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ninjaqutie
05-01-2009, 12:55 PM
Have any of you purchased a sword from Aoi Budogu? I need to get an iaito sword sometime soon and I am absolutely loving this one iaito in particular. Any thoughts of feedback would be much appreciated. Either way, I have to have my purchase approved by my sensei before I buy it. :D

http://www.budo-aoi.com/iaito/s_107.asp

thomas.martinez
05-01-2009, 02:00 PM
I understand your passion for martial arts and weapons, my question to you is how long have you studied Iaido with boken?

And normally a certified professional would...just please be careful what you are asking for, respectively.

Suru
05-01-2009, 02:26 PM
David Goldberg Sensei, living in the Philadelphia suburbs, has made many fantastic blades for me. I believe he has a pretty nice iaito for a little over 700, and a really tight one that sells at Bujin Designs for, I believe, a few hundred more. Be sure to give those a skim before making your final decision. He is one of, if not the most famous swordsmith in America.

www.goldmountainforge.com

Drew

Shany
05-01-2009, 03:30 PM
The most widely used Practice katana is: Paul Chen PPK (Practical Katana Plus), it's quite cheap and very worth the money.
Check this review (with videos)

http://www.sword-buyers-guide.com/Paul-Chen-Swords.html

If all you need is a katana to practice Kata with, than give it a go (and also check this forum http://www.swordforum.com/forums/index.php)

ninjaqutie
05-01-2009, 03:37 PM
Ah.... good question. I am taking my very first iaido class this weekend. Let me start off by saying I am not planning on using an iaito anytime soon. I am however, researching to get a feel of who has what to offer, what I like, the price range of iatos, etc. I have looked at several sites. My sensei actually reccomends swordstore.com as well, but says we can get them anywhere with his approval. It makes sense since he wants us to get good quality iaito and make sure it is the right length and weight for us.

Sensei has told me that he wants me to get one within the next couple of months. Being the scientist that I am.... I am doing lot's of research. One thing that I am looking for, but doesn't have to be is I want a Sakura theme on the iaito. Like I said, this is a "want" but it doesn't have to be. Having a good iaito is more important to me then a theme, but getting both would be a bonus!

I am doing similar research for hakamas as well... so if any of you have any opinions there, I would gladly accept. :D Right now I am leaning towards Bujin's women's hakama... but I am not 100% sold on it yet. He does want me to get the hakama relatively soon as well.

Janet Rosen
05-01-2009, 03:53 PM
I recommend Mugendo Budogu's iaito; Peter Boylan is known to many of us and he only sells good products. I've been very happy with the iaito I got from them.
https://www.budogu.com/index.cfm?

Kent Enfield
05-01-2009, 06:23 PM
For iaito, there are quite a few places you can go with. These days, Tozando (http://www.tozandoshop.com/) / Nishijin (http://japanesesword.net/eng/index.html) probably has the widest selection. Other vendors not yet mentioned include e-bogu (http://www.e-bogu.com/) and jidai (http://www.jidai.jp/index.asp).

For hakama, I'd avoid BuJin. They are very over-priced, though aikido people seem to love them. Just get a basic tetron hakama like are available from most iaido and kendo suppliers. Remember you're going to need an appropriate obi and uwagi as well. You can do iaido in judogi or karategi, but they're not cut for it.

Ashley, where and with whom are you studying iaido? I've been out of Oregon for the last few years, but there used to be no legitimate sword arts down there.

NagaBaba
05-01-2009, 09:31 PM
The most widely used Practice katana is: Paul Chen PPK (Practical Katana Plus), it's quite cheap and very worth the money.
Check this review (with videos)

http://www.sword-buyers-guide.com/Paul-Chen-Swords.html

If all you need is a katana to practice Kata with, than give it a go (and also check this forum http://www.swordforum.com/forums/index.php)
He is looking for iaito not a sharp blade sword(shinken).

ninjaqutie - be sure that company you choose can deliver iaito in time. I've read on Ebudo recently there is a Japanese company that can't deliver a iaito for a year or something!!!.I'm not sure it was Aoi Budogu, but check it out to be sure.

ninjaqutie
05-01-2009, 10:34 PM
The place I go is in Ashland, OR. I know that other Birankai dojos in Oregon also offer iaido though. As far as I know, the sword I put a link to can be crafted in 4-8 weeks, so with delivery, I imagine it shouldn't be too much longer. As far as the bujin hakama, the thing that drew me to it was the fact that they have one made more specifically for women. I have a 26" waist, but my hips are about 35", so it is important that I have something that fits good. I am sick of having to buy pants to fit my hips and not have it fit elsewhere. I have heard that most women have to wear hakama higher on their waist because of their hips. Blach.... stupid hips.....

Michael Hackett
05-02-2009, 12:47 AM
Bugei has a wide selection of both iaito and shinken. I believe Keith Larson and James Williams Sensei inspect each blade and only accept those meeting their standards.

jimalvarez
05-02-2009, 01:51 AM
Hi Asley,

All comments so far have been great.

One thing I would also suggest is that you ask the other students in the dojo if you can swing their iaito's to see if you prefer the models that they have. If there is a good variety to sample it will give you a good idea of what you like and don't like.

Try to note weight, balance, tsuka shape (narrow, wide) and how it fits in your hand. Check the tsuka-ito (wraping) and fittings (tsuba, fuchi/kashira) to see if they are loose. If the iaito is not that old and things are loose the construction is not at a higher quality.

There are also models made of steel rather than zinc/aluminum alloy. They tend to be heavier and are closer to what a shinken might feel like. Being steel they are less prone to flexing like the alloy blades.

I know David Goldberg personally and his iaito's are superbly constructed. They are made of steel and he can probably accomodate your sakura theme.

As far as Bujin hakama they are great and come in a variety of materials, blends and cotton. They do tend to cost but the quality is more but it's like buying a good set of clothes over something from a Walmart type of retailer.

Take your time in choosing as you probably only want to do this once as a good iaito and hakama can last you quite some time.

Good luck with your training.

Kent Enfield
05-02-2009, 03:11 AM
I have a 26" waist, but my hips are about 35", so it is important that I have something that fits good. I am sick of having to buy pants to fit my hips and not have it fit elsewhere. I have heard that most women have to wear hakama higher on their waist because of their hips. Hakama are very much a one size fits many type of item. Many people of vastly different sizes are able to wear off the rack hakama. If you want to spend $150 on hakama when you could spend less than half that and still have something that fits and will last for years and years of practice, go ahead, but you certainly don't have to. Ask to try on one of your sempai's hakama after class sometime. You'll probably be surprised.

And women wearing their hakama proportionally higher isn't a bad thing or a good thing. It's just how they wear them, with the tops at their natural waists. Low rise hakama just don't work.

kironin
05-02-2009, 11:02 AM
Ah.... good question. I am taking my very first iaido class this weekend. Let me start off by saying I am not planning on using an iaito anytime soon. I am however, researching to get a feel of who has what to offer, what I like, the price range of iatos, etc. I have looked at several sites. My sensei actually reccomends swordstore.com as well, but says we can get them anywhere with his approval. It makes sense since he wants us to get good quality iaito and make sure it is the right length and weight for us.


Using a wooden sword is almost worthless in Iai solo kata training IMO for a beginner. A good deal of good basic initial training is all about how to handle your sword properly, perform proper reiho, learning to draw correctly and perform noto correctly.

So I would strongly recommend not spending very long doing research, as others have said try others iaito in your class. Listen to your Sensei's recommendations. Other people's experiences with various vendors are lot more valuable than doing web research. On the web, there are good sources of iaito and then there is a huge amount of complete garbage out there dressed up in pretty pictures on pretty websites.

check out reputable sources for items in stock that you can get in a couple of weeks like Peter Boylan's budogu.com, or Robert Strouds bogubag.com, or Kim Taylor's http://sdksupplies.netfirms.com/

At least one of these guys should have some decent Iaito in stock so you can get your iaito within a month. Contact them and find out.

The problem with swordstore.com, Aoi Budogu, Tozando.com,
Nishijin ( http://japanesesword.net/eng/index.html )

is what you order may not be in stock or simply (you are ordering from Japan) it can take up to 6 months sometimes to get your order.

The quote below is from a friend who is very knowledgeable in Iai (now it's been a few years so they could have improved but it just goes to show appearances and looking online isn't enough).

I had the chance to handle one of Aoi Budogu's lower
end iaito . They were at the seminar with at least three tables of
merchandise. I was impressed with their montsuki, hanjuban, tabi, and other iaido accessories, and I bought heavily from them. However I did not care for the balance of the iaito that I tried. The center of gravity seemed too far forward of the tsuba, thus making it feel a lot heavier than it was. Also, it did not have much of a sound. I would recommend them for anything but iaito. BTW they were very helpful and courteous.

and finally, as a beginner, I would recommend you not spend a lot of money on your first Iaito. I would suggest buying something basic, under $400, from a reputable place that doesn't have a lot of frills but has good balance and not too long for you so as not to distort your initial practice. Your first Iaito is going to get the most abuse and wear as you make mistakes (the furnishings and the saya mostly). Then in a few years, if you are still practicing, you will be in a lot better informed position about what is important to you and to choose what you want to upgrade to if you desire so. (and since you will already have an iaito, the waiting will not matter)

welcome to Iaido. :D

kironin
05-02-2009, 11:24 AM
There are also models made of steel rather than zinc/aluminum alloy. They tend to be heavier and are closer to what a shinken might feel like. Being steel they are less prone to flexing like the alloy blades.


I would not recommend steel to a beginner. It's significantly heavier thats more likely to cause physical problems with repetitive movements especially with beginner's poor technique. (steel blades are twice the weight in general)

Flexing of an alloy blade for solo kata is in my experience not an issue.

Steel blades that have even half decent saya or a lot more expensive than alloy iaitos since that is where the makers save money to make a profit. Having a quality well fitted saya is critical to iai practice. Half the cost of decent alloy iaito is making the saya.

Now, of course if you start out at 6-8 years old with a kids starter shinken/tanto, and practice and develop your body as your grow older, getting progressively longer and heavier but superbly balanced shinken, then of course steel is the only way.

In modern times, starting as an adult who may not be in the most athletically fit specimen, with technique that is unlikely to be passable for a year or so, using a more forgiving much lighter, well-balanced alloy blade is better idea IMO.

Anja Lampert
05-02-2009, 12:11 PM
I'm right now waiting for my very first Iaito to arrive (should ship in about three to four weeks I hope).
I ordered mine at http://swordstore.com as several people in my Dojo ordered their Iaito there as well. I tried a few of them, all feel really nice and are done wery well, they also look nice and there's a lot of themes to choose from. Also customer support is great, everything you want to ask is answered right away, very friendly support I have to say! They taylor your Iaito right for you. Big recommendation from me!

jennifer paige smith
05-02-2009, 01:50 PM
I would not recommend steel to a beginner. It's significantly heavier thats more likely to cause physical problems with repetitive movements especially with beginner's poor technique. (steel blades are twice the weight in general)

Flexing of an alloy blade for solo kata is in my experience not an issue.

Steel blades that have even half decent saya or a lot more expensive than alloy iaitos since that is where the makers save money to make a profit. Having a quality well fitted saya is critical to iai practice. Half the cost of decent alloy iaito is making the saya.

using a more forgiving much lighter, well-balanced alloy blade is better idea IMO.

I couldn't agree more, Craig. I would also recommend an alloy Iaito and not a steel blade. Bad habits can lead to injury stress and the aluminum Paul Chen Iaito is a wonderful weight for both me and my students. As time goes by, the subtlety of the blade will announce itself and the iaidoka can make a change to another blade if so they choose.
As I mentioned, I use a Paul Chen Hanwei Iaito and I practice Ryu Shin Jigen Ryu which requires a somewhat shorter blade then, say, Muso styles. I find it to be a very good tool for training.

ninjaqutie
05-02-2009, 06:23 PM
Hey! Thanks so much for your help everyone! I truly appreciate it. I talked with sensei today and he told me that as soon as I am financially able, he would like me and my husband to both invest in an iaito. My husband already has a hakama, but I don't (as mentioned before). I just wanted to say that you all have been extremely helpful and I will look into the site you all have mentioned. I am not really wanting to spend a lot of money on an iaito at this time. I don't really see a point and since my husband and I each need one.... spending $700 and up for each just isn't feasable. I am guessing we are going to go with something between the $300- $500 range, but we shall see.

Thanks again everyone! :D

OH... you are right. I used a few muscles in my first class today that obviously need to be worked more. HAHA.... I'm such a weakling. :D

kironin
05-02-2009, 08:18 PM
I couldn't agree more, Craig. I would also recommend an alloy Iaito and not a steel blade. Bad habits can lead to injury stress and the aluminum Paul Chen Iaito is a wonderful weight for both me and my students. As time goes by, the subtlety of the blade will announce itself and the iaidoka can make a change to another blade if so they choose. As I mentioned, I use a Paul Chen Hanwei Iaito and I practice Ryu Shin Jigen Ryu which requires a somewhat shorter blade then, say, Muso styles. I find it to be a very good tool for training.

That's interesting to here about the Paul Chen Iaito. I guess I have too much bias against them for the steel knives they used to pass off as swords in the past. Have to give them another look.

That comment about Muso styles made me smile, my 2.7 shaku zinc/beryllium alloy monster is fortunately exceptionally balanced. It's a bit heavier (Dotanuki Masakuni koshirae style) than the aluminum versions. Had it nine years now and definitely showing signs of wear all over, will be hard to replace the old friend when the time comes.

kironin
05-02-2009, 08:31 PM
I don't really see a point and since my husband and I each need one.... spending $700 and up for each just isn't feasable. I am guessing we are going to go with something between the $300- $500 range, but we shall see.

If it didn't matter we would all be using $40 bokkuto.

Look for sales,
Tozando is having a sale at the moment and a sale item shouldn't take as long to get.
http://www.tozandoshop.com/

appears they have some things on sale for under $300.

bear in mind that differences in prices on the iaito that we are talking about here have mostly to do with the furnishings and not the blades ( in other words from a particular maker you mostly are getting the same blade dressed up differently)

jennifer paige smith
05-03-2009, 11:36 AM
That's interesting to here about the Paul Chen Iaito. I guess I have too much bias against them for the steel knives they used to pass off as swords in the past. Have to give them another look.
I hear ya! I've also put my mitts on some fairly junky pieces of :p .
I'm not a PC salesperson, nor do I play one in my dojo, but I can say that the balance is good and the saya is clean and balanced on my Iaito. Maybe over time PC has had a chance to get a coupla good tools together.
I'm also a musician and I've seen more than one company refine certain aspects of their product lines to finally meet the demands of a pocket conscious, quality discerning, market ; if ony with one good product line. Yamaha acoustic guitars come immediately to mind. After 30 years on the guitar, I now play boutique crafted guitars that cost about $3,000. When I started a $300 job got me going, muy bueno!

That comment about Muso styles made me smile, my 2.7 shaku zinc/beryllium alloy monster is fortunately exceptionally balanced. It's a bit heavier (Dotanuki Masakuni koshirae style) than the aluminum versions. Had it nine years now and definitely showing signs of wear all over, will be hard to replace the old friend when the time comes.

Wabi-Sabi;)

Keith Larman
05-04-2009, 09:32 AM
Um, fwiw I've been "serving" that world for the last decade. My comment about all the advice here on various things is... Ask your sensei.

I assume if you are training formally you know what you need in terms of mogito vs. shinken vs. bokken. As you've read people have a lot of opinions about when you should use those in your training. People ask me all the time since I've worked across a lot of styles and helped a lot of people get what they needed. And the answer is always the same -- "what does your sensei say you need? Get that." The rest of the debate is really irrelevant to what any individual needs who is within formal training. So it is somewhat misplaced here in this discussion.

If sensei says "get a mogito", get a mogito. The rest of the discussion here is interesting, but it is ultimately irrelevant.

Tozando often has sales putting swords in your price range. Good stuff and probably your best bet. Meirin Sangyo iaito have a nice range but your price range may be a bit low for those. Swordstore in the US used to sell the nosyu swords. This is a *very* confusing area as there were lawsuits, etc. over the name, distribution, etc. I do now know what they sell now so I really can't comment much on their stuff. Best is to probably ask on a place like e-budo's sword forum.

Which actually is something I should have said to start with... With all due respect to people here, this probably isn't the best forum for asking about iaido or mogito for iai training. E-budo.com has a forum on sword styles that is probably a much better resource for this. And you'll get opinions of people who use mogito for iai training including some *very* highly ranked, experienced people in iai. I am sure there are some folk like that here as well, but ... This is aikiweb...

Best of luck.

Keith Larman
05-04-2009, 09:37 AM
The most widely used Practice katana is: Paul Chen PPK (Practical Katana Plus), ...

Nope, not among people formally training in sword arts. They tend to use all sorts of things, but the low end Chinese blades are not used very often at all. For a myriad of reasons beyond the scope of this forum. Some do use them, but I've seen very few on my visits to various dojo and tai kai nationwide.

Keith Larman
05-04-2009, 09:40 AM
Have any of you purchased a sword from Aoi Budogu?

And to answer your question directly, no I've not purchased from them but I know a lot of people who have. Most have been quite happy with what they got. But there are a lot of choices out there as others have already noted. And if you are new to it you'll likely find that what you like 3 years from now may be different. So buy accordingly... And budget accordingly.

Good luck.

kironin
05-06-2009, 04:41 PM
If sensei says "get a mogito", get a mogito. The rest of the discussion here is interesting, but it is ultimately irrelevant.

Tozando often has sales putting swords in your price range. Good stuff and probably your best bet. Meirin Sangyo iaito have a nice range but your price range may be a bit low for those. Swordstore in the US used to sell the nosyu swords. This is a *very* confusing area as there were lawsuits, etc. over the name, distribution, etc. I do now know what they sell now so I really can't comment much on their stuff. Best is to probably ask on a place like e-budo's sword forum.


I don't think there is a need to diss aikiweb. Some of us have been on e-budo a long time as well. I don't think the advice there would be much different. Follow your Sensei's advice.

I have heard the whole history with swordstore.com as well, but since someone as a recent customer posted here a positive experience with them recently I was not going to mention it since I can't comment on their stuff from direct experience either.
Unfortunately, it now seems that you need to go to Japan to buy a Nosyuiaido blade.

Keith Larman
05-07-2009, 01:00 PM
No disrespect is intended. However, the original poster has said she is training formally in Iai and forums like E-budo have sections devoted specifically to those sorts of arts unlike here. I have a great deal of respect for this forum, but ultimately it is a forum on Aikido. Obviously there are people here who know what they're doing as there is often an overlap with some doing both aikido and iai, however, this *is* aikiweb. Good advice is good advice regardless of where it comes from. But sometimes one is better served by asking in places where the domain is the explicit focus.

With some very notable exceptions Aikido generally isn't the place to go to learn about traditional sword arts. It is great for learning Aikiken, but that's a completely different beast from the various traditional JSA's. If you're training in MJER, MSR, Mugai, etc., IMHO she would be better served on a forum devoted to the people who formally train in those arts. What "feels good" or "is right" is often somewhat dependent on the art studied. Which could make one option that is just perfect for one inappropriate for another. The point is focusing one's questioning to a more relevant environment.

Just an observation.

Keith Larman
05-07-2009, 01:06 PM
And I left something out...

Of course the most relevant advice is "ask sensei". That's the same answer she'd get there. But some posters in this thread offered up advice that is, well, not so good. And that advice reflects their lack of experience with traditional sword arts and the requirements they bring to the table. And a newcomer like the OP isn't necessarily equipped to distinguish good advice from bad. So again, back to the idea of finding a forum focused on the arts you're studying... There are better replies in general on a topic like this *and* there is more implicit "peer" review as there are more people there who know better who will step in to correct misconceptions.

Again, no disrespect intended.

kironin
05-09-2009, 03:08 AM
For experienced advice, I would be inclined to suggest she sign on to iaido-L but we are not a really a chatty bunch on there,
though I agree you would not likely see some of the comments made here ever seriously suggested on there.

http://www.uoguelph.ca/~iaido/iai.sign-on.html

Keith Larman
05-09-2009, 12:09 PM
Yup, been a member of that list for, geez, many years now. I just get the digest now as there are so few posts. But yes, that's another good resource.

ninjaqutie
08-28-2009, 02:10 PM
Budo Aoi? Last I heard they weren't quite living up to their delivery claims for their iaito. I was still considering them and wanted to know if any of you has heard anything as of late. :)

ninjaqutie
08-28-2009, 04:11 PM
Just thought I would let you all know, I had a convo with a rep today about a particular iaito and this is what I got. Times may be different for more customized one's though.

Hello. Right now I am in the beginning stages of purchasing a couple of iaito. Right now I am just looking around trying to find a sword that I like. As it so happens, I really find your Yamazakura Koshirae Iaito rather lovely. I have been given the impression by several people that your turn around time isn't what is advertized on your site do to slow turn around times in Japan. A couple people I have spoken with have been waiting about a year.

I was just wondering if you could give an estimate as to how long it would take for an iaito like this to be delivered from the time of purchase? I know times vary and situations can change, but I was hoping to use this time frame to estimate when I should order me and my husbands iaito. We aren't quite ready for one yet, so a wait wouldn't be an inconvenience. Any help you could give me would be much appreciated.

Thank you,
Ashley

Hi Ashley,

Thank you for your email and interest in Aoi Budogu Products.
We have been experiencing delays from all 3 of our contracted crafting companies for a little while, but these delays are slowly receding and we are receiving more constant and more frequent shipments.
For the Yamazakura, we are looking at a timeframe of about 6-8 months if not a little sooner.
I know that it seems quite long, but we have done all of the footwork when setting up the company over 10 years ago and remain with these top 3 crafting companies in Seki, Japan. Keeping it genuine and tradional.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Kind Regards,

Ryoma
Aoi Budogu
Sent: August 28, 2009 12:01 PM
Subject: [AOI BUDOGU] Contact from Customer

HL1978
08-28-2009, 04:58 PM
one of my iaido students waited 13 months and reversed the charges.

there are people on kendo-world who are still waiting 16+ months. It is a supplier issue.

I waited about 1 year for my last iaito as there was a wood shortage apparently.

ninjaqutie
08-28-2009, 05:00 PM
Was it a "standard" or a "custom" iaito? How long ago was this (if I may ask)?

ChrisMoses
08-29-2009, 12:21 AM
Order from someone else, they simply cannot get iaito in a timely manner. People are waiting years after they paid for *any* iaito they order from these guys. I think it's a genuine problem with their distribution channel (meaning I don't think they're crooks) but go elsewhere (Tozando, bogubag, Kim Taylor...) if you actually want to get something in a reasonable time.

George S. Ledyard
08-29-2009, 01:53 AM
Hi Asley,

All comments so far have been great.

One thing I would also suggest is that you ask the other students in the dojo if you can swing their iaito's to see if you prefer the models that they have. If there is a good variety to sample it will give you a good idea of what you like and don't like.

Try to note weight, balance, tsuka shape (narrow, wide) and how it fits in your hand. Check the tsuka-ito (wraping) and fittings (tsuba, fuchi/kashira) to see if they are loose. If the iaito is not that old and things are loose the construction is not at a higher quality.

There are also models made of steel rather than zinc/aluminum alloy. They tend to be heavier and are closer to what a shinken might feel like. Being steel they are less prone to flexing like the alloy blades.

I know David Goldberg personally and his iaito's are superbly constructed. They are made of steel and he can probably accomodate your sakura theme.

As far as Bujin hakama they are great and come in a variety of materials, blends and cotton. They do tend to cost but the quality is more but it's like buying a good set of clothes over something from a Walmart type of retailer.

Take your time in choosing as you probably only want to do this once as a good iaito and hakama can last you quite some time.

Good luck with your training.

I use an iaito made by Dave Goldberg... It's a work of art and is VERY fast in the hand. The balance was just what I wanted as well.
- George

HL1978
08-29-2009, 08:58 AM
Was it a "standard" or a "custom" iaito? How long ago was this (if I may ask)?

Check on kendo-world.com in the iaido section for the people waiting 16+ months.

I believe my student's was a standard one. They will give you your money back minus 20 or 30%, I forget exactly. I believe my student eventually wound up with store credit after he tried reversing the charges.

Rennis Buchner
08-29-2009, 11:18 AM
The most widely used Practice katana is: Paul Chen PPK (Practical Katana Plus), it's quite cheap and very worth the money.

Maybe in the West among mall martial artists, but not by people actually involved seriously in traditional iai arts. Last time I spent a good chunk of time back in the US I actually bought one of them and it was a waste of money. Limited size options, very poor balance, worse fittings, the saya was poorly made and didn't fit the blade very well (a problem I have noticed in many Chen blades of many levels of "quality")... While the price is right for beginners, I would argue that not much else about it is. Especially for beginners, the weight and balance problems would tend to encourage improper technique and body use, not to mention encourage repetitive stress injuries. More over, since they actually have a live edge, the danger factor is much higher for a new person unused to using a live blade and not a risk many sensei would be willing to take.

For people who are unaccustomed to Japanese made iaito, one might not see much difference in comparisons to a Chen, etc type of blade, but over long periods of use the difference in quality is pretty apparent. My first iaito lasted me about 14 years of very hard use and my current one is a lower end Tozando which has seen usage that most would consider absurdly excessive in the last year and a half and the wrapping on the tsuka is still as tight as the day it arrived and no loosening of the tsuba either (there is koiguchi wear, but at the level to be expected of a sword at its level of use. For the record, on my original iaito I had the tsuka replaced once to something that fit my hand size and those wrappings stayed tight as well for the 8 years I used the sword with that tsuka. That job was done by one of Peter Boylan's suppliers he uses at budogu.com). The higher quality Tozando iaito are basically made at shinken level specs minus the hand forged blade. Of the major iaito companies that are readily available in the West I find Meirin's to maybe be the weakest (most are fine, but the balance on some, especially the budget and "Gaikokujin-yo" ones I find to be a bit lacking), but even those are far superior to much of what Chen and company are putting out and I know several people who use them with no complaints. As a comparison, the Chen PK Plus I had saw very little use but the wrapping of the tsuka-ito started shifting nearly immediately and began loosening up at a shockingly rapid rate.

My advice, as an iai guy, would be to save up the extra dollars and invest in a proper Japanese made iaito that will most likely last you a decade or two under proper use. Yes some are better than others, but actually much of what is being sold by various companies these days is all being sourced from the same handful of places in Japan these days.

One important thing already mentioned, is that if time is an issue, contact them first and see what is in stock and if possible order from their stock on hand. Due to various supply issues customer order swords (namely anything with requested blade length, tsuba, tsuka warping, etc) are taking longer and longer to assemble due to major delays in various parts (blades and saya seem to be the major issues lately). I actually ordered a second cheap Tozando iaito to send to and leave in the US for my visits home and even with that I was told to expect a 2 and a half month wait. It came in on Thursday about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, but that wait was considerably longer than even two years ago and over seas orders usually take at least twice as long, if not more. So again, your best bet is to call first and check what they physically have in stock and ready to send out first.

Random babble from the iai-side of things,
Rennis Buchner