When you choose a shinai, you have to know the length of shinai that you have to use. The length of shinai is decided by All Japan Kendo Federation (International Kendo Federation). Please refer to the table below.
* The weight of shinai is also regulated so please check it with the table.
Now once you've figured out the length of shinai that you should be using, you have to decide what kind of shinai you want to use.
Do you want to use a heavy shinai? Do you want to use a light shinai? Do you want to use a thin shinai? Or do you want to use a fat shinai?
But if you are a beginner, first choose an ordinary shinai and make sure that you can learn the basics well with the shinai. As you improved, you will be able to see what kind of shinai you should be using.
Buy a few shinais at once, if you do not have any or only one shinai. So you have some spare shinais in case you break one during training. It is easy to see that you will hurt your training partner if you keep using a broken shinai.
Until you find out your favourite kind of shinai, I suggest that you should keep buying a few cheap shinais. Once you start striking targets in kendo and you will break a few shinais very quickly until you get a hang of how to control the strength of your strike.
When you decide what kind of shinai you like, it's not a good idea to go with the feelings such as “Oh, this shinai looks cool!” You should be using a shinai that doesn't give you a bad habit.
For example, you might like a shinai with a thick grip. But usually if a grip of a shinai is thick, that shinai is really heavy. If a shinai is too heavy for you, you will tend to use the right hand to swing the shinai. Your kendo becomes a right-handed kendo.
If you have a bogu shop near you, I strongly suggest that you should actually go and see those shinais at the shop and choose a shinai or shinais.
So when I choose a shinai, what I will check at a bogu shop will be...
* the thickness of each bamboo piece
* the inside and outside of shinai for splinters, cracks and some signs of bugs/worms
If you have to buy a shinai online, when you receive a shinai you ordered, check the shinai for splinters, cracks and some signs of bugs/worms. These are "must-do" things.
Let’s say that you had trained kendo for a few years and now you knew your favourite kind of shinai but there were no bogu shops around you...
If an online bogu shop is the only option you have, e-mail those bogu shops to ask if they could choose some shinai for you if you give them some details of your favourite shinai.
All you have to tell them are...
* the length of shinai (must satisfy the regulations),
* the weight of shinai (must satisfy the regulations),
* the balance of shinai (kensen is lighter or heavier)
* Dobari or not
- if a shinai is dobari, the part just above the tsuba (hand guard) is fatter than a normal shinai.
and so on.
They may not be able to give you the shinai exactly you described but they will be able to give you a shinai that it is quite close to what you described to them. It will be a way better than a shinai randomly sent to you, wont it?
When you choose a shinai,
- Beginners should buy a few ordinary shinai so that they will not develop bad habits.
* The lighter shinai is better than heavier shinai when at the beginning.
- At a bogu shop, touch and feel many shinais and choose some shinais you like.
* Check the shinais for any damages.
- At an online shop, talk to them by email and/or phone and ask them if they can choose some shinais for you.