The theme for this month's feature by our very own resident artist is "Iaito".
In Japan, strict regulations regarding Shinken are observed and enforced. Licensed smiths are allowed to forge only a limited number of shinken per year per regulatory requirements. "Iaito/Mogito" made from Zinc/Aluminium (Zn/Al) alloy are exempted such requirements. Made for the sole purpose of practicing Iaido, these are usually made to appear similar to a Shinken except for being lighter weight, can't be sharpened and are not intended for impact. Outside of Japan, Iaito may be made with steel.
While Zn/Al (compared to steel) does not rust, inspection/ maintenance of such Zn/Al Iaito before and after practice is no less important. Examples of inspection/ maintenance includes 1. checking the integrity of the Tsuka (handle), Tsuka ito (handle wrapping), Mekugi, Seppa, Tsuba (guard) and Habaki (sword collar) to checking blade surface for cracks. 2. Oiling the blade and fittings before and after practice. Oiling helps prevent Zn/Al corrosion and facilitates noto (sheathing). Beyond the sword, check the Saya (sheath) for cracks, and the Koiguchi (saya mouth) for wear and tear. A worn Koiguchi is not safe for use.
While the excitement of swinging a new Iaito is understandable, always be aware of where others are located in your general vicinity when practicing Iaido. Always remain respectful of the Iaito and with proper usage (e.g. correct cutting, hasuji) and maintenance, it will be a good companion on your Iaido journey.