Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Wright’

Steel Hands of Shadow… Tekko-Kagi Revisited!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Not too long ago I posted about of my favorite Ninja tool, the Tekko-Kagi, (or Tekagi), featuring an outstanding example of workmanship by one of my readers, Matthew Wright (who posts here as Mangetsu) of NineDirections.com. I have always been particularly impressed with the authenticity of his work, however he recently put together a refreshed version of the aforementioned tool, as well as his website, and I thought I’d talk a little about my opinion of his the modifications to the traditional design.

So here it is, The Signature Tekko-Kagi from Nine Directions, which he most appropriately called “Steel Shadow”…

Signature Tekko-Kagi - by Nine Directions

Signature Tekko-Kagi - by Nine Directions

The word Tekagi (which is the abbreviated form of Tekko-Kagi) is, if memory serves, a contraction of two Japanese words, “Te”, which means “Hand”, and “Kagi” (a variation of “Kage”), which means shadow. In other words, this is the “Shadow Hand”. This makes a whole lot of sense when you consider that the Ninja (or Shinobi) were also called “Shadow Warriors”, due to their predominantly clandestine methods.

Their specialty was working from, or in, the shadows. As in, the most efficient way to plant a steel claw upside a marks head from a dark corner while their back was turned… ๐Ÿ˜›

But back to the weapon at hand. This ain’t yo grandmas Tekagi! This design, while fundamentally similar to the traditional tekagi design, differs in two very important respects. First, where there used to be a narrow forearm/wrist band, Matthew has extended the band to an almost full forearm-length leather bracer, to which the rear of the claws are riveted.

Tekko-Kagi - Arm

Tekko-Kagi - Arm

This, by itself, is perhaps the single most useful and functionally outstanding improvement I have ever seen in a tekko-kagi. It provides some additional much needed support, giving the tool much more strength, and should be significantly more comfortable than the traditional design, allowing for the wielder to use it with a lot more power.

Tekko-Kagi - Full

Tekko-Kagi - Full

The claws themselves appear to have been extended to the full length of this longer bracer, creating a full forearm cage that drastically increases the defensive capabilities of the weapon. In addition to this, he has shortened the top hoop, the hand grip, our control point, as it were, so that a much more natural, solid, closed-fist grip can be used to manipulate the claws. This is a *massive* improvement over the old large wide grip of the previous design, as your hand muscles are in a more natural and stronger position this way.

Tekko-Kagi - Grip

Tekko-Kagi - Grip

I have always held that while adherence to tradition is certainly of value, tradition should never get in the way of improvement. The old school ninjas did things the way they did because that was the best way to do them at the time. However their fundamental methodology was not one of stagnation. They constantly improved and modified their techniques and weapons, and were there not so many more effective tools of the trade to use, they would have upgraded their tekagi in much the same way Matthew has done.

Tekko-Kagi - Forge

Tekko-Kagi - Forge

So I say to Matthew, kudos for a job well done! These are perhaps the best designed Tekko-Kagi I have seen in a long time, and I doubt I will see any better. This is outstanding work folks, created with an eye to replicating the look and feel of the traditional design, except much, much better.

Tekko-Kagi - Grass

Tekko-Kagi - Grass

This Tekagi has single-handedly made NineDirections.com my next Site of the Month. If you want some truly outstanding replicas of traditional ninja gear, made with an eye for practical use, as well as authentic construction techniques, Nine Directions is the place to go…

You really can’t go wrong. ๐Ÿ˜€

Signature Tekko-Kagi – [Nine Directions]

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 couldย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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… ๐Ÿ˜€

Tekko-Kagi – Matthew Wright – [Nine Directions]

Traditional Ninja Weapon Design โ€“ 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… ๐Ÿ™‚ 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… ๐Ÿ˜€

Traditional Ninja Shuko – [Nine Directions]

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