Western Martial Arts

Western Martial Arts...
and Cutting Practice

There are many different materials that can be used for cutting practice, tatami omote is only one of them. Some cutting materials can give you more information than others so it is important to choose carefully to make sure you get the most value for the cost. While each material may have something of value to teach you about your cutting, only one target material gives you the most information for the least amount of money per target. We believe that tatami gives you the most and the best feedback of any cutting material currently available and that's why we decided to sell it. If you're interested in the whole story, look here.

At this point it is important to understand that a target which is very easy to cut, or seemingly impossible to cut, is not necessarily a target that will teach you the most about your cutting ability, or help you with what you need to learn. Of course, if all you want to do is to cut something in half, then pick the least expensive material and have at it, just don't call yourself a swordsman.

If you are serious about your training then you want to learn something from your cutting practice, either about your technique, the sword, or yourself. You should be looking for information, in the form of feedback, from the cutting material. Your focus should be on things like body position and movement, swing angle, blade angle, point of contact, type of blade, edge geometry, etc.  A good martial artist is less worried about making it all the way through the target on every cut, and more concerned with learning new information that will improve their understanding and their cutting ability overall.

Whatever your approach to target cutting, there is really only one simple question you have to ask yourself when it comes to target material selection; what do you want to get out of your cutting practice? A good target material will have an ideal combination of density, cutting resistance similar to muscle, wetness (because people are wet inside which lubricates the cutting action of the sword), and will maintain it's shape once the cut is finished so that you can look at it afterwards to see what went right, and what went wrong.

Soaked Newspaper, Cardboard Tubes, Cardboard Boxes- virtually free cutting materials. The biggest drawbacks are the mess (with soaked newspaper) and the high level off abrasive materials which remain in the paper and cardboard. This abrasive grit is used to help grind up the pulp and stays in the finished product. It will prematurely dull your sword and may scratch or mark the surface.

Fruits and Veggies- readily available and very flashy for demo's. Because of their generally small size they can be useful for targeting practice. However, they do not offer much in the way of density or resistance. If you do use fruits or veggies be careful to clean the acids and sugars off of your sword as they can cause damage to the metal finish.

Pool Noodles- are actually a very good cutting material because they show EXACTLY what your swing angle was as the blade passed through the target. They are flimsy, so a bad blade angle or a poor grip will be very obvious. The biggest drawback to pool noodles is that they do not offer the density or resistance of the better target materials and they are not that inexpensive.

Pop or Milk Bottles- filled with water, these are good because they are virtually free and offer a degree of difficulty in that your cut has to be reasonably well done or the bottle is knocked over. They do not offer the density or difficulty of the better target materials.

Bamboo- a very popular target in the EMA. The density and cutting resistance of freshly harvested bamboo is supposed to be similar to bone because bamboo has a porous wall and a hollow center, just like bone. Be careful when cutting bamboo, there are over 100 varieties and some are as hard as wood. Find something that is 1" to 3" in diameter, with a 1/8" to 1/4" wall thickness that is porous. Please make sure to get some instruction from an experienced teacher before using any hard cutting material and only use freshly cut bamboo that is still wet inside.

Branches- are wood, and that is what an ax is for. Wood is readily available but does not have any of the features we need in a good target material and poses a real risk of damage to your sword and yourself if the cut is done incorrectly.

Plywood- is a popular target material in the WMA. This material is used mostly for testing a sword to see how it tracks in a powerful overhead cut. Please make sure to get some instruction from an experienced teacher before cutting plywood to avoid injuring yourself or damaging the sword.

Beach Mats- the ones with the colored cloth edges found in many import and discount stores actually do not work too well. They are not stitched together tightly enough to stand up to cutting and will frequently just bend over, even if you have good cutting technique. By the time you roll enough of these mats together to get a half-decent target you have spent more than you would on something better.

Tatami Mats- actually tatami omote, the cover of a tatami mat, read more. We feel that this target material offers all of the desired attributes in one material at a reasonable cost. When soaked in water they make a dense target that has resistance similar to muscle and connective tissue. You can start with a half-mat and work your way up to full or double-mat targets. Once that level has been achieved you can add a dowel or piece of bamboo in the center to simulate the cutting quality of bone.

Meat- is of course an excellent target if you are lucky enough to have an inexpensive source or a very large budget. If you do use meat you should try to get as large a piece as possibile with the muscle groups intact. If you are planning on cutting any bone then the meat must be EXTREMELY FRESH since the bone will begin hardening the instant the animal dies. Hardened bone can do serious damage to a sword so unless you know the history of what you are cutting avoid the bone. Whenever doing this type of cutting practice please make every effort to learn as much as you possibly can. Remembering that an animal gave it's life, please go about your cutting practice with respect and as little waste as possible.

Page 1 2 3

© Mugen Dachi Company 1999-2007 All rights reserved.