The Imposing Katana

Swords are fascinating objects. They can be so beautifully crafted it is easy to forget their real purpose.  History shows us that every corner of the world has some form or version of a sword that is used primarily as a weapon.  A sword is generally a straight blade with a hilt. It be single-edged or double-edged. The word “sword”  is from the Old English sweord but it has many different names depending on the country of origin. For example,  the Chinese call a sword a dao, in the Middle east it is called saif and in Japan the traditional sword is known as a katana.

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The katana (刀) was used by the samurai class in feudal Japan and is commonly known as the samurai sword.  It is defined by its characteristic curved, single-edged, thin blade with a rounded or square guard and long grip so it can be held with both hands. It is known for its strength and incredibly sharp blade.

Antique katanas. | Samuraiantiqueworld

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The earliest origins of katana can be traced 1300 years back. The first Japanese swords were variations of the Chinese jian (chokuto). But during the early Heian period around 700A.D., the precursor to the katana began to take shape.

Katanas are forged from special Japanese steel called Tamahagane,  a Japanese technique using iron and sand to create the special steel. It costs 50 times more than ordinary steel. The end result of the traditional process is many layers of steel composed of different carbon concentrations. This expels impurities and evens out the carbon content in the steel. The word “katana” is now used to describe nihontō (traditional Japanese sword) which is 606 mm / 23.9 inches. The longer katana is also known as “daito” among Western sword enthusiasts but it is essentially a generic term for any long sword.

Anatomy of a katana. | Jarok

Click here to learn more about traditional Japanese weapons.