Grip is one of the most important components of Japanese swordsmanship. Black Belt Hall of Famer Dana Abbott, who trained in Japan for 14 years, explains why it matters in kendo, kenjutsu and iaido.
Grip is an important facet of Japanese sword arts like kendo, kenjutsu and iaido. Simply said, if you don’t hold the kodachi (short sword) or choken (long sword) correctly, everything else leading up to the execution and follow-through of your cut will be substandard and ultimately cause you to perform below your potential. Furthermore, poor hand placement when using a sword promotes inadequate hand-eye coordination and telegraphs your technique. The latter is very important if you’re engaging in kendo. Conversely, holding the sword correctly allows for smooth execution and seamless transitions between stances and movements. You’ll be able to perform offensive and defensive techniques in such a fluid manner that the sword will become part of you. Before beginning a discussion of sword-gripping methods, it’s important to note that the handle (tsuka) of some practice weapons, including padded swords and the shinai (bamboo sword), is round, whereas wooded and steel sword handles have an oval cross section. The oval pattern is better for gripping and is a more efficient design. Round handles are associated mostly with training in the Japanese sport of kendo and its Korean counterpart, kumdo, because exact cutting isn’t required.