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View Poll Results: What percentage of people in your dojo use foreign swords?

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Thread: Japanese and foreign swords in the dojo

  1. #1
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    Question Japanese and foreign swords in the dojo

    It seems that foreign japanese swords (such as Paul Chen and Bugei blades) are becoming more common in dojo in Western countries. I'm interested in what percentage of people in your dojo use these kinds of swords, and the pros and cons for them. Thoughts, anyone?

    With thanks,
    Daniel Lee

  2. #2
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    Are we talking about shinken or iaito? Pretty sure most if not quite all iaito in US dojos came from Japan.
    Charles Mahan

    Iaido - Breaking down bad habits,
    and building new ones.

  3. #3
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    Daniel is talking about Shinken, Charles.

    After I return to the UK, I'll be using one Japanese Shinken and several foreign made shinken until I have enough money to commission a Shinsakuto. I require a shinken a little longer than 2 shaku 3 sun.

    Cheers

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the clarification gents.

    I've noticed some foreign-made swords are available in fairly long lengths. That is certainly another plus for foreign blades.
    Daniel Lee

  5. #5
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    Yes, and they definately are a lot cheaper than a lot of the Gendaito and Shinto that are floating around. Earlier this year on a trip to Kyoto for an embukai there's an Iai embukai going on at the same time and I happened to see some of the shinken on sale there. The cheapest they had was JPY300,000 (Roughly US$3000).

    One of the downsides is that some of the foreign manufactured blades aren't made in the traditional way (i.e. after forging, the steel isn't folded) which can discourage some practicioners from buying one. According to the companies, the traditional Japanese forging method of smelting tamagahane together and folding the steel was because of the poor quality of the Japanese Iron ore.

  6. #6
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    That is a big investment for a student starting out, isn't it? Personally, I don't see how Paul Chen or other foreign swords would differ that much from kazuuchi blades like manshuto or showato, so think there are definately some pluses for these weapons being available if the blade and furnature suit the art one practices.
    Daniel Lee

  7. #7
    Bill Gallant Guest

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    I know of blades that people have bought in Japan, believing they are purchasing a Japanese made blade, but in reality they were manufactured in Korea or China.
    The Japanese bring in the pieces, fittings/blades/bags/etc. , put them together and stamp Made in Japan on them. I would trust a traditionally made blade by a reputable smith as Japanese, anything mass produced? Some or all of the parts are coming from outside Japan.
    Don't always believe what you are told.
    That being said, my Chinese Shinken is wonderfull as is my Japanese Iaito. A blade doesn't have to be Japanese to be good.
    Define what you mean by a Japanese blade?

  8. #8
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    Yeah, the Bugei line of production swords are of high quality and high performance and they're made in China. And Bugei's custom swords are even much higher quality/performance and those are American. Except their Iaitos are Japanese made from Japan.

    To the question: Most people are using Japanese made Iaitos from Japan. But Sensei's using a Nihonto or a Gunto. I'll have to check with him which one it is. Only a couple of guys are using Paul Chen steel Iaitos, Nami and Gorin. Me and another guy are using swordstore Iaito. Another's using a Tozando. His girlfriend's using a Bogubag. Not sure what Sensei's wife is using but I believe it's Japanese made. We have a small class. Just had 4 beginners joining us a couple weeks ago. They don't have Iaitos yet.

  9. #9
    Bill Gallant Guest

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    The iaito at our place are from Tozondo, Swordstore and SDK.
    As for the Shinken, mine is SDK, two of the others have Korean blades, and i don't know where they bought them.

  10. #10
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    Bill,
    I know of blades that people have bought in Japan, believing they are purchasing a Japanese made blade, but in reality they were manufactured in Korea or China.
    The Japanese bring in the pieces, fittings/blades/bags/etc. , put them together and stamp Made in Japan on them. I would trust a traditionally made blade by a reputable smith as Japanese, anything mass produced? Some or all of the parts are coming from outside Japan.
    I would be interested to learn the source for your statement. Not saying it is wrong, but it is entirely opposite my own personal experience. I know that any "Japanese-style" sword made outside Japan by a non-Japanese is considered a weapon and may not be brought in-country legally. This law is why companies like Swordstore.com send the Japanese-made fittings to China to have them installed on the blades before being imported to the US. I've never seen "Made in Japan" stamped on a sword. Although, the Swordstore blades do have "Noshuiaido .....[and somehting else] stamped in Japanese on the nakago. Is this what you mean?

    The Chinese-made iaito are well made and cut well; many are used in my dojo. I have absolutely no complaint with their proper use. Actually, they are a godsend to the Japanese swordsmanship arts.

    Regards,
    Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

  11. #11
    Bill Gallant Guest

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    Originally posted by ghp
    Bill, I would be interested to learn the source for your statement. Not saying it is wrong, but it is entirely opposite my own personal experience. I know that any "Japanese-style" sword made outside Japan by a non-Japanese is considered a weapon and may not be brought in-country legally. This law is why companies like Swordstore.com send the Japanese-made fittings to China to have them installed on the blades before being imported to the US. I've never seen "Made in Japan" stamped on a sword. Although, the Swordstore blades do have "Noshuiaido .....[and somehting else] stamped in Japanese on the nakago. Is this what you mean?

    The Chinese-made iaito are well made and cut well; many are used in my dojo. I have absolutely no complaint with their proper use. Actually, they are a godsend to the Japanese swordsmanship arts.

    Regards,
    Guy
    I too have heard of blades from Japan going to China/Korea to be finished and then sent to the west. Of course, good business, cheaper wages.
    As to my "Made in Japan" quote, just a figure of speech not to be taken literally. Sorry if I was misleading. Outside of wall hangers i've not seen a blade stamped that they were made anywhere!! I think what we see is people, (retailers/manufacturer), being closed mouthed on the origin of the weapons/equipment in question. We as consumers fill in the blanks as we see fit.
    A gentleman I do business with here in town told me that a few years ago he was in Japan, and toured a factory where swords were being made. They people who gave him the tour told him that various parts of the sword are foreign made and brought into Japan to be finished off.
    I've also talked to people who say that some of the wooden weapons made in Japan are actually brought into the country as blanks from China and the finishing touches are enough to classify them as Japanese. Same goes for the bags that are sold, many are made in India/China/Korea, though I've never heard the claim that the bags are Japanese.
    I agree Chinese weapons are quite good, and are a God send to the JSA. The Chinese have come a long way in the past few years on their quality. Their prices are also starting to go up quite a bit, almost to the point of getting in line with everybody else. There will come a day in the near future when it will no longer be worth while buying from there.

  12. #12
    Dan Harden Guest

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    It seems that foreign japanese swords (such as Paul Chen and Bugei blades) are becoming more common in dojo in Western countries. I'm interested in what percentage of people in your dojo use these kinds of swords, and the pros and cons for them. Thoughts, anyone?

    With thanks

    Daniel Lee


    Personally I have allowed foreign swords (Japanese)in the dojo-But I have found them to be consistantly inferior to domestic ones (American custom)
    All things being equal (proper forging and heat treat)These steels will consistently outperform tamahagane made blades _particularly_ Kobuse blades:

    Swedish powder steel blades
    1086 w/vanadium
    W2 (w/ vanadium)
    most 1095-1050 folded
    L6 conventional clay coat
    L6 with Howard Clarks Bainite body thermal treatments
    (Perhaps among the highest performing blades in the world)
    A2 with differental heat treat

    Of the Japanese Blades I have tested on trees 1 was great, Something like 6 bent, one cracked, one broke in half. Hard to remember specifics.

    I have also tested D. Guertin, Bugei, Engnath, swordstore, last legend and my own blades.

    The Traditional Japanese blades just simply cannot compete on a performance curve. It is not the fault of Japanese smiths. They could compete if they were allowed to use modern steels and had a market for them.

    Now, as for looks- Tamahagane produces a beautiful look in both Jitetsu and Jigane-one which cannot be approached with other steels. But even then they would do far better to make the entire blade out of the more refined high carbon without a shingane core. This would go along way in eliminating the "set-bend" and the "propensity to bend" exhibited in many of their blades. In fairness to them we should only be talking about blades made when smiths could take time in making them NOt when they had to produce in bulk for war under questionable conditions.


    Overall it is unfair to compare production blades to custom blades. Bugei, Chen, Swordstore, D. Guertin and the like cannot compare with an American Smith at the top of his game.
    As for performance among Custom Blades-The steels we use are just simply better steel then what the Japanese have hamstrung themselves with for art's sake.

    I say lets celbrate these guys. No one.....Production OR custom; is getting rich providing blades to the community.
    Be thankful for what you can get.

    cheers
    Dan
    Last edited by Dan Harden; 10th September 2004 at 22:56.

  13. #13
    Tiger Ed Guest

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    Accpeting I know little of blades and have not the in-depth knowledge and expierence of other members.

    From what I know the blades made by non-Japanese are well made, any blade can be bad and any can be good. For blades some will be better quality but on a mass-production blade, as in Hanwei, they do make some good blades-from what I know the ones from Bugei which are checked and tested prior to delivery. You get what you pay for in my opinion, with the modern world the metal and methods used can make some great blades but also some nasty ones.

    I think each blade is different so you cannot clump any together and it is necessray to put blades against their peers, the customised swords for 6,000.00 are going to be better than the 400.00 ones.

    Sensei uses blades from bugei and so do others at our Dojo, not sure about the other Iaito and Shinken but Swordstore, Tozando and Bugei are common in the UK I know.

    I am going to order a Bugei 'Samurai' soon and have high expectations for the blade-not too high its only about $1,000.00, but for reputation Bugei have for good blades I am looking forward to it. This, as we all know, is not made in Japan but has a good reputation for the methods and end result for the money.

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