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Old 05-20-2008, 02:48 PM   #1
theron bennett
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Ai symbol right vs. left

Hello, I am brand new to this forum. I have a question. I have studied bokken and jo under several instructors.I have asked all of them why we practice right handed only.Other than the standard "because there are no left handed Japanese" I've never gotten a satisfactory response. I look forward to your responses. Gotta go train.Check in later. Thanks.
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Old 05-20-2008, 02:56 PM   #2
Shany
 
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Re: right vs. left

why would a left-handed do right handed with jo? its like forcing ur self to write iin class with ur left hand while ur a right-handed person!

do what ever feels good and works for you.
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Old 05-20-2008, 03:51 PM   #3
Keith Larman
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Re: right vs. left

Quote:
Theron Bennett wrote: View Post
Hello, I am brand new to this forum. I have a question. I have studied bokken and jo under several instructors.I have asked all of them why we practice right handed only.Other than the standard "because there are no left handed Japanese" I've never gotten a satisfactory response. I look forward to your responses. Gotta go train.Check in later. Thanks.
If you are emulating swordsmanship with a real blade there are reasons. First, even a one-handed draw cut utilizes both arms -- the right draws the sword as the left pulls the saya back in the belt (sayabiki). Obviously you're not going to feel that with a bokken since most don't practice with a saya (although they are available). So if a person is left handed vs. right handed, it didn't matter. It isn't like drawing with the right was somehow easier. Yes, initially it seems that way to most, but as you smooth out the *entire* motion of correctly drawing a sword you'll find that both hands are equally important. And handedness really isn't an issue.

This raises the issue of training. If you've ever been in a crowded room practicing it would be very confusing to have some people doing the exact opposite, turning different ways, etc. Since it was viewed as a two-handed weapon then there was no reason not to just have everyone do it on the same side. It makes group kata training vastly easier. Swordsmanship movements are not symmetrical.

What keeps the katana from sliding out of your obi is a thing called a kurigata. that's the part that the sageo runs through. That acts as a sort of "belt stop". It is normally on the omote (outside) of the sword saya. Now I suppose someone could have a saya made and then ask the craftsman to mount the kurigata on the ura (back side), but that makes the sword unwearable by anyone else. Remember a lot of bushi throughout history were essentially issued swords to use. So again, no real choice because there was no reason to complicate matters.

Another reason is the etiquette of walking with a sword. Striking someone's saya was often perceived as an invitation to a duel. Very poor manners. Having groups of bushi walking together in line kept things much more civil if they all had them on the same side. Less chance of misunderstandings...

And finally, left handedness was considered a weakness. The raised nail gets hammered down as they say. So no grown Japanese of that time would be left handed. Whether they really were or not...

The reality was that Japan is a society of very strict social structure and norms. The sword is worn the way it is worn because that is how it is worn. And that's good enough of an answer if you understand that aspect of Japanese culture.

Therefore doing it "backwards" would be a highly presumptuous and rude thing to do.

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Old 05-27-2008, 06:41 AM   #4
philippe willaume
 
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Re: right vs. left

Quote:
Theron Bennett wrote: View Post
Hello, I am brand new to this forum. I have a question. I have studied bokken and jo under several instructors.I have asked all of them why we practice right handed only.Other than the standard "because there are no left handed Japanese" I've never gotten a satisfactory response. I look forward to your responses. Gotta go train.Check in later. Thanks.
One thing that kreith did not mention
When using a two handed weapons there is not that much advantage in being left handed as there is in classical fencing.

Usually most of the sword style will have options when cross of ommote or ura side so it does not make that much of a difference.
And since going left against right opens someone ura side to a possible void and counter.
It is not really worth the trouble.

As a note 15th century German fencing advocated striking from the left is you are left handed because it is better to enter on you strong side when you are likely to cross with your opponents. (Medieval long sword has two edges and a cross-guard so there more options from the cross that with a katana tachi.)
But when fighting in armour, you are advocated to always move with the left foot in front so all the stance are right handed.

phil

One Ringeck to bring them all and in darkness bind them,
In the Land of Windsor where phlip phlop live.
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Old 06-02-2008, 12:00 AM   #5
Enrique Antonio Reyes
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Lightbulb Re: right vs. left

Quote:
Shany Golan wrote: View Post
why would a left-handed do right handed with jo? its like forcing ur self to write iin class with ur left hand while ur a right-handed person!

do what ever feels good and works for you.
At this day and age anything should be accommodated within reason...

I guess nobody took the time to practice left movements...do as you please...harness your own Aiki and never let others take it against you.
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Old 06-13-2008, 05:57 PM   #6
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: right vs. left

I have always done everything both sides. I don't like to train with people that don't - it drives me nuts.

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Old 06-27-2008, 08:28 AM   #7
Beard of Chuck Norris
 
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Re: right vs. left

Both sides here too... confuses the hell out of you if you do the jo kata with opposite hands, yet somehow always manage to end as if you did it right handed.

For me, it makes little sense in aikido not to do sword on both sides as co-ordination is of paramount importance.

In kendo / iai though, always right handed... but with left hand strength
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Old 06-28-2008, 12:51 PM   #8
Joyce Lunas
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Re: right vs. left

Hello out there!

Our sensei says that migi (right) side is for everyone whereas hidari (left) is for the more advanced students. Does this hold true? I don't know, but i do as he says nevertheless... no point trying his patience and afflicting me his horrendous... yonkyo!
I have to say, though, that ever since i started practising both sides my perception of space has grown and that can only be a good sign, right?

Enough said. I leave you to it. You all know things better than me, im sure of it.

Peace, Love and Understanding,
Joyce
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Old 07-01-2008, 03:55 PM   #9
Bronson
 
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Re: right vs. left

Quote:
Shany Golan wrote: View Post
do what ever feels good and works for you.
I'll remember that when I visit a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road.

"But officer, it feels good to drive on this side and it works for me".

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 07-22-2008, 11:42 AM   #10
Charles Mahan
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Re: right vs. left

I'll speak from the JSA perspective, since that is where my experience(11 years of MJER for those who don't know me) lies. Now aside from the obvious answer, that being that no serious JSA dojo or instructor would allow you to wear a sword on the right hip, I'll toss out a more practical reason.

There are no left handed instructors. Nobody can show you how to do things left handed, because nobody could demonstrate the waza that way.

"Doing what feels good" is usually a big mistake in Iai. What feels good and proper is usually dead wrong, and in the JSA world dead wrong means you are dead. End of story.
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Old 07-22-2008, 12:41 PM   #11
Keith Larman
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Re: right vs. left

Hey, Charles, nice to see you here. You'll get no argument from me. You still training with Ray in Texas?

I think part of the issue is delineating between training with wood weapons *as* wood weapons vs. training with a bokken as a "stand in" for a real sword. In my experience some aikidoka have a really poor cutting motion just at the outset. Many won't even reach the target -- no extention at all. I see people do a simple "shomen" cut as we call it but at best what they would have had is a superficial tsuki to the midsection. The hands drop to the level of the hara before the kissaki has even approached the target level. All that is left is some residual forward movement which results in maybe the kissaki reaching where the opponent would have been standing.

So to some extent the issue of handedness is rather moot in many cases. Bigger fish to fry as they say.

And some of the tachi-tori I've seen over the years where the aikidoka grabs the blade and tears the sword out of the uke's hands... I always want to volunteer one of my blades for the next demo... "Hey, stumpy, how did that grabbing the razor sharp part of the technique work out for you? Okay, we'll try to find all your fingers before we drive you to the ER..."

But like I said, there are two approaches and both have their place. Just as long as we don't confuse them with one another. One is that it is simply a training tool for exploring aikido movement, distance and dynamics hence liberties are taken with the weapon in the sense of it being a stand in for a "real" sword. So in that case, well, whatever floats your boat. It ain't fillin in for a real sword so none of the rules of real swords would apply.

The other sense, however, *is* treating it as if it were real. If that happens taking the attitude of "whatever works for you" isn't a good answer because it totally ignores the weapon's unique attributes and limitations. It needs to be used within the context of its terms, not just the whim of the person waving it around.

Some in Aikido do train very hard with their bokken in the attempt to use proper form in the sense of using a shinken (live blade). My sensei is aikido also studied iai for a very long time (godan). And I have never seen him do something with the sword with the hands reversed. It just isn't done because it makes no sense whatsoever given the construction of sword koshirae. And it has been hammered into my head from the beginning that without a proper cutting form then the rest doesn't matter. The idea is to develop aiki and all that other good stuff we go for in aikido but within the context of using the bokken correctly.

Some people do things with bokken that would probably better be done with a baseball bat or a simply an axe handle. Using a bokken tends to imply they're using a sword. But if a real sword would be next useless in their hands due to lack of understanding of how a sword "works" how much good is it to bother with the bokken?

Shoshin ni kaeru. IMHO that applies to the weapons as well. Which means learning more about their history, attributes, limitations and proper usage. Then build from there.

But folk differ on that.

Opinions are mine alone. Your mileage may vary...

Flameproof underoos on and ready for action!

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Old 07-22-2008, 01:27 PM   #12
Charles Mahan
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Re: right vs. left

Keith,

I am still training with Ray-sensei yes. I ended up on this forum somehow, not quite sure how and saw the thread. Figured I'd chime in. You had already covered most everything, but thought I'd throw out the problem with finding left handed instruction. The primary reason there are no left handed swordsman is the same reason that there are no right handed swordsman. It's primarily a two handed weapon. It takes both hands working in concert to do most everything properly. You already covered that point, so I didn't bother.

As for how all this applies to Aiki, you got me. My knowledge of Aikido is ... basic to say the least. That's why I couched my comments as being from a JSA perspective, and from MJER's perspective in particular.

One of these days I'll have to get with you about maybe polishing a window into a wakizashi I got for christmas a couple of years back. According to some folks at Swordforum it's a Mihara ju Masaie, no idea what generation. There are some absurdly high resolution scans of it at this url if you're curious
http://24.155.86.214/public/photos/Iaido/wakizashi/ Some schmuck, hopefully not my stepfather, seems to have made an effort to "clean" it up at some point, yes including the dreaded rust removal from the nakago. I took one look at it when I unwrapped the present and knew I had something both genuine and horribly tragic. Sigh. Still it's in suprisingly good shape structurally and might make a nice looking servicable blade, even if it's value as a collectors item is pretty well fubar'd.
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:34 AM   #13
Keith Larman
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Re: right vs. left

Yeah, I was surprised (pleasantly) to see you posting here as I didn't think you were involved with the aikido world. I was glad to see you post as I must admit the "whatever works" approach to the ken has always bugged me. Too many years working with nihonto and JSA practitioners has left me quite opinionated on some topics regarding sword usage, habits and even etiquette.

I'd be happy to look at the wakizashi whenever you'd like. Keep in mind that nakago can be repaired (obviously its not something anyone wants to do -- ideally it should never have been cleaned). It will reduce the value of the piece, but it really depends on the sword. So a cleaned nakago doesn't automatically relegate it into a training blade candidate. It might still have some value as a collectable. And if your goal is a training blade sometimes the better option is to get the collectable to someone who wants it and use the funds from that to buy a more appropriate training piece.

But the first step is always seeing it in person. From there you can decide about having a window polished in or whatever.

The San Francisco Token Kai is coming up next month fwiw...

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Old 07-23-2008, 11:37 AM   #14
Keith Larman
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Re: right vs. left

Forgot to mention -- I looked at the pictures. Nice piece. Yeah, it obviously has some issues and I'd have to see how the geometry has suffered (there are some telltale signs of unaddressed foundation polishing marks around the shinogi for instance). Compared to the apparent health of the blade the chips don't look like they'd be an issue. The pitting is harder to comment on without looking at it in person.

But cool blade nonetheless.

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Old 07-23-2008, 07:01 PM   #15
Charles Mahan
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Re: right vs. left

Thanks Keith. Yeah I'm not really sure why I even have an account here. I wasn't thinking about it being an Aiki centered weapons forum when I posted. Guess I should pay more attention to just which forum I'm checking before I post. Too many forums to keep up with these days.

I'm sure I'll bump into you sooner or later. I'm not an expert, but I've shown the blade to a few folks who know this stuff better than I do and the pitting doesn't seem to be a deal breaker. I doubt I'll use it as a training weapon. I'd just like to see it restored at some point. Anyway, I'll stop dragging the thread off topic now.
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Old 07-23-2008, 08:02 PM   #16
Rennis Buchner
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Re: right vs. left

From another sword-guy's point of view: Traditionally it was believed that there was some pretty heavy "bad mojo" involved with being left-handed in the old days in Japan and every effort was made to force children who showed left handed tendencies to switch to their right (actually this tendency has continued up until fairly recently). It's for that reason that functionally just about everyone in Japan was "right handed" and swordsmanship, among other things, reflects that. One example being, as mentioned above, that it would be more or less impossible to wear Japanese swords on the opposite side due to the mountings and such. So from the point of view of studying swordsmanship the right hand forward is the only way to go. I have seen at least one technique in a certain ryu where they do switch the forward hand part way through the kata, but it is obviously a sort of surprise tactic for that situation and not the standard order of business.

Now if you have zero interest in traditional swordsmanship and are only swinging a bokuto to develop technique in an aikido situation, and want to develop a "balanced" body for aikido technique-wise and such, that is an entirely different discussion and I personally don't see anything wrong with that (some older more "traditional" Japanese teachers might not agree), but if you are doing it for the purpose of learning swordsmanship than there is really only one way to go.

For what it's worth,
Rennis Buchner
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Old 07-24-2008, 12:16 AM   #17
Keith Larman
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Re: right vs. left

Quote:
Thanks Keith. Yeah I'm not really sure why I even have an account here. I wasn't thinking about it being an Aiki centered weapons forum when I posted. Guess I should pay more attention to just which forum I'm checking before I post.
I'm glad you did. I think sometimes the aikido world is a little too insular. In the years I've done it I stayed pretty much "close to home" with my sensei who is an experienced traditionally trained iaidoka in addition to high ranking aikidoka. That combined with my own constant exposure to the various JSA due to professional reasons has left me with some pretty strong opinions that I know are not universally shared in the world of aikido. As I started looking more at what others in aikido were doing with their bokken in particular I would see things that reflect the lack of direct experience with either real swords or with proper form with real swords. As Rennis said if the goal is just developing aiki skills using a sword like wood weapon, well, it just doesn't matter what you do as long as you're meeting those goals. So it may be great aiki-stuff, but it might still be terrible swordsmanship... And we have to be careful to understand the difference.

One thing that bothers me is that I sometimes see people complimenting people on their very "flowing" cutting form and saying they're doing wonderful "swordwork". But all I see is someone who is going to have trouble even reaching the target let alone cutting it. And that's just the beginning of the problems... So an outside informed perspective is something needed IMHO.

All that said many don't feel the same way.

Quote:
I'm sure I'll bump into you sooner or later. I'm not an expert, but I've shown the blade to a few folks who know this stuff better than I do and the pitting doesn't seem to be a deal breaker. I doubt I'll use it as a training weapon. I'd just like to see it restored at some point.
Just fwiw as an impression from the images it looks like a nice piece -- I certainly would hold on to it myself. The biggest drawback is that wakizashi are somewhat like the ugly stepchildren of the sword world. They're harder to sell since collectors will either go for really nice tanto or full sized daito. Wakizashi just don't excite collectors usually.

It does need some TLC but there are some things visible in the piece that look quite nice.

Later.

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Old 08-22-2008, 11:16 AM   #18
Norton
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Re: right vs. left

I think that sword practice should be done with both hands. Of course, it's not like anyone's going to use swordfight in real life, but, just imagine, your right arm could be disabled due to an injury at a fight and you may have to use your left arm.

Last edited by Norton : 08-22-2008 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 09-09-2008, 02:34 PM   #19
max5payne
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Confused Re: right vs. left

I used to have an aikido sensei that told me that the right handed approach came from the type of clothing they were wearing as well.

Since the japanese wore clothes (i.e gi / kimono) left over right (i think i heard somewhere that if it was worn the other way, the person would be at his own funeral)

Because of this if the sword were to be drawn out from the right side, it would get caught withing the clothes and get the samurai killed.

just my 0.02 dollars

cheers
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Old 09-23-2008, 01:35 PM   #20
Robert Cowham
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Re: right vs. left

Quote:
Another reason is the etiquette of walking with a sword. Striking someone's saya was often perceived as an invitation to a duel. Very poor manners. Having groups of bushi walking together in line kept things much more civil if they all had them on the same side. Less chance of misunderstandings...
Indeed, as I understand it this is one of the reasons why all right thinking countries drive on the left

As to using swords only left or right, Musashi founded his two sword style:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyōhō_Niten_Ichi-ryū

Robert
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Old 09-29-2008, 10:35 AM   #21
sorokod
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Re: right vs. left

In Iwama weapon curriculum, all the partner practice (kumitach) end with a cut on the right hand side.The assumption is that the left side is not as strong.
If you want to develop symmetrically, practice on your own.
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