriors whom he could scatter with an intricate, yet impenetrable and deadly circular dance—his long weapon cutting, thrusting, slashing, and parrying as it cut through the air around him in a series of murderous whorls….

According to the major types of spears, there were two major arts or methods of using them: yarijutsu, the art of the straight spear, and naginatajutsu (or simply naginata), the art of the curved spear. Each art was practiced in accordance with innumerable styles, and there were subspecializations centered upon the use of all the various types of long and short spears and javelins. All shared a substantial number of basic techniques, such as the thrusts (tsuki), strikes (kiri), and parries which, in common with all cutting weapons, were also found in swordsmanship. Postures of readiness, introductory movements, styles of moving in toward an opponent or of sliding out of range of his blade, manners of reaching a target or of evading an attack, varied from school to school and even, within each, from expert to expert….

…In feudal times every part of the yari was used, including the bottom, which was usually capped with a pointed metal head; and that the position of readiness with the spear kept close to the side (in one of the predominant styles) was known as kai-kumi. We also know that several schools taught intricate patterns, high and low (jumonji-yari), in order to be able to strike not only from the front but also with characteristic sweeps directed at the opponent’s rear, while other schools specialized in parrying, hooking, and deflecting techniques known as kagi-yari. Naginatajutsu added to the techniques of the yari those circular cuts particularly appropriate to the curved shape of the naginata.

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 250-253

Emphasis mine.

Japanese Spears: Yari and Naginata

In ancient mythology, Japan was known as "the country of one thousand fine halberds," and very seldom did an illustration of the ancient bushi outfitted for war fail to show him holding his spear—a weapon second in traditional significance only to the bow and arrow….

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, p. 241

In both design and structure, the true Japanese spear (known generally as the yari) was similar to all Japanese blades in the high quality of its tempering, its lightness, and the ease with which it could be maneuvered. The great artists of steel forged these spears for the bushi with the same care and imagination they lavished on his swords. The spear blades were carefully protected by sheaths (a requirement included among military laws of the clans). The shafts (nakae) of these spears came in almost every weight and length imaginable. They were made of excellent wood, carefully seasoned and treated, usually reinforced by and decorated with strips or rings of metal (sujigane) at the points that would be under pressure when leverage was applied or a blow parried.

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, p. 241

Spearheads…were cast of the same high quality steel used for swords and came in many lengths and shapes. They can be divided, however, into three major groups: straight spearheads, curved spearheads, and the variously shaped spearheads. The straight spearhead was the most common. It was double-edged, almost like an abbreviated version of the archaic Japanese sword (ken)….

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, p. 244

At a point of transition between the straight spearhead and the curved spearhead is the blade of the nakamaki, which resembles that famous spear which gained great popularity among the bushi: the naginata, often erroneously referred to in English as a halberd. This term, however…

is a defective translation, for the Japanese naginata (literally, long sword) was not a pole terminating in a battle-axe and spear-head as the English name implies. It was a [scimitar]-like blade, some three feet in length, fixed to a slightly longer haft. Originally, the warlike monks alone employed this weapon, but from the [eleventh century C.E.], when the Minamoto and the Taira clans began their long struggle, the naginata found much favor among the military men, its combined powers of cutting and thrusting being fully recognized.

The blade of the naginata, in fact, was like that of a sword, curved near the point, where its shape became even more pronounced. Stone writes that there were three varieties: the first appears to have been the ancient tsukushi-naginata, the shaft of which was inserted into a metal loop on the back of the blade; the second and most common had the tang or base secured to the shaft; and the third and rarest had a socket at the base into which the shaft was inserted (ta-no-saki). They were all carried appropriately sheathed and their shafts, as might be expected, were heavily lacquered and decorated with metal mountings. The naginata became famous not only because of its tremendous versatility in combat but also because of the many individual schools which developed intricate styles and remarkable proficiency in its use. Certain authors, in fact, even believe that the introduction of protective armor for the legs and the lower part of the body was in answer to the development and lethal use of the naginata….

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 244-247

The third group of spearheads includes a confusing variety of shapes, usually highly specialized. The sasu-mata, for example, was a spear with a forked head and hooks or spikes at its base that could be used to cut and pierce a target not only in front but also returning behind it…. The futamata-yari was also a spear with a forked head, and the magari-yari was a beautiful trident, with the side-blades set at right angles to the central blade, their points turning slightly inward….

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 247-248

All emphasis mine.

Ancient Asiatic Spiritual Traditions

The history of the Maya is shrouded in the mists of antiquity…. We know that they were the inheritors of the spiritual traditions of the first Asiatic hunters who crossed the ancient land bridge from Asia into Alaska and then made their way through this uninhabited hemisphere to the tip of South America. The possibility of sea crossings from Asia becomes more and more likely too as archaeologists and anthropologists gain new respect for the seafaring capacities of ancient peoples.

We don’t know when these people first set foot in what was then a truly new world for human beings, but there are sites in South America that could date back over fifty thousand years. We do know that the first Indians brought with them from their Asian homeland important aspects of their spiritualities: shamanism; ancestor worship; a belief in the quadrated nature of the universe with a vertical fifth dimension at its center; the idea that various levels of spiritual reality exist above and below the earth; the conviction that jade, flint, and pyrite crystals could be used to communicate with the spirits; the tradition of ecstatic trancing to open the Otherworld and release its deadly and life-bearing energies; the practice of human sacrifice; and an unshakable belief in the survival of the soul after death.

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, pp. 7-9

Emphasis mine.

Inner Factors of Bujutsu

Sophisticated weapons and complex techniques (the outer factors of bujutsu…), although admittedly impressive, might be compared to the visible part of an iceberg which catches the eye, and often the imagination, but is only a projection of the power hidden below in the depths of the icy waters. Although the possession of a certain weapon and basic training in its functional use often satisfied the individual bujutsu practitioner (bujin) of limited ambition and imagination, there were others, many others, who perceived, beyond those outer factors of the various arts, other, more complex factors, less evident perhaps to the naked eye but no less important in determining the practical efficiency of those weapons and their relative techniques. Failure to perceive these inner factors could prove disastrous, as it did for many a complacent bujin who had been trained only in the technical ways of handling a spear, a sword, or any other weapon, including his own anatomy. Centuries of experience in the ancient art of combat, in fact, had confronted the bujin and his sensei with a series of demanding questions, among which the following were of primary importance: When should an opponent be engaged? How was he (as well as oneself) to be controlled? What type of energy was to be used, and how employed to the best advantage? Finally, what was to be the bujin‘s motivation? All these considerations involved factors of a decidedly interior nature which activated the techniques of bujutsu from within, provided them with an effective source of power, and justified their use in a manner calculated to provide the bujin with controlled determination, calmness, and clarity of purpose, as well as with a moral justification to sustain him in combat. Bujutsu masters confronted these interrogatives (and others), explored their range and depth, and tried to provide satisfactory answers for themselves and their disciples.

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, p. 375

Emphasis mine.

This is the kind of sensei I see—and attempt to role-play—Xenograg as.

Silk Shirts Lessen Arrow Wounds

After the conquest of northern China, the Mongols were issued silk shirts to wear under their clothing. Silk is tough and will generally follow an arrowhead into the wound without breaking. The silk can then be tugged gently from the wound, drawing out the arrowhead without enlarging the injury.

Erik Hildinger, Warriors of the Steppe, Chapter 7, p. 121

Furthermore, as the silk did not break or tear, no foreign matter was left in the wound. This greatly reduced the chance of dying from infection.

The Bow Was the Chief Weapon in Japanese Warfare

For centuries, the bow and arrow was "the chief weapon of the fighting man in Japan". Even after the introduction of firearms and the extended period of enforced peace under the Tokugawa [Shogunate] had greatly reduced its strategic relevance, archery was still considered a noble art. Known generally as shagei (accomplishment in archery) or, more specifically, as kyujutsu (the art, or technique, of the bow), it was a fully developed art with a complex system of practices and techniques, an initially wide variety of styles which slowly merged into a few major ones, and a deep theory linking the art to the very birth of the Japanese nation. Inspired as it was by the mystical, esoteric dimension of that culture, it is not surprising to learn that, in the twelfth century [C.E.]…"people in high positions were delighted when their ability as archery was acclaimed but made every endeavor to have their prowess with the sword hushed up."

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, p. 226

Emphasis mine.

Warriors for War’s Sake: the Horse Peoples

Armies that were fed from an agricultural surplus and limited in range of maneuver by their pace and endurance on foot simply could not undertake free-ranging campaigns of conquest. Nor did they need to; enemies similarly constrained could threaten them with defeat in battle but not by Blitzkrieg. The horse people were different. Attila had shown an ability to shift his strategic center of effort between fronts 500 miles or more apart. No such strategic maneuver had been attempted or had been possible before. Freedom of action on this scale lay at the heart of the ‘cavalry revolution.’

The horse people fought unconstrained in another sense. They did not seek to inherit or adapt to the half-understood civilizations they invaded. Nor did they seek to supplant others’ political authority with their own. They were warriors for war’s sake, for the loot it brought, the risks, the thrills, the animal satisfactions of triumph; all the spoils with strings.

John Keegan, A History of Warfare, p. 188

Emphasis mine.

The Despised Foot Soldier

Protected by plate armor and the pride of chivalry, the noble felt himself invulnerable and invincible and became increasingly contemptuous of the foot soldier. He believed that commoners, being excluded from chivalry, could never be relied upon in war. As grooms, baggage attendants, foragers, and road-builders—the equivalent of engineer corps—they were necessary, but as soldiers in leather jerkins armed with pikes and billhooks, they were considered an encumbrance who in a sharp fight would “melt away like snow in sunshine.” This was not simple snobbism but a reflection of experience in the absence of training. The Middle Ages had no equivalent of the Roman legion. Towns maintained trained bands of municipal police, but they tended to fill up their contingents for national defense with riff-raff good for nothing else. Abbeys had better use for their peasants than to employ their time in military drill. In any epoch the difference between a rabble and an army is training, which was not bestowed on foot soldiers called up by the arrière-ban. Despised as ineffective, they were ineffective because they were despised.

Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, p. 89

Emphasis mine.