Iaido Journal Review by Paul Smith

Thank you to Paul Smith for his time and efforts and to both Paul and the Iaido Journal for their permission to use the article on our website. Paul Smith is the Dojo Cho of the Kobu Shin Ryu dojo in Plano, Texas. We have included only the text portion of the review. To see the entire review with all of the original pictures included check here. Please be sure to visit the Iaido Journal website.

The Iaido Journal  Nov 2003

Comparison Chopping: 
A non-scientific review of current offerings for the tameshigiri crowd.

The Japanese Sword Arts have been experiencing an explosion in popularity over the last several years. It wasn’t very long ago when the only choice for a relatively inexpensive sword was a refurbished gunto, and the only choices for practicing tameshigiri were beach mats or bamboo. Luckily for those of us crazies that practice this outdated martial art, this has all changed. There are now several makers in China that are exporting inexpensive swords of decent quality. There are also several places to get decent quality materials for tameshigiri. If your dojo is one that practices tameshigiri, or you’ve just wanted to give it a try, you may not know what is available today. Even if you do, you may be wondering what the difference is between the various materials available. This article attempts to give a little insight into that question.

Beach mats were once the wara of choice, because there wasn’t one! Beach mats are thin reed or grass mats available most places where there is a beach. Good for keeping the sand off, they were as close as most people outside of Japan could get to tatami omote, which had become the (more or less) standard target for tameshigiri in Japan. For those unfamiliar, most houses in Japan still have a tatami room. This is a thick rice straw mat with a woven reed covering (tatami) on the outside (omote) for the floor. This covering is generally replaced yearly. The Toyama Ryu came to embrace tatami omote, rolled and soaked in water, as the standard cutting target at their competitions. This spread to the few other schools in Japan that practice tameshigiri until virtually all of the schools in Japan were cutting the same medium. Used tatami omote, cheap and easily available, made a fairly consistent target of the appropriate size. Outside of Japan though, they were neither cheap nor easily available. Thus the widespread use of beach mats.

The growing popularity of the sword arts, and tameshigiri, outside of Japan has created a demand for better cutting materials. This in turn has resulted in the availability of several alternatives to the venerable beach mat. Since I wondered just what the differences were between the different materials available, I decided that it was time to find out. I ordered mats from various places and ran them through a side-by-side comparison. No, it wasn’t a strictly controlled scientific experiment. It was just Doug Stryker, a dojo mate, and myself whacking at the different targets and discussing our impressions. For a little consistency in our testing, we were performing the Toyama Ryu cutting pattern called Rokudan Giri. This pattern consists of six cuts, left to right kesa giri, right to left kesa, another right to left kesa followed by a left to right kiriage, one more right to left kesa followed by a left to right ichimonji or suihei, whatever your school calls a flat horizontal cut.

The mats I purchased for our little test were: used tatami omote, the Toyama Ryu standard, as well as beach mats from Bob Elder at www.ecmas.com. New tatami omote manufactured specifically for tameshigiri from Mugen Dachi Co. at www.tameshigiri.com. New Bugei wara and Bugei goza from Bugei Trading Co. at www.bugei.com. These are all readily available and sold specifically for use in tameshigiri.

Next 1 2 3 4 5 Back

© Mugen Dachi Company 1999-2007 All rights reserved.