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The Tanto is a Japanese fighting knife.

Fig. 1 Tantos Fig. 2 Length of Tanto Fig. 3 Length of Handle

  1. In Fig. 1 the top item a wooden Tanto used in Aikido practice. The middle item is a Tanto without formal dressing that is the same size. The bottom item is a Tanto that is the size Maynard uses in his book.
  2. Fig. 2 shows the proper length of the Tanto. Maynard said a Tachi had a blade over 24 inches and a Tanto was rarely over 12 inches. Technically a Tanto has a full sized tsuba similar to a Tachi but usually more elaborate. The length of the Tanto must be at least as long as the distance from the joint where the index finger joins the palm to the tip of the elbow. Fig. 2 shows the 2nd criteria which does not seem to be compatible with the 1st criteria. The length is to parry a Tachi and for this the Tanto is held as shown. One would think that a full tsuba would make this difficult.
  3. Fig. 3 shows the grip to determine the length of the handle. The handle shown is too long for the user shown. The length of the handle should be as long as the extended thumb tip when the Tanto is held for thrusting with the edge up and the pommel against the heel pad.

Figures 2 and 3 show the Tanto gripped as Maynard teaches. The way he teaches the grip on the Tanto is constantly changed between that shown in Fig. 2 and that shown in Fig. 3. In either figure the edge can be reversed. In Fig. 2 the Tanto is held for parrying but if the Tanto was being used to stab down the edge might be toward the users arm. In Fig. 3 if the Tanto was stabbing up as in Shomen Tsuki rather than straight in the blade would be down.

Fig. 1 Extended Fig. 2 Changing Fig. 3 Down Fig. 2 Changing Fig. 3 Extended

The above sequence shows the user changing the grip on the Tanto. This will not work if the user grips the handle with the pommel sticking out one side of the hand and the blade sticking out the other side. This is the major difference in the way of using the Tanto Maynard teaches and the western way of using a knife. Maynard usually holds the Tanto with the pommel in the hand and the way the Tanto is held is constantly changed. It gives an effect much like doubled edged blades coming out of both ends of the handle.

Aikido does not really get involved in how to use a Tanto, just how to take a Tanto, so the issues of handling the Tanto are not taught.

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Last Update 3/9/2009