:"For the village near Anjar, Kutch, Gujarat, India, see Shinai village."A Nihongo|"shinai"|竹刀 is a practice weapon used primarily in "kendo", used as if it were a sword. "Shinai" are also used in other martial arts, but may be styled differently than "kendo shinai" and represented with different characters.

The word "shinai" is conventionally written with the characters 竹刀, meaning "bamboo sword" and derives from the verb "shinau" 撓う, meaning "to bend, to flex", and was originally short for "shinai-take" (flexible bamboo).

In "kendo" the majority of students use one "shinai"; this "kendo" style has its roots in the tradition of the "itto" (one sword) school. However, some "kendoka" use two "shinai", in "ni-to", a style that has its roots in the traditional two sword schools of swordsmanship. A "ni-to" player uses a long "shinai" ("daito"), usually held in the left hand and a shorter "shinai" ("shoto"), usually held in the right hand.


The origins of the "shinai" are found in the Edo period where swordsmen, or "kenjutsuka", developed a practice weapon that was less dangerous than the hard wood "bokken", to reduce the number of practitioners that were being seriously wounded, maimed or even killed. This is also the motivation behind the development of "bōgu", the armour that protects "kendo" players.


Sizes and style of "shinai" vary. For example, an adult male may be able to use a "shinai" that is too heavy for a female or a younger person, so "shinai" with different characteristics are made. "Shinai" are available in many styles and balances. A "shinai" should not be confused with a bokken, which is a similar shape and length to a Japanese sword and made from a single piece of wood. Both "shinai" and "bokken" are used in "kendo", however.

The slats of a "shinai" are usually made from dried bamboo, some may also be treated (smoked or resin soaked). "Shinai" are also made with slats made of carbon fibre reinforced resin or other approved alternative materials.

The "shinai" is made of four slats ("take"), which are held together by three leather fittings; a "tsuka-gawa" (handle); a "saki-gawa" (tip) and a "nakayui" (a leather strip). All are secured with a "tsuru" (string).

The "nakayui" is tied about one-third of the length of the exposed bamboo from the tip ("kensen"); this holds the slats together and also marks the proper "kendo" striking portion of the "shinai" ("datotso-bu").

Inserted between the ends of the slats, under the "saki-gawa" is a plastic plug, "saki-gomu" and inside the "tsuka-gawa" there is a small square of metal ("chigiri"), that secures the slats.

Care of Shinai

A "shinai" must be properly taken care of or it can pose a danger to both the user, and the people around it. "Shinai" should be inspected for splinters and breaks before and after use, and maintained in the manner considered most appropriate by one's style, "dojo", or "sensei".

Many people believe that oiling and sanding a "shinai" prior to its first use, and then periodically during use, can greatly extend its life. However some disagreement exists on what is considered proper "shinai" care.

To properly inspect a "shinai", one first examines the area around the striking end, or "datotso-bu", looking on all sides of the "shinai" for splinters. Bamboo splinters infect easily, so care should be taken. The "saki-gawa" should be intact and the "tsuru" should be tight so that the "saki-gawa" cannot slip off the end of the shinai while in use. In addition, the "nakayui" should be tight enough as to not rotate easily.

When not in use, "shinai" may be properly placed against a wall with the handle pointing downward. When a shinai is placed on the ground it is also considered improper etiquette to step over it.


In "kendo" competitions that follow the FIK rules, there are regulated weights and lengths for the use of "shinai". ["The Regulations of Kendo Shiai and Shinpan". Revised 7 December 2006, International Kendo Federation, Tokyo, Japan.] [ [ KENDO America Shinai Regulations ] ] [ FIK regulations for use of Shinai in competition.]


The ancestor of the modern kendo "shinai" is the "fukuro-shinai", which is still in use in koryū kenjutsu. This is a length of bamboo, split multiple times on one end, and covered in a leather sleeve. This explains the name fukuro which means bag, sack or pouch. Some traditions cover the entire bamboo in the sleeve and add a tsuba. In Shinkage-ryū, the sleeve is lacquered Kamakura Red, and rather than covering the entire length, is tied off at the non-split end. This particular kind of "fukuro-shinai" is also called a "hikihada" (toad-skin) "shinai". The name comes from how the leather looks after lacquering; the sleeves are actually made of cow- or horse-hide.

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