PDA

View Full Version : Bokken left-handedness


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


Maarten De Queecker
04-11-2009, 09:23 AM
I have been wondering: why is it that one can't use a boken left handed?

I had done some boken excercises (left handed) on my own prior to doing aikido so I had to learn to use it right handed, which at first didn't feel too good. Now I can say that I'm pretty much ambidextrous in terms of weapon use, which is incredibly useful during Jo training.

Still, the forced right-handedness of the sword doesn't make any sense to me. Because of that I prefer the Jo to the Boken, since it is longer and has more freedom. I can switch from left to right depending on the situation.

If one has to be able to do aikido techniques, which are all of them based on sword techniques, both left and right handed, why shouldn't one learn to use a Boken left handed?

Any explanation will be much appreciated. This is a question that has been stuck in my mind ever since I began with aikido and had my first boken training.

sorokod
04-11-2009, 12:52 PM
Previously discussed here (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13423).

James Davis
04-11-2009, 02:41 PM
Wielding one's bokken left handed can cause problems during group kata.

Mark Uttech
04-11-2009, 04:47 PM
Onegaishimasu. Thanks David, for pointing out the previous discussion. Those of us who also teach need to study things like this and find an appropriate answer. In gassho, Mark

sorokod
04-12-2009, 08:29 AM
Da nada. I think that everyone deserves an appropriate answer.

Ryan Seznee
08-11-2009, 06:42 AM
The majority of people are right handed, so the roots of the Japanese sword are based upon right handed people. During times of war, sarmurai would form a line to fight off an enemy advance, and if the whole line would act as one. If people are striking the opposite direction, they end up slicing the guy next to them. The purpose of martial arts was originally to get people ready for war, and a unit of weaker people is stronger than a mob of strong fighters. That was the way it was explained to me, and it does make sense.

jss
08-11-2009, 07:07 AM
If one has to be able to do aikido techniques, which are all of them based on sword techniques, both left and right handed, why shouldn't one learn to use a Boken left handed?
I wouldn't say that aikido techniques are based on sword techniques, although they share some of the body mechanics involved. I do think it is correct to say that we practice sword techniques to enhance our (empty-handed) aikido techniques. If this enhancement includes body mechanics, one should learn to use a bokken left and right handed. If this enhancement is only about timing, distance, angles, etc., one shouldn't.
Personally, I'd practice suburi right and left handed for the mechanics involved, simple paired exercise probably as well. For kata, right handed should suffice. Any lessons learned in kata about mechanics can be incorporated in the suburi and paired exercises.

Maarten De Queecker
08-11-2009, 07:17 AM
The majority of people are right handed, so the roots of the Japanese sword are based upon right handed people. During times of war, sarmurai would form a line to fight off an enemy advance, and if the whole line would act as one. If people are striking the opposite direction, they end up slicing the guy next to them. The purpose of martial arts was originally to get people ready for war, and a unit of weaker people is stronger than a mob of strong fighters. That was the way it was explained to me, and it does make sense.

Agreed, but we are in the 21st century now, and nobody uses swords anymore, except for practice, so why is it still wrong to practice left-handed? My swings with my left hand are technically of a higher level, feel more natural, and are stronger. I also feel more relaxed, since I have to think less and I can move more fluidly. It makes no sense at all to train hand-to-hand combat on both sides, but do sword techniques that represent the hand-to-hand techniques only with one's right side.

Shadowfax
08-11-2009, 07:47 AM
If I recall from reading the thread discussion posted above. Bokken technique uses both hands equally and actually in the right handed seeming way we hold it means the left hand has the more powerful position as it controls the true power of the cut. Better explanation to be found in that thread if you have not yet read it.;)

Josh Reyer
08-11-2009, 11:19 AM
Agreed, but we are in the 21st century now, and nobody uses swords anymore, except for practice, so why is it still wrong to practice left-handed? My swings with my left hand are technically of a higher level, feel more natural, and are stronger. I also feel more relaxed, since I have to think less and I can move more fluidly. It makes no sense at all to train hand-to-hand combat on both sides, but do sword techniques that represent the hand-to-hand techniques only with one's right side.There's absolutely no reason not to do suburi (or practice cutting on a target) left-handed. Even if you are right-handed. And, if you are left-handed, doing suburi right-handed is also good. You learn to cut with the whole body, and not cheat with your hands.

The vast majority of kata, however, are designed for two right-handed swordsmen, so it behooves the left-handed person to become proficient with right-handed cuts.

I'm lucky(?) in that the sword art I study includes a few left-handed forms. But they're rather tricksy.

Maarten De Queecker
08-11-2009, 12:59 PM
I train mostly on the right though. It resulted in me having become ambidextrous, which is incredibly useful in Jo-exercises..

Ellis Amdur
08-11-2009, 01:45 PM
It is not correct that samurai marched in formation bearing swords, so that if someone held it left-handed, they would clash with their compatriots. It's a little more complex than this.
It is rooted in the fact that most people are right handed, and that left-handed (sinister) is considered inauspicious, just plain wrong in most cultures - and definitely in Japanese culture. Left-handedness was abused out of kids. (Even today).
For example, brush writing, from the right, top to bottom, is believed to be far easier with the right hand. The roots of Japanese combatives are the mounted archer, bow held with the left hand and drawn with the right, with a tachi, therefore, slung on the left side. Similarly, polearms were generally wielded with the left hand forward, and the sword/more often short sword on the left side. Some spear schools did use a right hand forward stance, and those which I've seen, tended to use a very short wakizashi or tanto so as not to tangle with the spear. When archers knelt in attendance, they held the bow vertically with the right hand (non-aggressive, so to speak) and this would be impossible on the left, without, again, clashing with the the tachi.
In the late Sengoku and Edo period, custom was now frozen by a millennia, and the katana was thrust through the sash on the left side. It was a mortal insult to clash saya when passing - grounds for a duel - and this was fairly easy to keep track of if everyone had the sword on the same side (this is the roots of Japanese and English driving on the drive - keeping the sword side away from the passing individual).
So here we are at aiki-ken. If we were talking about koryu, I'd have no sympathy whatsoever - why study a tradition, with kata passed down for hundreds of years, and <you> decide it's more convenient to rupture the entire cultural understanding of the ryu because it feels better left handed. Tough luck. Get out of my dojo. <so to speak>
The problem with aikido is it's one foot in the past, one foot in the present. Nothing stops you from practicing left on your own My teacher in Japan - Kuwamori Yasunori - used to do left-hand suburi. BUT - never kumitachi. If you think of what you are doing as practicing with a sword, it just is - - - - wrong. There's no rule-book that says you cannot traipse into the dojo wearing a mini-hakama with pancakes taped to your butt-cheeks either. Your aikido might even improve. But - - - - -
Ellis Amdur

Keith Larman
08-11-2009, 01:55 PM
...There's no rule-book that says you cannot traipse into the dojo wearing a mini-hakama with pancakes taped to your butt-cheeks either. Your aikido might even improve. But - - - - -
Ellis Amdur

Ah, the last few sentences just need repeating... ;) What a visual!

Now the only question left is what tape actually sticks to pancakes?

Keith Larman
08-11-2009, 02:05 PM
Oh, almost forgot I was going to post something semi-serious as a guy firmly in the sword world. But now that I reread Ellis' post... Nevermind. It would be redundant.

So, "what he said."

Especially the pancakes taped to the butt part. Seriously. You can do whatever you'd like in certain contexts. But if you're studying an art with a long standing tradition you might want to think twice about picking and choosing what parts you think are right. All too often those who decide to "fix" things without understanding how the entire thing works usually destroy the very essence of what they're "fixing".

Lots of shodan experts out there. And the oft-heard flag that someone is about to completely screw something up "This feels much more natural to me". Ah, yes, we should drop how it was done for 400 years in favor of what feels right to someone who doesn't know how to do it... Kind of like the old chestnut that a self-taught martial artist has a fool for a sensei.

Now where are those pancakes and tape...

I figure once you get the scrolls, well, hey, bust it loose and do what you want.

Till then...

Ron Tisdale
08-11-2009, 02:17 PM
:D I want to know where to put the syrup!
B,
R (there is a line about a sticky saya in there somewhere...but I just can't quite...)

Keith Larman
08-11-2009, 02:21 PM
:D I want to know where to put the syrup!
B,
R (there is a line about a sticky saya in there somewhere...but I just can't quite...)

Down the front of your shorts, of course. It helps develop that heavy feeling down low...

Ron Tisdale
08-11-2009, 02:26 PM
Ack! You're killing me.... :D Not to mention my ki board is now all wet...
B,
R

Maarten De Queecker
08-16-2009, 02:15 PM
Oh, almost forgot I was going to post something semi-serious as a guy firmly in the sword world. But now that I reread Ellis' post... Nevermind. It would be redundant.

So, "what he said."

Especially the pancakes taped to the butt part. Seriously. You can do whatever you'd like in certain contexts. But if you're studying an art with a long standing tradition you might want to think twice about picking and choosing what parts you think are right. All too often those who decide to "fix" things without understanding how the entire thing works usually destroy the very essence of what they're "fixing".

Lots of shodan experts out there. And the oft-heard flag that someone is about to completely screw something up "This feels much more natural to me". Ah, yes, we should drop how it was done for 400 years in favor of what feels right to someone who doesn't know how to do it... Kind of like the old chestnut that a self-taught martial artist has a fool for a sensei.

Now where are those pancakes and tape...

I figure once you get the scrolls, well, hey, bust it loose and do what you want.

Till then...
Would you please drop the reprimanding tone? I am incredibly sorry that I insulted your expert knowledge on Japanese swordfighting, sempai. Please forgive me :rolleyes:

I only asked a question. I never said that this or that was right. I know hardly anything about japanese sword fighting. I just wondered why left-handed excersises are seemingly always avoided in aikido. It is just a fact that left-handed people are better when they do things with their left hand.

I'm also a scientific kind of person so answers like "they did it that way for the last 400 years, so just go along with it" will not do. I look for answers, not for dogmas. I also stated this in my first post, which you apparently did not even read, or just skimmed through.

Brett Charvat
08-16-2009, 05:19 PM
Mr. Queecker,

I can only assume from your sarcastic reply that you are not aware of who Mr. Larman is in the world of the Japanese sword. It may behoove you to do a bit of investigation. That aside, I appreciate that you are a scientist who is not interested in dogma. However, as someone who has a (very) small amount of experience in a Japanese koryu school, I will say that if "they did it that way for the last 400 years, so just go along with it" will not do, than the study of the sword will probably also not do for you.

eyrie
08-16-2009, 08:34 PM
Herein lies your answer...

It is rooted in the fact that most people are right handed, and that left-handed (sinister) is considered inauspicious, just plain wrong in most cultures - and definitely in Japanese culture. But never mind the cultural aspects of the whys and wherefores - the fact that 90-93% of the entire world's population is right-handed, should be a good enough reason; societal conventions are generally dictated by the majority.

For example, in some cultures, it would be a terrible faux pas to eat with your left hand, and generally, it would be considered disrespectful to shake with your left hand.

Because we "do" things with our hands, they are an important symbol in many cultures. In some cultures, it symbolizes action, power and authority, and the use of the right (correct) hand is symbolic of justice - hence the sword of justice is depicted as being held/wielded in the (one would hope!) right hand.

And in many cultures - not just Japanese and Chinese cultures - left-handedness is vicariously associated with misfortune, awkwardness, and all things sinister and evil; and it is unfortunate (pun intended), that these things often creep into our language - e.g. the word "sinister" is derived from the Latin sinestra, meaning "left".

Maarten De Queecker
08-17-2009, 01:38 AM
Mr. Queecker,

I can only assume from your sarcastic reply that you are not aware of who Mr. Larman is in the world of the Japanese sword. It may behoove you to do a bit of investigation. That aside, I appreciate that you are a scientist who is not interested in dogma. However, as someone who has a (very) small amount of experience in a Japanese koryu school, I will say that if "they did it that way for the last 400 years, so just go along with it" will not do, than the study of the sword will probably also not do for you.

I have no idea who is who in which world here on this forum, or what their rank might be. I am also not going to research everyone who says something here just to avoid tripping on some toes.

Ron Tisdale
08-17-2009, 08:37 AM
And gauche in French means left. As in awkward/clumsy. Go figure...

My Fiance would be strangling me right now if she was here. She is French, gauche, and left handed!

Best,
Ron (and much smarter than I am!) :D

Maarten De Queecker
08-17-2009, 10:52 AM
And gauche in French means left. As in awkward/clumsy. Go figure...

My Fiance would be strangling me right now if she was here. She is French, gauche, and left handed!

Best,
Ron (and much smarter than I am!) :D
In Dutch left means "links" and an adjective that is probably derived from that is "link". It means "not to be trusted" or "dangerous" and is mainly said about situations.

Right is "rechts" and the adjective derived from that is "recht" which means a) "right", "upright" or "straight" b) the right to do smth..

I'm starting to get a minority complex here somehow..

Ron Tisdale
08-17-2009, 10:58 AM
Nah, don't accept the complex! :D It's all good, and in fact, many of the people I know who are left handed are really neat!.

Best,
Ron

NagaBaba
08-17-2009, 12:11 PM
I have no idea who is who in which world here on this forum, or what their rank might be. I am also not going to research everyone who says something here just to avoid tripping on some toes.
Hello Maarten,
I usually don’t respond to such arrogant newbie as you, but I lived few years in Belgium, so I’ll give some of my precious time to you. I have very good memories from Gent btw.

Here is the situation:
You are coming to the forum as a fairly new user and ask question about the subject you know nothing about. At least two experts (that devoted all their life to study this domain) respond you and explain you in very polite way. You are not only rejecting their responses without any good reason, but what is worst, instead of polite ‘Thank you”, you are writing arrogant and flaming post. Of course for the moment we live in relatively free internet, and you can behave as you like, but many members of this forum are intensively traveling around the world, and may be one day one of these experts will become your sensei? :eek: :confused:

I would be very funny :D :D

Maarten De Queecker
08-17-2009, 02:30 PM
Hello Maarten,
I usually don’t respond to such arrogant newbie as you, but I lived few years in Belgium, so I’ll give some of my precious time to you. I have very good memories from Gent btw.

Here is the situation:
You are coming to the forum as a fairly new user and ask question about the subject you know nothing about. At least two experts (that devoted all their life to study this domain) respond you and explain you in very polite way. You are not only rejecting their responses without any good reason, but what is worst, instead of polite ‘Thank you”, you are writing arrogant and flaming post. Of course for the moment we live in relatively free internet, and you can behave as you like, but many members of this forum are intensively traveling around the world, and may be one day one of these experts will become your sensei? :eek: :confused:

I would be very funny :D :D
Hey Janczuk,

I thought the goal of a forum was discussion, so here I was trying to learn something about a subject I know nothing about. A big part of my personality is that I question a lot of things. That includes everything I'm being taught, be it in school or during aikido class. I understand that a lot of people quickly perceive this as arrogance. So be it. I don't care what some people on the internet think of me. One thing is certain, though: in real life I would ask the same question, in the same tone. I am pretty hard and stubborn in discussions, and knowingly so. I found out that this was the best way to learn new things, because the harder people defend their opinion against someone who gives stupid arguments, the more they share their knowledge. So for that, thank you everyone.

You see, I am more curious than a cat. If it were possible, I would like to know everything about any subject. You only live once, and since there is no higher cause in life, you have to find one for yourself. My goal is the same as the Greeks of old: "A healthy mind in healthy body". That is something that is relatively easy to achieve, but also something you can go incredibly far in, something you can devote your life to. The internet made sharing information a lot easier, so I can easily spend a whole day browsing google about a certain subject.

I registered on this forum because I wanted to learn. So far, it is going pretty well. I already learned a lot of things, so for that, again, thank you, everyone. What some people here seem to find self-evident here is that a newbie like myself knows who 's who. Guess what? I don't. I do not know the grades of anyone here. I do not know who is an expert in which area. Still, is that a reason to look down on me by saying that I am not worth your time and that I'm an arrogant newbie? What did I ever do to you that it gave you a reason to insult me? Nothing. You just came here in this thread, and the first thing you did was insult me. You do not even post anything concerning the topic title. If you have nothing constructive to say, just stay away will you? There are better ways to spend your time.

If you were ever to come back to Belgium (on holiday or so), send a message. We can go have drink some time, or perhaps train together!

Ron Tisdale
08-17-2009, 03:15 PM
Hi Maarten,

I think what some are trying to get at is, if your goal is good information, maybe being a little more cautious would pay higher dividends. While it sometimes may seem as if pissing someone off over something trivial means that what they have to share isn't worth while, that is not always the case. Sometimes just casual politeness goes a long way.

Keith has probably trained in multiple arts for 20 years or more. Ellis the same or more, and most of that time living in Japan, training in more than one Koryu art, and with close aquaintences in others. Both have been around the block a time or two. A lot of the (pardon me guys) old timers kind of have an attitude of "if you're not interested in the answer, don't ask the question" kind of feel. I don't think they are wrong to have it, either. They've seen plenty of five minute wonders come and go. ;) It's not really about rank, and bringing that up actually makes it seem like you think THEY are depending on their rank. They aren't.

Long and short...my general thing when I post to a new group is to listen first, get a feel for the way people interact, do a google on a few of the posters who seem knowlegable. That's probably saved me a world of hurt when running into a 6'5'' guy well over my weight, who's been training in various martial arts for about as long as I've been alive. And yes, I've probably survived just cause THEY are the nice guys... :D

Best,
Ron

Russell Davis
08-17-2009, 04:12 PM
Its not that you cant use a bokken left handed, its more like trying to find someone who promotes/teaches left and right.
If you are right handed and it gets cut/injured, you will try to use the left.
NO harm if you keep trying left & right sides, it might not be in anyones syllabus, but it will make you better.

jss
08-18-2009, 02:48 AM
Would you please drop the reprimanding tone? I am incredibly sorry that I insulted your expert knowledge on Japanese swordfighting, sempai. Please forgive me :rolleyes:
I read Keith's reply more as an answer to Ellis' post. Ellis said: koryu no way, aikido suburi ok. Then Keith chimes in and elaborates on the "koryu no way" part, although you can find some echoes of the whole "5th kyu shihan" issue from another thread in there.
So yes, Keith did use a reprimanding tone in a post that did not address your question, but that also means that the reprimanding tone was not directed at you either. It seems that's the way these forum-thingies seem to work: threads drift, evolve and sometimes derail...

Aikilove
08-18-2009, 06:10 AM
There's no rule-book that says you cannot traipse into the dojo wearing a mini-hakama with pancakes taped to your butt-cheeks either. Your aikido might even improve. But - - - - -
Ellis Amdur

Made my day!
*cleaning up coffee/spit from computer screen*

Keith Larman
08-18-2009, 09:40 AM
Would you please drop the reprimanding tone? I am incredibly sorry that I insulted your expert knowledge on Japanese swordfighting, sempai. Please forgive me :rolleyes:

I do apologize -- no insult was intended. The forum went down for a few days and then I was scrambling to get to one of the sword shows I exhibit at each year hence I wasn't on-line much. And I took the family and spent some extra time on the long drive back driving through the wine country of California's central coast (for you wineaux's out there Oreana has a really interesting white based on the Verdelho grape from Portugal -- that was a new one to me). We've not had the time to take a vacation for a few years so these small "micro-vacations" become a big deal for us.

I wasn't directing the comment directly at you --- it was a general comment overall about how things are done. I get people asking me the question all the time myself. And honestly I've tried a number of things with hands reversed just to experiment on my own. But the on my own part is critical.

In my head I was responding to Ellis and by extension anyone reading rather than as a direct response/answer/reprimand to you. As I said, you can do whatever you'd like, honestly I couldn't possibly care less. I've seen things done in some aikido dojo that would make a traditionalist in JSA faint in horror -- I've done them myself. ;)

The larger issue for me was Ellis making a point of the difference between the nature of Koryu and the nature of a wildly morphing gendai art like Aikido. Honestly I do think one of the biggest problems long facing Aikido is that difference. In Koryu arts students do not change the art. The art doesn't change to suit the students -- the students have to change to fit the art. Change can and does occur, but ideally only by what I called in my post the "guy with the scrolls". The theory here is that person is the one who has received the full transmission and is hence responsible for the art. It can evolve. But only once the full art has been fully transmitted.

So my point with Aikido is that we can, as students, do whatever we want on our own time. And many have the attitude of exploration, playing, fooling around, etc. That is a powerful thing as well. But it *is* missing that whole "the art has been fully transmitted thing". What can be missing is that original context of why something was done. Hence my comments about Shodan experts.

As an aside I was leaving the San Francisco Token Kai this weekend I was talking with one of the top habaki/fittings/koshirae craftsmen, well, in the world. I've shown him my work over the years and I was talking with him about the next time I was going to visit him. So I'll be mounting up a Sukesada Wakizashi and taking the completed project for him to look over. What I need to learn is not so much what I did wrong, but to discover what I don't even know that I don't know. The theme here is that the biggest problem are the things you evem don't know that you don't know.

To me Aikido has in some cases lost a lot of that connection. And too many are too quick to adjust, fiddle, and "fix" things they think are broken. This is done at extreme peril, however, if you don't have the solid foundation. Ironically some of that "flexibility" has I think given Aikido part of its remarkable appeal to a larger, broader audience. So it is a constant back and forth battle.

So I go back to Ellis' pancake comment (I would say pancake crack but Ron would probably figure out a horrible pun on that one :eek: too, and I'd be force to respond in kind). The bottom line to me is that we tend to forget that the Japanese sword *is* a two-handed weapon. If we are swinging the bokken as if it were a "stand-in" for a Japanese Sword that weapon comes with a rather large owner's manual. Two hands are critical for proper unsheathing, cutting, control, and resheathing. When unsheathing or resheathing the left hand *is* heavily involved in the manipulation of the saya in the belt, around the body, and easing the sword into the saya. *Both* are critical and both are actually quite difficult to learn to do well. With the exception of draw cuts most involve holding with both hands.

Both hands are so critical that handedness is really not an issue. So most who train in sword arts spend their entire lifetime working on perfecting it with that particular grip pattern -- there is no need to switch sides except for the occasional kata that do just that.

Keith Larman
08-18-2009, 09:51 AM
Keith has probably trained in multiple arts for 20 years or more. Ellis the same or more, and most of that time living in Japan, training in more than one Koryu art, and with close aquaintences in others.

Just to clarify -- I'm honored to be mentioned that way, but I don't belong in the same sentence as Ellis Amdur. He was in Japan training when I was still trying to figure out if my "Big Wheel" could get over the plank of particle board and jump the 5 GI Joe action figures just like Evel Kneivel... That was my first experience with "road rash" on my face. Really poor ukemi...

His experience, ability, and depth literally dwarfs mine. I've had the benefit of dabbling in a wide variety of arts for a lot of years before focusing on Aikido. And then working full time as a sword craftsman now for quite some time has meant a lot of time spent getting to sometimes train in but more often just watch and see what goes on sometimes "behind the scenes" in some of the more insular traditional groups. More an academic... So I come to the party with a somewhat different perspective mostly due to full time professional necessity mounting and studying swords.

Mr. Amdur's direct experience in both puts him up on that top shelf. I'm just more of a fly on the wall. ;)

Ron Tisdale
08-18-2009, 10:02 AM
:D Understood! ;)

Hey, if you are a fly, I am a speck...LOL

B,
R