There are 6 broad types of shinai. Choose your favorite one after reading descriptions for each. If you are new to kendo, you may want to choose the standard shinai made with keichiku at first before exploring which other typs of kendo shinai suit you. Several of these types can be combined.
Standard Type (Fukyu-gata): This is the most common form of shinai, so beginners will most likely start with this type.
Because it is focused on high durability and safety, it is often used in regular practice or for drills where you do repetitive striking agaisnt other shinai.
Oval Type (Koban-gata): The tsuka of this shinai resemble that of a bokken or real Japanese sword. By using a shinai with an oval handle, you can grip it naturally and strike the blade straight. For young children and beginners, it is difficult to grasp the shinai properly at first, so it is recommended to practice the proper form of holding the shinai in the palm.
Fat-bodied (Dobari-gata):By using bamboo with a broad main body (the dobari), the center of gravity becomes closer to the user's hand, making its tip feel lighter when strikingdespite its actual weight. If the tip's weight is lighter, quick striking is made much easier, and as a result, you would find yourself easily striking in uchiai, and doing degashira waza and certain types of ouji waza.
Jissen-gata:Jissengata are similar to Dobari, but instead of a broad base, they taper towards the end resulting in a slightly different balance that is well liked amongst competitors. Again the center of gravity is pushed towars the hands, and the tip of the shinai is thinner, making it feel light when you strike. Because the tip is light, it can be swung quickly, allowing you to shorten the interval between strikes. It will also make it easier for you to do uchiai at a short distance, degashira waza, and nimble ouji waza. Due to the tip of the shinai being carved into a thinner shape, this style of shinai is not as durable as the standard type.
Tsukabuto Jissen-gata:This type of shinai has a thick handle with a thin tip that allows you to feel the lightest weight of swing compared to other types. It is the best shinai for short distance uchiai and doing degashira waza and ouji waza. If you have large hands, we highly recommend you to try this balanced shinai. Because of the thinner tip, it is not as durable as the standard shinai.
Old Style (Koto-gata): Compared with other general shinai, the koto is thicker all around and its weight makes it easier to make powerful strikes and not be easily deflected by your opponent's movements. Also, the tip of the shinai feels heavier, when doing menuchi, it feels like tip of the shinai is stretching, and almost as if it is flying.
Octagonal Style (Hakkaku-gata):Thes tsuka of these shinai is not rounded, instead it is shaved to be octagonal. Many practitoners prefer this grip as it is not only comfortable, but easy to practice altering the orientation of your shinai with finger mvoements during techniques. It is often combined with a koban-gata style to make a unique and tactile tsuka.