Now that you are done training with the Bokken, you can start thinking of buying an Iaito sword. Whether you plan to practice Bunkai, it often resorts to a Bokken. But make sure that your Sensei has allowed you to buy an Iaito. He has the capacity to gauge whether you are ready to use this.
The Iaito is a blunt Katana designed for training. Its blade is light and easy to use. This makes it better for you to master the perfect posture and form. It is usually made of zinc/aluminum alloys produced via different methods. Contrary to the beliefs from the West, there is no such thing as a sharpened steel Iaito in Japan. This is because of the Japanese rule that prohibits people from owning weapons.
Though it is still possible to own a steel weapon in the country, one would have to go through a legal circumvention. One should have a permit or valid license to carry or possess the weapons. With this, a sword, dagger, or the like will be categorized as a simple object, and not a weapon.
How do I choose my Iato Sword?
Due to their restrictive laws, a lot of martial arts practitioners tend to use the Shinken, a bamboo sword. If you’re planning on buying an Iaito sword, below are a couple of things to consider before making your purchase.
Ask for Others’ Opinions & Help
The first tip we can give you is to talk with your Sensei and even your co-students about it. They’re the ones who’ve seen you perform with the Bokken, so they have an idea what your weaknesses and strengths are.
Before you choose the right Iaito, you’ll need to find which suits your needs. This concerns its weight, length, as well as the balance. It may sound a little vague, but these are the most vital elements of an Iaito.
Consider the Length
As we mentioned earlier, the length is essential when buying an Iaito. Generally, it should suit your body. We would recommend that you choose a blade length based on your height. But for beginners, it will be easier to establish proper posture with a shorter Iaito.
As a rule, it’s better to opt for an Iaito that is 0.05 Shaku shorter than you. If you are a female practitioner, it’s best that you choose an Iaito that is 0.05 Shaku shorter than a male.
Even a centimeter can make a big difference when you hold an Iaito. So if you do not have any restrictions, it’s best that you select one that is a bit shorter than you need as a beginner.
Opt for the Right Weight
For beginners, the Iaito’s weight should be lighter. The sudden use of a heavier and more realistic piece could stress your body and lead to injury.
Choosing a lighter Iaito to start with can help you get used to the weight first. If necessary, you can increase the weight later when buying your second Iaito. This is when you’re more experienced.
Test the Sword Balance
When buying an Iato online, contact the shop owner and inquire about sword balance and such. Some Iaito are more balanced along the Tsuka, while others have more balance along the blade’s tip.
The best balance varies from one person to another. This is why it would also be great if you could try a couple of Iaito when you get the chance, to find the perfect balance.
And as we mentioned earlier, beginners should ask their Sensei for help too when buying an Iaito. They can provide good advice on such matters.
One of the most important things to remember is to choose an Iaito that is easy and comfortable to swing. And this is why balance matters. So when buying an Iaito online and already know your balance of choice, do not hesitate to verify or double check with the seller.
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Know the Shape and Size of the Tsuka
The handle of a Japanese sword and even that of an Iaito is called the Tsuka. It is made from two wooden boards wherein the Nakago’s shape is carved out.
The friction on the Tsuka to the Nakago should be adequate to firmly hold the blade. For safety and precautions, a single Mekugi is included.
With its simple construction, we can consider the Tsuka a vital portion of an Iaito. This also goes for every other Japanese sword.
The shape and size of the Tsuka are decided by the Kashira/Fuchi’s size. If you can, try gripping the Tsuka of an Iaito from a friend or a colleague. This is to feel it for yourself which size and kind you prefer.
If your hands are small, consider getting an Iaito with a thinner Tsuka. When buying the Iaito online, it might be good to send an outline of your hand.
Aside from a well-constructed Tsuka, you’ll need to know your preferred Tsuka length. Just remember that there are those who have other opinions on this matter. So it is best to select one based on your comfort and preferences.
The Traditional Tsuka Length
Generally, the Iaito consists of the Tsuka, blade, Saya, and other little combined parts. Based on the largest Iaido association, the classic Tsuka length should be 2.5 times the width of your hand. This is according to the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei.
There are other ways of measuring the Tsuka: Two fingers & two hands, two hands & a thumb, and the distance between your wrist to your inner elbow. Two other ways are also written in a distinct Densho, yet the ones mentioned are the most used. The thickness of the Tsuka is a matter of preference and the size of your hand.
When you get the chance to try an Iaito, your ring and pinky finger determines your grip on the Tsuka. This is called the Teno Uchi. Here, you’ll need to be able to wrap these fingers around the Tsuka. One that is too thick will have you holding the Iaito like a baseball bat. This will make your strike unbalanced and somewhat wobbly.