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Blood Grooves (Hi) in Shinken
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I've been lurking here for a while so I thought I'd throw a quick question into the mix.

On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I was examining some of the antique blades in the Arms and Armour Room. I noticed that there was no discernible pattern as to when a hi (blood groove) was incorporated into the blade. It was present and absent on katanas, tachis, and wakizashis of all different eras. One of the blades even had two parallel hi.

Now it is my understanding that currently hi are used on iaitos to assist in making a proper cut as it will whistle when at the correct angle and speed. My question is what purpose did they serve on historical blades?

Did it aid in the chiburi? And if that's so why didn't they all have one? Or was it just a swordsmiths whim/trademark?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Posted on: 2003/2/8 21:57
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Re: Blood Grooves (Hi) in Shinken
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Hi were used as a way to lighten the blade by removing metal in a way that didn't damage the structural strength of the blade...

At least that is what I recall reading in a few books on the subject. I am not 'Sword Guy' so I could be wrong.

Posted on: 2003/2/9 0:32
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metsubishi
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Hopefully someone can comment on why all blades don't have hi.

My sensei told us that one of the reasons for hi was for chiburi, but the more interesting use for the blood groove was apparently so that you could utilize the blood from one opponent against another opponent as metsubishi.




I would think that rainwater could be used to this effect also.

chikara

Posted on: 2003/2/9 1:52
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Re: metsubishi
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Ive thought about this as well before and heard different reasons from different people, sooooo....

I checked it out in "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" by Yoshindo Yoshihara, Kodansha Publications.

"They (Hi) are added for two reasons: as decoration and to lighten the blade. The width and shape of the grooves are up to the smith, but must harmonize with the overall design."

The following link is a horrible picture I took (due to no scanner), but shows the basic designs if Hi.

Japanese Sword Hi

The book is really informative about the making of swords (traditionally), ... but Ive never been able to find a copy this side of the ocean (Canada).

Posted on: 2003/2/9 3:51
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Re: Blood Grooves (Hi) in Shinken
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Quote:

Ruhlig wrote:

And if that's so why didn't they all have one? Or was it just a swordsmiths whim/trademark?


As you probably know every sword was made by personal specification of a warrior. It is pure physics. Less metal, lighter blade, more control - more metal, heavier blade, more cutting power. Beside this, without hi, blade was stronger and less likely to break, but with hi you could do all the things listed before.

Posted on: 2003/2/9 5:31
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Shinken
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Quote:
by JeffMueller on 2003/2/8 16:32:24
Hi were used as a way to lighten the blade by removing metal in a way that didn't damage the structural strength of the blade...


I think you are right.
The only two reasons I know is:

1. lightening the weapon without weakening it.
2. Preventing the blade from gripping in a wound.

Posted on: 2003/2/9 18:43
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Re: Shinken
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I think I heard or read somewhere (can't remember the source) that if you stab someone (in the stomach) it is easier to pull out the blade if there is a Hi on it. Maybe, maybe not???

Posted on: 2003/2/9 22:41
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Regarding the "blood groove"
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Hi Ruhlig

I have two cents to add for what it's worth.

Firstly, I've heard blade experts cringing at the use of the term "blood groove" to mean the hi on a blade. Saying "it's not a boy scout knife" So apparently it is not considered a "blood grove" and none of the relaiable scholarly literature I've had access to calls it a blood groove.

What I have heard is that it is there to prevent the blade from bending and for aesthetic, weight and balance control reasons.

On an iaito, it is helpful because of the whistling sound it makes during practice but I've heard some grooved blades which because they have a pretty wide groove (bo hi) whistle LOUDLY during practice even when your just swinging it around randomly without proper form. Such a design may fool the user into thinking he's is doing proper cuts.

I practice with shinken that have no groove and they make the whistle sound only a bit fainter than ones with the groove. I think this really gives a good indication of proper form since it's much less forgiving. Some groovless blades whistle more than others do too.

Ben Cole quotes sensei as saying...

"It is important to know how to swing the sword without making any noise. If you cannot do this then you cannot assassinate someone. Someone, maybe even your victim, may hear your sword"

and also...

"You can also turn your sword so that the edge is up then swing down twisting the blade down at the end of the cut. This also makes no noise... The opposite is also true. Hold the blade normally and then turn it over to hit your opponent with the spine of the sword. This too makes no noise."

Lastly, My tanto has the double groove design you mentioned, called gomabashi, and it does make it more difficult to clean the blade during maintenance.



Posted on: 2003/2/10 4:56
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Re: Regarding the "blood groove"
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Yeah,

The term 'blood groove' is a fanboyism. Anyway, the hi isn't necessary for making an easier withdrawl from a thrust on the Japanese blade. The nature of the sori will create a cut slightly bigger than the blade so the vaccum effect of the human body isn't as big of a deal.

Posted on: 2003/2/10 5:41
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Hi
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Although most of you are correct in one way or another it is not the main reason for the hi.

When you thrust someone with a tsuki the muscles will naturally contract not allowing you to release the blade. The Hi allows the blood to flow out thus loosening the muscle allowing the blade to be pulled out.

Hope that clarify your curiousity

Posted on: 2003/2/10 11:58
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