Posts Tagged ‘NineDirections’

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… 😛

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. 😀

Signature Tekko-Kagi – [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]

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