How to choose your katana
History of the Japanese sword
The history of these sabers begins before 900 BC.
At that time, swords were made in China, Korea or Japan. The blades were made of hardened steel but the soaking was not of good quality. The blades were for the most part unbent. In general, the weapons considered in the category of samurai swords are made of a curved, tempered steel blade with a single cutting edge. The kotô period (between 900 and 1530) or the so-called old (ko) sabers (tô) period. With the disintegration of the civil administration under the Fujiwara clan, during the latter half of the Heian period, the new samurai class emerges. The samurai adopted the sword as their weapon. The chokuto blade was gradually replaced by a curved blade. Around 900, a maker named Yasutsuna began to create very good swords. Very little change has taken place since that day in the style of sabers. During this period 80% of the swords come from 5 provinces: Bizen, Yamashiro, Yamato, Soshu and Mino. Each province has developed its own manufacturing method.
The Shinto period (1530 to 1867) or period of the new swords. During this period, the length of the blades is reduced and the samurai begin to carry the sword between the hip and the obi. It is not uncommon to find inscriptions on the nakago of sabers describing the cutting tests carried out with the blades. An example of these cutting tests is given on the very good nippon-tô site.
The Shin-Shinto period (after 1868) or modern period. This period marks the decline of the samurai. Swords can no longer be carried.
The different katanas
Samurai swords can be classified according to the length of the blade and the way it is mounted.
1. Katanas, Daito or long sabers, measure over 2 shaku (60.60 cm). They were worn by Japanese warriors. Japanese swords are often described as the primary weapon in manga and games, but in reality they were used as auxiliary weapons when the bow and arrow were depleted or the spear broke.
2. Wakizashi measure between 1 shaku of (30.3 cm) 2 shaku (60.6 cm) sword. It was used as a spare weapon when the primary weapon (Katana) was not in use. Like a saber, it was tied at the waist with the blade facing up. Since it was recognized as a preliminary saber rather than an ordinary saber, in Edo's time even non-samurai katana (farmers, traders, etc.) were allowed to own it.
3. Tanto, a general term for sabers with a blade length of 1 shaku (30.3 cm) or less. There are also double-edged items such as sabers and armor buckles with extremely thick layers. The term dagger has been given relatively recently. Since daggers can be used by weak women and children, they were primarily used as self-defense weapons. The most famous self-defense dagger that survives to this day is the Imperial Treasure Dagger called "Hirano Toshiro".
How to choose your katana
If you are looking to buy a new Japanese sword, there are several things to consider. A high quality saber can last for generations if properly maintained. But with so many different styles, how do you know which one to choose?
Sharp or Non-Sharp:
It is important to know the use of it, indeed for the practice of martial arts in a club, it is mandatory to have a blunt sword (Iaito).
The Iaito has a point of balance closer to the guard and it is also lighter (between 600 and 900gr). This allows you to work with the sword longer.
There are several steels:
- Iaito Aluminum blade (about 600gr)
- Iaito Carbon steel blade (about 850gr)
- Iaito Stainless Steel Blade (about 900 gr)
Sharp katanas are made for cutting Tatami-Omote or green bamboo. It is forbidden to practice with a sharp katana in Club (apart from exceptions). You can also join a club in Battodo or Tameshigiri.
When choosing your katana, consider the length of the blade. After the Edo period, Japanese blacksmiths switched to a longer blade for the katana. These katanas were also heavier and exhibited greater curvature than swords made before this period.
Traditional Japanese swords feature three different blade length divisions:
1 shaku or less (Tanto)
1-2 shaku (Wakizashi or Kodachi)
2 or more shaku (Katana or Tachi)
For the handling of the katana, it is important to have a sword adapted to its morphology.
Size 150 - 155 --------- Blade 68.2 cm
Size 160 - 165 --------- Blade 71.3 cm
Size 170 - 175 --------- Blade 74.3 cm
Size 175 - 180 --------- Blade 75.8 cm
Size 180 - 185 --------- Blade 80.3 cm
Size 185 - 190 --------- Blade 84.8 cm
If you need a blade shorter or larger than standard blades (between 72 and 75 cm). You can create a custom sword on our website www.katanas-murasame.com
What type of katana would you like to buy? The Japanese sword is arguably the most popular type. Worn by ancient and feudal Japanese samurai, it is characterized by its single-edged curved blade with a guard and a long grip.
Japanese wakizashi is another popular choice. It is smaller than the katana, with many traditional samurai warriors wearing both. When the two swords are worn together, the combination is called a daishō, which translates to "big little".
Should you choose a saber with a Bo-hi or No-hi? As you may already know, the bo-hi is a groove carved into the side of the blade. It lightens the blade between 150g and 200g
On the other hand, the presence of a groove (Bo-hi) makes the saber slightly weaker. This is a bit of a sacrifice, as the bo-hi reduces the weight of the sword but at the cost of a small amount of force.
For the Iaito (Blunt Sabers) it is mandatory to have a throat.
The grooved blades (No-hi) allow intensive two-handed cuts (tameshigiri).
Blades with grooves (Bo-hi) make it easier to make one-handed cuts (Battodo).
Just because two sabers are "steel" does not mean that they are of equal quality. Some katana are made of higher grade steel than others, providing increased wear protection.
You will find 3 different carbon contents for the sharp sabers.
Le 1045 (0.45% carbon) Blade for initiating cutting on soft objects
Le 1060 (0.60% carbon) Blade for training on traditional supports
The 1095 (0.95% carbon) Blade for intensive use on tatami-Omote or Green Bamboo.
Only on 1095 steels, it is possible to have a true selective hardening (Hamon).
Carbon sabers require regular maintenance (depending on use). You will find on the site the oils compatible with the blades of Japanese sabers.
All swords sold here at katanas-samurai.com are made using high quality carbon steel produced according to Japanese tradition.
Composition of a katana
The katana is made up of 2 main parts: the blade and the handle.
In turn, the blade is made up of several parts including:
Sugata: (Blade style), characteristics of the blade including its shape.
Bohi: Gutter / slot in the blade to reduce weight or provide better blade balance.
Chu-kissaki: Blade tip
Ha: Blade hardness (measured in Rockwell).
Hada: Grain in steel, drawing resulting from bent steel
Hamon: Quench line
Hi: Gutter / slot on both sides of the blade.
Iori-mune: Triangle shaped blade edge.
Mei: Inscription, normally on the tang of the blade, showing the name of the blacksmith, the date of production and other information
Mune: Back of the blade
Nagasa: Blade length, measured from the mune-machi to the tip of the blade, also called ha-watari.
Nakago: The tang of the blade
Sori: Blade curvature, sometimes called Zori
Tameshigiri: The Japanese art of cutting bamboo with a single sword stroke
Niku: Very sharp blade with a "flat" geometry of the edges.
Koshirae: Refers to all the elements constituting the saber without the blade
Fuchi-kashira: Ring of the hilt made of metal, located between the hilt and the guard, usually engraved and matching the Kashira (pommel)
Habaki: Metal part on the blade above the guard, it ensures the position of the blade in the scabbard (Saya)
Mekugi: bamboo wooden dowel used to keep the blade in the handle (Tsuka)
Mekugis-ana: Location on the tang of the blade where the mekukis are inserted
Menukis: Metal decorations placed under the braiding of the handle
Sageo: Braiding on the scabbard (Saya) to hold the sword to the belt (Obi)
Same: ray skin surrounding the hilt of the saber (Tsuka), the roughness of this allows a better grip and maintenance of the braiding (Ito), The skin can also be adorned and highlight the scabbard (Saya)
Saya: Scabbard, it is made of wood and perhaps adorned with buffalo horn and / or skate skin.
Tsuba: Guard, it can be of different metals, engraved....
Tsuka: Complete saber grip (Wood, skate skin, braiding and menukis)
Tsuka-ito: Fabric used for the braiding of the Tsuka, it can be cotton, silk, leather or suede.
The comments collected here come from '' The samurai sword, a handbook '' written by J.M. Yumoto (1958).