Friday, July 23, 2010

Holding It Correctly

Wanna know something that drives me nuts? All the American comics and movies and stuff that I see where 'samurai swords' are being used, but the user holds 'em like a baseball bat.

You'd think if all the creative people involved were such fans of the jidaigeki or chambara genres they'd have noticed this glaring detail. Ever since I started watching Kurosawa films or reading manga (and I was a kid at that point) I've noticed this error and it is just embarrassing. Like the oafish American who upon meeting someone from the UK has to blather on about 'saving your ass in WWII'. I'm embarrassed that the loud cocksucker can't be bothered to get the facts straight before shooting off his mouth. Same thing.

I've just gotten done re-watching The Hidden Fortress and am partway through a rewatch of Yojimbo. Toshiro Mifune pictured above is not the greatest swordsman technique-wise in samurai films... he was an actor foremost. He gets the job done through attitude and dedication to the role more than anything else. But as you can see in the pic above, he is NOT holding the weapon like a bat. Practicing iaido as I do, the correct grip on the sword is second nature to me, but this has NEVER appeared as a subtle detail even when I was a kid jumping around with plastic blades in the back yard. I always held my 'ninja sword' with a palm-width distance (approximately) between my hands (unless holding it one-handed).

I always have some kind of jidaigeki film in my rotation. Hideo Gosha's Bandits Vs. Samurai Squadron is up soon. But for some reason watching these two Kurosawa films recently, made me think back to some Marvel graphic novel of recent vintage. Now I love me some Avengers of course, but this was a story set partly in Japan and full of ninjas. Lone Wolf and Cub has been published over here in the USA for years now, along with a good deal of other samurai period manga. And LW&C is not obscure. It is a major influence and inspiration for comic writers and artists today. So there was no excuse for the Avengers book to be full of katanas being held like baseball bats.

I'm sure my attitude is aggravated by the fact that I have personal involvement in this archaic weapon art, but its a real wince-inducer. Even the barely-past-teen girls in Japanese movies like Princess Blade or Azumi get this grip correct-ish, so it seems almost like blinkered American superiority at times that we keep choking up on the tsuka, the sword's handle.

Okay. I'll be quiet now and go back to watching my little movies and stroking my weapon.

(pic taken from FilmWeb)

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