I am down to my last two shinai. One is a beautiful handmade Japanese madake koto shinai, that thanks to the ever rising yen is worth an average European weekly wage and the other an interesting piece of kit with Japanese madake written in kanji on the tsuka, and made in China inscribed in English on the take. This unfortunately is now bent like a banana and now of little use for anything other than hitting around corners.
I did acquire a standby from the dojo cupboard, but this has a koban handle and somehow seems like half a shinai, in that it only works in one direction. Within two minutes of removing the string rings, it collapsed inwards after receiving its first kirikaeshi, so I do not think that it is going to provide a permanent solution to my shinai needs.
I have two of Chiba sensei’s shinai stashed in the spare room against his future visits and the devil on one shoulder keeps telling me that it would not hurt to borrow them. The angel on the other shoulder however, reminds me that it would be wrong to do so, and that my using such a meijin’s shinai would approximate giving a Stradivarius violin to a chimpanzee.
In the middle of this quandary the manager of the Linkedin kendo group asked about the pros and cons of using carbon fibre shinai.
Clearly carbon fibre is hard wearing and long lasting, but I still have an aversion to shinai made of this material. Their feel and the sound they make when striking a target is very different to that of their bamboo counterparts and when I used one briefly in the past, I sustained elbow injuries. This is not an uncommon experience, and there are numerous reports of golfers elbow sustained through their use. I have also heard of cases of damage caused to bogu and impact injuries to people hit with them, but these reports may or may not be urban myths. I was given a carbon fibre many years ago, and its use moved rapidly from keiko, to receiving uchikomi and I then gave it away.
There are numerous fans of carbon fibre shinai. Many German kendoka use them as their weapon of choice. This may be because of the influence of the late Ando sensei who used them and other products made by their manufacturer. Nevertheless my own preference is for bamboo, so when I make my trip to Japan next week, I will be taking an empty shinai bag and a pile of yen.