Japanese swords have been designed, forged and tested for their cutting abilities. There are two basic materials that were traditionally used to test the sword’s sharpness and the practitioner’s cutting abilities. One material is goza the top layer of tatami mats. They are made from a straw type grass called igusa, which is referred to in English as a soft rush straw. The second cutting material is bamboo, which is also found in abundance, as they both grow wild throughout Japan. Most of the highest quality goza tatami grasses can be found in Japan’s wetlands where they have been grown and cultivated for centuries. The lengths of grass are then woven into one-meter by two-meter sections and used as the top cover for flooring in traditional Japanese style rooms. You may have seen tatami mats in many martial arts schools used as flooring in their school’s training areas.
Begin your cutting endeavor “the traditional way” by cutting the same goza tatami mats used to test the Samurai’s mettle throughout history. Prepare each goza cutting mat by re-wrapping and rolling it to create a better feel, and a more realistic cutting experience. Soak the cutting mat in water for several hours if not overnight prior to test cutting. To learn more on how to roll a cutting mat, make you own cutting stand, and test cutting pointers just click on the tutorials links below.