Physical Training Feb 2012
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Review: SDK Ultralight Iaito

copyright 2012 Scotty Allen, all rights reserved
SDK ultralight iaito

As my sword seemed to float out of my hands, “You’re using that ultra light again today huh Scotty”? So began another full day of training with Kim Taylor sensei using SDK’s Ultra Lightweight Iaito. I’ve been using this latest offering from SDK for about four months now on and off and really beginning to like it … with some reservations.

1) Yes, at about 570g (2.45 shaku model) it is very lightweight and tends to have a mind of its own. Depending on your perspective, this is a good or bad thing. The extreme light weight will force you to use correct tenouchi and not put too much muscle into your cuts. Poor tenouchi or too much muscle and you will lose control and the sword flies everywhere but where you want it to go.

2) At first it was difficult to get a nice “whoosh” from the sword. Again, once I had corrected my tenouchi and backed off on the muscle power, it “whoosh’s” just fine.

3) The first one I tested had a few minor glitches:

The sageo was very short, not a big deal, easily remedied

The sword did not fit well into the saya and would jam either during draw or noto, again, easily fixed by switching saya.

The habaki was a tad loose, black paint of tsuba wore off a little, kurigata was loose. Minor hiccups like this are normal on new production prototypes such as this and took about five minutes to correct. The paint is no longer wearing off the tsuba on mine and it is still black.

On a positive note, after four months of use, the sword does not appear to have suffered at my hands. My arms and shoulders are not sore after a full class, perhaps due to the weight, more likely that I am gripping correctly and not using shoulder muscles to cut! I would highly recommend it for anyone with compromised shoulders; elbows etc. that needs a light weight blade to continue practice. Also, by the end of a three day seminar, most of us are getting pretty tired. The Ultra Lightweight may just give you a few extra hours of practice. The one I have has a slightly rounded tip. I think this is a great idea for beginners, may save a few stabbed hands and left upper arms during Tsuka Ate. The Ultra Lightweight would also serve as a “travelling” sword, especially when leaving the country. With the vagaries of foreign customs departments and airline regulations, it would not be so hard to possibly lose this one, rather than your prized weapon.

SDK ultralight iaito

My thoughts are divided as to whether it is good for a first sword after a bokuto. One thought is to always start with the best you can afford (which may last for your Iaido lifetime). The other thought is to start with an inexpensive "entry" level one like this one. Then when the newbie decides in a couple of months that he does not want to continue, he is not stuck with a thousand dollar wall hanger! I also like the idea that it could easily become a "giveaway" for a new member that is hot to go and needs a break or maybe just a "club sword" in case someone needs to borrow one at some point.

I personally think that every dojo should have at least one tucked away in a cupboard to let people try a few swings with a “real” sword once they have been using a bokuto for awhile.

Do I like the sword? Hell yeah!

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