The shinai is a sword made of bamboo. Here, the katana has served as a template for its manufacture. Thanks to the bamboo sword, martial artists practicing kendo could practice real combat situations in the training room without fatally injuring themselves. The origin of the shinai can be traced back to the 18th century.

The most important thing in advance

  • The Shinai is a high quality bamboo sword.
  • There are different variants of the bamboo sword.
  • Children, women and men use different models.
  • The shinai is suitable for competitions as well as for regular training.
Shinai, source Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Background & purpose of the Shinai

The shinai acts as both a sword and a sporting implement. It is used in the Japanese martial art called Kendo. Koreans use it in Kumdo and call the weapon juk do. The literal translation for the weapons is bamboo sword. The makers of the shinai used the katana as a template to create this competitive and sporting weapon.

  • The sword is made of either carbon or bamboo
  • Its origin dates back to the 18th century. in 1760, Japanese weapon manufacturers invented the shinai as an alternative sword to the bokken
  • At that time, a special equipment called bogu allowed martial artists to practice realistically, but without causing serious injury to the training partner. It is used in training as well as in competition.
  • In the fencing schools of Japan, the practical sword underwent a gradual, widespread introduction. Finally, thanks to the protective equipment, kendo students were able to practice a new way of training
  • In terms of dimensions and weight, manufacturers took their cue from the steel katana. Fortunately, because of the bamboo material, hits no longer had destructive consequences.

At one time, fencing training was called ken-jutsu before it was renamed kendo. However, martial arts practitioners of Iaido also train with the bamboo sword. The shinai is also used in aikido. This is due to the nature of the weapon.

Product features & technical terms

Four air-dried as well as shiny bamboo sticks make up the main component of the Shinai. A high quality leather strap holds them together. Thanks to the flexible composition, the risk of breakage decreases. The likelihood of a painful hand bruise is equally low.

  • Tsukagawa is the name of the leather sheath. Tsuka is the name of the handle. It contains iron plates at the end. These are called Tomegana. Above the handle is the stabbing blade, whose Japanese name is Tsuba
  • The leather sheath and the handle are tied together with a nylon cord. It is called tsuru. At the tip of the sword is a leather cap. This holds the sword together. Sakigawa is the Japanese name for it.
  • The end of the blade is called Mono-Uchi. It is also held together by a leather strap, whose name is Nakayui. The weight is similar to that of a real katana. Manufacturers have deliberately paid attention to this detail to allow realistic practice.
  • The shinai is subject to prescribed dimensions. These are valid in competitions . In women’s competitions, the minimum weight is 440 grams, while for men it is 510 grams. The maximum length is 120 centimeters. The diameter of the tip should be 25 millimeters.

Buy Shinais

You can buy a small shinai with a round handle for about 30 euros. The special Suburi Shinai, which is suitable for rooms with a low ceiling height, costs about 60 euros. Bamboo swords with a thick handle are priced at about 50 euros.

Variants of the Shinai

There are different variants of the bamboo sword. Fukuro Shinai is the name of the original model. In this one, only a bamboo cane was divided into two at the tip. However, a small leather hood served as protection against injuries.

  • In addition, the oval-grip shinai enjoys great popularity. It has a handle shape that strongly resembles the katana. People who train prefer this model. It fits well in their hand. Thus, they better control the movements. Furthermore, the appearance of this sword is convincing. It looks very similar to the weapon of the samurai.
  • Characteristic of the different variants of the bamboo sword is the thickness of the handle. The preferences of the practitioners vary widely. Some prefer thin handles, others just want to train with thick sword handle. The latter have more in common with a real sword. With thick handles, the center of gravity is at the end of the handle. This allows kendoka to control their movements more safely.
  • Suburi shinai belong to the heavy variants. Between six and eight bamboo struts are the hallmark of this sword. However, they are not at all suitable for competitions. Instead, this variant acts as an effective weight to train the arm and grip muscles.
  • There are also wooden shinai. They are made of solid wood. It is a whole piece of wood, which is not composed of several struts. Furthermore, they are characterized by a higher weight. However, they look confusingly similar to the bamboo varieties.
  • Kendoka who want a durable sword opt for the carbon variant. These are more expensive than bamboo models. However, they score with their up to 30 times longer life. If you are one of the ambitious competitors, you will save money with this variant. In addition, carbon swords do not require intensive maintenance. However, they are much less flexible than the bamboo shinai.

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Training and exercises with the shinai

Kendoka pursue the goal to put their partner into a weakness. Approaches are doubt, deception, fear and terror. To achieve this goal, fighters use different methods

  • On the one hand, they harass their opponent with a strong battle cry called kiai. On the other hand, they are able to knock the bamboo sword aside. They are also masters at deflecting attacks.
  • There are different approaches to test the attacker. Fureru stands for gently touching the opponent’s sword. In this way, fighters find out whether their partner is in doubt or has made a firm decision. This exercise definitely requires a partner.
  • Osaeru is the technique in which fighters aim to cover their opponent’s sword with their own. They usually try this at the moment when the attacker is about to strike.
  • With the Hajiku thrust, Kendoka block the strike approach of their attacker. Uchiotoshi refers to knocking down the opponent’s sword
  • Harai stands for the diagonal lunge. Thus, fighters shake the center of their opponent. They then immediately go on the counterattack
  • Makiotoshi stands for turning out the opponent’s sword. Kendoka use this technique when their opponent has a strong grip.

The exercises listed can only be practiced with a partner. However, you have the opportunity to practice many of the katas that are part of the kendo practice program at home without a training partner. These are designed in such a way that you only need discipline and willpower to practice alone.

In addition, you can imagine a duel in your mind and fight it. In this way you train your condition, technique and musculature.


Update: 2023-05-28 / Affiliate Links / Bilder von der Amazon Product Advertising API