Posts Tagged ‘Shuko’

Of Dragon Tails and Tigers claws

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Konnichiwa! So I thought I’d try and come up with some clever title for this post, since both tigers and dragons are subjects, (in a matter of speaking) of this post. But, as you may probably have guessed by now, the only thing that kept popping into my head was  “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” Yes. So I took the easy route. Pathetic isn’t it? I have no imagination. *sigh*

Anyway, today I thought I’d show you more great stuff from the site of NineDirections.com, as Matthew was kind enough to send me more pictures of his work. The first item on the list today are more pics of the Ninja Shuko (Tiger Claws) from the last post on the topic. First we have a really cool pic of the Shuko hand hoop being forged.

Shuko - Forging the Hand Hoop

Shuko - Forging the Hand Hoop

And here we have a couple of cool shuko just hanging out and acting all cool…

Ninja Shuko (Toger Claws) - Just Hanging Out

Ninja Shuko (Toger Claws) - Just Hanging Out

A pair of Shuko with their battle faces on… >: (

Shuko - Claws Out!

Shuko - Claws Out!

Enter the Shuko! LOL… OK, ok… I get it. Enough with the Shuko.

So how about… Dragons? Specifically Dragon Tails? Yeah, I thought so… Dragon Tails, also sometimes called Rope Darts or Dragons Tongues, are basically a small blade attached to length of rope anywhere from five to who-know-how-many feet in length.

Dragons Tail

Dragons Tail

They can be spun at great speeds, and controlled via cord or chain, can be used to cut or penetrate hard targets at distance. A rather intimidating weapon, indeed. I’ve always loved the rustic feel of raw sharpened steel, and Matthew at Nine Directions has, as usual, replicated the look beautifully.

Dragons Tail - Edge

Dragons Tail - Edge

So what we have here, folks, is a heavy slab of steel, with sharp edges, on a rope. You can’t beat that with a baseball bat. Yet another example of some excellent work by NineDirections!

Dragons Tail – [Nine Directions]

Ninja Shuko – [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]

The Truth About Cats And… Tigers.

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Today I thought I’d talk about hand claws related to animals other than Wolverines… Yeah. No more Wolvie. Unless I find something new. What can I say. Oh Come ON. Just let it go…

Anyway, many ninja hand weapons are often confused with one another and incorrectly described, so I thought I’d take a crack at sorting them out. Let me formally introduce: the Bagh Nakh, Neko-Te, Shuko and Tekko-Kagi. Just a quick warning before you dive in. You may want to grab a cup of coffee…

Bagh Nakh
First off we have the Bagh Nakh, also sometimes called the Wagh Nakh, whose heritage is the least obscured, but whose name is often incorrectly used to describe Tekagi. The Bagh Nakh is a weapon of Indian heritage, intended to replicate the damage that a tiger would inflict on your average unsuspecting jungle meal.

Bagh Nakh

Bagh Nakh

Anyway, as you can see, it is essentially a set of claws attached to a bar with loops for the fingers. The version above with the knife blade attached is called the Bich’Hwa Bagh Nakh. In contrast to how it is often portrayed, (and it seems to be portrayed and described incorrectly in a lot of otherwise reputable places) it is not a set of over-the-hand claws, nor was it likely to have been worn with the claws out over the knuckles.

Rather, I believe that is held in the hand, supported by the thumb and pinky, with the claws facing outward from the palm, and the basic traditional designs all appear to confirm this to be the case. If you look at the various forms of Bagh Nakh, you will see than it includes a few different forms, many with a blades that extend laterally out from the side of the weapon, in addition to the claws.

Two Different Bagh Nakh Designs:

Bich'wha Bagh Nakh

Bich'wha (Bladed) Bagh Nakh

Standard Bagh Nakh

Standard Bagh Nakh

This tells me that they the bar was intended to serve a dual purpose as both the knife handle and the claw holder, and would therefore be held in the palm of the hand. Not to mention that many Bagh Nakh designs are near impossible to wield with the bar over the knuckles. From this we can assume that it was used with the claws projecting out from the palm. The same grip would likely have been used for both forms, with or without the original blade.

Simple Bagh Nakh

Simple Bagh Nakh

The Bagh Nakh is an excellent weapon for open hand clawing or raking attacks, as well as open hand slaps, and is very effective at tearing flesh. The best targets for this weapon would be the eyes and face, though any soft target would work.

Shuko
Next up is the Shuko. Shuko, or “Tiger Claws” is the Japanese equivalent of the Bagh Nakh, and is one of the trademark weapons of the Togakure Ryu, which is believed to be the oldest school of Ninjitsu. This weapon employs a similar claw design, except for the way it is held and supported. Much like the Bagh Nakh, this name

Ninja Shuko

Ninja Shuko

Unlike the Bagh Nakh however, it is supported by a steel band that goes around the entire hand, as well as a strap that fastens it to the wrist of the wearer. This extra support mechanism allows it to be used in ways the Bagh Nakh cannot, such as for climbing walls and trees, where it was usually used in conjunction with Ashiko or Ninja foot spikes.

Ashiko - Ninja Foot Spikes

Ashiko - Ninja Foot Spikes

My guess however would be that commercial versions would be lacking and many would have to make a pair custom fit to your hand size, and appropriately padded, in order to comfortably use it for wall climbing duty.

Wearing Ninja Shuko

Wearing Ninja Shuko

It would, in theory, also allow for much more powerful raking attacks to harder and tougher targets, like bony parts of the body and ligaments. This hand weapon is also often incorrectly referred to as Neko-Te, (even I have been guilty of this) but as I found out, the Neko-Te is a completely different weapon.

Neko-Te
Neko-Te, or (literally translated) “Cat Hands” are traditionally small steel blades attached to the fingers using a band, usually of leather. Another weapon that is often confused with the Shuko and Bagh Nakh, these are actually steel claws designed to become clawed extensions of the fingertips of the wearer. Much like cat womans claws.

Neko Te

Neko-Te - Finger Tip Ring Claws

The most common references to Neko-Te are as the favored claw weapon of Kunoichi (female ninjas). They were primarily used for distraction, but could be made lethal by poisoning the blades.

Neko-Te - Finger Wraps

Neko-Te - Leather Wrap Finger Tip claws

The use of Neko-Te would be almost exclusively limited to soft targets such as the eyes, throat, groin, etc. Especially since finger strength would be a limiting factor in the amount of power a Neko-Te user could generate.

Tekko-Kagi
Last, but certainly not least, we have the Tekko-Kagi (or Tekagi), which I talked about in my first Wolverine post. This is the only verifiable example I could find of a hand claw that employed claws located above the hand, like Wolverines claws. Most versions of this weapon are supported by both the wrist and the hand, and would have been used with the fist closed, either as a punch blade type weapon, or closed fist rake, depending on the claws configuration.

The Japanese Tekko-Kagi

The Japanese Tekko-Kagi

It was generally used to attack and disarm sword wielding opponents. Of the weapons here, this is the only one that could have been used against hard targets, and I believe it could have been built strong enough to handle the amount of force required to even punch through light armor, (not to mention it is the closest design to good old Wolvies’ claws, making it one of my faves) though sadly, I have not seen any evidence that it was ever used in this fashion.

Wearing Tekko-Kagi

Wearing Tekko-Kagi

And thats about the size of it. I often see these names used interchangeably, however after doing a lot of reading about each of them, I realized that they each refer to a completely different weapon, and thought I’d share… Hopefully your head hasn’t exploded…

Bagh Nakh – [Brighton & Hove Museum]
Bagh Nakh – [The Forest Hermit (JP)]
Bagh Nakh – [Therion Arms]
Bagh Nakh – [Earmi.it (IT)]
Shuko – [Ninja Dynasty]
Neko-Te – [Warrior Quest]
Neko-Te – [Ninjitsu.com]
Tekko-Kagi – [Mark C. Barrett]
Tekko-Kagi – [Iga Ninja Museum]
Tekko-Kagi – [Warrior Quest]

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