Secret n° 9:
And here we are at the 9th. Yet another one that I consider very important is the purchase of the right sword. At the beginning of my practice I had no idea what it meant and the main thing I looked at was the aesthetics. I must say that I was lucky as all my iaito come from Japan and I have never come across any European or Chinese “beams”.
The choice of the sword is subjective, of course, but many times my students, or other people I meet, after trying my iaito ask me what are the characteristics or where I bought it.
First of all I don’t like swords that are too heavy. The perfect weight for me is between 800 and 900 grams maximum. The sword must be 2.45 long for my height (178 cm). Up to this size, even with standard blades the weight remains distributed correctly and the swords are very balanced. Here I’m referring to only Iaito obviously, the shinken have different weights but also different balances.
After using Ishido Sensei’s sword for my 6th dan exam, which had the leather tsukaito, both Danielle and I started to include leather hilt on all our swords, as hand grip improves a lot even when you are nervous, as may happen during a shiai when your hands are sweaty. (the pig skin is the best one, according to Igarashi San!)
Since they put them in the market, I’ve always been very happy with Tozando’s Iaito Custom, but lately I have tried some Igarashi San Iaito and they are very good as well. Even from Europe it is possible to order excellent quality swords through Nine Circles (which has recently opened a new European branch), which offers a selection of iaito both by Tozando itself and by Igarashi San.
So try to have a sword that gives you confidence and whch is easy to use for you, then if you want you want (like I use to do!) you can change the tsuba with an ancient one and the sageo with whatever suits you best, but the important thing is that you can cut and handle the sword in every part of the Kata.
From time to time it would also be useful to practice with swords of different lengths and different weights, longer and heavier, in order to gain even more confidence when using yours.
That’s a completely different story if we talk about Shinken though! At the 5th or 6th shinken that I changed looking for something similar to the Bizen one that I bought for Danielle several years ago (and that I am deeply in love with), 4 years ago Danielle told me “let’s do that so you keep my sword and I keep yours, so that you can stop to keeping buy and resell them all the time” and since that day I have never left her.
Translated by Gabriele Gerbino