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dracones
09-28-2004, 07:38 AM
Hello!
I've seen a lot of talking around this subject.
Let's say I'm a right-handed swordsman like the most of us.
If I fight against a left-handed swordsman, I'd be very confused.
This would be a great advantage for my opponent.
Lots of people say it's because of the etiquete.
Whell the question is why the left-handed swordsmen hold the katana with the right hand? (against logic, except etiquete).
The problem is very simple:
If you hold the sword with the right hand then you would have the right foot in front, obviously this way you don't expose your heart.
It's as simple as that.

kironin
09-28-2004, 09:37 AM
Let's say I'm a right-handed swordsman like the most of us. If I fight against a left-handed swordsman, I'd be very confused.This would be a great advantage for my opponent.


If this confuses you then you are not much of a swordsman and lefty or righty you will meet an early demise. It's as simple as that.

many basic stances for a right handed swordsman have the left foot forward so your explanation assuming that a right handed swordsman always starts with their right foot forward to hide the heart just doesn't make any sense.

On so many levels what you said makes no sense whatsoever. I will stop here because I feel like I am just beating up on the defenseless.

batemanb
09-28-2004, 01:39 PM
Assuming Japanese sword here, right? I`ve been told many times by my sensei in Japan, and others there that there were no left handed swordsmen, i.e. 

thomas_dixon
09-28-2004, 04:10 PM
Assuming Japanese sword here, right? I`ve been told many times by my sensei in Japan, and others there that there were no left handed swordsmen, i.e. 

Correctomundo.

Creature_of_the_id
09-28-2004, 05:19 PM
http://www.aikiweb.com/weapons/rock4.html

p00kiethebear
09-28-2004, 09:50 PM
I`ve been told many times by my sensei in Japan, and others there that there were no left handed swordsmen,

Not entirely true.

They were indeed few and far between. I wish i could remember this swordsman's name, but he was left handed and was renowned for being able to switch to his left hand on the fly to confuse his opponents. He was rumoured to have "perfected" a left handed thrust.

I wish i still had the book that talked about this. Does anyone know this man's name? He died towards the middle of the meiji era if i remember correctly.

batemanb
09-29-2004, 02:39 AM
Not sure why my post appeared above, I started to write it last night before putting my little'un to bed but couldn't finish it so I quit without posting, surprised to see it here this morning? I'll finish off what I started.

I may be completely wrong in all this, I'm just repeating things told to me in Japan by my sensei, my father in law and other friends. The reason that all swordsmen learnt to fight right handed was because there are issues in a duel if you have a left handed grip against a right handed grip. I'm sure that there were left handed people who practiced the sword and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them weren't successful at switching at certain points during a duel to gain an edge, but I think the premise that they learned and trained right handed is true, just think about holding a sword left or right handed, and swing a yokomen at each, which way do they meet?

My sensei in Tokyo used to say that when we worked with bokken, we were studying Aikiken not kenjutsu, the difference being that we practiced left and right handed because it was Aikido.

Regards

Bryan

batemanb
09-29-2004, 02:57 AM
Not entirely true.

They were indeed few and far between. I wish i could remember this swordsman's name, but he was left handed and was renowned for being able to switch to his left hand on the fly to confuse his opponents. He was rumoured to have "perfected" a left handed thrust.

I wish i still had the book that talked about this. Does anyone know this man's name? He died towards the middle of the meiji era if i remember correctly.

I believe Musashi was left handed, which is possibly what led him to develop the handed sword style?

rgds

tedehara
09-29-2004, 06:34 AM
I believe Musashi was left handed, which is possibly what led him to develop the handed sword style?

rgdsMiyamoto Musashi developed a two-handed style, using swords in both hands. He developed this after seeing some Portuguese fight with sword and dagger. When he was fighting with one sword, he was right handed.

batemanb
09-29-2004, 06:54 AM
Miyamoto Musashi developed a two-handed style, using swords in both hands. He developed this after seeing some Portuguese fight with sword and dagger. When he was fighting with one sword, he was right handed.

hi Ted,

I posted that today after doing some googling on left handed swordsmen following Nathan's previous post. A number of sites mentioned it, along with this one

http://homepage1.nifty.com/hidex/left/left2e.html

Maybe I should have done some further research first, but I didn't say for sure that he was :D. Using that as an aid in developing the two sord style was total supposition :).

rgds

thomas_dixon
09-29-2004, 07:00 AM
While there may have been left handed swordsman, I doubt they were samurai, as the sword was kept (and still is) on the left side of the body. I've yet to see a japanese sword art otherwise.

dracones
09-29-2004, 03:00 PM
Oy! Oy!
I forgot how hard it is to talk to the people! :)

I know I'm talking to people with a lot of experience, so please forgive my possible mistakes, but I'm standing up for what I believe in, until proven wrong. Not everyone was born with information in his head or skills in his hand. (This one was for kironin).
Now....
Kironin said about "many basic stances for a right handed swordsman having the left foot forward". Ok. How many of them are for attack and how many for defense pourposes?
Consider the foot that sustaines most of the body weight.
Answer this and think about the heart expousure!
Second of all, when I first held a katana in my hand I attacked with the left hand though I'm a right handed, this because a katana is different from an "classic european sword" let's say. It was the first impulse, when my sensei explained to me what a katana is, I thought different, and now it would take me time to learn to fight left handed. But.... I never trained with a left handed so in my first training/fight with such a person I would be confused, but... of course if I'm skilled and trained enough, none could win against me, left or right handed. (So much for kironin).

Now for all the others, if even Musashi was left handed and learned to fight with the right hand why is that?
Though as far as I know he wasn't...
No matter the etiquette there would always be someone to break it for the smallest advantage.
Longer swords: the 47 ronins
Swicthing hands during a fight: Musahsi
It's all about wining.

If I attack I don't care where my heart is because the opponent is further then the ma-ai (let's say) or he is in a position from which he cannot attack.
If I'm waiting or I expect an attack, I really care where my heart is because the opponent is closer to me and he can reach my heart easily and one mm can make the difference.

This one I figured it out myself.
That's why I'm talking to you, a brainstorming is always better than a single brain activity.
But I heard nothing about this, anything else but this.

kironin
09-29-2004, 04:33 PM
Oy! Oy!
Kironin said about "many basic stances for a right handed swordsman having the left foot forward". Ok. How many of them are for attack and how many for defense pourposes?
Consider the foot that sustaines most of the body weight.
Answer this and think about the heart expousure!



All the ones I am thinking of are for attack but defenses are posssible from them too. I assume the one you were talking about was 'chudan no kame' or 'seigan no kame' that has the right foot forward for a right-handed swordsman and which also has both attack and defensive elements just like gedan no kame and migi jodan no kamae that also have the right forward. Which foot contains more body weight varies with the situation but standard stances have the body weight equally balanced between the feet. You heart exposure idea is still nonsense.

I think if you make a detailed analysis of traditional Japanese armour, this heart exposure argument won't wash either.

so much for heart exposure.

of course I am a lefty with leanings to being ambidextrous. I know how to use my sword with both left and right, but I wouldn't assume anything is a sure thing. Bad things happen.


---

Oy! Oy!


1 Samuel 4:7-8, the Philistines are depicted as crying "Oy!" in confused anticipation of an Israelite attack.

L. Camejo
09-29-2004, 07:40 PM
I'd have to agree with Craig on the heart exposure issue with regards to traditional Japanese armour. The upper chest/heart area was probably the most protected and reinforced area on the torso in many of the designs.

On another note, from my limited research as well as in speaking with some koryu kenjutsu folks, the heart does not seem to be as common a target as say the neck, head, lower belly or limbs for a many offensive manouvers with the daito. Again this may have something to do with the inaccessibility of the heart from the days of armoured combat. In western fencing however, the heart appears to be a more common target, probably a result of how the weapon was used (one handed vs 2 handed grip) and the body's orientation as a result of those basic postures.

Of course I reserve the right to be wrong.:)

LC:ai::ki:

thomas_dixon
09-30-2004, 02:15 AM
First off you have to remember that the Katana was designed as a cutting weapon. Thats the reason for it's curved blade, to be drawn from it's saya and cut in one movement. Therefore, if you know what you're doing, exposing your heart could easily become a trap for the enemy, and if he goes for it, could also easily lead to his demise (if you were fighting a duel). I'm left handed and use my right hand...

No matter the etiquette there would always be someone to break it for the smallest advantage.

Obviously you haven't heard how much honor meant to the Samurai. They would die for it, and to prevent losing it. Any "cheap" or dishonorable attack I very much doubt would be used.

neck, head, lower belly or limbs

I've noticed that too, but for me the most common I've seen is the Neck, Head and Hands. :)

Plus, western fencing just involves impaling the enemy until he falls over dead, so the only viable target would either be the neck or torso.

As for stabbing [thrusting] (which to reach the heart, you'd probably have to) I've only seen it for the Neck, Face, and I believe the stomach. I'm not sure about any of this, so any Iaido or Kenjutsu students please correct me :)

Bronson
09-30-2004, 02:36 AM
I'm wondering if there may be a more mundane reason for the right handed sword thing.

According to my developmental psychology book the breakdown of handedness is 83% right handed, 14% left handed, and 3% ambidextrous. So, if 83% of the people carrying swords were right handed and carried their swords on the their left side that would soon become convention. Especially when you consider that it was a terrible offense to hit your saya on someone elses....which is what would happen if you had one lefty with his sword on his right side walking down a crowded street full of right handed sword carriers. It'd be like me, as an American, going to Britain and trying to drive on the right because that's how I like to do it.

Also consider what has been posted other places on AikiWeb concerning the Japanese attitude toward harmony. It's the individuals responsibility to conform to the group (the nail that sticks up gets pounded back down). If the group decides that right handedness is the norm and the daily etiquette is going to revolve around that then the lefties had to conform...which is what they did.

Not to mention that I believe feudal Japan was an intensely right handed culture (please correct me if I'm wrong) with all sorts of different do's and don'ts for when to use the right or left hand. Again, society sets the norm and the individuals have to conform to it.

Anyway, just some late night thoughts :D

Bronson

PeterR
09-30-2004, 02:48 AM
Obviously you haven't heard how much honor meant to the Samurai. They would die for it, and to prevent losing it. Any "cheap" or dishonorable attack I very much doubt would be used.
:D Honor did mean quite a bit to a number of samurai but what they meant by honor you may or may not recognize. As someone mentioned before lots of Koryu have what us Westerners would call sneak attacks in their curriculum.

I do remember learning sword kata where your right arm was rendered useless (just may have been one of the TSKR iaido series but my memory fails me).

The left/right hand thing is a nobrainer in my opinion. You may have been left handed but you learned right but more to the point the vast majority of post-draw situations required a two handed grip - and the draw itself is simplicity in action. I don't think a left handed person would loose enough that a bit of practice couldn't overcome.

kironin
09-30-2004, 03:18 AM
As for stabbing [thrusting] (which to reach the heart, you'd probably have to) I've only seen it for the Neck, Face, and I believe the stomach. I'm not sure about any of this, so any Iaido or Kenjutsu students please correct me :)

we use thrusts that are generally to the throat or abdomen, but yes it really is primarily a cutting weapon. Finishing move is always a cut.

rather than the heart which is behind the rib cage (see below), the target is more likely to be the descending aorta (either the throracic section below the rib cage or the abdomen section where the armor is weaker for reasons of mobility for which success, not that easy, results in a quick kill.

there is an interesting discussion of this is here in terms of western sword techniques,
http://members.iinet.net.au/~bill/handbook/cuthrust.html

to quote from this --

One would imagine the heart is an excellent target for a thrust; and a dead cert for a kill too but... In fact the ribs are excellent protection and you are unlikely to thrust though a rib bone. Of course you could thrust between the ribs. This would mean rolling the sword over to present horizontal to the chest. In this case you would have less than a 50% chance of going between the ribs and then into the chest. Then all you have to do is find the heart or one of the main blood vessels at least. This of course is pretty hard to do. Even if you managed to penetrate the chest the more likely outcome is a mortally wounded opponent who will insist on taking you along for the ride. I have seen some glorious forensic pictures of stabbing victims and the amazing thing is the number of glancing wounds to the chests and the horrific tears in the abdominal wall.

thomas_dixon
09-30-2004, 04:27 AM
Thanks for the info and the link :)

And, what I meant Pete was that a Samurai wouldn't do anything to gain an advantage ^_^

PeterR
09-30-2004, 05:39 AM
And, what I meant Pete was that a Samurai wouldn't do anything to gain an advantage ^_^
Ah and what I meant he would do quite a lot to gain advantage. :)

Steve Mullen
09-30-2004, 09:32 AM
Musashi was left handed, even thought it is true that he fought right handed when using one sword. the reason for this is that, for many of the reasons discussed above, the fighting stlye of the Samurai was to have the Katana on the left-hand side of the body, drawn with the right hand, this is how he would have been taught.

While there was some left-handed Samurai it was very rare for them to use a sword, what many people seem to forget was that the Samurai were experts with bow and spear too, either of these styles would suit a left-hender better than the sword.
im a lefty and while i find using a bokken right handed has become second nature to me i still feel more comfortable with a Jo as its held in the left hand.

Steve

kironin
09-30-2004, 11:00 AM
actually as a lefty, for two handed grip it doesn't even seem to me to be right handed because the left hand is doing so much. It means it's more intuitive for me not to overpower a cut with my right hand. Sort of the same thing as happened to me when I played baseball or golf. In a reverse grip, I have the same problem right handers have in a standard grip, not letting their favored hand that is closer to the tsuba overpower the cut.

I practice single hand cuts with either hand alone in my private practice just to maintain some muscle balance between my left and right side.

kironin
09-30-2004, 11:05 AM
Ah and what I meant he would do quite a lot to gain advantage. :)

you mean like the samurai who climbed down into a deep latrine with a spear and waited to kill an opponent when they squatted down for a crap ?
;)
ouch

I forget where I read about that historical tidbit.

mj
09-30-2004, 01:48 PM
On a toilet wall.

deepsoup
09-30-2004, 04:15 PM
You mean like "Here I sit, broken hearted..." ?

dracones
09-30-2004, 04:48 PM
1.As I said and kironin agreed but of course he had something to say just to counter-attack, the left foot in front stance is for attack, that means I have an advantage and I don't care much for protection but for an accurate attack. When I said about the balance of body weight I was thinking about this: if the body weight is on the back foot that means I can launch an attack with more power and less accuracy, if the body weight is on the front foot I have less power and more accuracy.

2.A katana can easily and with the smallest amount of power cut half of the body. So the heart is in the close range. And if the most attacks are around neck or upper or lower body, an attack on the middle body is a surprize.

3.Oh yes! A lot of samurais woud do a lot for the smallest advantage. There were many who would do nothing but the honourable thing. They are exceptions. Just say no and I'll give you some well known examples.

4.The most important if you fight with a bow (I'm talking about the right handed ones) the left hand has a fixed point in the middle of the bow, the right arms makes all the movements. (The heart is in front maybe because a bow can't reach the heart.) When you are holding the katana it's exactly the opposite. Why is that????

Erik
10-01-2004, 09:16 AM
It may have been mentioned in the article but one of the reasons you might see one-sided training is because of battlefield formations. The Romans, I believe, tended to fight with the shield on the left arm and the gladius in the right hand, while adhering to a very structured spacing. I imagine that it makes things simpler and less dangerous because you know where and what the guy next to you is doing.

I used to wonder about the same thing because we tend to only think about duels or relatively small confrontations. In a duel it makes sense that messing up the pattern could be an advantage whereas it doesn't make so much sense in the larger picture.

p00kiethebear
10-01-2004, 01:06 PM
Any "cheap" or dishonorable attack I very much doubt would be used

Ahem. Miyomoto musashi, arguably the greatest swordsman japan knew... lets think now.

He's challenged to a duel on a beach. So on the way over he carves and oar into a bokken. When the boat lands he runs onto the beach and debrains the guy before he has much of a chance to react.

He challanges a master who supposedly has an unbeatable cut. He throws a shuriken at him to catch him off guard and kills him during his distraction.

He waits in the bushes and attacks without warning in order to kill people who challenged him.

Plenty of samurai chose practicality over honor.

The 47 ronin was mentioned earlier. You remember that these samurai used the trick of pretending to be a bunch of worthless drunkards so they could easily kill their adversary when he let his guard down.

Their adversary used the dishonorable tactic of coaxing their leader into drawing his sword in the emperor's garden so that he would be executed (or in this case, given permission to commit seppuku)

Not all samurai were the epitomy of honor and loyalty.

kironin
10-02-2004, 01:48 AM
in response to
"Any "cheap" or dishonorable attack I very much doubt would be used"

Plenty of samurai chose practicality over honor.
...
Not all samurai were the epitomy of honor and loyalty.


read here ...

http://www.koryubooks.com/library/kfriday2.html


enough said.

p00kiethebear
10-02-2004, 04:44 AM
Excellent article Craig, thank you!

Jorx
10-22-2004, 04:41 AM
Two facts:
The heart is not very much to the left side anyway.
Japan has a generally lower rate of left-handedness. I do not remember exact numbers but I think it was just a little over 5%.

dracones
10-23-2004, 03:13 PM
1.
I've seen recently on Discovery a documentary about
samurais. A teacher was showing the student the most
sensitive parts of the body:
-neck (cutting, death in 2-3 sec after the jugular is cut)
-heart (stabbing, death in 2-3 sec after the heart is stabbed)
-tendons (enemy is out of fight)
why expose the heart?

2.
someone said that the romans were fighting with the gladium
in the right hand and the shield in the left hand.
let's say it may be useful for the discipline and for the turtle
formation.
BUT: THE SHIELD IS IN THE LEFT HAND. WERE IS THE HEART?

3.
offtopic:
the 47 ronins also used about 10cm longer swords than
usual to gain an advantage.

dracones
10-23-2004, 03:30 PM
i'm sorry i post this kind of messages but i heard a nice joke related to this subject.

HOW DO YOU CALL A PERSON WITHOUT HIS LEFT EAR EYE, ARM, LEG?

allright.

Ellis Amdur
10-24-2004, 06:23 PM
1. Japanese culture has had a visceral a rejection of left-handedness as many European cultures (gauche, sinister, to use two allusions). I've seen Japanese parents hit their children very hard on the hands when they use their left hand to eat - the rejection starts very young, altho', like lots of things, modern Japanese culture is changing rapidly. One parent told me that a lefthander wouldn't be able to write properly. Another told me, with an expression of disgust, that being left-handed was "different."
2. If swords were sheathed on either side, it would have required much more attention to avoid clashing weapons - a pretext/cause of duels.
3. The reason given to me for Japanese driving on the left side of the road supposedly goes back to horseback/pedestrian traffic - not passing on the sheathed sword side.
4. Japanese warriors did not train in close-order drill, but they did have battlefield formations, particularly with spears - and generally, they were wielded with the right hand back - opposite where sword and kodachi were sheathed. Armed on both sides increased the likelihood of tangling weapons.
5. I may be wrong but I recall that from Nara and Heian periods, the bow was carried in the right hand, particularly in formal settings - thus, being not immediately offensive - and the sheathing of the word followed that.
6. Some schools do have "secret techniques" in which the swordsman shifts to a left handed grip. Yagyu Shinkage-ryu is one. I've had people do this during free-sparring training, and it's not a big deal. They shift their hands too close, and they'll be "cut" because of that moment where they are not attacking or defending. At a further ma-ai, it's obvious, and one simply attacks what's exposed in the shift of the body.
7. One thing I find interesting is that both ryu I've trained shift hands on bo, naginata and other weapons, so that the sword-fighter does train against both-sided attacks against them. But despite equal comfort with a naginata, for example, wielded either way, as soon as I pick up a sword, it feels very strange to reverse hands.
8. Different kusarigama ryu used either the left or the right on the sickle - depended on the school.

On another matter, this concept of the samurai as being "honorable" is quite misunderstood. It does not, nor did it ever mean "fighting fair." A lot of the gokui in many ryu are cheap shots, surprise attacks, and in some ryu, include poisons, curses, and explosives (Not "ninja" schools, BTW - run of the mill samurai training). The entire history of Japanese warfare is rife with as much betrayal as that of modern Afganistan, another culture obsessed with honor. Honor actually means not being held up in another's eyes in any way that you believe shames you. But it does not interfere with expediency. Literally, one has not broken one's "word" when one lies, because one didn't mean it in the first place. I recently read an account of a journalist who exposed two Afgan warlords of selling Stingers to Iran. One confronted her and threatened to kill her. She asked if it was not true that he'd sold the missles. He was taken aback, honestly puzzled and asked, "What does that have to do with it?"

With respect

Ellis Amdur

dracones
10-25-2004, 02:04 PM
I've seen recently an haidong gumdo demonstration.
It's resemblance with the samurai's fihgting style it's obvious.
Well, in this style I've seen a swordsman, standing with the left-foot (and of course the left side of the body in front) while the opponent was on the ground. As soon as the opponent was on his feet,
ready to attack, the body weight was moved on the right foot (which is lead in front, and of course the right side of body also). In close combat heart is in the back, and this weight transfer puts more power in the sword.

Chuck.Gordon
10-26-2004, 02:40 AM
I've seen recently an haidong gumdo demonstration. It's resemblance with the samurai's fihgting style it's obvious.


Eh? Sorry, Morris, I just can't make that statement make sense to myself.

Haidong gumdo has defintely had some Japanese influence, but if you told a Korean HGD practitioner that he was using samurai fighting style, he'd likely be vastly insulted.

And quite frankly, from what I've seen of HDG, it's really drifted far away from the kenjutsu/kendo/iaido that might have influenced in the past.

If you get a chance to observe any of the older systems of kenjutsu, you'll probably not see any standing on one foot, twirling the sword or using the style of stomping cuts I've seen HDG folks use.

It's an apples and oranges thing ...

And besides, if you want to talk about samurai fighting styles, you'd really need to look at Hozoin Ryu spear, maybe. The sword was always a secondary (or even tertiary) weapon. Pole arms, bows and (according to something historian and budo researcher Karl Friday said once) rocks were more frequently used by samurai on the batlefield.

Sword fighting was something that hapened when you expended all other options.

The Japanese sword styles may lack the flash and panache of HDG, but that's fine with me, I far prefer simple elegance to truly spiffy twirls and leaps ...

Chuck

Joe Bowen
10-27-2004, 02:53 AM
What's with the obsession of the heart position relative to stance? Granted if you get stabbed in the heart you are going to die, but that is true of a number of other places as well. Your stubbornness regarding this point is far exceeding your ingenuity in dreaming it up.
Speaking as a left-handed person in intellectual endeavors (writing, drawing, painting, eating etc) who practices all-physical endeavors (sports, Aikido, rifle marksmanship, European fencing) right handed, (this by the way I attribute to being taught most of my physical endeavors at a young age by my older right handed brothers and right handed father) if you practice the Asian style of calligraphy left handed it is extremely difficult. I had a Chinese friend of mine teach me some of the basic strokes for the calligraphy and found that when I tried it left-handed it didn't work so well. When I normally write, my left forearm rests on the desk and sometimes on the sheet of paper, this is almost impossible to do with the ink. When I tried it with my right hand, the characters actually came out better. So, without a reprimand from my friend for using my left hand, I naturally switched to the right. There is a method to the madness which may not be easily explained, nor even consciously known. This probably applies to the use of the sword as well. While the ideas put forth about military formations and social conformity make sense, your are unlikely to get a definitive answer to the question. And while, I may disagree with your heart position theory, you can even keep on believing that if you like..... :rolleyes:

-joe

dracones
10-28-2004, 01:30 PM
:)

That is probably the right answer.
I can't get something clear because, this problem has
many aspects.
I still believe that "hidding" the heart is one of the reasons.
And an important one!
As someone told me on aikido.ro forum,
"finnaly the reason defeated the assumption".
Thanks all.
Bye-bye.

The Molinjir
11-01-2004, 08:35 PM
I am still fairly new to Aikido, so I know very little about the weapons training, but I am left handed, so I usually have a large advantage against my opponents when I fence, unless I meet one of those rare people who fences well, and equally well with both hands.....

I know, at my level of fencing, very few people can quickly adjust from fighting a right-handed person to a left handed person. I am not sure if it is the same in Aikido, but just my two cents,

Paul