View Full Version : Research on Japanese swords

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10-30-2004, 05:03 AM
I had to make a new thread because I was advised not to write just about wooden sword(bokken), because it is very difficult to outsiders.
So I will write about japanese sword. I have not yet started full net search - I haven't had time yet. I went to capital city Tallinn to get some books though. There is almost nothing in estonian(just 1 article) and very little in english(at least not in Estonia). I don't know - maybe I just need to know the right person. but anyway, I found one very helpful book: "The Connpisseur's book of japanese swords" by Kokan Nagayama.
IF YOU HAVE HELPFUL MATERIALS, PLEASE CONTACT ME (mufik003@hotmail.com) or paste links etc here. thank you very much!

11-01-2004, 07:59 AM
Go to Bugei sword forum. Very informative.

11-01-2004, 08:22 AM
Oh my. If they think the bokuto/bokken is complex, wait till you get your teeth into the sword.

I'd advise you to look hard at what you intend to convey with your paper and focus on one specific aspect of the sword for your discussion ...


Bill Danosky
11-14-2004, 01:13 PM
Anybody have an opinion on whose katana is best? Cold Steel, Paul Chen, etc? Most of the reviews I have read talk more about the handle and fittings than cutting ability.

11-14-2004, 03:05 PM
"The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords" is a well respected work. I would search for contact information on Michael Bell and Thomas McGuane III. Michael Bell worked in a sword refurbishing shop for fifteen+ years (in Japan) and is now considered the foremost western traditional swordsmith (not just by me). Thomas McGuane III is a direct student of Yoshihara sensei (one of the ten national treasure swordsmiths) and has an encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese blades.
On the issue of Cold Steel, Paul Chen, Bugei, etc.:
The sword retailers you mentioned, as well as Bugei, are sword manufacturers, not swordsmiths. Their weapons are not forged to shape, the steel is not hand made, and the finish work is done in a factory environment. That does not make the swords less valuable training tools, and does not mean that they do not cut, but always be sure to check that a sword has a real, almost holographic looking hamon, is not stainless steel of any kind, and has a full tang before you ever lay your money down. These are VERY important safety considerations and go a long way toward determining if what you are looking at is a katana, an iaito, or a novelty item. To the best of my knowledge, the only place one can purchase sword made to exhibit all of the traits you would expect from a genuine katana is the private shop of a well trained and practiced smith. In addition, remember that authentic swordsmiths almost always sell their blades in shirosaya form rather than with all the regular fittings. In Japan, each element that went into a katana's fabrication, habaki, tsuba, tsuka, saya, blade, other fittings, and the final construction, were each a separate art, and you would never ever find a swordsmith who did all of those arts and sold finished weapons. Indeed different styles of fittings came in and out of fashion regularly before the restoration, and trendy warriors would often regularly change the fittings on centuries old family blades. Wealthy warriors would own many blades all stored as shirosaya because blades were timeless, fittings were not. The blade is the true core of the weapon, and the only part which is irreplaceable. To a bladesmith, making and selling a complete weapon is like creating an unbelievable fresco in tribute to all that is glorious about humanity, then having everyone in it wearing bell-bottoms.

Bill Danosky
11-14-2004, 03:19 PM
Thanks, but I don't know when I'd have the $$$s to buy a "real" katana. I should've put a $1,000-and-under qualifier on it. It looks like people are making a distinction between a using sword and a museum piece. I'm thinking whichever ones the tameshigiri practitioners are using has to be pretty good.

11-14-2004, 03:41 PM
Obata sensei and his shinkendo folks often use hand made swords for their cut testing. He even mentions a reputable stateside smith in his book "Shinkendo" (the smith's name escapes me). They probably cost more than $1,000.00, however. Not only will a "museum piece" cut much better than a factory blade, it will last much longer (and already has). Nevertheless, selecting a blade is always a trade-off. You can spend literally any amount of money on a real weapon. There is no need for the average practitioner to get an ancient sword, but there are very real advantages to getting a sword hand made from a high carbon steel, forged to shape, differentially tempered with an active hamon, well proportioned (almost half as thick as it is wide), with a full tang, and beveled appropriately (katana are NOT sharp, they have a chopping edge similar to that of a wood splitting maul). These elements can be had for a reasonable price with some research and patience, and will have an clear effect on the weapon's lasting value, cutting ability, fortitude, and authenticity. If you are going to practice a traditional and sacred art, why do it with something pooped out of a CNC machine?

Bill Danosky
11-14-2004, 04:30 PM
How do you like a Cold Steel Chisa Katana, if I had to stay in that price range? I also like the P.C. Orchid Katana, which is apparently made of powdered steel, machine forged and folded, differentially tempered, etc. but I thought I should get some expert opinions before I made a decision.

I'd love to have an ancient one, and I liked what you said about it already having lasted. But I don't have the money or expertise to get the right one for the right price yet. Plus I know how guilty I'd feel if I somehow damaged it.


11-14-2004, 04:41 PM
For a line on a good chopper, ask Alvarez sensei. He has been known to teach tameshigiri at Boulder Aikikai's summercamp in the rockies. He probably has experience with a full range of weapons in his own and his students hands.

Bill Danosky
11-14-2004, 04:48 PM
I'll try to find out and post what he says.

Bill Danosky
12-01-2004, 09:56 PM
Sensei Alvarez has advised us (very wisely) that one should seek individual, professional advice when selecting a katana for martial arts. His opinion is that serious danger abounds when novices are swinging a yard of razor-sharpness around, especially when chopping things. Although he did mention liking Paul Chen and Last Legend katanas in the $600 to $1,000 range, he stated that one should take some good training and have their instructor recommend the specific length, weight and balance, then buy accordingly.

Thanks again, Sensei! That was great advice!

Bill Danosky
12-19-2004, 09:43 PM
But when you do decide, here's a great website I found: http://www.swordstore.com/cgi-bin/htmlos.cgi/00194.69.265299159610072456