Making a Fukuro Shinai
by Modifying a Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Fukuro Shinai:
Why Modify a Shinkage Ryu Fukuro Shinai?
For Biken training, we have found the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Fukuro Shinai from Ninecircles to be an excellent training shinai for both shinai to shinai contact, and shinai to person contact. During training at our dojo we have found a couple of things that we wanted to change, to make it more suited for our needs.
Firstly we found that padding is needed at the end of the shinai to make it safer for an opponent receiving a Tsuki.
Secondly we found that a tsuba is needed to more accurately represent a real katana. We found this particularly useful when training with techniques such as Kirisage from the Kukishinden Ryu.
How to Modify the Fukuro Shinai
Adding a Padded Tip
To modify our fukuro shinai, first we need to remove the fukuro casing. To achieve this we need to undo the handle; for this we will need our curve nosed pliers.
Using the curved nosed pliers, pull the end of the handle binding out from underneath the fukuro casing (as shown in the first picture). Now, starting from the far end of the handle (left side in picture), pull the tucked leather strip from underneath the handle binding.
Once complete (second picture), you are ready to untie the handle (take a note of how it is tied so that you can easily retie later). Once untied, using the pliers, loosen the leather loop passing through the bottom of the fukuro casing (see third picture). You are now ready to remove the fukuro casing.
Before removing the casing, make a mark somewhere on the bamboo showing where the stitched ridge of the casing is, so that you can put it back in the same place.
Removing the casing is more tricky than you might expect. We found that the key to this, is to grip the casing at the bottom (where the handle meets the casing) and drag your hand down it like the action of milking a cow. Once you have it a little loose, using both hands at once, move the casing along the bamboo in a caterpillar manner. Once you have it half way off, the casing should drag off more easily.
With the fukuro casing removed, we are ready to add our padded tip: Take the split tip of the bamboo pole, and arrange the segments such that they form a circle/oval. Now measure the internal diameter of this at its widest point to check you have the correct sized Suba Seal (it should be approximately 19mm, if a lot bigger, then you will need a larger Suba Seal).
Now, insert the ridged portion of the Suba Seal into the end of the bamboo pole as shown in the picture.
Secure the Suba Seal in place with a piece of Gaffer tape. To prevent the end being too rigid, using your sharp knife, cut the gaffer tape in-between the gaps in the bamboo. Do not cut the tape on the Suba Seal.
Now, push the sponge cube into the ‘cup’ of the Suba Seal, and your padded tip is complete.
Putting the casing back onto the fukuro shinai is just as tricky as taking it off. We employ the same methodology as taking it off, reversing the process. Make sure you line the stitched part of the shinai up with the mark you made on the bamboo pole. Note, the bamboo is oval; the stitched portion of the fukuro casing should align with one of the two narrowest sides of the oval.
Adding a Tsuba
Now we are ready to add the tsuba and retie the handle; at this stage it is important to consider where you want the ridged part of the handle: do you want it parallel to the stitching on the fukuro casing (the back of the blade), as it was originally, or do you want it on the opposite side of the case stitching (the front of the blade), which feels more comfortable in the hands (and seems to be the way they do it in the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu). The former is described in the guide below, but the latter is what we would do if we were to retie the handle on our shinai.
Start by pulling tight the leather loop that passes through the fukuro casing, and place the handle strapping along the handle. Take your first rubber dome and put it onto the handle, passing the leather strip and bamboo pole through it. Make sure you put it on so that the sloped-face is away from the tsuba. Push this tight up to the fukuro casing.
Now, loop the strap once around the bamboo pole (suede side down), and pass the tsuba over the pole and strap. The strap should now be suede side up.
If at this stage you find that the bamboo pole is too wide to fit into the hole in the tsuba, you need to use the curved surface of the metal file to make the hole in the tsuba bigger.
Push the tsuba firmly into place, making sure it can’t rattle around. With the handle strap in-line with the bamboo pole and facing suede side up, put the second rubber dome onto the handle. This should be oriented the opposite way to the first dome, such that the angled surface is away from the tsuba.
Push the second rubber dome tightly up to the tsuba, and make a knot with the handle strap. This knot should have the suede side down (facing the bamboo pole), except where the strap exits the knot; here it twists to suede side up.
Pull the knot tight and repeat a further five times. Each wrap around and tie should align with each other, and also the line of either, the front, or the back of the blade (depending on your preference). The shiny side should always be on the outside of the handle (the suede side touching the bamboo pole).
After the sixth knot, the remaining leather strap is aligned once more with the bamboo pole, again, suede side up. Using the curve nosed pliers, pass the end of the strap over the sixth knot and under the fifth. This is done suede side down.
Pull this tight, and pass the end of the cord under the fourth knot. Repeat this with the third second and first knot. Then pass the end of the cord under the leather dome.
Once complete, pull the cord tight, and push the strap through the tsuba. This is a little tricky, so use the end of the threading tool to hook the leather strap and pull it through.
At this stage, before passing through the final rubber dome, we adjust the handle, making it tighter. At the same time as pulling tight on the end of the handle cord, push the six handle knots together (towards the tsuba), removing any gaps.
Now, thread the end of the handle cord through the final dome and wrap it under the edge of the fukuro case. Using the curve nosed pliers, push the remaining handle cord out of sight under the fukuro cover. You have now finished your modified Fukuro Shinai. Enjoy.
This guide is primarily designed for the students of the Bujinkan Saffron Walden Dojo. However if you are not from our club and find this guide useful, feel free to link to this page. We do though kindly ask you to refrain from copying the content of this guide and distributing in any other form.
What You need
1x Yagyu Shinkage Ryu fukuro shinai
Available from ninecircles.co.uk
1x Suba Seal
Available from amazon and ebay
It is very important you have the correct size Suba Seal. If it is too small, it will be pushed inside the tip of the shinai when used. If it is too big, it won’t fit into the fukuro casing. The Suba Seal should fit snuggly into the tip of the bamboo without falling out when held upside down (before taping). The fist shinai we modified required a 19mm Suba Seal. The next two we modified required 22mm Suba Seals, so make sure you accurately measure the internal diameter of the tip of your bamboo before you order a pack of Suba Seals.
1x Cube of severe firmness sponge
This should be cut appropriate to the size of Suba Seal used. For a 19mm Suba Seal, we used a cube 2.5cm x 2.5cm x 2.5cm. Club members planning on making a shinai, can have a free piece of foam and Suba-Seal, whilst stocks last.
1x Kendo shinai tsuba +
2x Rubber dome
1x Pair of curve nosed pliers
For un-weaving and re-weaving the leather handle
1x Threading Tool
Homemade from a wire coat hanger
1x Piece of Gaffer tape
1x Sharp Knife
You May Also Need:
1x Curved Metal File
1+ Cup(s) of Tea
With milk and two sugars