Ya-Do-!The Structure of Shinai, Its Recycle And Reuse (as a dagger)

By Jw Yeh

Shinai, the bamboo swords used in Japanese martial art Kendo looks like a bunch of bamboo splits tied together with some threads and leather. Other than Kendo, the similar “equipments” can be seen in Kobudo, Tankendo, and Naginata. In the official competition, adult one-sword fighter holds a Shinai no longer than 120cm. If you are a two-sword fighter, like me, you can only use a Shinai no longer than 117 cm and a short dagger that is less than 62 cm.

Ooops, I broke a Shinai! Generally speaking, a Shinai that meets the standard while maintained and used correctly can last for years. However, if you ride motorcycle with your Shinai hanging out there in the rain a few times… or dried out, or hitting with wrong force, you can cause the bamboo splits to break. When you have damaged a few Shinai, most of them could be replacements or parts to repair the others. Or, the leather doesn’t have to be thrown away unless it has has holes.

What should you do if none of them are good? Most likely, the broken part is at the tips of the Shinai. If it is broke, it would be good to make them a short dagger (Tanken) for Kendo two-sword style or Tankendo.

The specification of Tanken by Jukendo-Liitto

A standard Tanken is 53cm in length, including the tip, shaft, and handle, and hand guard. The weight must be heavier than 250g for man use, and heavier than 200g for female and underages.

Picture courtesy Kendo World 

What is Tankendo?

A picture tells you all. On the right, it is the author, Jw; on the left, Baptiste who holds Jukendo-Litto 6-dan of Japan.

NHK WORLD TV show. (The guest is Baptiste who hangs out in Taipei World TV Dojo)

Tankendo is a modern martial art form that belongs to Jukendo-Litto. Takendo was developed during the WWI, and a byproduct of infantry firearm and bayonet drill. the bayonet was not sharpen then. In the past, Japan had “kodachi”, “jitte” and different smaller arms to attack or to cut and judo that does not require any weapon. With the rich martial art background, a new technique hence was born. The main technique is to “sting,” and while in use of hitting, it would measure the force of the hit. In close range battle, the left can grab the opponent, and to tip the opponent’s balance in order to suppress the opponent.

The point spots for the practice includes: Do (torso) – Nodo (throat) – Men (face) – Kote (wrist).

The interesting part of the practice is that the one being hit must shout what the practice is. The main reason is to prevent injury for both sides, and the one being hit needs to take the hit. Another interesting part is that the footing is similar to fencing (after all, the arms and routines came from France during the Meiji Restoration).

Done with intro, moving on to how to make it!

Somehow, I have practiced Kendo over a decade. The broken Shinai did not go to the trash. I took apart the leather, and separated the bamboo splits. They are in line now.

Align them with the knots, and tape 4 of them together as a bundle.

Of course, we are cutting long swords short, so get ready with the measurement. According to the instruction, use a rolling ruler to point one side to the tip of the Shinai, and align 35.5cm to the widest part of the Shinai. Mark the tip and the 52cm spots. The tip of the rolling ruler is the new tip, and 52cm mark is the bottom of the handle.

Next, find your patience, and start to saw. I use an ordinary folding saw sitting I found at home. The baboo cold be too dry to cut so it might not be a clean cut. Be patient, rotate the bamboo, and cut it. The skin is the part that is most easily to fail. After the skin is cut, everything else should be easy to achieve a clean cut. Of course, you can cut piece by piece, but the measurement might take some extra work while putting them together. We are still trying to get a even length.

To smooth the edges, I used a 120 sand paper.

Let’s recount the materials. I made 5 Tanken this time.

Make sure none of them is too heavy or too light.

the bamboo shreds are ready! Next step is the leather part. I used recycled handle leather from Shinai. From the hand guard down 16cm, you can cut it. Discard the rest (the right piece in the picture).

There is a big hole at the bottom of the handle. I can’t use it anyway. How to finish it up? First, I have to roll the leather inside out.

It would get difficult further down. You can use a small stick to assist the push.

Once turned it inside out to the bottom, mark every 5-6mm, and drill a hole at each mark.

Then, thread your cotton thread through the holes! I use the cotton kitchen string that you tie your ham or chicken to roast. The string are intertwined by 3 different threads, a bit too thick. So, split it to three.

Speaking the threading, I don’t have any thick enough needles that suited the job. I found this little tool to help the threading and a crochet hook. They would do just the job. However, be delicate using these tools, they are fragile. They didn’t sign up to do this after all.

Take some tie, in and out, then the threading is done.

Pull two ends of the string, and tie a knot.

There you go!

Ah, not done yet. I still need to turn the leather inside-out for the handle leather. It will just be a short moment.

Okay, the moment is definitely not short. It is longer than threading the holes.

After patience burned, and done with the turn. Check the new ending. Perfect!

Try to assemble it!

It’s just perfect.

After the leather of the handle is done. It is time to put everything together.

At the tip of Tanken, there would be two things. the red bit and the leather tip. The black, blue and dirty look of the leather is a bit worn off, for safety reason, it needs to be replaced.

Gosh, my tip leather is too small. It stuck in the middle.

Don’t worry. It’s just leather. You can go ahead to expand it.

Perfect fitting!

Take it down to tie the string.

It is a hard to explain how to do it. This is my way to tie it.

Tie a slip knot on the ear like the picture below. Make sure the loop is about 7-8cm.

As the picture blow, through the ear of the handle leather, put it into the loop of the knot.

The string goes to the leather handle ear, and pull back. The two rabbit ears are pulled.

The last few loops, leave some room to allow the string to go through, and then pull them tight. The traction of the string and the rabbit ears can hole them together.

The last part to tie up: middle knot.

Ah! The diameter of the Tanken increased. The old leather string was too short.

I have to cut the old one. I don’t want to dismantle the string. Use the new middle knot leather to hold the string, and then loop the leather up and down, round and round.

Scissor time! Leave about 1cm end of the leather string. You can cut the rest. The excess of the string, off they go.

After cutting off the string, use a lighter to finish it.

Ta-dah! A Tanken hense is done. Hooray!

The last picture, from top to bottom: Kodachi for Kendo two-sword play, Tanken for Tankendo, and a replica of 1907 British military standard bayonet. The design of the bayonet was the origin of the Tankendo, and its goal. (Of course, the modern practice would be much less military. It is used to be the combat practice between two, and short wood sword drill.