I've been asked to write articles for a well established website by a friend of mine. I've just started and due almost entirely to my lack of practice in writing in a semi formal capacity, it's at a whole "oh my god!" level of difficulty. Getting the words out and getting them out in the right order, is much more of a challenge than it used to be at school. Either that or I don't remember school correctly which is also entirely likely.

Anyway, I've been asked to write short articles on katana and freestyle cutting. This is a fantastic challenge for me and hopefully will allow me to develop as a person as well as writing on a subject I am the most passionate about. Writing on this broad subject matter is awesome in a handful of ways and the way that I've obviously noticed the most, is that once again I'm reminded that I don't know nearly as much as I should.

This is good, because I love to learn ;)

This has made my Christmas,
    wish me luck.


Tuesday 3 December 2013 at 10:35 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

Someone I met on Facebook was nice enough to send me some leather. It's rough and unprepared at the moment and will require work to get it all the same width all the way along but I have a purpose for it. I recently fell in love with one particular type of katate maki and have seen it used exclusively on tensho style tsuka which as far as I can tell are usually of the rikko or hourglass shape.

This leather has the right dimensions to be used on a full same wrap in the katate style. It's not a very popular style but you may have seen it before. Here is a picture of a particularly nice katate style..

And because I'm not completely ignorant and I feel peoples work should be appreciated, here is the website link to this persons exquisite work as well http://www.sword-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=17112

So.. Thank you to the kind person who sent me this ito, it will be put to good use. :)

at 10:19 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

It's been a slow ride this one but I'm trying my best to change a sword, in particular a heavy cutter that people have described as thuggish, ugly, pickaxe handled and even 'cheaty' because of the steel used, into something graceful and pretty. I have no idea if I'm going to be able to pull this off but I'm giving it my best shot so I'm taking my time.

Some successes, some fails. Then I ran out of bottles. Ive got a long way to go here, all my cuts feel a little forced as I havent been able to complete these with the same confidence that I did the previous time with 2B. I need more bottles and more practice, but for now...

Sunday 8 September 2013 at 03:00 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

Theres one problem with the Hanwei Raptor (I have the shobu zukuri version) and thats the tsuka. Its very big. Very big. its also tree trunk thick so I decided to tailor mine so its actually more useable. I mean the blade itself is made of a decent and very forgiving 5160 spring steel and therefore, with a new core, this would be awesome and pretty. So I set to it. Heres the newly shaped core.

Monday 2 September 2013 at 09:30 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

I eventually started back on the bottle curriculum and took my next step along it. :) I wont bore you with words, here's the video.

Happy cutting peeps :)

at 09:28 Posted by Shadley Hax 1 Comment

Ok, so its been a little while since I received my 'koto katana' and I'd like to say a few words on how its holding up.

So far, the fact that its 1045 is actually showing a lot more than I thought it would. After cutting a number of bottles, probably around the 50 mark it has definitely showed signs of dulling. I've carefully honed the edge back to what it should be and its working fine again but obviously for bottles, 1060 is probably a better grade steel to use if you're going to be using it for any extended cutting no matter how light the target.

This isn't the problem however. This is.

I got the blade only recently and I've only been properly cutting with it for the last few days. None of my other swords suffer in this way. I noticed a little give as you'd expect from a production sword, but this is silly. Not only that, its dangerous. The omote knot has actually come undone. :/ I dont believe there is any wadding in either knot to stop this from happening.

Basically put, this will have to be rewrapped completely. Another black mark for koto. I only hope that the recent acquisition of the company by a firm in the UK will improve their product. This unfortunately has been an expensive mistake. Having said that, after I've finished rewrapping it, It'll probably still get me through the bottle curriculum.

You live you learn eh?

Thursday 29 August 2013 at 12:09 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

After having tried for so long to understand why my cuts were happening too slowly, I worked on my body mechanics and realised that a lot of the force behind the cut is in the core. Engaging your core muscles properly means that you can free up your arms to simply guide the sword towards the target.

Of course then after a few cuts I wondered why I wasn't managing to hit the targets properly.
....sooo, I slowed down.

I watched the bottle drop and worked out I was undercutting it with the second cut. Once I'd taken the time to watch the bottle and see the sword move I simply relaxed and everything seems to work a lot better now.

Something to consider when practicing I think.

I while ago my main light cutter died a death. It was a pity but these things happen and so I set about saving up my pennies to replace it. In the end I decided to buy a so called 'Koto Katana' from a website called Kotokatana.com. It was based in the UK so this looked to be a good choice being as the last experience I had with customs was not favourable. I'd like to point out at this point that kotokatana.com isn't actually the company that produces these swords, they only supplied them until recently.

(photo from the manufacturers advert)

The original sword I had chosen wasn't available but after some chat with the person at the company's address he had selected one for me. I wasn't expecting anything special for what was 100 quid, just something that was sharp and produced decent audible feedback.

When I got the sword I gave it a good look over, starting at the tsuka which was wrapped in the way I had become accustomed to with factory made swords. It was a stretchy ito and it wasnt wrapped tightly enough. It moved when pushed with the finger and although it will last a while, I will probably end up having to lacquer it or something in order to get it to stay still. There were obviously no hishigami which was the main cause of the movement, and the same/rayskin panels were uneven in places and the wooden core shows in places. This is unfortunately part and parcel of most cheap production swords.

The menuki aren't the most premium looking and obviously golden painted. This is the sort of thing you expect though and so I didn't care.

The fuchi and kashira are plain. nothing to look at there but I honestly prefer a plain look to the overly tacky looking rubbish you sometimes get so along with the nice colour theme, this is a plus point.

Now, the whole thing is double pegged, however the pegs are mostly redundant being as the whole thing is rather sloppily and over zealously glued to the nakago. :/ In fact its coming out from between the fuchi and tsuka in some places and you can see it in the habaki. Not cool Koto. Not cool.

Moving on to the saya, it was tasteful enough, in fact it was a very pleasing red wine colour. Im a fan of dark reds and so I liked the saya.

The koiguchi of course was wood and not horn and I'm assuming the kurikata is wood too.
The shitodome on the kurikata were the same as the ones on the bottom of the kashira on the tsuka. They were the same golden colour as the menuki. *shrugs* aesthetics so far are what I would expect.

The sageo? pfft. I never use the sageo anyway so its not a problem that its cheap, too short and singed black at the ends.

The tsuba was actually rather pleasant to look at. That's my favourite part really. It serves a purpose and it looks nice enough without being garish.

Right, aesthetics aside, lets move onto the most important part, having a look at the sword from a practical point of view and assessing how it's likely to cut.

Unsheathing the sword at first glance the blade looks quite acceptable. Its got a nice amount of sori, not too much but enough to be useful and looks elegant. pretty really; but looking at the habaki I can see glue fastening it to the blade and to the seppa. Its not a good look and it doesn't fill me with confidence.

But still, there are parts that are going to be harder to fix.

Looking along the blade we can see the wirebrushed hamon and although I'm not a fan, this is a sword intended to cut up bottles/light targets and its function is more important than its form. Its also not the worst wirebrush I've seen.

The actual edge on the other hand seems rushed and on closer inspection I can see why. There's a secondary bevel. rather than one bevel from the shinogi along the hira to the ha, there is a secondary bevel like you would find on a pen knife. This was advertised as paper cutting sharp, its far from it and I'm not impressed.

There are also dings along the blade like its been roughly handled. There's nothing structurally dangerous but of course this is another thing Ill have to sort. The tip of the kissaki is also dinged which is a pity, the kissaki is one of the things I like about this blade with it being a little longer than usual in an o-kissaki style.

The bohi wasn't carved out symmetrically aright at the point where it meets the habaki. don't know why, but Im afraid I forgot to take a picture of this. I probably will do later.

I also noticed surface rust, actually within the bohi.

But... I dont want it to sound like I'm all bad news with this blade so Im gonna shortlist its good points.
  • Good curvature
  • O-kissaki
  • Correctly shaped tsuka as advertised
  • Tasteful/plain fittings
  • One of the better wirebrushed hamon Ive seen.
  • Sings nicely when hasuji is spot on (its very unforgiving) 
  • Good choice of colours.

Q: Would I recommend a koto katana again? 

A: No. I don't think so. I've heard some good things about them so maybe I just got a one off bad one that needs some work and if anyone else wants to confirm this, please do. The service I got from kotokatana.com (who are the supplier, not the manufacturer) was good though once we'd established what was going on with my order and the troubles they were having with the imports. They did wait a week though before a follow up call revealed that they hadnt received an order from their supplier for a while.

Bottom line? Maybe next time I'll save up some more pennies or risk buying from abroad but for now, if it will cut bottles I'll use it for the bottle curriculum. Its got a nice weight to it, should be fun.

If you're reading and you don't know what the bottle curriculum is, shame on you! head over to http://www.freestylecutting.com and find out.

I hope this helped anyone who was looking into buying a koto katana but please remember, this is my humble opinion only. I''ve provided photos so you can make up your own damn minds ;)

Stay cutting, be safe peeps.

Sunday 25 August 2013 at 08:11 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

The sword I ordered a while back should be arriving sometime next week. It's scheduled for Tuesday but you know how it is, not everything goes according to plan. but hey, back to my point. I was wandering through my photos and realised that one of the things I miss about my last light cutter (since its unfortunate demise) was the grip.

Friday 23 August 2013 at 09:03 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

Even though a full knot looks pretty, for a sword that often gets used, a more practical compromise is needed.

These are simple to tie and dont look bad when the sword is at rest.

Monday 19 August 2013 at 09:49 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

So, this is a new challenge from FSC. An "Inazuma" pattern on 3 bottles. If you don't know what that is, its 3 cuts, all diagonal, 2 cuts in the same direction and the adjoining cut in the opposite, colloquially known as the 'Lightning cut'.

This for example is "Inazuma Giri", the opposite flow of cuts is called "Gyaku Inazuma Giri".

For a good reference for these sorts of things, start here http://www.toyamaryu.org/Tameshigiri_Basics.htm

So yeah, 3 cuts, 3 bottles with this pattern. It looks evil hard but I spose it's something that will improve my technique regardless of whether or not I manage it. With my newer lighter sword coming any day soon, and my recent heavy training with a larger heavier sword, maybe this won't be as hard as I had imagined.

Saturday 17 August 2013 at 09:36 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

To replace the unokubi that I loved so dearly I've eventually managed to be able to order another, the Omori katana with Bo-Hi from Kotokatana.co.uk. I would call it a replacement but I don't think any sword will replace the one that broke for speed and agility any time soon.


As far as I can tell, "Omori" refers to the motif they are using for the koshirae, some form of catfish-like animal and a little googling tells me thats probably the case but I could be wrong.

It's an unknown 'high carbon steel', so Im guessing its the low end of the spectrum at 1045. One company told me it was 1060, the other said they didnt know. The fact they havent specified it means that its likely 1045; but having said that, theres nothing wrong with 1045 for light cutting and as always it comes down more to the heat treatment of the steel and the quality control of the company rather than anything else. It's better for an unknown sword to be lower in carbon content and to bend than to be higher and snap... of course its best if it does neither ;)

Until it arrives I'll not know the quality of it for sure but I will be doing a review on it so people know what the lower end of 'Koto Katana' is like. I havent seen any other reviews yet apart from the ones of the more expensive swords in the line so maybe this will enlighten people.

It's come to my attention that I haven't even mentioned the group to which I belong, the Freestyle Cutting group. Although I am a member, I do not officially represent the FSC in any capacity, I'm simply a practitioner, another learner on this slightly odd path.

Theres not a lot that can be said about us that cant instantly be gleaned from visiting one of the online resources.

Official page - http://www.freestylecutting.com
Facebook group - https://www.facebook.com/FreestyleCutting
Youtube channel - http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJMG0v_FLN7NU2aatfM841w

All these places will give you the gist of what it is that we're doing but the best way to understand is to simply get involved. There are an ever increasing number of people doing what we're doing and as well as reading and watching, it goes without saying (even though Im saying it here anyway) that if you're still curious about anything, a straight question often gets a straight answer. Everyone is friendly and helpful.

Wednesday 31 July 2013 at 14:12 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

This was my first double cut. I was very pleased, ok it started up high and the cut is sposed to start from down low but hey... It was still able to illicit a.. erm.. a high I spose that I really like. I didnt think I'd be able to for a long while but well.. there it is.

Theres something about that snap snap that I love and that smirk on my face on the slo-mo shows that. The only thing I have to sort out is that I'm not 'diagonally upping' on the return cut. its on the horizontal plane. nevermind, its still progress and you gotta love Ozrics ;)

Saturday 27 July 2013 at 01:30 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

I've been having problems doing a certain cut as I've detailed before and I posted a video to youtube. I first got one response and then two more followed so I've edited this post to include those too. All three videos contain some really good points and I've managed to take it all on board and come out of it with a technique that Im working on now.




Thanks guys for all the help, again I was really chuffed with all the feedback and thats one less hurdle for me to get stuck on. :)

Friday 26 July 2013 at 14:15 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

Fish and chip shops have em, indian restaurants have em. Oil containers. Sometimes they're drum shaped and metal though and you don't want those obviously, but sometimes they're plastic and they're a lot of fun for cutting.

(no idea how i balanced that jug on that post)

If I had more I'd deffo chip them until there was nothing left rather than one big cut like this but it was fun to do. I had no idea exactly how sharp this sword was or how easily the plastic would part until after I'd cut it. It was a first milk carton moment all over again.

dead good fun.

at 14:07 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

I dont really have a lot anymore. I think thats because all the confidence I had, stemmed from drugs and alcohol and this overwhelming bravado that got me pretty much everything I wanted. But this is now and time has changed me. Im a better person but Im not without my wounds and it's been very hard to cope over the last however many years. I've had very little that has actually properly helped with the issues I had/have. Fortunately I have a handful of people who are worth their weight in gold and some who are worth twice that.

However, one of the things that cutting is teaching me is that really, if you put in the time and the effort, you get something back. Its not always tangible and it's not always something that other people appreciate or even f*cking understand, but whatever the hell it is, you have it. For me that's the ability to cut. Sure I have other things as well; I fix computers, I'm not bad with a balisong, I can still code in Pascal and my tuskamaki is making good progress but the thing that stands out the most is definitely the feeling I get from coming back inside after 20 minutes of dry cutting and knowing my angles are improving.

And now, the point of this post I spose.
Its a big step for me to post stuff online because my response to non constructive criticism has not been good in the past. I dont know if its a good thing that I'm posting videos but it feels good because itll help me improve in something that I enjoy more than anything I've tried my hand at for a long time. On the other hand, the internet is a place where I could get knocked back a lot.

spose it'll be a learning experience either way. ;)

at 13:58 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

The first part of the bottle curriculum. I post this here purely for posterity. Im aware its a boring video and so on but I want it on youtube so that one day I'll look back on this and remember how poor I used to be, how much better I am now and how much more improved ill be in the future.

at 13:54 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

This was a serious question I've had to ask and I thought the best idea would be to just say it. Im kind of awkward in the way I present myself, especially on camera, I dont normally do video but hey. I just wanted a straight answer. ;)

My upward diagonal cuts, starting on my lower right hand side and crossing to my upper left hand side seem awkward and restricted. ok, my technique isn't spot on for my other cuts but at least they don't feel weird. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong but I need it sorted. I wish there were more cutters near where I lived. I'm not used to not having someone better than I am in something I'm trying to learn.

at 13:50 Posted by Shadley Hax 0 Comments

Well, at last I've found a group of people interested in the same sort of thing as I am. The freestyle cutters are a group of people who practice swordsmanship using mainly the katana. It seems to be as intense as you want it to be, allowing you to dedicate as much or as little time as you want to it. I of course have the character defect of allowing myself to endlessly obsess; so I have and will be practicing regularly enough to enjoy all sorts of muscle related injuries. go me :)

I spent a fair amount of time deciding whether or not I wanted to be a part of it before picking up my favourite practice sword and making it out into the garden to unceremoniously lop a few bottles into pieces and pass the first part of the bottle curriculum (the part of the 'course' if you like, that involves 500ml bottles filled with water). The second part I'm saving up bottles for as I speak (and replacing a sword, but thats another story)

For quite a while before finding the FSC I was toying with the idea of iaido or kenjutsu but the outlay was prohibitively expensive and the relation of the form to the practice of using a sword seemed slightly disconnected or distanced. I appreciate that practice of form in iaido makes a better swordsperson but without the actual act of cutting something it seemed a half filled cup. The only other group I found was 'Ken Kai Ryu' which from my research and of course in my very humble opinion, seemed like a group of people opposed to outside influence, without any history, teaching their own kind of posturing and posing. Dont get me wrong, theres a place for posturing and posing, but it's not at the beginning when Im trying to seriously learn something.

Since attempting the bottle curriculum within the FSC I've been shown inadequacies in my own physique and my mental outlook that I've had to combat, thatI've pretty much had to face head on and sort out. My body is now stronger and faster and my outlook on things is more positive. As long as I have access to my swords and my garden, the rest of life seems to fall more into place than it did before. It's strange to think that something so small thing in the scheme of things could have such a profound effect on my life.