Review by Nathan Scott Sensei

June 22, 2000

"Mugen Dachi Company" Tatami Omote Review


Weapons used and sequences of cuts:

In an attempt to be fair and comprehensive, several edged weapons were used during the cutting session:
* Chen "Kotetsu II" katana. Tsuka-ito resin impregnated (sokui), two mekugi, gyakute menuki.
* Paul Champagne katana. Unaltered.
* Kobayashi Yasuhiro nihonto wakizashi. Two mekugi, gyakute menuki.
* Chen "Plum Blossom" hirazukuri tanto. Tsuka-ito resin impregnated (sokui), mekugi replaced, koshirae tightened.

The tanto was used successfully to cut left kesa giri on a half-mat target several times. Then, the Kotetsu was used to cut kaeshi (tsubamegaeshi) in both directions (down/up and up/down), and Darumagiri (alternating side cuts) on a full-mat target, all in rapid succession. Four half-mats were suspended from a "cutting tree", the first two of which were cut with the Kotetsu using sayu kesagiri and yokogiri. The last two half-mats were cut using the wakizashi, which included a left kiriage, and sayu kesagiri.

Both the Paul Champagne and Kotetsu were then used to attempt full cuts on the "O-makiwara", to which both attempts made it just through the bamboo core (past half way through) before stopping. Two of the mats were then unrolled (leaving a bamboo core target with four full mats rolled around it), and the makiwara was retied, remounted and again cut. This results were exactly the same, verifying that the inner layers of mat had not been properly soaked, along with various other contributing factors (I intend to try again in the near future, having gained valuable insight from the first failed attempt!).

Sayu kesa giri was performed with no complaints on a double full-mat roll re-tied and re-used from the O-makiwara. Finally, the last test consisted of two attempts at Dotangiri (center cuts on horizontal stacked targets) using the Paul Champagne blade to successfully cut through more or less four full-mat targets.

The tanto cutting proved to require substantial speed and power, but was effective against half-mat targets. The wakizashi is an outstanding cutting blade anyway, and cuts all mats like they were butter. The Paul Champagne and Kotetsu cut the various targets comparably, though the Kotetsu is slightly heavier and the balance is more forward than the Champagne. I've cut several dense targets repeatedly with the Paul Champagne, but have not yet developed the same sense of metallurgical confidence with the Kotetsu yet.

Makiwara Performance:

I would rate the new tatami that was supplied to me from the Mugen Dachi Company to be quite favorable in cutting quality, based on my experience. Compared to beach mats, they rate *FAR* superior (there really is no comparison - beach mats represent the thinnest, lowest quality "mat" on the market). However, compared to the high grade used tatami omote our group usually acquires they are in fact a grade or two thinner, judging from the impression I got while preparing the mats and the difficulty level of cutting. The MDC mats are full sized (not reduced in height as was once announced), and when it came time for cutting, I found them quite comfortable - though significantly less challenging than the higher grade used tatami omote mentioned previously. The MDC targets seem to be the same overall diameter and length as that which I'm used to cutting, regardless of the slightly thinner grade used.

Since the MDC mats are new, they are far less dirty to prepare, cut more consistently, smell nicer, cost about the same if not cheaper, sport a nice greenish hue after soaking, and most importantly, are anticipated to be in stock with consistent availability. These are pretty tempting considerations in my book, and make the MDC mats appealing.

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