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Old 02-25-2004, 09:32 AM   #1
judd h.
 
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handle lengths

What are most of your handle lengths?
My Sensei suggested that we hold the bokken in one hand and let the bottom of the handle come down to about one inch above your elbow. And basically if you are going to use a tsuba, thats where you should place it. So for most people it makes the handle length about 11-13 inches. I think it makes techniques a bit easier, especially those started from a waki kamae.

So do most of you just put the tsuba at the notch (if there is one) on the bokken, or do you move to a better location?

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Old 02-25-2004, 10:13 AM   #2
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Justin,

After using a bokken with a tsuba for a while, I'd like to suggest you not use it!

It's a matter of personal preference, of course, but the tsuba will rub on the inside of your upper thumb and sometimes the knuckle of your forefinger and rub it raw after a long usage of it.

At my first seminar, I noticed the majority of the aikidoka there have bokken with no tsuba. The Itto Ryu Bokken (also called bokuto) offered by BuJin Design seems like the ideal bokken for aikido. That shape/design is sleek and strong. Proper training will tell you where your hands should be better than a tsuba.

That's my 2 cents.

Good luck!

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Old 02-25-2004, 10:24 AM   #3
judd h.
 
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I see where you are coming from because I used to use it without a tsuba, but I like the idea of having a tsuba there for the sake of keeping it closer to the "realism" of a real sword. Plus, I was exchanging ideas and techniques with my friend who takes tae kwon do, and more than once was the tsuba a savior to my hands !

But to be honest I do like the tsuba there a little more than I did without it.

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Old 02-25-2004, 10:26 AM   #4
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I think your sensei has the right of judging the distance... but I think that this information must necessarily affect the length of the bokken, too.

While generating this an accurate distance from the end of the grip to where the tsuba should be, you might generate an inaccurate distance from the tip to the tsuba. Basically, you've shortened your blade.

Gripping the bokken in this position, the center of gravity is in the wrong place (beneath your right fist if not between your hands). Also the tip is in a signficantly different position (shorter) than it would be with a full blade length extending out from where your tsuba would be.

The obvious suggestion is to get a longer bokken to account for the longer handle. Don't just eat your "blade" up with "handle."

...and I second leaving the tsuba off. There is a certain mental acuity that develops without that sort of safety net. Your training becomes sharper without it there.

Tim
It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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Old 02-25-2004, 09:25 PM   #5
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I'm not sure about bokken but the usual standard for iaito is handle=1/3 of blade.

I would agree that just sliding the tsuba up isn't the way to go. If you want extra handle either have one custom made or get a bokken that's bigger all around.

Personaly, I like a bokken with a little bigger handle. Kingfisher Woodworks was able to add 2" to the handle of their aiki bokken for an additional $15. I also have a white oak one that I think came from The Kiyota Co. (Google their name for contact info as they don't have a website). The whole bokken was bigger than standard. I actually ended up having to shorten the blade on that one by a little as it was just too big for our low ceilinged dojo.

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 02-25-2004, 10:37 PM   #6
judd h.
 
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Well that is the point right? To have the handle be 1/3 the length? well, sliding the tsuba up does just that. If you leave the tsuba at its "factory" spot, it is USUALLY only a 1/4 of the sword length.

I see nothing wrong with just sliding the tsuba up, especially if it is correcting the length of the handle. The length of my bokken right now with the tsuba slid up is a 12 1/2 inch handle with a 28 inch blade. That is just about right if you ask me. All I can say is that Iaido katanas dont come with short handles and overly long blades, they come with slightly longer than normal handles, and 27-29 inch blades (most of the time).

"...and I second leaving the tsuba off. There is a certain mental acuity that develops without that sort of safety net. Your training becomes sharper without it there."

Well, I would rather not. Just for my own personal preference in that it offers protection, and I would not use a live blade katana without one.

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Old 02-26-2004, 12:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
Well that is the point right? To have the handle be 1/3 the length? well, sliding the tsuba up does just that. If you leave the tsuba at its "factory" spot, it is USUALLY only a 1/4 of the sword length.
I think you may have misunderstood me. I didn't mean that the standard handle size was 1/3 the total sword length, but 1/3 the blade length. Thus, if you have a sword with a 30" blade the handle should be around 10" giving a total length of 40". If I use the handle=1/3 of total equation on the same size sword the handle comes out to just over 13 1/4" which leaves a blade length of just under 27".

I guess what I'm getting at is to figure out the size your handle should be you first need to figure out how long your blade should be. There are lots of different ways to do this.

Nosyuiaido has an easy to use blade length calculator. After you determine what size blade you want just divide that measurement by 3 and that would be the length handle that you'd need according to the standard used by iaito makers. Now, if you want a longer handle than that it doesn't really make sense to subtract from your blade...you need to add to the handle.

Of course most folks just go with the standard bokken you can get at any MA supply shop and it's probably close enough for most people and applications.

Bronson

p.s. BTW if you like to use a tsuba check out the cross-laminated bamboo ones from Kingfisher Woodworks. The things are damn near bullet proof

Last edited by Bronson : 02-26-2004 at 12:46 AM.

"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 02-26-2004, 07:28 AM   #8
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I agree with Bronson, and disagree with you, Justin.

Lengthening the handle should not shorten the blade. The blade has a length it must be, and the handle has a length it must be. Together, these give a center of gravity that pulls through the strike.

Lengthening the handle (at the cost of the blade-length) changes that center of gravity and teaches bad habits. If you go from that bokken to another - or to a real sword - you will feel an immediate difference in the strike based on this center of gravity.

If you want a longer handle, I suggest having a bokken made especially for you.

Tim
It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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Old 02-26-2004, 09:04 AM   #9
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Well, in my post I stated, "The length of my bokken right now with the tsuba slid up is a 12 1/2 inch handle with a 28 inch blade. That is just about right if you ask me. All I can say is that Iaido katanas dont come with short handles and overly long blades, they come with slightly longer than normal handles, and 27-29 inch blades (most of the time)."

So therefore my bokken and just about everyone elses in my dojo is the correct or near correct Iaido sword length. If I would've left the tsuba at it's original location, it would have been a 9 1/2 inch handle, and a 31 inch blade. That to me was just too "mismatched" if you will.

I appreciate all the comments, but why not state your reasons for leaving it there, and not the reasons why I shouldnt move it up. I was originally interested in those answers as I just wanted to know others preferences.

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Old 02-26-2004, 02:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
So therefore my bokken and just about everyone elses in my dojo is the correct or near correct Iaido sword length. If I would've left the tsuba at it's original location, it would have been a 9 1/2 inch handle, and a 31 inch blade. That to me was just too "mismatched" if you will.
This actually made me chuckle outloud. The idea that there is a "correct Iaido sword length" is just plain wrong. The rules for blade and tsuka length vary from ryu to ryu and even branch to branch within a given school. For example, the guidlines given at Nosyuiaido are based on the specific branch of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu that the owners of the site practice. They are also the length of the sword blade, not the distance from tsuba to tip.

Now, that doesn't mean you just get to pick any length sword you want, based on the reasoning that different schools use different lengths, so they're all good. Different schools use prefer different size swords because they use them in different ways.

This "mix and match" mentality is one of the reasons that aikido weapons work doesn't get much respect outside aikido. Bokuto of A-ryu held with grip of B-ryu swung like in C-ryu with the footwork of D-ryu is just a mess, even if A-ryu, B-ryu, C-ryu, and D-ryu are fine schools.

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Old 02-26-2004, 05:14 PM   #11
judd h.
 
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Glad I could make you laugh!

I actually was in a hurry to leave the house when I was typing and didnt pay attention.

Actaully, most of the katanas that one can purchase for iaido (modern that is) are about the lengths I stated. I do realize however that peoples preferences vairy, but If I am to understand that, and accept it, which I do, then why is my preference seem to be such a problem? If it isnt then by all means let me know. Because I have noticed a trend on this board, which is to say that it seems most "new" posters get the usual "no no, it's not done that way" or like the person who asked a question about a book pretty much got bashed for bringing it up. Now you guys haven't done any of that, but the general idea I am getting and alot of people i have talked to about this board, have all pretty much agreed that the users aren't very forgiving or open minded. I just feel like alot of people on here should think a little on the kinder side before typing whatever comes to their mind. Just like when I said, "correct Iaido sword length." I just didnt think first. I'm not trying to get into a debate, I just wanted to let everyone who reads this, know that this site in particular would be much bigger (more members) if most of the traffic wasn't frightened away from the "you're wrong, I'm right" scenario. I think there is too much debate in this place and not enough general acceptance to differences. Besides, this is afterall Aikido, in the message board form...

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Old 02-26-2004, 06:21 PM   #12
Kent Enfield
 
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Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
Actaully, most of the katanas that one can purchase for iaido (modern that is) are about the lengths I stated.
Really? On what are you basing that statement? The reputable iaito suppliers that I know of offer blades ranging in length from 2 shaku 2 sun up to about 2 shaku 5 sun 5 bu (about 26" to 30") as "standard," up to about 2 shaku 8 sun (about 33.5") at an extra cost, and beyond that as special order. They almost all come with either 8 sun or 8 sun 5 bu (about 9.5" to 10") tsuka.

I only know of one supplier that offers tsuka of close to 1 shaku (~12") as normal, and that's because the owner practices a rather obscure style that is unusual in it's choice of tsuka length. And their blades are still in the 2.3 to 2.5 shaku range, not down at 2.2, where your configuration is.

Realize also that blade length does not include the habaki, the collar at the base of the blade, so bokuto that correspond to the above lengths would have a blade section about 1.25" longer than that. That puts bokuto with a 31" long 'blade' and a 9.5" handle well into normal range of iaito size. In fact, a standard kendo kata bokuto (the "generic" style) is a 2-3-5 blade, which is quite close to the length of bokuto used in many styles, not just iaido.
Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
I do realize however that peoples preferences vairy, but If I am to understand that, and accept it, which I do, then why is my preference seem to be such a problem?
Because your preference is based on "That is just about right if you ask me." as well as the put it in the crook of your elbow and grab method, which I've only ever heard of in kendo, and then usually for children.
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justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
If it isnt then by all means let me know.
Well, in support of "regular" size tsuka, the farther apart your hands are, the more difficult it is to make them work in unison. As they get farther apart, they paths they must travel become more different. Now, when the hands get too close, lateral stability is compromised, so having them butt up against each other is bad as well. The 8.5 sun tsuka represents an optimum combination of these effects.

Also, the longer the tsuka, the more impractical shomen-giri becomes. The few schools that do use super-long tsuka make little or no use of this type of cut. Others, such as Ono-ha Itto Ryu (of which Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba sensei's instructor, was an exponent) make it their bread and butter. Oh, and the bokuto of Ono-ha Itto Ryu are very similar in size to the "generic" kendo bokuto

As for thinking that people are being mean by disagreeing with you, frankly, get over it. I havn't seen anything mean, or even harsh, in this thread, with the possible exception of the previous sentence. You wrote things that I or others found questionable or disagreed with, so we wrote back questioning or disagreeing.

If "correct Iaido sword length" isn't what you meant, what was?

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Old 02-27-2004, 01:44 AM   #13
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Umm, yeah what Kent said

Glad you jumped in Kent. I was hoping someone with some real knowledge would join so I could take the tiny little piece I have and shut up and listen now

Bronson

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Old 02-27-2004, 10:19 AM   #14
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Well, I see that you do have ALOT of knowledge on this subject, and that's good. But I don't feel that this topic has gone over in a nice way. Could be my fault, but maybe it couldn't be. Things just seem to be going towards the I'm right you're wrong scenario and that's not a good thing. I think we can all agree that it IS a personal preference issue, correct? I am an Aikido student not an Iaido student so to be quite honest it isn't that big of a deal to me. We can just come in and warm up with Iaido class (which is very small now) and Sensei suggested that we do that with our bokkens, and keep in mind I used to use it at the length supplied by the factory, and I honestly feel I have more power and am able to perform my cuts more accurately instead of diagonal when they are supposed to be straight down. We have one that starts from Waki kamae and we call it circles, which you basically move forward with the back leg and then pivot 180 degrees coming back down with a kesa (sp?) cut (diagonal). That one is so much more fluid with the handle being 12 1/2 inches.

Sorry if anyone has been rubbed the wrong way.

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Old 02-29-2004, 08:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
Well, I see that you do have ALOT of knowledge on this subject, and that's good.
Thanks, but not really. There are a lot of people out there who know a whole lot more than I do about this.
Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
But I don't feel that this topic has gone over in a nice way.
Why do you feel that way? I honestly don't see why you would.
Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
Things just seem to be going towards the I'm right you're wrong scenario and that's not a good thing.
Um, but what happens someone is wrong and the other is right? It can happen, you know.
Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
I think we can all agree that it IS a personal preference issue, correct?
No, we can't. You use the weapon your school dictates because weapon morphology and use are interdependent. Now, if your instructor says use your bokuto so that it's got a 2 shaku blade and 1.5 shaku tsuka, that's what you use if you want to study under him. I'm simply stating that I know of no traditional school that uses such a bokuto, and because of that, wonder why he thinks you should.
Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
We can just come in and warm up with Iaido class . . .
Now you have me very curious. What style of iaido, and what are the instructor's credentials?
Quote:
justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
I used to use it at the length supplied by the factory, and I honestly feel I have more power and am able to perform my cuts more accurately instead of diagonal when they are supposed to be straight down.
And as a beginner, how much weight should your opinion have? That is not a personal jab, that's an honest rhetorical question.

As I explain to my beginning kendo students, as someone raises the issue each term, if the correct form was entirely natural and comfortable, everyone would be master swordsmen. Since, not everyone is a master swordsman, obviously that's not true. There are just somethings that are uncomfortable, unnatural, or just plain difficult for beginners. That doesn't make them wrong.

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Old 02-29-2004, 11:34 PM   #16
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justin hooker (judd h.) wrote:
I used to use it at the length supplied by the factory, and I honestly feel I have more power and am able to perform my cuts more accurately instead of diagonal when they are supposed to be straight down.
You know, I felt the same way. Which is why I paid the extra to have bokken with extra handle length. Recently I've started studying iaido and have learned a little bit more on how to wield the sword and now I'm finding the extra handle length to be a bit much.

But that's just me.

Bronson

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Old 03-01-2004, 05:17 PM   #17
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You know I suppose that if I was using it for more than just the basic techniques that maybe I wouldn't like the longer handle. I dont think I would ever over do it though on the length, it's not a jo you know? For what I use it for though, I like my setup. i may play around with it to see what works.

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Old 03-09-2004, 11:29 AM   #18
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Just thought I'd add my two bits…

Though not an Aikido school, I come from a school where the average handle length is between 13 & 14 inches, mine own is 14. Our empty-hand system is also fully integrated with our weapons systems. The length of the handle is not determined by its proportion to the blade but by the arm length of the practitioner. Although, when we use bokken we do use what is available which causes the "blade" length to be shortened a bit to allow the handle to be the right length. I have not found it to make a significant difference in the use of the bokken in practice, or in changing to live sword. Using live blades (we don't use iaito) is considerably different than using bokken anyway.

In regards to length of handle and the use of the arms in techniques and cutting… I would have to disagree with some of the statements made. We use shomen giri quite regularly and the leverage and control provided by a longer tsuka in this and in other cuts is significantly greater than that afforded by a shorter one. Additionally, the longer tsuka also allows for greater maneuverability of the weapon. There are some things that cannot be done with a shorter handle, primarily because of the short space between the hands is too limiting. We also make use of many one-handed cuts and having the longer tsuka makes a notable difference in balance and control. Though admittedly the dynamics of our cuts are somewhat different than those typically used in Aikido schools. I do, however, have considerable experience in Aikido weapons work and find that the movements can still be done with a longer tsuka without difficulty or modification, yet with greater power and control without as much strength required. I have also found that with the hands farther apart, from the use of a longer handle, there is a greater correlation to empty-hand techniques.

With all that said… please bear in mind that in the old days there was no standard length of handle or of blade, it was entirely personal preference. I have many old pictures of samurai with long handled swords. As was mentioned, some schools preferred particular dimensions, and the type of techniques they used were often determined by those dimensions, but there was no set standard. I am not trying to sell anyone on the use of a longer tsuka, just sharing my experience in having worked with both. And for that reason I would also agree that you really have to use what your teacher is telling you to use, it really doesn't matter what others are using if that is what you are being taught and it works.

Richard Elias
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