Time to buy sai, need advice...

lklawson

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I don't want to come across as insensitive, but it is, after all, just a tool.
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't.

A lot of folks (myself included) sometimes form emotional attachments to their "tools" and will often look for ones that will somehow "express" them or are special in some way.

Gifts, tools that are customized to you, tools that are acquired on a special occasion or as a commemorative memento, etc. are all more than "just" a tool.

This goes for just about anything that others might consider a mere "tool." Most of us (myself included) consider their automobile a "tool" that gets them from point-A to point-B. But then you've got folks that have "special" cars. Restored antiques, maybe the same model as their first car (or the first car they "got lucky") in, or just 'cuz they always liked that model.

Heck, my favorite pistol is a 50 year old military cast-off. But I love the looks, love the cartridge, and have customized it to my tastes.

A person's first pair of sai might easily fit into this category.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Flying Crane

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Do you any friends local to you who are amateur smiths? You might be able to get him to give you a deal and get custom work to boot.

Another alternative is if you've got a friend who can weld. Supply him with some appropriate steel bar (rebar from abandoned work sites won't work ;) ). You'll have to do the "finish work" yourself probably, but that's really not too hard, just time consuming. Files, sanding, and polishing, then wrapping the hilt.

My word of caution in this idea is that these people, while they may know their metal working and welding, may know nothing about the weapon and how it is used. This means it's unlikely that they will get the balance and proportions just right. It may LOOK like a sai, but it may FEEL like a telephone pole and be un-functional.

I'm an amature metal worker myself (bronze and silver casting), so I appreciate the thought when it comes to finding artisans to do the work for you. But they must have an understanding of what the end result needs to be. Otherwise the result, while being less expensive, will be unacceptable.
 

lklawson

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But they must have an understanding of what the end result needs to be. Otherwise the result, while being less expensive, will be unacceptable.
Yeah. Like I mentioned, you gotta find one that will work with you. :)

And just because they have never made one doesn't mean that they can't. Yeah, the first try may be a paper weight. The following will be better and, heck, these guys gotta get a "first time" sometime, right?

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Bruno@MT

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It would help greatly if you can worh with someone, and have a good pair of sai as an example and to compare balance etc.

I am an amateur metal worker as well, though not experienced with welding or blacksmithing. I restore antique stright razors and make new ones as well. They're not mere tools to me, and I can spend hours and hours for zero or small profit, just because I care about the blades..

Otoh, my car... paint is peeling away from the bumper and there are minor dents all over it and I don't care.
 

Grenadier

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There is a low cost alternative, if you want to start out with a better-balanced pair of sai than the usual ones that you see from AWMA, Century, et al.

http://www.sakuramartialarts.com/Martial_Arts_Weapons_Sai_Demo_Octagon_p/wea-9301-a1.htm

These are the "demo" sai, that are a bit lighter, but also have better balance. Our students use these when they first start out, so that they can develop mechanics that don't get corrupted by an unbalanced pair.

It's the mechanical development that's the most critical initial phase. Shihan Toshihiro Oshiro (chief instructor of Yamanni Ryu Kobudo) emphatically states in his seminars that "if you learn on junk sai, then your technique will usually be junk."

Learning with these sai is what I consider the equivalent of someone learning how to shoot with a decent quality .22 LR pistol. This way, you develop good trigger mechanics, so that you aren't trying to immediately focus on flinching issues, etc., and can work the more powerful weapons later.
 

Flying Crane

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Yeah. Like I mentioned, you gotta find one that will work with you. :)

And just because they have never made one doesn't mean that they can't. Yeah, the first try may be a paper weight. The following will be better and, heck, these guys gotta get a "first time" sometime, right?

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk

yup, as long as everyone understands the issue and recognizes the possible pitfalls and is prepared to work around them.

Of course the more of that they need to do, and suddenly the cost isn't so low anymore...
 
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Bill Mattocks

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There is a low cost alternative, if you want to start out with a better-balanced pair of sai than the usual ones that you see from AWMA, Century, et al.

http://www.sakuramartialarts.com/Martial_Arts_Weapons_Sai_Demo_Octagon_p/wea-9301-a1.htm

These are the "demo" sai, that are a bit lighter, but also have better balance. Our students use these when they first start out, so that they can develop mechanics that don't get corrupted by an unbalanced pair.

It's the mechanical development that's the most critical initial phase. Shihan Toshihiro Oshiro (chief instructor of Yamanni Ryu Kobudo) emphatically states in his seminars that "if you learn on junk sai, then your technique will usually be junk."

Learning with these sai is what I consider the equivalent of someone learning how to shoot with a decent quality .22 LR pistol. This way, you develop good trigger mechanics, so that you aren't trying to immediately focus on flinching issues, etc., and can work the more powerful weapons later.

In our dojo, our training involves having bo staffs bashed into our sai at near-full-force once the basic blocks have been demonstrated. Do you think these sai would stand up to that? We have a couple of the aluminum ultra-lightweight sai in the dojo that someone brought in long ago and abandoned; good for getting your brains based in when you block with them against a bo or engage in sai-sai or bo-sai kumite in the dojo, so no one uses those.

I like the link, and thank you! I think that might be just what I'm after, so long as they're not just for show.
 

lklawson

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yup, as long as everyone understands the issue and recognizes the possible pitfalls and is prepared to work around them.

Of course the more of that they need to do, and suddenly the cost isn't so low anymore...
Absolutely.

My experience is that hobbyists and folks "helping out a friend" will tend to have more sympathy in their pricing when dealing with the inevitable growing pains of a new project.

YMMV.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Grenadier

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In our dojo, our training involves having bo staffs bashed into our sai at near-full-force once the basic blocks have been demonstrated. Do you think these sai would stand up to that? We have a couple of the aluminum ultra-lightweight sai in the dojo that someone brought in long ago and abandoned

Sorry about the lateness of the response... Last couple of weeks has been hectic.

These are much stronger than aluminum sai, and still have a decent heft to them.

In all honesty, though, without knowing how one engages in blocking techniques (varies from style to style), it's difficult to say. If someone were trying to get the entire sai to take the force of a bo strike, then I doubt any sai would be able to hold up to that.

If, on the other hand, one uses the sai , and also uses the lower body to re-inforce the position, then blocking a bo strike could certainly be done with the above sai. They're still made of steel, after all.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Sorry about the lateness of the response... Last couple of weeks has been hectic.

These are much stronger than aluminum sai, and still have a decent heft to them.

In all honesty, though, without knowing how one engages in blocking techniques (varies from style to style), it's difficult to say. If someone were trying to get the entire sai to take the force of a bo strike, then I doubt any sai would be able to hold up to that.

If, on the other hand, one uses the sai , and also uses the lower body to re-inforce the position, then blocking a bo strike could certainly be done with the above sai. They're still made of steel, after all.

I bought a pair of these - I just needed something, and could not wait any longer.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009PIUHG

They were cheap - I thought, well if no one can tell me the difference between the cheapies, I have to try something, so I'll go with the cheapest.

They're steel. And I bent them with my hands.

So now those are in the trash.

Steel apparently isn't getting it. Aluminum would be right out. I think too many people are thinking of sai to hang on walls or throw at trees or something (comments on feedback for various sai sold online). This isn't for doing kata exclusively. We do bo-sai kumite. Yes, we block bo staff strikes with them; if we fail to block, we get a shot in the head with the bo, and one of our guys got six stitches in his forehead for it. Full force? I'd say about that, yes.

Bottom line - I'm not asking anyone to make them for me. Despite the excellent advice, I'm simply not going to do that. I'm also not going to spend $300 and up on a set. I'm just a beginner. I need strong sai, real sai, and I was hoping there was something in between the $30 cheapies and the $300 'real' sai. Apparently not much.

Oh, and I really have trouble with web sites that won't list a price; you have to call them and they'll tell you how much they cost. Uh, sorry. I'm not into negotiating or finding out how much the guy feels like pricing them today depending his mood. If the price isn't listed, I'm not buying them. I thought about that one a lot. I respect the guy's desire to do that, but I'm not going to call him. That's just not me. Tell me the price or forget it.

SO, having bought stupid cheap and regretted it, I'm still looking. And a bit miffed at myself.
 

jks9199

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Bill -- depending on the site (I'm not going through to find which one/ones) that didn't list a price, I would give 'em a chance. Prices may reflect current costs, and the guy just doesn't feel like playing with his website on a daily basis, y'know?

What advice has your teacher or senior students given you about what to buy? As I recall, they didn't want to recommend a source (or couldn't) but they should at least be able to tell you the characteristics you want.

You might try contacting Wayne Wayland via this website. He's on the other side of the country -- but has great Isshin-ryu contacts and might be able to refer you to someone.
 

harlan

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I've bought cheap stuff because I had to have it right away, and in every case but one, regretted it. Lesson learned. Sometimes one has to wait, and things come one's way. Serendipitous. :) And then there is being stiff necked. ;)

Not that I get anything out of it, but I called Shureido (USA) today and natural 20 inch sai are $185. They are out of stock of the 22 inch...no price quote available until next shipment from Okinawa arrives.

I bought a pair of these - I just needed something, and could not wait any longer.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009PIUHG

They were cheap - I thought, well if no one can tell me the difference between the cheapies, I have to try something, so I'll go with the cheapest.

They're steel. And I bent them with my hands.

So now those are in the trash.

Steel apparently isn't getting it. Aluminum would be right out. I think too many people are thinking of sai to hang on walls or throw at trees or something (comments on feedback for various sai sold online). This isn't for doing kata exclusively. We do bo-sai kumite. Yes, we block bo staff strikes with them; if we fail to block, we get a shot in the head with the bo, and one of our guys got six stitches in his forehead for it. Full force? I'd say about that, yes.

Bottom line - I'm not asking anyone to make them for me. Despite the excellent advice, I'm simply not going to do that. I'm also not going to spend $300 and up on a set. I'm just a beginner. I need strong sai, real sai, and I was hoping there was something in between the $30 cheapies and the $300 'real' sai. Apparently not much.

Oh, and I really have trouble with web sites that won't list a price; you have to call them and they'll tell you how much they cost. Uh, sorry. I'm not into negotiating or finding out how much the guy feels like pricing them today depending his mood. If the price isn't listed, I'm not buying them. I thought about that one a lot. I respect the guy's desire to do that, but I'm not going to call him. That's just not me. Tell me the price or forget it.

SO, having bought stupid cheap and regretted it, I'm still looking. And a bit miffed at myself.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Bill -- depending on the site (I'm not going through to find which one/ones) that didn't list a price, I would give 'em a chance. Prices may reflect current costs, and the guy just doesn't feel like playing with his website on a daily basis, y'know?

I know. But it's always been a thing for me. I see something in a classified ad and the guy doesn't give a price or an email, he wants potential buyers to 'call him'. Uh yeah. I'm not into that "how much is it worth to you" thing. Like a used car lot, where the sales guy tells you the price after he's got you locked in his office and already has a pretty good idea how much money you make. Ick. Just tell me how much, huh? How hard is that? Put the price on the website.

What advice has your teacher or senior students given you about what to buy? As I recall, they didn't want to recommend a source (or couldn't) but they should at least be able to tell you the characteristics you want.
Not really. It's a small dojo. Our sensei said that at a certain point, a student probably wants to buy his or her on sai instead of using the ones in the dojo. I don't know who makes the ones in the dojo. One of our sensei does order from Century, but I don't know if all the sai come from there. And Century's sai aren't cheap, either. And the ones in the dojo are beat to heck. You could get chrome pieces in your bloodstream if you cut yourself on those things.

You might try contacting Wayne Wayland via this website. He's on the other side of the country -- but has great Isshin-ryu contacts and might be able to refer you to someone.
Thanks!
 
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Bill Mattocks

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I've bought cheap stuff because I had to have it right away, and in every case but one, regretted it. Lesson learned. Sometimes one has to wait, and things come one's way. Serendipitous. :) And then there is being stiff necked. ;)

Not that I get anything out of it, but I called Shureido (USA) today and natural 20 inch sai are $185. They are out of stock of the 22 inch...no price quote available until next shipment from Okinawa arrives.

Well, 20 inch is too small and 22 is just a little bit too big...I think. And the price is...OK I guess. I'd really love to see something decent in between the $40 cheapies and the $300 'best'. This is in between, yes, but a bit more towards the lower side of $100 would be really nice. Like I said, I must be looking for something that doesn't exist.
 

Josh Oakley

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I think your evaluation is correct. Even the best steel will bend after a bit. I had a really great jutte that my uncle had made for me that I bent to hell as a teenager by beating it against a tree. And it was strong steel.
 

Josh Oakley

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Plus... something seems a little off to be blocking a staff with a sai. Maybe it's just me.
 

tayl0124

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Bill, it is unfortunate that you cannot look beyond the issue that you have to call to get a price. What would you have done before the internet?? Okay enough about that. Any time that we have talked about any karate equiptment in the dojo, weather weapons( sai, bo, tonfia) or uniforms my sensei has always suggested Shureido. He has placed many orders from Shureido usa and has told me to just let him know if I want to order something, or he may even pick up something durring his next trip to Okinawa to train with Tokumura Sensei. Something you may want to consider is that the items at Shureido USA are imported and there is an exchange in currency that changes every day. This is my guess as to why they do not list prices on their site. They could list the prices in Yen, but what does that really do for us anyways??

Good luck with your search for a good pair of Sai. I too have been looking for a pair that are cheaper than the Shureido ones, but haven't been able to find any of good enough quality. One day I will probably have to bite the bullet and then I will buy a pair from Shureido. I know there is a guy that my Sensei knows in Michigan that makes Eku, and such, I am not sure if he makes Sai or not, I can ask him later today when we have class, I have seen his website once but can't find it as of the moment.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Bill, it is unfortunate that you cannot look beyond the issue that you have to call to get a price. What would you have done before the internet?? Okay enough about that. Any time that we have talked about any karate equiptment in the dojo, weather weapons( sai, bo, tonfia) or uniforms my sensei has always suggested Shureido. He has placed many orders from Shureido usa and has told me to just let him know if I want to order something, or he may even pick up something durring his next trip to Okinawa to train with Tokumura Sensei. Something you may want to consider is that the items at Shureido USA are imported and there is an exchange in currency that changes every day. This is my guess as to why they do not list prices on their site. They could list the prices in Yen, but what does that really do for us anyways??

Good luck with your search for a good pair of Sai. I too have been looking for a pair that are cheaper than the Shureido ones, but haven't been able to find any of good enough quality. One day I will probably have to bite the bullet and then I will buy a pair from Shureido. I know there is a guy that my Sensei knows in Michigan that makes Eku, and such, I am not sure if he makes Sai or not, I can ask him later today when we have class, I have seen his website once but can't find it as of the moment.

Not to worry, this is an old thread. I bought a pair of el cheapos. I appreciate all the advice, but in the end, I cannot spend money I do not have. I wish I had not started this thread, to be honest. Thank you for the offer.
 

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