This is a 1.5-hour workshop on swordsmanship mechanics, using lightsabers or straight sticks with no crossguard.* I taught this for the Bangkok Brotherhood of Historical Fencing, a HEMA group based in Thailand. To jump straight to the class, go to 6:54. This is part 1 of 2 workshops, the second is coming soon!
For those wishing to take part remotely in the workshop, I’ve included the whole session, unedited (except for free sparring at the end). A full transcript is attached below.
*The choice to use lightsabers to teach medieval swordsmanship was due to weapon-carry restrictions for the fighters getting to and from the workshop using public transport in Bangkok, so we used lightsabers and incorporated that into the class content.
I do address lightsaber-specific mechanics, but the majority of what I teach in the class is useful for general swordsmanship.
The Neko-te were usually used by the kunoichi (female ninja).
The weapon is strong iron fingernails that were fastened into leather bands fitted on the fingers, and resembled claws (not like that of of the shuko, ashiko) and were also dipped in poisons. The eyes were a favorite spot for slashing.
The Kakute were rings that the kunoichi wore that were dipped in poison. The rings could be made out of metals, and tempered wood.
The ninja would quietly strangle enemies with the ring stuck in their neck. It was far less messy then using a sword, and left very little evidence on how the victim died.
Nakano was the daughter of an official from Aizu, but was raised in Edo (Tokyo) where she was trained in literary and martial arts, specialising in a form of Ittō-ryū one-sword fighting. She also became a skilled instructor in the use of the naginata, a bladed polearm. She spent five years as the adopted daughter of her martials arts teacher, Akaoka Daisuke, but left him after he attempted to arrange a marriage for her. She relocated with her native famiily to Aizu in 1868.
During this time the Boshin War began between the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and supporters of the Imperial Court. Although the Shogun surrendered in May 1868, some of his forces continued to fight on, retreating to Aizu. Nakano joined the army in repelling the Imperial forces and fought at the Battle of Aizu, which was in effect a month-long siege.
While Aizu retainers did not allow women to fight, Nakano formed an unofficial unit of twenty women armed with naginata, including her mother and sister. The group took part in a counter-attack designed to break the siege, during which Nakano killed five enemy opponents before taking a fatal bullet to the chest. Afraid that the enemy would take her head as a trophy, she asked her sister to instead decapitate her and bury the head.
The shogunate forces eventually lost the siege to the better-armed Imperial forces. As requested, Nakano’s sister buried her head under a pine tree at the Hōkai-ji Temple and a monument was erected there in her honour. During the annual Aizu Autumn Festival, a group of young girls take part in the procession to commemorate the actions of Nakano and her band of women warriors.