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Samurai and the lack of a shield doctrine?

 
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maikeruart
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 4:07 am    Post subject: Samurai and the lack of a shield doctrine? Reply with quote
I did a search for shields and only came up with some siege stuff. But I think the number one question I will get in my class when we discuss Friday's Dawn of the Samurai, is "why don't Samurai use shields"? I have not had a chance to read much into it, but my assumption is that their tactics from the Heian period to say the Sengoku Jidai did not have a need for the shield, so a doctrine was not created. Basically first the tachi and katana as a two handed weapon made the shield sort of irrelevant. While also they had a sort of cavalry culture, but not the heavy cavalry of Europe, being used as a sort of shock troop to run down enemy formations, breaking them. Instead it appears it was much more light and fast moving, to flank and counter flank the enemy. A shield would simply way them down. Plus I believe the way the yari was utilized also meant a shield would be in the way. Finally it seemed the shield was more or less integrated into the armor, judging by the size of the Osote. Not to mention the European shields were being less and less in favor by the time Japan was in the Sengoku Jidai.
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kitsuno
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Also, most people had long spears that required two hands. Or before that long range combat with bows, and they also required two hands. But i don't know the "real" reason.
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maikeruart
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I just think it dropped out of style quickly at least by the Heian period. There were sup up into the Nara period but it just faded. In comparison a majority of foot soldiers in Europe did not have shields, they were the white version of Ashigaru. Only the heavy troops used them, and that was on foot. Even Japanese cavalry doctrine is different, in that the stirrups are the flatform, allowing the rider to pivot and thrust at different angles. Where as in Europe they had to remain seated and sort of braced by the saddle (the backboard in 12th century Europe was huge). I want to infer that there was no necessity for them.
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estcrh
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Both samurai and ashigaru used shields (tate) to hide behind both on land and sea, these were not hand held shields, they were large wood panels.

Early Japanese foot soldiers did at one time use hand shields, Dorothy Perkins notes the use of "wood and leather shields" by foot soldiers as early as the mid 6th century. The Samurai of Japan: A Chronology from Their Origin in the Heian Era (794-1185) to the Modern Era P.10

The Japanese government eventually started to rely quite heavily on horse mounted warriors sometime between the 700s and 800s to provide protection as the conscripted foot soldiers proved to be less than adequate against enemies who increasingly used horses. The battles with the Emishi, who were skilled at riding horses necessitated a similar horse mounted warrior to fight them.

At some point in time the hand held shield seems to have been completely abandoned in Japan, its not as if the Japanese never used hand held shields.

Here is a quote from a book by Jonathan Clements, A Brief History of the Samurai Page 24

Quote:
The design of warrior's armour began to reflect the increased role of mounted archery. The top of the helmet remained the toughest point of the armour suit, and its neck guard flared out even further. This afforded the maximum protection and deflection from arrows fired directly above the wearer's head. While this might seem strange at first, it suggests that when charging at their enemies, Japanese soldiers would do so with their heads low and eyes down, presenting the arrow-deflecting curves of their helmet head-on the the foe. With the need to keep both hands free for using a bow, no shield was possible. Instead Japanese warriors began to favour large, shield-like attachments that formed square pads attached to their shoulders



During the periods when bows were one of the main samurai weapons, large "sode" (shoulder armor) were attached to the armor very loosely by cords tied on top of the armor, this allowed the sode to be moved or removed easily, in later periods when the bow was no longer a primary weapon the now much smaller sode were firmly attached to the armor with toggles, the sode could not be as easily moved or removed on later armors.

Samurai armor showing the large old style sode (shoulder armor).



Samurai using shields on a boat, mongol invasion scroll, 13th century.



The samurai started to use shields mounted on the shoulders of their armor called "sode" around the 10th century, the use of sode allowed the samurai to use both hands while riding a horse, this was a significant innovation. If you look at an image of an early samurai in o-yoroi armor riding a horse you will see how well the armor covered the vital areas. By not having to hold a shield in their hands the samurai would have had a significant advantage over a house mounted enemy who was holding a shield. Instead of wondering why the samurai did not use hand held shields you might as well wonder why other cultures did not use sode instead of hand held shields while fighting on horse back.



This image of an early samurai riding a horse shows how well the o-Yoroi armor protected the vital areas. Note the tachi and yumi.


Samurai fighting from behind shields.



Ashigaru using shields


A recreation of ancient pre-samurai Japanese soldiers carrying shields.






Last edited by estcrh on Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:04 am; edited 2 times in total
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maikeruart
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
So it seems by basic assumptions are correct.
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ltdomer98
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
maikeruart wrote:
So it seems by basic assumptions are correct.


Yep, with the addition that Kitsuno added (I was going to until I saw he beat me to it) that two-handed weapons make hand-shields difficult.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Now that we have established that samurai did not use hand held shields here is a couple of exceptions. Several years ago I saw what looked like a small iron hand held shield for sale in Japan, there were only two pictures of it. I was not quite sure what is was altho it did look old. Recently I can across an image of a samurai firing a pistol at another samurai who was holding a small hand held shield, was this an example of the artist making things up or a depiction of something he had seen or heard about.

The next example shows a war fan being used as a shield, some of these were quite large and made of iron, so not entirely unbelievable.






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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The warfan is a common depiction of the apocryphal meeting of Takeda Shingen (holding the fan) and Uesugi Kenshin (making the strike) at Kawanakajima. While they were made of iron, I doubt it was common practice to wade into battle using one's fan as a shield.

As to the other piece, I'm not sure. There are all sorts of weapon systems designed in today's world that never make it off the drawing board, or make it into testing but are not adopted. I'm wondering if something like that is going on here. The idea of a hand shield to protect from bullets SOUNDS good, especially if you're in a culture that historically has not used hand shields. Practical usage would likely demonstrate that you can't move fast enough to "block" a bullet with a shield. So to me, it sort of looks like a fanciful idea from someone trying to devise a way to provide better protection against bullets, but one that wouldn't make it's way past "field testing".
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The technology could exist in say the small scale. But it lacked an overall doctrine in it's application. Whereas cavalry doctrine in Japan was pretty clear. Quick, movile firing platforms basically.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
maikeruart wrote:
The technology could exist in say the small scale.


Like this example.
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