Shinai review - Zen from Zen-Sankei International


In this review I will be taking a look at Zen, a light and snappy Jissen-gata shinai from Sankei. 

For kendo players looking for a well balanced, light feeling shinai for practice or tournament use, I recommend checking out Zen, a jissen-gata style shinai.

This is a regular grip, jissen-gata shinai, available online from Zen-Sankei International. 
Handmade from the best keichiku bamboo, Sankei say this is one of their most popular shinai.

First impressions - This is a very sleek shinai, it even "looks" fast.

The shinai came complete with leather fittings.  A good quality single loop tsuka-gawa (handle), nakayui and saki-gawa. 

The shinai does not come fitted as standard. So be sure to check that option when purchasing.  

The grip is regular to small in my opinion, and fits nicely into both of my hands.

There is a regular sized swell close to the hands, and the shinai tapers from there to a very thin point. This gives the shinai an over all light feeling, and makes it easy to swing. While holding the shinai in both hands it does indeed feel weightless.

Here you can see the Tsuka-gawa and safety sticker. 

The grip is regular to small for my hands. 
The dobari section is not huge, but the shinai tapers to a very fine tip. 

After use - Fast with impressive balance while remaining durable. 

I tried this shinai out over the course of a week at my regular practice (lots of kirikaeshi, Kihon practice and jigeiko) to give me a good idea how it feels in a variety of situations. After a week I'm very happy with it.

During the Kihon practice I felt that it was light enough to allow me to relax while striking both big and small cuts. 

In my jigeiko with this shinai again felt the benefit of the lightness. I was able to strike quickly and the extra kensen movement I normaly tend to do with heavier shinai was gone.

The bamboo at tip of the shinai is thin, making the shinai feel light in your hands. 

Due to its exceptional balance and light maneuverable tip, this shinai makes sharp quick strikes easier. With the thinner grip, some may find it easier to manipulate, and perform waza that require flexible use of the wrists and hands. 

I believe that Zen is suitable for those looking for a shinai to use in competition or special occasions. 

I would further recommend that less experienced kenshi treat this shinai with care. Don't be lumping your opponent on the men-gane! We have all been there and breaking your lovely new shinai on the first practice isn't fun!

Final thoughts. 

My initial opinion was that the shinai is quite thin. The handle is regular, the dobari section is not very large, and the shinai point is very narrow.
I have had shinai like this in the past which have broken quite quickly. BUT, I put that down to me being less experienced at that time.

I don't like using new shinai during kirikaeshi, especially not expensive ones. And with this shinai being so thin, I was unsure at first.

However after a solid two weeks of receiving a lot of kirikaeshi, there are no significant dents in the bamboo, and it is still in beautiful condition.

With the shinai's overall thin appearance, I was also unsure how it would feel when used. Would it live up to its claims of having a light tip?

While the body is not as thick as a clasic "Dobari" style (i.e. with a dramatic swell in the body) Zen still manages to feel incredibly light in your hands.

The shinai on the left is overall thicker than the Zen (right) But both feel light in the hands and at the tip. 

Sankei carry a wide range of shinai and other kendo equipment. Zen Sankei International is operated out of Tokyo and can ship worldwide. 

You can also check out their excellent videos of many top competitions and tournaments in Japan.
Zen Sankei International YouTube Channel.

Thank you as always for reading this post.