True to my promise to review all four Kyoto Budogu star shinai, I chose to pass from Kyogoku, the strong Dobari shinai, to the slenderer Kobangata Suzaku.
In case someone still does not know why these oval grip shinai are called kobangata, just a few lines of history: the Koban was a Japanese oval gold coin that was used in the Edo period and was dismissed in the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The final section of the shinai has exactly the same shape of a Koban, since the staves are simmetrical two by two, the lateral ones being wider at the grip, than the top and bottom ones.
I stopped using them because at the time (let`s say 20 years ago?) they were difficult to purchase and because, in case of splintering, it was complicated to substitute a staff (unless a kobangata staff of the right shape and size was at hand). In times of scarcity, interchanging staves were a necessity and not only a nice-to-have feature.
Times have changed, and here comes the Suzaku. I used it for kihon and jigeiko practice at my dojo and of course, coming from the previous experience with the Kyogaku, the difference was massive.
First of all, the balance is different, not being a Dobari, the tip feels somewhat heavier. Not being a heavy shinai, though, it takes a very short time to get accustomed to the new weight distribution.
What I really appreciated, after so many years with round grip shinai, was the feeling of complete control of the line of swing of the shinai, even during ample furikaburi. Columbus`s egg was back.
This encouraged me to insist particularly with debana men, just to have a practical proof of the better control. It worked fine, it was a real pleasure seeing the kensen land exactly at the centre of my opponent`s Men. The work of the left hand was definitely more precise and more effective, the right hand didn`t take over and spoil the straight trajectory. A very satisfying feeling.
In the confrontation between power and control, the Suzaku really plays on the side of the second, while the Kyogaku sits firmly with the first.
I still have to make up my mind regarding which approach is better for me, but definitely the exploration is going to be very interesting and fruitful.