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Thread: A sword grip question

  1. #1
    Jerry Johnson Guest

    Wink A sword grip question

    I am currently embarking on an art am not familiar with, so please go easy with the laughter. Well until at least when I stab my self in the foot with this Fine plastic and aluminum of sword that was made in China. I am taking a private sword class. I choose private because I didnít' want to accidentally kill someone. Thus, the reason they only allow me to practice with a play sword. I guess, if the scabbard fits Ö.

    So now you know my situation as a novice and this is my question. First, I was told to grab the sword's handle with pinky, ring, and middle fingers and then the thumb. I was told not to use the index finger. And to allow the index fingers to extend out away from the handle then allow the index fingers to naturally protrude out from underneath the guard. Now my question, we know that sword fights took place in old Japan and did Samurai grip the sword in such a manner, and if so did they loose parts of their index fingers? And also is this grip correct or it's "hogwash"? I hope I donít have a Leslie Nelson teaching me a sword art. Or better Dorf!
    *( sorry for got the Japanese terms for the parts of the sword ).
    Last edited by Jerry Johnson; 12th February 2002 at 04:44.

  2. #2
    m a s a m u n e Guest

    Thumbs up Don't Sweat It

    Hello Jerry! Welcome to the wonderful world of Japanese Sword Arts! Although I really don't know about the private lessons you are taking so I can't say anything about legitimacy. However, the sword grip you described is definitely a proper method of holding the nihonto (japanese sword). I say the phrase "a proper method" because I'm no expert and some styles may have had different methods of holding the sword. However, I can tell you for sure that it is not "hogwash" because the great Miyamoto Musashi himself perscribed such a grip, and that is the way we are taught to grip the sword in Kendo and Iaido.

    I think the reason behind gripping the sword like this is because the outermost section of your hand (when the hand is facing downward, like when typing) is naturally stronger than the inner part. Because we have opposible thumbs, however, we usually use the inner most part for gripping. A good way to develop this seemingly akward grip is to carry things such as grocery bags with this grip. At least, that's what I've been doing. However, nothing can substitute actual practice swings (called suburi) that are done correctly, with proper technique. Just practice swinging whenever you have free time, no matter how short.

    In regards to the legitimacy of your private classes, I would have to say that you should ask your sensei what ryu (style or school) of swordsmanship he teaches, and then post it here at e-budo for further...um...examination

    Yours Truly,
    Alex Guillermo

  3. #3
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    Cool Yeah..to a point.

    Hi all,
    We use the same type of grip as you describe for the Kumitachi in our systems..The index finger is generally held relaxed and loose until the sword is swung at which point the grip becomes stronger and the wrists tend to 'rotate' inwards to provide a stronger cut...I believe that this is generally the practise adopted by most Kenjutsu schools and I believe that the reason that you would not lose the finger to the cut would be because of two things..The Tsuba for one..Hopefully! and the fact that the grip is tightenened fully during the actual cut.
    H.T.H.
    Abayo.
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

  4. #4
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    Default

    Hi Jerry,
    It's really kind of school dependant. If you are with a school that has a strong Aikido background, they may actually have you point the 'ki' fingers as they call them. If you are with a school that has a more koryu type background, they will most likely have you curl your index fingers so they don't protrude and offer a target. I have seen legitimate schools do everything in between those two extremes. In any case, it is correct that the index fingers should be loose and not tightly grip the tsuka (handle) because that will drastically cut down on maneuverability. The way it was originally described to me is that your pinky should grip tightly, with each successive finger being a bit looser until the pointer fingers are not gripping at all. Bear in mind that that's just one school of thought, and others may vary.

    Cheers,
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  5. #5
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    In my Aikido practice we are also taught to grip the sword with our index fingers extended, at least 'for the first 10 years or so'...after which, Sensei says, we are allowed to let them curl down a little bit.

    It may sound a little goofy, but I've never questioned this. I guess it's all about focusing Ki, but to be honest I'm not at all sure. What I _do_ know is that we are told to extend our index fingers for taiho as well. Among other reasons, Sensei has mentioned that gripping without the index is perceived as a less-threatening matter by our partners, and therefore 'more Aiki'. I have also noticed in myself a distinct disinclination to grip _anything_ with my index fingers nowadays...which looks a little odd when I'm driving or riding my bike.
    David Anderson
    Calgary, Alberta


    "Swords are the rosary of Aikido"

    D. H. Skoyles Sensei 04/03/01

    Nakayamakai KoAikido dojo

  6. #6
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    Default Kendo

    In my kendo club we teach/use the same grip, i.e three bottom fingers on your left hand. And you keep that grip until you do te-no-uchi in the end of a cut. The right hand is supposed to be quite relaxed untill the te-no-uchi.
    Nils Bjorkegard
    Stockholm Kendo Alliance
    www.stockholmkendo.com

  7. #7
    Jerry Johnson Guest

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    I want to thank everyone for contributing great answers to my question. Alot of good info and input that puts my mind at ease.

    It just seem really strange to grab in this method. I am a newbie to this art and you could tell me anything and I have no way of knowing if it is correct or not. SO everyone's input helped a great deal.

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    Default

    try this site,http://www.bunbun.ne.jp/~sword/Kiso4.html, it should help. You may find the rest interesting reading as well. Lots of stuff about if you are prepared to go looking for it!

    Tim

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Don't Sweat It

    Originally posted by m a s a m u n e
    [ However, the sword grip you described is definitely a proper method of holding the nihonto (japanese sword). I say the phrase "a proper method" because I'm no expert and some styles may have had different methods of holding the sword. However, I can tell you for sure that it is not "hogwash" because the great Miyamoto Musashi himself perscribed such a grip, and that is the way we are taught to grip the sword in Kendo and Iaido.

    Yours Truly,
    Alex Guillermo [/B]
    I really dont want to spoil anybodys fun but the above quote couldn't be further from the truth. It worries me little to think that people have completely the wrong idea Musashi's sword grip bears no resemblance whatsoever to Iaido or Kendo. Although it is worth trying out a slightly modified version in Kendo.

    The original is impossible unless we cut a hole in the kote to stick out the index finger!

    Hyakutake Colin

  10. #10
    Jerry Johnson Guest

    Question

    sorry. an OOPS
    Last edited by Jerry Johnson; 14th February 2002 at 16:45.

  11. #11
    Jerry Johnson Guest

    Default

    Originally posted by Chidokan
    try this site,http://www.bunbun.ne.jp/~sword/Kiso4.html, it should help. You may find the rest interesting reading as well. Lots of stuff about if you are prepared to go looking for it!

    Tim
    Tim, I tried to access the page you suggested, but my brower said it couldn't find it. Any suggestions?

  12. #12
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    Hyakutake Colin has a veritable wealth of information on his web site. The reason your browser won't find it is because Tim put a comma at the end of the link. If you'll remove the comma when your browser says it can't find it, it will take you there. Bookmark the site as you'll want to go back and check it out again. Another site that should be bookmarked is Rich Stein's Japanese Sword Index. Lots of great stuff about Japanese Swords. Here's a link ... http://japanesesword.homestead.com/

    Cheers,
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  13. #13
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    Originally posted by pgsmith
    Hyakutake Colin has a veritable wealth of information on his web site. The reason your browser won't find it is because Tim put a comma at the end of the link. If you'll remove the comma when your browser says it can't find it, it will take you there. Bookmark the site as you'll want to go back and check it out again.

    Cheers,
    Thank you very much for your kind support. Nice to know that some people consider it worth a read.

    It may be of some interest to everyone to know that NHK are doing a documentary about Musashi at present. This has connections with the fact that his present day decendants live in Moji near Kokura. They are coming to the dojo next Thursday evening. I will post again when I can get further details of when it will be broadcasted.

    The link to the home page is below.

    http://www.bunbun.ne.jp/~sword/

    Yoroshiku Onegai Itashimasu

    Hyakutake Colin

  14. #14
    m a s a m u n e Guest

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    Hyakutake-sensei,

    I guess I'm too much of a novice to notice the difference between the description he made of his method of grip and the grip between the kendo and iaido one. I just assumed it was since it sounded very similar to my novice ears. Everyone, please forgive me for that false information I spewed.

    Now, the fact that it is different got me curious. What is the difference between the grip in Kendo/Iaido and the one described by Musashi?

    Once again, Thank you for your correction

    Respectfully,
    Alex Guillermo

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    In the legendary W. E. Fairbairn's classic close-quarter combat manual "Get Tough", in the picture of him sticking a sentry in the neck with an infamous Sykes-Fairbairn dagger, Fairbairn's trigger finger and pinky finger both are slightly extended off the grip, like "ki fingers"! A similar grip is sometimes shown in Medieval European manuscript illustrations of warriors in battle with swords.

    In traditional Irish stickplay, the strength of the grip is focused in the last three fingers, like a Japanese sword, but with the thumb along the back of the stick like Western "saber grip". The stick is held with the lower third along the forearm for parrying and the upper two-thirds above the hand for dealing blows and thrusts.

    Jesse Peters

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