There are of course many ways to use or hold a katana in a swordfight, but the truth of the matter is that most people who own a Japanese katana do NOT know how to use it or even hold it properly. We are not talking about the fancy techniques that take a lifetime to master, but even basic techniques and proper ways of gripping the katana seem to evade most people.
The basic gripping and cutting techniques are very easy to learn, and this is very important to learn because if you aren’t using a katana the way it is designed to be used, it simply won’t perform as you expect, or as it should. Makes alot of sense right? The wrong technique is in essence swinging the katana like you would a baseball bat. Doing this makes a great impact instead of utilizing the slicing power of the blade, rendering the technique almost useless.
When holding the Japanese sword the correct way, you will maximize your cutting power and speed of movement. Since mathematically Mass x Speed = power, this is important.
So where do we begin? Let us begin with how to hold or grip a katana.
How to hold or grip a Japanese katana
A right handed person should have his right hand about an inch from the hand guard, or tsuba, holding it in a relaxed yet firm grip primarily with the bottom three fingers of each hand gripping the handle. The strongest part of the grip should be from your little finger to your middle finger. The index fingers should barely be touching and very flexible.
Grip near the bottom and the top of the handle respectively for maximum leverage and control of the katana. Use some time practicing this grip so that you are sure to hold it not too tight and not too loosely. The tighter your hold is the less control you have of the katanas movement, so the hold should be more like the way you would grip a golfclub. You must never ever lose control of a blade when cutting!
Different schools using katanas have different grips
It depends on what school of teaching you are learning from, but the classical grip is, as earlier described, with the left hand as close to the bottom of the hilt as possible without the little
finger going off the end. The reason for this is that you are also able to strike with the hilt when in close proximity to your target. If your hands are held too close together there can be no leverage, which forms the basis power for cutting with a katana.
Two general styles of gripping the katana are widely known. The first is to grip firmly with the little finger, a little less firmly with the next finger and a little less with the next one and not at all with the first finger. This provides a very secure but not too tight grip.
The other grip comes more from Iaijutsu is to hold firmly with the first finger and increasingly less with the other fingers. This is a complete opposite to the first method, and focuses on flexibility rather than power and security which is more suitable for training than actual combat.
Check out the video and read on for a good explanation of how to grip the katana correctly.