When last I mentioned shinkendo (48 long hours ago), I said
We entertain ourselves by accumulating new weapons instead of new adornments
Ah, how true. My first bokken, hardwood, edged, with a tsuba, is already showing its age. For many exercises it is desirable to have an edged bokken so that one can better observe the angle of the cut and the angle of the blade during the cut (there are Japanese words for both of these, and I should know them, but I don’t… shh, don’t tell sensei), but in tachiuchi (sparring practice) the hardwood bokkens don’t fare well. Beginner students hit each others’ bokkens (and occasionally each others’ knuckles) very hard, and the bokkens lose their finish and sometimes even splinter.
What one wants for tachiuchi is a white wax wood bokken. There are websites that sell them–though one will very likely have to buy a bo and cut it down–but one isn’t quite sure what one will get, and the dojo recommends that you buy your wax wood from the dojo, which gets them at shinkendo conferences. There were a few for sale several months ago that were snapped up by the more-advanced students, and I wouldn’t have been allowed to use one at that time anyway, so no luck. Well, as of last week, I’m in luck. On the left: my poor old hardwood bokken. On the right: my gorgeous new waxwood. I’m so happy I could squeak.
One eventually–very very eventually–wants a second wax wood, when one begins to work with two-sword techniques. When one is preparing to take the third level test, one begins to practice drawing and sheathing with an iaito, or dulled sword. The dojo has one or two of these that it lends out to the members that are at this stage in their studies, because it is expensive and one uses it for a limited period of time. Finally, when one is ready for tameshigiri (test cutting), one gets a real sword–a katana, or a shinken (true blade). All in unison: oooooooooooooooo.
The only other weapons we work with that I can think of is the suburito, which is just a heavier bokken for building strength and endurance during the long exercises like 44 no suburi, and the bo, or long staff, when we take half an hour out of class to do bojutsu. Very soon the dojo will put in an order of them for the new students, and I will have my very own wax wood bo. Too cool.
In more colorful news, here is a strand of 40 washi cranes that I finished some time ago. I keep forgetting to take it to work, where it will keep company with my travelling Buddha and my money frog. If I made 25 such strands, then I would have made 1000 cranes, and I would get a wish. My co-workers, upon whom I have been endowing handfuls of rainbow paper cranes, might suggest that I’m not very far from that goal…