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Thread: Tsuka length

  1. #1
    Shiga Guest

    Question Tsuka length

    Greetings fellow budoka,

    I was wondering, is there a specific way to find the correct tsuka length for different body types?
    I have heard that if you hold the katana in your right hand the tsuka should reach from the top of your grip to the tip of your elbow. Is this true?
    I have tried this and found that it would mean that the proper tsuka length is considerably longer than the tsuka of the average practice katana or bokken.
    Is the tsuka really supposed to be so long?

    Thanks,
    -Jesse Duran

  2. #2
    Chi Guest

    Default I know this is a cop-out but...

    Originally posted by Shiga
    Is the tsuka really supposed to be so long?
    ...It really depends on the style you are practicing. Some schools prefer longer Tsuka, others shorter... perhaps ask your sensei?

    The formula you stated seems _very_ long though... in my instance that would equate to about a 22" Tsuka... wowzers!

    Regards,

    Chris.

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    Jesse,

    The method you mention (grip to elbow) is the standard method of measuring a shinai for kendo. No iai/batto style in Japan uses it for katana -- I've seen it only in America.

    The standard method for katana is to grip the handle with your right hand using a "relaxed, diagonal" grip as opposed to a "hammer fist." Next, allow a 2~3 finger space, then place your left hand on the handle where that gap ends. The kashira (pommel) should be even with the bottom of your left fist, or protrude a fraction of an inch to allow a firm purchase.

    There are differences of opinion within Japan as to where the left hand should fit on the handle -- however, the measuring method will give you the proper handle length [bu]used in Japan[/b].

    Additionally, Japan uses "standardized rules" for a proper sword. One rule is the handle is to be 1/3 of the blade length (equaling 1/4 overall length) -- e.g., a 30" blade will have a 10" handle. This "rule" will vary a bit perhaps by a few inches, but not like in the US where you sometimes see a 30" blade with a 15" handle.

    If you are studying one of the "long handle" styles taught in America, go with what your sensei says.

    Regards,
    Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

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    I think the measurement you describe is from Bugei. The style of kenjutsu that they study requires a long handle. I bought one of their bokken to see how such a long handle feels, and my instructor has a Bugei "bamboo kashira" model. For the style that I do, the handle feels too long. My Sensei actually had his tsuka shortened to 11" after a few years of cutting, the lenght just suits our style better. I would go with the advice however of going with what your school calls for. We appeal to the 3 hand widths tsuka length and that seems about right to me.
    Christian Moses
    **Certified Slimy, Moronic, Deranged and Demented Soul by Saigo-ha Daito Ryu!**
    Student of:
    Shinto Ryu Iai-Battojutsu
    Tuesday Night Bad Budo Club (TM)

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    Another Ryu in Japan that uses a long tsuka is Kage Ryu. However it should be noted that the sword itself is also much longer than normal as well.
    Chris Baker.
    From Germany where it has this nasty habit of snowing in April.

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    I use 30cm (about 11.5") tsuka and it feels very OK. I can take a proper grip, get enough leverage if I need and the tsuka end is still short enough to stay out of my way.

    Sword itself has a 78.8cm (31.02") blade and will be soon changed to a sword that has a 84cm (abt. 33.5") blade. Handle length, still, will remain the same.

    I believe that the most important factor is own feeling - how well the grip adjusts to the sword and what feels best.

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    Default

    Originally posted by Just some guy
    Another Ryu in Japan that uses a long tsuka is Kage Ryu. However it should be noted that the sword itself is also much longer than normal as well.
    Mmm that sounds interesting. I will have to look for that one!

    Hyakutake Colin

  8. #8
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    Hi Guy,

    You posted:

    "The method you mention (grip to elbow) is the standard method of measuring a shinai for kendo. No iai/batto style in Japan uses it for katana -- I've seen it only in America."

    You haven't looked around hard enough. I saw a sword up in Aizu Wakamatsu in a museum with a 14 inch tsuka. ( If I can find the picture of it I will post it here. ) I also am posting a picutre of a sword made in the 1600's with a 13 inch nakago. This sword reputedly belonged to a Jikishinkage ryu practitioner. Most older swords like this had their nakago's cut down due to restrictions instituted by bakafuku during the Edo Period. To say that ALL swords were made to a specific formula ingnores the fact that individual swords and preferences were quite varied in style and length during the Warring States Era. Only in later periods did a "formula" become prevalent.



    This was provided here on e-budo by Rennis Buchner a year or so ago

    Exceprts from John Rogers' translation of "Honcho Bugei Shoden" (written in 1714) in Monumenta Nipponica (46:2)
    "Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu"

    Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu was from Michinoku. He prayed to the deity Myojin of Hayashizaki and was enlightened regarding the intricacies of swordsmanship. He is the swordsman who was responsible for the rebirth of iai.
    In "Hojo Godaiki" it is written ' The use of swords with unusually long hilts began when the deity Myojin appeared to Hayashizaki Kansuke Katsuyoshi in the form of an old man and taught him the value of using a long grip.'
    I believe that the name Katsuyoshi is a copyist's error. In the "Hojo Godaiki", the name is Katsuyoshi and in the writings handed down in the school, it appears as Shigenobu."
    In the "Hojo Sounki" it is written:

    "It was Katsuyoshi who began to wear swords with a long hilt and Tamiya Heibei Narimasa who taught him this. Narimasa wore swords with long hilts and went throughout the provinces training in swordsmanship. he often said that a difference of eight sun in the length of the hilt creates a three fold advantage when swords are crossed. Ever since he taught this profound and secret principle to others, all have come to wear swords with longer hilts."


    Chris,

    You posted:

    "The formula you stated seems _very_ long though... in my instance that would equate to about a 22" Tsuka... wowzers!

    You must be an monkey or something. 22 inches from wrist to elbow? We have rulers like that here in Texas that some guys use to measure their ... johnsons


    Jesse,

    So...listen to your sensei and do as he says. Also accept that their are few absolutes concerning Japanese swords. Each style is different and has a good reason for doing things the way they do. (Go chop 4" off a kendo shinai and see if you are competitive!)


    Toby Threadgill

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    Howdy Tobbs (Can a non-Texan say "howdy"??)

    I also am posting a picutre of a sword made in the 1600's with a 13 inch nakago. This sword reputedly belonged to a Jikishinkage ryu practitioner.
    Great picture, that. The nakago is long, but the sword is fairly balanced 1:3 (okay, closer to 1:2.5). According to Colin Hyakutake of the Kage ryu, their tsuka are long, but the blades are in proportion to the tsuka (or vice versa).

    You haven't looked around hard enough. I saw a sword up in Aizu Wakamatsu in a museum with a 14 inch tsuka.
    Sure ... but what was the length of the blade? I've seen nodachi that aren't quite in proportion -- but they were close enough considering the weight/balance of that much steel.

    Most older swords like this had their nakago's cut down due to restrictions instituted by bakafuku during the Edo Period.
    That's very true. When the nakago was shortened, so was the blade length. All in all, I would imagine that the 1:3 proportion was fairly well maintained.

    I agree with you that tsuka were longer in "pre-Edo" days -- but I've yet seen evidence to support a 1:2 ratio of tsuka:blade.

    Kage Ryu http://www.koryubooks.com/photos/aj1041.htmland Shinmuso Hayashizaki Ryu http://www.koryubooks.com/photos/rshinmuso.html use very long swords today.

    Regards,
    Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

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    Toby,
    Along the same lines as Guy's response re:overall sword size, Hayashizaki was believed to have used a very long sword overall. So, the tsuka would also have been quite long. As I understand it, most branches of MJER today use much shorter weapons (except perhaps Komei Sekiguchi Sensei's branch). In contrast, many MSR teachers encourage the use of the longest sword that a practitioner can properly do nukitsuke and noto with (but probably not nearly as long as Hayashizaki's). The big monsters used by Shin Muso Hayashizaki Ryu and Sekiguchi Sensei's MJER are probably closest to what Hayashizaki used, and probably still adhere (more or less) to Guy's proportion rule.
    Regards,
    Brian Dunham
    MSR SanShinKai

  11. #11
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    Default

    There are some other factors that govern that the tsuka could be too long.

    (a) Some prefer the grip where the left hand is at the very bottom of the tsuka the pinky wrapped around.

    (b) Another method is to hold the nakago through the tsuka. As the nakago is shorterthe hand is a bit higher

    Regarding (a), as the hands become more widely spaced on longer tsuka they "cannot" be use together.

    In my circumstances as there is a very slight left hand lead it is of no consequence.

    Mainly for those that do Shomen giri you cannot do it with a long tsuka as it gets in the way.

    In Japan there are very few people that don't consider Iwata Sensei to be Japans leading exponent of MJER (now 89 years young). He is dead against long tsuka or big tsuba as they get in the way.

    My tsuka is 2 shaku and is weighted with lead. The blade is nearly 3.9. It is absolutely essential that the blade is counter balanced with the tsuka for one handed cuts.


    Another factor is the sori. Longer blades tend to have a bigger sori. This makes it easier to draw but more difficult to cut with the kensaki. But is a nice thrusting weapon. A short tsuka with a big sori has a terrible balance. One of our guys made a large suburi bokuto with a ridiculous sori to study this.

    Having a sword made or buying one is like a made to measure suit. I strongly suggest making as mock up first. Making mockups of various shapes and sizes really is useful.

    Hyakutake Colin

  12. #12
    Chi Guest

    Default

    Originally posted by Toby Threadgill
    Chris,

    You posted:

    "The formula you stated seems _very_ long though... in my instance that would equate to about a 22" Tsuka... wowzers!

    You must be an monkey or something. 22 inches from wrist to elbow? We have rulers like that here in Texas that some guys use to measure their ... johnsons
    Ahh... not from wrist to elbow - he gave the formula as "I have heard that if you hold the katana in your right hand the tsuka should reach from the top of your grip to the tip of your elbow. " - oh, and also I can't count (and didn't have a ruler with me so was estimating badly), as I really meant 18/19" from top of grip to elbow... dunno where 22" came from really.

    And as for those rulers you have... [obligatory comment="on]well, they simply wouldn't be long enough here[/obligatory comment]

    Regards,

    Chris.

  13. #13
    Dan Harden Guest

    Default

    Someone commented on Jikishinkage
    If you look close at that popular picture of Sakakibara his tsuka looks rather "longish" as well.


    As for leverage
    Take a rod, hold it with both hands held together and press down on any wieghted measuring device.
    spread your hands two fingers....do it again
    spread your hands a whole hands width...do it again
    your ability to generate leverage will increase each time
    If you use the type of cut that cuts in with a lever action- the ability to generate leverage will be increased more.
    If you use a slicing motion with your left hand pulling rotationally around your right it will still increase but not as much.
    at a certain point you will have a dimishing return
    Try holding the rod with your hands two feet apart! Your ability to generate leverage with your body retaining posture will be difficult


    Techniques
    Leverage aside, there are significant issues regarding the exposure of the left hand, then the right in an engagement. An overly long handle can expose the body for brief moment and expose the left then right hand to a cut (depending on the posture.
    There is something to be said for speed VS power here. Experimentaion will prove that out as well
    So what is overly long?
    find out for yourself
    get out of the box and experiment.

    If you approach it with an unalterable opinion either way you might as well just watch TV. But if you are willing....you may see somethings.
    Then you can resume doing what you were told to do anyway.

    Discussions of the statis quo won't go far. Asking anyone if they feeeeel better practicing with a short or long tsuka is pointless.
    Practicing your learned art with a "standard" tsuka will not tell you much.
    Do you "feeeel" more comfortable with a standard tsuka?
    Of course you do- it was how you were taught.
    Would you "feeeel" more comfortable with longer one if it was how you were taught?
    Of course you would- it was how you were taught.


    Like Toby I have seen and measured too many long tsukas (Boston museum of fine arts; largest collection of Japanese swords in the world oustide of Japan) to believe anyones opinions to the contrary. Longer tsukas were used, and they seem to be on the older swords. The blades were not overly long either.
    Why do we not see more of them?
    How many were cut down along with the blade length (an intregal procedure) during later eras? We'll never know for sure.
    Were they more common then? Or just a proportionally rare then as now?
    Damed if I know.

    Were tsukas and blade lengths shortened in peace time so the little johnies could go on walk-a-bout more comfortably? Yup.
    Do you suppose techniques could have changed over a few hundred years to accomodate what johnie felt comfortable with?
    HHmmmm......
    Do you suppose that 15th dans opinion (who has been doing something only one way for forty years) would be different had he grown up practicing with a longer tsuka?

    How much of what we have been taught is the result of what our teachers were told and taught? Tracing it back- was there a different way then.
    How many old originaters would wake up out of the grave, "see" their art and say
    "What the #$$%@ is that?"
    "Don't do that, that's wrong. Who is your teacher?"


    At the end of the day "ya gots to do what yer told".......
    but experimentation is a worthy pursuit

    Dan
    Last edited by Dan Harden; 20th June 2001 at 13:26.

  14. #14
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    Talking hehehe




    Try using this sword.


    Musashi daito

    Glen Mergnes

  15. #15
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    Guy, a Texas "howdy" back at 'cha buddy

    You posted:

    "Great picture, that. The nakago is long, but the sword is fairly balanced 1:3 (okay, closer to 1:2.5). According to Colin Hyakutake of the Kage ryu, their tsuka are long, but the blades are in proportion to the tsuka (or vice versa)"

    That sword was just a skosh over 30 inches in length. (I shot the picture, the sword belongs to David Maynard in London. If anyone would like to check my quoted dimensions e-mail him, dmaynard@shinyokai.com) The wide angle lense used to shoot that photo distorted the proportions a little . (Check the angle of view at the end of the nakago to confirm this). A 3O" sword with a 13 inch nakago would be mounted with a tsuka around 14+ inches. That makes the tsuka almost half the length of the blade doesn't it? Not 1:3 but 1:2 . Exactly the ratio you have seem to think didn't exist.


    You posted in response to the sword I saw up in Aizu:

    "Sure ... but what was the length of the blade? I've seen nodachi that aren't quite in proportion -- but they were close enough considering the weight/balance of that much steel."

    This sword is no nodachi. It is around 29 to 31 inches. The nakago is probably around 11 -12 inches but the furniture was right in front of the unmounted blade. Through the glass it was hard to figure exactly but the tsuka must be about 13 to 14 inches. Again close to 1:2 in proportion. Don Angier was with me when we saw this sword. He laughed when he saw it and said "Shoot a picture of this for all those guys back home who say these never existed"

    Well, here it is:



    You Posted:

    " When the nakago was shortened, so was the blade length. All in all, I would imagine that the 1:3 proportion was fairly well maintained."

    A sword Takamura Yukiyoshi Sensei owned was shortened considerably at the nakago with the munemachi unmoved. Half the signature was gone but the file marks and location of the signature confirmed the location of the original munemachi. I believe this sword is in the possession of Mariko Takamura now. Takamura Sensei who trained both in Shinkage and Jikishinkage used a 11" tsuka on a blade about 26 inches long (1:2.5 , I have in my possession two of his personal swords. ) But he was only 5'2" tall. The 11" tsuka almost reached his elbow! Does that measurement sound familiar? (He used to tell me I needed a monkey sword because I was proportioned different from most Japanese)

    Here is the key to this whole debate. Do you measure a sword or it's proportions according to the physical build of the person weilding the sword as determined by the stylistic demands of a particular ryu .... or for aesthetics? Collectors go for aesthetics because... they don't actually use 'em. It just so happens that for most schools of swordsmanship the 1:3 or 2.5 ratio works out for the most common Japanese physical build. I'll give you an example. Takamura Sensei said to measure a sword for someone, have them hold the sword with the right hand grasping the tsuka right at the edge of the fuchi. Relax the arm. The kissaki should almost touch the floor. For him this meant a 25-26 inch blade. The tsuka should be a half inch from the forearm indention above the elbow. So given his physique this dictated around 11 inches. a ratio of 1:2.5. (He trained in Jikishinkage ryu from the line of Sakakibara, known for longish tsuka's) Lets do the same for me, a whole foot taller than Takamura at 6"2". If I hold a sword just touching the fuchi and relax my arm, a 27" to 28" inch blade almost touches the ground. But my forearm is so long that this formula dictates a 14 inch tsuka. Wow! That changes the ratio to 1:2. Our differing physiques dictate this difference. Takamura cracked up when he realized this! (Resulting in the "Saru Ken" comment) . Keep in mind that if I practised Kage ryu or Toyama ryu this formula would be inappropriate due to the technical requirements of those specific ryu. For Yanagi ryu it works out great!

    (An interesting fact pointed out by Takamura Sensei concerned the phenomonon that about 90% of peoples hands are approximately the same distance from the ground despite a great variance in height. This explains why the average length of a katana in most schools was around 27 inches. Despite my being a whole foot taller than Takamura Sensei, my blade length was within an inch or two of his. Obviously my longer arm length made up the difference which in turn resulted in the longer tsuka when measured by the dictates for his style. There are obvious exceptions in style of swordsmanship and size of practitioner at work here. My friend Tony Alvarez destroys this formula with his 6'7" 400 lb frame.)


    The mystery I find in all this concerns the long handles obviously existing in older Japanese swords. What I want to know is not whether the Japanese ever used swords with long handles because I have sufficient written, photographic and actual "in my hand" proof of that. I'm trying to figure out what a 4'10 to 5'5" tall "Warring States Era" samurai was doing with a 14" handle that obviously stretched beyond his elbow....unless a "Big Tony" was hanging around Japan back then.

    Get the yabusame guys , Pronto!

    TobyThreadgill

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