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Comments on Selecting a Sword

I'm glad that Black Belt is paying more attention to swords, including the proper way to select one. Every week somebody comes in to ask me to evaluate the "wonderful and expensive sword" he just received at a tournament or, worse yet, paid hundreds of dollars for. Then I have the painful task of informing him that he bought a low-value stainless-steel replica that's nothing more than a watermelon chopper.

Carl E. Long's essay titled "Selecting a Sword" (Cutting Edge, June 2006 issue) was a step in the right direction. However, I have a comment about it.

Long wrote: "Swords without hi (grooves) are a bit heavier, but they're more resistant to bending." I believe that's incorrect.

Actually, the opposite is true. The grooves (properly called fullers) are part of the geometrical strength of the blade. They function in the same manner as the folds in a car hood do. The grooves and folds in a hood add rigidity and control crumple zones. Similarly, fullers, besides being a way to control the weight and balance of the blade, aid in making it rigid.

Rafael Kosche via the Internet

Author's Reply: The bohi (grooves) are mainly meant to lighten the blade. They aren't for use as "blood grooves."

The grooves actually weaken the blade a bit throughout the lateral structure. If you ask anyone who does cutting, he'll tell you that a blade with bohi will bend much more quickly than one without bohi. That's just a fact.

However, with good technique, both blades should respond to the usage equally well. This has more to do with the swordsman than it does with the structural integrity of the blade. With good hasuji (alignment of the cut), a blade with bohi actually moves more quickly than a blade without bohi, making it more desirable for fast transitions.

The bohi creates an I-beam cross-section and allows the structural integrity to remain from the cutting edge to the back of the blade. However, the lateral cross section (from the flat side of the blade to the opposite side) does suffer a structural loss of integrity. So, overall the blade is weaker if the technique is compromised. The swordsman's technique may become stronger by using a sword with bohi, but the sword itself will never become stronger by removing steel from its original structure.

It's a disservice to give readers the impression that purchasing a sword with bohi will give them a stronger weapon.

Carl E. Long Kingston, PA

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