Correct Grips for Effective Control and Execution of Sai Technique
Effective and efficient execution of technique with sai, in bujitsu, or with any weapon, requires a proper grip for correct execution. Endeavor to develop a grip that will give you the ability to deliver exacting “hits.” In addition to keeping your wrists flexible and straight, the correct grip utilizes all five fingers at different times and for different reasons. Primary control is maintained with the small and ring fingers. They are the most important because they lock the sai in place during execution of technique. The middle, index, and thumb are used for directing sai during a butt strike, a pointed thrust, and for additional support during a flip or twirl. All fingers play an important role in maintaining balance and control. With the proper grip, development of finesse and elegance is attainable with sufficient practice.
The correct grip will permit you to let the weapon do the work as an extension of yourself. Without a proper grip, you can suffer intense shock through your arms and shoulders when contact is made with a target, especially if it is solid. This is also true if you hit incorrectly and without focus. Always maintain posture and balance when practicing. It is also a good idea to maintain posture and balance even when you aren’t practicing, as when you are simply standing or walking.
Flipping is used in nearly every technique employed with sai and should be practiced in all 9 directions. There are 2 types of flips: straight and circular.
The sai rests in the crotch of your hand as shown with the index finger along the tsuka and the 3 fingers on top of the outside of the yoke. The thumb wraps around underneath the opposite yoke. Because of the time interval necessary for changing the hand position, sai should be in motion as with a butt thrust to facilitate the flip itself. Study the pictures carefully. Keep the saki pointed towards you, but make sure you are holding it to the side of your body and NOT pointed directly towards your abdomen. A rushing attacker can cause you to impale yourself.
The flip must be done in synchrony with the extension of your body into the attack. In other words, don’t extend your arm and then flip, or flip and then extend your arm. All motion is done simultaneously. If the flip is not done in one motion with the extension, the awkwardness of changing the hand position is more difficult because it is being done from a static position. Flipping attacks are done on a straight line regardless of the approach to the target. Always strive to be fluid in execution of technique. The natural flow that masters exhibit is a learned process and takes much practice to absorb into your psyche.
Continuing, switch your fingers to the opposite side of the tsuka and execute the strike with the whole arm and NOT with a flick of the wrist. Flicking the wrist without proper control and grip will cause you to drop the weapon if you are putting excessive effort into making the strike or if you hit a target incorrectly. Keep your wrist on a straight plane and strike directly at the target and in the exact direction of your intent.
When executing the flip, do it with the intention of going in and cutting through the target. This is an awkward technique to control, especially in the beginning, but it is essential to master early in training. When flipping in reverse, use your fingers to accelerate sai and let the weight of the weapon do the work. Reverse the flip by resting the fingers on the outside of the yoku. This is the beginning movement of the circular flip. It is essential that you retract the weapon once the “hit” is made. When flipping from the monouchi, be extremely careful that you don’t “throw” the weapon in an attempt to convert the technique. Study the pictures intently.
With sai extended forward, and all four fingers on the tsuka, flip (this is not the same as a strike) sai upwards using a wrist flick towards you while placing the fingers on the monouchi. Make sure to lock the yoku in the crotch of your hand by catching sai with the thumb and index finger to control the spin. Practice stopping to a dead freeze by exerting pressure on the tsuka by squeezing your hand. Develop control by aiming for side and rear targets when executing this technique.
Twirling as an extension of technique permits attacks to be made with straight and circular patterns. Begin by holding sai as shown and create small figure eight patterns left and right with both hands. Do all motions with the arm and NOT the wrist. Control in this manner will prevent dropping sai if you strike something incorrectly or an incoming attack weapon hits it. Lock the yoku in the palm of your hand with the thumb. Keep control and do not attempt to flip sai at this point. It is essential to keep your grip firm and flexible. Getting control in the beginning will enable you to deliver solid strikes when executing technique. Practice this exercise slowly until you understand the principles. Speed will come when you begin to execute with form and balance and not having to be concerned with incorrect technique.
When you can easily control sai, practice twirls and flips simultaneously with both hands: first in one direction and then in different directions. Notice that when you have correctly flipped and twirled, the saki or the gashira can be used as a rear-attacking tactic.
Though striking would seem to be a simple and obvious aspect of weapon usage, it must be explained that in order to penetrate a target with authority and conviction, the target must be “hit” with an attitude of going through it— completely. Not to do so indicates a slashing motion, which indicates an inability to attack with conviction. The attitude of “cutting” means you are committed to going into and through the target intent on destroying it. Practice with this mentality, otherwise you are only halfheartedly approaching completion of your act.
Consider the following pictures where the differences are very obvious. Also, consider that flashy moves that indicate inordinate speed and clever technique are never to be thought of as efficient or effective even though the techniques seem to be doing the job. As mentioned previously, this is superficial. The difference becomes apparent when you are out of breath after only 2 or 3 attacks. Also note that when you execute with proper posture and balance, it is much easier to do it correctly. This all begins with the proper grip. If you can’t do it right, you can’t do it wrong!