View Full Version : purchasing a katana

Please visit our sponsor:

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!

04-28-2004, 09:42 AM
I know this might be a little off topic here, but i figured this was
the best place to recieve unbaised help.

I am looking into the purchase of a new katana. I want something that
is traditional, at least in appearance and something that would hold
up to competition should i decide to compete.

I've looked at a few swords from a few different places. If anyone
out there had any information, pros, cons, comments,
anecdotes...please, share them with me. Spare my wallet the agony of
a sub-par purchase.

I'm looing to spend between $300 and $600. Ideally i want the
absolute best sword i can get.

The ones i've considered are:

Paul Chen Practical II Katana
Paul Chen Practical Plus II Katana
Kris Cutlery Katana 29
Last Legend Tsunami katana
Last Legend Field Mk I katana
Last Legend Field Mk V Katana
Last Legend Folded Field Mk VII katana

I'm currently leaning toward the Kris 29, but i am attracted to the
Last Legend swords. Especially the Mk V and Mk VII.

I appreciate any help with this.

thank you,

John Boswell
04-28-2004, 10:48 AM
Aikidoka, people who practice aikido, have a lot more work and experience with bokken (wooden swords) than with any live swords. Granted, there may be a few here with knowledge regarding katana's, I would still recommend another sight: e-budo.com

I'm not knockin' anyone here and certainly not aiki-web... but ya gotta go where the resources are.


Good luck.

PS: You mentioned competition, what kind of competition is that? If your talking sword on sword competition of some kind... do NOT go cheap! One broken sword and your dead! eep! :dead:

04-28-2004, 12:13 PM
Hi if you are looking to go into target cutting compititions www.bugei.com has a forum on their web site dealing with this topic. They can give a lot of advice about what type of swords are best for cutting, they are a little bias about their own line of paul chen swords but they should be. Most of there line of swords were designed for heavy cutting and compititions.

My advice is stay away from practical katanas and Kris. They were not designed for compititions. The Sword Armory swords, I havn't heard alot about them so I can't say one way or the other. They state that someone using thier "tsunami" won a tameshigiri compitition. Now I don't know who sponsered the event and who all competed but I am sure the guys at bugei will tell you all about the event if you ask them.

I hope that you are taking a traditional Japanese sword art. You just cant enter with no experience. If you are taking one you should talk to your instructor about what you are doing and get advice from him or her.

Best Regards,
William Gibson

Marshall Sandoz
04-28-2004, 06:34 PM
Check out Liveblade's Iai-yo katana. I have one of their folded steel blades wrapped in green silk tsuka-ito that I was very fortunate to purchase on Ebay for less than half the price of a new one. Even though it was used for light test cutting by it's previous owner, it had no damage and the blade was still razor sharp.

05-06-2004, 09:20 AM
I've been looking around for a while now, I've followed the advice given to me here, and i've asked a few others in my community. I was directed to a website (http://www.jidai.jp/). I'm just curious if anyone here has heard of them or knows anyone who has. I'll quote from their site:

We can accept order of new "real Japanese sword", but it's takes for more than 6th month to make new real Japanese sword.
And it's price is more than 1,000,000yen at current exchange, which is roughly 9,450.00 U.S.dollar.
. If you want "real Japanese sword", Please contact us by mail.
So we arrange that requesting for Japaneses Experts of Sword, getting authorization for the Ministry,and Shipping delivery.

Now...$10,000 is a bit more than i wanted to spend...so this is right out for me, but it is a nice goal to shoot for if its authentic. Something inside me is screaming fraud...let me know if you all know anything about this.

05-06-2004, 10:41 AM
Rick, the US$10,000 for a Japanese shinken seems to be in the ballpark. You may be able to get a traditionally made Japanese sword for less from other sources, but they're certainly not going to be at the same price level as the manufactured swords from China or the Philippines. The US$10,000 buys you a "passable" shinken; if you want to get your hands on a shinken from a well-regarded Japanese smith, I think you should be prepared to shell out enough money to buy a least a BMW 5-series. I'd go for the car myself...

If you're going to eventually spend a few to several thousand dollars for a Japanese-style sword, you might as well look at some North American bladesmiths. Here's one in Pennsylvania:


I've never dealt with him, but his website states that he also practices aikido and Japanese swordsmanship, FWIW. There are other smiths, but since Dave Goldberg is in your state...

05-12-2004, 04:57 PM
What about this site.... :confused:

dan guthrie
05-12-2004, 08:24 PM
http://swordforum.com/ has been around for a few years.
If you want to spend a few weeks doing research and communicating with people knowledgeable with every possible facet of your purchase. . . they even have a "classified" section.

05-12-2004, 11:32 PM
Cicada Forge does very nice work. http://www.liveblade.com/cicadaforge/japanswords.html

05-13-2004, 08:47 AM
I, too, have been looking for a good Katana. I've looked at almost every sword site on the net. I haven't found a Paul Chen sword for less than $400. But I have found THE katana for me.

It is Clay tempered, just like the swords of Old Japan, but it is not folded. It is comititoin sharp, and sence it is clay tempered, it will keep its edge better than a hardened blade.
Here is the DIRECT LINK. http://www.imperialweapons.com/swords/Gen2/IP-025.html

The owners of the site are historians and weapon collectors by trade. I've talked to them over the phone, and they talk to you like family would. Please check the sword out before you make up your mind. The price for the sword is $297 with free ground shipping. As opposed to Paul CHen equivilant, $400 plus with shipping cost.

05-13-2004, 12:48 PM
I actually was looking into this sword, i saw it about 2 days after my initial post. It is pretty.

05-13-2004, 03:15 PM
If you're going to eventually spend a few to several thousand dollars for a Japanese-style sword, you might as well look at some North American bladesmiths. Here's one in Pennsylvania:


I've never dealt with him, but his website states that he also practices aikido and Japanese swordsmanship, FWIW. There are other smiths, but since Dave Goldberg is in your state...

Dave does some pretty good work. I have swung some of his swords around and cut with one of them, they felt pretty good. Some years back I also handled and swung some 13th to 15 century shinken a collector owned. The feeling was pretty incredible, especially one that felt almost like I was holding a live animal. Dave's work is not that good, but then it won't cost you the price of several BMW's. He has an eye for detail and is quite knowledgable. worth a call.

Also the problem with some of the cheap blades you mentioned is the quality and durability of the hardware (tsuka especially). I personally would not trust them too much to swing around (they generally have terrible balance) or to do tameshigiri (cutting). Dave has in the past taken some of those same blades and put much better more durable hardware on them and sold them for around $500 (up or down depending on work and materials). So that might be a way to get an economical cutter blade.


Marshall Sandoz
05-13-2004, 04:13 PM
I would suggest a visit to www.swordforum.com and spending some time searching the threads there before making a purchase. You should be able to come up with some useful (or insightful) information there.

05-15-2004, 07:39 AM
Cicada Forge makes an excellent blade. They offer 1086 as well as the new L9 steel which is supposed to be the new wondersteel.
The traditional layered blade is hard to come by and has a lot of inherent problems, maintaining the blade is a big chore, the various types of steels used in a multilayered blade have different oxidation rates and different crystalization rates. While a traditional multilayered (Demascus-type) blade is "pretty", I would have to think long and hard when i could find something that is less problematic. 1086 or L9, or some of the other steels like 1070 seem to be less problematic.(IMHO)
Cicada's blades are clay tempered. Just like the traditional katana blades. Tho at $2500 ++ just for the blade without tsuba or tsuska,or saya. unless you are very serious about practice cutting, you may be better off with something less expensive.
If all you want is something to put on your katana kake, your local martial arts supply house has that sort pf thing by the truckload.
But if you are doing work with live blades; ie cutting competitions- my advice, DON'T GO CHEAP.
Kindest Regards :)

Lyle Laizure
05-17-2004, 05:09 PM
I have a Paul Chen practical. I have been cutting with it for over a year now and it works wonderfully. I recently purchased another practical for my sensei and the newer generation practicals are even better than the originals. They also allow you to remove the tsuba and have a double mekugi pin assembly. For the cost you cannot go wrong. The Last Legend series looks great too. If you do not know a lot about swords though I would suggest that you have someone that does look over your blade once it arrives. It isn't often but occasionaly there are flaws and it is better to know up front if you need to exchange it.

05-17-2004, 10:21 PM
They also allow you to remove the tsuba and have a double mekugi pin assembly.

I believe the double pinned, removable tsuka (handle) is on the Practical Plus Katana. I have one and would agree with Lyle. It's not a work of art nor is it exceptional quality, but it isn't designed to be. It's supposed to be an affordable entry level cutting blade...which is what it is.


05-20-2004, 09:36 AM
For the $600 or less range I'd give Cold Steel a look...

The following link is to their warrior series....

Cold Steel 's Japanese swords (http://www.coldsteel.com/88kwarser.html)

eric carpenter
05-20-2004, 06:11 PM
i want to purchase a good taining sword for aikido,where is the best place to purchase a good training sword. :ai:

05-21-2004, 02:14 AM
So Rick,

Are you a fan of the band or of the the agriculturalist?

Bronson (who is also a Tull fan)

05-22-2004, 07:04 PM
I am a fan of the band, but i appreciate the contributions made by the man.

05-23-2004, 04:51 PM
I'm a bit late joining in, but wanted to add a few comments.

I own a Paul Chen Practical Katana and wish I hadn't wasted the money. It wasn't much, but I would rather have gone out to dinner or something with the money.
I would reccomend that you talk to David Goldberg Sensei. He can make you a fine sword for a good bit less than the $10,000 you were quoted (which is not out of line at all). He may also have other swords for purchase.

He has my PK now to try and sharpen it.

Gareth Hinds
06-01-2004, 12:55 PM
I have a more general question on this topic. It seems like a lot of people are using katanas either for iaido, in which case they get the alloy blades which can't be sharpened or take hard contact, or for cutting practice, in which case they get a strong, sharp, cutting sword.

Since this is an aikido forum, what about aikido uses? In my school we don't do any actual cutting, and only a little iaido. We mostly just use live blades for individual suburi; but every once in a while, to show the difference between wood and metal, sensei will demonstrate a kata with live blades. This is always with an advanced partner, and in theory the contact in such cases is not hard, but I'm always worried someday one of those alloy blades will snap (and maybe fly and injure someone).

So is there a good choice for a sword that is economical, strong, not sharp, and well-balanced for iaido and suburi practice?


06-01-2004, 03:41 PM
I think the short answer would be no. But what do you mean by economical ? $1000-$2000 ? then it's possible but it's likely to be sharp
as it's going to be steel to meet your strength requirement but you could dull it. check bugei or a steel iaito from swordstore.

Sounds like you are saying they smack sharpened alloy blades together ?
The reason alloy blades don't come with an edge is that the metal is too soft to hold an edge. For the same reason, it's not hard to bend these
blades. Snapping an alloy blade seems unlikely given the soft metal.
I doubt they are making hard contact.

I think it's a bit silly to be doing aiki ken with alloy blades, myself.
Bokken/bokkuto is lethal enough to give a healthy respect.
Real kumitachi is brief and about targeting the other person not their blade.

Gareth Hinds
06-02-2004, 12:48 PM
Economical: for me, say $1000 would be the absolute maximum, more comfortable would be the price range the original post was about (300-600). Dulling a sword might be necessary I suppose; but after all they don't come out of the forge sharp, so is seems like it should be possible to find an unsharpened one?

Yes, aiki-ken, smacking alloy blades together. I hasten to add that this is not done cavalierly or routinely. You can see the very high level of focus on the faces of sensei and his partner when they do this, and it is only once in a great while (I've seen it twice in 5 years of training). And of course you are correct that the blade is not targeted, which is why in theory no hard contact is being made (and certainly no edge-to-edge contact).

As to why this should be done at all, sensei feels it's an important demonstration simply because real blades are different from wooden ones. For example, we get used to bokken bouncing off each other in kiriware or tsukikaeshi when in fact metal swords will tend to glide along each other (probably resulting in aiuchi if you were expecting them to bounce).

I haven't seen an alloy blade bent or broken, so I didn't know which was more likely. If the answer is 'bent' then maybe that's not so bad, though it would still suck if it was at all expensive.

06-02-2004, 12:58 PM
Paul Chen makes a couple of steel bladed iaito (not sharp). You can see a list of them on Ebay here (http://search.ebay.com/paul-chen-iaito_W0QQsokeywordredirectZ1QQfromZR8). I know a couple of people with them and personally I don't like them. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with them quality wise they just don't appeal to me.


06-30-2004, 11:01 AM
Its been a while since i posted here, i'm away all summer learning how to be a blacksmith.

I'm about to purchase a sword and i just wanted to ask one more time for a more definate answer. I have $400 which sword should i buy?

I'm looking heavily at the warrior series Katana from Cold Steel, but I am open to suggestions.

06-30-2004, 01:36 PM

I'm surprised no one has said this yet, but I think it needs to be said...

The sword you should get is the one recommended by your teacher. It would be unwise to purchase a sword based on the recommendations of posts on an Internet forum. It would also be unwise to purchase a sword before you have a teacher who can make the recommendation, because once you find a teacher you may find that your initial purchase was a waste, due to differences in preferences of different schools. ...Not to mention the safety issue.



07-01-2004, 12:42 PM

I'm not reall planning to begin any training, i'm mainly loking for a traditionally made Japanese Katana to display in my home. I'm just curious as to what people have, and what they like and dislike about the swords available. Like i said before, i only have about $400 dollars to spend on this, so i know I am extremely limited as to what i can get. Like everyone else though, i want the biggest bang for my buck and i know that there are good and great blades available within my personal price range.

I've heard far too many negatives about the Paul Chen Practical line and most other Chen swords, so i believe they are out of the question for me, but i am still looking into the Last Legend Katanas, the Kris Cutlery Katana 29, and the Cold Steel Warrior Series Katana.

Anyone out there who owns or has handled these swords, please, feel free to comment on them, good, bad, anything. Its the first time i'll be purchasing a functional sword and it means a lot to me that my money isn't wasted.


-- Rick

Marshall Sandoz
07-02-2004, 01:51 PM
While the swords you have listed are certainly functional, none of them in your price range are "traditioallly" made. I've heard good things about all of the ones that you listed, as well as a few negative comments about them from the "purists" on one forum or another. Cold Steel has a good reputation so I tend to lean towards their products. However, Last Legend has some really nice pieces too and there was some talk of them expanding their offerings to include different option choices. I picked up a Liveblade Iaiyo with a folded steel blade and silk tsuka on e-bay a while back for $465 which included shipping that I am particularly fond of. My advice is be patient, shop around, and don't necessarily buy the first thing you come across. You never know when a spectacular deal like the one I found will come around. One thing I've found is that folks are always upgrading or getting in a bind for cash, and their "toys" are usually the first things to go. Good luck.

07-04-2004, 08:34 PM
$400.00 is a good amount of money for a toy to hang on your katana kake.
If all that you are doing is spending the bucks for a display sword, you can get a fine daisho with kake for around $250.00
If you are spending any more on a toy for show and tell, send your spare bucks my way.

03-24-2005, 08:21 PM
one of my friends has trained in tameshigiri for many years and says, while not the best for any hard core cutting, paul chen paractical plus swords are good for an inexpensive beginner sword. I actually am considering getting one of the wakizashi for myself soon so if anyone can advise for or against it i'd appreciate it, It would also help out the starter of this thread.

03-25-2005, 03:32 AM
The paul chen practical plus swords are a good choice for basic tameshigiri.

Walter Wong
03-25-2005, 11:07 AM
Aside from the advice that it's best to see what your sensei advises you to get, I say stay away from the Paul Chen Practical series (Practical Katana, Plus, Pro but also formerly called Fantasy).

If you must go cheap, get a mid range Paul Chen like Shinto, Musashi, Tsunami and Golden Oriole. A better choice would be any of the 4 high end ones, Kami, Tiger, Orchid and Bushido.

But highly suggest a sword from the exclusive Bugei line of production swords by Paul Chen. www.bugei.com

Last Legend original series, Tsunami, the Mark series, Dragon, Bear, etc. are discontinued. They have a new line of swords out. www.lastlegend.com

Tony Alvarez is starting up his own company www.tozaiimports.com and awaiting for his line of production swords for tameshigiri to come out. He's collaborating with Paul Chen as well to produce his exclusive Tozai swords. But his swords are not done and ready for sale yet. So keep an eye out on his site every now and then.

I personally wouldn't pay less than $600.00 for a production line Japanese styled sword for tameshigiri. You really get what you pay for in the world of Japanese swords.

05-29-2005, 12:44 PM
Another option would be eBay, while you have to be carefull to make sure you don't get ripped off, you can find an idiot with a good item.

Walter Wong
06-01-2005, 11:30 AM
Unless you really know and understand Japanese swords, I would stay away from Ebay. The majority is crap on there and you'll be wasting your hard earned money. Stick with reputable companies, retailers, swordsmiths or whatever your sensei suggests.

Drew Scott
06-01-2005, 01:02 PM
I highly recommend swordstore.com

Drew Scott
06-01-2005, 03:59 PM
oops, for some reason the rest of my post went into the ether somewhere...

basically, I recommend swordstore.com because I and several of my sempai have beautiful Iaitos from there, and because my experience with them both by email and phone gave me the sense that they know their business and care that their customers understand what they are purchasing and why. There can be a bit of a wait for your sword to be imported, but I think their quality and service speak for themselves.

Good luck finding that "special sword".


Walter Wong
06-02-2005, 09:54 AM
Ah yes, how could I have forgotten www.swordstore.com
I have their Iaito as well and I love it. And yes, swordstore.com should be seriously considered.

They have Iaito, live blades they call Iaito That Cuts, and shinkens made by Japanese smiths.

06-27-2005, 04:46 PM
I've seen Thaitsuki Nihonto blades and they look pretty nice. Do any of you know anything about them or know of anyone who has one?

Filipe Ferreira
07-07-2005, 06:09 PM
this site looks pretty good too - www.mantisswords.com

Glenn Janke
07-09-2005, 02:17 AM
Was recommended this one by my sensei.


Walter Wong
07-11-2005, 08:57 AM
Can't go wrong with any Iaito from Tozando. I've seen quite a few of them from classmates and other JSA'ers outside my dojo. My sensei likes Tozando alot as well.

I'm more of a swordstore fan.

07-11-2005, 10:09 AM
hi,.. i have a spanish Toledo shirazaya Sword,. they are very good swords and are not too expensive.

Look at:





Ron Tisdale
07-11-2005, 11:48 AM
Could someone correct me if I am wrong, but, isn't Shirosaya meant to **store** a blade, not as an actual mounting? I wouldn't use shirosaya as a mounting for a training blade. When you say these are "good swords", do you mean good for training and cutting?

Personally, I don't think I'd use the ones on that site for anything but wall hangers...mostly because of safety concerns.


07-11-2005, 12:30 PM
isn't Shirosaya meant to **store** a blade, not as an actual mounting?


I don't think I'd use the ones on that site for anything ...



Ron Tisdale
07-11-2005, 01:20 PM
Not to mention most of them were pretty damn ugly...

RT :)