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Sword Buyers Digest - April 2011
April 01, 2011

Paul Southren As many of you will already know I’m in Japan again (Osaka) and must admit meeting the deadline of this months issue of the digest has seen me working overtime the last couple of days from my modest short term ‘gaijin house’ apartment (I only just touched down on the 29th and have internet access again from the 30th so I’ve been flat out playing catch up!).

But I have managed to start this month’s issue before I left and even though the finishing touches are a little rough, it’s actually a pretty big issue – with lots of manufacturer news and announcements, a very cool video of the month, some personal news on my trip, an article specifically for the digest showing some tests of various sharp objects on tatami mats, and a lot more – I just hope it makes sense and doesn’t show my jetlag too much!! Lol.


2. SBG Sword Store News
3. Sword Industry News
4. FEATURED ARTICLE: ‘Tatami Mats and Knives’
5. Best Forum Posts
6. Video of the Month: Training for a Judicial Duel
7. An advertising opportunity for a select few sword sellers


Well, as mentioned late last month I headed off to Japan again – this time staying there for at least 5 or 6 weeks to see my daughter on her birthday, but also to (hopefully) find a job as even though SBG was able to pay my modest bills for a few years and was able to be done on a full time basis, the last 8 months have seen me continually dip into my savings to the point where I have to find an alternative – and at the end of the day, I’m better qualified to work in Japan than in Australia, my daughter is there – and well, I just love the place!

Not sure how I will go, because as we all know Japan had a VERY rough month in March that has shaken up the whole nation and is effecting the economy in a bad way (and it is not over yet) – but I figured I still had to give it a shot..

Anyway, I’ve settled in pretty well so far – but enough about me – let’s talk about the site, because for once there are a few things to report – like some new reviews! (huzzah!)

I really can’t remember how long it has been since I have added some reviews myself, but I had a blast doing them. I was hoping for three, but of course having to head off again to Japan again towards the end of the month for 6 weeks meant that I needed to concentrate on making the site controls more portable - as last time I had to wait until I got back to address everything, which of course for a 6 week period isn't going to be of much help to anyone!

Anyway, it's all done and so are the reviews, and I guess two new reviews are better than none! Lol.

The first one had been a long time coming, my review of the Han Dynasty Two Handed Jian by Garrett Chan's Jin Shi Trading Company.

Jin Shi Two Handed Han Dynasty Jian

It's always a good sign when you get a new sword and can't put it down, and this one got a LOT of dry handling - you'll see why in the review!

The other was even LONGER in development, the Cold Steel Katana Machete - I actually received this sword when they first came out and spent a long time getting to know it, which isn't bad from a review perspective, but not all that helpful for people who wanted to know if a new product is worth getting or not - but to make a long story short, it IS worth getting (heck, at $23 its hard to go wrong) but it really needs to be sharpened properly (the factory edge is a bit of a joke really)..

Anyway, while I am in Japan I'll be trying to polish off a few other older reviews - but will also be spending some time checking out some private collections, museums and other stuff for some articles, so stay tuned for all that!


The disaster in Fukushima Japan earlier this month was a real shock - and certainly made me glad that my daughter Lana, who I visited last month in Japan, lives some 600km away to the West. As the events unfolded, I'll admit that there was many a sleepless night - though my current trip to Japan was not in question (indeed, if anything it made me want to get over there quicker).

I guess I coped with it by working hard on the site and hitting up google news every 30 minutes to try and figure out what was happening there (which was, with all the media hype reporting news going from bad to worse on an hourly basis, didn’t help all that much) - but the countless emails and messages of support from you guys really moved me and provided a real ballast and counterweight to the mass media’s grim appraisal of the unfolding disaster.

I know I share a fair bit of private info in the digest - but though it is cliche, I really do think of you all as extended family - and your kind messages proved it to me beyond a shadow of a doubt: sword people are a rare breed, and I really can't thank you all enough..


Not much to report this month, the forge is currently working away on the SBG custom Katana from orders placed last month (which filled up MUCH faster than anticipated, I wish I could find a way to offer these all year round, but if we do I'm worried that the forge will get overwhelmed) and the previous batch orders are being sorted and inspected (delayed because of Chinese New Year, we thought we had got them out before it hit - but the swords made it to Shanghai to be shipped when they shut down early, sent them back to the forge, and we lost at least 5 weeks because of that! So annoying, as I said to my agent one day I should go to China during Chinese New Year to actually enjoy it instead of being messed around by it!).

Anyway, the only real news is that due to popular demand we added a couple of the Akio Hattori folded steel Katana to the selection of our hot specials page - these are very unique and attractive 1095 carbon steel blades with beautiful fittings and lots of extras at a bargain basement price.

Hattori Katana

While these are geared more towards those looking for a functional display sword, they are actually pretty darned tough and are more than suitable for cutting practice - it's just that for serious cutters I prefer a non-folded blade, but there is no doubt that the sharp, folded steel blades are much more interesting visually (and are not just 'display' swords - as I have mentioned before, I tend not to take a sword that looks great but is just for show very seriously, might as well just by a wallhanger and be done with it - and these are definitely NOT wallhangers..)

Sword Industry News

PROSWORDS and the SBG Pro Grade Swords Back from the Dead!

The Torakami Flagship Katana of the SBG Proswords line

This one has been a while in the making, and what a rocky road it was…

As many of you know, 2010 was the year we launched our exclusive SBG Professional Grade Katana, and while the products were as we had hoped, towards the end of the year we were plagued by a series of unforseen delays, financial issues and problems that had me tearing my hair out with frustration – not to mention my friend Paul Mumby who spearheaded the project and who very nearly ended up suffering a nervous breakdown from the problems with lead times, price blowouts and delivery issues..

In his own words:

“As many of you know, ProSwords was started as a hobby business for me. I wanted to create and sell very high quality swords to martial artists, and collectors, for a reasonable price. But it quickly began to overwhelm my time. I had a fulltime job to look after, and a family, and working 2 fulltime jobs starts to burn you out pretty quick. Also I started it out of pocket, no outside financing or financial aid... So sometimes things could get a little... Unstable...

Anyway, one of the reasons for the long silence, was the insane shipping problems in China (which are now resolved and shouldn't happen again!) made me realize it was time to find a better way to do this. It wasn't working, and I wasn't providing quality service to my customers, and that's the last thing I wanted to happen (not to mention it put me on the verge of a nervous breakdown lol).

So I sought out an old friend, (who also happens to be a high ranking Iaido Sensei, who helped me with the original prototyping and design of the swords we now sell). And asked if he was interested in helping me with the business...

In the end what developed is that the business has been sold. The new management is a partnership between Pamela Morgan (and Iaidoka who is passionate about swords, and business, and has the time, energy, and expertise to take this business to the next level) and Sensei Kim Taylor, who is providing a more silent role in the business, adding guidance and assistance with product development, and quality, as well as some of the financial backing to make the business more stable, and able to grow.

The sale was completed about 1 week ago, and since then I have been frantically transferring information, and assets and so on to the new owners.

And so with this news, the business is now ready to get back into full swing again! I will be staying on board for the next month or two to provide the needed info/assistance. And to finish off the website. But in the meantime Pam (who can be reached at: and who will be taking over control of the proswords forum account here at SBG that I am posting this under) has decided that we are far enough along in the chinese backlog, and that things are now flowing smoothly enough to re-open orders to the masses for ALL ProSwords products again!”

You can read the full post on the forums here but the long and short of it is that with the new owners, my beloved project has come through the other-side of the tunnel and you can finally place your orders again!

Simply send an email to and you could be on your way to owning your own Kuramono, Torakami or SBG Pro Grade Custom Blade without a 12 month wait! (well, most people got theirs in around 5-6 months, but there were a few that took longer– can’t tell you how stressful that was and how much of a relief it was to hear back when they finally received their blades).

It’s good to have this project in capable hands and back on track – too much time, money, blood, sweat and tears went into bringing these swords to the market – and if you have ever seen one first hand, you’ll know what kind of tremendous value they really represent.


Now this is a unique concept – and while it is not for everyone, for the real history buffs among us and for those who have always dreamed of owning a real antique sword, here’s the next best thing…

One of the Excavation Series Swords by Darksword

They LOOK like real antique swords, are made from high carbon steel and cost on average $125...


While the Hanwei Forge has been having quite a few ‘fire sales’ in the previous months, this time they suffered a real fire that caused a large amount of damage to their forge..

Blake Pogue from Hanwei reported: “We regret to advise that the Hanwei factory in Dalian sustained significant damage in a fire on March 6. The damage was limited to buildings, equipment and parts inventory and no personal injuries were involved. A full assessment of the damage and its effect on product supply is not yet available but plans are being made to resume production as soon as possible. CAS has a stock of most of the products in our current line but there is likely to be some disruption in the supply of some items, particularly newer products. We will be keeping our customers advised about possible shortages and delivery delays as more information becomes available.”

A bit of a set back for their schedules and no doubt an expensive blow to their business, but it was heartening to know that no workers were injured (or worse) in the resulting fires. We wish them all the best for rebuilding and getting back on track as quickly as possible.

TATAMI MATS – Are they really similar to flesh as a target?

Mugen Dachi Tatami mats are the industry standard for Japanese sword arts

Now as most of you know, I am a sword guy (well, it’s kind of obvious really!) but I like knives too (especially sword like knives like tanto, khurki and daggers).

But I had always kind of wondered, what kind of damage a knife would do to a tatami mat.. After all, I think we all know that a sword is capable of decapitation in a single stroke, while the same cannot be said of a knife..

Now we have all heard that a soaked and rolled tatami mat has a very similar consistency to human flesh, apparently because back in the day when the transition was made between test cutting Katana on the bodies of executed criminals to a more ‘humane’ test medium, those who had cut both noted that rolled and soaked tatami mats were basically the same consistency..

Yet after cutting countless numbers of tatami mats, I was often left wondering ‘could it really be that easy?’ – after all, I have cut with plenty of swords that cut tatami like it is barely even there, so to verify just how accurate the comparison between flesh and tatami really might be (and having the zombie humane society watching my every move, leaving me with little alternative) I took a break from my regular testing to try out a few less conventional weapons on a triple rolled tatami mat…

For my first test, I used a typical pocket knife – in this case a CRKT with a tanto tip. A quick and hard slice revealed that, by sword standards anyway, it was merely a scratch – it cut through the first layer of the tatami but no deeper, which kind of made sense and proved to me that tatami may well be fairly consistent with the resilience of human flesh.

Folding Knife vs Tatami

So for my second test I took a humble kitchen knife and did the same thing. Being a bigger blade than the pocket knife, it cut deeper – two layers down to be precise, which also made sense because larger knives will probably cut down TO the bone, but not THROUGH it – and this kind of simulated that.

Kitchen Knife vs Tatami

For my third test, I decided to take a more ‘sword like’ knife, a Cheness 9260 Tanto – and sliced away. This time we had a MUCH more serious wound, with the extra weight of the tanto combined with its appleseed bevel opening a gash around 10 layers deep..

Tanto vs Tatami

Here you could easily imagine that a tanto would cut off fingers with a swipe, or cut deeply into bone – but you can’t really imagine it lopping off a head or an arm like a sword could..

My final test was conducted with a cheap army surplus store Khurki, and had very much the same result as the tanto..

Khurki vs Tatami

So what to make of all these tests?

First off, I’ll admit that I am not very well trained in knife use (or sword use for that matter) but rather just a regular ‘Joe’, so someone with more training and skill could probably get MUCH better results. However, as my skill with a sword and a knife is about the same and I have found a decently sharpened, properly made sword can handle tatami mats like a knife through butter – yet a pocket knife barely scratches the surface, I feel safe in saying that the surface tension of a tatami mat could indeed well be close to that of human flesh.

After all, if tatami was really as soft and easy to cut as some swords made it feel like it was, the kitchen knife should have cut through to the middle of the mat or more, but it JUST went to the second layer only – and even the tanto did not quite make it to the middle..

So in conclusion, while this cannot be said to be 100% conclusive and is still very much open to lively debate, in my experience I think that tatami IS much tougher to cut than some swords make it seem and is a very worthwhile medium for evaluating a swords true cutting power and potential. Not that I really doubted it, after all who the heck am I to argue with 19th century Samurai who had the distinction of having tested both mediums side by side, but sometimes when the mats just seem to fall in half with barely any effort at all – it almost seems like tatami is too soft, but the truth is that it’s definitely NOT – it is just true testament to the age old proven cutting capabilities of a well made sword!

Ozi Tatami for donating the MugenDachi tatami mats to SBG. I’ve been using MugenDachi mats since day 1 for consistency and also because they are regarded as the most authentic on the market – they sure ain’t no ‘beach mats’. For those outside of Australia, you can pick up a good selection of tatami mats (including MugenDachi and some budget options) here at Sword N


A Judicial Duel, the so called 'trial by combat' during medieval times was obviously pretty serious business, and so it makes sense that it the months leading up to the trial - some serious training was in order...

This month we have a quick look at what kind of training was recommended by the fight masters before such a duel would take place - it's some pretty intense preparation, and a very nicely presented video to boot!

Youtube vid of the Month

YouTube Video of the Month

Also, be sure to check out the related videos in the right hand corner, there are some real gems in this collection!


I’ve made it no secret that SBG has been experiencing some hard times over the last few months. Part of the reason for this is that I don’t accept many affiliate deals or associate with any sellers that I don’t personally believe in – and as this is the core of SBG’s integrity, I don’t plan on changing that either (I’d rather SBG run at a loss than compromise itself and see even ONE of my visitors ripped off because of a SBG recommendation).

So while that won’t change, I also know that there are many GOOD sellers out there that have never really had the opportunity to associate themselves with SBG – and that does both the site and its visitors a disservice..

So this month I am reaching out to any sword sellers who want to advertise and sponsor the sword buyers digest, which at last count has around 8,250 subscribers with another 50+ each and every week...

There are quite a few conditions attached to advertising with SBG – for a start, you have to have a PROVEN track record as a vendor in good standing with the sword community (I’ll be checking with a fine tooth comb). And secondly, you must offer FAIR prices on your products (I’ve had plenty of vendors want to advertise with me but they charge prices on products that are patently greedy – one recently offered me a fair amount of money but sell a Cheness Kaze for $450! I certainly don’t begrudge a price difference of $20 or $30 above other sellers, especially if they are a low volume seller and price themselves on customer service – being both a seller and a collector myself, I know both sides of the fence and am aware that when you price yourself TOO low all it takes is one customer service issue and there goes your profit for the week)...

But if your business, or the business of a seller you deal with personally that you think deserves a little more recognition, meets these two modest requirements – I am open to consider allowing you to spotlight a product of interest to the digests readership, offer a limited time only SBG member sale, publish a write up on your business to tell the sword buying world about what you have to offer or otherwise give you a little ‘air time’ in exchange to help keep SBG going and growing into the future..

So if you are interested or want to encourage a seller who you think qualifies, please send me an email by replying to this issue of the digest and I’ll try to come up with something that suits both your budget and your requirements.

I sure as heck won’t comprise what SBG stands for by taking on any questionable advertising – but I really do feel that the time has come to open up a bit more as there may well be some good sellers out there that aren’t getting the exposure they deserve, and it really doesn’t do ANYONE any favors – who knows who we may discover...

Hope you enjoyed this issue of the digest and there weren’t too many typos or mistakes!

Talk to you all again next issue (or as they say in Japan, ‘mata ne’!).

Paul Southren

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