The shinai is known as one of the classic weapons that are utilized for practice and kendo competitions to represent the nihonto. It is basically a bamboo sword that is also utilized in other forms of martial arts, but may be fashioned differently from how the kendo shinai appears; it may also be represented with varying characters.


Construction of the Shinai Sword

Generally, the style and size of the shinai vary depending on who wields this; an example would be for an adult who may utilize a bamboo sword that may be too hefty for a smaller and younger person. This is the reason why various shinai are created in different characteristics and sizes so that anyone who wishes to practice kendo will be able to do so. However, one should not confuse the shinai with the bokuto –a weapon that has a similar length and shape with the Japanese nihonto, and is also made out of a single wooden piece; although there are some differences, both the bokuto and the shinai can be utilized in kendo. The shinai’s slates are commonly made out of dry bamboo and some of these may also be smoke-treated or soaked in resin. The slats are made out of reinforced resin, carbon fiber, or other possible alternative materials.

The shinai sword is usually made up of four takes (slats) that are all linked by leather fittings namely the tsuka-gawa, naka yui, tsuka, and the saki gawa – all that connects the slats which are tightly secured with a tsuru or string; the nakayu functions by holding these slats together while simultaneously marking the right kendo striking spots of the datotsu bu or shinai. Inserted right between the slats’ ends and beneath the saki gawa is the saki gomu (plastic plug) while the little metallic chigri is found underneath the tsuka gawa; these are necessary for keeping all the slats in the right place. Additionally, a tsuba is equipped on the tsuka gawa and the bamboo slats appear.

Shinai Sword

Shinai Length and Weight

The shinai sword that is utilized in kendo varies in weight and length, depending on the person using this; but since this is the case, a lot of people actually wonder how to properly choose a shinai that is adequate for them. Unfortunately, a practitioner cannot just choose any bamboo sword that they prefer since the weight and length of the weapons are all regulated by the International Kendo Federation or the All Japan Kendo Federation. Generally, selecting the appropriate shinai for kendo practice will be based on the practitioner’s age and not by the weapon’s physical features.

Listed below are the different meanings of each word present in Ki Ken Tai Icchi – a term that kendo practitioners cannot live without.

  • Ki – usually refers to the shout of a practitioner
  • Ken – the practitioner’s sword which includes the bokuto, shinai, the shinken, and more.
  • Tai – the body
  • Icchi – proper synchronization

Experienced kendo practitioners can readily adjust the length of their shinai;  It is strictly forbidden to put more weight in the shinai since it may seriously injure other kendo practitioners during training.

History of the Shinai Sword

The utilization of bamboo weapons for training was because of Nobutsuna Kamiizumi of the Shinkage Ryu while the contemporary shinai – which is basically a bamboo sword – was because of Nakanishi Chuzo of the Nakanishi Ha Itto Ryu. The bamboo sword was created to decrease the number of kendo practitioners from acquiring serious injuries during training, so he came up with a practice weapon that was not as dangerous and damaging as the bokuto – harder and more solid wooden blades that were previously utilized for practice. This has also been the inspiration behind the improvement of the bogu which is known as the armor safeguarding the kendoka.

Proper Maintenance

Before and after training, the Kendoka should always check their shinai; the practice of kendo is generally safe, but if the sword is broken, it can become a very deadly type of martial art. In the past, there have been numerous recorded incidents wherein practitioners acquired injuries due to the broken shinai; this is the reason why such weapons need to be thoroughly checked for breaks and splinters before and after use. Remember that the weapon should be properly maintained and the process of preserving this should be based on the rules of the dojo, the sensei, or based on one’s personal style. To accurately inspect the shinai, one should first check out the area along the datotsu bu, checking all of the weapon’s sides for any splinters. Next thing to check is the saki gawa since this should always be unscathed while the tsuru should be tightly fit; this is to avoid the saki gawa from slipping off the weapon’s ends when utilized for practice. Additionally, the nakayui should also be kept tight to avoid this from rotating easily.

After checking the weapon, one should properly maintain this to keep its usefulness and longevity. A lot of individuals believe that sanding and oiling this piece every time before usage will keep its longevity; however, not everyone agrees to this and considers otherwise when it comes to properly caring for the weapon. There are some kendo instructors who require the kashira’s tsuka settled on the floor and the kissaki should be leaning perfectly against the wall. In kendo, the shinai sword is considered as the alternative for a real Japanese sword so everyone who practices the martial art should treat this as if it were the real weapon; when it is set on the floor, someone stepping over it would be considered as having very poor manners.

Shinai for Sale

For anyone planning to practice the art of kendo, purchasing a shinai sword is available in numerous online weapon shops. However, before even finalizing the purchase, make sure that the shop or seller is legitimate and that they offer weapons that are finely-made from high-quality materials that will surely keep the weapon strong, effective, and durable for a long period of time.