The Dojo Pro Ko Katana by Ronin Katana is a fast and mean little sword that packs quite a punch despite its relatively small size.
It has also garnered quite the reputation as a true value for money piece - partially due to its looks (the all black fittings and lightning themed tsuba make this sword quite distinct) - but mostly due to its cutting ability, keen edge, speed and versatility.
So let's take a closer look with a hands on review and see how it stacks up.
Review by SBG member "Timberwolf", USA
I owned a coupla kats a LONG time ago, and last winter I decided I wanted another one.
For my first kat, I decided that the most practical one would be a ko/chisa katana. They're long enough to be a real kat, with a full tsuka, but the shorter blade length is more desirable for close-quarters work and all-around usefulness. There are a good handful of fine companies to choose a katana from, so I did some searching and discovered there really isn't much out there in the way of a KoKat in the $250-$350 range.
I wanted something that would be a great cutter, be reasonably nice-looking, and have good, tight ito and koshirae. I also wanted a stout blade, to be good for hacking a zombie into pieces if the need for that ever arose! After considering these criteria, and the lack of options/availability, the Ronin Dojo Pro Ko Katana was the only one I could buy right away. So, I went ahead and ordered this one through the SBG Store here.
The deal went through perfectly. I ordered the Dojo Pro Ko Katana online here, like I said, and received an e-mail from Paul with the tracking info. It arrived in a few days. The outer box was plain old solid cardboard, and had the cool-looking factory box inside, all in great shape. I opened it up, and there she was, secured nicely by the styrofoam pieces.
I pulled it out, dusted off the flakes of white stuff, and took a good look at the protective cloth bag. Nice, it even has a thin but decent quality layer of white cloth on the inside. It'd be hard to scratch the saya if you dropped it, bag and all.
OK, out she comes. Oh, this is cool! Piano-type lacquered saya, buffed up nicely. The kurikata (knob) has a cats-eye, kinda silvery-gold. Nice touch, and a testament to that little bit of extra detail that says someone was thinking about impressing me when they put that on there. The sageo is a tight weave with great quality as well. I'm liking this baby a lot and I haven't even seen the blade yet.
The tsuka has a very tight alternating ito, shiny black silk, with an almost glossy black samé. It terminates very cleanly into the kashira with a perfectly tied knot.
The menuki are some funky critters in an almost antique brass, but they are not weird or cheesy, and they look good and solid. The mekugi have white spots, but 30 seconds with a Sharpie fixed that. The fuchi and kashira are solid smooth semigloss black steel. Damn, I wish they were the hammered flat black design to match the tsuba, but I ain't bitching. (Oh, the ito is STILL tight, after playing with this quite a bit!)
The tsuka also has a "waist", vs. a taper or straight profile. I don't think that improves anything, but it does add a little bit of variety to the design. So far, nothing about the Dojo Pro Ko Katana says, "boring".
There is a TINY wiggle in the saya, but when I turn it over, the kat doesn't come out unless I shake it, the habaki seats firmly in the koiguchi. The habaki has a small gap on each side, but that is perfectly acceptable at this price. The tsuba is a fat eighth thick by 3 inches diameter, in that hammered/antiqued finish, and it is solid iron. The lightning style looks good, and it has the kozuku-ana and kogai-ana like an authentic traditional tsuba. It's actually slanted a bit to match the curve of the entire kat! The seppa and habaki are good brass with machined designs, and tight.
Alright, I've been doing this like I'm sipping a good beer, but it's time to take a big chug. Here we go! Ah, the entire blade is covered in a thin layer of light oil. Looking down it, there's a smooth curve from kashira to kissaki; good. After I take an old sock to it, I get a little rush. This blade has the "Ronin Ghost Hamon"! Now I'm jacked! I'd do the Snoopy Happy Dance, but the neighbors already think I'm crazy, and I *do* have a freakin' Katana in my hand! Muaaahaahahaha! :twisted:
The blade of the Dojo Pro Ko Katana has torii-sori (curved evenly from the center), about a half inch, which are both just perfect to me. It's a satin polish, but still blinds you in the sun. The kissaki is definitive and crisp, counter-polished with a slightly rougher grind, giving it contrast to the rest of the blade. The transition lines are damned near perfect.
It's SHARP! Scary freakin' sharp! And it sounds really wicked slicing through the air, and this doesn't even have a bo-hi! (Evil laughter!)
And it has the ghost hamon. Did I mention the ghost hamon? Yep, it has a ghost hamon. Yeah, that is wicked in itself!
Did I tell you how much I HATE it when someone does a review of something in their hands and posts the specs from the company website? And how they vary and are often WRONG? Well, here are the REAL numbers regarding this sword! (In other words, give us the specs from the actual sword/knife you have. Buy a scale and a tape measure, damn you!)
Disclaimer and Warning: Be EXTREMELY CAREFUL with a live blade!
I'm an athletic guy with excellent balance, spatial perception, and reflexes. I was also highly trained in this in a previous lifetime. Well, a long time ago, as I said earlier. However easy I might make this sound, I am ALWAYS mindful of the fact that at any time I could slice myself wide open with my new Dojo Pro Ko Katana, and I could be dead before I'm able to stop the blood from spurting out of me.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Alright then, back to the fun.
OK, it's been a LONG time since I've wielded a kat (swung a cat? LOL!), but I was pretty good back then IMNSHO, and it all seemed to come right back to me. The POB, short blade, and light weight of this thing allow me to maneuver it like some guy in a martial arts flick! It has some weight to it, but I can snap it and it moves in a very controlled path, right where I wanted it to go, and stops quickly. I practiced all of the basic moves until I got into some fast katas and then went for the full power slices, pushing the back of the tsuka in the opposite direction. That went VERY smoothly, and it "whooshed" a bit. I finally alternated back and forth with a series of 3 fast power slices, and by then I was feeling like a very dangerous you-know-what. Then I went inside and imagined goblins attacking in the hallway. It does really well in a tight space, and I never hit the walls once! :roll:
I'm not a big or tall guy, but I was a contractor for a long time, so I'm still built well for an old fart, or anyone, for that matter. Handling the Dojo Pro Ko Katana is very easy for me. But I think that just about anyone with some training and a decent amount of balance and muscle could be extremely competent with this kat, it just has a natural feel to it, and the learning time from out of the box to becoming comfortable with it is short.
The only thing I had laying around to cut was the cardboard box this baby came in. As you'll see in the pics, I don't have a proper stand, and I really didn't want to build one right then. I wanted to slice something! NOW!
Despite the flimsy "stand", and the box moving as soon as I touched it, this booger sliced up that box with ease. It IS very sharp, and by then my technique was close enough to good that she floated right through it with a sharp "WHACK" each time. I tore the box once with a lousy cut, but that was all my fault. If I had some better targets and a real stand/platform, I would have been out there for hours.
So, it was a very limited test of the slice and dice capabilities of the Dojo Pro Ko Katana, but I'm honestly satisfied. Someday soon, I'll test it on harder targets for fun. Gauging from the design and feel, this isn't a super-slicer. I believe it would be very competitive on harder and more dense targets, though.
For those of you who are wondering, and I know a lot of you are, yes! If you had to use this thing as a weapon, it would be an awesome implement of destruction. That is, until you hit something truly solid, like a wall, or a car. Then I think the game might be over. I personally don't know how tough this baby is, but if someone wants to find out, there are a lot of Ronin destruction tests on the web.
Oh, here's my "stand", the cheesy lil' jack from the truck. Yeah, it wobbled around and didn't do much for holding things still, but it kept the box upright. Sort of? :lol:
First, remember that the Dojo Pro Ko Katana is $275. I might be giving this kat a lil' latitude because of that, but I'm trying to be very objective here. For that price, you get a really solid piece that has strong visual appeal. I think they could sell this for $50 more and it would still be a fantastic deal, even in this competitive market.
Pros? Almost everything. The blade, saya, koshirae, and tsukamaki are all excellent, for not only this piece, but for a kat that would sell for much more. Even the sageo is quality stuff. And that cat's-eye on the kurikata is downright captivating.
Cons? I really have to stretch to come up with any. A tiny wiggle in the saya. A tiny bit of goo inside the saya. Little gaps in the habaki to blade fit. No hiraniku (overall niku), only a good amount of ha-niku (right at the edge). I wish mine had come with the hammered/antiqued iron fuchi/koshira instead of the smooth steel. But I have the "ghost hamon", and this is a GREAT kat, so I wouldn't dare trade it.
A lot of people will prefer to buy a full-sized katana as their first purchase. I'd argue that the Dojo Pro Ko Katana might be the perfect katana for the beginner, or even someone like me, who owned one before, but hasn't used one in a long time. Think about that before you buy your first katana, people.
This is really a nice lil' katana, and I'd recommend it to everyone. And I'm a picky bastard. :twisted:
I hope this review of the Dojo Pro Ko Katana has been helpful. To return to A Beginners Guide to Authentic Japanese Swords from Dojo Pro Ko Katana Review, click here