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Wooden swords are most commonly seen as Japanese bokken and have been used for centuries as safer and less costly alternatives for training. In Western sword arts they were called “wasters”. If strong enough for contact they are thick and heavy, dangerous in their own right. If light, like many replica Chinese weapons, they are suitable for little more than forms or shadow play.
Modern plastics eliminate these limitations. High density and consistent internal structure allow blades to be cut thinner and lighter than wood while retaining sufficient strength for sparring contact.
All my materials are carefully chosen for weight, density and appearance, but most importantly they are chosen for toughness. These are not lightweight injection molded plastics, which can have variations in density and strength, but are made from solid billets of plastic that are extruded under pressure, increasing the density, hardness and consistency. This is how diamonds and steel become stronger too. The result is a superior material for machining into any shape.
Training with blades opens a different dimension for those used to sticks. The right plastics bridge the gap between wood and metal and will be more durable for sparring than either.
These are samples of sparring-grade training blades, carved by hand from half-inch thick solid billets of high-impact plastic using techniques that bring out lustre and grain equal to any hardwood. Contrary to most people’s impressions from cheaply made toys, plastic can be finely crafted, conforming exquisitely to the vision of the artist. It is used commonly around the world to emulate rare materials ranging from mother-of-pearl to ivory and hardwood.
People always assume my hand-made swords and knives are wood when handling and examining them, and many will even argue in disbelief after being told the truth (and the same goes for my wood-grain finished Panther II sticks). I’ve heard every guess from kamangong and mahogany to Brazilian ironwood, and those voicing such opinions include famous martial artists and professional woodworkers. I’m reminded of ebony, a dense black wood prized for walking sticks and guitar fretboards.
I use these swords regularly when sparring with my advanced students. Here is a clip sparring with the two talwar swords. As intense as this gets, these swords have less mass in the tips than plain sticks, which being round, also have a small contact area. The thinner the blade, the lighter (and better balanced for speed) but less raw impact, which compensates somewhat for the thinner surface. How thick or thin an edge is a choice that can be made for each individual sword.
In contrast to the many wood training knives I’ve seen splintered and cracked over the years, like this 16” kamagong bolo that didn’t even make it through one class, I’ve never known a single one of my training blades to break. These swords thus continue my legacy, which began with my introduction of the original high-impact plastic sticks, of being the first to introduce new, unique and functional products to the martial arts community.
To improve production, I spent hundreds of dollars to build a pin-router so I can work from templates that I make myself, allowing me to reproduce shapes of actual swords and knives. Every piece is then hand-finished through a process of filing, sanding and buffing, then each is stamped with its own individual serial number.
Custom practice swords are a specialty item; cheap wooden swords are either ordinary Japanese bokken or cheap lightweight Chinese daos or gim that won’t stand up to impact training. My prices are in line with the few quality wooden swords I’ve seen for the Filipino martial art community, with one significant difference – you can spar with mine and they’ll take it!
Here’s a description of the process to make these blades.