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Posts Tagged ‘men himo’

gin_tsukagawaI bought two new shinai during my recent trip to Tokyo. Those of you, who are used to buying shinai in bogu shops in Japan, know that you typically choose the naked bamboo take and then ask for the fittings to be put on (shikunde).  As well as being asked about the quality of the tsukagawa (gin or toko), most bogu shops will enquire about the required length 38 or 39 (san ku or san pachi).

Whilst conventional wisdom states that 39 is the standard length for shinai used by adult males, many Japanese kendoka prefer 38 because it allows a more natural grip. Having had this ingrained in me by my sempai and sensei during my time in Japan, I have always gone for the 38 option.

Most of you also know that the way to measure the correct position of your shinai grip is to place the butt of the shinai in the crook of your right arm and extend your hand to a natural position along the shinai. The position of the forefinger of your loosely closed hand should touch or be just below the tsuba.

Rather than make my usual request for a 38 tsukagawa I took the time to measure the grip position and realised that I needed a 39 for both shinai. What I had not taken into accounts is whilst I am no taller than most of my Japanese contemporaries, my arms are positively ape-like by comparison. When I lived in Japan, I had to have long-sleeve shirts either made to measure or imported.  It can be argued that once the tsukagawa stretches, a 39 can become too long, but to be frank, I invariably break the shinai before it gets to that stage.

I also bought some new men himo and asked for short ones, meaning the 7 shaku variety as opposed to 8 shaku kansai himo. To my surprise the lady behind the counter produced some 6 shaku himo. This was a revelation! Normal bottom tying 7 shaku himo are just a bit longer than the required maximum 40cm of descending loops and ends demanded by ZNKR shiai regulations. Although very few people bother, you actually need to cut and re-tie their ends. 6 shaku himo come within the regulation length and eventually stretch to a perfect 30cm drop.

I felt that overall this was a pretty successful shopping trip, until got to the BA check-in at Narita Airport. I felt lucky so as per the recent post on shipping shinai, took my brightly coloured shinai bag to the desk and asked nonchalantly if it was OK to take as hand luggage. After the agent checked with her supervisor’s supervisor, I was told no and asked for an excess baggage charge of 14,300 Yen. Just 1000 Yen more than it cost to buy the shinai in the first place. The good news however was that I got to include my Y200 convenience store umbrella for free.

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No no Chakuso!

Himo lengthCaptureI spent my Sunday as a grading panellist at one of our main annual shodan examinations. As I chaired the panel for part of the session, one of the other judges asked if I would talk to the candidates about our expectations for chakuso, or the way that we wear our clothing and equipment.

Lecturing dan grade candidates on this point may seem to some to be somewhat pedantic, but it is surprising to see how many people enter an examination without being correctly dressed. In some cases himo are miss-tied because of grading nerves, or the need to put equipment on quickly, but in many cases they are in the habit of doing it wrong. It really is important to wear your dogi and bogu correctly as this is a good barometer of your understanding of kendo etiquette.

Some frequent faults are that kote himo that are too long, so that either the kote fit incorrectly or there is a length of himo left hanging below the knot, dou and tare are worn too high or too low, hakama are too long or too short, or keikogi  are either open at the neck or allowed to bunch up at the back. By far the most common error is to tie men himo so that the loops and the remaining ends are not of even length and that either or both exceed the regulation 40cm.

It is worth considering that not all men-himo are created equal. They come in lengths of  7 shaku (212 cm), 8 shaku (242 cm), or 9 shaku (278 cm). 8 and 9 shaku himo are for tying Kansai style men, where the himo are attached to the top of the men and cross at the tsukidate and again go through the top mengane before being tied at the back of the men. Obviously, if you tie these longer himo from the bottom of the men, they will leave an overly long surplus. On the other hand, 7 shaku himo are for some strange reason, just a bit too long to finish at the required 40cm. So whichever you buy, you need to shorten them.

Himo ends CaptureHimo are expensive, so it seems a shame to cut them, but it is a must. Once you have done so, you need to tie-off or plait the frayed ends so that they do not continue to unravel. I have included an illustration from Kendo, A Comprehensive Guide that shows you one way to this.

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