Practical training for home defense has a very long history. The idea and potential need to protect one’s home and family remains perennial. To re-remember what our ancestors have gone through, here’s a glimpse into a little known class of noblewomen-warriors from Japan.
For at least a thousand years, Japanese noblewomen trained in martial arts and strategy. The intent: fiercely protect their home turf. With the emergence of the samurai class, these female warriors, the wives, sisters, and daughters of samurai, shared every bit of their rigorous code of honor. They’re called Onna-Bugeisha.
Domestic Arts & Deadly Blades
Onna-Bugeisha were highly trained warriors and domestic rock stars. They raised children, saw to their education, cared for the elderly, managed households and oversaw family finances. In their courtyards, they honed tactical strategy and practiced blade fighting, using swords, naginata (long curved blade on a pole), kaiken (8-10” long dagger), and Tantojutsu (the how tos of lethal dagger fighting). You know these Mama warriors were passing helpful hints and badassery on to their kids….
During times of war, some Onna-Bugeisha stayed home. It was their duty, in the role of the okugatasama, “one who stays at home”, to protect their village from enemy invasion and looters, and, defend their households and families. The women who made up this home guard, likely banded together to keep their castle or village functioning and homes protected.
Other Onna-Bugeisha joined the samurai on the battlefields, and are thought to have been capable horsemen and trained archers, as well as mighty sword and dagger fighters.
For a long time, it was held that these noblewomen-warriors comprised a tiny minority. Recent research, however, points to surprising numbers in battles–more than history books admit. (Really?) DNA testing conducted on the remains of warrior’s bodies at the site of the Battle of Senbon Matsubaru fought in 1580 revealed that of 105 bodies, 35 were female. Other battlefields have yielded similar results.
I bow to your memory onna-bugeisha, to the embodiment of duty, courage, and prowess.
To the right, sign up for a free PDF of Calamity May’s 5 Myths (misperceptions & denial traps) that modern Americans fall into. Preventing home break-ins and self defense in the home is relevant to where you live. We’ll talk swords later….
Photos of onna-bugeishas from the 1800’s capture some of the remaining women from this warrior class.