A katana is a type of Japanese sword with a moderately curved sword that is longer than 23 inches long.
The name katana sword is sometimes used to refer to any Japanese sword, although this is incorrect because there are many types of Japanese swords.
However, that is just the tip of the iceberg as katanas have a very interesting backstory so keep reading to find out more!
What Is A Katana?
A katana is designed to be carried in two hands and has a single, exceptionally sharp edge.
The katana sword is intimately linked with the Japanese samurai, and production began during the 15th century during the Feudal period.
The katana sword has grown immensely popular in mainstream culture, both in the West and in the East, and has been frequently featured in movies, literature, and video games.
As fighting evolved in Japan, so did the katana sword, and conflicts grew considerably quicker.
In fact, one of the key advances of the katana sword was its ability to be pulled and cut instantly by wearing it with the blade facing up.
This enabled a wound to be inflicted promptly during combat. In fact, a complete combat style, iaido, has evolved from this.
The emphasis of iaido is on a controlled drawing of the blade, a single cut, blood removal, and sword resheathing.
Laido has evolved into a very elaborate form that is largely done on one’s own through a succession of complex kata, and it is frequently referred to as moving Zen because of its ceremonial beauty and centeredness.
History Of The Katana
In Japan, the Samurai way of life has roots that go back over a thousand years.
The katana sword was a relatively late innovation in Japanese history; before the 10th century, various Japanese swords such as the thin tachi or the rigorously straight chokuto were in use.
The oldest Japanese swords, according to mythology, were named Chokuto and initially emerged about 1700 years ago.
Chokuto swords were inspired by Chinese Jian swords and initially had a straight, double-edged blade made from iron.
Chinese and Japanese swords were roughly the same at first, but from 700AD, Japanese swords began to take on distinguishing traits such as a curved tang which is the part of the blade that extends into the handle.
Then, allegedly, a craftsman called Amakuni produced a single-edged, gently curved blade type that was practically indestructible in comparison to what came before it.
In any case, Japan was experiencing major transformations in the 10th and 11th centuries, building itself a civilization that bore little resemblance to Chinese influence.
As clans fought one other and Shoguns grabbed control, a new breed of noble warrior arose. Samurai was the moniker of that warrior.
How A Katana Is Made
Forging a katana is a wonderful art form, with a great deal of mythology and tradition around it.
Traditional katana are extremely rare, and even ones manufactured during WWII are quite precious.
In Japan, a tiny number of licensed weaponsmiths still forge katana in the traditional, labor-intensive way.
These smiths’ katana is known as shinsakuto and locating one might be tough.
However, there are several lower-quality copies available, ranging from a cheap $20 katana to high-end carbon steel katana that may cost upwards of $10,000 USD.
Genuine katana swords are made of two types of Japanese steel: high-carbon and low-carbon.
High-carbon steel is extremely hard, providing for a razor-sharp edge. Low carbon, on the other hand, is robust and resistant, allowing for stress absorption.
A sword composed of only one type of steel would be ineffectual, which is why both types of steel are used to make true battle-ready katana swords.
Other Types Of Samurai Swords
These Japanese swords were used during the Koto era and were identified by a curved blade handle and were held with the edge pointing downward.
The uchigatana followed closely behind the tachi. It was distinguished by a straight handle and gave curvature variations.
The term uchigatana is made up of two parts: uchi, which means “to strike”, and gatana, which means “sword”.
Initially, uchigatana swords were of poor quality, but as improved versions became available, this type of sword largely replaced the tachi.
The uchigatana is the direct ancestor of the majority of true current katana swords.
Daisho refers to a pair of swords, a katana and a wakizashi with one long and one short which was originally worn by Samurai.
In 1871 it was ruled that Samurai no longer needed to carry Daisho, so the start of the ending of the Samurai.
Western swords of lesser quality superseded katana swords in Japan throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
However, in the 1930s, a wave of nationalist pride brought the uchigatana back into popularity, although with some contemporary touches.
As a consequence, the shin-gunto was born, and it was used to kill POWs throughout WWII.
Shin-gunto swords were initially well-made, but when Japanese resources were exhausted during the war, the quality of shin-gunto swords degraded.
The Katana has a very extensive, interesting history, and due to the careful labor that goes into making them they are generally quite expensive.
However, if you are very interested in getting yourself a katana then you should make sure to look after it.
If properly cared for and maintained, katanas can be used for a lifetime. To protect the edge of the sword, place it in its sheath with the edge facing up.
As with other steel products, it is critical to oil, clean, and polish the blade after each usage. Because salt and perspiration from hands can produce rust, it is critical that they be cleaned.
When you are looking for a good katana, there are some things that are very worth looking out for to ensure that you get a high-quality sword that will last you many, many years.
Authentic katana swords should be handmade in Japan by a master craftsman, with a real hamon temper line to show for it.
The sword should furthermore be razor-sharp, exceptionally balanced, and meticulously detailed. As if that wasn’t enough, the sword should be made of steel, but not stainless steel.