Ronin Dojo-Pro Wakizashi Model #2
Marc Kaden Ridgeway
24 Dec, 2011
Atlanta , GA
Having used and reviewed two of the Ronin Dojo-Pro models, I was excited to get the opportunity to review one of the new Wakizashi. I have never reviewed a wakizashi before, indeed I've only owned 4 or 5 .
The kanji for wakizashi literally means something like "side thrust sword" , but we commonly label it a companion sword. in feudal Japan , only two classes were allowed to wear the daito and shoto (daisho) the bushi and rikishi... samurai and sumo wrestlers. Earlier in Japanese history, blades of tanto length were more common , yet in the Edo period the wakizashi became the favored sword as the shoto. Some scholars believe that this is because the wakizashi was better adapted for indoor fighting.
When a samurai would enter the home of another, the daito (long sword) would be checked at the door, placed on the kake with the tsuka pointed leftward as a sign of his peaceful intentions there. However the wakizashi, the sidearm of the samurai, remained ever with him. Thus the wakizashi was very a very important tool in the samurai arsenal.
Many ryu-ha consider wakazashi and advanced technique, as it is used much as the katana , but the disparity of size, weight and one-handed use may hinder the training of less advanced adherents. This is not a blanket statement of fact... just a casual observation of certain styles... yours may vary.
The Ronin Dojo-Pro wakizashi are based Edo period originals.
Chris Scoggin of Ronin Katana provided me this wakizashi free of charge for review. It is mine to keep , sell, destroy in testing etc. While I appreciate the opportunity, I will not pull any punches or give undue consideration in the review. I would have liked to test it to destruction... but it seems a shame to, it is a nice piece. However stay tuned , we may be able to work out something on some future Ronin Katana destructive tests.
Nagasa : 21.25 inches
Weight: 1 lb. 12.5 ozs
Tsuka: 6 inches w/ fittings
Motohaba: 1.2 inches
Sakihaba : .8 inch
Motokasane: @ 7mm
Sakikasane : @5mm
POB : 4 inches from tsuba
Aesthetics ; Fit & Finish
Sugata is shinogi zukuri with chu-kissaki. The yokote is accomplished with a rather well done counterpolish. Despite this, the kissaki swells geometrically at the ko-shinogi saki (where the ko-shinogi join the mune in the kissaki) forming an elegant ,reinforced "snakehead " tip.
The through-hardened (maru) blade has a 22.25 in. nagasa, and has a gentle sori. The 1060 steel is polished to a nice even high satin all over... a good working polish , which won't show blemishes. The habaki is yellow brass , and cast to present groove and file mark decorative accents. The habaki fit is good, with only a slight gap showing on the omote (public) side between the ji and the habaki.
The seppa are also yellow brass , and are key fret. Seppa are a bit important to me... I don't know why , but besides the obvious decreased functionality, those cheap ,stamped seppa are a huge pet peave of mine. It's nice to see decent seppa on a dedicated cutter of this pricepoint.
The Tsuba is a blackened iron sukashi rendering of twin cranes. The fuchigashira are also blackened iron , plain and understated, and in my opinion, classy. The menuki is , I believe , a golden colored dragon, though it could also be a shi- shi dog.
The 6 inch tsuka is panelled in white samegawa and tightly wrapped in brown-silk ito. The tsuka is channeled for the same' panels. The fuchigashira is well fit, and flows well with the tsuka, tsuba and seppa ... important for shock transference.
The black "piano lacqurred" saya is adorned with brown chemical-silk sageo , and accented with buffalo horn elements . These really bear mentioning .... the horn is a beautiful burl of lustrous brown and red swirls, and really set the saya off. The fit is nice and tight , and there isn't the slightest trace of rattle in the saya.
The kashira and kurigata are both fitted with blackened shitodome, a nice touch when even some high-end Hanwei sport false shitodome, if any at all.
The over fit & finish is tight and precise, well built utilitarian workhorse cutter.
The nagasa being 21.25 inches , and the balance point being at about 4 inches, makes this light 1.8 lb sword very authoritative in the cut , without sacrificing mobility and dexterity.
The tsuka is ergonomic , and the tsuka-ito makes for a good grip. The sword moves quickly and precisely where it is directed , and stops without drag.
Swift... sure ... deadly.
The dojo-pro is a joy to handle.
Ronin Katana has built its reputation on building no-nonsense , cutting swords for dojo use and backyard cutters. It makes sense that the wakizashi would follow in that vein. However , these being the first waks they have produced , who could be sure?
True to the Dotanuki style that Ronin has made its name on, the wak has a robust geometry , with a nice thick mune , and plenty of profile and distal taper. Looks like it'll be a good cutter.
I wanted to try some indoor cutting , since the wakizashi was historically more likely to be used indoors than in any other situation besides battlefield beheadings of the dead... not having the corpses of any vanquinished enemies laying about to decapitate, indoor cutting seemed the way to go. However, I was having trouble thinking of a suitable target that wouldn't make a huge mess indoors... then the spirit of the season gave me an idea.
and here is the link to the video without the music for places where it is restricted,
So, the Dojo-Pro Wak seems to handle a variety of targets with ease. From the cardboard tubes , to bamboo, to bottles the wak cuts better than I do, and came out of it all tight as ever , without even showing any scratches.
Even did well on a couple of bamboo stalks bigger than it had a right to cut... and keep in mind this is winter bamboo , and hardening.
This is a wicked little cutter, and fun...
The Good , The Bad & The Ugly
As far as the dojo-pro line in general goes, as well as this wak, its weaknesses are strengths as well. The blade is through hardened without hamon. To some this would be a strike... but for the market the Dojo-Pro is aimed at, and the purpose it is built for, the through hardening is a benefit. The polish is rather utilitarian... but again, for a dedicated cutter, this is a plus.
As far as the strengths of the dojo-pro... On some competitors at this pricepoint you'll find claims that as a cutter the emphasis is on the blade, to the expense of everything else. Ronin Katana throws that out the window. They put plenty of emphasis on the blade, making a dedicated cutter, and dressing it in a far more traditional fashion with attention to detail.
I'm talking about iron hardware instead of zinc-alloy , shaped tsuka , and nice silk ito... channels for the same' , horn elements on the saya , an upgraded chemical fiber sageo...All these things set Ronin apart from any pricepoint competitor... and I mean any... Cheness , Dynasty Forge, Hanwei Raptor...
The only flaw i can point to on this blade was not found by me, but my anal retentive, see everything wife. There is a bit of an uneven grind on the mune just before the ko shinogi saki. I suppose the slight gap in the habaki should be mentioned. The only other thing that could be pointed out is the wax in the saya... less than the 2010 models , but still present.
The Ronin Katana brand has been built around quality cutting swords for backyard cutters and dojo use. The new models seem to be no different. The wak carries on Ronin's tradition of making strong cutters , at a great price with plenty of attention to detail. In fact, that attention to detail outclasses every major competitor for this class of purpose built sword. Dynasty Forge Musha has cotton where the Ronin has silk. Raptor has faux-suede. None of them have the beautiful horn saya elements, and the Raptors tsuka shaping alone is enough to drop it from contention.
So that answers the question why Ronin. So why Ronin wakazashi? Well, its fast , its agile , its fun, its durable... and you cant be a samurai without one now can you ? Seriously, since this sword arrived a few days ago, I find it in my hands being fondled as i watch TV. It holds a lot of appeal aesthetically, its fun to hold and dry handle in the house, it looks good on the kake with your katana , and when the saya comes off its a mean little cutter too.
The new Wakazashi model released for 2012 by Ronin Katana is yet another winner in its line up , and another illustration how attention to detail turns a sword into a good sword.
Thanks to Chris Scoggin of Ronin Katana , and thanks to you for reading.
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1. We do not recommend the use of this product for cutting practice, as this may put the user in serious danger. Swords are very sharp and must be handled with great care. Should you attempt cutting use only tatami mat targets so as not to damage the sword, and seek professional instruction and supervision under proper safety conditions.
6.I offer a 7 days no questions asked return policy. As long as the sword has not been used or taken apart, it can be returned for a 100% refund (minus shipping) within 7 days of receipt. If a customer receives a sword on the 1st, they have until the 7th to request a return.