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Thoughts From a Swordsman...
The first sword is always special. Mine was a mail order purchase from a catalog around 1967. I had very little knowledge of the sword arts, but I had decided to splurge and get the ďreal modelĒ with the real blade as opposed to the aluminum alloy. After several weeks, it finally arrived. Christmas in July. It didnít matter to me that the blade was too heavy, or that there was a little rattle, or that the wrappings slipped up and down because it was mine.
One of the first things that I did ( that you arenít supposed to do ) was to test the edge. I had used knives many times before, even large hunting knives, and I had learned to put a real ď shaving edge ď on them. But the weight of the sword was different than what I was used to. One of the first thoughts I voiced, after getting a large band-aid from the bathroom, was ď That **** things for real !Ē I developed a healthy respect after that. Thatís not to say, I didnít ďdraw blood ď again. It happened several more times; once on a return the point went into the web between my thumb and first finger, another time I cut the same place during a draw. I was having a hard time, but I was determined.
Several months later, I entered a tournament in the weapons division. I didnít place. But, I was noticed by a sensei who offered some advice. He said that the sword seemed to be too long for me and that I might consider replacing the plastic handle with a wooden one. But, before he could go into more detail, we both had other matters to attend to.
It wasnít until some time later that, while practicing a basic cut, that the handle broke. I was forced to seek help from some knife Ėmaker friends who explained the options I had to make a replacement handle. It was a lot of work and a lot of mistakes were made. Some of which did not become apparent until after I was finished. I started over many times and each time I learned a little more. I later helped a friend redo his and we ran into different problems. But we managed to get a suitable replacement made.
Itís been over 30 years since that time and Iíve done more swords than I can remember. I now have several, all redone and balanced just for me. I still have that first one; itís had 5 different handles. Pine, cherry, and oak. I think I finally settled on one as I havenít changed it now for about 15 years. I still occasionally enter tournaments, but I donít really have any place to put the trophies.
Looking back, I donít think I would have stayed with the sword had not that handle broken. It was a turning point. By being forced to repair it myself, I not only learned how, but I also developed a deeper bond with it.
Itís still just a replica modern blade, but the Tsuka is spot stained with blood from a slipped coping saw, and is wrapped with leather straps from a deer I got in the fall of í84. After my father died, I inlayed the diamond from his ring into the Kurigata, thereís a solid brass knob on the Kashira, the only thing left from my grandmotherís old dresser. The Harmon is nearly gone from the cleaning, and the Saya is made from W Va. Wild Oak with a clear finish so the grain shows through. As I finish writing, I look up and see it resting above the head of my bed. The Katana Bukuro , a hand-sewn and lined gift from a very special friend, is folded neatly beside it. I know it will never hurt me again.
I once bought a sword; now I have a Katana.
Kyoshi Ronald L. Hughes,Hachi-Dan
Nai-Haun-Chi Karate Union,Inc.