It's that time of year when my first year students buy swords for the first time, so I thought I might explain my logic for choosing 'first swords' for junior students.... Note I have different requirements for swords as people progress in ability, etc... Hopefully others will chime in with their thoughts...
I have a variety of swords in different lengths that my beginners use before buying their first sword, plus access to my other students swords to help determine length required. I don't use the rule of 'sword tip near floor', but focus more on how nukitsuke /noto affects posture when the sword is at 'maximum arm length' in regard to koiguchi. I also make sure the saya is where I want it to be, not where the student currently puts it!
After length, I try and get as light a sword as possible. Most of my juniors are fairly 'lightweight' university students, rather than heavily built 'weightlifter' types. The lack of strength they have has a serious effect on their technique, in that they focus a lot of 'power' into their hands and arms/shoulders. I had this brought into a sharp focus last year, when one of my female students bought a heavy sword which even I found heavy to use!! There are a couple of other advantages, in that a student can train on over longer time periods, and if you get injured, you can 'fall back' to using the lighter blade. (I expect more senior students to use correctly weighted blades after they gain correct technique)
Balance wise, I prefer 'tip heavy' blades so students can feel the kissaki cutting through the air, rather than weight in the tsuka. (This is not so important for senior students, who should be able to cut properly anyway)
Over the years, I have realised blades are fairly limited on what you get for curvature and kissaki shape, but I like a nice loud 'whistle'... (this is more for my benefit as I am going deaf!) I can then have a listen and see where they apply power/relaxation (or not!)
I do recommend certain suppliers as I know the quality of the product (sorry guys, no free adverts!), but put no constraints on colour, etc, and always tell them to buy a bag if they don't have one.... (why iaito come without a leather sword bag is beyond me..) Fortunately supplies of horribly coloured saya etc are limited to wallhanger suppliers...
Sageo length seems to vary a lot, although I have noted the bulk of the suppliers now seem to go for the 'longer than the end of the saya' type... I usually wait and see what turns up, and if it needs changing, have contacts who can pick up a replacement quite cheaply. I don't make a big deal of this to the students, as most of my guys are on a tight budget, so just mention it in passing....the early MJER waza dont need long sageo anyway.
I tell them to ask what is in stock...and buy that.... i.e. do not go for 'customised' stuff unless they want to wait! (there is nothing worse than a student waiting for his first sword to turn up....)
So.... anyone look for something other than what I have mentioned so far?
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