The skinken is a traditional Japanese sword that originated sometime during the region's feudal period. Like the katana, it features a curved, single-edge blade. The term "shinken" simply refers to a Japanese sword with a live blade. Therefore, the term is used extensively when referring to swords in traditional Japanese marts and swordsmanship. So, what is the Japanese shinken used for today?
One of the most popular uses for the shinken is tameshigiri. Meaning "test cut," this centuries-old martial arts practices involves a single practitioner as he or she attempts to cut through a practice target using a sword with a live blade, such as the shinken. Tameshigiri is typically performed in a studio-like setting where the practitioner cuts rolls of totami omate -- the same material used in Japanese floors. Sometimes the totami omate is soaked in water to increase its strength. Other times, it's left dry so that it's easier to cut.
In addition to tameshigiri, the Japanese shinken is used extensively in iaijutsu. Not to be confused with iaijutsu, iaito is a style of Japanese swordsmanship that involves drawing and unsheathing a sword. Historically, it's been performed using the katana. And while many practitioners of iaito continue to use the katana, some use the shinken. Because the shinken shares a similar size, shape and overall design as the katana, it's the perfect alternative for iaito and other swordsmanship arts that involve the katana.
It's important to note that iaijutsu is a combat-focused style of swordsmanship, but this doesn't necessarily mean that it's aggressive. The purpose of iaijutsu is to quickly and efficiently draw your sword so that you can defend against an impending attack.
Finally, the Japanese shinken is used by practitioners of iaido, which is pretty much the same as iaijutsu but with a small few nuances. both iajutsu and iaido involve drawing and unsheathing a sword, typically the katana or shinken. Iaido, however, is a newer style of Japanese swordsmanship that's gained momentum in recent years. Some experts even say that iaido is more of a meditative art, whereas iaijutsu is a combative art.
These are just a few ways that the shinken is used today. Of course, many people purchase the shinken simply as a collectable. It holds significant historic value, making it an excellent collectible for anyone who enjoys history.