Posts Tagged ‘Hand’

Traditional Ninja Weapon Design – Part 3: – Tekko-Kagi

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Ohayou gozaimasu! Welcome to the next installment of my series on traditional Ninja weapon designs, featuring the work of Matthew Wright of Ninedirections.com.

I thought I’d finish off the week with a little bit about one of my favorite traditional ninja weapons, the Tekko-Kagi (aka the Tekagi or “hand claw”). Tekko-Kagi were multi purpose tools traditionally used by by Japanese ninjas for defense and offense against sword wielding opponents. The tekko-kagi design was very well suited for the purpose. The large heavy claws made it easier to deflect, block or trap swords, and in a pinch could quickly be used for offensive attacks as well.

Tekko-Kagi

Tekko-Kagi

Tekko-Kagi are one of my favorite ninja weapon designs because, as I mentioned in a previous post, it is one of the few hand claws I have come across that was designed to use both the hand and wrist muscles, in addition to the wearers fingers, (unlike many weapons from previous posts) to control the weapon. And as we can see from Matthews reproduction, you would certainly need all that strength to use it effectively.

I mentioned in my previous Ninja weapon series how traditional Japanese ninjas may not necessarily have had the resources to forge the high quality steels that the Samurai used, and would have been forced to use cheaper metals, like iron or cheap steels. In order to compensate for this, they would have made much bigger, thicker tools. Matthew has take great pains to remain as true to tradition as possible and his reproductions do capture this design philosophy very accurately.

Tekkokagi - Top

Tekkokagi - Top

However, as you can see from the pic, the hand grip is really very long, and I personally think the design could  have done with some major trimming in the grip area. My personal experience has been that weapons like these are much easier to use when you can wrap your entire hand around the grip. However Matthew can be commissioned to custom design the weapon to any specification you might require, so for the most part, it is a non issue

In stock form however, the thick steel had grips, thick claws, a very solid wrist hoop all combine to make each claw a whopping 5lbs each. Heavy, as hand claws go, yes. But also very, very strong, and this would have been a requirement for blocking an incoming sword strike with one of these, back in the old days. I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly be willing to sacrifice a little lightness in order to be able to use my Tekagi as a shield against multiple sword strikes. 🙂

Tekkokagi - Front

Tekkokagi - Front

Overall, a great design, one of my favorites. It isn’t pretty, or flashy or covered in mirror polished gleaming stainless steel, but it is exactly the kind of weapon design I love. Dark, strong, with a wicked set of fully functional claws that quite simply mean business. A definite must-have if you are into accurate reproductions of traditional Ninja gear… 😀

Tekko-Kagi – Matthew Wright – [Nine Directions]

Traditional Ninja Weapon Design – Part 2: Shuko

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Today, I thought I’d move on to part two of my series on traditional Ninja weapon design, featuring the work of Matthew Wright of Nine Directions. And the topic of today’s post will be the infamous Ninja Shuko or “Tiger Claws”:

Ninja Shuko

Ninja Shuko

Ninja Shuko, which I posted a little bit about before, are interesting weapons. Or more accurately, interesting tools. Although they can be used as weapons, much like the Kunai I posted about last week, and are most commonly used as climbing tools, some believe that shuko were also descended from farm implements. As Matthew suggests on his site, there are those who believe that shuko were originally created by farmers to ease carrying hay bales and such.

However there is little evidence to either support that hypothesis. And given the difficulty and cost of constructing shuko, I highly doubt the hay bale carrier theory, since the Japanese were much more the practical field expediency type back then, and I think it would have been easier to just use more rope to carry those bales around, than to fashion something as relatively complex as shuko… 🙂 But I digress.

Again, Matthew has employed a very traditional shuko design; a large oval steel hoop, with spikes embedded in it, connected to a large steel arm ring using a leather strap. At the hoop end, the strap is riveted above the spikes, covering the base of the spikes, protecting the hand, and providing a relatively soft internal surface for the hand.

Ninja Shuko - Hand Claws

Ninja Shuko - Hand Claws

The leather strap is also riveted to the very traditional a large steel arm ring, instead of the modern day nylon webbing and velcro wrist strap versions that are floating about all over the place. Now to be honest, while the traditional design works, I tend to favor the modern designs when it comes to practicality. Not necessarily how the spikes and claws are set up, but rather in the overall ergonomics of the arm/wrist hoop design.

Shuko - Steel Hoop

Shuko - Steel Hoop

For one thing, as a climbing device, having an adjustable wrist/arm retention system seems like it would be better than a fixed size steel hoop. So if I were designing something like this, that leather strap riveted to the spike band would be connected to another leather strap that went around the wrist, and was fastened using a buckle, or other similarly secure fastener that could be adjusted and tightened.

To some degree, I think this design would allow you to rest some your weight on the wrist strap during climbing, which could allow temporary stress relief on the muscles of the hand during extensive climbing exercises. But it would really depend on your climbing technique. The mechanical characteristics of shuko suggest that it would require a lot of hand and wrist strength to use, so the benefits of that design modification would vary from person to person.

Shuko - Grip

Shuko - Grip

And another thing is that, it is generally easier to grip something that is not the full width of your hand. If you can wrap your fingers around it, it is much easier to get a firm grip. As you can see from the pic above, this design unfortunately does not let you do that. This is not a problem with modern day designs, which are much narrower and fit the hand much closer.

It is, however very much in keeping with traditional design, which as I mentioned in the previous ninja weapon post, does seem to rely on overly large hoops and very thick components, primarily, I believe, to counteract the low quality of the materials traditionally used. So from a traditional standpoint, these are a quite accurate, functional and beautiful design. Definitely a collectors item.

And since he hand-makes these, I’m sure, if you asked nicely, you could convince Matthew to make a pair to whatever specifications you’d like… 😀

Traditional Ninja Shuko – [Nine Directions]

Traditional Ninja Weapon Design – Part 1: The Kunai

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I’ve always been a fan of the traditional weapons of the Japanese Ninja. Back in the old days, ninja were the Japanese equivalent to the modern day special forces. Special training, special tactics, and, of course, special weapons! Which, if you haven’t figured it out by now,  is definitely one of my favorite things about them. 🙂

Folklore, history, and Hollywood has certainly added to their glamor and mystique, and in many cases elevated them to the status of magicians and super soldiers, who could, some legends have it, make fondue, sans fondue pot, from mouldy gouda. And tame dragons using nothing more but a finger nail clipped from their left pinky toe, and other such fantasies.

But in reality they were only human. What made them special, was that they were very resourceful, had extensive training, were extremely motivated,  and possessed a unique set of tools. Of the physical, and mental, in addition to the bladed and non-bladed variety. They understood and employed social engineering tactics long before it became such a popular term, and could in fact turn the most innocuous everyday items into weapons. Not magic really, but given the era they lived in, it might as well have been.

But the purpose of this post is not to add fuel to the already epic mythos of the great Shinobi Warrior. No, today, I thought I’d talk a little bit of the practical side of Ninjutsu, specifically, their weapons. Not too long ago, one of my readers, Matthew Wright, aka Mangetsu, posted a link to one of his own hand made Kunai, and I have to admit that I really liked what I saw. It is clear that he went through a great deal of trouble to remain as true as possible to tradition, and it shows.

There are no spring loaded, rocket powered or demon spirit controlled movie or anime style ninja weapons on his site. Not that that wouldn’t be cool. I would love to have some medieval Japanese Da-Vinci style Ninja weapons in my arsenal. But that is a topic for another site. Matthews site, NineDirections.com, has only great, realistic, functional designs that are as close as possible to traditional Japanese Ninja weapons design as you can get with modern materials and tools. Interestingly enough, in keeping so close to the traditional designs, he has also illustrated quite graphically, many of the limitations that the old school Ninja had to face with respect to both materials and technology.

This week, I thought I’d run a three part series on my favorite weapons from Matthews catalog of excellent work, and also share some of my thoughts on the designs he replicated. So grab a cuppa Joe, Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Jolt, Red Bull, whatever your poison is, and grab a seat!  🙂

All comfy? Good. Today we will start with one of the most poorly represented weapons of the Ninja’s arsenal: The Kunai.

Now in a several previous posts, I’ve talked a little about how the kunai has either been non-existent (often usurped by the ubiquitous shuriken) or misrepresented in modern media, especially in anime, and how it was originally not really a weapon, as much as a lowly gardening implement. The upshot here is that there are now a gazillion so called “kunai” being sold by collectible knife makers, and sadly, they have little in common with the original.

Traditional Kunai - Mild Steel

Traditional Kunai - Mild Steel

Matthews Kunai, on the other hand, are imho, quite simply just about as realistic as you can get. It has the long, wide leaf shape that would have been required for use as a garden trowel, the point that would have been used for digging in hard earth, and a simple grip. If you look at any modern garden trowel, you will immediately see the resemblance. It’s a bit crude in comparison, but it’s there. This traditional design however, looks like it would actually be much better suited for smacking people upside the head. Hey,  I’m just saying. 🙂

You’ll also note the lack of a ring on the pommel of Matthews kunai. While I believe a ring was present in some traditional kunai, it was by no means a mandatory feature. And its size, unlike the consistently huge ring we see in many ninja anime series today, ranged, from a small whole just large enough to pass a lanyard through, up to a finger ring size, large enough for ones thumb to be placed through in order to make it easier to dig with. However these have a simple flat pommel, which would also serve as a great thumb rest for digging duty, as well as a strong striking surface, which is something that would have been a little more difficult to do with a ring pommel.

Traditional Kunai - Profile & Pommel

Traditional Kunai - Profile & Pommel

Matthew was also commissioned to make a special set of Kunai, with serrations on one edge. A very interesting custom design, that might not have been practical using the original construction materials of the day, but still quite visually impressive. He now makes them full time:

Toothed Kunai

Toothed Kunai

Besides the custom designs, Matthews kunai are in most respects, quite authentic, except for the one major difference. Much better materials. These kunai are made of steel. Traditional kunai were made of iron. This is an important point, as the materials in use at the time played a significant role in the physical design of many traditional Ninja tools.

Toothed Kunai - Profile

Toothed Kunai - Profile

If you look at these kunai, you will see that they are very, very thick. Their thickness, is in fact overkill for what they will be used for, however I believe this is how they were traditionally designed. I think the primary reason for this is that iron  was much softer than steel, and the traditional blacksmiths might have made much thicker tools in iron than they would in steel, in order to compensate for the softness of the iron.

Traditional Kunai - Tree Stump

Traditional Kunai - Tree Stump

Today it is easy to make a kunai that are many times thinner than the traditional designs, and still maintain superior strength and durability than the old iron kunai. It is also interesting to realize that incredibly useful features, like serrations, would not have been as effective on the older kunai, due to the softness of the material, and I think that it is great that we can experiment with them today.

I think these kunai are perhaps the most authentic designs I have seen, at least in form, and should be incredibly strong as well. Quite worth it, if you are looking for an authentic kunai that will take abuse that would make most others on the market today go crying to their mommies… 😀

Traditional Steel Kunai – [Nine Directions]
Toothed Kunai – [Nine Directions]

Cool idea, really bad implementation…

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

There are some weapon designs that are actually very cool (and arguably equally wicked) in concept, but really fall short of their potential in design and implementation. I came across one such evil seed a while back, and thought I’d post about it…

Skull Mayhem

Skull Mayhem

[Click image to view full size]

Now this right here, is what I call a hand blade. And it’s pretty self explanatory. It wants to kill you. No. really. It does. And for this reason, it features a not so obvious but rather dangerous design detail, which we’ll get to in a minute. But on to the wickedness.

In essence, this is pretty much a metallic demon/vampire skull, (personally I’d go with “Angry Master Demon Vamp” But that’s just me) with a set of three pairs of blades attached to it, coming out at either side of the skull, and beneath a very wicked looking set of teeth. The largest, topmost set consists of a large curving blade with quadruple edges, one on the top half of each inward curving blade and the other edge on the bottom half.

The single round grip is attached to a bracket that is bolted to each primary blades on either side. Beneath the main blades are a set of smaller, but longer and more sinister looking blades extending downwards and inwards from approximately where the skulls mandibles should be. IMHO the coolest blades of the set.

The last pair of blades sit in between the second set, and extend downwards from the teeth, specifically from the large fangs, forming a long and rather formidable looking set of black steel fang extensions. Given the reach of the middle pair of blades, I doubt the smaller pair are really neccesary, but I certainly can’t argue the evilitude of the whole combination…

Altogether this would make for a rather effective hand held battledrome blade, except for that one, rather nasty little caveat, that I alluded to earlier. The grip. Yes. This weapon seems very well put together, with a grip set in a steel bracket that is bolted quite securely to the largest set of blades. BUT this single grip is where the problem lies.

With a single grip, this whole contraption is capable of freely rotating around (forwards and backwards, to be exact) the grip. Which means on one day you may have the top of the skull trying to attach itself permanently to the back of your hand. And on another day, you could have the bottom blades trying to slit your wrists.

Either way, unless you’re an emo looking for a really cool way to go out, this is probably a bad choice of weapon for the underground deathmatch gladiator type. However, I do like the aesthetics of this piece. Large black blades, fangs, bladed skull wings… Awesome. And had someone had the forethought to place a rear wrist brace/bracket on the thing, it might have been an absolutely unholy terror in the death match circuit…

Perhaps that was the whole point. Maybe the designers were scared. Maybe they gimped it because they were terrified of what their creation might become. Frightened pantless that their creation might come back to eviscerate them…

Pffft… BWAHA HA HA HA HA AH HA HHA HA HA…

Wusses…

Skull Mayhem – [Collectors Edge]

Dragon claws!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Actually more like dragon knuckle talons, but whose keeping track? In the tradition of finger weapons like the Iron Reaver,  I present the Dragon Ring:

Dragon Ring

Dragon Ring
[view full size
]

Now I really like the aesthetics of this weapon. The little dragons head is well done, and the blade itself actually looks fairly sinister. And whose to say there weren’t vicious blade headed unicorn dragons back in the day?

My only gripe with this weapon is that, sadly, the ring is too small for anyone to have any real control over the blade. You could prbably cut someone if you back handed them, with it, (and you might cut yourself in the process) but forget stabbing and such, unless you have really, really, strong fingers. You’d probably hurt yourself worse than whatever it is you were trying to stab or claw at.

But it looks pretty cool. ‘Nuff said.

Dragon Ring – [Collectors Edge]

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