I’ve been developing an small arsenal of weapons both in the UK and here in Korea. My Korean based weapons consist of 4 wooden or bamboo swords in both Japanese and Korean styles and in varying weights: a wisteria pole (등나무), which is flexible and being around 6 foot long is useful as a substitute for a spear or moon-blade when I train on my roof. Then I have a oak bo which I currently only really use to do warm-up exercises.
The weapon I spend most of my time with however, is my ga-keom (가검). A number of my swords have an important significance. The Korean style (han-sword) on the far left (at top of post) was the first sword I bought since taking up Komdo; it has a grip and is useful in hot, sweaty weather. The sword second from the left, along with the scabbard, was a present from my present master and the first sword I used. My ga-keom, (blunt sword) cost 200.000 Won (£100) and, I agree, as far as swords go it’s bottom of the range and definitely ‘tacky’ but for general practice and multiple drawing and sheathing it’s extremely durable. In my dojang, a significant number of this ‘brand’ are used by students. All are owned by students who are now dan grades and the battered scabbards and worn hilt grips testify to their durability. As tacky and cheap as it is, I treat it with as much respect as I do my more expensive swords. The original tassel was light blue, the same as most of the other swords in my dojang and I wanted a yellow one. I had to traipse all over a local market in mid-summer to find tassels and when I did the choice was enormous. If you can find such tassels in the UK they are between £8-16. In Korea they cost between £1 and £1.50 (2000-3000 Won). My Korean name was engraved on the blade at no extra cost.
In the UK I have also a growing arsenal of weapons which unfortunately, I rarely get to use. First there is my moon-blade, this being a Chinese style Guan Dao (關刀). It weighs 2.5 kg and is little different from ones I’ve used in Korea. The moon-blade is blunt and feels so much better to wield than a wooden version, or worse, a long-pole substitute. My spear (창), apart from the tassel, differs little from Korean versions.
I’ve also an oak bo, a bamboo practice sword as well as two bokken, one extremely heavy which I’ve had since my taekwon-do days and a new one with a deep ‘home’ (호므 – blood grove) which amplifies the passage of air on correctly angled strokes. I also have the first sword, a katana, bought in 1982 when I gained my taekwon-do first dan. I bought it in Germany for around £150. I never learnt to use it and years of neglect have caused it to rust. I’m not sure how functional it is, or was; the blade was semi sharp and today the wrap on the handle is loose and it’s probably dangerous to wield. Beside, it feels overly heavy and un-balanced. The sword’s furniture is not just basic but unattractive and I suspect its really a clumsy wall hanger but it has sentimental value.
Out of my entire collection, my favourite sword is a Hanwei, Tori Iaito (basically, a blunt blade sword for the practice of drawing and sheathing). It’s Japanese in style and has attractive furniture and as far as ‘ga-keom’ go, at around £400, (8000.000 Won), it’s the Rolls Royce of blunt swords. It’s made from ‘case tempered,’ forged stainless steel.
Specifications – 27″ Blade
Blade Length: 27″
Handle Length: 10.5″
Weight: 1lb 15oz
Point of Balance: 5″
Width at Guard: 1.21″
Width at Tip: .86″
Thickness at Guard: .24″
Thickness at Tip: .13″
The Tori’s furniture is attractive without being excessive and I particularly like the rattan coiling towards the top of the scabbard. On my last vacation, I was able to acquaint myself wit it and it feels good to practice with. I like the leather hilt and the weight and balance, from what little knowledge I have of swords, is comfortable.
Unfortunately, the next sword only arrived three days before I left the UK to return to Korea. I didn’t have time to use it and didn’t even remove the oil from the blade. The Korean Cloud Sword, by Hanwei, a ‘live blade,’ has been discontinued and this was one of the last ones available. The sword is forged from AISI 1566 high carbon steel with ray skin wrap scabbard and handle. The RRP is around £700 but I managed to get this one at half price. As yet I have no idea how it handles and although it is very attractive I have two concerns: the handle is ray skin and I’m worried about it slipping in my grip and in my opinion the tassel has been placed in a very daft place on the hilt. When I eventually get to use the sword I’ll probably remove the tassel, especially if I’m cutting.
Specification Metric Imperial
Overall 96.6cm 38″
Blade Length 69.9cm 27½”
Grip Length 22.9cm 9″
Weight 0.950Kg (2lb 2oz)