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I personally dont like the idea of someone using shinsakuto. Any Nihonto to me should be preserved, cherished and studied. I dont feel as bad about a Japanese person having a sword made for them in Japan to use for iaido and tameshigiri as its fitting to the coulture imo.

 

Greg

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Well, I'll be a contrarian here. 

 

I don't subscribe to the value that nihonto are sacred objects and thus must be preserved on this principle alone. Some are of little to no value anymore as collectible items, but still possess practitioner value. Others have been ruined because of greed and now masquarade as things they are not.  

 

Take a defaced sword - such as a healthy shinshinto or shinto blade attributed to a great smith - while such a sword has close to zero collectible value, the hardiness and quality of blade still makes it a great cutter, one which can be used without any guilt with regards to damaging a historical artifact. I'd go so far as to feel that for such a ruined sword, on some animist level, it's a charitable act to return it to its original purpose for one last generation...

 

Because what is its future? To be sold on Ebay, pretending to be Koto, to be corrupted further as part of some sick swindler's game.

 

Better the honorable destruction. 

 

For instance, consider this tainted sword: 

 

https://tokka.biz/sword/shizutada.html

 

Mumei Shinto, with Kanzan Shirasaya to Morikage, a solid gold, daimyo-level habaki and a second mekugi-ana to pass off as suriage Koto. There is nothing honest left about this sword. Sooner or later, it will be used to deceive again, and again. I would argue that we have a duty of anti-preservation here. To remove it from the market is the right thing to do because it exists are corrupt object. And what better way than to use it for its intended purpose? 

 

Discuss. 

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Ahhh, Chris, many wide-ranging thoughts but not coherent enough to discuss sensibly and I'm not up for a lengthy essay today!!

 

Obviously, either the call to Mumei Shinto is wrong or the sayagaki to Morikage is wrong.  Its sort of like a "selfie Shinsa" and one would have to view this sword "in the hand" and make up one's own mind whether it was "right" or not.  I would think a Morikage could not be had for around $5k!!  Someone, somewhere, sometime thought enough of the sword to layout $$$ for classy habaki and said someone may have taken a bath over this sword at sale time.  Let us pray it was a deceased estate and the original collector never had the truth (if that's what it is) revealed.  Having said that, I would not consider it being a "cutter" contender and therefore sit on Greg Foster's side.

 

BaZZa.

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It's not Morikage. It's a mumei shinto sword trying to masquerade as something else. This is exactly the type of thinking "maybe it could still be Morikage and I'm the smartest buyer in the universe" which makes these tainted objects dangerous. Get rid of the paper and make a profit. Easy and immoral. 

 

This is why I'm making a case to use such swords as cutters. A noble ending with its intended purpose. 

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True, but who cares if it was made by Morikage or John Doe?

 

It may not be shoshin but whoever made it, it’s still a nice sword. So long as you don’t pay the price for a Morikage, I still think a John Doe sword is worthy of preservation.

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Take a defaced sword - such as a healthy shinshinto or shinto blade attributed to a great smith - while such a sword has close to zero collectible value, the hardiness and quality of blade still makes it a great cutter, one which can be used without any guilt with regards to damaging a historical artifact. I'd go so far as to feel that for such a ruined sword, on some animist level, it's a charitable act to return it to its original purpose for one last generation...

Chris H., isn't the purpose of NMB to study & preserve genuine Japanese swords? I understand your feelings about collectibility, but just because a blade doesn't appeal to you, it just might appeal to me or to another member. The OP questioned whether Nihonto should/could be used for iaido, kata, & tameshigiri, & my answer was to use an iaito for iaido & kata, & a modern shinken for tameshigiri - from the safety aspect alone, my answer still stands.

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I would say, definitely NOT, unless you are made of money. And even then, no.  Nihonto really are works of art, and a product of a unique culture and the environment in which they were in.

 

If you want something to use, a modern blade made using modern techniques honestly is far FAR more appropriate.

 

You also see this in other parts of the antique world. Personally I am NOT going to subject a valuable antique to any type of use that has a significant chance of destroying it.

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Chris I think that if a sword and mounts are in good enough condition to be used then its definitely good enough to be preserved and even cherished by someone that cant afford a more expensive sword.

 

Greg

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While I agree with practically every word written in this thread, there is a BUT:  How are we going to know which sword period or school or steel type WORKS the best, to cut?  If it can't be tested, we'll never know if tamahagane is better than Yasuki or steel rails or modern spring steel; or which method of manufacture produces the best results. Then there's the geometrics involved in creating the best edge. Who better than practicing professional cutters to test blades in long-term use? There are going to be some people who do this anyway; we should at least keep track of which of those blades perform best.

 

Perhaps a few blades could be sacrificed to further our knowledge. I'd love to know how 20th century blades stand up to their predecessors. I bet a whole lot of those partly-traditional blades would do just fine. Gendaitos might be just as good or better than many swords carried in the past. Maybe oil tempering was not a bad tradeoff. Maybe today's spring steel can out-perform previous steels. We'll never know without some kind of testing.

 

Is there a way to post this anonymously?  

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From "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" by Kapp & Yoshihara, page 50:

 

"(Terutaka) Kawabata (of the NBTHK) has even gone so far as to compare blades from different eras in a cutting test. For a week he used three blades to cut bundles of bamboo and straw. The Koto blade from the Muromachi Period warped. The Shinto blade chipped.The Gendaito blade...cut well and sustained no damage at all."

 

How else are we going to know?

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Oh my. Nowadays we don't need to bash on a Kabuto to 'test' steel. We have software to simulate their physical properties. We can demonstrate by simulation that modern steel is superior in every possible way, except aesthetics. Tamahagane was good for its time, but by modern standards its a total disaster. Nobody would use it for any application when you can buy precision-engineered tool steel by the billet.   

 

If you're looking for the best blade steel for the application then go ahead and buy a billet from one of these

 


Chris H., isn't the purpose of NMB to study & preserve genuine Japanese swords?

 

 

 

I would argue that preservation requires destruction. Blades made to trick and swindle newcomers and collectors damage the whole craft. But this topic broaches into something wider, namely how to evaluate the value of a fake and whether or not fakes ought to be preserved and considered art or not, and if not - whether it's a moral imperative to get rid of them. 

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I am bit surprised about the negative attitude in using modern Japanese swords for cutting and iai/kenjutsu practice. After all many of the newly made Japanese swords are perfectly suitable for use.

 

Even though I am not a practicioner anymore I would have bought a modern sword from Giheiya at Samurai Art Expo last summer if I would have had free 3k€ lying around in my account, they had really good deals and I would have avoided the darn 24% tax we have here for modern stuff as the swords were already in EU. And I would have used that sword for occasional cutting and some form practice.

 

There are hundreds of perfectly good modern Japanese made swords being sold in Japan for martial arts purposes in mind at any given moment. Of course I agree if you are going to do some serious hardcore cutting then get a 300$ Chinese made through hardened sword you can beat the crap out of. But traditionally made Japanese sword should be perfectly fine for regular cutting practice.

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I am bit surprised about the negative attitude in using modern Japanese swords for cutting and iai/kenjutsu practice. After all many of the newly made Japanese swords are perfectly suitable for use.

 

Even though I am not a practicioner anymore I would have bought a modern sword from Giheiya at Samurai Art Expo last summer if I would have had free 3k€ lying around in my account, they had really good deals and I would have avoided the darn 24% tax we have here for modern stuff as the swords were already in EU. And I would have used that sword for occasional cutting and some form practice.

 

There are hundreds of perfectly good modern Japanese made swords being sold in Japan for martial arts purposes in mind at any given moment. Of course I agree if you are going to do some serious hardcore cutting then get a 300$ Chinese made through hardened sword you can beat the crap out of. But traditionally made Japanese sword should be perfectly fine for regular cutting practice.

 

Not only that, but a great many of the up-and-coming swordsmiths in Japan rely on commissions from martial artists to keep them funded while they try to polish their talent for making art swords (and then become well-known enough that people commission art swords from them). Not everyone can gain a foothold in the market by being the apprentice of a high-profile smith!

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That’s very interesting to know. Thanks. From "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" by Kapp & Yoshihara, page 50:

 

"(Terutaka) Kawabata (of the NBTHK) has even gone so far as to compare blades from different eras in a cutting test. For a week he used three blades to cut bundles of bamboo and straw. The Koto blade from the Muromachi Period warped. The Shinto blade chipped.The Gendaito blade...cut well and sustained no damage at all."

 

How else are we going to know?

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But traditionally made Japanese sword should be perfectly fine for regular cutting practice.

This is, of course, true, Jussi, but that's not my definition of preserving that blade, & I happen to know that you feel the same way. Cutting anything that contains silicon (newspaper, tatami omote, etc.) will leave permanent scarring on the blade.

 

When we buy a Nihonto, we have inherited something that has already been around for hundreds of years, & for which we are caretakers. Testing a blade to destruction (i.e., ara-tameshi) makes us pretty damn poor caretakers! The term "NDT" (Non-Destructive Testing) applies here, & includes everything from X-rays to more-esoteric Neutron Residual Stress Analysis. These tests can give us a lot of information on a blade without doing any physical damage.

 

If you want to go out & cut down bushes, trees, or whatever, go buy a Chinese fake!

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Yes of course I agree what you are saying Ken. I believe some years ago Kunitaro posted here in a thread how he was using his sword for cutting and had been doing so for a long time, and after he would retire the sword from cutting practice he would get an art polish done on it. I think that would be a nice way to treat a modern sword.

 

And to note if it was not clear I have been talking about using modern swords. I wouldn't recommend using an antique as I feel those are for preservation. I know some koryu people who use antique swords for kata and I do think it is ok as they have dedication & skill. However they cut with Chinese replicas and not with their main swords that they use when practicing forms.

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Anything that has survived beyond its generation of creation is an artifact and should be cared for. In the case of a gimei.. if it has been verified gimei beyond the shadow of a doubt and is more valued as mumei, have a professional remove it. If not, then simply take care of it and note it as such. We are caretakers first and foremost. Modern-made for the purpose of cutting is fine to use... if you can afford that expensive habit; otherwise, I agree.. get a cheap Chinese cutter.

 

At a certain point in time, even the 'low value' blades become valuable for study. Take blades that are Kamakura and earlier. You almost never hear of any Jokoto on the market, even in poor shape. Or at least that I've seen... so give it time, and any survivors will accrue value.

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TY, I differentiate between iaido & tameshigiri. My Sensei tasked me with teaching tameshigiri to those members of our dojo who were ready for that level, but he never equated that with the Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu in which we train.

 

 

In our branch of Mugai ryu, beginners are expected to separate tameshigiri. However, as you progress, you are expected to perform tameshigiri from the kata. I've found that it has a tendency to change the cuts and aim point a bit.

 

I feel an important distinction needs to be made between nihonto, traditionally made Japanese swords, and antique or art swords. In Japan, a nihonto is required for tameshigiri as other swords are illegal. As was mentioned earlier, there are a number of apprentices as well as experienced and ranked sword makers that produce user level swords as well as art blades, and expect the iaido community to purchase them, as they won't get purchased by collectors.

 

   Modern made swords, even if they are nihonto, are perfectly acceptable as user swords. Antiques are not, and need to be preserved.

 

  Just my two cents...

 

  Paul

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In the future swords that are made now will be antique(if they aren't ruined).

I can appreciate that in Japan that other swords are illegal so they use modern Nihonto but most of us aren't in Japan and to me it just doesnt feel appropriate. The idea of using Nihonto is fun to think of but it just doesnt sit right that we can decide to destroy something thats part of Japans culture for our own pleasure. When I train with my Japanese sensei this weekend I will ask his opinion on this out of curiosity.

 

Greg

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 In the case of a gimei.. if it has been verified gimei beyond the shadow of a doubt and is more valued as mumei, have a professional remove it.

 

Not to hijack  this thread, but I will never agree with this. I know people do this and that it is advised, but it just doesn't make sense. It's like erasing a part of the swords history, and I think preserving the little we know about a sword history is as important as the sword itself. Once the sword has been recognized Gimei and the papers say so, it's no longer needed to alter it.

 

Now, I know the problem is that future, dishonest sellers may want to pass it for what it's not, but still , that Gimei is integral to the past of that sword.

 

I know most will disgree, but, still, I think it's wrong

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I'm a bit confused, as I am a Newbie. Are ALL of the swords made in Japan currently traditionally made from Tamagahane? Even those that are "user grade" for practice use?  Wikipedia (sometimes wrong) states "only licensed swordsmiths are allowed to produce Japanese swords (nihonto), only two longswords per month are allowed to be produced by each swordsmith"

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Yep. Anything else (sharp/live) is illegal.
You can buy alloy practice swords cannot take an edge, but real swords are all licensed and made of tamahagane by smiths.

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Any swords in Japan that are unlicensed and confiscated, and/or made from modern, non tamahagane steel, are cut up and disposed of. Some of the nakago from these destroyed swords end up on Ebay...apparently some people like to make knives from them, a hard way to get some modern steel :-?

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In our branch of Mugai ryu, beginners are expected to separate tameshigiri. However, as you progress, you are expected to perform tameshigiri from the kata. I've found that it has a tendency to change the cuts and aim point a bit.

I agree, but the cuts are almost always changed quite a bit! Wife & I also train in Jodo, & our Menkyo Kaiden Sensei asked me to set up a tameshigiri demonstration, after which, everyone else wanted to try (of course). My shinken got quite a workout, mostly because no one seemed able to make a decent kesagiri cut, let alone nukitsuke, in tatami omote! The concept of hasuji is seldom taught, these days, & iaidoka think that just because they can get a loud tachikaze, they're cutting correctly. Those are the ones who "scoop" through the tatami, because they aren't cutting through the target, no matter how many times I corrected them. Ah, well.

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I agree, but the cuts are almost always changed quite a bit! Wife & I also train in Jodo, & our Menkyo Kaiden Sensei asked me to set up a tameshigiri demonstration, after which, everyone else wanted to try (of course). My shinken got quite a workout, mostly because no one seemed able to make a decent kesagiri cut, let alone nukitsuke, in tatami omote! The concept of hasuji is seldom taught, these days, & iaidoka think that just because they can get a loud tachikaze, they're cutting correctly. Those are the ones who "scoop" through the tatami, because they aren't cutting through the target, no matter how many times I corrected them. Ah, well.

Hear, hear Ken. You can’t truly learn tenouchi or hasuji without cutting something. And nukitsuke? Pure fantasy unless you’ve learned to make it cut. Here in New York City logistics make tameshigiri more of a diagnostic tool than finely honed skill, but I can’t imagine practicing kenjutsu without it.

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Michael, I'm afraid that what is taught as "kenjutsu" these days is little more than dancing with a sword. I've visited other dojo where no one was correcting really horrible mistakes, including what the "sensei" was doing. Thank goodness our Sensei made us describe what we were doing, for every step in each waza, & if we couldn't tell him precisely which virtual tekki we were striking, where on the body, & why, we failed! So, tameshigiri was fairly straightforward when I got to it, because it was a logical application of what I'd already learned.

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Michael, I'm afraid that what is taught as "kenjutsu" these days is little more than dancing with a sword. I've visited other dojo where no one was correcting really horrible mistakes, including what the "sensei" was doing. Thank goodness our Sensei made us describe what we were doing, for every step in each waza, & if we couldn't tell him precisely which virtual tekki we were striking, where on the body, & why, we failed! So, tameshigiri was fairly straightforward when I got to it, because it was a logical application of what I'd already learned.

And that’s exactly what it should be. Tameshigiri as bunkai!

 

Kata without bunkai, motivation, and real storytelling vis a vis tekki, is, like you said, dancing. Sigh...

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