A katana is traditionally used with both hands. But why is it always on the left side? I have read that in the Samurai schools they don't care much about the student are left handed or right handed.

In Samurai etiquette, a Samurai sits with a host or a guest, he must put his sword at his right side. This indicates friendly intention. If a Samurai was invited to a suspicious environment, the samurai would put his sword at the left side.

  • Do you mean that a katana can be used with either hand rather than both hands? – slugster Jun 26 '15 at 3:58
  • He probably means both those things, considering the Katana is a two-handed sword. – Captain Kenpachi Jun 26 '15 at 7:58
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    Where did you read that sword schools in Japan (I assume that's what you mean by "Samurai schools") did not care about eft hand or right handedness? As far as I am aware, there are no left handed sword schools in Japan. – Sardathrion Jun 26 '15 at 10:18
  • What do you mean by "Samurai schools"? Samurai were a class, you were either born into it or promoted into it. Samurai was never a degree you could get some any schools. – Sardathrion Jun 26 '15 at 10:19
up vote 7 down vote accepted

You've answered your own question. It's etiquette. Right-hand means you don't expect to use your sword. Left-hand means you're ready for action. The Samurai had loads of rules and etiquette to abide by. This code of conduct is called Bushido (the way of the warrior). It's a lot like the Western concept of Chivalry.

In modern terms, it would be like carrying a gun in a box or bag versus carrying it in a tactical holster.

It's similar to the concept of shaking hands with your right hand. The majority of people are right handed, so when shaking hands you present this hand and clasp to show you do not have weapons. With a sword, a right-handed person draws faster for combat with the sword on the left side of the body.

attack on draw In this example, the draw motion continues directly into a first attack, followed by a second overhead attack.

All of this assumes people are right handed. If someone is left handed, they are still dangerous while shaking with the right hand or with their sword sheathed on the right. Look at the biblical story of Ehud.

It is not necessary to use a katana with two hands. Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most famous swordsmen of the samurai era, preferred to use two swords, a katana in one hand and a wakizashi in the other.

Also, ninjutsu has nothing to do with this question. A ninja does not care about ettiquette; they would be perfectly happy to kill you in your sleep or by spearing you from below while you use the toilet. See the story about how Uesugi Kenshin may have died.

In addition to custom, your heart is on the left side of your chest, so it's easier to protect while unsheathing.

  • Welcome to the site. You should check the help center to see how we work. As it stands, this is more of a comment than an answer. Could you expend it to explain better what you mean? – Sardathrion Jan 23 at 8:47
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    Also, the heart (despite popular myth) is not on the left side, it's pretty much centered between the lungs underneath the sternum (Middle flat part in the front of the chest between the ribs). – JohnP Jan 23 at 14:46

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