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Shinken injuries

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  • Shinken injuries

    All my senseis all use shinken, but do people outside Japan (who don't have families in which practicing iai or tameshigiri is traditional), use shinken? It seems really dangerous to me, but perhaps this is inexperience talking. Even using an iaitou, I've taken a few gouges out of the bottom knuckle of my thumb, when doing 4 hon me.

    That said, is it generally safe to use shinken? None of my sensei have major injuries. One of them gave himself a little nick, but it barely bled. Do many practitioners of iai use them? I'd rather not, to be honest. I guess that makes me look like a wimp. Have there been any major accidents?


  • #2
    Don't do iai myself, but there is an urban legend doing the rounds about a (Japanese I think) iaidoka who took out a kidney when he nodo'ed into his side instead of his saya.


    • #3


      My Sempai, uses a shinken. I think the only injuries he's had is a nick now and again when he is doing noto. Apart from that I haven't heard of any other confirmed stories.

      I have obviously heard of all the stories about people performing mai (sp?) and the blade seperating from the Tsuka and killing people, don't know how true they are though. Then there are all the idiots who let Sensei McDojo cut melons on the heads


      • #4
        In most local iaido federations affiliated with the AJKF, iaido practitioners are required to use a shinken from 4th dan on. Of course it is okay to use a shinken before that, and there is even a Shodan in our dojo who has just spent his life savings on one.

        I purchased a shinken about 3 years ago. At first, it was very scary, and my iaido level dropped considerably as my confidence waned. (That's what happens when you keep having visions of slicing your own hand off, or cutting your sensei in half by accident) After about 3 months I started getting my confidence back again, and got back into my old rhythm. Then, I started getting cocky about the whole affair to which my beloved shinken decided to teach me a lesson by knicking me in a careless noto.

        Point taken. Treat the shinken with respect at all times for your own sake and also the people training around you. Now, I could never imagine going back to an iaito. Using a shinken sort of keeps you on edge, and takes iaido to a whole new level. It forces to you to concentrate, and quickly gets rid of bad habits!

        Either way, if you plan to keep doing iaido, you will eventually HAVE to get yourself one.


        • #5

          In North America, the consensus seems to be that training with a Shinken occurs between 3-dan and 5-dan.

          I have one on order that I expect in the next month or two (finally ).

          I have observed Dr. A's phenomenon in my Sempai: in switching between an Iaito and a Shinken, the Waza goes down the tubes for awhile until confidence returns. I expect to be no different.

          Likewise, the anecdotes about injuries among people that I know are confined to minor mishaps during Noto; some have required a stitch or two. There have also been a few torn sleeves and some upper arm cuts from misplaced back thrusts in Yonhonme of Seitei (ZenKenRen) Iai Gata, but people have done this one with Iaito too.

          The other dangerous point in any Kata is at the beginning, Nuketsuke, I am told. With no or improper Saya Biki, it is quite possible to cut through the Saya (it is only wood held together with rice glue) near the Koiguchi where the fingers are holding the Saya.

          I have heard stories about people in Japan losing a number of fingers during an improper Nuketsuke with a Shinken. Whether the stories are actually true is immaterial (I have not had the time or the inclinaton to confirm them), since the danger is quite real. It could happen; look into your Saya at the Koiguchi to "read the Koiguchi." See the chisel marks. Turn the Saya upside down and tap the Saya into your hand; those fragments are chisellings from improper Nuketsuke and Noto. The blade is cutting into the wood. If this is happening with an unsharpened Iaito, then with a sharp Shinken, which is designed to cut, the cutting will be more efficient. For this reason, I have ordered an extra Saya for practice with my Shinken - I expect to throw it away after my skill returns; well, on second thought, maybe I'll keep it as a display piece for teaching. As always, YMMV.

          My 2 yen.


          • #6
            I think Alex summed it up pretty well. Using a shinken certainly gives you a heightened awareness of the bloody great razor you have in your hand. The late Nakakura sensei was apparently of the belief that one should begin to use a shinken as soon as possible (ie after learning how to do nuketsuke and noto properly) to teach one proper respect for the katana. Financial issues aside, I would tend to agree. This assumes that the iaidoka is a serious student and not of the 'thugs on drugs' variety, wanting to swing a long-nasty-pointy-thing.


            • #7

              This is interesting.

              I never thought they were using the real thing. During the kendo grading I had last time, some iaidoka were practicing their kata in the was kinda scary...but I thought they werent using real next time I will know to do 1000x more carefull..scary stuff!

              One thing for sure is that i'm against crazy iaido...


              • #8
                I don't feel confident enough to purchase a shinken. Also, from the prices I've seen, there will never be enough money in my bank account. Though I'm financially responsible (to the nth degree, retirement savings and all), $32,000 is far beyond my capacity. That's around the same amount that I've saved for a university degree, and that took 2 years of full time work, plus living on s shoestring!

                If it is absolutely required to use a shinken, what do people do if they're in school, or lack the funds to purchase one?



                • #9
                  I currently don't have the money for even a cheap iaito. Nonetheless, I do occasionally get together with a friend and go through kata with his shinken. He has a nice collection of pretty old stuff (oldest one is about 1200 years old - it's sweet).
                  Anyway, katanana fixation aside, you certainly 'feel' more when doing the kata. Noto and nuketsuke become sooooo much slower (at least to begin with).
                  I guess if you can make friends with someone who does iai/tameshigiri they may have a spare that they would exchange for your soul You might be able to arrange to practise with them. Using a shinken is where having a blade of the appropriate size for your arms/body becomes reasonably important, so take that into account when looking/asking around.


                  • #10

                    I sincerely hope your referring to 32000 yen Confound; otherwise you've been severely misinformed about the cost. Try shopping somewhere other then the top Japanese smiths?


                    • #11
                      FYI G the F....
                      I think she's talking about her salary
                      But yes they are quite expensive here in Japan, especially from Seki City, Gifu.


                      • #12
                        No, I was not kidding. I was referring specifically to the shinken sold by Kim Taylor's firm, SDK <insert rest of the name which has long since left my memory>. For you fact checkers, here's a linkSDK shinken page 1 . Here's another

                        No offence intended, but I'd rather not buy anything made in China. I like gulags and slave labour just as much as the next guy, but still...



                        • #13
                          The nihonto is not an obstacle to the user who displays confidence through his actions. It has no soul but yet is the soul of the user. It leads the user along his path to the understanding of his "self." The nihonto is your "self" reflections. If that is what you seek then cost should not matter, shouldn't it? Injury is not a concern.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by iwatekenshi
                            But yes they are quite expensive here in Japan, especially from Seki City, Gifu.
                            Oh, I'm quite aware of the high prices for Shinken commanded by some Japanese smiths. It's simply that one can get a high quality custom blade for $5000 US or less, even while maintaining an irrational blockade of Chinese made pieces. There are places that you can find a forged Japanese blade for around this price point, sells some I believe. As well as there are many excellent American born smiths, such as Howard Clark, to be considered.

                            Im not sure whether Confound actually believes that these sword-owning practitioners have spent their life savings on their blades, or simply that anything not from an A-Grade, Traditional Japanese smith isnt good enough for her.


                            • #15
                              Mr. Gorget-the-Frog,

                              I simply KNOW that all my money right now is going toward future university bills (for a masters and a doctorate). That will occupy the next five years or so of my life. In those years, there will be no extra money. None. All of it will be going toward university fees. As nature abhors a vacuum, Confound abhors debt. I am not in any at the moment (after finishing a 4 year degree a little over a year ago), and I would rather not be in any at the end of my next two degrees either.

                              I simply haven't done any research on swordsmiths, as it seemed, from my limited experience, that there aren't any within my price range, which is extremely small at the moment. I'd rather wait for six years, and liesurely do some research on the subject, then make an informed purchase, than buy something immediately, and realize my error long after the fact. However, your mention of Howard Clark is useful. I will look into it.

                              Perhaps you didn't notice, but this thread was originally about injuries from shinken, and the question of when people begin to use them. I was going to start a thread, at a later date, about affordable shinkens, but this thread seems to have veered in that direction.

                              Mr. Shunkan,

                              Your opinions are, I'm sure, very valued among illogical, debt-ridden persons such as yourself. However, those of us who choose to live logically, rationally and fiscally responsibly, put the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing before the 'soul' of a sword. Not many people live like samurai nowadays, and those who do, are generally considered soft in the head.

                              As for cost being no object, I have clearly stated my reasons. Your high-flown pretentious proclamations will have to wait for someone who will stoop to address. I will not.