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Old 04-11-2009, 08:23 AM   #1
Maarten De Queecker
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Bokken left-handedness

I have been wondering: why is it that one can't use a boken left handed?

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

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

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

Any explanation will be much appreciated. This is a question that has been stuck in my mind ever since I began with aikido and had my first boken training.
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:52 AM   #2
sorokod
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Re: Boken left-handedness

Previously discussed here.

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Old 04-11-2009, 01:41 PM   #3
James Davis
 
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Re: Boken left-handedness

Wielding one's bokken left handed can cause problems during group kata.

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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Old 04-11-2009, 03:47 PM   #4
Mark Uttech
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Re: Boken left-handedness

Onegaishimasu. Thanks David, for pointing out the previous discussion. Those of us who also teach need to study things like this and find an appropriate answer. In gassho, Mark

- Right combination works wonders -
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Old 04-12-2009, 07:29 AM   #5
sorokod
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Re: Boken left-handedness

Da nada. I think that everyone deserves an appropriate answer.

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Old 08-11-2009, 05:42 AM   #6
Ryan Seznee
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Re: Boken left-handedness

The majority of people are right handed, so the roots of the Japanese sword are based upon right handed people. During times of war, sarmurai would form a line to fight off an enemy advance, and if the whole line would act as one. If people are striking the opposite direction, they end up slicing the guy next to them. The purpose of martial arts was originally to get people ready for war, and a unit of weaker people is stronger than a mob of strong fighters. That was the way it was explained to me, and it does make sense.
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Old 08-11-2009, 06:07 AM   #7
jss
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Re: Boken left-handedness

Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
If one has to be able to do aikido techniques, which are all of them based on sword techniques, both left and right handed, why shouldn't one learn to use a Boken left handed?
I wouldn't say that aikido techniques are based on sword techniques, although they share some of the body mechanics involved. I do think it is correct to say that we practice sword techniques to enhance our (empty-handed) aikido techniques. If this enhancement includes body mechanics, one should learn to use a bokken left and right handed. If this enhancement is only about timing, distance, angles, etc., one shouldn't.
Personally, I'd practice suburi right and left handed for the mechanics involved, simple paired exercise probably as well. For kata, right handed should suffice. Any lessons learned in kata about mechanics can be incorporated in the suburi and paired exercises.
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Old 08-11-2009, 06:17 AM   #8
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Boken left-handedness

Quote:
Ryan Szesny wrote: View Post
The majority of people are right handed, so the roots of the Japanese sword are based upon right handed people. During times of war, sarmurai would form a line to fight off an enemy advance, and if the whole line would act as one. If people are striking the opposite direction, they end up slicing the guy next to them. The purpose of martial arts was originally to get people ready for war, and a unit of weaker people is stronger than a mob of strong fighters. That was the way it was explained to me, and it does make sense.
Agreed, but we are in the 21st century now, and nobody uses swords anymore, except for practice, so why is it still wrong to practice left-handed? My swings with my left hand are technically of a higher level, feel more natural, and are stronger. I also feel more relaxed, since I have to think less and I can move more fluidly. It makes no sense at all to train hand-to-hand combat on both sides, but do sword techniques that represent the hand-to-hand techniques only with one's right side.
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Old 08-11-2009, 06:47 AM   #9
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Boken left-handedness

If I recall from reading the thread discussion posted above. Bokken technique uses both hands equally and actually in the right handed seeming way we hold it means the left hand has the more powerful position as it controls the true power of the cut. Better explanation to be found in that thread if you have not yet read it.
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Old 08-11-2009, 10:19 AM   #10
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Boken left-handedness

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

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

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

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 08-11-2009, 11:59 AM   #11
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

I train mostly on the right though. It resulted in me having become ambidextrous, which is incredibly useful in Jo-exercises..
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Old 08-11-2009, 12:45 PM   #12
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

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

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Old 08-11-2009, 12:55 PM   #13
Keith Larman
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
...There's no rule-book that says you cannot traipse into the dojo wearing a mini-hakama with pancakes taped to your butt-cheeks either. Your aikido might even improve. But - - - - -
Ellis Amdur
Ah, the last few sentences just need repeating... What a visual!

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

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Old 08-11-2009, 01:05 PM   #14
Keith Larman
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Oh, almost forgot I was going to post something semi-serious as a guy firmly in the sword world. But now that I reread Ellis' post... Nevermind. It would be redundant.

So, "what he said."

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

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

Now where are those pancakes and tape...

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

Till then...

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Old 08-11-2009, 01:17 PM   #15
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

I want to know where to put the syrup!
B,
R (there is a line about a sticky saya in there somewhere...but I just can't quite...)

Ron Tisdale
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Old 08-11-2009, 01:21 PM   #16
Keith Larman
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
I want to know where to put the syrup!
B,
R (there is a line about a sticky saya in there somewhere...but I just can't quite...)
Down the front of your shorts, of course. It helps develop that heavy feeling down low...

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Old 08-11-2009, 01:26 PM   #17
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Ack! You're killing me.... Not to mention my ki board is now all wet...
B,
R

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 08-16-2009, 01:15 PM   #18
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Oh, almost forgot I was going to post something semi-serious as a guy firmly in the sword world. But now that I reread Ellis' post... Nevermind. It would be redundant.

So, "what he said."

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

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

Now where are those pancakes and tape...

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

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

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

I'm also a scientific kind of person so answers like "they did it that way for the last 400 years, so just go along with it" will not do. I look for answers, not for dogmas. I also stated this in my first post, which you apparently did not even read, or just skimmed through.
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Old 08-16-2009, 04:19 PM   #19
Brett Charvat
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Mr. Queecker,

I can only assume from your sarcastic reply that you are not aware of who Mr. Larman is in the world of the Japanese sword. It may behoove you to do a bit of investigation. That aside, I appreciate that you are a scientist who is not interested in dogma. However, as someone who has a (very) small amount of experience in a Japanese koryu school, I will say that if "they did it that way for the last 400 years, so just go along with it" will not do, than the study of the sword will probably also not do for you.
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Old 08-16-2009, 07:34 PM   #20
eyrie
 
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Herein lies your answer...

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

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

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

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

Last edited by eyrie : 08-16-2009 at 07:37 PM.

Ignatius
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Old 08-17-2009, 12:38 AM   #21
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Quote:
Brett Charvat wrote: View Post
Mr. Queecker,

I can only assume from your sarcastic reply that you are not aware of who Mr. Larman is in the world of the Japanese sword. It may behoove you to do a bit of investigation. That aside, I appreciate that you are a scientist who is not interested in dogma. However, as someone who has a (very) small amount of experience in a Japanese koryu school, I will say that if "they did it that way for the last 400 years, so just go along with it" will not do, than the study of the sword will probably also not do for you.
I have no idea who is who in which world here on this forum, or what their rank might be. I am also not going to research everyone who says something here just to avoid tripping on some toes.
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Old 08-17-2009, 07:37 AM   #22
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

And gauche in French means left. As in awkward/clumsy. Go figure...

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

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

Ron Tisdale
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Old 08-17-2009, 09:52 AM   #23
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
And gauche in French means left. As in awkward/clumsy. Go figure...

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

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

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

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

Last edited by Maarten De Queecker : 08-17-2009 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 08-17-2009, 09:58 AM   #24
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

Nah, don't accept the complex! It's all good, and in fact, [anecdotal] many of the people I know who are left handed are really neat![/anecdotal].

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 08-17-2009, 11:11 AM   #25
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Re: Bokken left-handedness

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

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

I would be very funny

Nagababa

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