Our Philosophy and What to expect

Background:

Our business is founded on the concept of providing an affordable entry level practice sword to beginners in iaido. Through our own experience in dojos over the years, we have seen the dilemma faced by many entry level practitioners.

One of the dojo that we frequently attend is based at the University of Southern California at San Diego. Many of the practitioners there are college-age students without a large budget to spend on a sport that they are may just be trying out for a few semesters.

It is unfortunate, but not uncommon for the entry level students in iai to find themselves with the dilemma of having to commit close to a thousand dollars on the basic equipment for a sport that they are just getting into and not yet certain if they are able and willing to commit a significant amount of time towards.

At the time our company was founded, the cheapest sword that can be found for use in iai would be about $800+, either that or you would have to find a used, machine made gunto at the local pawn shop. We find this situation and what is expected of a beginning student to be unreasonable and, at times, prohibitive of entry into the sport.

Our Philosophy :

We develop our swords specifically to address this particular need. So that for someone with a budget of as low as $100 up to $300 (Maximum amount we charge for our sword), they can at least get the equipment appropriate for practice in a class or a dojo setting.

From the time of inception, we set the maximum price we would charge for a sword to be no more than $300 USD. Ideally, we would carry a sword which would meet the minimum requirement of most dojos at $100, the average quality of what we carry to be $200, and the very highest of our swords to be no more than $300. These prices were set based on what I perceived to be a reasonable amount to spend for a beginner not yet sure about the sport they are just getting into. It is at the next step just above the costs for a good bokken or bokuto. After the prices were determined, we set out to create the best of what was possible within these parameters.

It has been about a decade now, since we set up this pricing structure. As most people are aware, the first decade of this millennium has been financially turbulent as far as the decline of the US economy and the rise in the exchange rates for currencies in Asia.

Over the last few years, it had been no easy task adhering to the pricing objective we set as production cost skyrocketed and US Dollar plummet. Most major manufacturers in the sword industry had to increase their prices in order to maintain a sustainable level of margin.

We have tried our hardest to avoid increasing our prices and have been mostly successful. Two things happened during this time as far as our business is concerned. First, the lowest priced sword we carry had to be bumped to $150 because it was simply impossible to keep production costs down at the $100 level. Second is that we had to discontinue wholesale to our resellers in 2011 because we could no longer maintain a net positive margin when selling wholesale. But for the most part, the prices for our swords today is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago.

In the last 10 years, when the cost of a gallon of milk went from $1.47 to roughly $3.50, the price of our swords have remained exactly the same.

What to Expect:

With our philosophy in mind, we strive to make the best of what is possible within the set parameters for the intended application of iai practice. The three aspects of iaido practice that our swords are intended for are Kata, Tameshigiri, and maintenance. For these applications, we created the blunted iaitos and the sharpened iaitos.

Whatever we make has to meet the basic requirements deemed appropriate for these applications by the majority of the dojos in the United States.

With that in mind, we are NOT out to make art-swords, collectors pieces, or display swords. Nor are we making swords to hit other swords. Our swords are not meant for chopping trees, metal, animals, jugs of water, and whatever targets one may find in the yard. We are out to make a basic tool for iai, constructed as close to the same way as a traditional piece as possible, but with cosmetic refinement taking a back seat. The tool should be appropriate for iaido practice including kata , tameshigiri on tatami omote in a dojo setting, as well as practice in maintenance, including polishing, cleaning, and modifications.

Our swords are never meant to be collectors pieces, display pieces, or art sword quality. There are numerous other manufacturers and individual smiths in the industry that serve those needs. The reason being the same as with all other hobbies, refinement will come with a price, and the cost gap between functional and refined widens logarithmically.

The polish on our swords are what is know as "tameshigiri" polish. In other words, these are working polish and not a high grit mirror polish. The finish is 400 to 600 grit depending on the model. Being handmade, these swords are also handled by hand somewhat extensively during assembly and do get scuff marks or minor stains here and there on the blade as well as on the components. The tsubas are mounted on the nakago by hammering around the nakago ana to close the gap between tsuba and nakago just before assembly (instead of shimming by wood pieces after). Ito is tight enough for use, but is not going to be the tightest out there (cotton braid ito naturally has some stretch to it, as opposed to silk or leather). Habaki, seppas, tsuba fuchi, kashira are free-floating and pinched into place by friction forces of the neighboring components as a traditional katana is, so may sometimes need minor adjustments.

These blades are forged by hand, shaped to the eye, then tempered and quenched (which contracts the steel), then polished. And as part of the quenching process, may pull on the blade slightly. So it is not going to be perfectly straight as laser. The sharpened blades are polished to the degree necessary for tameshigiri and will perform very well in that application. It is NOT sharpened as a razor and you cannot slice paper or shave your hair with it out of the box. (To do so would require a rather minor touch-up on the edge).

The issues can all be addressed by the end user if they so choose. After receiving the sword, you can adjust the components, add a high-grit diamond paste polish, deburr the blade to slice paper, polish the components, etc. to make it as refined as you choose. However, these are not the features we strive for and should not be expected of the sword out of the box. If a highly refined sword is what you are after, you will either need to be prepared to perform these refinements yourself or should purchase a higher end sword from a different manufacturer.

The mekugi pins are inserted at an angle by design. (Over the years, we developed this "wedge" configuration to accommodate for the two-pin arrangement. (traditionally, katanas are mounted with a single mekugi pin so that the nakago can be seated in the tsuka). In recent years, the two-pin configuration was developed and perceived as safer, but with its own issues. The nakago is no longer seated against the tsuka in the two-pin configuration, instead, it is now pinched between the pins. This arrangement makes the nakago "free floating" inside the tsuka laterally, so a "wedge fit" (offsetting angle of the two pins) is necessary).

Our shipment level QC inspection is performed by a third party on a set of criteria with tolerances within a range of values. Being handmade swords, not machine made, it is impossible to QC on a fixed value. Inspection is based on a sampling, the same way medical devices are, under the AQL sampling methods developed by the US Military. After inspection the individual swords are visually checked again at the time of shipping to make sure there is no issues and that we would gladly purchase use the sword ourselves.

We practice in JSA and use our own swords and have had the guidance of many generous senseis and develop our own refinement over the years. There are features that we developed and may not be the same as swords from other manufacturers. We do not just copy designs, and the swords that we make are the ones we would buy and use. They may not be suitable for every practitioners or collectors out there, but are what we would like at the prices we would pay for ourselves.

Though we would like nothing more than if our sword can suite your needs, realistically there is no one sword in existence that will fit the need of every practitioner out there. It is our hope that this information helps you determine if our philosophy is in line with yours, and if our sword is suitable and matches what you are searching for.

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