No announcement yet.

Origins of the shinai

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Origins of the shinai

    Hi all,

    I am wondering about the origin of the shinai. When was it first used? What did it evolve from (besides the obvious answer of the sword) and how did it reach it's current 4-bamboo slat state? Michael, I remember Ota-sensei talking to us about this subject, but I have regretably forgotten.

    Any insights?


  • #2
    Hi Jonesey,

    I am sure you'll get a few replies about this, so let me pipe in first.

    As far as I can ascertain the first recorded instance of a "shinai" in use was in a duel between Yagyu Sekishusai and a pupil of Kamiizumi-ise-no-kami .... KINK's pupil faced Sekishusai with a FUKURO (aka hiki-hada or toad-skin) SHINAI. This is 1 peice of bamboo cut into 4 times to about a 3rd of their length. It is then wrapped in leather (for padding + to stop bamboo splinters from going all over the place). I think this was in the 1580's or something.

    Many shinkage-related ryuha still use fukuro shinai, though there are a couple of different versions of it in use. You can even buy an aikido-type of this from

    I am sure someone will give you the full history soon!!!



    • #3
      Dear Jonesey-san,

      During that time when we so fortunate to recieve the lectures of Oka Kenjirou Hanshi, he made occasional references to the various type of bokuto and shinai that were used by the different schools. I still have some of that data copied in my notes; however, in Oka Hanshi's lectures that data was in the form of supplementary details and was not the central theme his discourse.

      That data that Mr. McCall provided was very valuable. I would very much like to hear more of his research.

      The evolution of the present day shinai did not occur as a single line of development. From the hundreds of proprietary schools various proto-shinai were developed. (A parallel line of the history of protective equipment is treated in the first issue of KW, in an excellent article by Professor Tamio Nakamura.) Factors such as the influence and continuing success of a school, protective equipment used in conjunction with, standardization of lenght, implementation in school curriculum, etc., all influenced the final result of what we use today.

      I can sympathize why Mr. McCall chose to relate only that one piece of data. Relating to another (kata) string to which I responed, I was dissappointed in my own posting, in that the information was far from complete; however, was perhaps too long for a Forums response.

      I recommend to the editors, Mr. McCall, interested researchers, that (we) treat this subject of the history and development of the shinai as a report to be published in KW magazine.

      Sorry Bryan for my non-response-response; however, I hope we will continue this topic in more complete fashion.



      • #4
        Hi again,

        I'd love to see this topic expanded because the "shinai" is something people take for granted: "this bits the back, this is the front, and you hit someone with this bit here" ..... the historical development on it must be useful/of-interest to any kendoka. I really loved the KW article on the history of bogu, lets see a shinai one!!!! [not forgetting bokuto in there somewhere]

        I have [luckily] trained in Yagyu shinkage-ryu while I was living in NYC, then in Japan, so thats where my exposure/interest in the fukuro shinai comes from.

        There is more available - in english - to be found in Karl Fridays "legacies of the sword" ... it deals with the Kashima shinryu, and discusses their adaption of Kamiizumi's fukuro shinai.

        Though its a bright day, its still cold in Scotland today



        • #5
          Whoo this is a dusty thread! (i've just dug up a 2 year old)

          Anyway this is a very good question!

          In the mid-eighteen century, Nakanishi Chuta created Kendo as a means to practice swordsmanship without fear of injury. He created the bamboo practice sword (Shinai), allowing the swordsman to execute a full blow without fear of causing an injury. In addition, he created protective gauntlets (Kote), chest guard (Do), hip and groin protector (Tare), and a head and throat protector (Men). Kendo has remained fundamentally unchanged since then.