Posts Tagged ‘Shinobi’

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]

A Really Sweet Japanese Rifle Blade…

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I have yet another rifle blade for you today, and it is just a beauty:

Tanegashima Sword

Tanegashima Sword

I’d like you to meet the tanegashima rifle blade! Much like the other rifle blades I’ve posted in the past, this one is essentially a non firing replica of an classic, beautiful rifle design, modified to house a sword.

In this case the rifle is based on an old Japanese design, the Tanegashima, a smoothbore muzzle loading matchlock rifle used in Japan in the early 1500s. But even the rifle on it’s own, while quite simple,  I still find to be quite elegant. A study in  simplicity  and practicality of design.

Tanegashima

Tanegashima

The smooth, beautifully curving stock, a deceptively simple combination of flat surfaces and mild curves runs gracefully from the butt stock up the almost the tip of the barrel, and just looks beautiful.

But where, back in the old days, lead ball used to travel at high speeds towards unfortunate targets, we now have a shiny blade. A straight blade. A Japanese Ninjato. A rather fitting combination if you ask me.

Tanegashima Ninjato

Tanegashima Ninjato

In fact, I’m willing to bet that if you were to give this to a ninja, they’s figure out  a way to make it shoot stuff. Perhaps bo shuriken. Possibly highly trained ninja rats. Maybe better yet, they could fire small ninjas. Genetically engineered mini-shinobi specially bred for the purpose.

Yeah… That’s it… A mini-ninja firing sword Tanegashima. Awesome!

I think I’m going to have to patent that idea before someone steals it.

Tanegashima Ninjato Sword – [Knives Deal]

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]

A Cool Ninja Fighting Knife…

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Yes, yes, another “ninja” weapon, I know. And it’s another “inspired by an anime” weapon too… But trust me, this one is different. This blade is actually realistic (of all things!) in it’s design. Yep. Lots to like about this, as you’ll see in a minute. Might want to grab that cuppa joe and get comfortable…

Ninja Fighter

Ninja Fighter

[click image to view full size]

Now this, my friends, is a Ninja fighting knife. What we have here is a one piece brass knuckles/blade combination, with cord wrapped ABS grips, that house a pair of red tassled metal kunai. A very interesting and also very practical (imho) combination.

There are a couple of things that I have issues with, (as usual) but they are all relatively minor. Like bright red tassels and “metal” kunai… Usually the word “metal”, as used in the cultery advertising sense, generally describes some cheap cast/alloy junk.

In this day and age where fairly strong steels can be had very cheaply, why some folks still resort to the ultra cheap cast/alloy junk is beyond me. However seeing as traditional Kunai were traditionally also made of a soft iron, It’s a flaw that I can kind of overlook…

Aaaahhh… Eeerrrm… Aaarrhg… No it’s not. I tried. That’s just wrong yo… >:(

Then there is the molded ABS grip/kunai holder. As materials go, ABS is actually not a bad choice. It’s fairly indestructible, resistant to the environment, etc. However, sometimes the molds used are less than perfect, resulting in gaps, slipping, etc.

And since this is where your only purchase on the blade will be I sincerely hope they did a good job on it. It’s hard to tell from the looks of it, but personally, I think this weapon would have been even better, if they would have stuck to a simple cord wrapped grip or wood scales.

And as for those red tasseled “metal” Kunai… Well, it’s just eye candy really, this weapon could have stood on it’s own merits of dark wickedness and badassitude. There was really no reason to throw all that fancy schmancy junk on it to begin with. But such it is with knife designers these days. Always trying to appease “Ooooh ! Shiny!” crowd…

Interestingly enough, this weapon is based on a set of blades used in the anime Series “Naruto” by the character “Sarutobi Asuma”, son of the Third Hokage, and a seasoned, hard core, chain smoking Ninja of the series, who used two of these, (knives akimbo no less, John Woo eat your heart out…), as focus points for his chi during battle, making them quite a lot more deadly than just regular blades.

Sarutobi Asuma

Sarutobi Asuma

I remember liking his knives the first time I saw them in the series, and could remember thinking at the time about the similarities between it and the venerable, tried and true WWII trench knife design. Yes, this design is the bees knees because not only is it a wicked little blade, (in black no less) it is actually very similar to that of a well known historical blade design. Except with more pointy bits. 😀 In other words… it rocks!!

I will say however, that the shrill voiced, high pitched little weapon history nerd who lives in my head, kept screeching his exception to my comparison between this and the WWII trench knife. He as a good point, so I guess I might as well go over the gist of our little “conversation” the few minutes before I lost it and had to gag him…

He basically said (and the purist, tradition bound Ninjutstu-ka among you may probably agree) “Bah! Your brain is addled! Ninja never used WWII trench knives!!”. (Well, Duuuuuh!) After pointing out that he lived there, so I couldn’t be that addled, (or maybe I am, because he lives there) I also conceded that no, they did not. At least not that I have been able to find.

HOWEVER, the Japanese did have hand weapons, called Tekken, (or Iron fist) that looked a lot like heavy iron knuckle dusters, that were often used against swords and armor. They also had Kaiken, which were similar, except for having a sharpened outer edge. And they also had Tantos.

So while I have found no examples of this exact weapons being used, I have no problems imagining that the Shinobi, being the resourceful little warriors they were, would have eventually combined these weapons and could easily have come up with this exact design, given the right battle conditions.

So there you have it. An cool black wicked looking anime weapon with a realistic, functional, tried and true design, with a historically verifiable pedigree. Sorta.

Ah liek eht. Ah liek eht a lot… 🙂

Ninja Fighter – [True Swords]

The Modern Kunai

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

In a few previous posts I’ve made much about how the Japanese kunai had undergone an amazing transformation at the hands of Hollywood, from a cheap, multi purpose garden implement into the omnipotent Swiss Army knife of the Shinobi warrior. The modern replica kunai is now part throwing knife, part parry tool, part fighting knife, camp knife, hunting knife, scalpel, the list goes on… Well, the point of this post is that I found yet another incarnation of kunai, from veteran knife shop Cold Steel…:

Cold Steel Kunai

Cold Steel kunai

[view full size]

Now as Kunai go, this is fairly recognizable, though it is a rather unique design, and a major departure from the traditional Kunai design in two very important ways.

First, the blade is a flat, wide triangular blade. Your traditional Kunai was more leaf shaped, than actually a triangle, though this is not a bad approximation. This also stays in keeping with the diamond shaped blade cross section, which gives the kunai a lot of strength, though it is much more shallow diamond than some traditional designs. It would make a strong thrusting weapon. Not so much for cutting, even though it has two very sharp edges. Kunai really weren’t the best design for cutting. Too short and too wide.

The second design departure is, to me at least, a much more important one. In defiance of the traditional full tang Kunai construction, Cold Steel has seen fit to simply encase a tang in a kraton handle. Yes, it looks cool, it probably provides a great grip, and it’s got this great tactical ring on the end of it, but this, imho, is a grave mistake.

There is simply not as much strength in a grip molded onto a rat tail as there is with a full tang with scales. given the kind of use that a kunai might see, i would always be worried about the tang somehow working it’s way out of the grip material. I’ve seen it happen too many times. And it’s a great shame.

But speaking of different kinds of uses, I couldn’t help but notice the handy little chart that cold steel provided on the different grips that could be used to wield the kunai. Now I will readily admit that I am no kunai fighting expert, but seriously, half of those grips seem very… well… pointless… It looks almost like they just held it in as many ways they could think of and then picked the coolest looking ones for the pic.

I mean seriously, a kunai is not a punch dagger. Punch daggers are short for a reason. You don’t want the blade rotating out of your hand. That is why grips 1 and 6 fail miserably in that respect. And grip 4 is pointless when you could use either 3 or 5 to accomplish essentially the same reverse/ice pick grip in a much stronger way. Grip 8 is a good strong hammer grip, while 7 looks like a good way to break a pinky. And whoever came up with grip 2 must have been smoking a controlled substance…

In fact I’m thinking the only ones who could find any practical use for grip 2 would have to be Ninjas… But you can try it for yourself if you feel so inclined… I’m just saying…

Cold Steel Kunai – [True Swords]

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