Soft Target Standardization

This Forum is a place for students of swordsmanship to ask advice from moderators Paul Champagne & Scott M. Rodell on how to practice test cutting in a manner consistent with how swords were historically used in combat. Readers use this Forum at their own risk.

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Rank: Chang San feng
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Joined:Mon Jan 17, 2005 11:49 pm
Soft Target Standardization

Post by B.Ko » Mon Mar 06, 2006 3:57 pm

I've been discussing with Sifu Rodell about possible standardized targets to simulate the organic ones the antiques were designed to do. Some ideas included ballistic gel.

One idea that just came to me was if you take a plastic pop bottle with the top cut off...easy for most of us. You could then use it as a mold. Take several packages of Jello...looking for stiff consistency here. Melt and pour in the bottle then refrigerate. One could also stick in a piece of green bamboo....tough for me to get in Canada...I may go for PVC piping for simulate the bone.

this shouldn't be too expensive...under $10 per target. The plastic bottle could simulate the skin in this set up. I suspect pig parts are about the same price but those could vary.

This only simulates a limb. I've still scratching my head about a torso. I'll try this idea out first and see what happens.

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tatami omote

Post by PaulC » Wed Mar 29, 2006 12:45 pm

I'm strongly for using tatami omote as the standard. Not the only material, but the standard to compare others to. If we disregard price ( and I'll get back to that in a moment) we want to find a material for soft cutting that we can use as a standard referenced to gauge our skills and progress.

I have cut almost everything you can cut and I find the advantages of the mats as follows

-Makes a firm, weighted yet ? soft? target (noodles are very light and soft)

-Can be rolled into various sizes for different types of cutting practice. I.e. ? mat for fast light targeting, 1-2 mats for wrist control and follow through or more mats for increasing resistance and difficulty.

-Can be used indoors without having to mop up 16 gallons of water

-Can be tied to other schools or types of swordsmanship and be linked to historic test cutting documentation.

-Can be used soaked (preferably) or cut dry to give different resistance and feel

-Product is biodegradable and doesn?t leave a garbage can full of fluorescent yellow noodle parts to go to the landfill.

-Can be easily cored with green bamboo for more advanced cutting tests.

-Shows an easy to read historical record of each cut for later analysis.* very very important

-Has enough mass so that you don?t develop technique geared toward fast slicing light foam.

-Allows for at least 4 cuts per target ( 6 is easy to do ) thus getting the most out of each target. Remember ? calling your shot?

-Offers the firmness and resistance of meat.. Actually just a bit more.

These are just some of the advantages.. Now for the perceived disadvantages.

-Cant get it from your refrigerator.


Well when you look at cost per cut and the benefits/ realism of the material I still think that when you are planning a cutting session either alone of with other students the tatami omote should always be included.

Oh cost per cut? lets say $4.00 per mat shipped. That gives 2 half mat targets at lets say 5 cuts each. 10 quality cuts at 40 cents per.. not too bad. And remember when doing light targeted jian cuts you can get even more cuts per target.

Again I'm not saying that they should be the only material used. But they should be the standard.

Scott M. Rodell
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Re: tatami omote

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Oct 30, 2007 8:28 am

PaulC wrote:I'm strongly for using tatami omote as the standard... Allows for at least 4 cuts per target ( 6 is easy to do ) thus getting the most out of each target...
I have been using rice straw mats from:
These mats are good quality & are 35" tall.

When Seven Stars became a CAS/Hanwei dealer, I thought I might as well try the mats they sell:

I found these mats to be a little easier to cut than those of, the straw having been used to make them being not as high quality as's, but that could be a plus for beginners.

One thing I really like about CAS/Hanwei's mats is that they are wider, being 46" wide. That allows for a 2 to 3 more cuts per roll. After all the work of making up caoren, I really appreciate getting every extra practice cut in I can.

josh stout
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Post by josh stout » Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:10 am

I watched a Japanese cutting demo once, where they claimed that at home they practice on rolled up newspapers to avoid expense. Has anybody tried this? I think somebody once told me that it can scratch the blade, but I think mats can as well. I can't remember if the newspaper should be wet. The degree of wetting would change the cutting characteristics dramatically. I have read that the Chinese used paper armour, and that it was much more effective when a little wet. Paper in the old days was undoubtedly too precious to cut, but it would have some historical precedence.
hidup itu silat, silat itu hidup


Scott M. Rodell
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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:15 pm

josh stout wrote:... practice on rolled up newspapers to avoid expense...
I haven't tried using newspaper myself because I heard it dulls blades more quickly than mats... found this though:

"Rolled newspaper tubes (or cardboard tubes) are another popular test medium, and Dr. Michael Kaye demonstrates this quite clearly on the Legacy of Steel video series mentioned earlier. He shows how to roll and cut newspaper tubes, which are cheap, recyclable, and non-damaging to your blades. The only drawback here (if any) is that horizontal cuts are slightly more difficult than diagonal cuts, due to the nature of the tube, which will more likely bend from a straight horizontal cut than be severed."

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