Monday, May 2, 2011

Weight of Swords

I was once asked how today's practice of Martial Arts differed from Samurai's practice of years ago. In essence, my answer was :  "It's very simple : when I get on the ring to compete today, my life is not at stake. If I make a mistake, the consequences won't be catastrophic for myself, for my family, for my clan, my country..."

Here is a high speed camera compilation of the 8th All Japan Kendo Hachi-Dan (8th dan) Championship of 2010.

This is truly amazing, very high level and beautiful Kendo. 

But then, as you can see, in most cases, the strikes are almost simultaneous. The winner hits before his opponent hits him and so, in a real confrontation, both opponents would be cut.
They would both survive, or die, or only one would survive (probably crippled for a while or ever) and the other die.

If at the end of a fight both opponents die, or are left crippled, did anybody win ? 

If I want to win above all, I will do whatever it takes for this, including putting my own life at risk. Whereas if my goal is to NOT LOSE, then I will let my opponent take the risks. This makes the big difference between today's practice of Martial Arts as sports and their practice on the battle fields. 

Also, because of the emphasis on winning at all cost, weapons have been modified to allow for a much faster game. I do not think there is any way one could ever use a regular katana as fast as these shinai are used.

A 39" Kendo Shinai weighs between 1/3 and 1/2 the weight of a regular katana... If you wish to practice more in the spirit of samurai swordsmanship, you should try to use something heavier, it would slow down your practice, (unless you're a Jigen Ryu  student) and bring more realism and intensity to it.

This table summarizes the weights of various contemporary  swords, shinai, boken, iaito, katana...:


SWORD Weight (lb) Weight (g) Seller
Regular Kendo Bamboo Shinai (39”) 1 lb 1oz 500 g

PAUL CHEN TSURU IAITO (29” blade) 2 lb 907 g

PAUL Chen Practical Pro Katana (29 ½" Blade) 3 lb 1360 g

Paul Chen Practical Pro Elite Katana (29” Blade) 2lb 13 oz 1276 g

Itto Ryu Bokuto (E Bogu) total length 39” 1 lb 5.6 oz 613 g e-bogu
SHINAI SHAPE Bokken for Suburi total length 39” 1.85 lb 840 g e-bogu
Suburi Bokken With Groove (Red) 2 lb 2.1 oz 968g e-bogu
Suburi Shinai for Training Pieces 4 2.02 lb 915 g e-bogu
Suburi Shinai for Training Pieces 6 2 lb 5.4 oz 1060 g e-bogu

From different sources, it seems that an average katana blade of a 27 or 28" length would have weighted between 900 and 1100 g (2 to 2.2 lb). This is the weight of a bare blade without any koshirae (mountings : Tsuba, tsuka, etc...). A mounted blade (without the saya) would probably weight between between 1200 and 1400 g.

So if you want to practice in a more realistic way, you should : 
  • get yourself a heavy 6 blades shinai, I know, at $ 75.00 it's a little pricey... 

  • make sure when you cut your opponent, that you do it without putting yourself at any risk of being cut. (No Aiuchi)


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