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  • Iaito Buying Guide/FAQ

    Introduction: This is a guide intended to help beginners with buying their first iaito. Before shopping for an iaito, be sure your sensei thinks you are ready for one. The most important point in this entire guide, which will be reiterated incessantly, is this: ASK YOUR SENSEI FIRST! I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Your iaito will last you a rather long time if you care for it well, so you want to put a lot of thought into your selection.

  • #2
    Q: Where do I look?

    A: If there is somewhere local where you can actually inspect the sword prior to purchase, I would recommend at least checking them out. The advantage is that you can avoid getting an obviously faulty product, and you can get a feel for the handling of the blade, and pick the weight and balance that works best for you. That being said, the selection will probably be more limited, and you will have to live with your choice for a long while. Ask your sensei.

    Here are some online sources. Not all may be right for you. Talk to your sensei. (I will include every link that was posted before. Some sources are better than others).


    Tozando
    Bogubag
    Sword Store
    E-Bogu
    Aoi Budo
    Eguchi
    Token Mino
    Nishjin Sword
    Ninecircles
    Japan Bogu
    Hasuji
    Koei Bogu
    Bugei
    Meirin
    Mugendo Budogu
    Iaido Gear
    Samurai Store
    Meirin sangyo
    Japanese Swords
    BudoStuff
    Budo Kan - Japanese Site

    gichudo

    Japanese Swords 4 Samurai (disclaimer: these are Paul Chen swords)
    SEI DO KAI



    (And here’s a currency converter because it's handy,
    As well as a neat glossary).

    Used swords can also be a good, and more affordable choice (especially when your sensei can inspect it prior to purchase); but it’s generally not recommended to buy off eBay, even though there may be some reputable sellers out there. This is because you increase the risk of receiving a bad iaito, it may be worn out or otherwise not in good condition. Since your iaito will hopefully last you a long time, it’s better to get one you can be sure is of good quality. If you do decide to get one from ebay, be sure to have your sensei approve before hand.
    Last edited by Neil Gendzwill; 30th July 2010, 03:46 PM. Reason: Updated links

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    • #3
      Q: How do I choose where to buy my iaito?

      A: Ask your sensei which sites or stores he prefers. Ask fellow practitioners where they got theirs, and any comments they had about their experience. Its safest to buy from somewhere you know you can trust. Check how credible the site seems. Looking at return policies cant hurt; in case you get a faulty product (even good stores sometimes make them). Once youve narrowed your options, shop around within your acceptable sources. Find the right sword for the right price for you. And your sensei approve it.

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      • #4
        Q: How do I know if the iaito I want is suitable for practice?

        A: Well, first off, you need to avoid wallhangers. (A wallhanger is what we call a sword thats not good for anything but hanging on walls. They are very unsafe, and there is an excellent sticky in the iaido section explaining why.) So here are some tips to make sure its not one of them.

        *Firstly, have your sensei look at it (BEFORE you buy it.) They should be able to spot most wallhangers.
        *It should not be advertised as sharp or functional. If you need to be reading this, youre a long way from needing a shinken, and if its not very expensive, its probably a wallhanger.
        *An obvious one: Does it look like a real sword? If it doesnt look like the swords in Tozando, its probably a wallhanger. It should have all the elements of a proper sword. (Obviously, if it has the word ninja in the description, its a wallhanger.)
        *If possible, make sure the mekugi is bamboo and not steel or something else (they snap).
        *Make sure the tsuka ito is neat and symmetrical. If its not, the fittings may come loose soon.
        *Check the source of the sword. Do they seem honorable? Have you or anyone you know had experience with them? Where are they based? What else do they sell? Etc.

        Aside from that, most things come down to preference. Options and styles will be discussed in the next section. Talk to your sensei.

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        • #5
          Q: What about all the different styles and options?
          A: Mostly these come down to personal preference, and the preferences of your dojo. Some things work better for different people. As always, discuss these things with your sensei. I will address specific subjects in this section in a list format.

          Length: Length can usually be determined based on your height. Most sites have a sizing guide to them. There are, however, many schools or branches of schools that prefer longer or shorter blades. To be sure you get the right length, ask your sensei if the club has any preferences.

          Weight: You wont always get to choose the weight of your iaito unless youre buying it in person, or the site lists it. This can be a tricky one, so ask your sensei about it. Its important that you get one light enough that you can still use it properly, but heavy enough that it can swing nicely. The balance also comes into play here, as different centers of gravity make for different handling.

          Tsuka length: Ask your sensei if you need, or are considering getting a different length of tsuka. This factor is important to the balance and weight of the sword as a whole, and people with bigger hands may prefer a larger tsuka.


          Tsuka ito: Usually there are options between cotton, leather, and silk tsuka ito. These all have different pros and cons, and its largely a preference issue. Usually, the standard cotton tsuka ito should suffice for your first iaito, and its also much cheaper.

          Hamon: As far as iaito go, this is just an issue of style. If you can choose, pick what you like.

          Hi: For your first iaito, a normal hi should suffice. The problems with kakinagashi his (his that are extended all the way past the habaki) are that, first of all, it can be difficult to clean in the hi under the habaki and gunk can build up there. And secondly, its rumored that they are weaker, and can break more easily. Also, some swords have double hi. These dont necessarily make the whistle any louder, and may in fact make it quieter. Other hi styles include marudome his and kakitoshi his. Talk to your sensei if you are considering one of these different hi styles.

          Jidai or Higo: This is mostly a stylistic issue. Jidai koshira are squarer at the kashira, while higo koshira are rounded. There are other stylistic differences, and this mostly comes down to personal preference.

          Dotanuki blades: These are larger, heavier blades that some stores have as options. Generally they arent recommended for your first sword. Talk to your sensei if you are considering purchasing one.

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          • #6
            Q: I just received my new iaito; what should I check for?

            A: Check to make sure everything is in order. Is it assembled correctly? Is it wrapped well and tightly? Are any of the fittings loose? Is the mekugi secure? Is it in good condition? Does it wobble in the tsuka when you shake it? Beyond that, have your sensei check it as soon as possible. You should not use it until it has been checked by your sensei, as it may be unsafe in a way you have not noticed.

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            • #7
              Conclusion: If you choose wisely, and take good care of it, your first iaito can last you a long time. Be sure your sensei has already approved your sword before you order it, because you wouldnt want to get it only to find that it is unacceptable for practice. Good luck with your shopping experience, and be sure to take good care of your sword once you have it.

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              • #8
                My thoughts on sword buying

                The place I learn at here in Japan it is just Iai, so I can't comment on all these different ryus. At my school there are two eighth dans, a couple of sevenths and a bunch of sixths. The skill pool is awesome, the learning curve is steep and the training can be spartan. I train for free. I work with a seventh dan who gives me training sessions at work from time to time as well. Today I discussed this very topic with one of my teachers. I found that with a heavier blade my swing was straighter and the sound was more satisfying. He allowed me to hold his shinken, it was lighter than my iaito. I decided at that point my next sword was going to be as light as I could find. Length is not an issue for me, I am a little guy and I can get by with standard sizes.

                Ask your teacher for his or her advice and borrow some different size swords. I do several hundred practice swings each day just for the strength benefit (more interesting than lifting weights), I am going to get my hands on a heavy sword, but for proper training light is the way to go. Heavy swords will get you bouncing around and overextending. Even if you are strong, what is the point, Iai is not about strength, it is about control and precision.

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                • #9
                  Tsuka Ito - it depends how much you plan to practice. If you are practicing daily or for extended lengths of time, you might find cotton hard on your hands. cow skin is much more expensive though, I really don't think that silk makes a whole lot of difference.

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                  • #10
                    If you ask your sensei nicely you will find out what ryu you do. Nobody does 'iai'...You have a ryu same as everyone else. Even if you just do seitei iai there will be an influence of ryu behind it....

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dirtyaussi View Post
                      Tsuka Ito - it depends how much you plan to practice. If you are practicing daily or for extended lengths of time, you might find cotton hard on your hands. cow skin is much more expensive though, I really don't think that silk makes a whole lot of difference.
                      My swords have cotton ito. I use them regularly, whenever I can, and my hands are fine. I don't feel it's tough on them at all, and I have girly hands It's the leather one's I don't like. They're tough and sometimes get slippery after a while

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                      • #12
                        Leather tsuka wraps look very pretty but in my opinion aren't very good to use. They do get very slippery esp when its new. However my sensei uses a leather wrap on his shinken. I personally believe a cotton wrap is the most suitable for regular iaido practice.

                        To me, the most important thing when choosing an iaito is balance and length. Length is easy enough, most sites have guides that I find generally reliable. But balance is not something you can check until you receive the iaito.

                        I would recommend going to a store to buy iaito if there is one near you. That way you can inspect and test the iaito before buying.

                        Styles and fittings aren't too important to me. After awhile the fittings on your sword don't mean anything. What counts the most is having a sword that feels comfortable when you swing it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tequila View Post
                          Leather tsuka wraps look very pretty but in my opinion aren't very good to use. They do get very slippery esp when its new. However my sensei uses a leather wrap on his shinken. I personally believe a cotton wrap is the most suitable for regular iaido practice.

                          To me, the most important thing when choosing an iaito is balance and length. Length is easy enough, most sites have guides that I find generally reliable. But balance is not something you can check until you receive the iaito.

                          I would recommend going to a store to buy iaito if there is one near you. That way you can inspect and test the iaito before buying.

                          Styles and fittings aren't too important to me. After awhile the fittings on your sword don't mean anything. What counts the most is having a sword that feels comfortable when you swing it.
                          The best choice may depend on humidity levels where you train.

                          Sarawak is more humid than where I am in Melbourne, so for me a leather bound tsuka, could be a good choice, but cotton may be better for you.

                          I've used cotton for over 10 yrs, and it's fine, but my next will be leather.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kendoka View Post
                            The best choice may depend on humidity levels where you train.

                            Sarawak is more humid than where I am in Melbourne, so for me a leather bound tsuka, could be a good choice, but cotton may be better for you.

                            I've used cotton for over 10 yrs, and it's fine, but my next will be leather.
                            Heh, you could be right!

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                            • #15
                              Nice topic, will also add more infos about iaito buying guide on my website IAITO SWORD

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