Tenugui for Karate


Collectors’ edition tenugui dyed in black and red (seal) on white cotton gauze size 14” x 39.” This item can be used for its original purpose as a martial arts training towel to keep the eyes or hands free of sweat, or framed as a unique decoration  for the home or dojo.



Tenugui (手拭い)

This product is handmade by craftsmen in Okinawa to our own specifications from 100% cotton gauze, and is available only from Dragon Associates.  When we commissioned this design, we had the craft studio make them larger than standard size  to more comfortably fit Americans and Europeans.

Scrolls bearing these characters, Hyaku Ren Jitoku, are to be found hanging on the walls of the most famous dojo in Japan and can be translated in several ways. The characters signify “hundred practice – self-benefit,” but the underlying meaning refers to the natural process of learning technique by single-minded physical training over a long period. An ancient version of Nike’s maxim, “Just do it!” This saying was a favourite of Master swordsman Taizaburo Nakamura.

Extra-long (14” x 39”) and produced by traditional hand dyeing, not screen-printing, they are supplied in a presentation packet printed with “noshi” greetings. To keep sweat out of your eyes, as an appropriate gift for a dojo friend or instructor or frame your dojo wall. Super quality and super rare.

The choice of this particular saying for this special edition tenugui was inspired by the calligraphy of Nakamura Taizaburo Sensei, whose mastery of the sword was equalled by his mastery of the calligrapher’s brush. From his study of calligraphy, he developed the theory of “Happo Giri”, or eight cutting methods. He realized that, just as all Chinese characters are constructed from eight basic brush strokes, the effective use of the sword depended on eight basic cuts being performed flawlessly if one were to prevail in a fight with another swordsman.

While this started as a theory, Nakamura Sensei was not simply a theoretical swordsman. He had been the instructor of “Batto Jutsu” (drawing and cutting with the sword in a single motion) at the Toyama Military Academy in the 1920s and 1930s, where, as a non-commissioned officer, he taught practical military swordsmanship. In WWII, he was picked led a group of special forces in China known as the Nanpo Kirikomitai. This unit went into action in the trenches armed only with swords and decimated their opponents in close-quarters engagements.


During the Edo Period (1603 -1868), horses, palanquins and wheeled vehicles were used only by the upper classes; even lower level samurai, if they could not afford a horse, walked. The main thoroughfare that traversed the country from East to West was the Tokaido, a road dotted with inns and small villages where travellers could stop for the night and rest before resuming their long walk.

The noted artist, Hiroshige, immortalized these stops in a series of woodblock prints entitled “The 53 stations of the Tokaido,” long considered a masterpiece of the genre. Travelers undertaking this arduous journey were advised to equip themselves with the “Seven Essential Items,” one of which was the TENUGUI. This could be used as a towel, to repair geta, (wooden clogs) and if one was unfortunate enough to fall in with bad company, to bind wounds!