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Thread: 1st Post ? on Kotetsu swords

  1. #1

    1st Post ? on Kotetsu swords

    This is my first post on this very informative site. I have a question though that I haven't been able to satisfy through numerous searches. Specifically I am looking for more information on Hataya Mitsuo's Kotestsu swords.

    I have determined so far that they are made in Thailand and finished in Japan, that they are made from swedish powdered steel, are not folded, and are considered by many to be the best cutters.

    I would like to know a little more about their history and availability. I see info ad infinitum regarding Hanwei, Bugei Trading, Cheness, Kris cutlery etc. swords but not a lot of info on what is purportedly a superior sword for tameshigiri.

    Can someone enlighten me?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Marshall View Post
    This is my first post on this very informative site. I have a question though that I haven't been able to satisfy through numerous searches. Specifically I am looking for more information on Hataya Mitsuo's Kotestsu swords.

    I have determined so far that they are made in Thailand and finished in Japan, that they are made from swedish powdered steel, are not folded, and are considered by many to be the best cutters.

    I would like to know a little more about their history and availability. I see info ad infinitum regarding Hanwei, Bugei Trading, Cheness, Kris cutlery etc. swords but not a lot of info on what is purportedly a superior sword for tameshigiri.

    Can someone enlighten me?

    Thanks
    First off... Welcome!

    Most likely the Batto guys on here will correct me, but the only one I know that sells Kotetsu is Big Tony.

    I'm sure you've already looked at this page: http://www.westcoasttaikai.com/tozai/kotetsu.htm

    Kotetsu are not easy to find. Generally, they are balanced more tip heavy, but they make great cutters because of their geometry. From my understanding, they were designed for Toyama Ryu (Batto) practitioners and are set up for that style of cutting.

    I just finished polishing one of these. An older one: http://forums.swordforum.com/showthr...hlight=kotetsu

    It had seen A LOT of action, but after full polish it came out beautiful again. Ready for another decade of use.

  3. #3
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    For the sake of learning something new as well, I'll bite....

    I've *generally* understood Kotetsu blades to host a heavier wider blade with shallower sori (curvature) and very little profile taper in the monouchi. Not as thick as a dotanuki blade necessarily, but similar enough in weight and balance for maximizing their intended cutting purpose. Same idea, different set-up.

    A note as to why they may be superior tameshigiri cutters is the physics of a wider blade causing greater lift and separation of a target during the performance of a cut. The greater mass, forward balance of the blade and the wideness of the blade profile will (with proper technique) keep the blade moving through the target with less "binding" or drag as the cut clears. Personally, I don't know since I've never used one.

    I think I'd heard it said that the newer, wider tatami cutters are based off the same idea, though some of them may be fairly thinner and lighter than the Kotetsu blades in question. Any thoughts, guys?
    Last edited by cymullen; 02-09-2010 at 02:34 AM. Reason: grammar and content
    "...There will always be injustice and suffering, and one swordsman can't change the world, no matter how strong he or she is. But I can always protect those in my sight. I will always protect the weak and helpless, for that is the true code of Bushidō and I shall achieve this without taking a single human life...." (Ali Armani)

  4. #4
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    Niku also seems to be an important design point with kotetsu style swords. Not very much of it, that is.
    Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam
    "Not to us Lord, Not to us, but to Thy Name be the Glory"

    Adsum, Domine: Totus ingenibus meis ad pedes tuos proponeo.
    Duce et regere servum tui, Domine, ab omnibus temptationem, ita ut honor purus et donum meum incontaminatus sit.
    "Here am I, Lord: All my talents at Thy feet I lay. Guide and guard Thy servant, Lord, from all temptation, that honor may be spotless and my gift unstained."
    - Katherine Kurtz "Healer's Song"

  5. #5
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    Niku also seems to be an important design point with kotetsu style swords. Not very much of it, that is.
    I wouldn't say that. In fact, the three kotetsu swords that I've used personally have all had more niku than the Hanwei swords that I've used. The difference is that the Kotetsu blades are very wide, so the angle from the ha to shinogi is not nearly as abrupt as it is with a thinner blade.

    Very nice job on that Kotetsu Kris! You restored the lines quite well, (they had been almost completely obliterated from earlier sharpenings) and brought out the beauty that is actually in those swords. So how's it cut?

    Hey Ken,
    Here's the scoop on the Kotetsu swords, as far as I know it. Hataya Mitsuo sensei is the head of the All Japan Battodo Federation, and the All Japan Toyama Ryu Federation. He is also a long time sword collector. He commissioned these swords to be made in Thailand to his specifications, for use by himself and his Toyama ryu students. He has the blades sent to Japan where the handles and saya are done. (I've no idea how he gets around the Japanese sword laws!) You don't hear much about them as they are a bit hard to get, as well as more than a bit expensive. Since the handles are full same wrap, and the tsuka and saya are individually carved for each sword, they usually run about 4K new. There aren't many people willing to shell out that much for a non-custom tameshigiri sword. They DO cut better than just about anything else I've tried. The new Hanwei XL blade configuration cuts almost as well, but they are extremely thin. This makes them very unforgiving if you're even a little bit off, and also makes their balance feel very odd to me. As far as I know, Kris is correct in that Big Tony is pretty much the only one that sells new ones now, and then only when he can get them. You can contact him and ask from his dojo web site ... http://www.senpokan.com/ Occassionally Bob Elder will get a used one in on consignment at his East Coast Martial Arts Supplies store. You can contact him to ask through his web site ... http://ecmas.info/main.sc

    As to why they are called "Kotetsu", Hataya sensei is a big fan of the Shinsengumi, and thought the name would be cool.
    Paul Smith
    "Keep the sharp side and the
    pointy end between you and
    your opponent"

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    Very nice job on that Kotetsu Kris! You restored the lines quite well, (they had been almost completely obliterated from earlier sharpenings) and brought out the beauty that is actually in those swords.
    Thanks Paul!

    I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    So how's it cut?
    You've inspired me! Mats are going into the soaker!

    I'll do a small cutting session and post a video in a day or two.

  7. #7
    I wrote this long reply but Paul Smith already beat me to the punch while I was stuck in a meeting and covered everything I was writing about. Especially the niku part.

    Weight and balance seems to be unique to each individual sword, unlike the other production mat cutters. Out of the 4 I've handled, mine is probably the most tip heavy of the bunch but I've also held a fairly neutral/balanced one. Still heavier than most though but I've heard that some of the newer Kotetsu are supposedly lighter.

  8. #8
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    as each one is individually made, the weight and feel varies quite a bit. I have owned and used a few, seen and handled several more. The earlier ones were often 'soft', would bend easily with a bad cut. Not take a set, though. Then they got thicker and heavier for a while. They have gotten better over time. Saw a couple at Robin Ramirez' dojo in October, during his tai kai. They felt great, very nice, even balance, beautiful fittings. A member of my dojo bought one, could not resist. You probably don't see much about them because they are not really marketed like Hanwei stuff. You can only get them in small lots through Big Tony or Bob Elder. Or used ones, occasionally. Most of the people buying and using them are in the various batto federations. Not sure it is clear what some folks may mean by 'wide'. They have a tall profile, not much sori. Kasane is thickness at the mune', and this varies. There is also the thickness at the shinogi, and this can vary also. Niku has to do with blade shape between the shinogi and the ha. Tatami cutters tend to be flatter here. Anyway, the tall profile puts more steel behind the cut. They are very good cutters.

    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

  9. #9
    Dave got it right. Kotetsu first showed up in the US back in 1997. Mike Femal bought the very first one. It was like a divine revelation when it came to cutting real tatami. Each one has a serial number written on it. The early ones were heavier and much "stout"er( is that a word.?) I bought one in 1999 and used it for 10 years before selling it to one of my students. Bent it a few times but alwats straightened out. Never took a set like Dave said. Later ones are available in a variety of lengths( seen them up to 31.5 inches) and widths, with full bo hi or not. I currentl use a long thin one and have cut up to 5 tatami in Futo maki and 5 in yokonarabi. Never bent it yet. Good balance and light. Like a friggin light saber.

    Have recently cut with the Tori XL, E-Katana's both grooved and not and all the Chen stuff. Nothing cuts like a Kotetsu. But they dont come cheap. Used ones are around but they aint cheap. Contact Bob Elder. He always has a line on new and used ones.

    Similar to using a $199 set of K-mart golf clubs vs a $4500 set of Ben Hogans. Inthe beginning you cant tell the difference between them. After a while you learn to understand and appreciate the differences. Definitely not for a beginner.

    Definitley biased after 11 years with a kotetsu.
    Tom Smyth
    Seibukan Dojo
    Loving Life , Living Large

  10. #10
    Wow, that was quick. I got more info here than I got in a week of web surfing. Thank you for your informative and insightful responses.

    I am excited about joining our local Toyama Ryu group under Sensei Tom Smyth. I attended a class as an observer last week and was very impressed. The focus and discipline exhibited during the training was impressive and the tameshigiri looked like a lot of fun. I can appreciate that it is not as easy as they made it look. Just what I need to forget my 12-14 hour work days. I left the class feeling energized and welcome the challenges ahead.

    There were several Kotestsu swords there and they were very impressive cutters. I have the opportunity to purchase one and I think that I'll take the plunge.

  11. #11
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    Kotetsus for Sale

    I believe ECMAS (East Coast Martial Arts Supplies) has 3 new kotetsu for sale. It went for $2999 but are on sale for $2499. If you have any questions give them a call. Their website is at http://ecmas.com. If you can get a chance to swing by Orlando and check them out, then please do. They are worth the trip.
    Paul Koseenanonth

    "First cut first" - Elder Sensei

    "Shut up and train!" - Days Sensei

  12. #12
    Whatever happened to Tozai Imports? They used to sell Kotetsu too....

  13. #13
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    I am excited about joining our local Toyama Ryu group under Sensei Tom Smyth.
    Very cool, I'm sure you'll enjoy it greatly. Smyth sensei is very good, and an excellent instructor. Just remember, as a beginner you are expected to buy sensei's beer after class.

    (You owe me for that one Tom!)

    Whatever happened to Tozai Imports?
    That was Tony Alvarez. I believe he let the web site go.
    Paul Smith
    "Keep the sharp side and the
    pointy end between you and
    your opponent"

  14. #14
    thanks Paul. Will buy you a beer at Tuscon if your there.
    Tom Smyth
    Seibukan Dojo
    Loving Life , Living Large

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    I wouldn't say that. In fact, the three kotetsu swords that I've used personally have all had more niku than the Hanwei swords that I've used. The difference is that the Kotetsu blades are very wide, so the angle from the ha to shinogi is not nearly as abrupt as it is with a thinner blade.
    Thanks for that correction Mr. Smith.
    Last edited by Dave Drawdy; 02-10-2010 at 03:15 PM. Reason: fixed quote
    Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam
    "Not to us Lord, Not to us, but to Thy Name be the Glory"

    Adsum, Domine: Totus ingenibus meis ad pedes tuos proponeo.
    Duce et regere servum tui, Domine, ab omnibus temptationem, ita ut honor purus et donum meum incontaminatus sit.
    "Here am I, Lord: All my talents at Thy feet I lay. Guide and guard Thy servant, Lord, from all temptation, that honor may be spotless and my gift unstained."
    - Katherine Kurtz "Healer's Song"

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Koseenanonth View Post
    I believe ECMAS (East Coast Martial Arts Supplies) has 3 new kotetsu for sale. It went for $2999 but are on sale for $2499. If you have any questions give them a call. Their website is at http://ecmas.com. If you can get a chance to swing by Orlando and check them out, then please do. They are worth the trip.
    good link. For info, that's is Bob Elder sensei's business. His shop is fun to visit. Especially if you get to see some of the goodies in the vault. And Tozai imports is/was Big Tony. His Senpokan site would have info on these.
    Ken, if you will be training under Tom, you are in good hands. (Yes, Tom, that will be one beer, please )
    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    So how's it cut?
    As promised: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4ydLpNQr6E

    My form wasn't very good on some cuts, but oh well.

  18. #18
    [QUOTE=Paul Smith;1105440]Very cool, I'm sure you'll enjoy it greatly. Smyth sensei is very good, and an excellent instructor. Just remember, as a beginner you are expected to buy sensei's beer after class.

    Beer, you say,now that is something I don't need training for!

  19. #19
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    Lovely. Beautiful polish and some nice looking cuts.
    Looks like some decent sori in that one. Not tons, but certainly not as straight as I've seen em.
    Last edited by Andrew W. Priestley; 02-10-2010 at 03:49 PM.
    Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam
    "Not to us Lord, Not to us, but to Thy Name be the Glory"

    Adsum, Domine: Totus ingenibus meis ad pedes tuos proponeo.
    Duce et regere servum tui, Domine, ab omnibus temptationem, ita ut honor purus et donum meum incontaminatus sit.
    "Here am I, Lord: All my talents at Thy feet I lay. Guide and guard Thy servant, Lord, from all temptation, that honor may be spotless and my gift unstained."
    - Katherine Kurtz "Healer's Song"

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew W. Priestley View Post
    Lovely. Beautiful polish and some nice looking cuts.
    Looks like some decent sori in that one. Not tons, but certainly not as straight as I've seen em.
    Thank you very much!

    This is the only Kotetsu I've ever gotten my hands on, so I couldn't say about other blades. The sori on this blade is pretty decent. Around 13/16".

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by KristianFranzKonrad View Post
    As promised: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4ydLpNQr6E

    My form wasn't very good on some cuts, but oh well.
    I don't know enough about proper form to judge at this point but that was mighty impressive cutting from my perspective. You make that sword sing. Good stuff!

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Marshall View Post
    I don't know enough about proper form to judge at this point but that was mighty impressive cutting from my perspective. You make that sword sing. Good stuff!
    Thank you very much.

  23. #23
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    Kotetsu

    Bought mine from Bob Elder @ ECMAS three years ago.
    Another great feature is that it really holds an edge!
    It's only been sharpend once in the three years I've been cutting with it.

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