By Nathan Scott
June 22, 2000
Shortly after responding to a preliminary market survey regarding the prospective importation of tameshigiri grade tatami omote (6' X 3' woven tatami sheets, used to cover tatami floorboards) into North America, the "Mugen Dachi Company", www.tameshigiri.com owned by Mr. Jim Alvarez and Mr. David Wilson, approached me requesting a written review of the makiwara (target) quality and performance.
Concurrently, Mr. Wilson rushed me 20 complimentary makiwara (I had
committed to buying a box anyway, but there's no sense in turning down
free targets!) to use for testing as I saw fit. Friday June 9th, an associate
Mr. Howard Quick (Shinkendo Australia) and myself prepared the shipment
of makiwara in accordance with the target
preparation instructions found on the Mugen Dachi web page.
H.Quick Sensei with the
From top to bottom:
The tanto was used successfully to cut left kesa giri on a half-mat target several times. Then, the Kotetsu was used to cut kaeshi (tsubamegaeshi) in both directions (down/up and up/down), and yoko kaeshi (alternating side cuts) on a full-mat target, all in rapid succession. Four half-mats were suspended from a "cutting tree", the first two of which were cut with the Kotetsu using sayu kesagiri and yokogiri. The last two half-mats were cut using the wakizashi, which included a left kiriage, and sayu kesagiri.
Both the Paul Champagne and Kotetsu were then used to attempt full cuts
on the "O-makiwara", to which both attempts made it just through the bamboo
core (past half way through) before scooping downwards. Two of the mats
were then unrolled (leaving a bamboo core target with four full mats rolled
around it), and the makiwara was retied, remounted and again cut. This
results were exactly the same, verifying that the inner layers of mat had
not been properly soaked, along with various other contributing factors
(I intend to try again in the near future, having gained valuable insight
from the first failed attempt!).
An attempt at left Kesagiri on the
Sayu kesa giri was performed with no complaints on a double full-mat roll re-tied and re-used from the O-makiwara. Finally, the last test consisted of two attempts at Dotangiri (center cuts on horizontal stacked targets) using the Paul Champagne blade to successfully cut through more or less four full-mat targets.
The tanto cutting proved to require substantial speed and power, but was effective against half-mat targets. The wakizashi is an outstanding cutting blade anyway, and cuts all mats like they were butter. The Paul Champagne and Kotetsu cut the various targets comparably, though the Kotetsu is slightly heavier and the balance is more forward than the Champagne. I've cut several dense targets repeatedly with the Paul Champagne, but have not yet developed the same sense of metallurgical confidence with the Kotetsu yet.
In recent years various Iaido and Kenjutsu groups in Japan and abroad have begun to accept the value of tameshigiri practice, and many now incorporate it either officially or unofficially into their practice regime. While tameshigiri practice has enjoyed a dramatic rise in popularity over the last twenty years, the obtainability of proper cutting materials outside of Japan had not yet been addressed proportionately. The availability of proper tatami omote makiwara outside of Japan at any price has to this date been sporadic at best, and at times non-existent.
Battodo groups in Japan have been enthusiastically embracing this new idea of cutting rolled tatami omote instead of straw since it has proven to be more consistent in density, easier to clean up after, and if prepared correctly, still accurately simulate the traditional targets in feel.
As an instructor in a Kenjutsu style (Shinkendo) that incorporates tameshigiri in its curriculum, I am relieved to find a company finally specializing in the importing of traditional makiwara to North America and wish them luck and longevity.
Mugen Dachi Company can be contacted at: www.tameshigiri.com,
or email Mr. Wilson for further