SAT 21-JUL: 4th day in a row!
Weekend classes with Hatakenaka Sensei are in the mornings, so we had to arrive at the Yotsuya Hiroba by 8:45am. A much earlier day than we've had recently, but our excitement was building with the opportunity to look at and possibly buy new swords!
When we got there, an elderly man was already unloading many long boxes. Since none of the Sensei had arrived yet, we first got changed and set our stuff in the dojo. It wasn't long before Tsubaki Sensei and Hatakenaka Sensei showed up and we began our tests.
For my height (~163cm), the sword I've been using is apparently too long at 2.45 Shaku, and too light at 840g. These two points were noticed by the Sensei right away from our previous day's practice. I guess their experienced eyes weren't only for finding problems with our technique ;)
As a practitioner of MJER, they recommend 2.35-2.40 Shaku and a weight of 900-1000g. Two boxes were placed in front of me, six Shinken in total, just waiting to be used. The first thing I notice is how the feel is completely different from Iaito. The superior balance of these hand forged blades make them feel like an extension of my arm. In comparison, holding my Iaito, or even others that this retailer brought, felt like a bar of steel with chunks of heavier and lighter parts spread out from the Tsuka to the Kissaki. It's difficult to explain with words, but I can truly say now that I understand why a Shinken is absolutely necessary to progress to the higher levels in Iaido. Only then will it be "real".
After looking at four of them, I finally find one that felt really good. Tsubaki Sensei also commented on the quality of balance and weight. At 2.35 Shaku and 910g, it was well within my ideal range. The balance was exceptional and the thicker Tsuka fit my hand much better than my current tip-heavy Tozando Iaito. Unfortunately, the paper work would not be ready for another two weeks, so it seems this match was not to be. Hopefully, next time we are in Japan, we'd have more time and the right sword will find me. I might even feel the "Lightning", as our friend Paul put it with his shinken. =P
Peter was more lucky, and found an Iaito that was just right. Since papers weren't necessary to get them out of Japan and into Canada, he was able to purchase and use it on the spot. The sword is 2.40 shaku @ 800g; the length being what he's used to, and the weight recommended by the Hatakenaka Sensei for his age and physical conditioning.
With most of the morning already over from the shopping, we began practice for about an hour before Hatakenaka Sensei called for another Embu.
Group 1 was 2 Dan and below with seven people including a 12 year old boy who recently started and only did Mae
Group 2 was 3 Dan with five people including myself and Hanna.
Group 3 was 4 Dan+ with nine people including Peter.
We had to perform Two Koryu + Three Shitei Waza from ZNKR Seitei: Tsuka Ate, Ganmen Ate, Shiho Giri.
Afterwards, Hatakenaka Sensei had to leave early, while the rest of the class completed our group closing practice: Omori Ryu, then Seitei in a circle. Overall, it was a good practice. I could only imagine how it would've been with a proper shinken. =P Oh well, no hurry.