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Carbon vs bamboo shinai

by Christoph

Nowadays you can buy carbon shinai. I noticed that they are rather expensive, so I was wondering...

Are they 'better' (for lack of a better word) than the bamboo ones? Or is it just a matter of personal preference?

I can imagine that a carbon shinai would be much harder to damage than a bamboo one, but I'm not sure...

What's your opinion?

Many thanks

PS...I would like to congratulate/thank you for maintaining such an interesting website. I'm only just starting kendo, but browsing your webpage has already supplied me with loads of information.

Answer: Thank you for your kind words. And I am glad that you like the website!

Carbon shinai, as you mentioned, is hard to break. That is its sales point. So I think these carbon shinai are used by students who train every day and those who cannot buy bamboo ones often, i.e. kendoists living where they have limited access to kendo suppliers.

I don’t use carbon shinai personally because of this one incident…

When I was a high school student (late 80's), I borrowed a carbon shinai from my friend because my shinai was broken and did not have a spare shinai with me. Of course, I should have some spare shinai. Very bad student!

I went up to the late Murayama sensei (8th dan) for a jigeiko with a carbon shinai. Man, he got mad! Carbon shinai back then was very hard plastic stick. It really hurt.

Shinai was invented NOT to hurt others. But carbon shinai at that time surely hurt!

I am sure the carbon shinai have got way better since then. So it is more “shinai” like impact on human, maybe :) .

But mind you. Carbon shinai is hard to break but it will break. Imagine the damage you can give to your training partners with a broken carbon shinai.

If you use a carbon shinai, you need extra attention to the shinai condition. You have to make sure that your carbon shinai is in good condition all the time. And you have to have an ability to spot something unusual on shinai. This ability is really necessary to kendoists.

So conclusion.

Carbon shinai is harder to break compared to bamboo shinai.

Some people probably don’t like it because it hurts.

So my advice is to have both carbon and bamboo. If you are allowed to use a carbon at your dojo, then use a carbon shinai at your dojo for training.

You should have some bamboo swords for special occasions such as training with 8th dan sensei from Japan.

Or even when you go to another dojo to practice with other sensei. Ask them if they don’t mind you using a carbon shinai with them. It is always nice to ask permission. :)

Nowadays, you don’t probably have to be that sensitive to a carbon shinai like this but I have a traumatic experience so I never use a carbon shinai.

It is always a good idea to be prepared for any kinds of situations.

“A winner of the 8th dan championship told me off about using a carbon shinai with him” is traumatic enough for me to avoid using a carbon shinai for the rest of my life. ;)

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