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CARRYING A SWORD ON YOUR BACK

Discussion in 'Sword Discussion' started by betover, Apr 16, 2018 at 4:03 PM.

  1. betover

    betover

    29
    Dec 1, 2015
    A few years ago I noticed some movie characters wearing their swords on their backs. Conan, Blade & the girl with the katana from The walking dead to name a few. I didn't think anything about it until a couple days ago, I tried it. It was a full sized sword & I found it impossible to draw. My arms are too short for the blade to clear the scabbard.
    This leads me to the question: were swords ever worn in this way or is this just some creation of Hollywood. For the costume designer, it is a cooler look and for the fight choreographer you can get better shots because the sheath is not in the way, but in the real world did people ever wear their swords like this?
    BTW this is the most idle of idle questions & if you don't know please don't put in any effort to discovering the answer. Just curious.
     
  2. Lapedog

    Lapedog

    Dec 7, 2016
    It is purely a holywood thing. Swords were not worn over the back. They perhaps could be transported this way but were not worn to be drawn this way.

    There are actually many youtube videos debunking the idea that swords were drawn from the back.
     
    betover likes this.
  3. betover

    betover

    29
    Dec 1, 2015
    Thanks, I never would have thought of YouTube. I'm going to look it up right now. I'm now curious about the people that took this mater seriously enough to make a video. LOL
     
  4. Mecha

    Mecha Madscienceforge.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Ninjas.



    I like to just duct-tape the sword directly to my back under a shirt for stealth carry and quick deployment.

     
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  5. John A. Larsen

    John A. Larsen

    Jan 15, 2001
    There are all sorts of period photos of Chinese soldiers in the 1930's-1940's wearing Dadao swords on their backs. John
     
    betover likes this.
  6. Lapedog

    Lapedog

    Dec 7, 2016
    Yes they were likely transported in this way. And there are ways to draw a sword from your back. Generally that is not how they were worn to be ready to draw. I’m sure there are exceptions.
     
    betover likes this.
  7. DrRollinstein

    DrRollinstein Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    174
    Feb 20, 2018
    One of the biggest myths in swords. Gonna be hard to win your ninja sword battles if you cant get the sword out in a timely manner.
     
    betover likes this.
  8. Mecha

    Mecha Madscienceforge.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    These people didn't go into battle and then draw-cut to attack, they already had the swords at ready long before the clash began. Carrying things on one's back is natural.

    Plus ninja swords were kind of short.
     
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  9. LEGION 12

    LEGION 12 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 8, 2009
     
  10. GrReaper

    GrReaper

    478
    Sep 22, 2014
    I seem to remember reading about ninjas who had their swords on their backs. Don't remember if they were just carrying them that way or if they drew from that position as well. Their swords had 24 inch inch blades at most, so they were kind of short swords. Almost like large wakizashi with long handles for use with two hands.
     
  11. BlackKnight86

    BlackKnight86 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2003
    If the sword is short enough, the draw is possible....

    .....but how would you get it back in?!?
     
  12. GrReaper

    GrReaper

    478
    Sep 22, 2014
    Yes, I always thought that too. If it was me, I'd always take the scabbard off my back before re-sheathing. Sheathing is more dangerous than drawing.
     
    BlackKnight86 likes this.
  13. Triton

    Triton Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 8, 2000
    Hollywood aside, all one really needs to do is try it like our OP did and one will quickly find that carrying a sword with the expectation of drawing it for fighting from one's back is completely impractical and would require either a blade the size of a pocketknife or arms like those of an orangutan. Carrying extremely large swords in a getup like a rifle sling when marching from place to place might have been a bit more practical (although I see little evidence for that either), but those swords would have been unsheathed well before battle commenced. On a related note in my opinion "ninja" and "ninja-to" are also mostly Hollywood products bad early eighties cinematography and absurd magazines to the contrary. Unless of course, one suggests that either big foot or aliens are actually ninja or that ninja are actually big foot or aliens in which case the absence of evidence is readily explained...
     
  14. GrReaper

    GrReaper

    478
    Sep 22, 2014
    I did some research on the subject of ninja swords and back-carrying. According to author Andrew Adams "Ninja: The Invisible Assassins" (Ohara Publications, Inc. 1970), he interviewed a real ninja practitioner named Yumio Nawa, who said that "[t]hey used a shorter blade than usual, not longer than 20 inches, for better mobility". Also I found in other sources that they did indeed both carry and draw from their backs. There were techniques for fast drawing from the back. Didn't find anything about re-sheathing. I presume they took off the scabbards before re-sheathing. I haven't watched the videos above yet, will try to get to 'em next week.

    As far as I can remember, those were the only ones who ever drew their swords from the back carry position. IMO Hollywood borrowed the idea and applied it to European and Samurai swords. (Think of the Highlander movies and tv series, everyone wearing trench coats and pulling long swords from behind their heads. That was total nonsense and fantasy. "There can be only one."):D
     
  15. The Zieg

    The Zieg

    Jan 31, 2002
    The ninja we know today is Hollywood bogus-ness. First, the ninja was not a black-clad assassin in the shadows (except in very rare occasions). Their swords were just like the traditional ones samurai carried (the straight bladed "ninja-to" is a cinematic invention: Not one has ever been authenticated coming from before the late 20th century) and they carried them like any other Japanese warrior, in a sash or belt.

    The sword on the back occurs only for transportation, as stated above, in rare cases: Some Indonesian, Chinese, and Khmer swords, but always drawn from a normal position. The great swords, two-handers, of early modern Europe were carried into battle over the shoulder, never in a back mounted scabbard. Albrecht Dürer's landsknecht depictions make this clear.

    Zieg
     
  16. GrReaper

    GrReaper

    478
    Sep 22, 2014
    1. As far as wearing black in the shadows, this would depend on what kind of mission they were on. They wore whatever they needed for disguise or camouflage. So they frequently dressed as beggars, blind men, farmers, gardeners, or even samurai. I suppose they wouldn't need to wear black except on night infiltration missions. How often they went on those would depend on whether it was a time of war or peace. If wartime, then I suppose they would have had cause to don black very frequently.

    2. Regarding their swords, I have never seen any legitimate source claim that the short ninja sword is a cinematic invention. As I mentioned above, the few remaining practitioners of this esoteric art described their swords as much shorter than the usual samurai swords. These swords had large tsubas and the scabbards were tube-like, open at both ends. That's from a book written in the late '60s, long before the ninja craze in Hollywood. I've no reason to doubt any of these sources. Without doubt, ninja must have also used samurai swords, when they were pretending to be samurai, but that doesn't mean the ninja sword is a movie prop.
     
  17. The Zieg

    The Zieg

    Jan 31, 2002
    Y
    Your response in point #1 is dead on. Whatever attire was appropriate. But the consensus is that ninjas were themselves of the samurai class. For point #2, your 1960s sources are probably (and I won't swear to this as it would be putting words in your mouth) tied to Ohara Publications and Stephen K. Hayes and his deification of his instructor, Masaaki Hatsumi. There is a LOT of reinvention of the Ninpo tradition going on in Tokagure Ryu.

    Zieg
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018 at 9:17 AM
  18. Triton

    Triton Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 8, 2000

    It's possible to find a source for anything you want. Legitimacy is another thing again. I invite you to try it. Get a yardstick measure off twenty inches and see how convenient it is to draw over your shoulder. Then ask yourself why super secret warriors would bother with something so impractical. As for ninja-to I invite you to point out historical artifacts either art or the weapons themselves corroborating the existence of super short, big tsuba (handy for using as step stools and pogo sticks presumably) straight bladed swords with snazzy scabbards that can be used as snorkels in a pinch.
     
  19. BitingSarcasm

    BitingSarcasm

    600
    Feb 25, 2014
    Debating ninjutsu is just about useless. They existed, they were sneaky bastard killers, and almost everybody who could be called a ninja was purged by Oda Nobunaga; these are the only things we can really say for certain. All of the juicy details that we point to on the internet (or in old-school print) are entirely reliant on people who are self-reporting and identifying with a--get this--SECRET group of killers. The Japanese super spies somehow lost all their ability to keep their mouths closed? "Oh, I just happen to have this trove of historical documentation that proves all my claims....." and I am still not buying it. It reminds me of the great artifacts that were...discovered....by the Victorians. I will take a piece of the True Cross, a Piltdown man, and a kusarigama please.
     
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  20. Lapedog

    Lapedog

    Dec 7, 2016
    This sword called the “ninja to” is a complete hollywood myth. They are often presented as sort of a short katana with a straight blade and a square tsuba (guard). The modern image of ninjas is also a fabrication. There were spies and assassins and “secret agents” in feudal Japan but they didn’t dress in all black with masks which would have made them very conspicuous. Also Japan was governed by laws that meant only Samurai and nobles could carry swords longer than a certain length unless in times of war. The longest sword a civillian would be allowed to carry was a kodachi which is somewhere between a long tanto and short wakizashi in length. This was permitted so merchants and travellers could protect themselves from bandits on the roads.

    For example there is legend that the Tokugawa shogunate had “ninja” gardeners who would protect the palace and watch the grounds without displaying ostentatiously that they were security. The images of black clad warriors using claws to climb the sides of buildings and bamboo tubes as snorkels is not historically accurate.
     

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