Samurai Sword History

The basic design of the Samurai sword has remained consistent over several centuries. Swords were already being made in China and elsewhere in Asia during the Bronze and Iron ages. As the technology for steel weaponry improved, single-edged swords became popular throughout Asia. The Japanese ‘tachi’ sword, a precursor to the katana (which would become known as a samurai sword), first appeared around 600 A.D.

The Samurai evolved from a class of warrior employed as the guards of powerful leaders. They established the Ways of the Bushido, a code which dominated the structure of Japanese life for nearly 700 years. Like knights of European fame, their role required absolute allegiance to the leader, and the willingness to die to defend him.

The role of the Samurai required high quality weapons. The katana was designed for fighting in close quarters. Samurai swords are known to be flexible, so that they could take direct impact without shattering, yet also hard enough to retain an impeccably sharp edge over time. Originally the Samurai swords were very similar to Chinese or Korean designs of the same period, although they gradually evolved into a superior sword design. Only the most experienced Japanese sword makers created swords for use by Samurai. It is said that each sword was tested by cutting through corpses before it was used by a Samurai.

The katana or Samurai sword reached its peak in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Katana sword was originally about two and a half feet long, although it was shortened to about two feet by the sixteenth century. Many samurai carried a much shorter Wakizashi or Shoto sword, with a 12 to 20 inch blade, along with their Katana. These other styles of Japanese swords are also known as Samurai sword, although the Katana is better known.

These Samurai swords have been seen in recent hit films like The Last Samurai and Kill Bill, and today they are viewed as an iconic symbol of the history of Japan. Many collectors enjoy Samurai swords, both the real thing and modern reproductions. Hundreds of authentic Samurai swords made their way to the United States as soldiers’ souvenirs following World War II. Modern swords may be crafted identically to an antique Samurai sword, or in a unique “fantasy” design that is meant to look similar to historic swords. Some are meant for actual use, while others are intended only for display.

Ancient Samurai swords were usually hand polished in a process that took many hours. Today, you can polish your reproduction Samurai sword using modern polishing supplies. Oiling the blade can keep it from rusting. Today, Samurai swords may still be used in the martial art called kendo. If you use your Samurai sword for practice, keep the edge of the sword sharp using a sharpening stone. Samurai blades made with high carbon steel are known to keep a sharp edge for a long time, although some modern swords have blades made of stainless steel instead, and they will require more frequent sharpening.

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