How to hold a Tanto and the relation with a sword

how to hold a tanto the right way

There are two well known ways of holding the Tanto, as seen in several Tanto dori. The question that follows is which side the sharp side should point to. I can tell you from experience that are different opinions out there.

Before I go into the different ways, I will start by explaining the Kanji, as you are used to.

短刀 (Tanto) means short sword or dagger. If you analyse the Kanji seperately it does not really get any more exciting. 短 means short and 刀 means sword. 

That's why I shot the video, so you get a better idea of how you can hold it and why >>

If you are creative you can hold a Tanto perhaps in more than two ways, but basically there are two forms.

  1. HONTE: Hold the Tanto with the blade at the side of the thumb.
  2. GYAKUTE: Hold the Tanto with the blade at the side of the small finger.

Which side should the sharp side point to?

Both ways have their respective advantages and disadvantages and opinions differ on the topic.

I will share the different ways without any judgement.

In the video, I will also mention these advantages and disadvantages and I will explain the connection between the Tanto and the sword.

hold the tanto with "honte"

Honte means natural way. Below you learn two variations which I learned from different instructors. I mention about the advantages of each way to hold below the images.

honte with sharp side up


>> You cannot block on top of the knife.

>> Naturally, your punch goes up slightly so this is easier to cut when doing Tsuki.

honte with sharp side down


>> Stabbing and cutting is possible without altering the grip. 

>> This is also the way to hold a sword.

use "gyakute" to hold the tanto

Gyakute is the reverse of Honte. Below you learn two variations which I learned from different instructors. I mention about the advantages of each way to hold below the images.

gyakute with sharp side inside


>> It is easier to cut through tissue.

gyakute with sharp side outside


>> If you bring the Tanto more towards you, your arm will become a blade.

>> You can slice immediately.

how to place your tanto back in the scabbard

The Tanto is - in case of using a steel one - sheathed in the Saya.

In each of Wado's Tanto dori, you should hold the Tanto in a specific manner. After taking Kamae and executing the technique or even a series, there's a formal ending. Just like Kihon kumite, you should stand in the original position when doing Naorei.

Of course, for Kihon kumite you take Musubi dachi and bow...

But in Tanto dori, it's a little bit more challenging. That is, if you did not throw away your Saya and use it in the first place.

Since the Saya can also be used for various different kinds of things such as blocking, hooking, striking and throwing, you should hold it when you practice.

So when you get ready to bow, you have to sheath your Tanto again, but how?

How can you do that:

  • Without looking at your Tanto
  • Without looking at your Saya
  • While maintaining Zanshin




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