Posted by: B Gourley | July 23, 2008

Avoiding Bloodshed and Non-lethal Methods

There is a well-known story about the founder of the Masakiryu school of kusarifundojutsu (weighted chain techniques) being a guard at the Edo (presently Tokyo) Castle. Apparently, he developed the techniques with the weighted chain because he was seeking a weapon that would allow him to deal with criminals and ne’er-do-wells, be they armed or not, in a way that did not shed blood. At issue was a need to avoid defiling the gate, which was considered a sacred location.

The jutte (truncheon with a prong/hook) is another weapon that is associated with less lethal application of force. This weapon was used by Edo era police officers who were occasionally confronted with the task of bringing armed warriors to justice. The jutte came to be integrally associated with law enforcement, and, I have read, even functioned as does a badge for current police officers to identify them as authority figures.

The need to avoid bloodshed is a reality that faces current law enforcement and even, in limited but growing instances, military personnel. Of course, less than lethal force requirements only apply against non-lethal threats as far as US law enforcement or military personnel are concerned. This makes the situation a little different than the Edo era guards and officers who I understand were more bound by these requirements – even when faced with sword-wielding attackers.

I should distinguish between two requirements for clarity’s sake. The Edo castle guards, as I understand it, were trying to avoid bloodshed, but I have not heard or read anything indicating that they sought to avoid being lethal. (e.g. If you wrap a chain around some brigand’s neck and throw him violently over your back you may succeed preventing bloodstains on the gate without keeping the criminal still alive.) On the other hand, the Edo town police were supposed to keep suspects alive (if, perhaps, badly beaten down) for their “hearings.” If any one knows whether this understanding is correct or not, I would be interested to know.

There is also a good deal of difference between present-day authorities and those of the Edo era in terms of the level of technology available. I have visited Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland on a couple occasions. Aberdeen is the site of a wide variety of testing centers used to put all manner of weapons, vehicles, and equipment used by both the military and by non-DoD customers through its paces. Among the non-lethals I was shown were various projectiles such as bean-bags and rubber bullets, stun-gun like devices, and gas grenades. However, these were still at the low-tech end of the spectrum compared to devices in development such Area Denial Systems based on millimeter wave technology (only good for running the opposition and off not for detaining them.)

The Edo era Japanese did develop some interesting tools given the technology available such as clothing entanglers attached to long pole-arms. This type of tool allowed them to keep a samurai outside of sword reach while taking them under control. There was, of course, also an old-time version of the current CS gas riot control agent that could be blown out of a specially-designed box.

I am currently working on a concept for an article on Jinen ryu juttejutsu, kusari fundo jutsu, and tessen jutsu that considers the strategy of dealing with an armed opponent with non-lethal force. This is an challenging position to be in, and I believe requires intense will.


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