The Tsuka quite simply is the handle of the sword, made from layers of wood laminated together which the ‘Tang’ of the sword slides in to.
Tsuka’s were traditionally, and still are for the expensive swords, wrapped in Ray skin or Shark skin, with a silk or cotton band called an Ito wrapped tightly bound over the skin in an elaborate plat, this combination of the Ray skin and Ito gives a superb grip to the sword and also absorbs the perspiration from the hands.
Obviously the sword is as only as good as the swordsman that holds it, and that begins with how we hold the Tsuka!
So often in the excitement of beginning sword, in learning about the cuts and resheaths the beginner neglects the importance of how they hold this ‘mere handle’. For if it is too tight a grip the muscles tire and blisters soon come, the sword is tense and unwieldy, if too loose a grip then we have no control over the Kissaki, and the Tsuba will chaff against our thumb causing soreness, he may even in sword play or boken fighting loose his sword to an opponent!
Our grip upon the Tsuka should be tightest lowest down in the grip with the small fingers, and relaxing as it extents up toward the index finger and thumb, the hands spread as far apart as the handle allows, this allows you to balance power with lightness for control and speed.
So as you take hold of your sword understand the relationship between the grip you are holding the Tsuka with, and the sword it moves, for all are connected through a cut that can give joy and life to the user and student, or take a life when held by hands of darkness.
Events and karma crowd upon us,
Some never understand the parts they play in good or bad,
And in right or wrong,
But we all hold this sword of our actions and consequences.
So begin with the grip!