Step 5: Where to Practice – Find A Dojo

Step 5 - Find a Dojo

Time to Find a Dojo

The final step in our katana readiness guide is helping you find a dojo where you can now use your newly purchased katana. If you already have a location to train then you are finished, no need to read this step!

For those of you who are new katanas, other weaponized martial arts, or just martial arts in general, this final step will help you pin down a place where you can practice under the supervision of a trained sensei (which as I said in earlier steps that I highly recommend).

I guess before I get too far ahead of myself for those who are new to this and don’t know what a dojo is let me explain. A dojo is a place or large room used for training purposes in martial arts. They can range from a gym, to a smaller studio, to an entire complex focused on teaching the various martial arts. Dojos can vary in the types of martial arts they perform there ranging from judo and karate to the more skilled iaido.

The word comes from Japan and loosely translated means “a place of pursuit” the pursuit of which is your journey to mastering a martial art. The ‘Do’ means ‘way’ or ‘pursuit’ and the ‘Jo’ means ‘a place’. Combined they represent the term that is referred to today.

Find a dojo

Why Find a Dojo?

The primary reason why everyone who is new to any martial art that involves swords, blades, or other weapons should find a local dojo is so that they learn how to use them. You don’t buy a car and try to take it out on the road before you know how to drive it…well I didn’t anyway.

By going to a dojo you can practice under the supervision of a master sensei who will instruct you on the proper usage of your sword. Having this guidance is essential in remaining safe and actually understanding what you are trying to accomplish beyond just swinging a piece of sharp steel around.

Training in a dojo will also allow you to understand the ways of the samurai, their ancient thought process, and their takes on various life situations. It’s not just a sport you are about to participate in, it’s an entire mindset.

The final benefit of practicing in a dojo is that you’ll get to meet other people that share the same interest as you. You not only will train against them in the dojo, but you will bond with them outside of it. I’ve actually learned quite a bit from my friends who I practice with; they’ve let me experiment with their swords (hence some of my offered advice around katana reviews), given my advice on sword care, and even shared a few beers with me (not before using the katana of course).

How to Find a Dojo

Well you could do a simple search for “dojo’s near me” in Google, Bing, or whatever your preferred search engine of choice is. The only thing is that occasionally dojos may not be set up with the keyword “dojo” in the title, meaning you may be missing out on some.

My preference is using a search engine specific to dojos. The site is great resource for finding a place to practice by conducting a nationwide search for dojos near an address you select.

I’ve taken some code from their site to allow you to search for a dojo near you right from here. Just enter your zip code in the search tool below to see what’s near you.

Find a Dojo Near You

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Once you have a selection of a few dojos you’re interested in the first step is to call them to find out if they even offer the martial arts training you are interested in as well as their membership costs. This may narrow down your list a bit.

From there I’d suggest actually visiting each one and speaking with the sensei there and understanding the various katana training performed there. It is very important to work with a sensei you believe you’ll be comfortable with since at times you will become very frustrated. If you are practicing Iaido everything is extremely fluid and calculated, you can expect some struggles at first with getting the movements down.

Here is the dojo search process for your reference:

  1. Search to find dojos close by
  2. Call find out what is taught there
  3. Obtain pricing and rule out anything too expensive
  4. Visit each dojo to determine which sensei is the best fit for you
  5. Chose a dojo and start katana training!

New Dojos are opening up all the time; below is a live RSS feed I set up to let you know about any new dojo openings listed with, the top dojo search site. I’ve set it up to show the 5 most recent openings.

Online Training

Occasionally we may not wish to join a dojo due to various reasons (distance, time, money, experience, etc.). Whatever the reason there are alternatives to learning various martial arts via online training programs, however the quality of learning online as opposed to in-person is significantly worse. This leaves you with either messing around yourself and hoping you don’t lose a finger (or worse) or researching online training programs.

When this is the case there are online courses you can watch however these really don’t do you the justice that an in person formal training would do. The primary reason being that the instructor can’t actually see your technique, this prevents them from correcting any mistakes you may be making in the training. Without knowing if you are doing something wrong or not, it becomes pretty difficult to correct it.

Some courses that I’ve seen online but haven’t partaken in are listed below. If any of you readers do happen to enroll in them we’d love to hear your feedback on their effectiveness in our forum section or on our Facebook page.

YouTube Videos

YouTube is amazing, the things we can find on there are endless. I’ve pulled a couple videos I think you may be interested in checking out that will help you learn some basics.

A start to katana training.

More related videos from Ehowmartialarts.

A video on how to unsheathe your katana.

More training videos are available on Sensei Orlando’s YouTube channel.

Udemy Courses

Udemy is also a great place to learn various martial arts (as well as just about anything else). This site provides a range of training tutorials both for free as well as for a fee. The image below links to a training program for Taijutsu.


That’s it, we’ve walked you through the entire process of buying a katana. I hope you found this katana readiness guide to be extremely valuable in helping you make your journey into becoming a trained swordsman. I appreciate any shares you can give my site to help spread the word.

Additionally there are a lot of other great forums out there to help you in your search with Sword Buyers Guide being a great one. I’d suggest clicking the link below to browse katana options then once you find one either come back here to our forum section or use another forum to ask any additional questions you may have around the blade. Online communities are great for providing real life feedback to help form your decision on what to buy.

Stick around and check out my other posts if you are craving more samurai information. My next post will teach you where you can find or make a custom katana that fits your personality and stands out from the rest of the class.

I’m ready to buy a katana now!

Top 5 Ultimate Movie Katanas

Top 5 Katanas - 47 RoninHere are our top 5 picks for best movie katanas. We’re starting with every post-apocalyptic survivor’s katana of choice and working our way back through the 47 Ronin sword as well as other highly known katana blades.

1. The Walking Dead Sword

At the top of the list is Michonne’s katana from The Walking Dead. A great show accompanied by a sleek and clean looking katana, this is the perfect blade for decapitating those unruly undead. Get yours here and get ready for the apocalypse!

Michonne's katana

2. 47 Ronin Sword

Custom craftsmanship from sword maker Paul Chen that even Keanu Reeves would be jealous of. The legendary story of 47 Ronin and their battle to avenge their master’s death HAD to make it in our top 5. There are multiple makers of the 47 Ronin sword, some with cheap quality and others such as this with superior quality. Here’s the working custom replica of the 47 Ronin sword.

47 ronin sword

3. Kill Bill Sword

From the bloody Kill Bill serious, this katana has been hand forged and is battle ready. This blade comes with a stand as well as oil and cleaning cloth. Whether you want it as a wall hanger or to use in class you can find yours here.

Kill Bill sword

4. The Matrix Sword

The katana wielded by the mighty Morpheus defies all known logic. Get ready to battle the Smiths and dodge bullets (ok ok so you can’t really dodge bullets) with your Matrix sword here.

Matrix sword

5. The Last Samurai Sword

Change your view of the world through the eyes of The Last Samurai. This blade features beautiful engravings and a sleek saya. One of Tom Cruise’s best performances accompanied by a stellar blade.

the last samurai sword

If there is another movie sword that you think deserves to be on this list let us know on Facebook! Check out our other Katana reviews for functional swords here.


The Best Affordable Custom Katana Available

Looking for a Custom Katana? Buy or Make One!

If you are on the hunt for an affordable custom katana look no further. Occasionally I’ll meet someone who wants to break out from the norm and buy a katana that is rarely seen anywhere else. Most people think that to buy a custom katana they’ll need to drop thousands of dollars….nope! On a side note, if you are lucky enough to have an open checkbook here is the golden jewel of custom katanas. A hand forged blade folded 14 times, endured a 15 stage hand polished finish, and features 100% silver fittings. All in all taking 24 weeks to complete, true craftsmanship. See a photo below of this beauty. Traditional Custom Katana

Something a Little More Affordable…

Now back on track to a more affordable already made custom katana you can stand out with without breaking the bank (want to have one made from start to finish? Read on I’ll tell you how you can). I usually buy my swords from SOTE but recently came across this new distributor which offers a pretty unique selection of various swords ranging from katanas and tantos to Chinese and medieval swords.Senshi Custom Katana 2

The Senshi authentic Japanese katana is a beautiful sword with a unique crackled style wood saya. I am a huge fan of the brown as you already know if you’ve read my previous blogs, so this katana is right up my style. The 12 stage polished finish gives it a nice sharp look especially in contrast to the tsuba which has a more flat ominous looking style.

Aside from the looks of this katana there’s quite a bit of structural advantages to it starting with the composite. The sword features a hand forged T10 steel blade. When it arrived if was already sharpened and even after quite a few uses it’s remained as sharp as when I got it. If you’re still not sure which steel is better here’s a chart to help you determine the strengths of the various steel grades. Additionally the blade is clay tempered full tang, meaning that the blade extends completely back through the entire tsuka. Full tang blade provide more durability and leverage than blades that start mid way through the tsuka. Not to mention they are a lot safer to use due to reduced chances of them breaking (something that happened to me earlier with my first katana). Senshi Custom Katana The weight on this sword has a great balance as well, it comes in at under 3 lbs. (2.8 to be exact) but the way it’s made the balance allows for easy maneuvering with it. This katana hasn’t had as much field testing as some of my other blades but so far I’m pretty happy with it, another beauty added to my extensive collection! Not to mention you can get custom engraving on it as well. If you’re looking to stand out on the battlefield (or class which is more likely than a battlefield) with a custom katana that very few will have, then I’d recommend going for the authentic Senshi katana.

UPDATE: I received a few emails asking where to find the Senshi, unfortunately Swords of Northshire has sold out of their Senshi custom katana and I’m not exactly sure when they’ll start forging another batch of them. They still do have quite a few other options if you’re looking for a custom katana though, some with some very beautiful saya woodwork engravings so I’d recommend browsing their selection.

Browse For a Custom Katana Here

Still Not Unique Enough for You? Make Your Own Custom Katana!

Swords of Northshire are the first sword dealers I’ve seen to do this…Create your own katana from start to end. I’m talking about selecting the blade forge you want, the groove, the saya, the tsuba, the finishings, everything is as you want it! I was ecstatic when I found this out, I really am able to get a sword that is one of a kind and at a very reasonable price. Below is a screenshot I took as I went through the process of buying my first truly made custom katana. Custom Katana

There are a vast amount of styles you can create and the great thing is you determine the quality starting with the blade compositions you select. Clay Tempered of course which is best (and most expensive) or you can go with the lesser priced Carbon steel. The starting base price for a custom katana is $190, from here the cost depends on how much you want to upgrade the blade, fittings, and saya. I’ll walk you through the steps of making your own custom katana using Swords of Northshire’s katana building program.

  1. Step 1 – Select whether or not you want the blade sharpened before it leaves the forgery or will it be a wall hanger therefore you prefer a dull blade for safety reasons.
  2. Step 2 – Choose a blade composition (what type of steel do you want it made from and the forging process):
    • 1060 Steel: A good balance between hardness and durability. Used on light to moderate targets (foam rolls, rolled mats).
      • Folded vs. high carbon steel: the folded steel requires a more lengthy process where the steel is folded over itself and hammered multiple times to spread out the carbon content which not only helps remove impurities but also develops a grainy pattern on the blade.
    • 1095 Steel: Hard steel, primarily used for cutting heavier targets yet it is more susceptible to breaking due to the lack of flexibility in the steel.
      • Folded vs. high carbon steel: the folded steel requires a more lengthy process where the steel is folded over itself and hammered multiple times to spread out the carbon content which not only helps remove impurities but also develops a grainy pattern on the blade.
    • 9260 Spring Steel: The same steel used in the springs supporting the suspension on your vehicle, this steel has an extremely high durability rating and can bend and spring back to the normal curvature with very little chance of breakage.
    • 1095 Steel: A very hard blade that will hold an exceptionally sharp edge however is also very brittle due to its 0.95% carbon content. If you go with this blade I’d suggest getting the folded steel version.
    • Clay Tempered Blades: Clay is applied to the blade before the quenching process causing the blade to undergo differential heating process, which creates a hard edge for heavy cutting yet a more flexible back for absorbing shock. This method creates a beautiful, genuine hamon line that most high quality custom katanas will have and others will notice.
    • Tamahagane: Made from an iron sand called ‘tamahagane’, these blade types are the most authentic samurai blades since they follow strict forging methods and usually take almost a month to finish the polishing. If you want a ‘real’ authentic katana then this is the blade type you want.
  3. Step 3 – Blade length, do you want a katana (28″), a Wakizashi (20″), or a Tanto (13″). Almost all my swords are katanas, I have a couple Wakizashi’s and one Tanto.
  4. Step 4 – Groove or no groove? Otherwise known as the ‘bo-hi’, a line carved out of the blade allows for the blade to be lighter weight. For some who are used to practicing with a non-grooved blade, I’d recommend staying without the bo-hi since the weight difference may throw you off for a bit until you get used to it.
  5. Step 5 – Hamon, or the ‘wavy’ line along the blade. You can have an artificial one placed on the blade for looks however the true hamon will come with a Tamahagane blade. I personally like the irregular style pattern seen below.Custom katana - Irregular Hamon
  6. Step 6 – Select the color of the saya (scabbard) for your katana. This is what the katana slides into when not in use, kind of like a sheath of a knife. There are 6 colors currently to choose from.
  7. Step 7 – Choose a color for the sageo (rope that ties around the saya holding it to your belt)
  8. Step 8 – Selecting a tsuba is one of my favorite parts when I have them make a custom katana for me. It’s one of the most visible parts of the sword that really allows for you to get creative with it. There’s a pretty big selection so just choose something that fits your style.
  9. Step 9 – The Habaki and Seppa are the components that prevent the blade from falling out of the saya. Nothing too fancy with the customization here.
  10. Step 10 – The Fuchi & Kashira are another one of my favorite parts to choose. These are the end fittings that go on both ends of the handle of the blade.
  11. Step 11 – The Same’gawa is just the wrap that goes around the handle.
  12. Step 12 – The Menuki fit under the tsuka and add some lift on the handle to allow you a better grip on it. There’s a few neat options here as well in terms of customization.
  13. Step 13 – Almost done, time for the handle wrap which if you’ve been reading all my other posts here you know what my preference is…yep brown leather!
  14. Step 14 – The final touch on your custom katana is the engraving, you are not limited to letters but they’ll also engrave designs, kanji symbols, etc.

So in just 14 quick simple steps that are very easy and pretty much self-guided through the custom katana builder program Swords of Northshire has you can have your one of a kind katana delivered to your door. Interested? I couldn’t resist and have my second one on the way!

Build a custom katana

Now for you Walking Dead fans, I have the perfect katana for you if you can get it before they sell out. Read my review on Michonne’s katana.