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How to choose Kendo shinai for beginners

Since its foundation in 1989, world-renowned martial arts brand Tozando has consistently provided high-quality equipment to Kendo practitioners around the world. With an accumulation of nearly 30 years of experience, our constancy in supplying authentic, first-rate equipment earned us high regard from martial arts practitioners, from beginners to high ranked teachers.
There are many types of shinai used in Kendo, and for beginners it can be difficult to decide what to choose. With this, we have gathered our expertise into this easy to follow guide to assist and advise you through your first purchase.
A shinai endures repeated hits, and as such will be worn down over time and in eventual need of replacement.
When considering your first shinai, it is important to keep in mind both its level of safety during practice and how it will contribute to your development as a Kendo practitioner.
As an item that you will sooner or later need to replace, some may recommend that you purchase the most inexpensive shinai—however, you need to be aware that practicing with a cheap and inferior item may more so hinder than help your overall progress.
With acknowledgement of the above, we suggest that beginners pay attention to the following three points when purchasing shinai:
  • Type
  • Material
  • Size
There are a variety of shinai types available including standard, oval grip, "dobari" fat-body, "Jissen" or "jissengata" combat style, "jissen" wide-grip, "koto" old-style, and narrow grip types. For beginners, generally the standard type is recommended.
Due to the standard type being made with safety and durability in mind, it is often favored by beginners. As your skills improve, you try selecting a different type of shinai that suits your preferred grip and center of balance.
An oval type shinai allows you to maintain a more natural grip, making it easy to remember how it feels in the hand. However, to initially learn correct "hasuji" (proper blade's trajectory) when striking, a standard type is recommended—an oval grip can be experimented with once you gain more experience.
Shinai materials are generally grouped into two categories: carbon, and bamboo.
Bamboo is recommended for beginners as it allows you to both feel and hear your strikes, as well as learn how to take care of your shinai. Bamboo material is further categorized into "Madake" and "Keichiku”.
Madake bamboo is renowned for its high-quality fiber density, flexibility, color, and luster, as well as being hardened to lessen cracking and scuffing. However, harvested in smaller quantities, it is higher priced.
Keichiku bamboo shinai are recommended for beginners, as the density of the fiber is similar to Madake and although less resistant. It is harvested in higher quantities and therefore cheaper in comparison.
Carbon fiber is harder to break than bamboo and easier to care for, so it generally last way longer. In addition, bamboo sword can get potentially harmful splinters and edges when used, as opposed to carbon. Due to their durability, carbon shinai cost considerably more than their bamboo counterparts and are generally priced around $300.00. But carbon is a hard material that also bends easily and can be particularly painful on the receiving end, therefore requiring special care when used around small children. Since beginners also need to learn how to care for their shinai, we do not recommend relying on carbon types. Furthermore, as the feel and sound of a carbon shinai strike differ from that of bamboo shinai, they are not suitable for beginners as it will be more difficult to learn by response feeling.
For beginners, it is recommended initially to use a bamboo made shinai, and if there is a need, to buy a carbon shinai in the case of emergency.
Hereafter we will introduce how to make your selection according to each kind's differences, in particular those of keichiku shinai.
There is a regulatory chart for selecting shinai according to your age and gender.
International Kendo Federation (FIK) Shinai specifications for use in competition
Specification Gender Jr. High School
(12-15 yrs)
High School
(15-18 yrs)
University & Adults
(18 yrs+)
Maximum Length Male & Female 114cm
(Size 37)
117cm
(Size 38)
120cm
(Size 39)
Minimum Weight Male 440g 480g 510g
Female 400g 420g 440g
Please note that in Japan adult female's generally use size 39 shinai, which is why our shinai are mostly made according to the FIK specifications with size 38 for ladies being for high school students at 420g. While adult Females are allowed to use size 38 Shinai, these Shinai will need to weigh more than 440g without the Tsuba & Tsuba-dome. These kinds of Shinai are usually sold as " Adult Ladies' 38" on Tozando.
Use this table as a reference to find the best shinai size according to your category. Minimal weight is regulated, but as a natural material, not two shinai will weigh the same. You can here follow your preference, but as it is important to know if you are correctly swinging, it is better to choose a shinai which is not too heavy.

Here are some standard shinai suitable for beginners that satisfy the above three conditions.
In addition, we recommend the following oval type shinai.
>If you would like to browse our complete selection, please visit our shinai product page.
Be sure to select your shinai while keeping in mind its type, material, and size as outlined above. If anything is still unclear and you are not sure which product to choose, feel free to contact our customer service center and we will help you with the most suitable shinai for you. We hope that you enjoy, make progress, and practice Kendo safely.