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Thread: Iaito versus Shinken

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii View Post
    I noticed a few weeks ago that the balance point on my iaito is fully 1.75 inches further toward the tip than it is on my shinken, although they have similar tsuba, tsuka, & menuki, & the nakago are almost exactly the same length. Not sure why that is, considering that my shinken is, of course, steel, & my iaito is aluminum-beryllium; I would have thought the opposite. Anyone noticed the same thing?
    Are the sori, kasane, and mihaba the same on both blades?
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    The sori on the iaito is about 0.75 inches, & 1.1 inches on my shinken. The kasane & mihaba are, of course, thinner because steel weighs more than aluminum-beryllium. But just looking at the blades, my engineering sense tells me that the shinken should be balanced further back than the iaito.

    It just happens to be wrong....
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
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    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii View Post

    Maro, that's an interesting comment you made that "sharpness has no bearing on cutting in kata." I'm not sure I understand what you mean - can you elaborate a bit? If my hasuji isn't right using an iaito, I'll certainly be able to tell when I'm using my shinken, whether or not for cutting. I do agree that finding the right combination of iaito & shinken weight is difficult; I think I mentioned that I managed to find a rather thin shinken to match the weight & length of my iaito, but it took me almost six months. 'Twas worth it, though. I have a much heavier shinken for tameshigiri, but my forearms can stand just so much swinging with that blade!
    I was replying that good hasuji is not dependent on Sharpness. You point is effectively the same. Having said that, I have cut a beach mat with a iaito just to see if it would cut. although not as neat a cut as with a shinken, the cut is still crisp. It was surprising - definite proof it's hasuji and tenouchi that cut. Of course the sharpness helps!

    It's one reason that I'm not a big fan of the Tori XL and scalpel like blades that are popular at present. If you can't cut with one of those then you need an axe!

    I noticed a few weeks ago that the balance point on my iaito is fully 1.75 inches further toward the tip than it is on my shinken, although they have similar tsuba, tsuka, & menuki, & the nakago are almost exactly the same length. Not sure why that is, considering that my shinken is, of course, steel, & my iaito is aluminum-beryllium; I would have thought the opposite. Anyone noticed the same thing?
    My iaito is similar. It's at the heavy end - 1150g for a iaito and is quite long at 2.60 shaku. Perhaps it's a function of the blade? It's frustrating not being able to handle good Japanese shinken to compare. The iaito is nice and balanced but is tip-heavy enough to "move" well. That's why I said cheaper China-katanas don't feel as good in the hand. It's more important for the beginner to use somthing balanced well to avoid injuries and build good technique.
    Mat Rous

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    I've never tried cutting a beach mat with an iaito, but may try it now that you've mentioned it. Lord knows we have enough of them out here!

    Hasuji is one of those things that no two people in my dojo describe the same, Mat. Many think it's just the angle of the blade with respect to the target, but I also find it's the way I'm holding the tsuka (hand position, grip strength, tenouchi), how I strike the target (slicing or chopping), & where on the blade I cut (monouchi...or someplace else). There's a whole bunch of variables that I've been playing with for a few years, but I sure wish that tatame omote wasn't so darn expensive to ship to Hawaii 'cause I can only afford so many mats (especially as my wife wants her share, & it's wise not to argue with your spouse who also swings swords ). The freight is almost exactly twice as much as the mats themselves!

    I've tried cutting beach mats just to see the difference, but they must be awfully flimsy because even using six of them doesn't present much of a cutting experience. I also grow bamboo in my backyard, but have found that the silicon that's part of the plant structure does tend to leave noticeable scratches on my blade, so I don't use it as much these days. Someone had me try some plain old newspaper rolled up to about the same diameter as two tatame mats, & that was surprisingly hard to cut correctly. I'm not sure if it's the structure of the paper fibers (pretty random) or something else. It didn't feel at all like the tatame, & the "drag" was a lot different.

    I should also mention from Bruce's question that my iaito has a standard shinogi zukuri cross-section, while my SMR shinken is closer to a hira zukuri, although it's not quite as thin as the Shin-Shinto katana I've seen that are really more like wedges. It's a very nice weapon to swing - well-balanced & easy on my forearm & shoulder - which means that I can practice & train a lot longer. I don't cut with it, though.

    Mat, I really wasn't arguing about using a quality blade versus a Chinese knock-off, but I've found that until a student gets enough experience to tell the difference, it may not be worth the extra expense. I'd much rather have a student training with a cheap iaito than a bokken with saya, or even worse, not training at all! I do have to admit that I'm still using my original iaito that I had custom-made in Akasuka many moons ago, but I think I was lucky enough (not smart - no experience) to have chosen a really superior weapon. I think I'm on my fifth & sixth shinken, which of course I bought after I did have experience - & more spare change.
    Ken Goldstein
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    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    Ken, just to clarify (what with the MSR/SMR confusion earlier), you are using a shinken for Shindo Muso Ryu, correct? Does that mean that you are using a shinken for the paired kata jo vs. sword, or for supplemental iai practice? If you are using the shinken for paired kata with a jo, I'm very curious about how well the shinken holds up to that level of abuse.
    David Sims

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    Hoo boy, David!! Absolutely zero jo versus shinken practice at all!! Scares me even to think about it!

    All of our supplemental iaido practice uses the shinken to train on Sensei's development of an offshoot of KSR waza so that we can better understand & practice the paired jo-bokken kata. It's remarkably effective, too, although I have to admit that my many years of MJER have a tendency to sneak in every once in awhile (earning me a strange look from Sensei).

    Sorry for the earlier major typo (MSR instead of SMR) - too much tequila that evening!
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    When I started studying iaido, I came with a couple of years kendo experience. I used a bokuto for maybe a month, and then got a loaner iaito. I think everyone moves at their own pace, and now that I'm teaching I realize that the timing of the transition from bokuto to iaito can be different for everyone.
    That loaner changed to another loaner from my sensei which was 2.4 shaku and about 1250 grams. It was pretty hefty! I used that iaito until a year after my 3dan at which I acquired another, lighter iaito running about 870g. The balance on that was better, and it didn't bother my shoulder/elbow as much as the heavy blade was.
    About a year ago I got my shinken, and it has made all the difference in the world! It's 2.6.5 shaku and has made my sayabiki better in both my nukitsuke and my noto.
    The only major "reminder" i've had was when doing MSR kata Yukizure with a more vertical draw. My grip on the saya wasn't as firm as it should have been and I nicked my thumb as it slipped up.
    Some of my current students have Chinese shinken, but I'm not allowing them to use them at this stage of the game. I use mine exclusively for practice now and only go back to an iaito if I'm really tired. We do use bokuto a lot as well, just to remind us of how important not using too much power is in our suburi.
    I know that for my ZNKR 5dan test I will be required to use a shinken, so I'm glad that it's a regular part of my practice!
    Brad
    Bradley Anderson
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii View Post
    Hoo boy, David!! Absolutely zero jo versus shinken practice at all!! Scares me even to think about it!

    All of our supplemental iaido practice uses the shinken to train on Sensei's development of an offshoot of KSR waza so that we can better understand & practice the paired jo-bokken kata. It's remarkably effective, too, although I have to admit that my many years of MJER have a tendency to sneak in every once in awhile (earning me a strange look from Sensei).

    Sorry for the earlier major typo (MSR instead of SMR) - too much tequila that evening!

    Okay, I was pretty sure that you meant that the shinken were used for iai practice-- I remember you made a post somewhere about how your sensei uses KSR iai to supplement your jo work-- but I figured I'd double-check. If you had said that you were using the shinken against the jo for kata, I would have been very interested to know what type of mortality rate you have at your classes-- I guess that would be one way to get rid of the students not serious about practicing.

    I'd still love to know how well a shinken would hold up to the type of abuse that you see in Shindo Muso Ryu kata. I think I remember someone-- maybe Nathan Scott?-- posting that he had seen a demo with a sword using against a jo in which the sword snapped. It would be interesting to see what type of damage a jo practitioner could reliably inflict on a sword if he got a good shot in.
    David Sims

    "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum." - Terry Pratchet

    My opinion is, in all likelihood, worth exactly what you are paying for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DDATFUS View Post
    ..........
    I'd still love to know how well a shinken would hold up to the type of abuse that you see in Shindo Muso Ryu kata. I think I remember someone-- maybe Nathan Scott?-- posting that he had seen a demo with a sword using against a jo in which the sword snapped. It would be interesting to see what type of damage a jo practitioner could reliably inflict on a sword if he got a good shot in.
    This is part of the ongoing discussion I've had with some senior SMR folks, driving by discussions of the physical nature of real swords and some comments on training versus reality.

    A sword dealer friend tells me the easiest way to destroy a katana is to hit it on the back of the curved blade - the entire assembly is designed to focus strength on the edge, not the back. A superior sword, he says, will snap, and an inferior one will bend, rendering the sword unusable in combat.

    And some senior folks will tell you that any swordsman worth his salt, knowing this, would cushion the blade against such assaults. But most of the SMR blows sweep the blade, hitting at shallow angles and running the length to move it aside. The exceptions smack at more acute angles and drive the blade towards the ground, and are much harder to cushion.

    I sometimes practice this way, imaging the blade a fragile thing, trying to protect it while not exposing me to further attack - not easy. But it speeds up your response.
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

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    Quote Originally Posted by DDATFUS View Post
    I think I remember someone-- maybe Nathan Scott?-- posting that he had seen a demo with a sword using against a jo in which the sword snapped.
    I've seen a video of Shiokawa-sensei doing a jo demo in which uchitachi's sword snapped. I think it was one of those "habiki" iaito; basically a supposedly beefier iaito made for contact kumitachi, but obviously no match for a well executed honte-uchi.

    Have seen Niina-gosoke and Shiokawa-sensei demo jo at speed with a proper habiki shinken several times.
    Sword was banged up but the jo doesn't fair too well from repeated contact with steel either.

    Regards,

    r e n

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    I think it was in another thread where I stated that in a one-on-one fight, I'd choose the jo over a katana, but most of the newer members didn't agree. Linda & I are only into our second year of jodo, but I see a lot of advantages in using a longer "cheap branch" against an expensive sword....

    Lance, your sword dealer friend is almost correct when he said "the easiest way to destroy a katana is to hit it on the back of the curved blade." The mune generally has a Rockwell hardness about 20 points lower than the ha, but it's also intended to add flexibility to the overall blade. I know there are some metallurgists among us who can clarify this (or correct me), but if I was trying to break a katana, I'd strike it on the shinogi as the weakest point. I'm not sure that a jo would generally be strong enough to do that, though, as it's harder to concentrate direct point force from a rounded surface. In MJER, we practice several forms of ukenagashi where we let the attacker's ha slip off our shinogi, so I wouldn't mind a bit of expert comment on just how weak that area really is.

    By the way, early in my training I asked Sensei why there aren't more direct blows to the sword in SMR, & he quietly pointed out that the jo can also break.... So just maintaining the center line is sufficient to protect your cojones, & he's taught us to move at full speed while still sweeping the sword (which took me quite awhile to learn) rather than striking it - dobaraiuchi & its offshoots seeming to be one of the few exceptions. The jo is supposed to be a defensive weapon, right?
    Ken Goldstein
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    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

  12. #42

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    Just an observation... Lots of folk talk about the "easiest" way to break a blade. But I doubt many have actually tried it. Guys, these are steel. They don't break easily. Yes, smiths have been known to test blades to failure and often it is whacking them against an anvil repeatedly on the mune that makes them go. But that is a whacking it against a very heavy, stationary, hard object. It takes a *lot* to break a well made *steel* blade. Not to mention that in the "real world" the sword is being held and isn't locked down in a vice or something like that. So the harder the "whack" to the back of the sword the more energy that's going to end up being absorbed by the swordsman's hands/arms or else the blade will get stripped out of their hands.

    If we're talking about a stainless steel wonder sword sold on the home shopping network, well, sure, no problem there. Those things are accidents waiting to happen. But the metallurgy and heat treatment is completely different on those things. Not to mention quality control...

    As a guy who has participated in sword destruction tests and has had some jo training, well, put me *way far over* in the skeptical column when you're talking about a traditionally made blade.

    With respect to things broken in demos and some accounts of swords snapping, most every account I've ever seen has involved training with mogito (iaito, whatever). I.e., non-steel alloy blades. Having seen a few results of mogito failure over the years given what I do for a living the most common failure point has been to fracture right at the habaki during a hard cutting motion. Or more accurately due to a rather abrupt stopping of a hard, snapping cutting motion for lack of a better description. These alloys have nothing like the strength of steel and the corner of the hamachi becomes somewhat like a stress riser. So they have been known to "snap". I saw one where I was told it was broken by a jo but again the snap was at the habaki.

    Steel blades won't do that short of it possibly having a hagiri (edge crack) to begin with.

    Of course blades do break during tameshigiri. Sometimes due to blade flaws, repeated damage, etc. , but also due to hitting the stand or really poor form. But that's really quite different from snapping a blade with a hand held long piece of wood. I know some out there can generate intense power with these things. But snapping a blade is going to be *really* a tough thing to pull off no matter where you hit it.

    And on damage to a sword based on location of strike. Having slammed swords over anvils I do have a few observations. A well heat treated blade will not take much apparent damage if you strike on the mune. Up until you hit it *really* hard. And it is helpful to have cracks on the ha to begin with -- they'll propogate allowing the blade to snap when struck on the ha. So a few hard shots to the edge onto something really hard (as in harder than wood), then turn it over and whack it a few more times on the mune. Snapped blade.

    Slamming a blade on the anvil on the shinogi will mostly give you a severely bent blade. Think taco shell... If there is also a relatively deep crack or deep chip in the ha nearby that can sometimes help encourage a blade snap. But mostly with a properly heat treated blade what you'll get with a shinogi strike is a blade with a nice hard bend in it. Keep doing it and it will break, but the first time the most likely result is a sword you can use around corners...

  13. #43

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    Oh, and jo to the edge of a sword... Bad idea. I have some video around somewhere of me swinging a jo while Big Tony Alvarez was swinging the sword in the opposite direction. It was an easy way to shorten the jo I suppose...

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    Thanks for the informative replies, Lance, Ren, and Ken. It's an interesting discussion.

    Keith, you clearly know a lot more about sword durability than I do, but I'm wondering if there might be ways to render a sword temporarily useless without snapping it outright. I hate to reference Mythbusters, but I did watch an episode where they were testing blade-on-blade versus blade-on-side blocking with katana-- decently made blades, from what I recall. I had a lot of problems with their "test" and their "conclusions," but it did reveal some interesting things. In the trial where the cutting edge was blocked with the side of the blade, the receiving sword was bent severely-- just off memory, I'd say maybe a forty degree bend. This sounds a bit like what you described resulting from hitting a sword against an anvil. I wonder if the same effect could be achieved with a jo? I'd rather have a severly bent blade than no blade at all on the battlefield, but I suspect that a sudden bend in your sword could be a huge disadvantage in the middle of a fight.
    David Sims

    "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum." - Terry Pratchet

    My opinion is, in all likelihood, worth exactly what you are paying for it.

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    Eguchi sensei used to have a couple of shinken that were 'welded' together at the contact points when the blades were struck edge to edge... Side strikes seem to do the most damage, which makes sense I guess... thin wall section rather than across the deepest section.
    Tim Hamilton

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