The Japanese Katana Sword
Historically, Katana were one of the traditionally made Japanese swords or Nihonto. These were used by the samurai warrior of both ancient and feudal Japan. What makes the Katana distinct than other swords is its curved and single edged blade. It has both a circular or square guard and long grip. The long grip makes it easier to accommodate two hands. Katana is 2 shaku in length (606 mm/ 23.9 inches). The term Katana was said to be borrowed from the Portuguese term catana which means large knife similar to that of a machete. The Katana is worn with the cutting edge up as the mei would be on opposite locations on the tang. The mei is the inscription on Japanese swords. These are usually chiseled or carved by the sword maker.
Katana refers to swords forged in the traditional way in Japan. Sword craftsman are known as Toko and a sword master is referred to as Tosho. Katana swordsmiths are known simply as Katana kaji. Katana could be Tachi or Uchigatana. Since ancient times in Japan, the Katana is dubbed as the very soul of the samurai. The difference between a Katana and other swords from other countries, is the body of the blade and its artistic value. Poems have been dedicated to this sword. These poems give others a view into its origins and its evolution as each period from the late Heian to the early Kamakura period.
From the ancient times in Japan called the Joko era until the appearance of curved swords; steel swords had already been made. Most swords created after the seventh to eight century have retain their original form. This was the period before Tachi is the term used for curved swords and not to describe the Katana. The skills of the swordsmith was improving that after the late Heian period (around the Early Nine Years and Late Three Years War), the Tachi was called Katana. From the Meiji period to World War II, the Katana was exhibited at the Expo in Vienna.
It was the year 1873 when Japan wants to show the world their advances in technology and mentality. However, this was short lived because the popularity for Katana was cut short. This was the period when the decree banning the wearing of swords put an end to high demand for this sword. As a result, swordsmiths lost their job. Some of the famous swords can be found abroad. On the home front, Japan was exerting an effort to preserved traditional techniques of sword making. During the Satsuma Rebellion, there was an appreciation for the Katana as a major weapon for both Japanese Army and Navy. The Katana was made during this period as a military sword saber style.
After World War II, Katana was treated as weapon therefore these were gathered and destroyed by the Allied Powers. Some of these were burned while others were thrown into the sea. A rumor floated where the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers are using a metal detector. As a result swords were hidden on the ground. These hidden swords eventually corrode and were ruined. Some of these were even broken just to be able to hide it. The length was short enough that not a lot of collectors are interested to own a shorter or broken sword. More so swords that are damaged.
- Suitable to Cut Off. A Katana is not as light because its handle is longer than the average sword. However, in comes of using this with both hands, this sword is the lightest. In terms of sharpening this sword so that it can cut and kill; it is sharpened in the direction to slide just like a kitchen knife
- Three conflicting nature. Katana upholds “Not to break, not bend and sharply cut”. If this was not made the way it is combining sharply cut with not breaking is a difficult process but, those who made this sword was able to accomplish this. What they did was to create a functional gradate structure where the cutting edge is hard. The hardness gradually decreases in the core. Simply put, a Katana in the ideal condition that it is at is the world’s strongest cutting tool
The rise of popularity of using Katana started among samurai who need this sword for close combat warfare. Since it is easy to draw this sword victory will depend heavily on shorter response such as this. The Katana was worn thrust through the obi or belt like sash. Ideally, the samurai could draw the sword and strike the enemy in one fluid motion. Of course, the sword user needs sufficient training to be able to execute this move. The Katana is normally paired with a smaller companion sword such as wakizashi. At times instead of wakizashi, a tanto is used. Tanto is small and looks similar to the shape of the dagger. Pairing the Katana with a smaller sword is called Daisho. Only the samurai is allowed to wear this pair because it represents their social power and honor.
Not Just in the Battlefield
Katana was used by the samurai both in the battlefield and for practicing martial arts. Even modern martial arts used different kinds of Katana. Martial arts that incorporate the use of Katana in training includes battojutsu, kendo, iaido, ninjutsu among others. Because of the restrictions placed on using the Katana, different countries uses various restrictions. In Ireland, those that are made in post 1953 were illegal unless it was made by hand using traditional methods. In the United Kingdom, curved blades or those that are over in length are added to their Offensive Weapons Order. There was a ban which was later on amended in 2008 to allow the sale and ownership of this sword without the need for a license however, this must be a Katana that was made in the traditional way and hand forged. This is the journey that the Katana has made from the ancient times to the present. Its popularity has not waned thanks to its exposure in films and documentaries as well as articles.
Where to Buy a Katana?
There are many vendors and sellers who sell blades, you need first to decide which type of blade you want to buy, are you looking for a real Nihonto from Japan? if yes then prepare your pocket, as it’s going to be costly.
There are other alternatives available online and many reputable sellers, however be careful and check about the reputation of each vendor before purchasing.
We personally recommend Katanasforsale.com, we have purchased from them in the past and can certainly recommend the quality of their blades. check them out.