Ryuseiken Battodo

Japanese swordfighting

How to make ballistic gel - for target cutting

Okay, I have not yet tried this but it works for guns so a gel block should work for swords too. If you haven't seen demos on MythBusters or Fight Science, Ballistic Gel can be molded into any form and a certain thickness block will accurately replicate muscle density. It has comparable density to animal meat, but none of the connective tissue, viscera, bone bits, and bloody mess. You can add other components to replicate bone structure too such as 1/2 inch bamboo.

For example:

Here's an image from Steven Morris on Flickr.

It's easier to just create a block though:

From a link on Google Images:

While official ordinance gelatin can be expensive the cheaper ordinary gel from grocery stores (yes, like Jell-O) works just as well. It just takes a bit of work to make just a block of this not to mention some place to store a large block. Most refrigerators aren't wide or deep enough; and you don't want to use a freezer on this gel.

The best part, the blocks can be recycled and reused about two times. So one block the equivalent of 1 whole goza might roughly cost (my guesswork):

$5/lb x 25 lbs of Vyse gelatin +$25 shipping = $150 makes approx 30 blocks

Thus one goza-equivalent = $150/$30 = $5
but $5 / 3 uses = $1.67 per target.

I have not made one yet so that's very rough guesswork. Also I think we'd need to stack two blocks to make it the height of a standard goza (3 feet), so it'd really be $3.50 or so.

However, there's a lot more equipment and time involved than just a single soaking bucket and wrapping. They're not really expensive (a heavy duty stirring spoon, silicon spray, large 10 gallon pot, plastic tubs/molds of the right size and a fridge that fits them).

The other problem is keeping the blocks cool, and moving them. A soaked goza weighs 5 - 10 lbs, but these blocks are heavier (~10-20 lbs). Plus, if you want to reuse them, we would not want to do it in too dirty a floor like the park where it'd pick up gravel and twigs.

In the end, this is still much closer than cutting goza and because it's a smooth gel, it won't really abrade your sword at all. What really could make it harder to cut is the density and viscosity slowing down your sword stroke.

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Comment by Christopher Arendt on July 6, 2008 at 12:59am
If you are using gelatin then the Viscosity of the block depends on the amount of dissolved collagenous material in parts per million.
I have made some very dense jello.
It might be wise to experiment in small amounts with varying thicknesses starting at room temperature. (very high viscosity and moving up to boiling lower viscosity) until the desired resiliance is achieved.
another consideration may be to mix the gelatin with poly vinyal acetate in the form of wood glue or carpenters glue to decrease setting time and increase resilience.

However I would reccomend leaving the jello untainted by non consumables. :)

It would be a heck of a thing to bring a giant block of jello for the next park cutting session to munch on. :D

Check out this site for a great Do it yourself ballistic gel project:

Web sites & Resources

Matsuri: A Festival of Japan (2008) - Phoenix, AZ, Feb 23-28, Heritage Square

Battodo Ryuseiken in Japan. Also a partial site in english.

The Kodenkan of Tucson

The UofA Ryuseiken Battodo on the ASUA site

Tameshigiri.com - where we get goza. The ordering and shipping process are given.

Hanwei/Paul Chen swords

The Knighthawk Armoury builds some interesting realistic looking goshinken. They're expensive but they claim to be pretty durable (not yet tested by us).

Folding a Hakama the proper way

Woodall's Custom Workshop makes nice cutting stands for tameshigiri.

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