How and When Katana Evolved From The Tachi

How and When Katana Evolved From The Tachi

When it comes to Japanese swords there is nothing more popular than the Katana. This sword has been hailed for its excellent cutting ability, durability and its amazingly beautiful aesthetics. It would all be odd if this sword just spring from nowhere. No great swordsmith has think of sketching and finally came up with the idea of the katana. The Katana is the result of hundreds of years of sword evolution and refinement based on response to changes that took place during feudal Japan. Some say that katanas are not ordinary swords but, can be referred to as sabers that has a single edge.

Where It All Began

It all started with the Jokoto period in pre 987 A.D. with an iconic Japanese sword known as chokuto. During this period, the swords have basic designs. During this period, the sword was not as gracefully curved nor the differential hardening techniques not yet formulated. Nothing showed this better than the geometry of the sword from this period. The sword was straight and has a long sharpened steel bar. The tip can have a lot of taper or sometimes not. The choices when it comes to geometry was hira zukuri or kiriha zukuri. These two are not popular when it comes to current day blade lengths. Most of the swords found from long ago are in state of disrepair due to its geometrics and other factors.

The sword’s handle was different starting with the silk wrapped long handled when compared to that of the Tachi. This basic sword has a smaller grip and looks more like a scimitar. The chokuto became popular among martial arts enthusiast especially those that love sword theme films. They think that this was a ninja sword. The Chokuto’s design look like those seen in ancient Chinese swords. There is a theory that this sword was brought from Japan through Korea in the 3nd century. When it comes to sword reconstruction the typologies for the chokuto followed those of the Chinese and Korean models. There is nothing more that exhibits this theory than the single edged warabiteto. This sword is worn from the waist and hang from it. These were used for stabbing the feet of the opponents or slashing. This sword became popular because of its lethal impact. People who fight in battles can easily handle this sword when in war. Some compared this sword to that of the Jian.

The Birth of a Sword

The birth and evolution of the Tachi began when the Tachi leap into with its revolutionary design that have become the pattern for Japanese swords to come.Unlike the chokuto that has straight lines and crude levels of metallurgical construction, the Tachi has a different make and style. The first designs of the tachi started with the Shinogi Zukuri style which was forged with a ridge; dividing the cutting surface from the side of the sword. The Heian era tachi was considered as the first style of curved Japanese longsword. It has extreme curvature at the base. The kissaki has a prominent division from the rest of the cutting edge. The sword in question has a geometric change at the tip referred to as yokote. This was polished to make it stand out from the rest of the blade. Even today this feature is sought after in modern swords. Slender swords were shaped with the cutting surface leading to the shinogi. Strength was bestowed on the sword with a Niku. The swordsmiths fashion the cutting edge to make it appear in a convex or apple seed like style. From the time that the swordsmiths made the blade like this, all Japanese blades appeared like this from this point on.

The graceful curved swords that has these style of blades has a hamon as a result of the differential hardening techniques used for the first time during this period of time. This works like this, once the sword was forged it was covered in a thick layer of clay on its cutting edge. The blade would then be subjected to a critically glowing red hot temperature. Later on it was quenched in water. The clay used partially protects the spine of the blade against the water and slowly cools the edge. The effects are amazing to behold. The back of the blade is less brittle and more ductile. The overall effect is that these processes strengthens the entire sword. The hamon is a by-product of the clay treatment process. Some call this as a wonderfully accidental side effect adding to the beauty of the sword.

What Makes the Tachi Unique

Early designs of the Tachi has a distinctive koshi sori or curvature beginning at the base of the sword. This makes this design slender when compared to modern blades. Another development added to its evolution was the fumbari. This feature makes the swelling of the width of the blade near the habaki. This added more metal to the blade affecting its balance. This change has made it easier to wield this sword with one hand. Where the other swords were not suited for combat when horseback riding this sword, the tachi have made it possible; making it a practical sword. The tachi was worn with the cutting edge facing down on rope hangers that were attached to the belt. This gives the rider the freedom to be on horseback.

The Tachi was produced all the way up to the end of the Muromachi period in 1572. The design for the Tachi did not stay this way. The changes only paved the way for the development of the Katana in years to come. The designs for the tachi continue to evolve. The sori was altered to relieve the curvature of the sword’s base. There was an archway curvature that is sometimes referred to as rainbow style. Although this same style will be seen in modern katana in years to come. It was the political changes during the Kamakura period that influenced the change in the appearance of the tachi. These changes continue through the succeeding periods like during the Nanbokucho war. It was during turbulent periods that made the tachi evolve quickly. However, the katana came into existence after more years after. In effect it was the tachi that pushed the katana to its popularity even today.