hongaku no kamae

Discussion in 'Koryu Bujutsu' started by Polar Bear, May 13, 2011.

  1. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Got a request from a HEMA bod on some info a JSA guard which is similar to a Fiore guard.

    "Can anyone point me to a reference that explains the tactical use of hongaku no kamae (hongaku gamae)? If anyone is familiar with the posture, I'd even appreciate info. on the form."

    Resident JSA experts .... GO!!!!

    The Bear.
  2. Manga

    Manga Moved On

    What's a Fiore Guard? Can you provide a picture? It might help identify this "Hongaku no Kamae?"
  3. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Fiore is a 15th Century Italian Fencing Master.

    The Bear.
  4. Manga

    Manga Moved On

    Hurrrrrdurrrrrr :hat:

    Thanks for pointing out who Fiore was :hat:

    Now, what does this -->"guard"<-- of his actually look like? Can you show us a picture of some sort?
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  5. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Here is a pic.

    The Bear.

    Attached Files:

  6. Manga

    Manga Moved On

    I don't have the book to hand but there's a discussion of that kamae in Charles Daniel's book "Kenjutsu." I honestly can't remember the details though so I'm better off not saying more. It might be a place to start looking though?
  7. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Yeah, I was looking for expert knowledge, I assume they've all read the books.

    The Bear.
  8. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    Ono-ha Itto-ryu Hongaku No Kamae (本覚之構え) by the looks of it.

    They have a similar kamae in Katayama-ryu kenjutsu, however the name for the posture is different.

    It's a very useful kamae in the right hands.
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  9. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    What's is used for Kogusoku?

    The Bears.
  10. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    You hold the weapon horizontally to obscure the length of your blade and it also allows you to utilize the sori and tsuba for defence as well as offence. From this kamae, there is potential to employ a good number of both offensive and defensive techniques.

    There is also Shinken no kamae (真剣之構え) where the blade angle is vertical, while still being held horizontally from the chest.

    I apologize, I'm on some painkillers right now and wrote "Hongo" instead of "Hongaku". I have edited my post.
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  11. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    No, that book is not a reliable resource I'm afraid.
  12. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Could you give me some brief descriptions of the techniques from this kamae. I think it would be helpful for the researchers as some may be similar to Fiore's.

    The Bear.
  13. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Valued Member

    For really expert knowledge, you'll need a member of the Ono-ha Itto Ryu to come along, that's where the kamae comes from. So you're aware (although I'm sure you would be already), Ono-ha Itto Ryu is a major influence on modern Kendo, but the system itself is rather interesting. Ittosai, founder of the Ryu, was interested primarily in pragmatism, leading to some of his teachings being rather, uh, harsh... such as the admonition "Learn by being cut". The Itto Ryu is very direct, and has a number of actions which are designed to perform the defence, and counter cut all in one very fast action.

    The Ono-ha Itto Ryu is also known for being the "other" school of swordsmanship taught to the Tokugawa Shoguns (the first being Yagyu Shinkage Ryu). It was taught to the Tokugawa's by the founder of the Ono-ha line, Ono Tadaaki. It has been suggested that Ono was actually a better swordsman than Yagyu Munenori, but his, er, "direct" personality caused him to be the second choice....

    With regards to Hongaku no Kamae itself, it is apparently designed to invite an attack while being able to suddenly return the opponents sword to them, with yours accompanying it, as quickly as possible. The name refers to a "real opening/awareness", from memory.

    An example of it in use is found here, at about 2:05, as well as some good examples of Itto Ryu's Kiri Otoshi approach.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlInzndKv_Q"]YouTube - Ono-ha Itto-ryu[/ame]

    Actually, just looking at it, the picture Bear posted above is just a screen capture of the Ono-ha Itto Ryu clip I posted.... hmm. A picture of the Bicorno guard (the Fiore guard discussed here) is this (bottom right hand corner):


    You can certainly see similarities between the two.
  14. Manga

    Manga Moved On

    Kogusoku said - "No, that book is not a reliable resource I'm afraid."

    I'm aware of it's flaws.
  15. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    Chris nailed it very aptly.
  16. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Valued Member

    Thanks Steve!

    Hmm, take this as conjecture based on scant information (the associated clip of Ono-ha Itto Ryu, as well as a number of others that I have seen, and the few pictures I found of the Bicorno guard), as I am neither a member of (or am training in) Ono-ha Itto Ryu, nor am I training or researching in any HEMA system or manuals, but there are a few things that leap out at me to distinguish them.

    I'll start by saying that I am familiar with a number of Japanese Kenjutsu Ryu-ha, in a few cases by direct training, in others by conversation with teachers and members of the Ryu, in others simply by observing clips, and I have found that similar looking postures can be done with very different approaches and reasons. That seems to be the case here, based on a few details I'm seeing. Let's start with the differences between the two guards/kamae, shall we?

    The Fiori guard (Bicorno) positions the sword tip pointing slightly upwards, most likely towards the forehead, and the pommel of the sword is positioned high, almost in line with the throat. By contrast, the Hongaku no Kamae has the sword pointing pretty much straight forward, with the kashira (pommel) being held in the mid-chest. The blade points directly at the opponents chest as well.

    This, to me, indicates two different tactics being demonstrated. The Bicorno guard is high, and threatening, but leaving an obvious opening low. An expected attack against this guard would be to attempt to sweep the sword up and away, and attack the exposed lower body. In other words, it's a way of inviting a particular attack, or sequence, by removing the option of attacking high or just moving straight in. The tactical responce would most likely be something along the lines of an evasive action, and a dropping cut to an exposed target (such as the top of the wrists), utilising the weight of the weapon to effectively cut. It is not suited to thrusting, as it is simply too high and the position of your arms restricts effective thrusting.

    In the Hongaku no Kamae, on the other hand, the tactic seems more about deception, hiding the potential of your weapon. You aren't really giving either your lower or upper body as targets, as the sword is held in the centre of your body, allowing you to respond efficiently to an attack of either height. The kamae feels to me to be about making the opponent unsure of how to proceed, not being sure if they had an advantage or not, and forcing them to try to find out first (by attacking at the sword itself). This is then taken advantage of by sweeping their sword out of the way as you strike straight to their body, or an open target. It's about causing, and taking advantage of, the opponents uncertainty.

    The other thing to consider is the major difference in the weapons being used. Sure, the Italian blade is double edged, but more importantly, it's a straight weapon. That makes it more suited to thrusting than the Japanese weapon, but removes some of the advantages the Japanese curved blade enjoys, such as a simple move forward resulting in deflecting the opponents sword. So the kamae takes advantage of that, by positioning it in a way that such an action can be easily done, whereas the Bicorno guard doesn't employ that as one of it's primary tactics (that I can see).

    Hmm, hope that made some kind of sense.....

    To be fair, I just got out my copy, and in regard to Hongaku no Kamae, all it says is:

    While he might not be getting everything out of the kamae, it's not really a lot of detail that he's putting forth there (in this instance).
  17. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Thanks for this Chris. I'm not a Fiore man myself but hopefully it will give some pointers for the researchers.

    The Bear.
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  18. Greensox

    Greensox New Member

    Hi there,

    I’m the ‘HEMA bod’ Polar Bear mentioned and grateful for everyone’s replies. Thank you.

    Fiore was a swordmaster from mid 14th century/early 15th century Italy and all four of his surviving manuscripts (Getty, Morgan, Pisani-Dossi and Florius) show a sword-in-two-hands guard called Bicorno (or Bichorno/Bicornio). Each manuscript shows an image and text. The basic form is the same in each, clearest in the P-D image Polar Bear posted, but the manuscripts show some variations. For example, the left hand knuckles up, but with palm facing right instead of left; hands higher (in line with nose); hands lower (in line with chest); left-leg leading instead of right.

    The text reads:
    //Questa e posta di bicorno che sta cossi / serada, che sempre sta cu(m) la punta p(er) mezo de la / strada. E quello che po fare posta longa, po fare / questa. E similemente dico de posta di fenestra. / e di posta frontale. / . Posta di Bichorno instabile . / (Getty 26(24)Vb)
    This is the position/post of the two-horned who has such closure/lockout, that always is/stays with the point/thrust for the middle of the way. And that which posta Longa can do, this [guard] can do. And likewise I say of Window and of Frontale. Bicorno, unstable.

    Questa e posta de bicorno che sta cosi serada / che sempre sta cum la punta p(er) mezo la strada / E aquello che po fare posta longa po far q(ue)sta / E similimente dico de posta di fenestra e di po/sta frontale. / (Morgan 13Rd)
    This is posta bicorno that is has such closure/lockout that always is/stays with the point/thrust for the middle of the way. And that which posta Longa can do, this can do. And likewise I say of Window and of Frontale.

    Posta de bicornio io me faço chiamar / Si io ho falsitade asay no(n) men doma(n)dar* / (P-D 19A, bottom R)
    Two-horned position I call myself. Yes I have falsehood enough not to ask less [do not ask less?].

    Nomior a ****is certe situs ipse Bicornis. / Nec pete q(uam) falsus q(uam) sim n(e)c callid(ior) i(n) te. / (Florius 13V, bottom R)
    Named by all surely, this position itself is Bicornio [two-horned]. Neither ask anyone how false I am, nor [how much more] crafty than (in?) you.

    [At least, that's what I think it says... :) ]

    In his 2008 SESH article,
    Guy Windsor’s interpretation has the blade vertical and the back of his left hand in contact with the inside of the right wrist; he suggests that this grip supports the ‘flats’, making a thrust more difficult to deflect. Since the extra support to the flats seems to be at the expense of the support to the edges, any advantage would depend on me being able to predict my opponent's response to the thrust - something I'm not confident of. Presumably the important part is being able to redirect quickly around any attempt to parry.

    Bicorno isn't a guard I use very often. Occasionally I feint a diagonally descending blow from Fiore’s ‘Woman’ guard (equivalent of jodan-no-kamae, I think) and transition briefly through Bicorno before thrusting, but against a quick opponent I risk losing my right thumb.

    When a friend mentioned a similar JSA guard I thought I’d try to find out more about it. Chris’ remarks on the differences between hangako-no-kamae and bicorno have made me wonder if I’m using hangaku-no-kamae rather than Bicorno! :)

    Bicorno is shown in all four manuscripts opposite Fiore’s Tail guard (left-leg lead with sword held low on the right handside, pointing backward parallel to the centreline). Maybe he was making the point that Bicorno is safest when you can predict your opponent’s response and have a tempo advantage?

    Again, thanks for the input.


    Last edited: May 13, 2011

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