What's in a shinai? When we spend time trying one take after the other in a shop, what are we looking for? Weight and balance, surely, but our favourite shinai, the one we keep for shiai or examination, the one "that hits by itself" ...is it just a light, well balanced shinai or there's something else?
It would be pushing a bit too far, by attributing a "soul" to a shinai, as we would have done with a katana, if only were we born in feudal Japan. Nevertheless, a good measure of "nice" superstition can account for our preference for one piece of bamboo or the other. The "lucky" shinai: whoever never had one ?
In my search for the "lucky" shinai, I obviously started with the 4 Shinai Test Pack:
I got 4 Ladies' 39 and the first to be tested has been the KYOGOKU. I had weighted all 4 and the Kyogoku resulted the heaviest of the lot. A 470 grams shinai, not exactly a feather.
What makes the Kyogoku special, is the Dobari balance. A grip slightly thicker (but not excessively so) and a balance discreetly moved towards the hands. Nothing extreme: a strong looking shinai, slightly thicker, but still agile.
Since I had a Ladies' keikokai in Osaka, I decided to put it in use first in an exam simulation, then in a series of mawarigeiko. I must admit I was rather unsure, at the beginning. I was in for a lomg round of fights, would it be so wise to choose a heavier shinai? Actually, I was ready to give it a try, but to switch back to an "ordinary" shinai after a while.
Surpringly, the Kyogoku gradually grew on me. First of all, the balance was really helping. The weight distribution compensates the grams in excess. Moreover, the strength of the shinai itself is in the larger diameter, which, I could not believe it, is a real bonus in debana men or suriage men techniques. I never attacked so many Men-uchi in one day: it was a joy to see how effective they turned out.
As the mawarigeiko progressed, blame it on the "lucky shinai effect", I felt much more at ease also with the thicker grip - a very refreshing and corroborating feeling.
If this was the start, with the model I considered most difficult to master, an ogre among the damsels, I wonder how "lucky" the other three, SUZAKU, SAGA and FURINKAZAN, will feel.
Stay tuned !