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AikiWeb System 09-25-2002 08:43 AM

Discuss the article, "Southpaw Swrodsmen" by Hiroaki "Rocky" Izumi here.

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mlminto 09-25-2002 09:24 AM

Gomen Nasi. I was disappointed with the attitude expressed in the article in question, to call people idiots and to say they are asking stupid questions is very poor, I believe, particularly for an Aikidoka. Didn't know verbal abuse was part of the centering process. Some background information on any aspect of the martial arts gives one a better overall understanding of just why things are the way they have come to be.

lt-rentaroo 09-25-2002 10:02 AM


I agree, there are no stupid questions.

This question is often asked when we work with bokken. I use essentially the same reasoning as Izumi Sensei, but with less depth. The reasoning does make sense, at least regarding the "side of the path" you walk on, and "mounting a horse."

I'm curious Jun, what's your take on the subject?

akiy 09-25-2002 10:17 AM

My experience in koryu is extremely limited, so please take what I know about this sort of thing with at least a few large grains of sand. Maybe someone who has access to a big group of "qualified" swordspeople (ie Iaido-L) can pose this question (if it isn't already a frequently asked question). Paging Mr. Karl Friday... Paging Mr. Meik Skoss...

I like the reasoning that the article presents in why we all use the sword right-handedly. Another reason why I heard (from an aikido person) why we are right-handed in kenjutsu is when we're in seigan, the left side of our body becomes a bit canted away from our opponent; therefore, our heart, a vital organ, is away from our partner. Of course, I don't know about this since 1) there are a lot of other targets that are just about that critical (eg wrist, stomach, etc) which aren't as covered and 2) the heart is actually pretty close to the middle of our torso.

I'm wondering if it just may be a "cultural" thing. As has been said here on these forums, one of the aphorisms in the Japanese culture that displays one definition of "harmony" is "If a nail sticks up, pound it back in." As left-handed people were rarer than right-handed people, perhaps they were just forced to conform? I personally know people who were forced when they were small to use their writing and eating instruments in their right hand when they were dominantly left-handed...

Any other thoughts on this article?

-- Jun

Bruce Baker 09-25-2002 10:55 AM

the right handed left hander
Maybe half of being screwed up by becoming a right hander when you are a natural left hander is that as you progress in training you return to strengthening the left hand to do what the right hand does.

This does create the hidden world of left handers in a right hand world, and who knows how many great swordsman were natural lefthanders in a right handed world.

I do understand the need for order, and the majority would rule, but wouldn't it have been prudent to separate the minority as a special forces to oppose the right handed soldiers in battle? Or is that kind of thinking too outlandish in a world of majority and minoritys? A valley of lefthanders, or a town of left handers who are the secret weapon against right handed swordsmen?

Never mind. It is just my way of sparring and using the weapons in practice. The left hand should be as strong as the right hand and able to do what ever the right hand does.

It does Play havoc when you can naturally switch stances and change the playing field by being adept in both right and left handed offense, defense ... but that is not the current subject.

I do agree with the history of the right handed swordsman, but as for the meaning of who is worth more and who is worthless, well, that too is a matter of opinion and which society you live in.

I guess it all leads to an explanation of the kaos theory, and how the equalization of positive and negative effect change in a society or in humanitys social balance/ change in the world. This society has only left handed swordsman, this one has only right handed swordsman, and this one has more right than left handed swordsman which all tend to balance in the eye of kaos.

Erik 09-25-2002 11:04 AM

How did other cultures deal with lefties? I'm thinking of folks like European Knights for instance? A less structured system but certainly no less capable.

I do know that in golf many lefties had to learn to play right handed due to a lack of left-handed clubs. Obviously a sword is neutral but a lack of left-handed teachers would achieve the same thing.

Does anyone do Japanese Caligraphy left-handed? What about kyudo? What about Japanese arquebusier's and musketeers? What about more recent times? Say, rifle training for infantry in WW2, for instance.

Lots of questions? No anwsers.

DanielR 09-25-2002 11:33 AM

The issue of confirmity Jun raised sounds very familiar. In the former Soviet Union it was a policy in schools to convert lefties to righties, at least as far as writing went.

Kent Enfield 09-25-2002 01:36 PM


Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
Maybe someone who has access to a big group of "qualified" swordspeople (ie Iaido-L) can pose this question (if it isn't already a frequently asked question).

It is. And the reasons given for sword on the left are pretty much the same as those in the article.

Sure, it may be more convenient for that one person if he switches sides, but it messes up how he interacts with everyone and everything around him (including his opponents). It's sort of like asking, "Why can't I drive on the left side of the road?"

Chuck Clark 09-25-2002 02:18 PM


Louis A. Sharpe, Jr. (lt-rentaroo) wrote:
I agree, there are no stupid questions.

I invite everyone to think about this:

Some people ask questions that are really attempts to show others what they already know and get attention.

There are also people that habitually ask questions that they possibly could come up with the answer on their own if they would really think about it and use some basic critical thinking skills. Getting other people to do the thinking whenever possible is a habit of lazy people.

Then there are those folks that ask questions as "bait" to engage others in argumentative debate. I suspect they really like the "juice" of the adverserial relationship.

All of these, in my experience, are a waste of time and energy. Anyone that has been a teacher for some time can tell the difference between these sorts of "questions" and the real thing.


lt-rentaroo 09-25-2002 04:25 PM

Clark Sensei,

I didn't include the whole statement regarding stupid questions in my reply. I understand your position and agree as well, often I'm required to answer questions that I find utterly ridiculous and a complete waste of time. Most often these questions come about at work, not at the dojo.

Here's the amended statement:

"There are no stupid questions, however there are lots of very inquisitive idiots."

Abasan 09-26-2002 12:47 AM

I think reading it with a sense of humour is in order. Intriguing.

peteswann 09-26-2002 01:40 AM


Kent Enfield wrote:
It's sort of like asking, "Why can't I drive on the left side of the road?"

Hi, in the UK we do drive on the left side of the road!! :p As far as I am aware this came about because traditionally your sword hung on your left (both when walking or mounted) and it became standard for folk on horseback to stay on the left side so as to be able to defend themselves on the road as it were!! Also, when walking with a lady on your arm, she too was on the left side so that you could still draw steel and defend her if the need arose!! :D


JimAde 09-26-2002 07:56 AM

In the "forcing lefties to be righties" vein: I know that even in the U.S. as recently as a generation or two ago, some children would be punished by their teachers for writing with their left hand. If it is difficult to have good Japanese penmanship left-handed, it seems likely that by the time someone was seriously studying sword, they were already used to using their right hand. So it might not even come up. Plausible?

MikeE 09-26-2002 09:28 AM

I feel discriminated against.

Everytime I have bought a sword, it has been right handed.

Woe is me. :)

Alan Drysdale 09-26-2002 11:04 AM

Interesting question, as in aikido we use the sword to study techniques and movement rather than for dueling. If we do left and right techniques, why not do left and right aikiken, irrespective of what the koryu folks do? Seems I have heard somewhere that Chiba Sensei does do this. I sometimes do it, and I'm even worse using the sword left handed than right handed.

WRT writing, one of my first memories of school was a teacher trying to make me write right handed. Being naturally perverse, I now write almost exclusively with my left hand. But I use a hammer right handed, so I'm probably ambidextrous.

When I played around with shodo, I tried the brush both ways, and there doesn't seem to be as much difference as in western writing, where the forearm rests in the paper and smudges what you have just written with your hand curled around to get the letters slanting the right way. Long live the keyboard!

Techniques? Seems like one side is as easy as the other. So maybe sword practice is not that important after all.


Kent Enfield 09-26-2002 03:14 PM


Pete Swann (peteswann) wrote:
Hi, in the UK we do drive on the left side of the road!!

I know, and I was aware of it while I was writing, but I couldn't come up with a way to work that in without that becoming the focus instead of the point I was trying to make.

peteswann 09-27-2002 01:32 AM


Kent Enfield wrote:
I know, and I was aware of it while I was writing, but I couldn't come up with a way to work that in without that becoming the focus instead of the point I was trying to make.

Thought I managed a fairly reasonable way of tieing it to the thread subject!! It does make me wonder why though (apologies for taking it OT!!:D ) the UK and one or 2 other countries are the only ones who still do drive etc on the left considering the reasons it stemmed from!!:p :D

Do they drive on the left in Japan?

akiy 09-27-2002 08:46 AM


Pete Swann (peteswann) wrote:
Do they drive on the left in Japan?


And, out of curiosity, I went and did a search on why people in Great Britain drive on the left side. Here's what I found:

And, here's a website that "blames" Napoleon for converting people to drive on the right:

-- Jun

peteswann 09-27-2002 08:59 AM

It is amazing the things you can find out on the net!!

Also amazing is the Island attitude of my home country through the years!!


Guest5678 09-27-2002 11:47 AM

Japan -

Swords on the left, travel on the left

America -

Six shooter on the right, travel on the right



Chuck Clark 09-27-2002 12:13 PM

Then there are those of us that carry in a cross draw position or in the small of the back and can travel on either side of the road comfortably.

Bruce Baker 09-27-2002 04:15 PM

Most quickdraw shooters started wearing their six guns across their belly at an angle, or is that another hidden truth that has been rewritten with television and movies? Check out some of the early 1930s movies where there are actual cowboys as stuntmen, and backround people. They don't wear their sixguns low and strapped down, but high on the belt across their belly.

As for the baiting question in post #9?

Time and energy is not worth the effort?

I wonder ... is the effort of ignoring baited questions a true loss of energy, or is it the isolationism of a hermit?

It is your right to be involved or not be involved, to teach or not teach, to guide others or assist them with what little brains you or I have ... be it in my experience, things happen for a reason, and encounters happen for a reason. Even if they, the wise acres, have are baited questions ... saying you are wasting your energy is a waste of energy, so why say it, unless you are fighting an inner tumoil that wants you to answer and you are unable to resolve it?

(Unless every fool in the universe continues to ask the same question thinking you are the guru of answers. Then it would time to hand out the form that lists what to do, how to find the answer in books, and places to check for the answer before ask a stupid question. If they don't come back with the form filled out and they still don't have the answer, give them the lightning rod and tell them the light is coming.)

Kind of like this question of righthanders and lefthanders pretending to be right handers.

I have gotten some pretty strange looks from S. Sugano sensei when I naturally switch hands to a natural left handed stance, which caused me to look at my hands, apologize, and switch back.

Although from years of practice throwing righty, I can not throw left handed like I did after I became accustom to throwing right handed, I do believe with practice I could throw overhand again with my left, not just underhand or side arm as I do now.

Hey, you should learn to throw on the left and right side, why not learn to cut with the single grasp of a left hand, or right hand?

And what about the one armed swordsman?

I guess the adapt, change, and overcome of the American thinking isn't always logical, but it does admire practicality.

mlminto 10-06-2002 04:58 PM

Attitude thing
Has anyone noticed that my original post had nothing to do with the subject of right-handedness in Japan, but was rather about attitude and feelings about other's 'stupid questions', etc., and that it has gotten lost in discussions about righthandedness in Japan (in an article written by someone other than me? - and quite a while ago, at that). This will be my last post on the subject. Have a better day.

peteswann 10-07-2002 01:30 AM


I think the thread evolved from the second or third post, into the discussion about righthandedness, however, your original post (after re reading it a couple of times) seemed to be just a statement and dind't 'seem' to offer any course for discussion!! The rest of the thread turned out quite interesting!! ;-)


Justin Pati 03-17-2003 12:05 PM


I have always wondered about handedness in weapons practice as well.

I have a few responses.

i.) As far as this being a stupid irritating question, maybe it is. For me it's non-trivial. Often in martial arts it is difficult to tell which things are completely practical, and which things are cultural. It is difficult sometimes to understand the motivation behind things, to really understand the contaxt.

Yes it's true, you could say that one should figure it out on one's own, but books can't always be trusted. Also for someone with as little sword combat experience as myself, figuring out the answer through experimentation is not likely to give a correct answer to the question. It's good to be able to ask questions of our seniors, and have the security of being answered honestly and with respect.

I myself get irritated when I must answer questions that seem obvious or tedious, but I know that this can really hurt people who are trying to learn.

ii.) People may not like this response. I admit that I may be misunderstanding.

I have been to aikido seminars, where we were told that everyone's aikido is different to some extent. Maybe there is room to explore this with weapons as we do with empty handed techniques.

iii. I am left handed and have at many times felt quite oppressed in small ways. However, I don't really feel this way when practicing kata with bokken. For one, the kata's are no longer the katas when the people doing them are opposite handed. Secondly, lefties are used to needing to be a bit ambi-dextreous, where right handers are not. It seems safer, at least at the lower skill levels (where I live) to pick an orientation and go with it.

iv.) I am getting in over my head here, but something to think about is the book of five rings (Musashi Miyamoto). He said that it is wrong to fetishize, or to have irrational inclinations towards a longer or shorter swords. He seemed to have a sense of being open in general to whatever is most practical and appropriate in a given situation. In some ways he seemed to believe that too much rigidity will make one lose the point.

well sorry for the long winded response. I hope that nobody thinks that I am trying yo argue or bait people. I just thought that some of these ideas may blend well with those already expressed. (Even if they're wrong, hopefull they'll make the correct ideas stand out more).


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