I was informed by Debbie Smith over at the Kodenkan that we are now set up as a retailer for katanas from the Paul Chen collection created by his company Hanwei. These swords are distributed in the US by CAS Hanwei
which also sells a large selection of other non-Japanese weapons and armor.
Paul Chen's katanas are quite widely used and manufactured in China by his company Hanwei. You will find these swords everywhere
with a wide range of sites offering them for sale. Wherever you get them--you don't have to get them through the Kodenkan either--the swords range from good to great quality.
We recommend one of these katanas in particular as a decent starter sword. For a new student, it helps us understand on a common basis between different students how they fare. There are huge differences between swords and often a student spending lots of money on a great sword will mask just how good their actual ability is. Conversely, a student with good skill may be frustrated by an inferior sword.
Whatever the case, we look at these as a common point of reference in how you perform your cuts. Also, the first sword you start out on is probably not the
sword you want for life, because early in your studies you will likely beat up the sword quite a bit. This isn't a negative on students either; you want to try out the wrong things early on so you can improve. With a cheaper starter sword, you may worry less about it. You should not treat it as a throw away either. If you become a dedicated student over the long term, you will probably look for a better one in the future. The amount you can spend on a sword can get pretty ridiculous.
Right now, for my own students, before you run out and buy one, I will purchase one of the newer Practical XL Light Katana
from Hanwei and test it out for a few months of practice. My students will get to use this as the "class sword" so they can see how they like it.
I picked this particular model because it is has a wide width overall which I find really helps with cutting. Plus it is lighter than the non-Light version because the bohi
removes a little bit of the weight in the shinogi-ji. I have swung the non-Light version of this same sword (2lb 11oz vs the lighter 2lb 9oz) and it definitely feels heavier than mine. So the lighter version may work better, especially for new students. I also didn't select the Plus model of these since as the class sword, we will not need to really work on the fittings as much. However, I think students are welcome to get the Plus version if they like. The actual blade is identical; just the fittings differ.
Either case, please wait until I give the go ahead to get these swords.