Website on Katanas

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by PhotonGuy, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    I found a website that does reviews on different Katanas of different price ranges. Im looking for feedback, if what it says is good and reliable. Here is the website.

    The Best Katana by Spending Limit - Katanas Sword Reviews
     
  2. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    No. It reads like a fanboy with no real experience or understanding of what he's talking about. There is a large amount of improper terminology, lack of proper descriptives, a focus on rather inconsequential facets, and no real clue about what would make something "good" or not.

    I've noticed a range of weapons-based threads of yours recently... are you looking to begin a study of Japanese sword arts? If so, none of this is much relevance to you, as your best source of information and opinion will be your sensei... if not, this is not very relevant to you, as you don't have the background to even know what you're asking about here.

    Realistically, the best way to learn what is good or not, and how to assess it as such, is to begin training in a legitimate sword art, pay close attention to what you're told, and, after a few years, you'll be in a position to look back at this website, and realise just why I'm so dismissive of it... but to let you know, none of the "brands" there are anything special at all... none of them are actually Japanese forges, and none of them are anything other than mass-produced imitations (fine for certain usages, don't get me wrong), but are nothing like the fanboy reaction they're being afforded in your link. I don't know anyone who would consider any of them serious weapons for Iai or Batto study... other than as basic cutters in cases.... but some are rather overpriced even for that.

    And really, "sterling silver" for the fittings? That makes it a "$10,000 katana"? Christ....
     
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  3. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Yes I have recently started Iaido. We use the bokken and the Iaito for training.

    They might not be authentic Japanese katanas but even if they're reproductions built elsewhere if they function well is my main concern. I would certainly not buy the more expensive ones.
     
  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Okay, cool. I'm assuming Seitei Iaido, yeah? And I'm familiar with the tools used, for the record...

    At this point, your job is to train and study... get used to the feel and weight of a sword... follow the instructions of your teacher (who will guide you on a preferred architecture... blade length, weight, fittings etc, if there are any). From there, a few years down the track, when you have a foundation in understanding these weapons, you can look at what you would be needing. At this point, it's like taking your first driving lesson, and asking about what the best supercar is that you should buy...

    This, alone, shows that you simply don't have the experience to look at buying a sword (for training). For one thing, "function well" is dependant upon the intended usage... are they for Iaido? Batto? Tameshigiri? From there, the idea of "expensive" or not, or even properly made in Japan, is largely secondary to "suited to your purpose"... the cheaper Chinese forges will often still suit... but can be less-reliable and consistent in terms of fit and finish... so the experience you gain in the next few years will be invaluable in terms of being able to assess the weapons yourself. Then you'll see just how bad that review page is....
     
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  5. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Chris, has given you very good advice on this thread. Most importantly is to at this point train and study with your sensei. Follow his instructions and he or she will guide you to where you need to go eventually to buy a quality iaito and eventually a shinken. Do not rush the process and go out and buy some thing to soon. More than likely you will buy something that is not appropriate for your styles usage or is just plain junk. Just train and learn from your sensei at this point.
     
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  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    I'm curious why it is a few years before a student is ready to select their first weapon. It seems to me (from an entirely uninformed viewpoint) that a student should be informed enough after maybe a year to select a sturdy, inexpensive weapon with the advice of their instructor. Is some of the process a holdover from the time when (IIRC) training for a sword would start quite early, so there would be no need to get around to the individual's own weapon until they had some years in (and were approaching fully grown)?
     
  7. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    Just a guess here, but if you figure an hour or two of training, two to three times a week... We're looking at around 100, 150 hours of training in a year. How much of that is going to be aimed at selecting a weapon or the qualities versus ingraining and reshaping movement patterns?

    It also may not be "ready and able to select a live blade so much as ready to use one... I think a lot depends on what I guess we can call the level of sophistication of the style, as well. Some styles aren't that complicated, and can be absorbed more quickly or even get into live weapons much earlier. The long sword systems I've been exposed to aren't all that sophisticated; the basic qualities of a sound blade are pretty simple and consistent. You can pick the principles up relatively easily. I know a lot of the Japanese sword arts are much more intricate...

    But I'm really just speculating. Hopefully, someone with better experience can fill us in...
     
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  8. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm... not exactly what I'm getting at here....

    It's often expected that a new student in Iaido gets their own Iaito as soon as they can afford it (once ensuring that they are interested enough to drop the cash on one, of course), but that's not what is being discussed in the website, or in PhotonGuy's series of threads. And, yes, of course it's expected that the student consults with the teacher... who will offer advice on size, preferred manufacturers/suppliers (if they have any), and anything that would not be considered "acceptable"...

    The real point, of course, is that we're not talking about buying an Iaito (a zinc/aluminium alloy blade, unsharpened and unable to be sharpened, used as a safe substitute to a sharp steel one), as the website is about buying "katanas" (sic)... namely, sharpened blades. PhotonGuy is in no need of anything like that... typically many Iaidoka use Shinken (live blades) from Sandan onwards... and, even if his group is doing tameshigiri regularly, most likely his dojo would have a few "dojo cutters" to be used... ones that have been vetted by the instructor already.

    When it comes to why a few years, for one thing, it can take time to develop the sensitivity and awareness of the differences (which can be fairly subtle to begin with) between something that is good, and something that borders more on unusable... especially in something like Iai, where you're spending many hours drawing and cutting, then resheathing the weapon (with many single hand actions)... so a weapon that's poorly balanced, or too heavy, or too light, can lead to strain and injury, as well as issues with technique and performance. Figuring out what precisely is "your requirement" for a frequently used item can take a while.

    Uh, no, really. On a few levels.

    Well, the act of training the waza acclimatises the student to the feel of a sword... getting them used to the correct way it should feel... behave... act... which is more important than if the fittings are made of sterling silver or just brass... which is the biggest issue I have with the "review" site... it seemed to focus entirely on aspects that are less relevant, and missed entirely any of the important realities of the items being reviewed. But, importantly, things such as preferences on tsuba, saya, sageo, menuki, and so on are really just aesthetic and personal choice... they make little difference... the important facets of selecting a sword are quite different, and require a fair amount of familiarity with using the weapons in the first place.

    Hmm... I get where you're coming from, but I don't think that's overly a factor... sure, it's hoped that by the time you get a live blade you aren't about to take your own fingers off... but if you do, eh, they're your fingers...

    Ha, hope this helped!
     
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  9. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Right now I am using a bokken in Iaido class. Students can use bokkens for up to one month when starting class after that they are required to us an Iaito. I've seen Iaitos made out of zinc and aluminum but I've also seen some that are made out of 1045 carbon steel. Some of the Iaitos made from 1045 carbon steel go at good prices too, around $60. I will ask my instructor about this the next time I see him. I would think, an Iaito made out of steel might be a better choice since its closer to the material that a shinken would be made with.
     
  10. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    So... you've been training in Iaido for less than a month then. Okay, cool. If I could offer some advice, it would be this: Stop thinking. At this point, you're doing what you've always done... found a small piece of information, applied no filter of experience or knowledge, and taken it as set in stone, irrelevant of it's importance. You've had members here (including myself) tell you something, only to have you parrot it back immediately as if it's something you've come to understand yourself... even if you haven't actually understood it yourself at all.

    Here, you're doing the same thing. You have found a piece of information, that there are "iaito" made from 1045 carbon steel... and that these can be around $60. From your lack of knowledge as to why the zinc/aluminium alloy is used, or what would make a serviceable iaito in the first place, you've seized on the idea that "steel is also used for real swords", therefore they might be "better"... when that's absolutely not the case.

    If you (or anyone, really) turned up at my dojo with such an item, they would be told to put the cheap piece of junk away, and not to bring it back into the class ever again. You should talk to one person, and one person alone about your first iaito, and that's your instructor. And anything less than about $250-$300 should be automatically discounted from being a viable option.

    Attend class. Listen to your instructor. Learn. Forget any idea that you know anything. At this point, you simply don't. Personally, I wouldn't consider anyone with less than 5 years experience in the swords arts as "knowing" anything. But your case is a bit different with the issues we've seen over the years... so I'm going to be very firm and definite here. These websites you're looking at are junk. Ignore them. Your instructor is the only person who can say what is and is not required for you in your class. Listen to them. Allow yourself to be guided by them. And do not apply independent thought. Nyunanshin/junanshin is essential here.
     
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  11. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    I have to say I find your response here overly heavy, Chris. He did say he was going to talk to his instructor, not that he was going to go buy the steel iato on his own thought process. There's nothing wrong with curiosity. This forming of disposable conclusions is how many people learn. They look at what evidence they have, decide what conclusion it seems to support, then look to someone with more experience to see if they got it right. If not, they look to their thought process to see where it led them astray - what part of what they thought they knew was incorrect, or what concept did they not use properly.

    Not everyone learns the same way, nor should they.
     
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  12. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    I can see where you are coming from, Gerry, and, taken on it's own, I'd agree... but, not to retread this topic again, I'm looking at a much larger picture with this particular poster.
     
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  13. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    A $60 iaito is a machete at best... A decent quality knife several inches long is pretty much a steal at that price... so a sword a couple of feet long at that price is hard to believe. And even though it is deliberately made to be unsharpened (and often unsharpenable in any lasting sense)... an iaito IS still a sword. Talk to your instructor about what you need.

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
     
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  14. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Iaitos and machetes are two different things. Comparing them would be apples and oranges. Even the best iaito will not perform like a machete and vice versa. I really don't see the need for an iaito to be super high quality since its not used for cutting or for any contact drills but I will talk to my instructor about this.
     
  15. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Given that the primary factors to consider are weight and balance (as opposed to structural strength, quality of steel, edge, etc, etc), is there any reason why someone couldn't manufacture a properly weighted and balanced iato for $50?
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    The last phrase, IMO, forgives all the others. Your tone does come across as having drawn a conclusion, though your closing seems to make it clear you're aware it may be faulty.

    I'm not picking at you - just passing along an observation of how the post came across. You sound like what goes on in my head, much of the time: "Logically, based on what I know, this is clearly apparent. I should check with someone who knows more than me to check my thoughts." My wife sometimes thinks I'm arguing with her when I ask certain questions, when those questions are meant to check my own thought process.
     
  17. gpseymour

    gpseymour Grandmaster

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    You beat me to this one. It seems it should be possible with new alloys and CNC production. If it's not, there's clearly something I don't know about the issue. Maybe there's just not enough demand for the mass production that would bring the cost down.
     
  18. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    There is quite a bit of reason actually, and this is why there are so many internet sites that sell inexpensive Chinese made swords for really cheap. :)

    When purchasing a training sword (iaito) the primary factors, in order of importance based upon my experience, are construction, balance, and weight. Since you are going to be swinging this sword daily, it has to be properly constructed so that 1) the blade is properly aligned with the handle, 2) the blade has no chance of becoming loose in the handle, 3) the handle wrap won't come loose, and 4) the blade will be fit to the sheath properly. These are the parts that cost the most money because, in the Japanese sword, they have to be fitted properly by hand. There are shortcuts that can be made, such as machining out standard handles and fitting them to each blade with shims, and using panels for the ray skin on the handle instead of wrapping the handle in it, but they still have to be properly fitted to each individual sword to be strong and correctly aligned. And there is no way to shortcut the wrap, it simply has to be done by hand, and it is difficult to do correctly so that it stays tight.
    These construction issues are what raise the price on a decent quality iaito, and why most instructors will do what Chris suggested to anyone bringing in an inexpensive iaito. An iaito who's handle fails during training becomes a pointy missile in a crowded room. Most of the Chinese made swords that may be of good enough quality for occasional cutting, will not hold up to the rigors of daily practice.
     
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  19. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I have yet to find an iaito that I would recommend to anyone that is not at least $250 or more. Chris and pgsmith have given some really good advice here. Take your time, listen to your instructor and they will lead you in the right direction specifically for the training that they teach. Way to many people throughout the years have bought outright crap when not consulting their instructor or they bought an iaito that did not fit the system that they were studying. Slow down, talk with your instructor and they will lead you down the right path!
     
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  20. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Gerry, there is already great production in Japan with quality. Really spending some good money on a tool you can practice with for a life time is not that big of a deal. Worse is spending money over and over again not getting the highest quality.
     
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