Left-handed training?

by A. Daniel Chiu-Sheridan
(Hong Kong)

Hello all,

My right hand was crushed in a car accident a couple of years ago. Although I've undergone some pretty serious rehabilitation and training, I'm totally unable to hold a Shinai, Boken or Iai right-handed. I have no trouble, however, holding these left-handed.

As such, I've contemplated switching hands, but have only had completely unhelpful people around me!

Please help me find information on this - are there any clubs anywhere in the world that will allow me to do exclusively left-handed Kendo during training?

I'm willing to re-locate pretty-much anywhere, and just want as much information as I can get.

Looking forward to your assistance,

A. Daniel Chiu-Sheridan

Answer: Thank you for your question and sorry to hear about the accident.

I am not sure what you mean by holding shinai by left handed. Do you mean holding a shinai with only the left hand?

If you cannot use your right hand, you can hold your shinai with only the left hand. There are tons of people doing that. I have a student who only holds his shinai with his left hand only because he cannot use his right hand.

But I do not think you can practice iaido because you have to hold your sword with both hands properly. If your right hand does not work, you cannot pull out your sword. Even if you switch your drawing hand, if you cannot hold the sword properly, it is too dangerous.

But these opinions are based on the info available here. I am not sure what you can or cannot. If you give me more info, I should be able to tell you more.

Hope this helps.

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Nov 29, 2014
iaido is not impossible
by: Anonymous

There is a student in Italy who has no right lower forearm or hand, but he does iaido successfully and now holds the rank of yondan.
Please send me an e mail privately and I will put you in touch with the people who work with him so you can see what he does. I believe he also has a middle rank in kendo, but I'm not totally sure of that.
Peter West

Jul 23, 2013
Kicked Out?
by: Anonymous

I find it hard to imagine being asked to leave a club because you
can't use your right hand.... If indeed that is the reason, and the only one, you are lucky to leave there.
There are, as we all know, some kendo practitioners who use hidari morote jodan (left hand leads, right hand is support) from even before achieving 5-dan, so I would think if it is physically necessary
to do Jodan only, you follow the advice already given and find yourself a Jodan kendoka, either a sensei or student, and take it from there.
About Iaido, I don't know, sorry, but as said, sheathing the sword with L. hand only could be challenging.

Jul 21, 2013
Thanks JacquesVA,
by: A. Daniel Chiu-Sheridan

I'm aware of the tasks and importance of the respective hands, however, as a result of my injury, I can neither properly extend my right arm nor can I point my right wrist.

Needless to say, this completely destroys my right-handed strikes, but does not in any way impair my ability to perform these strikes left-handed.

Please believe me when I say that I had been trying for years to get my right hand sufficiently functional for me to perform 'normal' kendo again, but given the nature of my injury this is not currently possible. I am not asking whether I should or should not switch hands for the time being - I switched about six months ago, and am having no trouble whatsoever with any of the techniques and so on - I am asking about whether there exists some rule, precedent, condition or dojo by or in which I would be allowed to train for the time being with my left hand as my forward hand.

I repeat - my club has kicked me out on the basis that if I can't have my right hand forward, I should not be allowed to train at all.

looking forward to your considered responses!

Jul 21, 2013
Importance of left arm
by: JacquesVA

Even for 'normal posture' (left hand at the rear of the tsuka, right hand closer to tsuba) the left hand-arm-shoulder is very important for a good kendo strike. The main strength of the strike should come from the left side, while the main function of the right arm and hand is twofold: orientation (angle) and stopping the strike at the point of impact. The sword is, IMHO, an extension of the body &the strike should be relaxed (and therefore speed should be preferred over 'force'). Working the left side also helps pushing the left hip forward, which is important. This is a general principle, beyond which we have to deal with our physical limitations, like injuries etc. if your left hands still strong you should not necessarily be at a disadvantage. Of course, the limitation of your right hand will be, but in itself should not be a reason to reverse your hand positions, I think. I wish you well with exploring kendo further... Jacques (Belgium)

Jul 20, 2013
Appreciation and clarification.
by: A. Daniel Chiu-Sheridan

Hello both,
thanks for your considered comments.

To clarify, I can hold the sword properly, but only with my left hand towards the front of the handle. I have done a LOT of further strengthening exercises, and also have no trouble sparring one-handed, but I am asking more along the lines of whether there exists some club (or precedent, or rule) which will explicitly allow me to perform left-hand-forward (left hand dominant, or left handed) Kendo, Iaido or Kenjutsu.
To be clear, this would mean to perform Swordwork with my Left hand at the top of the Tsuka, and my Right hand at the base.

My club has kicked me out on the basis that if I cannot do things with my right-hand forward, I am not permitted to do them at all.

As said, I am happy to relocate pretty much anywhere, but would also appreciate information and precedents allowing me to strengthen my case with my club that I should be permitted to resume training with them.

Any tips?

Jul 20, 2013
Left-handed kendo
by: Tanno


I'm sorry to hear about it. You're not the only one who got this accident upon you. There's this boy here ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK9p_whgRVg ), who uses exclusively his left hand to hold the shinai. He lost his right arm from a fencing machine(the one that cuts the wood in the furniture factories).

Your only option is to find a Jodan-no-kamae only sensei to teach you some rigorous exercises to strengthen your left hand before doing left-handed kendo.

If by chance you practice nito, just like me, you'd better forget it. Same goes for Iaido, like Imafuji-sensei said above.

I hope you get well!

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