View Full Version : Which iaito would you choose?

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09-03-2009, 08:23 AM
If you were to be given as a gift for Iaido class which Iaito would you pick?

A - Cheness Delux unsharpened carbon steel Iaito
B - handmadeswords.com "training katana #343"
C - Handmadeswords.com "Iaido Musashi Katana #163"

Remember this is a gift to be used for beginner Iaido class and they're all under $200.


Kent Enfield
09-03-2009, 11:25 AM
None of them! As you were told on Kendo World, get a decent Japanese-made alloy-bladed iaito.

If you don't want the answer, why ask the question? Again.

09-03-2009, 12:41 PM

that was uncalled for and I don't appreciate it. What I do here is irrelevant to Kendoworld.

Keith Larman
09-03-2009, 12:49 PM
None of those are any good as training tools for iai. To be quite blunt an appropriate training tool will likely cost significantly more as the issue is the quality of mounting, wrap, balance and dynamics. Those are cheap, poorly made swords that are not even good approximations of the real thing.

Sorry, that is the honest answer. Sometimes there is a baseline of quality required for something to be appropriate. The listed swords do not even approach that baseline in my experience.


Ron Tisdale
09-03-2009, 12:57 PM
What I do here is irrelevant to Kendoworld.

Ah, you'll find out quickly that the competent people tend to browse the same sites. If you shop for an answer you like, I'm sure you'll find the sites that will give you the answer you want.

One of the good things about the sites where qualified people hang out is that you will actually often get the correct answer. One of the bad things about life is that you can lead a horse to water...


09-03-2009, 02:25 PM
So what you're saying is that I should refuse the gift and contiue with a boken?

Keith Larman
09-03-2009, 02:51 PM
So what you're saying is that I should refuse the gift and contiue with a boken?

I am saying no such thing.

You asked for opinions on those three swords. They're too cheap and poorly built *in my professional opinion* for the task of training in iai. That's it.

What you do about accepting it as a gift is an entirely different discussion and I have no opinion whatsoever on that.

09-03-2009, 03:11 PM
Hello Joe,

I do understand that it's going to be a gift with a $200 limit and no matter what, you have to start with something that you can train with. I would pick the Cheness Delux non-sharpened Iaito from the other ones that you've mentioned. It's made of carbon steel and that's a big plus if you want to have it sharpened on your later years of training.

Goodluck with your training.

09-03-2009, 03:57 PM
Thank you Rod for your advice and for not responding sarcastically as some other less cordial forum members do.

09-03-2009, 03:59 PM
None of them! As you were told on Kendo World, get a decent Japanese-made alloy-bladed iaito.

If you don't want the answer, why ask the question? Again.

What is a decent Japanese-made alloy-bladed iaito? The only reason why the Japanese uses alloy and not carbon steel is because of their country's strict weapons laws. Carbon steel iaito can be turned into a weapon if it sharpened that's why they only allowed weak alloy iaito to be made.

Kent Enfield
09-03-2009, 03:59 PM
It's made of carbon steel and that's a big plus if you want to have it sharpened on your later years of training.It's also balanced like a sledgehammer and has crap fittings, making it completely unsuitable for practice. Being made out of steel doesn't offset any of that.

If there's a $200 limit, you should ask for a $200 gift certificate or equivalent for Tozando/Nishijin or another reputable supplier of Japanese iaito and come up with the rest of the money on your own.

C. David Henderson
09-03-2009, 04:01 PM
I didn't percieve sarcasm. Good luck with your training.

Chris Covington
09-03-2009, 04:07 PM
Hi Joe,

I would not use any of the above swords either. Cheap swords = danger to you and anyone near you. What I would do is ask the gift giver to just give you the money to put towards a better training tool and use a bokuto until you can pick up something better. If this is something they already have laying about I would accept which ever one I liked best and hang it on the wall until I could afford something a little nicer and safer. Even an iaito has point that can hurt someone. If this is something you can't or don't want to invest in maybe you should reconsider doing iaido, period.

Good luck to you,

09-04-2009, 07:10 AM
In my 15 years of martial arts experience (not iaido) we never used zinc alloy blades. We used and trained with real weapons. When I learned to shoot I used real guns. When I learned to Kung Fu we trained bare knuckle so that we learned what fighting really was. No fancy grips, balanced tools, specially made gun barrels. We adapted our body to the weapon not spent a small fortune in adapting the weapon to us. This philosophy forces you to be able to adapt to any situation and any type of weapons be it a stick, spear, sword, knife, gun or broken bottle.

This may be why I have issues with specialized weapons. I thank you all for your 2 cents. Fortunately Rod why kind enough to provide me with useful advice and answer my question.

By the way thank you Rod for your PM. Of all the 5 forums I contacted you provided me with the most inspiration and advice and I wanted to let you know that I appreciated it.

God bless

Chris Covington
09-04-2009, 08:20 AM
Dear Joe,

I think you are right to be able to adapt to your weapon, however if your weapon is as much a danger to yourself and training partners as it is to your enemy than I would reconsider what weapon you're using which is the point of most of these replies.

The alloy blades are a product of Japanese law and the wallet of the iaidoka. Real swords must be registered in Japan like firearms here in the States. It is a pain to transport them so most people don't bother. It is also rather expensive to buy a real Japanese sword in Japan. Many of the cheaper Japanese made swords are like swinging a crowbar and of little use for budo. Most of the Chinese swords are about the same. The alloy blades are a more hassle-free cheaper alternative which is why most people use them.

Good luck what ever you choose and stay safe,

Keith Larman
09-04-2009, 10:05 AM
Joe: The Japanese also make super cheap alloy blades with really crappy handles and wrapping for the consumer market. They aren't used for training either. They're sold for less than iaito because they're not as carefully or precisely made. Since they aren't going to see use they skip much of the care and detail required to make a viable, safe training tool. And given people are always looking for ways to make money, don't you think there would be a ton of choices of iaito for training cheaper than what you're looking at now with "real" blades? It costs more to forge, shape, and finish a heat treated steel blade than simply stamping out a blob-o-soft metal alloy. Why do you suppose that market isn't flooded with choices?

And fwiw, some groups do require their students start with live blades and skip iaito all together. Even outside of Japan that will usually mean spending $1000 and up for a good, safe, appropriate sword. Swords of the type you've asked about are not often used in martial arts settings simply because even sharpened and "ready to use" they often fall far short of minimum safety requirements for quality, fit and finish. So Iaito (or more accurately mogito) are a good option for many a beginning iai student as it allows them to spend the money for the necessary quality, fit and finish without the expense of a forged, shaped and polished steel blade.

In my 15 years of martial arts experience (not iaido) we never used zinc alloy blades. We used and trained with real weapons. When I learned to shoot I used real guns.

The problem is the advent of super cheap Chinese made Japanese "style" swords can be better compared with so-called "Saturday Night Specials". There are decent swords coming out of China, but they aren't cheap. There are *tons* of cheap swords, however, hitting the market mostly done by people making what they think looks like a Japanese sword. And most fall way short of the mark.

Would you suggest someone learn to shoot with a zip gun or a poorly balanced, inaccurate (but cheap!) knockoff gun that might fall apart in their hands when they fire it? Or blow up in their face? Or worse yet hurt some other innocent bystander who was unfortunate enough to be too close to the idiot trying to shoot it? If you ask a gunsmith or a shooting instructor what gun you should learn to shoot with that person will probably *not* recommend a 20 year old mistreated handgun. Or a cheap knockoff that tends to jam or misfire. They will recommend something with a base level of quality and safety. No, it doesn't have to be a $10,000 hand made handgun. But it will probably not be a $100 POS either. That is a better analogy.

And fwiw, I'm not posting this for your benefit. You just wanted to know which of the three was best and can't seem to accept that people are telling you none of them are good enough. Get what you want. I'm posting it for the benefit of the next person who reads this thread hoping they recognize the faulty thinking. Maybe you know weapons and martial arts, but you clearly don't know Japanese style swords or we wouldn't be having this conversation. The very people who have been working/training/teaching for decades have tried to explain that they are not a good option for traditional training for a myriad of reasons, but you've steadfastly resisted. No one is suggesting you get a specialized, fancy, high end iaito. But for a quality iaito or even a reasonably safe "real sword" you're looking at spending more than what these cost. There are reasons they are inexpensive.

09-04-2009, 10:56 AM
To echo Keith's points and add a few, and to speak past this guy to a hopefully more sincere searcher in the future.

1. I've seen high end custom forged swords snap for flaws that could not be seen
2. I've seen mid-level ($1,000 - $1,500) Chinese swords snap for flaws that could not be seen
3. I've seen pegs snap on custom swords and blades fly out of the handle into the crowd
4. There are too many stories of the cheap crap failing in practice, Example: innocent girl gets impaled in the leg after the sword flew out of the handle.

Where the advice of polishers and smiths go unheeded
Where the advice of senior practitioners not only get ignored but corrected!!
I say leave these people to their own devices.
It's one thing to willingly remain ignorant. Your life is in your own hands. We can only hope we don't live to see yet another one of these fools-placed on the list of fools who killed or maimed someone innocent watching them playing with poorly made tools.

One comment I have not seen is that there is a level of liability- hence criminal negligence inherent in public displays of weapons. I would be more interested in contacting this persons teacher(s) to find out what sort of teacher they are to even allow a sword like this in their presence. Imagine this guy killing a kid who was watching, then the DA scanning his computer to find out where he bought it etc., and finding this thread advising against the use of such swords!
Jail time.
One thing I have learned is that there are simply people who don't take advice if it is contrary their own motivations. It's one of the reasons we have a court system- where Judges can explain to the captured audience before sentencing- that it isn't always about...them!

09-04-2009, 11:32 AM
I was told by my sensei that you tend not to find a good quality iaito under $600. He said it wasn't impossible to find, but that it was unlikely. Who exactly is offering these swords to you? If they have these three, see if you can take all three to your sensei and ask them which is the best for you at this time. If your sensei says that they aren't good enough, then you are off the hook and can tell your friend, relative, etc that your sensei said that none of these are quite right for you (based on length, weight, etc) and just skip over the fact that they aren't really of good quality if that is what your sensei says. If your sensei is offering it to you..... then I would accept one of them because it would be rude to not accept (though I don't think any iaito instructor would offer such a gift)

If on the otherhand, they are wanting to buy one for you, tell them that you have your eye on another sword already (even if you don't) and ask them if it would be possible to receive cash or a gift certificate and then you can save up for a good quality iaito. Explain that buying an iaido is a long drawn out process and that your sensei has a lot to do with it.

Good luck. Also, I do not believe the previous posts were rude. I believe they may have been direct and perhaps abrupt, but not rude. I would seriously consider what they have to say as they have much more experience then you do. Safety is not all about you, it also involves all of the students in your class. Weapons break. At least with a good quality weapon, the chances are minimized. It also seems as if you have spoken to some people from other sites that have a great deal of experience. Ultimately, it is up to you to make the choice, but it would be unwise for you to ignore the suggestions you don't really want to hear.

Hope it all works out.

Kevin Leavitt
09-04-2009, 11:53 AM
Dan H wrote:

One thing I have learned is that there are simply people who don't take advice

Really? I thought everyone always listened to everything that was said here! LOL.

Yeah these days I am starting to believe that the internet is more about trying to search around to find people that will back up your beliefs and hypothesis than about really finding out reality. As Ron states, you can certainly get that if that is what you are looking for.

Joe wrote:

We used and trained with real weapons. When I learned to shoot I used real guns. When I learned to Kung Fu we trained bare knuckle so that we learned what fighting really was

Sorry, I really don't want to beat you up about this, AND I couldn't tell you any thing at all about swords as that is not my area of expertise, Dan and Keith are the experts on this.

However, I do know a fair amount about realistic training methods, and I do not believe your logic is correct above.

Yes, you can Shoot REAL weapons, and you can use REAL fist to train...but the fact that they are REAL does not always approximate to REAL training. Firing a REAL handgun on the range might teach you some good basic Marksmanship skills, but MARTIALLY it has nothing to do with reality of employment of that weapon or use of force. Same with TMA trainig with REAL fist. What most folks do in the dojo, in a controlled environment still does not approach the conditions or REAL.

Weapons, regardless of what they are, can be dangerous and need to be practiced within the context and scope of safety while balanced against the near simulation of reality. Most folks simply do not recognize what REAL encompasses. I am sorry, but that is my experiences. It is tough to do, expensive, and comes with a fair amount of liability that is beyond the abilities, time, and needs of most folks.

Iaido, while I am not a practicioner at all, would fall in that same category. probably more so, as it is NOT a REALITY based practice, but an approximation of doctrine, tactics, and applications that are done in a controlled environment. You must have competent instruction with constraints and safety mitigations.

One such thing is having the correct weapon, in this case the sword.

The logic simply does not follow that you need to be prepared to use whatever you have at hand because in the street (REALITY) that may be all you have.

That is bad, bad logic that does not follow...jumping way, way too many gaps from controlled kata and practice to REALITY.

REALITY presents many, many more variables and in training for REALITY you must set the conditions in such that you are producing a desired outcome and can provide constructive feedback in order to identify gaps and issues and learn.

Most folks when they talk about reality simply Flail about the dojo hopig that they will learn something from the chaos that is presented. The fact is, that is a poor way to learn how to train in Martial arts for reality!

Having an unbalanced, cheap blade that will break on you is logic that just does not do you much good in reality, unless that is the whole focus on your training to see how you would deal with the variables that the unbalanced, cheap blade would present to the situation...all other things being equal and factored out for the control!

So, you could work on weapons failure when it broke, maybe focus on the fact that you drop it cause it is top heavy when you swing it and all that...but then again...reality.

AND that leads me to the real salient point of the logic. What are the chances that you would be walking down the street and have to pull out your cheap unbalanced blade and swack someone with it....AND if you did...how much training does it really involve to open up your weapons bag, pull it out and swack?

That is, unless you ran into a Ronin arch nemisis on the subway and you guys both had swords....then I am betting you wish you had a decent sword when you hit the pole on the subway and your blade shatters!

If I buy weapons I intend to use for REALITY, I believe in buying the best weapon of that class that I can find to do the job. My logic is I feel a need for that weapon, which is that my life depends on it, so I have to ask myself, is my life worth the investment of the best weapon money can buy?

Sorry Joe, but I just don't see the logic in what you are offering in buying a cheap weapon.

FWIW, I don't own a sword as I don't do Iaido and I can't afford one that would be worth my money, Furthermore, I don't see a need for it as a weapon of reality for me that is considered acceptable in our society.

09-04-2009, 12:06 PM
I do not believe the previous posts were rude. I believe they may have been direct and perhaps abrupt, but not rude. I would seriously consider what they have to say as they have much more experience then you do.
Hope it all works out.
Hello Ashley
No intent on my part to be rude, but every intent to be clear, abrupt and blunt. Imagine there was an accident waiting to happen six months from now, but instead he listened and didn't buy that sword!
You just can't apologize for scewering a class mate let alone an innocent audience member who trusted you and your teacher's professionalism in choosing safe weapons can you? At a certain point we are responsible for others we might put in jeopardy due to our own decisions. I am very direct with those who ignore that trust. I don't even think swordsman should test cut in public-much less "facing" an audience. Done sidewise, or parallel, it at least decreases the risk of going out to the audience.
Don't ask me what I would do with drunk drivers who maim and kill.;)

09-04-2009, 12:08 PM
Dan, Keith- I've nothing to add; just my gratitude for the information.
Thank You.

Kevin Leavitt
09-04-2009, 01:50 PM
Dan H wrote:

Don't ask me what I would do with drunk drivers who maim and kill

Test cut?

09-04-2009, 03:09 PM
Classic illustration :

09-04-2009, 03:14 PM
another favourite

09-04-2009, 03:22 PM
Dan, I completely understand where you are coming from and I happen to agree. No need to explain further. (at least not to me) :)

Linda Eskin
09-04-2009, 04:54 PM
I was using a cheap kitchen knife recently when the blade snapped off, flew up, and hit me (with the pointy end) in the cheek, just below my eye. Only a tiny flesh wound, but I learned my lesson, and now have some good quality knifes.

I'd hate to see that kind of poor quality in a sword, around people.

Kevin Leavitt
09-04-2009, 05:10 PM
yup Linda, however, I got a new Cold Steel tactical folder this week and flipped it open to show someone, not used to it, instead of locking out it flew back and "tapped" my finger. Resulted in a nice, deep, clean cut, and a trip to the ER for me. Cost me a "Fight" in a tournament yesterday cause it is still healing!

Not fault of the knife, but of the "owner". LOL!

09-04-2009, 05:33 PM
Here's a thread concerning test cutting and possible damage with some serious considerations from the sword forum .com

Some experienced guys talking shop who take a drawn sword as serious as a loaded gun.