Katana were one of the traditionally made Japanese swords that were used by the samurai of ancient and feudal Japan. The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. "Katana" is the term now used to describe the family of swords known as nihontō that are 2 shaku 60 cm in length, or longer. Katana can be known as dai or daitō among Western sword enthusiasts although daitō is a generic name for any Japanese long sword meaning "big sword"; as Japanese does not have separate plural and singular forms, both katanas and katana are considered acceptable forms in English. Pronounced, the kun'yomi of the kanji 刀 meaning dao or knife/saber in Chinese, the word has been adopted as a loanword by the Portuguese language. In Portuguese the designation means machete; the katana is defined as the standard sized, moderately curved Japanese sword with a blade length greater than 60 cm. It is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands.
With a few exceptions and tachi can be distinguished from each other, if signed, by the location of the signature on the tang. In general, the mei should be carved into the side of the nakago which would face outward when the sword was worn. Since a tachi was worn with the cutting edge down, the katana was worn with the cutting edge up, the mei would be in opposite locations on the tang. Western historians have said that katana were among the finest cutting weapons in world military history; the production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods: Jōkotō Kotō Shintō Shinshintō Gendaitō Shinsakutō The first use of katana as a word to describe a long sword, different from a tachi occurs as early as the Kamakura Period. These references to "uchigatana" and "tsubagatana" seem to indicate a different style of sword a less costly sword for lower-ranking warriors; the Mongol invasions of Japan facilitated a change in the designs of Japanese swords. Thin tachi and chokutō-style blades were unable to cut through the boiled leather armour of the Mongols, with the blades chipping or breaking off.
The evolution of the tachi into what would become the katana seems to have continued during the early Muromachi period. Starting around the year 1400, long swords signed with the katana-style mei were made; this was in response to samurai wearing their tachi in what is now called "katana style". Japanese swords are traditionally worn with the mei facing away from the wearer; when a tachi was worn in the style of a katana, with the cutting edge up, the tachi's signature would be facing the wrong way. The fact that swordsmiths started signing swords with a katana signature shows that some samurai of that time period had started wearing their swords in a different manner; the rise in popularity of katana amongst samurai came about due to the changing nature of close-combat warfare. The quicker draw of the sword was well suited to combat where victory depended on short response times; the katana further facilitated this by being worn thrust through a belt-like sash with the sharpened edge facing up.
Ideally, samurai could strike the enemy in a single motion. The curved tachi had been worn with the edge of the blade facing down and suspended from a belt; the length of the katana blade varied during the course of its history. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, katana blades tended to have lengths between 70 and 73 centimetres. During the early 16th century, the average length dropped about 10 centimetres, approaching closer to 60 centimetres. By the late 16th century, the average length had increased again by about 13 centimetres, returning to 73 centimetres; the katana was paired with a smaller companion sword, such as a wakizashi, or it could be worn with a tantō, a smaller shaped dagger. The pairing of a katana with a smaller sword is called the daishō. Only samurai could wear the daishō: it represented their social power and personal honour. During the Meiji period, the samurai class was disbanded, the special privileges granted to them were taken away, including the right to carry swords in public.
The Haitōrei Edict in 1876 forbade the carrying of swords in public except for certain individuals, such as former samurai lords, the military, the police. Skilled swordsmiths had trouble making a living during this period as Japan modernized its military, many swordsmiths started making other items, such as farm equipment and cutlery. Military action by Japan in China and Russia during the Meiji period helped revive interest in swords, but it was not until the Shōwa period that swords were produced on a large scale again. Japanese military swords produced between 1875 and 1945 are referred to as guntō. During the pre-World War II military buildup, throughout the war, all Japanese officers were required to wear a sword. Traditionally made swords were produced during this period, but in order to supply such large numbers of swords, blacksmiths with little or no knowledge of traditional Japanese sword manufacture were recruited. In
A Japanese sword is one of several types of traditionally made swords from Japan. Swords have been made from as early as the Kofun period, though "Japanese swords" refer to the curved blades made after the Heian period. There are many types of Japanese swords that differ by size, field of application and method of manufacture; some of the more known types of Japanese swords are the katana, wakizashi and tachi. The type classifications for Japanese swords indicate the combination of a blade and its mounts as this determines the style of use of the blade. An unsigned and shortened blade, once made and intended for use as a tachi may be alternately mounted in tachi koshirae and katana koshirae, it is properly distinguished by the style of mount it inhabits. A long tanto may be classified as a wakizashi due to its length being over 30 cm, however it may have been mounted and used as a tanto making the length distinction somewhat arbitrary but necessary when referring to unmounted short blades; when the mounts are taken out of the equation, a tanto and wakizashi will be determined by length under or over 30 cm unless their intended use can be determined or the speaker is rendering an opinion on the intended use of the blade.
In this way, a blade formally attributed as a wakizashi due to length may be informally discussed between individuals as a tanto because the blade was made during an age where tanto were popular and the wakizashi as a companion sword to katana did not yet exist. The following are types of Japanese swords: Chokutō: A straight single edged sword, produced prior to the 10th century, without differential hardening or folding. Tsurugi/Ken: A straight two edged sword, produced prior to the 10th century, may be without differential hardening or folding. Tachi: A sword, longer and more curved than the katana, with curvature centered from the middle or towards the tang, including the tang. Tachi were worn suspended, with the edge downward; the tachi was in vogue before the 15th century. Kodachi: A shorter version of the tachi, but with similar mounts and intended use found in the 13th century or earlier. Ōdachi /Nodachi: Very large tachi, some in excess of 100 cm, a blade of the late 14th century. Uchigatana: A development from the tachi in the 15th century.
Worn with the edge upwards in the obi. Katate-uchi: A short type of uchigatana developed in the 16th century, with short tang, intended for one handed use. One of the forerunners of the wakizashi. Katana: A general term for the traditional sword with a curved blade longer than 60 cm, worn with the edge upwards in the sash. Developed from the uchigatana and the sword of the samurai class of the Edo period. Wakizashi: A general term for a sword between one and two shaku long, predominantly made after 1600, it is the short blade that accompanies a katana in the traditional samurai daisho pairing of swords, but may be worn by classes other than the samurai as a single blade worn edge up as the katana. The name derives from the way, it should be noted that there are bladed weapons made in the same traditional manner as other Japanese swords and they are considered to be swords though they are not swords, these include: Nagamaki: A polearm similar to a naginata, but with a straighter blade, more like that of a tachi or katana, mounted with a wrapped handle similar to a exaggerated katana handle.
The name refers to the style of mount as well as a blade type which means that a naginata blade could be mounted in a nagamaki mount and be considered a nagamaki. Naginata: A polearm with a curved single-edged blade. Naginata mounts consist of a long wooden pole, different from a nagamaki mount, shorter and wrapped. Yari: A spear, or spear-like polearm. Yari have various blade forms, from a simple double edged and flat blade, to a triangular cross section double edged blade, to those with a symmetric cross-piece or those with an asymmetric cross piece; the main blade is symmetric and straight unlike a naginata, smaller but can be as large or bigger than some naginata blades. Tantō: A knife or dagger with a blade shorter than 30 cm. One-edged, but some were double-edged, though asymmetrical. Ken: Usually a tanto or wakizashi length religious or ceremonial blade, with a gentle leaf shape and point, but some may be larger and can refer to old pre-curve types of swords as above. Symmetrical and double edged.
Other edged weapons or tools that are made using the same methods as Japanese swords: Arrowheads for war, yajiri. Kogatana: An accessory or utility knife, sometimes found mounted in a pocket on the side of the scabbard of a sword. A typical blade is about 10 cm long and 1 cm wide, is made using the same techniques as the larger sword blades. Referred to as a "Kozuka", which means'small handle', but this terminology can refer to the handle and the blade together. In entertainment media, the kogatana is sometimes shown as a throwing weapon, but its real purpose was the same as a'pocket knife' in the West; the production of swords in Japan is divided into time periods: Jōkotō Kotō
Tameshigiri is the Japanese art of target test cutting. The kanji mean "test cut"; this practice was popularized in the Edo period for testing the quality of Japanese swords. It continues to the present day, but has evolved into a martial art which focuses on demonstrating the practitioner's skill with a sword. During the Edo period, only the most skilled swordsmen were chosen to test swords, so that the swordsman's skill was not questionable in determining how well the sword cut; the materials used to test swords varied greatly. Some substances were wara, goza and thin steel sheets. In addition, there were a wide variety of cuts used on cadavers and convicted criminals, from tabi-gata to O-kesa; the names of the types of cuts on cadavers show where on the body the cut was made. Older swords can still be found; such an inscription, known as a tameshi-mei or saidan-mei would add to a sword's value, compensating the owner somewhat for the large sums of money charged for the test. Aside from specific cuts made on cadavers, there were the normal cuts of Japanese swordsmanship, i.e. downward diagonal, upward diagonal and straight downward.
There is an apocryphal story of a condemned criminal who, after being told he was to be executed by a sword tester using a Kesa-giri cut, calmly joked that if he had known, going to happen, he would have swallowed large stones to damage the blade. In modern times, the practice of tameshigiri has come to focus on testing the swordsman's abilities, rather than the sword's. Indeed, the swords used are inexpensive ones. Practitioners of tameshigiri sometimes use the terms Shito and Shizan to distinguish between the historical practice of testing swords and the contemporary practice of testing one's cutting ability; the target most used is the tatami "omote" rush mat. To be able to cut consecutive times on one target, or to cut multiple targets while moving, requires that one be a skilled swordsman. Targets today are made from goza, or rolled tatami omote, the top layer of the traditional Japanese floor covering, either bundled or rolled into a cylindrical shape, they may be soaked in water to add density to the material.
This density is to approximate that of flesh. Green bamboo is used to approximate bone. Once the goza target is in this cylindrical shape, it has a vertical grain pattern when stood vertically on a target stand, or horizontally when placed on a horizontal target stand; this direction of the grain affects the difficulty of the cut. The difficulty of cuts is a combination of the target material hardness, the direction of the grain of the target, the quality of the sword, the angle of the blade on impact, the angle of the swing of the sword; when cutting a straw target, standing vertically, the easiest cut is the downward diagonal. This is due to a combination of the angle of impact of the cut against the grain, the downward diagonal angle of the swing, the ability to use many of the major muscle groups and rotation of the body to aid in the cut. Next in difficulty is the upward diagonal cut which has the same angle, but works against gravity and uses different muscles and rotation; the third in difficulty is the straight downward cut, not in terms of the grain but in terms of the group of muscles involved.
The most difficult cut of these four basic cuts is the horizontal direction, directly perpendicular to the grain of the target. There are a number of swordsmen who have set records in the field of tameshigiri. Mitsuhiro Saruta, founder of Ryuseiken, set the initial Guinness World Record for completing 1000 cuts in 1 hour 36 minutes on September 20, 1998. In 2000, Russell McCartney of Ishiyama-ryū completed 1181 consecutive cuts without a missed attempt in 1 hour 25 minutes. Both Saruta and McCartney performed senbongiri using a kata-based approach as one of the criteria for their challenge. Isao Machii of Shūshinryū has the record for the fastest senbongiri performance of 36 minutes. Machii holds records for the most cuts in three minutes, the most cuts to a single free-standing target; the record for most cuts in one minute is held by Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu practitioner Iaso Machii of Japan. Toshishiro Obata holds the record for helmet cutting, for his cut on a steel Kabuto. Obata holds the Ioriken Battojutsu speed cutting record for 10 cuts on 10 targets over three rounds.
His times are 6.4, 6.4, 6.7 seconds respectively. Brandt Noel of San Yama Ryu Bujutsu holds the record of 19 mats with Katana using Kesa-giri. Historical European Martial Arts reconstructors, under the term "test cutting", engage in similar exercises with various European swords. While tatami omote, green bamboo, meat are the preferred cutting targets, other substances are used due to being cheaper, much easier to obtain: pool noodles, various gourds, water-filled plastic bottles, soaked newspaper rolls, synthetic targets or wet clay; the targets can be placed in different configurations: Most there is a single stand on which a single tar
The sasumata is a pole weapon used by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. Although some sources place the origin of the sasumata in the Muromachi period, most sources discuss its use in the Edo period. In Edo period Japan the samurai were in charge of police operations. Various levels of samurai police with help from non-samurai commoners used many types of non-lethal weapons to capture suspected criminals for trial; the sasumata together with the tsukubō and the sodegarami comprised the torimono sandōgu used by samurai police and security forces. Samurai police in the Edo period used the sasumata along with the sodegarami and tsukubō to restrain and arrest suspected criminals uninjured; the head of the sasumata would be used to catch around the neck, legs, or joints of a suspect and detain him until officers could close in and apprehend him. The sasumata had a long hardwood pole around two meters in length with sharp barbs or spines attached to metal strips on one end of the pole to keep the person being captured from grabbing the pole.
The opposite end of the sasumata pole would have a metal cap, or ishizuki like those found on naginata and other pole weapons. There were firefighting versions of the instrument known as a chokyakusan, tetsubashira, or tokikama. A similar weapon in China was known as a chang jiao qian, sometimes called a cha gan or huo cha, which had a similar firefighting role; the sasumata type implements were used by firefighters to help dismantle burning buildings, raise ladders, otherwise assist with their duties. Today, a modern version of the sasumata is still used by the police and as a self-defense tool; these modern sasumata are made of aluminum, without the sharpened blades and spikes found on their medieval counterparts. They have been marketed to schools due to a growing fear of classroom invasions, which has prompted many schools in Japan to keep sasumata available for teachers to protect themselves or students and to detain a potential threat until the authorities can arrive. Sodegarami Tsukubō Torimono sandōgu Man catcher Cunningham, Don.
Taiho-jutsu:Law and Order in the Age of the Samurai. Boston. 神之田常盛. 剣術神道霞流. 萩原印刷株式会社, 2003. Mol, Serge. Classic Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts. Tokyo. Media related to Samurai pole weapons at Wikimedia Commons
A tachi was a type of traditionally made Japanese sword worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Tachi and katana differ in length, degree of curvature, how they were worn when sheathed, the latter depending on the location of the mei, or signature, on the tang; the tachi style of swords preceded the development of the katana, not mentioned by name until near the end of the twelfth century. The production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods: Jōkotō Kotō Shintō Shinshintō Gendaitō Shinsakutō Authentic tachi were forged during the Kotō period, before 1596; the tachi preceded the katana. With a few exceptions and tachi can be distinguished from each other if signed by the location of the signature on the tang. In general the signature should be carved into the side of the tang that would face outward when the sword was worn on the wielder's left waist. Since a tachi was worn cutting edge down, the katana was worn cutting edge up the mei would be in opposite locations on the tang of both types of swords.
An authentic tachi, manufactured in the correct time period averaged 70–80 centimeters in cutting edge length and compared to a katana was lighter in weight in proportion to its length, had a greater taper from hilt to point, was more curved with a smaller point area. Unlike the traditional manner of wearing the katana, the tachi was worn hung from the belt with the cutting-edge down, was most effective when used by cavalry. Deviations from the average length of tachi have the prefixes ko- for "short" and ō- for "great, large" attached. For instance, tachi that were shōtō and closer in size to a wakizashi were called kodachi; the longest tachi in existence is more than 3.7 metres in total length with a 2.2 metres blade, but believed to be ceremonial. In the late 1500s and early 1600s many old surviving tachi blades were converted into katana by having their original tangs cut, which meant the signatures were removed from the swords. For a sword to be worn in "tachi style" it needed to be mounted in a tachi koshirae.
The tachi koshirae had two hangers which allowed the sword to be worn in a horizontal position with the cutting edge down. A sword not mounted in a tachi koshirae could be worn tachi style by use of a koshiate, a leather device which would allow any sword to be worn in the tachi style. According to author Karl F. Friday, before the 13th century there are no written references or drawings etc. that show swords of any kind were used while on horseback. The uchigatana was derived from the tachi and was the predecessor to the katana as the battlesword of feudal Japan's bushi, as it evolved into the design, the tachi and the uchigatana were differentiated from each other only by how they were worn, the fittings for the blades, the location of the signature; as a result of the first Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274, tachi started to be made thicker and wider. In Japanese feudal history, during the Sengoku and Edo periods, certain high-ranking warriors of what became the ruling class would wear their sword tachi-style, rather than with the scabbard thrust through the belt with the edge upward.
With the rising of statism in Shōwa Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy implemented swords called shin and kaiguntō, which were worn tachi style. Japanese sword Katana Uchigatana Tenka-Goken - five best swords in Japan. All of the five are classified as tachi. Richard Stein's Japanese sword guide
Japanese sword mountings
Japanese sword mountings are the various housings and associated fittings that hold the blade of a Japanese sword when it is being worn or stored. Koshirae refers to the ornate mountings of a Japanese sword used when the sword blade is being worn by its owner, whereas the shirasaya is a plain undecorated wooden mounting composed of a saya and tsuka that the sword blade is stored in when not being used. Fuchi: The fuchi is a hilt collar between the tsuka and the tsuba. Habaki: The habaki is a wedge shaped metal collar used to keep the sword from falling out of the saya and to support the fittings below. Kaeshizuno: a hook shaped fitting used to lock the saya to the obi while drawing. Kashira: The kashira is a butt cap on the end of the tsuka. Kōgai: The kōgai is a spike for hair arranging carried sometimes as part of katana-koshirae in another pocket. Koiguchi: The koiguchi is the mouth of the saya or its fitting. Kojiri: The kojiri is the end of the saya or the protective fitting at the end of the saya.
Kozuka: The kozuka is a decorative handle fitting for the kogatana. Kurigata: The kuri-kata is a knob on the side of the saya for attaching the sageo. Mekugi: The mekugi is a small peg for securing the tsuka to the nakago. Menuki: The menuki are ornaments on the tsuka. Mekugi-ana: The mekugi-ana are the holes in the tsuka and nakago for the mekugi. Sageo: The sageo is the cord used to tie saya to the belt/obi when worn. Same-hada: the pattern of the ray skin. Same-kawa: same-kawa is the ray or shark skin wrapping of the tsuka. Saya: The saya is a wooden scabbard for the blade. Seppa: The seppa are washers above and below the tsuba to tighten the fittings. Shitodome: an accent on the kurikata for aesthetic purposes. Tsuba: The tsuba is a hand guard. Tsuka: The tsuka is the hilt or handle. Tsuka-maki: the art of wrapping the tsuka, including the most common hineri maki and katate maki. Tsuka-ito: Tsuka-ito the wrap of the tsuka, traditionally silk but today most in cotton and sometimes leather. Wari-bashi: metal chop-sticks fit in a pocket on the saya.
A shirasaya, "white scabbard", is a plain wooden Japanese sword consisting of a saya and tsuka, traditionally made of nurizaya wood and used when a blade was not expected to see use for some time and needed to be stored. They were externally featureless save for the needed mekugi-ana to secure the nakago, though sometimes sayagaki was present; the need for specialized storage is because prolonged koshirae mounting harmed the blade, owing to factors such as the lacquered wood retaining moisture and encouraging corrosion. Such mountings are not intended for actual combat, as the lack of a tsuba and proper handle wrappings were deleterious. However, there have been loosely similar "hidden" mountings, such as the shikomizue. Many blades dating back to earlier Japanese history are today sold in such a format, along with modern-day reproductions; the word koshirae is derived from the verb koshiraeru, no longer used in current speech. More "tsukuru" is used in its place with both words meaning to "make, manufacture."
A more accurate word is tōsō, meaning sword-furniture, where tōsōgu are the parts of the mounting in general, "kanagu" stands for those made of metal. Gaisō are the "outer" mountings, as opposed to the "body" of the sword. A koshirae should be presented with the tsuka to the left in times of peace with the reason being that you cannot unsheathe the sword this way. During the Edo period, many formalized rules were put into place: in times of war the hilt should be presented to the right allowing the sword to be unsheathed. Koshirae were meant not only for functional but for aesthetic purposes using a family mon for identification; the tachi style koshirae is the primary style of mounting used for the tachi, where the sword is suspended edge-down from two hangers attached to the obi. The hilt had a stronger curvature than the blade, continuing the classic tachi increase in curvature going from the tip to the hilt; the hilt was secured with two pegs, as compared to one peg for shorter blades including uchigatana and katana.
The tachi style koshirae preceded the uchigatana style koshirae. The uchigatana style koshirae is the most known koshirae and it is what is most associated with a samurai sword. Swords mounted in this manner are worn with the cutting edge up as opposed to the tachi mounting, in which the sword is worn with the cutting edge down; the han-dachi koshirae was worn katana-style but included some tachi related fittings such as a kabuto-gane instead of a kashira. The aikuchi is a form of mounting for small Japanese swords in which the tsuka and the saya meet without a tsuba between them. Used on the koshigatana to facilitate close wearing with armour, it became a fashionable upper-class mounting style for a tantō (literally, "small
The Kabutowari known as hachiwari, was a type of knife-shaped weapon, resembling a jitte in many respects. This weapon was carried as a side-arm by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Kabutowari were around 35cm long. There were two types of kabutowari: truncheon-type; the dirk-type was forged with a sharp dirk-like point, which could be used to parry an opponent's sword, to hook the cords of armor or a helmet, or like a can opener to separate armor plates. The sharp point could pierce weak areas of an opponent's armor like the armpit area; the blade of this type of kabutowari was a curved tapered square iron or steel bar with a hook on its back edge. In combat, one could catch a blade with that hook, as with a jitte; some kabutowari of this type were mounted in the style of a tanto with a koshirae. The truncheon-type was blunt, cast iron or forged truncheon-like weapon resembling a tekkan or a jitte; this type of kabutowari had the same basic shape as the dirk-type kabutowari including the hook, but it was blunt and not meant for stabbing.
It would appear, according to Serge Mol, that tales of samurai breaking open a kabuto are more folklore than anything else. The hachi is the central component of a kabuto; this would require enormous pressure to split open. This idea that the kabutowari was somehow able to smash or damage a helmet kabuto is most a misinterpretation of the name which could have several meanings, as hachi could mean skull or helmet bowl and wari could mean, rip, crack or smash. In modern times there is no ryū known to train with kabutowari, although certain dojos within Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu still train with them, as an extension of jittejutsu. A number of weapons retailers in Japan still sell usable kabutowari. Hachiwara Defensive Weapons of the Samurai