The Shinai is a weapon utilized for competitions and practice in Kendo and it represents the popular Japanese sword. These weapons can also be utilized in other martial arts but may possibly be styled differently and also represented with a variety of different characters. Remember that the Kendo Shinai should not be confused with the Bokuto or Bokken (wooden swords) which is also another kind of Kendo sword.
History of the Shinai
In the year 1508 to 1572, Kamiizumi Nobutsuna of the Shinkage-ryu was the first to utilize a bamboo weapon for training instead of a real sword, and the modern day Shinai that features four bamboo slats can be credited to a man named Nakanishi Chuzo Tsugutate of the Nakanishi-ha Itto-ryu. The weapon was created to decrease the number of practitioners from getting seriously injured during training, thus, developed a practice sword that was less dangerous compared to the Bokuto. This was also the reason why the Bogu was created and this is a certain type of armor that readily protects the Kendoka during practice or competitions.
The earliest shinai was created from split bamboo and these were fully concealed in cloth or a leather bag called the fukuro bag; generally speaking, the weapon did not have fixed lengths or weights so these varied depending on the wielders body structure. The word shinai came from the verb shinau which meant to be flexible or to bend; and even if these had no specific length or weight in the past, the modern day Kendo shinai have specific regulations when it comes to these.
The Kendo shinai is created from quality bamboo that has been sliced right from the bottom of its stem which is about ten centimeters or four inches above the ground; the Kendo sword features five fushi (nodes) and these have a specific meaning just like the pleats of the Hakama. The stem is vertically split into six to eight pieces; the bamboo is thoroughly dried and four pieces will be chosen then straightened out. These pieces will eventually be planed and perfectly shaped into the shinai but the style and size of the shinai vary: an adult may utilize a shinai that may be too heavy for a younger practitioner. This is the reason why different variants of shinais are created to provide the appropriate weapon for every Kendo practitioner engaging in training or competition. Additionally, the shinai is also available in different balances and styles.
Types of Shinais Bamboo Materials
A lot of the Kendo shinai that is sold are made from keichiku which is a type of bamboo variant that specifically grows in warmer areas. Bamboos that feature a diameter of about seven to eight centimeters are usually harvested throughout the year and its fiber is more stiff and dense compared to others. Additionally, this type of bamboo breaks easier compared to mandake and it is also much cheaper compared to this.
The madake bamboo is another type of bamboo material that grows in regions that have temperatures that vary greatly. It is also more flexible and dense compared to the keichiku bamboo. Four-year-old bamboo that has a diameter of about eight to twelve centimeters is usually harvested from the months of October to February and these types of bamboo may be more splint but do not really split easily.
What Makes a Good Shinai?
It is important that every Kendo shinai is flexible and durable; when the tip of a Kendo shinai is pointed on the floor and one attempts to bend this, it should at least curve slightly from the tip which is along the Nakayui the spot used to strike the opponent; this should also push back and its wielder should feel this. If the Kendo shinai is weak, it will mostly bend around the tsuba and one should remember that the area where the Shinai bends is where it actually releases power when striking.
Shinais that are weak feature a few visible characteristics and these are as follows:
- These bend right along the tsuba
- Are usually thin along the tip but thick along the middle portion and thin again around the hilt
- Often planed down to create a handle that is thin enough
- These are usually made from bamboo that are less dense
Shinai Care and Maintenance
It is vital that the Kendo shinai is always taken care of adequately since it can also pose as a danger to the wielder and those in the surrounding area. Since this is one of the primary equipment utilized when practicing Kendo, these are also the items that may cause great injury in the case of a component failure; this is the reason why regular inspection and proper maintenance of the Kendo sword is necessary. If ever one notices any signs of deterioration or damage during training, stop practicing immediately and change to another Kendo shinai. This is also the reason why every Kendo practitioner should have an additional shinai.