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Kendo-Guide.Com Newsletter, Issue #020 - Too much emphasis on the Left hand?
August 12, 2009

Kendo for LIFE

Kendo-Guide.Com Newsletter, Issue #020 - Too much emphasis on the Left hand?

I've received a lot of questions about "left hand". Even though I've already answered these questions, I would like to put them together as an article.


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What we have in this issue is shown below. Enjoy this Newsletter!

Table of Content

- Articles Since the Last Issue -

- Kendo Q & A -

- Too much emphasis on the Left hand? -

- Comments or Questions -

There are links to change your email address for the newsletter or unsubscribe at the bottom of every newsletter. Thanks!

- New Articles since Last Issue -

- Kyo and Jitsu

- Kendo Q & A -

- Why is the left hand more dominant in kendo???

- Tsuka is loose. What can I do about it?

- Too much emphasis on the Left hand? -

I have received questions about the left hand all the time. Literally one after another. "The left-handed people cannot do kendo (because of the hand positions)?" and "Why is the left hand more important than the right hand?".

Even though I answered these questions in the Q&A section, I want to go over what I think on the issues here. Remind you that this is my personal view.

Switch the hands' positions

This is a common question. Culturally we should not switch our hands. I also mentioned this in Q&A so I will skip the explanation.

Practically, we can. It is also interesting to practice kendo with hands switched. If you are an instructor, you will feel like you are a beginner again. So I recommend trying hand-switched kendo to remember how you felt when you were a beginner.

Why do I say we can change our hands? It is because many senseis change their hands too. I am not going to say "who" but there is a famous sensei who takes jodan with his hands switched. I know more senseis who do that.

This sensei is 8th dan and he only switches his hands when he takes this special jodan. He carries his sword in his left hand and draws his sword with the right hand. But when he takes this jodan, he switches the position of his hands.

If you think about nito, there are "sei nito" and "gyaku nito". Sei nito is considered as the "normal" nito, in which you grab the tachi (longer sword) in your right and the shoto (short sword) in your left hand. In gyaku nito, we switch the hands.

From these facts, I would say, you could switch your hands. But I also have to mention something.

Unusual Stance

Culturally, the sword is grabbed with the right hand near the tsuba and the left hand at the lower part of tsuka. If this is true and the majority of samurai followed this, it is obvious the hand switching was/is unusual.

* Gyaku nito is consider to be easier to learn than sei nito because how to use the left hand is quite similar to hidari-jodan, which is the common jodan.

Therefore, it is safe to say that there are a very few instructors who can show you what to do to take this unusual chudan.

So we have to teach ourselves this unusual stance if we want to switch our hands. However, it is a very very dangerous to do.

Teach yourself later

I have never learned jodan or nito, but I studied them for the first time when I got injured. I just wanted to continue kendo training without hurting the injuries more but could not take the normal chudan stance. I was 3rd dan or 4th dan with more than 13 years of kendo experience.

I could switch to jodan and nito easily (only to switch. To MASTER the stances, it is a different story) because I studied the normal chudan thoroughly and correctly. What I mean by "correctly" is I followed what my senseis taught me to do when I was a youngster. I never ever did what they told me not to.

If you learn the basics thoroughly, it is much easier to add more techniques and stances later.

Without knowing what to do with the ordinary chudan, you cannot even teach yourself what to do with the hand-switched chudan.

You will do something other than kendo but you think you are doing kendo. This is really bad. This is bad for you and also bad for kendo. No one gets anything good out of it.

Convenience VS Cultural Values

Now the reason why we have the right hand near the tsuba and the left hand at the end of tsuka is because we wear our sword on our left waist.

It is cultural because that was how samurai used to wear their sword.

Let me ask you how you sit in seiza? Which big toe should be on top of the other? Is the right big toe on the left big toe or the other way around? Or the right foot should be on the left foot or the other way around? Or does it matter at all?

Answer: The right foot should be on the left one.

Reason: When we draw our sword out from seiza, we take a step onto the right foot. Of course, it is based on the fact that samurai used to wear their sword on their left waist.

So why the big toes? What is the problem with the right foot on the left foot?

Reason: If you want to get up from the right foot, it does not matter if the right foot is on the left one. But if you have to get up from the left foot, then it is much harder to get up if the right foot is on the left foot. Besides, if someone pushes from the side, we tend to lose balance easily (Haisha wa Iranai, Kinji BABA, Kendo Nippon April 2009).

If we look at only convenience and also sports aspects of kendo, it does not matter how to sit in seiza, does it?

If you sit in the lotus position (crossing your legs), it is very hard to get up with your sword in your hand. Seiza is much easier to get up and draw your sword.

So unless it's necessary, you should sit in seiza in the right manner mentioned above.

Both hands are important

OK. Finally! People say the left hand is more important. It is because many people use the right hand too much. The harder they try to learn how to swing, the more they tend to use the right hand.

I think that is why people start saying the left hand is more important. I am sure that the right hand becomes dominant easily because how we grab the sword, i.e. the positions of the hands.

It is all about the balance. As long as our right hand is relaxed and our strikes are beautifully executed, that is what we want.

We probably should stop saying the left hand is more important or is the power hand. We should say,

  1. Both hands are important
  2. Relax the right hand (if it is too tensed)

I think these are more appropriate than emphasizing the left hand as the power hand.


You do not have any disadvantage to have your right hand near the tsuba and the left hand at the end of the tsuka if you are left-handed. It is all up to how hard you train. If you train harder than anyone else, you will be better than everyone else. Easy.

If you really want to study the switched-handed chudan, then wait until you become 3rd dan or 4th dan. Ask your teacher/s if you can use the self-taught switched-handed chudan. If you get permission, then try. If you don't, then don't. Simple.

Kendo is not a mere sport. It has cultural values and also morals and teachings derived from the bushi culture. It may not well-received in different cultures. We may have to change some aspects of kendo in order for kendo to fit in certain cultures. But if we are not careful with what we change, kendo will be no longer kendo.

Personally, I think kendo does not need any change. If we train in the right way, it will give us infinite possibilities. There will be no arguments of which hand should be at the front, which foot should be the front foot and so on. There will be no opponents, no teachers or no students. Eventually there will be only us alone striving to walk the way of the sword. Don't you think?

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