Posted by: B Gourley | January 12, 2012

Yoroi Kumi Uchi: The Hidden Virtue of the Obsolete

What could be less relevent to modern life than fighting in samurai armor (yoroi kumi uchi)? This is a reasonable enough question, and one which I hope to answer in this post. None of us who have a passion for historic martial arts would be accused of being trendy cool-hunters because of it. However, I believe that those who study kobudō see the relevance of these throwbacks to an earlier age – even though such connections are rarely blazingly evident.

One value of all forms of kobudō is the mindset that they convey. If you are not working on developing a clear and composed state of mind, you are missing an important part of the training. This can be a demoralizing struggle. One may train year after year only to find that such a state of mind is elusive and easily blown to the winds. Furthermore, if one doesn’t take this state of mind outside the dōjō, then it really is just an arcane hobby practiced for amusement and entertainment.

I’ve been thinking about state of mind quite a bit lately and have concluded it is crucially important not to fake it. What constitutes a wise person? One factor is that such an individual is not ruled by emotion (have you ever seen Yoda throw a temper tantrum?). However, this is not to advocate the suppression of emotions, which, on the contrary, is unhealthy. Most people are good at suppressing emotions. People play off being angry or sad because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, but yet they are angry or are sad.  This lacks wisdom because the suppressed emotions still rule the person – if silently – and can have concrete effects (e.g. stress and the diseases of stress.) So how does one achieve a genuine ability to not be ruled by emotion? I know of only one way, and that is to put everything in perspective. Perhaps this is most commonly seen among people who face potentially terminal ailments well. I’ve been reading Dr. Maoshing Ni‘s Secrets of Self-Healing which, despite its banal self-helpy title, offers interesting insight into the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches to fixing one’s ailments. Dr. Ni tells the story of a patient with cancer who he had told would find cancer to be their greatest gift. That person fundamentally changed their lifestyle and ended up living out a much healthier life. How does kobudō make smaller the issues that challenge us? One way it does so is by giving one an opportunity to attain a mindset of life and death. In the Hagakure it says, “The Way of the samurai is found in death.” This is an often misunderstood concept. If one can come to grips with one’s death – and the fact that it can occur like a bolt from the blue – then every mundane trouble is diminished. Also, one must learn to exhale emotion. Even in sparring holding onto anxiety or anger can be devastating.

Getting to the specifics of the value of yoroi kumi uchi, which I’ve been thinking about as I reflect upon Kukishinden-ryū Happō Bikenjutsu, I believe the value is in teaching one not to be sloppy and how to move in a manner that reflects a certain precision in the chaos of a fight. While there is a downside in that one may develop a habit of avoiding perfectly respectable targets (which would be unavailable on an armored opponent but readily available on a contemporary opponent), one is forced to be conscientious in one’s targeting of kyūsho. The difference between an attack that is ineffective and one that is devastating is highly dependent upon accuracy when one has to contend with gaps in the armor. It seems easy enough to attack a specific point, particularly when grappling, until one is faced with an opponent who is moving around and counter-attacking and so forth.

Another value of this training is found in building one’s legs and putting even greater emphasis on movement that maintains the balance.



  1. […] Yoroi Kumi Uchi: The Hidden Virtue of the Obsolete « Beginner’s Mind Budō. […]

  2. […] seemed to me that it looked just like a post that I had posted a year and a half ago. (See: Yoroi Kumiuchi.) Then I realized that they were the same […]

  3. […] seemed to me that it looked just like a post that I had posted a year and a half ago. (See: Yoroi Kumiuchi.) Then I realized that they were the same […]

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