Re: Why no tsuba?
I have trained under Henry Smith Shihan whose weapons come from Chiba and Sugano primarily and Nizam Taleb who learned weapons from Ichimura, Kobayashi and Nishio. Both of my instructiors don't use suba because they hope to force us to be more responsive to the movement of our uke. I also have trained recurrently for more than a decade with Gerooms Sensei in Ohio and they use suba in the Saotome influenced style. (The same was true at the dojo of Gleeson Sensei). I see merit in both practices but the sword work was more spirited in the Saotome system. Perhaps the wooden suba offers a false sense of security but consistently the katas at these other schools approach the speed and force that is only equaled in the encounters between instructors in my own school. What I cannot tell is if it results from a real (or imagined) sense of safety or simply because weapons work is integrated into the curriculum at the other federations. One odd observation is that when I first used a katana I often tore my thumbnail against the inside of the suba in chiburi so perhaps it is a good idea to at least practice sometimes with a bokken equivalent to prepare oneself for the transition?