View Full Version : Does Sais matter

Claire Bartlett
7th February 2002, 18:05
Hi :wave:,
I need some advice on buying sai. I see online sources that sell them in many different lengths. Is there a correct length in proportion to the forearm? I have tried to use some belonging to another student and found them tangling up in my sleeves, but this might have had more to do with incompetence. :D

7th February 2002, 19:09
I've been told that the 'ideal' length for your sai is measured like this:

Hold the sai with one thumb hooked through a side prong, forefinger extended along the handle. The tip of the weapon should just reach your elbow.

Of course, using a set of sai of the correct size and weight precludes some of the whirly, whippy stuff you see folks doing in the musical kata competitions ...

(who's played with Okinawan weapons in years past, but does mainly sword and stick these days)

7th February 2002, 19:18
Yes, should be about an inch or so ( 3cm ? I'm not up on metric) past your elbow when held in a closed position. Sleeve length maybe part of you entanglement problem. I had a problem when I tried to wear karategi that did not have the sleeves hemmed up to my proper length. Also had a friend who was a kobudo man decided to make himself a short sleeve summer karategi. The sleeve were so short ( above the elbow) the sai kissaki kept getting caught in the sleeves.

Chrome is bad and Teflon is bad you want your sai to have a sticky quality. Plain bare steel is best. Also cheap sai have that round lump lookin' thingy where the yoke comes together. I don't like that either. I like them flat. Unfortunately sai like these cost more money.

Also, no such word as sais. The plural for sai is pronounced Zai.
1 sai = sai
2 sai = Ni cho zai
3 sai = San cho zai ect...

At least that is the way I've be taught.

Best of luck Claire and have a good day.

7th February 2002, 19:30
Originally posted by Chuck.Gordon

Of course, using a set of sai of the correct size and weight precludes some of the whirly, whippy stuff you see folks doing in the musical kata competitions ...

Yes, If wish to do the flashy neo-kobudo type stuff you may want to ignore our suggestions.

Take care.

Doug Daulton
7th February 2002, 22:23
I would like to echo CEB's comments. The sai should extend roughly 1" past your elbow while the tine is held in the crook of your thumb. Additionally, the hilt should be just a shade longer than the width of your palm and the pommel (butt) should extend past your index finger when held in the position described above. Does that make sense?

In addition weight and balance are important .. not all sai are created equal. For authentic Ryukyu kobudo, Shureido sai have no equal. Shureido USA ( imports all of their weapons from Okinawa and carry several ryuha specific designs. In addition, they can get varying weights and lengths which are different depending on your size and possibly your gender. They also have an excellent children's sai for young kobudoka.

With all weaponry, a fit to your body is essential ... a heavy sai is no good if you cannot manipulate it. Much better to hit the target 9 times out of 10 with a .22 than to hit it 1 time out of 100 with a bazooka. :)

The only downside to Shureido sai is they are a bit pricey (~$90 wholesale). However, if you are serious about kobudo, they are very much worth the investment.

Kemco and a couple of other US manufacturers have made sai off of the Shureido design. From what I've seen, most are serviceable and considerably less expensive.

If you are only interested in neo-kobudo (great term that!), the sai available from Century and AWMA will hold you. Just don't expect them to perform very well ... most are very poorly balanced and the hilts are cheaply wrapped. You get what you pay for.

As previously mentioned, avoid chrome and stick to bare steel. Also, avoid leather hilt wraps. The last is more preference ... I like my hilts wrapped with jute twine or parachute cord.

Finally, a note about sleeve length. Again, this is somewhat personal preference .. but cut your sleeves to mid forearm or about 2-3" below the elbow and roll up to the elbow. The sleeve is no longer an issue if you are doing the techniques correctly.


Claire Bartlett
8th February 2002, 13:12
Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. This is not the kind of thing I want to purchase online after all. I will find a supplier where I live so I can get a feel for weight and balance. The Shureido weapons sound great but $90+ US translates into a small fortune in Canadian loonies and I have to live within my means. Now I just have to pick a colour and my music and I'm all set.:laugh:

John Bowden
8th February 2002, 15:06
1 inch past the elbow may be a bit excessive for length. You should have enough so that you can still elbow strike but any more is not necessarily better.

Shureido natural steel sai are very light and handle nicely, however, the steel they use is very soft. If you do more than kata, you may want to seek out stronger sai. I like Shureido's but I have had them bend during kumite and non-blown throws.

If $130 is too rich for you, though, getting good sai will be totally out of your price range.

If you can use 19.5 inch sai, the Century ones are workable for $50. All the other Century sizes are terrible though. Improper prong and blade diameter ratios. If you get the Century ones, get the chrome then spend some quality time banging the blades together until they are nice and marred. You need to disrupt the smooth chrome surface or they are useless for practicing non-kata.

The english plural for sai would simply be "sai." Not "zai". That transformation is just a consonant shift in japanese, not a plural indicative. It's the "Nicho" part that makes "Nichozai" plural, and similarly in "Sanchozai".
(two sai and three sai respectively)

All this being said, if your instructor can't advise you on getting sai, how can he teach you to use them? If you don't have an instructor, don't waste your time with sai unless you are already a very knowledgable karateka who can learn by discovery. (Not too many can do this.) If you are very serious about sai, get a decent pair.

www.okiadventures.com (maybe oki-adventures.com?)

Expect to pay $150-$400 for a decent pair of sai.

One good pair will last you a lifetime, so, why pinch pennies.


Claire Bartlett
8th February 2002, 16:58
Hi John,
Thanks for the website link and the tip on the Century sai. I will most likely need something in the range of 15 to 16 inches so I will avoid those. Initially they will be for kata and basics, I don't expect kumite for quite some time. With all the information I have recieved from yourself and others I will be able to choose the best ones I can afford and upgrade when I can. My instructor would have advised me on the proper length, but he would not have volunteered any of the other information that I have learned here. Thanks to all of you for sharing your expertise on e-budo.

Pavel Dolgachov
13th February 2002, 15:35
There are also oneon-line sourse for good sai. It's Weapon Sourse (but I don't remember URL).

There are many kinds (variations) of sai design. I would like to look at Kemco products, but I don't know their web-site's URL. please, let me know if you know.

Doug Daulton
13th February 2002, 15:44
Originally posted by Pavel Dolgachov ... I would like to look at Kemco products, but I don't know their web-site's URL. please, let me know if you know. Pavel,

I =think= that Kemco is no longer in the weapons business.

John Bowden
13th February 2002, 19:46
KEMCO went away several years ago along with Bugeisha magazine. I regretted not having gotten a pair of their full tang kama and sai.

The KEMCO sai looked like the same design as made by Mr. Grabow of Okinawan Adventures. I have never seen Mr. Grabow's sai in person, but have wanted to get a pair from him for quite a while.

His website is www.okiadventures.com.

Anyone here have first hand experience with them?


Ken Allgeier
17th February 2002, 02:30
Hello John,

I have a pair of Mr Grabow's custom made Sai and they are excellent, well worth the $200.00.I believe that the Shureido Sai are not custom made, unlike the ones from Mr Grabow,inwhich he takes measurements of your arm,hand,and thumb, so that the Sai will fit each indivdual perfectly.

ken allgeier