The shinken, which literally translates to real sword, is a Japanese sword or nihonto that features a live, forged, and fully functional katana blade; and because of this, the term is used in contrast with the shinai, bokken or Iaito. The shinken sword is commonly utilized during iaijutsu / combat practice, tameshigiri practice (cutting), or iaido. The shinken is opposed to the iaito or the mogito – which is known as a dull manufactured weapon specifically for practicing iaido.

The gendaito is said to be a handmade shinken that is created by one of about two-hundred-fifty active swordsmiths living in Japan today. Additionally, these swordsmiths are also part or are members of the JSA or Japanese Swordsmith Association, and each of them are restricted by the Japanese law from creating no more than twenty-four weapons a year. This production limit, together with specialized skills as well as the necessity for more manual labor, accounts for the very high price that an authentic Japanese shinken can have. The price of these pieces could start as high as six thousand US dollars for just the blade, and going many times higher for a more genuine and antique-like blade.

Moreover, there is also a vast worldwide market specifically for the shinken katana, and these pieces are produced outside Japan. Sword enthusiasts may greatly appreciate these, although the Japanese made blades are of a better quality, they are still well worth the price and can be used for martial arts and Tameshigiri (test cutting); These martial artists simply take advantage of the easy acquisition, incredibly good price, as well as to spare their Japanese katana from any form of abuse –something that anyone would not want to happen to an authentic blade from Japan, people prefer to buy a cheaper blade that can perform well and can be used for target test cutting.

Steel Used for Shinken Katana

Compared to the blunt swords that are commonly utilized for basic practice such as kata and swinging, the Shinken Katana is made from solid and stronger steel to allow the weapon to readily withstand the rigors and challenges of real training in the dojo, or right in the backyard during practice cutting. Most of the shinken are produced using high carbon steel so one can expect that most of these have high carbon content. A couple of the most used carbon steel include the 1060 carbon steel, and the 1095 carbon steel; , as the level of carbon rises, the blade’ turns stronger and harder but it also becomes less ductile and more challenging to weld.


Steel can be heat treated, allowing its parts to be manufactured in a soft and formable state. If there is enough carbon, the alloy can be toughened easily to boost its wear, impact resistance, and strength. The main purpose of heat treating the carbon steel is to alter the steel’s mechanical properties which are commonly hardness, impact resistance, ductility, or its yield strength. Aside from high levels of carbon steel, there is another modern steel we highly recommend for the use of a Shinken Katana that is more superior compared to the other high carbon steel concentration in terms of durability, strength, and hardness –as well as better resistance to scratches this is the T10 tool steel. This type of steel has gained popularity due to its toughness, and all the elements that create it simply made it tougher and stronger compared to the other types of steel with carbon content.


Folded Steel

There are a couple of sharp katana swords that are treated as folded when delicate hada appear on the blade’s surface. The appearance of the hada does not relate to the hardness or performance of the shinken, but it simply increases the weapon’s artistic value. A lot of shinken that are produced do not go through the folding process and these are usually made out of a single yet huge piece of steel. Additionally, there is no interrelationship between mono steel and folded swords, as well as the cutting ability, edge retention, or its durability; the steel utilized and the process of tempering are considered more important when it comes to determining the performance and usefulness of the weapon.

There are numerous manufacturers who make use of the number of folds a huge selling point; unfortunately, it does not really improve the performance of the blade. In fact, there may be times when weld failures appear between the layers of folded blades when the process is not done properly. Unless this is done accurately, the folded sword may be more or less durable than the equivalent of the mono-steel.

Clay Tempered Shinken

Katanas that are clay tempered are produced based on a special type of method of blade reinforcement. During the process, there are various steps that a smith should go through, and the clay compound recipe that is necessary to complete the process is based on the smith’s own secret mix. The process of clay tempering is considered as a form of art and clay tempered katanas are known to be more durable and resistant compared to others. Clay treatment needs to be completed by professionals or experts to be highly efficient, and the steel type that is necessary for the process should be highly responsive to the various clay compositions. A clay tempered shinken features a soft spine and a hardened edge – the edges are hardened to retain its razor-sharp edge while its spine is also kept soft to make it physically malleable to avoid breakages; this is commonly done with the classic process of clay coating tempering.

A lot of practitioners believe that the process of differential hardening or clay tempering is necessary to create a sharp katana that can be adequate for activities such as extensive tameshigiri or test cutting. With the proper method of clay tempering, a functional blade can at least survive ten thousand tatami omote slices and would only require slight sharpening after every six months of heavy usage.