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Old 07-03-2007, 11:23 AM   #1
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Freaky! Need some advice to order a katana

Eons ago, long before I knew I would be learning A´koido one day, I ordered a katana from AWMA, just out of fascination for the japanese sword (I love it's shape). Now that I am training, I usually go to class with my bokken (as a white belt, it might be safer). Still, after a few months, I decided to practice drawing my sword at home, and I found that I could not do it in one smooth move . So I asked Sensei, and he demonstrated with his own katana, insisting that I was not turning my hips enough. Armed with his advice, I tried again at home. Nothing . Finally, on Saturday, Sensei tried my katana and found out that he too, could not draw it as easily as he does with his own sword . It turns out that the scabbard is the culprit. The space inside it is too narrow, and will not let the blade "fly" out freely . When I placed this order, I knew nothing about swords, and I didn't know that a US$ 70.00 katana sits pretty on a display stand, but does little else . So let me share some piece of wisdom with all the newbies who could be reading this: BEWARE OF CHEAP SWORDS!
Now, I need to order a better quality sword. I am considering buying from bugei.com, so I would love some feedback from anyone who has tried their swords. I might have to spend a few months eating only carrots to save the money, so I would like to make sure that I am making a better choice.
I also noticed that they offer their katanas in a variety of length. A sempai who has trained in Japan told me that Japanese people are no taller than me, and that they use the longest sword without any problem. So how do I choose?
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Old 07-03-2007, 11:53 AM   #2
Michael Hackett
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

My family and friends recently gifted me with a katana from Bugei as a birthday gift. It is magnificent in all respects and I'm very pleased with it. My Sensei actually selected it on behalf of the "gang" and spent quite a bit of time with James Williams Sensei of Bugei getting exactly what fit me, both physically and aesthetically. Obviously it isn't a Bizen blade, but it is a top of the line modern production blade and exactly what I would have chosen for myself. My suggestion if you decide to go with Bugei is to talk with them before you order. Williams Sensei and his staff there are very experienced and helpful. This is, or can be, a lifetime purchase so be sure of what you want and need. They'll help you through the process. Stock up on carrots - they ain't cheap, but they certainly are reasonable and worth the effort and price.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 07-03-2007, 01:18 PM   #3
James Young
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Quote:
Marie Noelle Fequiere wrote: View Post
So let me share some piece of wisdom with all the newbies who could be reading this: BEWARE OF CHEAP SWORDS!
This is very good advice. Not only do you risk poor quality, but you may be risking your safety as well. Unless you got an extremely good deal, a $70 sword is meant to be only decorative in nature (despite want advertisments and sellers may lead you to believe) and using it as a martial arts practice weapon can be a real danger to yourself and others. I think generally the cheapest sword considered acceptable for martial arts practice is Paul Chen's practical katana, and those are significantly more than $70.

As far as Bugei's offerings are concerned they are all excellent. I have been very happy with my Bugei sword. As production swords they are manufactured by Paul Chen in China however they are made to Bugei's specific design and specs. And once they arrive at Bugei they go through a rigorous quality inspection before being shipped out to customers, so you can rest assured that you are receiving a quality product. If there does happen to be a problem with your sword also Bugei's customer service is great and they will take care of you. Personally I think Bugei's production swords are the next best thing to custom swords (which obviously will run you a lot more money). As far as length of the blade and tsuka is concerned that's something up to you and your teacher.
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Old 07-03-2007, 02:40 PM   #4
ChrisMoses
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Quote:
Marie Noelle Fequiere wrote: View Post
Now, I need to order a better quality sword. I am considering buying from bugei.com, so I would love some feedback from anyone who has tried their swords. I might have to spend a few months eating only carrots to save the money, so I would like to make sure that I am making a better choice.
I also noticed that they offer their katanas in a variety of length. A sempai who has trained in Japan told me that Japanese people are no taller than me, and that they use the longest sword without any problem. So how do I choose?
Bugei makes good stuff, but we've seen a few quality control issues of late. They will stand behind what they sell however and they are very reputable. I would however recommend getting an iaito, an unsharpened blade for practice. These don't rust, don't cut your hand off and are a LOT cheaper. A good iaito can be had for $300-$600 (more if you wanna go nuts) and will last you for years and years. I mostly use a live blade for my training now, but still go back to my iaito and it's still a joy to use. I recommend bogubag.com, good prices and good service from good folks. I'd say that 80% of what can be learned from a shinken (particularly if you're not doing tameshigiri) can be learned safer from an iaito. That last 20% is a long way down the road. And don't buy ANYTHING that's "stainless" steel, it is fine for knives, but not for swords.

Chris Moses
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Old 07-03-2007, 02:51 PM   #5
Michael Hackett
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Chris Moses' advice is right on. An iaito is a much safer alternative to a live blade. I had always wanted to have a live blade, but I still plan to buy an iaito in the near future. Something worth doing before buying a sword is to read "The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords". I doubt that you'll find it at a library, but you can get it from Bugei, Amazon, and some of the other major book stores. Mine was a gift from a friend who was a serious collector and it sure makes looking at blades more pleasurable.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 07-03-2007, 03:27 PM   #6
Marc Abrams
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Just received my dragonfly katana from Bugei and LOVE IT! Not only do I train in Aikido, but I am also studying with James Williams (soon to open an official study group). Bugei had flown a group of Japanese sword makers to Chen's place to work on issues related to the quality of their blades. Bugei stands behind all of their products and works hard at quality improvement/control.

Chris' comment about the iaito blade is a good one. Working with a live blade requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail. The cost of a lapse of attention and/or imprecise movement can be quite significant. Keeping blood-clotting material around and super-glue/liquid band aid is simply a smart precautionary measure. Luckily, my blade has not bitten me yet, and the improvement in my Aikido, as a result of my studies with Sensei Williams have been significant as well.

Marc Abrams
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Old 07-03-2007, 03:56 PM   #7
HL1978
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

http://forums.swordforum.com/showthr...=second+mekugi

the above is a great link which shows why training with wallhangers is a bad idea.

I have had 2 iaito in the past 10 years while training MJER, one from eguchi and a second I purchased from tozando. Tozando makes great stuff and offers plenty of customization options. Even though the blade is dull with an iaito, the tip is still very pointy and you can cut yourself while doing noto.

Make sure you get a properly sized iaito, otherwise, you can either "cheat" during nukitsuke/noto or it will be difficult if it is too large.

There should be sizing charts online and calculators to convert to sun/shaku, but as a general rule, you will want the bottom of the sword to almost touch your toe/floor, if holding it at your side.
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Old 07-03-2007, 04:42 PM   #8
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

I think there is a lot of good advice above...and I am going to add to it (hopefully). I made the mistake myself of buying a wallhanger...but was wise enough to sit it in a corner upstairs after I got tired of looking at it.

Then I had a passing relationship with a sword school, so got one from them. Nice, cuts well, looks good, etc. Still have it displayed in my living room. And it didn't cost an arm and a leg (shinto chen blade).

The thing is, I never stuck with the sword school for various reasons (they are great folks, and if I ever start training with the sword regularly, they are the group for me). So basically...it's become a wall hanger. I guess what I am saying is...be carefull how you spend your money...if you are not going to train seriously, under qualified instruction, you might be better off just passing on a passing fancy. The saftey issues are not to be ignored! I used to practice the little I learned from the sword school on my own. Then I noticed that the saya was getting way too worn in the koiguchi. A fast, carless draw, and I could cut right through it, and cut my hand as well. Not good. Even with a little knowledge, I was still way too dangerous to myself. And possibly even to others.

Best,
Ron (I still like my sword...but don't draw it anymore until I can train regularly...and under proper instruction)

Ron Tisdale
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Old 07-03-2007, 06:57 PM   #9
Michael Hackett
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Yeah, what Ron says! As I'm not ready to train formally with a sword school, mine remains locked securely in a safe. Just too many curious folks visit and a moment of carelessness could cause a tragedy. A shinken is no different than a firearm in that regard, especially with teen-agers in the house - all of whom think they are "masters of the sword". I often visit and admire my sword, spending many happy hours looking at the grain and other features. Just cleaning it is a refreshing exercise. What I don't do, and won't do without proper training, is practice the sword arts with it.

Michael
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Old 07-04-2007, 10:32 AM   #10
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
Bugei makes good stuff, but we've seen a few quality control issues of late. They will stand behind what they sell however and they are very reputable. I would however recommend getting an iaito, an unsharpened blade for practice. These don't rust, don't cut your hand off and are a LOT cheaper. A good iaito can be had for $300-$600 (more if you wanna go nuts) and will last you for years and years. I mostly use a live blade for my training now, but still go back to my iaito and it's still a joy to use. I recommend bogubag.com, good prices and good service from good folks. I'd say that 80% of what can be learned from a shinken (particularly if you're not doing tameshigiri) can be learned safer from an iaito. That last 20% is a long way down the road. And don't buy ANYTHING that's "stainless" steel, it is fine for knives, but not for swords.
I would completely second what Christian has said here about going to an Iaito. Enthusiasm and all, it is a great jump to go from a difficult toy to a beautiful Iaito.It was a lot like going from a crappy backyard surfboard to a shop bought board for me when I made the switch. I was amazed at what a good surfer I was suddenly. Ah, good equipment
And most particularly, unsupervised, the Iaito is safer.

For a quality Iaito at an honest price and very down to earth advice I would also recommend Peter Boylans site at

budogu.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/page19.html

As to the length of your Iai; it isn't the size of the boat.....oh wait, that's a different, cool, pointy instrument , Use the size that complements the style you intend to practice or the one that compliments your knowledge of your body now. There is no reason to go super big guns right out of the gate. Plenty of time for that later.
In the Tenshinsho Jigen Ryu style I practice, the sword frequently is shorter than in other ryu. I happen to love that aspect because it is fast!

Maybe Christian would be willing to offer some words about this. I've read some very good information from him that has been helpful before.

Again, though, I would really send up a recommendation for Mugendo Budogu products. Peter Boylan is a treasure.

budogu.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/page19.html

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 07-04-2007 at 10:37 AM.

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-04-2007, 08:12 PM   #11
Joe Jutsu
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

I've been practicing MJER for about three years, a little off and on to compliment my aikido. For the first year and a half or so, I was using a "loaner" sword from my dojo. With my last round of student loans, I took the extra and invested in a sword (I realized this would be the last time I have that sort of cash sitting around for some time). I second Jennifer's statement that the difference between even a decent quality blade and "display model" is night and day. I purchased my iaito through swordstore.com, who represents private sword makers in Japan. My iaito was of the cheapest level of iaito's that I could purchase through this site, but it was still customized to fit me and I am still pleased with the quality two years after I purchased it. My iai sensei recently purchased a more expensive iaito through them and it is a phenomenal blade. You can buy live blades through them as well, and basically spend as much money as you'd care to. But check 'em out, they have sizing charts and the like up there. Great stuff and very helpful customer service!

Joe
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Old 07-04-2007, 10:07 PM   #12
cguzik
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

So, in considering what you want to buy, you have to ask yourself: what is it I will be learning?

Different arts require different characteristics of their swords. Some tend towards longer blades, some shorter. Some prefer longer tsuka (handles), some shorter. There are specific reasons for these preferences, because each art has certain things that they are teaching and specific attributes of the sword you use will lend themselves to learning those specific things.

If you are not training in a certain sword art, then you have a blank slate so to speak. This is actually a disadvantage unfortunately. If your aikido sensei has experience with iai or kenjutsu then I would seek his advice.

Really, if you are not learning in a structured way from a teacher who has been trained in an actual sword art (as opposed to aiki ken), there is no point (but there is danger) in trying to teach yourself anything with a real sword. And even with an iaito, by trying to learn on your own you are more likely to teach yourself bad habits than to gain anything.
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Old 07-06-2007, 12:46 PM   #13
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Freaky! Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Thanks to all of you, everyone had a very usefull information to share. You have to understand that in my country, not everybody can afford a katana, or even an iaitho. No store offers those items around here. You have to either order, or take advantage of a vacation travel to buy them. wich means that on top of the price of the object, you also pay either broker's fees, or an airplane ticket.
Sensei often let the advanced students take turn using his sword in class. He even encouraged me to also come with mine, until he found out that it was not appropiate for training.
So now, I am thinking. The iaitho makes sense, but I will need the real thing one day. Calculator in hand, I can see that even ordering both at the same time and from the same company will save me a nice amount of money in terms of broker's fees.
I'm still stocking on carrots. I still have time to think.
Now I have another question: I remember that, when I received my wallhanger, I managed to cut two fingers, one of them deeply, while I was admiring it. And I was lucky I was sitting on the floor. Had I been standing up, I could have dropped it on my feet. Why is it necessary to fit with a sharp blade somethin that will do nothing but just sit or hang around?
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Old 07-06-2007, 01:01 PM   #14
dragonteeth
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

A friend of mine and I both have non-Bugei Paul Chen swords. He has the Golden Oriole, and I have the Wind and Thunder. While they would be still considered practice fodder by serious collectors, they do look and handle pretty nicely. My friend's Oriole has a lovely balance and draws smoothly. My Wind and Thunder has a very front-heavy balance because it was designed for tamashigiri practice. It's almost a full pound heavier than the Oriole as well, which is slightly awkward for me as a female. Both are *very* sharp, and I wouldn't recommend them for iaido until you have a certain amount of skill.

My advice would be to either travel to where you can see and feel the sword in person, or else make sure your source has an excellent return policy. eBay would not be my first choice for sure.

Another site to consider than the ones mentioned would be Nosyuiaido's, which is www.swordstore.com. They have everything from pre-made shinken and iaito to fully custom versions of both that can cost over $2k US. There is a blade length calculator, and for their custom work they also will match the diameter of the tsuka to a tracing of your hand. They also sell sword furniture (tsuba, menuki, etc.), replacement sageo, uniforms, wooden weapons, kamidana, and so forth, as well as offering blade restoration services. One day when I'm old and rich (ha!), I've promised myself to splurge and get one of the custom shinken.

Best of luck in your search!
Lori
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Old 07-06-2007, 01:30 PM   #15
Nick P.
 
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Your sensei is the way to go on this one, for sure.

-Sharp blade or not? She will know.
-Length? She will know (likely depends on your school's) style.
-Who to buy from? She will know.

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Old 07-06-2007, 01:45 PM   #16
ChrisMoses
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Quote:
Marie Noelle Fequiere wrote: View Post
Now I have another question: I remember that, when I received my wallhanger, I managed to cut two fingers, one of them deeply, while I was admiring it. And I was lucky I was sitting on the floor. Had I been standing up, I could have dropped it on my feet. Why is it necessary to fit with a sharp blade somethin that will do nothing but just sit or hang around?
It got you to buy it didn't it?

Chris Moses
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Old 07-06-2007, 02:22 PM   #17
Michael Hackett
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

A somewhat related story.......my previously mentioned blade collector friend sent all of his blades to Japan for polishing and some for examination and papering. They would routinely be sent back in shirasaya, wrapped in layers of bubble wrap, then brown paper and a cardboard box. He was peeling the bubble wrap from a blade and sliced two fingers badly as the blade had cut through the bottom of the shirasaya during transit, exposing about a half inch of the kissaki. A trip to the ER, a hand specialist, and many sessions of physical therapy later, he is fully recovered, but very, very careful.

Michael
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Old 07-07-2007, 12:03 PM   #18
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Quote:
Michael Hackett wrote: View Post
A somewhat related story.......my previously mentioned blade collector friend sent all of his blades to Japan for polishing and some for examination and papering. They would routinely be sent back in shirasaya, wrapped in layers of bubble wrap, then brown paper and a cardboard box. He was peeling the bubble wrap from a blade and sliced two fingers badly as the blade had cut through the bottom of the shirasaya during transit, exposing about a half inch of the kissaki. A trip to the ER, a hand specialist, and many sessions of physical therapy later, he is fully recovered, but very, very careful.
This reminds me of etiquette with guns:

Always assume, first, that they are loaded and act as if they are.

Do not make them generally available, as in on a stand or a display in your home ( or dojo ).

By following these simple guidelines ( and others ) a person can maintain the safety and the legal right to own one.

Thanks,
js

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-07-2007, 12:13 PM   #19
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Quote:
Joe Proffitt wrote: View Post
I've been practicing MJER for about three years, a little off and on to compliment my aikido. For the first year and a half or so, I was using a "loaner" sword from my dojo. With my last round of student loans, I took the extra and invested in a sword (I realized this would be the last time I have that sort of cash sitting around for some time). I second Jennifer's statement that the difference between even a decent quality blade and "display model" is night and day. I purchased my iaito through swordstore.com, who represents private sword makers in Japan. My iaito was of the cheapest level of iaito's that I could purchase through this site, but it was still customized to fit me and I am still pleased with the quality two years after I purchased it. My iai sensei recently purchased a more expensive iaito through them and it is a phenomenal blade. You can buy live blades through them as well, and basically spend as much money as you'd care to. But check 'em out, they have sizing charts and the like up there. Great stuff and very helpful customer service!

Joe
Just a note to say that I really like your name .

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-09-2007, 10:55 AM   #20
Sam Feinson
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

You might also do well to ask the same question on the Kendo World forums. The people there are very knowledgeable about equipment, and there is a section dedicated to all things Iaido.

http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=3

Note the post about wallhangers.

Even a search of the forums there, or a look at the links section of the main page, will give a wealth of links to equipment sellers. I can also tell you off the bat that a lot of people there swear by www.e-bogu.com, but I can't personally speak to it. E-Bogu does sell Iaido equipment, including katanas.
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Old 07-09-2007, 02:01 PM   #21
kironin
 
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

It's not surprising that people at Kendo World would like e-bogu BUT for iaito, cutting blades or shinken, I would advise you not to use e-bogu.com. There are far better sources, some which have been suggested already.

Now if your looking to do kendo, e-bogu is a good place to shop.

Last edited by kironin : 07-09-2007 at 02:07 PM.

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Old 07-09-2007, 05:57 PM   #22
ChrisMoses
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

e-bogu has a good reputation among the iai crowd. Almost any iaito you buy these days is made by the same group of craftsmen (if made in Japan). Swordstore.com used to have different blades and fittings, but they now use the same blades as everyone else. Probably the best prices are from bogubag.com, I just received a new iaito from them this week. My dojo decided to buy a loaner for new people to borrow until they could afford their own and I'm quite satisfied with the quality relative to the price. It shipped directly from Japan, like just about everyone else's.

Chris Moses
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Old 07-10-2007, 11:12 AM   #23
salim
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

The best site for quality weapons. Expensive, but great quality and good service.
http://www.coldsteel.com/88kwarser.html
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:09 PM   #24
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Well, I disagree about e-bogu's reputation in the iai crowd since I am part of the iai crowd. Some of my students have gotten some pretty crappy equipment from there. I also disagree with the idea that it all comes from the same places in Japan so it doesn't matter.

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Old 07-11-2007, 08:56 AM   #25
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Re: Need some advice to order a katana

Informations keep pouring in, thank you again to all of you.
Now, I suddenly remember a story I heard on CNN about a year or two ago.
One night, a mother decided to check one last time on her child who was already sleeping, before going to bed herself. She entered the room to find an absolute stranger with an absolutely dirty look in his eyes standing next to her child's bed. There happened to be a wallhanger, well, hanging on the wall, within her reach. She did what any parent, no, any sane and responsible adult would do in a situation like this: she grabbed the sword and charged the pervert. The pervert did the only reasonable thing to do given the circonstances: he fled.
So maybe a sharp wallhanger is not such a stupid idea after all.
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