I wrote the original Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review here on SBG after my Canadian friend Dan Dacombe pointed out that this 'new' company was worth a look (it wasn't actually new, Ronin Katana started out the same year as SBG, but took a while to refine what they did until they came to our attention).
If you have read that original Ronin
Katana Dojo Pro Review you will know that I was seriously impressed by
the sheer power of these Dotanuki styled cutting blades, impressed by
the honest no BS attitude of the owner - Chris Scoggin - and impressed
by how they were made.. So much so that I took a trip over to the forge
in Lonquan and started stocking them in the SBG Sword Store..
Naturally enough though, to truly understand about a given sword, you need to read more than one review, and it is also quite natural to be skeptical of a review written by someone who actually also sells these swords (despite my best efforts to be as impartial as possible)..
So to really get a good idea of the pros and cons of the Dojo Pro Series, here are several reviews from SBG members all amalgamated into the ultimate Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review - this way you can see it from many different perspectives, and I think by the end of it - have a pretty clear idea if this particular sword line is for you.
So let's get started.
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Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review by SBG member Sanchezero
This is my first sword in almost 20 years and as my only other sword was really an olympic-style epee, I don't think it really counts in this context. In my late teens and early twenties I dabbled in a buncha 'ninja skills', studying kendo, fencing, wushu, etc and was exposed to some kinds of long blade techniques. By my late twenties, I'd seen the light and began to study 'practical combat' in earnest. I've been to a buncha shooting schools, competed in IPSC and IDPA and BJJ.
But over the last few months I've been drawn again to the old samurai and kungfu stuff. I started poking around on the internet and after much research I decided that it didn't really matter what I got as I had no idea what I was looking for.
My requirements were simple - an affordable katana that I wouldn't be able to break very easily. There are plenty of manufacturers for this, all with plenty of positive and negative reviews, so it just came down to aesthetics.
I picked the Ronin 003 because I liked the tsuba and the brown itomaki. The little dash of red on the saya was kinda nice too, nifty without being gaudy.
I did some brief research into the dotanuki style of blade that the dojo pros are supposed to be based on and didn't come up with much. Most of what I found was actually on SBG, possibly because of Ronin Katanas' business relationship with SBG. I did find the following tidbit about Dotanuki:
Dotanuki is the nickname of Masakuni, a resident of Higo. He originally signed his blades as Nobuyoshi, and had the name of Oyama Kozuke no Suke. He worked at the very end of the koto period, and had a reputation for very sharp blades gaining the rank of Wazamono...Often he only signed his work Dotanuki Kozuke no Suke. There are other swordsmiths in the Dotanuki school, and Fujishiro lumps them together as having similar style and quality characteristics, so little effort is made to distinguish them.
This katana is a wide shape which came back into fashion in the Momoyama period when earlier styles were being copied. It is markedly sakizori though, and deeply curved, so it is easy to reference it to its time. The jigane is itame hada mixed with mokume, and the hamon is midareba mixed with notare in ko nie.
I'm pretty much lost after 'deeply curved.'
The sword was shipped from Ronin Katanas (via the SBG store) in a timely fashion (not quickly enough, of course) and arrived in about a week; tracking info was provided in a confirmation email.
It was packaged in what seems to be the typical budget sword 2 box configuration with styrofoam bumpers for additional protection. One of the reasons I selected Ronin was that they didn't spend money on a presentation box or a fru-fru sword bag, preferring instead to invest in the fittings.
Turns out there were a coupla freebies thrown in anyway – a vertical
sword stand, a rubber mallet, and a pair of rubber coated cotton gloves.
I'm not sure what I'll use the gloves or the stand for. It would've
been nicer to have a punch to go along with the mallet, but it's a
freebie and I'm not usually one to complain about free stuff.
(EDITORS NOTE: Additional items are sometimes included with these swords, but only if stock is available).
Now, I'm basing almost all of my impressions on other people's impressions of their swords since I don't really have any experience with these things. So, when I say the ito is tight or the sword is shiny or whatever, realize I have nothing to compare it to other than what you guys have been writing about your swords. That said, I'm not a complete moron and feel that I can describe most things adequately.
Wrapped in a simple black linen (?) bag.
The sword fits securely in the saya, though if you give it a shake there is ONE 'thunk' as the tip of the blade moves from side to side.
The saya is glossy and unblemished. The koiguchi, kurigata, and kojiri are all finished in a transluscent finish that ends up looking like dark amber, which I guess is the natural appearance of buffalo horn. This looks like a red lacquered piece in their photos, but has a much warmer feel in person. There is no gap between either of the seppa and the tsuba, nor between the seppa and saya.
The tsuba is attractive with no sharp edges, but feels insubstantial. The fuchi and kashira are plain, flat black and secure. Hard twisting on the kashira reveals a tiny bit of movement. The ito is tight and alternately wrapped. They advertise it as synthetic silk, but it could be polyester or hemp for all I know. It feels comfortable and secure in the hands. The menuki are shiny brass lions (?). I think an antiqued/distressed finish would've been a better choice aesthetically. They're arranged to lie under the fingers. The same looks uniform; there are no emperor nodes. I have average sized hands (size 5 gloves) and the tsuka feels maybe a touch thin.
The blade was covered in gunk and enough of it is still in the saya that I get some residue on it every time I draw it. The blade is through hardened 1060 steel and has no hint of a hamon, fake or otherwise.
The yokote/kissaki/boshi (whatever, so confusing) is counterpolished. There is some 'off' blending of the mitsukado. One side of the blade has a couple of spots that have a bit of an uneven polish under the right light (I tried to get a pic of this but was unable. all of the 'flaws' in the pics except the one I marked, are just goo.).
The blade is straight, even, and sturdy feeling. The habaki seems to be well fit - it's centered and doesn't hang off anywhere or catch in the saya. The edge is sharp enough to slice up several sheets of paper without any trouble.
Red is the weird grid line. Yellow is some of the goop that i didn't notice in time.
Statistically speaking - these are the measurements from SBG's site. I don't have a way to accurately weigh or measure this.
I tested the blade under the most unforgiving conditions known to man - the zombie apocalypse!
While a lot of these are kinda squishy I did get a few fresh ones and didn't have any problems with them at all. Severed heads, arms, and cut a few clean in half with no nicks and only some minor scratching of the finish.
I was surprised by how heavy 2 and a 1/2 pounds is. Everyone talks about how light their swords are, but this thing feels quite substantial. I don't really know how to describe it's handling, being essentially untrained. It moves easily, even considering it's heft, but I'm a pretty fit guy with excellent grip strength from grappling. I'm not gonna spend a helluva lot of time swinging it around for awhile as I'd hate to cut my leg off (I have a cheness iaito on the way to train with).
Of course, that said, I did go out back in the snow and butcher some Mountain Dew bottles and a few soaked and rolled newspapers. The rolls of newspaper were secured vertically and cut very cleanly and evenly, also with no resistance. I just whacked 'em one handed like I was swinging a tennis racket.
After I spend some time with my incoming iaito I'll wrap up some proper tatami and update this post.
Overall, coming from my noobish perspective, I'm very happy with this purchase. It's a good looking (even without a hamon) sword that seems tough and well constructed. It was a smooth transaction with clear and copious communication from both SBG and Ronin.
It seems like it'll be perfectly suited for me to shred a buncha random junk in the backyard and when the zombies come, I'll happily carry it alongside my shooters to help conserve ammo.
Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review by SBG member Rapid Effect
My girlfriend asked me what I wanted for Christmas and a katana was my
answer. After hours of reading reviews on many different katana, I
decided on the Ronin Dojo Pro #5. It's reviews suggested a quality
katana made to cut. I was after a functional sword, able to withstand
years of cutting and looked good enough to display. The Dojo Pro seemed
to fit the criteria.
I have heard nothing but good things about this katana in it's reviews.
It reminded me of when a movie is hyped up to be great, but when you see
it it falls short of expectations. So with the mind set of being super
critical of the katana when I first received it, I was not let down by
the great reviews of this sword. If anything the sword met all
expectations and then some.
That being said I could only compare this
sword to a Nihonto, as my girlfriends father has one and is the only
real sword I have held and seen. The Nihonto while an impressive sword
is next to useless to me as it is worth too much to use. I wanted a
katana I could use and display.
Why buy a ferrari if your only going to look at it, might as well buy a mustang and burn some rubber.
This katana feels solid to wield, capable, tough, light enough for rapid
direction changes and good for first time users. This katana was made
to cut first and look pretty second, just how I like it. (Note: i'm an
Cardboard, plastic bottles, plants, thin bamboo, a foam boogie board
were no match for this katana. Cuts were clean even though I'm an
amateur. After several hours of cutting, all fittings were tight and
hadn't moved. I haven't tried hard targets and don't plan to anytime
soon. The videos of this katana show what it is capable of.
Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review by SBG Member Derzis
Almost one week ago I had the chance to get this katana from Chris as
payment for drawings made for his story dedicated to his girl, Fiona. I
handled during training sessions blades between 2.4shaku to 2.8shaku and
even if the perfect size for me is 2.5 shaku at 5'10, I wanted an O-kat
and the opportunity arrived.
I am on this site for a while but I never bought or I am on Ronin Katana payroll.
EDITORS NOTE: The current version of this sword does not have the rattan wrap saya as shown in the pictures of this Ronin Katana Dojo Pro review. In all other respects however it is the same.
The package came safely and all was very tight inside the box. The sword perfect tight in saya, no rattling what so ever. Taking out the sword first impression was "great, this is BIG"...
But after inserting it in my obi, I realized that with more sayabiki length is not an insurmountable problem. I am adding some pictures showing the length comparative between this big boy and my japanese iaito.
What I liked about this sword from the beginning was the shape and length of the tsuka. It's not bulky, is not hammer-handle-like and it's length is not compromising waza training. Here is the tsuka - compared to my iaito
The tsukamaki is very tight, alternate, diamonds varying not too much in size, looking very good for the overall sword's price.
Tsuba is very nice and neat fixed, there is no space between seppa and tsuba or seppa and saya
The blade itself is very honest. No fake hamon, very straight and screams power. To my pleasant surprise, it is not very wide, and even if it is long and on heavy side, it's elegant.
Habaki is centered and fits good.
It's a big and on heavy side sword to use it with one hand, but if you
grow some more muscles, you'll like it. It's a bit tip heavy but not
uncontrollable and screams for targets. After a couple of swings, I know
that it's more than a capable cuter. Agility is a matter of user at the
I won't do Pro and Cons because it's not a day-by-day user's katana. If you want something big, with blade presence, good fittings and good overall quality, this is the one.
So there you have it, not one more Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review but three, and they all pretty much say the same thing and are in agreement with my own initial Ronin Katana Dojo Pro review:
All in all, they are the complete package - some of my favorites swords, and worth every penny and then some.
I hope this amalgamated Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review has been helpful. To return to The Ultimate Guide to Authentic Japanese Swords from Ronin Katana Dojo Pro Review 3 in 1, click here