Another legend surrounding the skill of antique katana sword is the story of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s sword called wakizashi. There was no question he had some katana training, as he was a notable militarist. However, the leader did not always want to carry it along and was rarely seen in public to have unsheathed it. When asked about this, the leader answered that his wakizashi was bloodthirsty, and would only return back to its scabbard when it had drawn blood.
Katanas are classified into two groups: the antique and the battle ready. Antique katana swords are those that can be found in national museums and in affluent private collectors. Some of them are considered national treasures, objects that symbolize the identity of Japanese culture, tradition, and nationality.
Original katana swords began to appear in 14th century. They became a preferred weapon for horsemen as a replacement to the longer tachi, whose length reaches to 75-80 centimeters. The length of the tachi required quite a time to be drawn out from its scabbard, which might delay and be dangerous to the samurai soldier. With katana drawing the weapon from the scabbard was quick and may be even be used as a slashing attack.
Examples of antique geniune katana are usually referred to the name of the smiths that made them. Hence, the some of the swords of inestimable value are Masamune sword, Musashi sword, and others. They are ranked highest among others in terms of artistry, beauty, and significance.
On the other hand, the battle ready katana refers to a group of swords forge in modern times but the process and the means of production resembled closely to those observed in ancient blacksmithing. The objective of producing this type of weapon is to manufacture Japanese sword replicas, as well rediscovering the lost art-form of ancient katana metalworking. (for a more comprehensive discussion, read it from the articles What is a katana sword)
Characteristics of Original Katanas
• Length Varies from about 60 centimeters to 70;
• Shape One-edged, two-handed, curved blade with a plunging sharp point, as opposed the tapered point found in European medieval swords;
• Appearance Mirror-like, shiny, extremely sharp cutting edge with a dark unsharpened edge; shiny dots can be found in the area between the two edges;
• Blade Has a characteristic temper line called hamon (wavy-like, straight, or rounded) separating the cutting edge to the unsharpened edge. There are many other distinct marks on the surface of the blade such as dots and crisscrossing doodle-like lines, which can be traced to a particular smith’s or a blacksmithing school’s signature;
• Hilt (Tsuba) Round metals, about eight centimeters in length, oftentimes decorated with etched illustrations like Mt. Fuji landscape, family crest, battle scene, etc;
• Tang (Nakago) Full, unpolished, dark, has the signature (called mei) of the smith, as well the province and date from which it was forged, with about four to five holes for wooden screws for the grip. The tang is regarded as highly important identifying marks of antique katana swords;
• Scabbard (Saya) Metal-covered for battle, wooden for traveling, and lacquered for religious rituals.
Because of the competition, there are now many smiths that have dedicated their lives entirely for producing bladed weapons for the sake of art. Japanese government has promulgated stringent policies governing the manufacture of functional katana.
• Only two groups of master smiths are recognized: the Mukansa (masters who have repetitively been awarded) and the Ningen Kokuho (considered Living National Treasures who have shown exemplary artisanship).
• All Mukansa are only allowed to produce two long swords each month or 24 blades in one year.
• All works must be duly licensed in Agency for Cultural Affairs.
Paul Chen katana is an example of a shinken not made by any of the smiths accredited by the Japanese’ Agency for Cultural Affairs. The quality of the weapons is somewhat suspect, as there are no governing bodies regulating the production. They however are very useful to Japanese martial arts enthusiasts.
Katana swords related articles: