Making a Short Practice Shinai

If you’re like me, your kendo club facility is probably closed for the foreseeable future but you still want to find a way to be able to practice subari at home. I can’t use my regular shinai in my house because I have short ceilings and I wasn’t willing (read: I’m thrifty) to spend $50+ on a short practice shinai so I thought I would make one with an old shinai I had lying around. 

Here are the instructions for making your own short shinai for indoor practice.

Step 1: Cut your old shinai

Take off the sakigawa, (the leather cap), sakigomu (the plastic piece under the sakigawa), nakayui (leather tie) and the tsuru (string) from your old shinai.

Determine where you want to cut your old shinai and cut it off with a fine tooth saw; I used a hacksaw. Notice I cut mine 4 cm (1.5″) from the bamboo node. I did this intentionally to minimize the amount of future stretching I would need to do to fit the sakigawa.

Cutting the shinai

The cut end after filing

Step 2: File/sand the cut edges

After cutting down the shinai, the edges will be sharp. To stop the cut edges from damaging the sakigawa you will want to use a file or sand paper to round the edges. 

The cut shinai beside the original rounded end

Step 3: Expand the sakigomu

The sakigomu is the plastic piece placed in the end of your shinai and is designed to keep the bamboo slats from collapsing. it also helps protect the sakigawa from being cut. 

After cutting down the shinai, the sakigomu will not fit the cut shinai. In order to make it fit, I expanded the old sakigomu by wrapping masking tape around it until it fit the newly cut end.

Expanding the sakigomu with masking tape

Fitting the expanded sakigomu

Step 4: Stretch the sakigawa

The sakigawa you took off from your shinai will no longer fit the shorter cut shinai. To reuse it, it will need to be stretched.

Take the sakigawa and put it under hot running water. The goal is to completely saturate the leather so it can become pliable enough to stretch to a new size. You will need something to help stretch the sakigawa, I used a pair or plumbers pliers. Stretching it will take some time and effort so keep working around the sakigawa by expanding your pliers then rotating the sakigawa a few degrees and stretch again. Keep working your way around the sakigawa until if fits your new larger end then leave the leather on the shinai to air dry. Do not try to dry the leather under the sun or with a hairdryer, allowing the leather to dry quick can damage or crack the leather.

(Please note: if the leather isn’t fully saturated with water the sakigawa will tear! It is better to be safe by ensuring the leather is soaked.) 

Running the sakigawa under hot water

Plumbers pliers

Expanding the sakigawa

Step 5: Retie your shinai

The hard part is done, you can now retie your shinai with your old tsuru and nakayui in typical fashion and you’re done, enjoy!