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Thread: Kumidachi with steel blades?

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    Question Kumidachi with steel blades?

    One of my Sensei is discussing having us train in kumidachi using steel-bladed iaito, i.e., mogito, instead of our current bokken. I'm president of our local sword society, & this doesn't seem like a very good idea to me, but when I said so to Sensei, I got chewed out by other sempai.

    So I'm wondering if anyone else is training or has trained with steel blades. Considering the chewed-up condition of three of my bokken after just a few years of kumidachi, I'm worried that we may be looking at catastrophic metal fatigue & failure, & resultant injuries. Don't get me wrong, my wife & I train in Shinto Muso-Ryu jodo using actual Nihonto, so steel blades - even sharp ones - don't bother me at all, but the severe contact in kumidachi is way beyond that!

    Ken
    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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    hi Ken,
    I have done this and it makes you.... careful. I would no way recommend this for junior students, far too much like 'looking for a train crash'..
    Eguchi sensei had a couple of shinken that had basically welded themselves together, along with a load of chipped shinken in a bin in his dojo, which proved to me that an unbreakable sword is a myth, and when you use them you can see how easily they get damaged. He used them for partner practise so good swords did not get damaged.

    I am not even sure iaito would take the battering, given how variable the alloys are. You would need a decent steel, I would be tempted to suggest blunted also, just to lessen fractures occurring.... I have seen a chip an inch long fly out of shinken when accidentally hit against heat ducting, so an accidental edge to edge contact would be... something to avoid...
    Tim Hamilton

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    Thanks for that feedback, Tim. Pretty much the same way I feel.

    We've had a couple of zinc-aluminum iaito break in normal MJER training, including one where Sensei's blade snapped off near the tsuba & came bouncing along the floor directly at me! I'm told my jump scored a 9.5. My wife & I have moved onto steel iaito from Tozando, & they feel pretty darn solid, but I'm not sure that I would choose to hit its edge against another steel blade's.

    In several of our sword society's meeting's, we've examined Nihonto (traditionally-made Japanese blades) that have been broken for various reasons, & looking at the internal construction & seeing how the metal has sheared, I can honestly say that's not what I want to happen. Our iaido students aren't junior, with one exception, but if someone missed a block, I can easily visualize some immediate medical problems....

    When you practiced with shinken, Tim, how long did it take the blades to become wreckage? Maybe I can convince Sensei just from the out-of-pocket cost.

    Ken

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    I had exactly that happen to me... looked down and thought 'something funny is going on here' and then realised the blade has gone just in front of the habaki... hhhmmm... obviouslya high stress point when I think about it.

    Things went ok with the shinken during uke nagashi type stuff, but took a fast nosedive during anything like yae gaki, where it was possible to get the angle slightly off. Quite a few years ago, we had Yukio Mishima's sensei in the UK. He absolutely wrecked the edges of two iaito and one of my antique wakizashi in a ten minute demonstration with one of his students. Dents were up to 3mm deep, and because of the way they form on iaito, you will always have a 'dip' in the metal at that point... chips in shinken lose a whole lot of steel trying to get the shape back...
    Tim Hamilton

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    Tim, do you happen to have a couple of photos of those beaten-up blades? Sensei will likely be skeptical until he sees what happens. Thanks!

    Ken

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    A koryu that I practice involves paired kata using shinken. I found an interesting quote from an anonymous Kashima Shinryu practitioner who happened to observe a demonstration of this:

    ...In fact I saw one especially memorable demonstration by members of the Jikishinkage ryu in which two swordsmen used real swords in a sustained period of extremely fast and powerful attack-parry-counter attack...Sparks flew into the air throughout the exchange. Afterwards I got to look at the swords they used. They had so many nicks in their blades that they practically looked like saw teeth.
    (emphasis mine).

    The full quote can be found here: http://www.tsuki-kage.com/faq.html#3

    I have tried this using dulled Cheness steel iaito (my uchidachi was equipped with the same). Neither has yet sustained significant damage. Then again, it has yet to get the full-throttle treatment. A real sword, put through the kata full-force, would surely get chewed up. Given the right circumstances, it might even snap; there are techniques in our syllabus that I could imagine putting that type of force on the blade, depending on the circumstances.

    Of course, a koryu has usually had a few centuries to work out the kinks. The fact that some techniques have a higher potential to snap a sword than others might explain why we do some kata with steel and other kata with wood or bamboo: somewhere down the line a sensei discovered that technique #5 is great to practice with live steel, but technique #4 will snap the sword and send jagged metal flying into someone's eyes every training session.
    David Sims

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    sadly no pics, but Dave's note above sums it up for me! I would suggest your sensei provides the first two blades and you help him determine the extent of damage you can get for doing say tachi uchi no kurai....
    Tim Hamilton

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    Beer

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken-Hawaii View Post
    One of my Sensei is discussing having us train in kumidachi using steel-bladed iaito, i.e., mogito, instead of our current bokken. I'm president of our local sword society, & this doesn't seem like a very good idea to me, but when I said so to Sensei, I got chewed out by other sempai.

    So I'm wondering if anyone else is training or has trained with steel blades. Considering the chewed-up condition of three of my bokken after just a few years of kumidachi, I'm worried that we may be looking at catastrophic metal fatigue & failure, & resultant injuries. Don't get me wrong, my wife & I train in Shinto Muso-Ryu jodo using actual Nihonto, so steel blades - even sharp ones - don't bother me at all, but the severe contact in kumidachi is way beyond that!

    Ken
    Hi Ken,

    Try taking a leaf out of medieval club training methods and use purpose made steel training weapons with a 2 or 3mm thick radiused edge.
    The blade geometry changes a bit so a large fuller is required to cut the weight down to actual weight of a shinken.
    Ideal steel is around 1060 or SUP6 with a spring temper or a proper clay edge harden then a tempering to soften the edge back a bit.
    I have made and used my own straight sword for a club in Napier(New Zealand) for 1 year and the club is still using it now,some 16 years later)
    The edges require a little touchup with wet n dry now and then to remove sharp indentations,that are unavoidable,that may cut yourself or opponents.


    Good luck

    John

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    Dave & Tim, thanks for the comments. Really too bad you don't have a few photos, Tim, as that might save not only some blades but also some bodies. Tachi uchi no kurai is what we train in most of the time, BTW. I've given up on touching up my bokken, but really don't appreciate the splinters that form after every kumidachi class!

    John, interesting idea, but we would also need matching saya for those purpose-made blades. I wonder if some of the big names like Tozando have ever made anything like these?

    Ken

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    I hope you're not breaking bokken during TUNK, something seriously wrong if you are...
    Tim Hamilton

    Why are you reading this instead of being out training? No excuses accepted...

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    No, not breaking them, Tim, but we get splinters during every TUNK class. Sensei has us train at full speed, no pulling of strikes. Adds a lot of realism, to say the least!

    Ken

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    tell him splinters = chips on swords... that should put an end to it!

    the medieval sword groups blades I see in the UK are actually quite good, nice radius on the edges, however they do wear 'armour' of varying levels whilst using them to prevent accidental injury.... and my guess is you won't... Is the hospital quite local to the dojo???
    Tim Hamilton

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    Is the hospital quite local to the dojo???
    No, but we do have two doctors in the dojo, one of whom specializes in pain treatment....

    Ken

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    Hi guys,

    Many years ago, a few of us were practicing swings in front of a large mirror at the dojo when a classmate of mine, using a standard aluminum alloy iaito, snapped the blade just in front of the habaki at the completion of a straight downward swing (this does appear to be the weak point in the blade geometry). This breakage was not due to impact training, and the blade had not been bent or stressed in other ways not consistent with solo sword training.

    Personally, I've always considered aluminum alloy iaito to be, technically, unsafe pieces of crap. The weight is all wrong, and they swing "funny" , compared to live / steel blades, IMO. They were originally produced in Japan out of aluminum alloy because of government limitations on the production of nihonto, not because aluminum alloy was considered some type of superior product.

    I complained about this years ago on iaido-l, and after some heated discourse, I suggested making steel iaido out of spring steel. There is no reason why sword practitioners outside of Japan should be embracing the lower quality iaito because of Japanese production restrictions.

    Following our iaido-l discussions, Kim Taylor in Canada recognized this logic and produced a steel iaito, I believe out of spring steel. Anyone interested in using swords for solo or paired training might consider contacting him for a blunted spring steel iaito.

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Oh, I didn't read the rest of the thread carefully enough. Apparently Tozando is now making a steel iaito as well. I personally have not had an opportunity to use a steel iaito yet, but it has to be a better choice than aluminum!

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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