Katana Suggestion?

Discussion in 'Sword Arts Talk' started by Christian Soldier, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm. I know we said we were encouraging you, but so you know, making a bokken isn't as easy as just carving wood. It needs to be balanced properly, the wood is typically aged so to remove moisture, meaning they won't splinter so easily, instead they "crush" on contact, the woods are specifically chosen for grain, consistency, and more. It takes quite a while to be able to make one. I'd more recommend buying one. If you want, you can then use that as a template for any you try to make (which should give you a more consistent result).

    So you know, a wide variety of Ryu have very specific bokken that they use, and you won't find them using the same as other schools... again, a school is the first step. And, really, although Katori Shinto Ryu is often a first choice, finding it isn't easy. Care to move to Japan?
     
  2. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    While that's true to a point, it misses (and dismisses) a lot of ground there. You can golf with a set of Walmart special clubs. You can drive where you want to go in a used Kia Rio. You can take serviceable photos with your cell phone. You can run down anyone that doesn't wish to settle for "cheap". However, "cheap" in any of those other things I mentioned is not likely to cause you to kill whoever happens to be standing near you when "cheap" fails. Most "cheap" katana that I've ever held have myriad compromises in their construction in order to reach the "cheap" price point. Some of the compromises were acceptable, many of them were not. I've had quite a few swords that I refused to let students use because they were fatally flawed in my view. Without proper experience, how is some kid supposed to know what a fatal flaw is and what is acceptable? The obvious answer is that he doesn't, so I tell them to stay away from "cheap" swords, so nobody dies. While its really no skin off my nose if the kids that come here to ask for advice end up killing themselves, or someone else, because their cheap sword shattered, or the handle cracked so the blade flew out, or the wrap came loose so the blade flew off, or the handle fit was bad so the mekugi failed and the blade flew off. However, I feel, as a koryu practitioner, that it is my duty to try and pass on what I've learned about swords, as much as they're willing to listen to anyway. I don't mind if you don't agree with that idea, but I will object if you attempt to dismiss it.

    If swords were tools meant to be thrown away, as you so vehemently insist, why do we have so many remaining examples of Japanese swords made four or five hundred years ago? Did someone forget to take out the trash? :) You can't lump entire cultures together, as they all viewed things differently. Likewise, you cannot dismiss afficionados of any stripe just because you don't happen to agree with their views.

    To each their own sir!
     
  3. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    I think that there is someone who is missing the point.

    What the heck are you talking about? I didn't "run down" anyone. I was railing against people who get snobbish about functional "beater" swords and giving some pretty well founded historical reasoning behind it (specifically, that "beater swords" were far more common than the "work of art" swords).

    Bit of melodrama there.


    You seem to be taking this as a personal attack on you.

    You are misquoting me. I said that they were meant to be used and, when worn out from use, then discarded. It's not as if I claimed "so vehemently" that they were considered McDonalds Happy Meal toys. I said they were tools.

    The same reason we have so many swords from every-freaking-where. A well made, well cared for tool will last centuries. I have three myself from different cultures. Just as I have some perfectly serviceable firearms pushing a century. Just as I have some knapped stone tools hundreds of years old. Just as I have a bronze sword 1,500 years old. A well made tool made of a durable material.

    <sigh> Yes. Just as someone forgot to throw away my Astra 400 <eyeroll>

    In many ways, you actually can. Armies and soldiers using similar tools have similar objectives, similar challenges, and similar outcomes and views. From the books, articles, and various other sources I've read, it appears that the veneration of the Katana really didn't come into vogue until the relative extended peace of the Shogunate, when the human and material resources could be spared for such diversions. Prior to that, it was a tool. If it broke, you replaced it. If it didn't, you cared for it. If it lasted, well, it was still a perfectly serviceable sword so you'd pass it down to your son. This same exact progression happened in Medieval Europe, in the earlier transitional time period, in Rome, and probably with the Etruscans too though I have no proof. This is exactly the same thing that happened with carpenter tools. Well made. Well cared for. Passed down to children. Replaced when worn out.

    I really suggest that you re-read what I wrote. Unless you self-identify as being part of The Cult of the Sword, then I've already specified that I didn't direct this at you or anyone else specifically posting in this thread.

    Do some historical research, sir, and some research on both psychology, and large army strategies.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Honestly, I think both of you are right here. Kirks absolutely right that, over history, many blades were created that were really little more than workhorses, which is why, when appraising a sword, it's important to realize that many swords from times of heavy warfare would be these lower quality blades. However, and this is where Paul's comments come into it, there's a huge difference between cheaper blades made as workhorses during warfare and cheaply put together items which are potentially dangerous to the user and those around them due to short cuts taken to achieve a price point.

    Do we agree on that?
     
  5. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Without a doubt. Historically, functional "workhorse" blades were not slipshod crap. They were made as cheaply as possible while still being functional.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  6. Christian Soldier

    Christian Soldier Orange Belt

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    I'm a bowyer so I'm pretty familiar with wood properites, stress, and seasoning. I'll have to look more into what woods can be used but I'm thinking hickory and oak would serve admirably.

    Different Boken? Are you serious? There is just no end to this diversity! At this stage in my life, moving to japan isn't really an option, nor would I want to even if I could. Is it possible to learn just from seminars? The closest school is at least 4 hours away.

    Also one last requirement for a school that may signifantly limit my choices, IDK.
    I'm a Christian and I feel very uncomfortable with any of the 'eastern myticsm' or 'Chi' stuff, so if there are any schools that focus more on the sword and technique than the internal part of things, that would be kind of mandatory.
     
  7. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Oh boy.... ready for this?

    Oak (Japanese White or Red Oak) are traditional woods, as are a range of more exotic ones, such as Sunuke. Hickory has become a staple for North American bokken makers, as it shares many of the same properties as Japanese White Oak.

    That said, I'd still recommend waiting until you got some experience in what makes a good bokken, before trying. You'll get a sense of the balance required, the "feel", and so on, which you won't have yet. Intending no offence, but you are still in High School, so I'm not going to be so sure of your exposure and seasoning (ha!) in terms of woodworking.

    Oh, absolutely different bokken! Here's a small taste of some of the variety found: http://www.bokkenshop.com/category_s/43.htm

    I wasn't really being too serious with my comment about you moving to Japan, not at your stage and age, but the important thing is to realize that that might be your only option when it all comes down to it. When you mention the closest school as being 4 hours away, which school is that? Do you have a link to a website?

    Learning from seminars, well, yes and no. Attending seminars, and continuing to work on what is learnt there as part of a study group is feasible, but learning from seminars exclusively, I'm less sure of. The majority of training and learning is in keiko (practice), and that needs to be kept up inbetween seminars.

    There aren't any that will make religious demands on you, demanding that you worship anything other than your own choice and faith, however they will all be highly influenced by the religious environment in which they grew. Schools such as Katori Shinto Ryu have a lot of Shinto and Buddhist influence (a particular form of Buddhism known as Mikkyo), Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu is intimately linked to the Buddhist Sutras in order to understand it's deeper levels, and so on. The point of learning a Koryu is to learn their approach to everything, from the way you use a weapon through to the way you live your life on a daily basis, and the way you think about things. If you can't reconcile that, then Koryu won't be for you, as your personal biases would come in as a corrupting influence on the Ryu, as you really can't pick and choose which aspects of a Ryu you'll follow, and which you'll ignore. It's really all or nothing.

    However, something like Kendo can be good that way. As it's dominantly a sporting approach, there isn't the need for much examination on the spiritual aspects (don't get me wrong, they are certainly there, but you can be more selective in which you adopt and which you don't). Same with Seitei Iaido. But I would like to point out something... none of the teachings that you seem concerned about actually conflict with Christian belief or philosophy, unless you decide they do. In Japan it's considered normal to follow a range of religious observances, with no conflict at all. Additionally, concepts such as "Ki" (that's the Japanese pronunciation, by the way) can be thought of as a expression of unified intention behind your action... it's really not much more "mystical" than that. But frankly, if you're wanting to avoid "Eastern mysticism", why go for an Eastern art? It's going to have aspects of an Eastern (in this case, Japanese) heritage and belief system. It's a bit arrogant to insist that they don't, really. It'd be like my turning up at your church for the social gathering, but asking that you don't talk about any of that God stuff, as it conflicts with my beliefs. It just doesn't make sense.
     
  8. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Just a quick comment, something to think about. Personally, I am not a fan of learning thru seminars, and I'll explain why.

    In order to properly learn something like this, you need to have an ongoing relationship with a good teacher. This means that you meet regularly for training and instruction, and a very important part of that process is getting corrections. When you first learn something like this, you will not be doing it properly or correctly. That takes time to develop as your skill improves. It is a gradual process, and you need a good teacher who can repeatedly correct what you are doing, until you develop the skill and reach a point where you are doing it correctly. Without that ongoing relationship, you will not get the necessary feedback and corrections and instruction that you need.

    When you go to a seminar you spend a couple hours, or a weekend, or perhaps even a week, studying with someone who is attempting to teach you an aspect of an art, but that person is not your instructor, is not someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship. When the seminar is over, he will leave and you may never see him again, or you may see him a year from now when he comes back to do another seminar, or whatever the case may be. In that short period of time, a couple hours or a weekend or a week, you will not learn the material deeply, you will not be able to do it correctly and properly, you will not fully understand it. But you do not have that ongoing relationship to get the corrections and feedback necessary to develop the skill.

    So what happens is, you've learned something poorly and your only recourse is to continue to practice it poorly. This develops bad habits that you aren't even aware of because you have nobody to give you corrections and give you ongoing guidance. Over time you may even begin practicing it worse than how you learned it, because it's easy to drift into more and more bad habits without that guidance. So in the end you have something that you don't understand, that you practice poorly, and you have no way to ever get it corrected.

    If you have a solid background already in the method, and you attend seminars with visiting instructors in the same method, and you have a teacher with whom you can continue to train afterwards, then seminars can give benefits. But if you do not have the background and you are alone in your practice without guidance, I do not see them as a good way to learn. This approach can be misleading because you believe you have learned something when in fact, you have not.
     
  9. Christian Soldier

    Christian Soldier Orange Belt

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    Hey Chris, here is the school I found. http://www.aikido-dojo.com/samurai-sword/
    I see your point about the Easten influnce, perhaps it's just not for me.

    Again, all of you have been very helpfull. There's no way I could have figured all this stuff out myself.

    Thank you.
     
  10. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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  11. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    It's pretty interesting that you say that you are worried about the Eastern influence, since this sword art is invented by westerners and has absolutely no ties with Japan. I would advise anyone to avoid it. Not because of any eastern mysticism it may contain, but simply because the examples that I have seen of their made up sword art were truly horrible.

    Absolutely not. I have heard two personal accounts of this very thing. In one, a cheap sword shattered and one of the resulting pieces flew over the roof of a house and into the leg of a five year old girl in the front yard. A second one had the handle fail and the blade flew across and impaled the fellow who was standing 15 feet away in the chest. I've personally seen one wrap come loose in mid-swing and the fellow's sword went flying across the practice hall. Not melodramatic in the least actually.

    Depends upon what you consider a cult. You see, you keep specifying "beater sword" and, to the vast majority of people that aren't connected with the sword arts, that means a one or two hundred dollar sword from China. I personally think that no one should even think of doing anything with those swords, as they are mainly horrible accidents waiting to happen. I have real problems with the people that come on-line and say that it's just fine to use these poorly made, poorly balanced, vaguely sword-like objects for anything. Heck, I don't think they're even decent enough to hang on the wall as a decoration. The OP has zero sword experience, and I just want it to be perfectly clear that if someone wants a functional Japanese sword, they are going to have to pay a much higher price than "low end beater sword" to be assured of having one that will continue to function safely in its intended capacity. If you consider that as being part of the "Cult of the Sword", then you can count me in.

    I've done more than my share of Japanese historical research thank you very much. That research tells me that swords actually had very little to do with large army strategies throughout the thousand year history of the samurai. The samurai themselves were mainly horse archers, and the conscript armies were spearmen. Although they were issued 'beater" swords, very few actually used them, and even fewer actually knew how to use them. The way the Japanese use it, the sword is very difficult to learn well and was mainly the province of the samurai caste, who could devote the time required to learn it properly. When not in use, the samurai treated their swords in an almost reverent fashion, which is the main reason that there are many thousands of antique Japanese swords still in existence, as opposed to the hundreds of antique European swords. It's not at all unusual to see many examples of beautifully maintained Japanese swords from the early 1600's for sale. It is unusual to see an example of a beautifully maintained sword of that age from any other culture. This is why I say you can't just lump all medieval cultures into the same pot and call them equal, even if they had the same goals and warring factions.
     
  12. Sanke

    Sanke Green Belt

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    Well that was blatant. Free advertising isn't allowed on this site, nor is spamming. I'd suggest talking to Bob Hubbard if you're interested in advertising here, otherwise you're likely to get banned.

    An for the record, I most certainly wouldn't recommend this...


    Sanke on the move.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2012
  13. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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    :lfao:..................just.............:lfao:

    Really? 5, 4, 3, 2, 1....bye-bye!
     
  14. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    While not necessarily disagreeing with you, in a number of instances, this is a fairly common way of training in these systems. Bear in mind that you are dealing with some arts that really have a fairly limited curriculum in a number of cases, so you might only have a few kata to remember (Japanese kata, not Okinawan or Chinese forms... which means a short sequence of movements, usually no more than four or five actions, and typically paired, except for Iai), so the idea of repeating those over and over isn't that unrealistic. Then, when you attend the next seminar, or visit the instructor next, you get corrections and guidance, improving your practice... and it's only when you get it right consistently enough that you move on to the next ones. So in many cases, yeah, agreed, but in Koryu, particularly weaponry systems, it can be a bit different. The catch is that you do need to constantly work on things between seeing the instructor, you really can't learn by only attending the seminar. And simply being one of the faces in the crowd doesn't really imply the same thing.

    Uh.... right. You might want to keep paying attention, then. Do you remember this post?

    That's the system you've found. David Nemeroff is a relation of Cary Nemeroff, the above mentioned "author", with his invented system of "Fukasa Ryu", and complete lack of knowledge of anything to do with swordsmanship whatsoever.

    Under no circumstances believe that this is a good school to visit. Do not travel for four hours to waste time, money, and effort on this embarrassment to JSA practitioners.
     
  15. Christian Soldier

    Christian Soldier Orange Belt

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    Well, glad I asked here. I think I'll just stick to kenpo for now and get better at that. Thanks!
     
  16. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    <sigh>
    I give up. You're determined to make this a personal fight and I have no time and less inclination to oblige. :p
     
  17. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    Nope, no fight at all. I simply emphatically disagreed with your statement about "beater" swords, and included my reasoning in the matter. My views are out there for those with less experience to see, so I'm satisfied.
     
  18. Kaan

    Kaan White Belt

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    This thread has exactly the information I was looking for.
     
  19. swordsman

    swordsman White Belt

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    Hi, I can I was in exactly the same position, looking for a decent katana but at a reasonable price yet still of some quality. We looked at cold steel but like you the reviews put us off buying one from them. We ended going to Swords of the East who answered all my questions and recommended the best option. If you're still looking give them a try, they can definitely help.
     
  20. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm&#8230; the question was asked two years ago by someone with no training, no plan to go to a class, and no need for an actual weapon&#8230; which he was told throughout the thread&#8230; even if he was still looking, I'd advise not giving him ideas.

    Especially some of the absolute garbage on the site you linked, bluntly.

    I have to ask, though, why were you looking for a sword? Your profile states "Judo, brown belt"&#8230; yet you use the handle "swordsman"&#8230; hmm&#8230; do you have any actual experience with swords?
     

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