Today, we have stepped into a modern world where wars are fought with nuclear weapons and firearms. Swords
have no place in a warrior’s arsenal anymore. Today, only a few enthusiasts and collectors tend to have swords.
However, a long time ago, swords dominated the battlefield. A warrior’s greatest companion and protector was a sword. And when we talk about the greatest swords of all time, we automatically focus on the katana sword.
Katana is generally a long sword with a curved blade. There is a small curve at the bottom of the blade, and this is the recognition of this legendary sword. The blade is slightly thicker than other blades.
Much is talked about the strength and brutality of this sword, it seems as if its history needs to be explored. So, today, we are exploring the history of katana sword
Let’s start with its origin:
Origin of the Katana Sword
The first ever katana or samurai sword
was a curved sword with a one sided blade. The length of the blade of the earliest katanas ranged from 60.6 to 75.7 cm. When including the handle, the overall length ranged from 90 to 100 cm.
A popular unit for measuring the lengths of the swords was shaku. Generally, a 2 to 2.5 shaku was the length of the blade. But, that sword was called the short wakizashi sword. But, if the length was more than 2.5 shaku, it was the tati or rolled big katana. However, tati actually had more bend.
Katana sword became popular in the 15th century. Earlier, it was considered as a consequence of the evolution of tati sword. It was used by the warriors till the 19th century. However, it was recognized as a Samurai weapon along with the short wakizashi. These swords were used continuously unless they were replaced by firearms.
Katana is somewhat similar to a popular Chinese sword “Mia Tao.” Generally, katana is a curved sword with a blade of lengths ranging from 2 shaku to 2.5 shaku, a handle of variable length and a cutting part outward.
Katana was one of the heavier swords. Its weight ranged between 750 and 1000 grams. Their blades were covered by a sheath known as Saja. This sheath was usually made of varnished wood.
Traditional Uses of the Katana Sword
Katana sword was basically adopted as a cutting weapon. The earliest one offered two handed as well as single handed grip. The katana art originated during the late 15th century or early 16th century.
A fundamental idea of Japanese sword art based on katana is that during the attack, the longitudinal axis of the sword should go to the target along its plane, not at the right angle, causing cutting strokes. This is why blades often possess a curve at the bottom.
A famous martial artist determined that working with a wakizashi and katana is identical to the techniques of eskrima. Another technique known as Kenjutsu reborn into a modern look and became gendai budo. This was the art of fencing with the swords.
The practical technique of counter attack or a surprise attack is known as laido. It is considered a meditative sort of combat by the martial artists. This is generally a training method where a martial artist fights with an imaginary opponent.
Similarly, kendo is a technique of fencing using a bamboo sword. In this technique, you need to wear a protection and a helmet with a grille covering the armor and face. These types of sword
fencing arts are often practiced as a sport discipline in Japan.
Even today, there are martial arts schools in which these fencing techniques are practiced. Even though there is a prohibition of carrying swords in Japan enforced by Emperor Meiji, these schools are not reluctant to practice these sword fencing methods.
Traditionally, katana sword as well as wakizashi were worn on the left side when concealed under a sheath. It must be laid down by the girdle and the blade must be pointing upwards. This was a basic version of wearing the sword accepted after the Sengoku wars ended during the 17th century.
Swordsmanship was not all about using the sword to attack or counter attack. Wearing it in the right way was another sign that determined the capabilities of a warrior. When a Samurai entered the house, his way of handling his katana was pretty significant.
Generally, a Samurai took out his katana sword from behind his belt. If there were some specific conflicts, he used to hold the sword in his left hand. When he had a sword in his left hand, it meant that he was on an alert. If he had a sword in his right hand, it was an indication of trust. However, he never removed the wakizashi when sitting down, and also, he placed katana on the floor within his reach.
The installation of the katana sword to wear on the street was known as Kosirae. It was worn with a lacquered sheath of saja put on it. When there were circumstances that did not require a frequent use of swords, the katana was placed at home in the installation of magnolia silasia tree. This protected it from corrosion because it was made of steel and corrosion was likely.
A few modern katana swords are also manufactured in this particular version. The sheath is neither decorated nor varnished. The installation methods that did not include tsuba and similar decoration items could not attract attention, but became widespread during the later part of the 19th century after wearing a sword was banned.
How Was a Katana Sword Manufactured?
There were different stages in the manufacturing process of a katana sword just like the manufacturing of amazing Medieval Swords
. This process could take months. At the earliest stage, a few pieces of tamahagane varieties were added together, sprinkled with ashes and filled with clay. This was essential for removing the slag from the metal.
At the second phase, the resulting block was forged using a hammer. It was folded after flattening and then the process of flattening and folding was repeated to double the number of layers. As a result, carbon was distributed equally in the workpiece to make sure that the hardness of the blade remains similar in every section.
During the forging process, the tamahagane block was stretched to the length. Then, the composition of strips with varying hardness created the real shape and structure of the blade.
Once this procedure was over, a layer of liquid clay was applied. It assisted in preventing oxidation and overheating. Amid the hardening process, it was needed to observe the technological procedure. While doing so, a jamon was established between the yakib and hiraj, with hiraj being the softer part and yakib being the harder part.
This pattern took its final form and the polishing process initiated after sword was hardened. Unlike the zone-hardening line, Jamon was a material at the point where two steels connected. This is from where the blade was forged, and it determines the skills of the makers of katana sword.
After all this, the process of quenching took place. It involved heating the sword to a temperature dependant on the metal. It led to forging and then it is cooled at a quick pace. Hence, the crystal lattice of a component passed into a stage of martensite while the cutting edge gets severe hardness.
After the long lasting procedure of finalizing the blade, polishing and sharpening takes place where the polisher used stones of different granularity. While doing so, the master paid a great attention to achieving the ideal flat surface and right angles of faces amid the mating surfaces.
As the sharpening process ended, the master tended to work with small stone plates. He used to exhibit the features and details of the ade with a specific care. In a few instances, left an engraving of the decorative character of the Buddhist theme on the parts that were not hardened.
Once the handle of the katana sword was polished, it was then decorated. Hence, it required a few more days before the katana was ready to be used.
Katana Sword Today!
Even today, people believe that katana sword is the real warrior’s weapon. Historians and modern enthusiasts have agreed that it is an all-time great sword. Today, there is a massive collection of katana available in the market.
The modern users love to get the sword once used by the legendary warriors, Samurais. There is a similar shape and design of the modern katana. A curved and thick blade. The collectors maintain a lovely collection of this sword.
Today, you can find katana swords made of steel, carbon steel and foam. However, they are mostly used in cosplay and LARP. If you are an enthusiast, get these historical sword in your arsenal!