European Longsword vs Katana?

Ryota galloped across the planes after the foot soldiers.  While it was difficult to fire his bow at anything accurately, the enemy soldiers were so numerous that he was sure to hit something. As he continued riding, his horse stepped in a pit in the ground and threw Ryota into the mass of soldiers colliding at the boundary of the two armies.  As he hit the ground, a little dazed, he saw a man approaching quickly, holding a kanabō (steel club). Knowing he might have only seconds to live, Ryota pushed to his feet, wincing at the pain …

Gavin heard the arrows wizzing over his head from the archers in the rear and saw the line of horseman charging toward him.  He anchored his pike in the ground, one of thirty men whose job it was to hold the line. As the line of calvary reached him, he felt the pike bend as it absorbed the weight of the horse driven onto it.  The horse’s rider jumped off and drew his weapon. Gavin quickly dropped the now-useless pike and drew his own sword…

This question of which is better: the European Longsword or the Katana has been around for as long as sword enthusiasts have known about both swords.  But two important but often neglected facts are that the environment in which they were developed and the circumstances in which they were used were very different.

Samurai

Japanese Samurai carried Katanas as sidearms, similar to how officers in the west often carried swords even after the event of firearms.  It was a mark of identity and not normally used as a primary weapon. However, it was a secondary weapon that could be used in a pinch if the main weapon were damaged or destroyed, thus it was made to be easy to draw and strike with one fluid motion.

Soldiers in Japan wore uniforms that were made mostly of cloth or leather, with not much metal, at least until the introduction of guns.  Relatively shortly after firearms were introduced by the Portuguese, Japan entered a peaceful period and duels became more common that actual fights.  Because of this, the Katana was used mainly against lightly armed or unarmed opponents, and its design reflected that.

Soldier

Soldiers in Europe faced a very different situation.   In combat, the ability to stay out of range of one’s opponent while still being able to hit them gave a massive advantage.  As swords in Europe were more often used as primary weapons, their length could be longer without encumbering the bearer. Their opponents were also more likely to be heavily armored, making cutting less effective and thrusts more advantageous as it was easier to aim for the weak points in an opponent’s armour.

…As the man took one last step toward him, Rytoa drew his Katana in one smooth motion while stepping forward and to the man’s left side.  Holding the hilt with both hands he let the blade continue its motion while rotating the blade around a point between his hands. The blade slashed through the man’s armour and deep into his abdomen.  The man croaked in surprise, too stunned to raise his own weapon. Ryota quickly struck again, a killing blow, and the man crumpled before him.

…With the sword in both hands before him, Gavin looked ahead and to his left and saw the horse’s rider starting to get to his feet.  Gavin rushed forward, looking carefully around for any other enemy soldiers. As he neared the fallen rider, the man started to draw his sword.  Pressing the advantage, Gavin slashed at the man’s hands, causing the man to jerk them away from the hilt. Seizing the opportunity, Gavin grasped his blade halfway down its length and quicky thrust into the man’s armpit, instantly causing the man’s arm to go limp and begin bleeding profusely.  Knowing the man would not last more than a few minutes, Gavin quickly retreated back to the line lest he be caught unaware by another soldier.

Comparison

For the purposes for which they were designed and where they were used, each weapon was superior in its own environment.  But that’s not what you want to hear. So let’s rank each sword based on a few important factors and try to determine which one scores highest.

Cutting

Considered by some to the finest cutting weapon ever designed, the katana wins hands-down here.  Made of harder steel, the Katana flexes less than a longsword and can hold a sharper edge, allowing more force to be applied consistently across a smaller surface area.

Thrusting

Here it’s not as clear-cut.  The Longsword and Katana are both designed for thrusting, however, the Longsword has one of its balance points at the point of the sword, allowing the user to move the sword around easier without moving the point.  Thus, for this round I’m going to give it to the Longsword.

Attacking Variability

The Katana is a single-edged weapon, while the Longsword is double-edged.  The Katana has a bit of advantage in speed, but the double-edge of the Longsword allows the user to use a larger variety of techniques to continually threaten an opponent.  Thus, here I’m going to give it to the longsword.

Defensive Ability

One of the biggest vulnerabilities in swordfighting is the hands and forearm.  These are extended forward with the sword, and if injured, could quickly signal the end of a battle.  Both swords have a guard for the hand, but the Tsuba of the Katana is designed more for offense: it keeps the hand from sliding down the blade in a thrust.  Guards for longswords differed in that even the simplest had a large crossguard that helped protect the hand from forward attacks. The more complex guards would actually wrap around the hand, thus protecting it from all angles.  Both swords were good at parrying. Thus here, I will give it just barely to the Longsword.

Verdict

In this contest, the Longswords won 3-1.  However, while the European Longsword may be a better weapon for extended combat on the battlefield, it is important to remember that the Katana was as much a work of art as a weapon, and was a source of pride and identity for the Samurai.  Furthermore, it excelled in its purpose: serving as a backup weapon designed to quickly start and finish a fight against mostly unarmed or lightly armed opponents. Thus in their respective fields, each sword excels.

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/european-longsword-vs-katana

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Yoshihara Yoshindo – The Best Living Swordsmith

Japanese swords are much more than tools of war: they are works of art.  Born of a time when quality steel was more precious than gold, Japanese swordsmiths created complex and exacting methods of forging swords in order to create masterpieces that belied the poor quality of the ore from from which they were created. These methods have been passed down through traditions while remaining essential unchanged for centuries.  One man Yoshihara Yoshindo is considered the greatest swordsmith alive today.

Yoshindo was born in 1943 and began studying the process of sword-making at 12 years of age under his father.  He received his license at age 22 and later became the youngest person to achieve the rank of Mukansa, doing so in his 30s.  The word Mukansa translates as “exempt from examination”, and those who carry the title are allowed to submit previously unseen works for display.

His smithy is located in Tokyo, and while there are over 300 swordsmiths in Japan, only 30 of those manage to make it a full-time job.  Yoshindo, of course, is one of them. He has several apprentices that work with him and help him craft the swords, a herculean task as each sword can take up to 3 months to make.  With every new sword he challenges himself to make it better than the last sword, and after 63 years of practice his swords are considered virtually priceless: they are masterworks in their own right.

Besides crafting swords, Yoshindo does what he can to further the appreciation of swords as art, and to that end he has written books on the subject.  One passion of his is correcting people’s misconceptions of Samurai history. While the Samurai did carry swords, they rarely used them in combat, often preferring other weapons.  For them, their swords were worn as good luck charms or for personal appearance. Wanting to keep this tradition alive, he reminds people that one does not need a permit to possess one.*

One of the most distinctive marks of a well-crafted sword is the Hamon line created at the border between the edge and core of the blade.  The Hamon on Yoshindo’s swords are so unique that his swords can be easily discerned from those of another sword crafter.

While our swords may not match Yoshindo’s, they are much more affordable.  See some of our Elite Swords here.

Elite Swords

*Not all countries allow possession of swords.  However, the UK and all the countries we ship to do.

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/yoshihara-yoshindo-the-best-living-swordsmith

Hattori Hanzō – The Most Famous Ninja

In The Dead of Night

The castle gleamed alone before him, surrounded by mountains now invisibly wrapped in the dark shroud of night.  Hanzō waited for the word to attack.  All their preparation led up to this moment.  At only 16 years of age, this was his first battle. As his fellow men got into position, only the consistent chirping of crickets and the calls of a few birds could be heard.  His muscles felt tense, and he quickly ran through a few breathing exercises to calm himself. Finally the awaited command was passed down, and he felt a rush of newfound energy as the attack began.

Hattori Hanzō

Hattori Hanzō is arguably the most well-known ninja in modern times. His father was a minor samurai who served the Matsudaira clan.  Hattori was born sometime around 1542 and lived 54 years until his death in November of 1596. He is often called Hattori Hanzō Masanari/Masashige I to distinguish him from other members of his family who carried the same name.

Hanzō exploits were due not to his skill as a warrior but to his ability as a commander (though he was an excellent spear fighter). He often used guerilla tactics on castles in place of direct assaults.  Hattori fought in his first battle at the age of 16, when he attached Udo Castle at night. From then on, he participated in other battles including rescuing his daimyō’s (lord’s) hostage daughters at age 20 and sieging Kakegawa Castle at age 27.  At age 30, he fought in the battle of Mikatagahara where he captured a spy and counter-attacked across a river with only 30 men.  For these brave deeds he was awarded command of 150 men of an Iga ninja unit.

Fast forward a few years, and Hanzō was in charge of defending Iga province (the homeland of the ninjas) from a ferocious attack by Nobunaga.  While he was ultimately unsuccessful, he was able to significantly slow enemy forces for two years until he was finally routed by forces under Nobunaga’s direct control.  After Nobunaga’s timely death a year later, Hanzō made his most significant contribution yet: he helped Japan’s future shōgun (king) Tokugawa cross Mikawa province with the help of the remnants of the local Iga ninja clans.

Toward the end of his life, Hanzō gave up fighting and became a monk. He took the name “Sainen” and built a temple which was later named after him. Today, his remains are kept in Sainen-ji temple cemetery in Yostuya, Tokyo.  His physical legacy lives on in the Imperial Palace, which has a gate that still retains his name. His cultural legacy is much more significant with many stories, films, and movies portraying different aspects of his life.

Kill Bill

One popular movie portrayal of a (fictional) descendant of his is in the movie Kill Bill.  Here, the Bride needs a weapon powerful enough to kill Bill, so she goes to Hattori Hanzō (revealed in supplementary material to be the 14th in that line) who is widely known as the best swordsmith in the world.  Though he had taken a blood oath not to make any more weapons of destruction and had kept it for 29 years, he decided to break it when he learned the sword would be destined to kill Bill.  The resulting masterwork he considered to be the finest and sharpest sword of his career.

Here are replicas of the swords made by Hattori Hanzō from the Kill Bill movie series:

Fun Fact

Many tales ascribe to Hanzō powers of teleportation, precognition, and psychokinesis.

What’s in a Name

Unlike Western names, Eastern names start with the family name and end with the individual’s name.  So Hattori Hanzō’s first name is actually Hanzō.  His father and son also carried the same name.  The Japanese Kanji for Hattori Hanzō are 服部 半蔵.

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/hattori-hanzo

The Companion Sword – The Wakizashi

Called to the Castle

Akihiko was nervous. He had just been called by his daimyō (feudal lord). The crescent moon was intermittently obscured by wispy clouds blown by unfelt winds. As he made his way along the well-worn road marked by the seasonal passage of traders, he could occasionally hear the lapping of the water on the shores of the dark river to his left, cold and swift as it ran from its source in the cold mountains behind him toward its final destination, the endless waiting expanse of the ocean. As he neared the castle, he could see see a few windows shining with the soft radiance of candlelight and the occasional snatch of a conversation drifting along with the wind. Walking up the incline to the nearest gate in the imposing wall, easily twice his height, he was noticed by the guards.

“Stop right there and state your business”, they challenged him. “My name is Akihiko, and I’ve been summed by my lord.” he replied as calmly as he could manage. “Ah, yes, the Samurai. We’ve been expecting you. You know the drill”. Akihiko took off his Katana and gave it to the guards, feeling somewhat naked with only his Wakishazhi remaining as he stepped past the guards and entered the castle.

Featured Sword: Wakizashi

The Wakizashi was a shortsword typically carried with a Katana by Samurai as part of a daishō (set of two swords: one long, one short). It served multiple purposes including serving as a temporary replacement for the Katana in case of breakage, beheading opponents, and allowing ritual suicide. Unlike Katanas, Wakizashi could be worn indoors when entering a palace or castle. It could also be used for combat when paired with a Katana in the Two Heavens technique. A Wakishaszi is 1-2 shaku in length (30.3cm to 60.6cm) and worn on the left side of the bearer.

Featured Examples

The Path Ahead

Akihiko followed a servant through several hallways until he arrived at an ornate double-door. After the servant announced him and he was permitted to enter, he saw the daimyō for the first time. The man was of middling height with an air of command. “Do you know why I summoned you here?” the lord asked. “No sir”, Akihiko replied. “I have a special mission for you” the head of the castle stated ominously. “It is very dangerous, and you may not return…”

As Akihiko retraced his steps back to the gate, he noticed the elegant wood trimmings of the walls and the exquisite craftsmanship of the stone foundation. With his path now laid out for him, he knew it would likely be many more months before he would again see anything more refined than a sleeping role under the stars or the saddle on a horse’s back. When he reached the guards, he silently held out his hand and they returned his Katana to him. Feeling whole again, with the comfortable weights of both his Katana and Wakizashi on his obi, he began the walk back to his quarters to begin packing what few things he had for the long journey ahead.

Fun Fact

Wakizashi are not just shorter Katanas, but may be forged differently and are less convex.

Etymology

The Wakizashi is represented by the characters 脇差 in Japanese. 脇 means “side of the torso” and 差 means “to insert, stick into”, which combined represent how the Wakizashi would be worn by the bearer.

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/wakizashi

The Magic of the “Blood Groove”

Kuna’s Struggle

Kuna was frustrated.  It seemed no matter how hard or long she practiced, she never could  make her sword move as fast as she wanted it to. It was easy to cut with, and once it got started it would go through almost anything, but when it came to anticipating an opponent’s movements or quickly changing direction, the sword never seemed as agile as she wished.

Her teacher had been watching her quietly grow more frustrated each session and finally made a decision.  “Kuna”, he said and approached her. “You need a new sword.” “But sensei, this one is still in perfect shape”, she replied. “Yes,  but the problem is not the condition of the blade”, he explained. “Your sword is too heavy for you; that’s why you struggle.” “Sensei, if I shorten the sword, my reach will be lessened”.  Her instructor smiled. “Not necessarily” he said. “What you need is a sword with a Bo-Hi”.

“A Bo-Hi, she exclaimed, “What’s that?”

Featured Sword Terminology: The Bo-Hi

What Kuna’s sensei is referring to is a Bo-Hi (pronounced BOW-HEE): an indention that runs along the blade of a sword.  The Bo-Hi’s purpose is to lower the weight of the blade, sometimes as much as an astonishing 20-35%, without sacrificing strength, similar to how an I-beam is nearly as strong as a rectangular block of metal of the same size but with a fraction of the weight.   The longer the blade, the greater the effect. As weight limits the agility of the sword’s user, a bo-hi can allow a user to use a longer blade than would normally be practical. For wielders who like to use the sword for cutting, it may be better to get a sword without a Bo-Hi, as swords without them have the balance point shifted farther down the blade and are heavier, providing greater momentum.

Swords typically come with either none, one, or two Bo-Hi.

Examples

None

This sword has no Bo-Hi.  We show it for reference.

No Bo-Hi

Single

This sword has a Bo-Hi on only one side of the sword

One Bo-Hi

Double:

This sword has a Bo-Hi on each side of the blade.
Double Bo-Hi

Kuna’s Answer

Kuna swung her new sword and listened to it whistle through the air.  “This is amazing, Sensei”. The balance was a little different then she was used to, but she was pleased with how quickly she could twist and turn the blade.  “Once I get used to this, my opponents had better watch out!”. She continued practicing. Watching her, her sensei smiled again.

Fun Fact

The bo-hi amplifies the “swishing“ sound swords make as they travel through the air, making it popular for martial arts demonstrations and movies.

Etymology

Sometimes mislabeled as “blood groove”, the name has nothing to do with blood.  In Japanese kanji, Bo-Hi is written as 棒樋,where Bo (棒) means weapon, and Hi (樋 ) means trough or gutter.  So it would translate literally to something like “weapon-groove”.

Filter By Bo-Hi

You can filter by “No Bo Hi”, “Single Bo Hi” and “Double Bo Hi” in Bo-Hi Filteringeach sword collection, under Refine in the left sidebar, as shown here to the left.

Check out our sword collections and give it a try!

 

 

 

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/magic-of-the-blood-groove-bo-hi

Are samurai swords, katana and wakizashi legal in the UK?

We’re often asked about the legalities in the UK: Are samurai swords, katana and wakizashi legal?  Does one need a license to own them?

This post aims to touch on the key points of sword and knife ownership in the UK at the time of writing, with links to more detailed information.

At the time of writing this post (please see links / more detailed information below for any changes), the scenario is as follows:

  • All products sold on our website are legal to own in the UK. 
  • You can not carry a knife or a sword in public without a valid reason. 
  • Anyone purchasing a knife or a sword must be over 18 years of age.
  • Certain types of knives are not legal in the UK, such as disguised knives (flick knives, butterfly knives etc.) and therefore are not sold on this website.
  • Samurai and other curved swords are legal, *AS LONG AS* they have been handmade using traditional production methods. All swords sold on our site are made using traditional methods and are legal in the UK. 

For current laws and more detailed information, please refer to:

More information can also be found in our legal section here

 

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/are-samurai-swords-katana-and-wakizashi-legal-in-the-uk

Top Katana Swords & Best Selling Katana Swords for Sale in the UK for 2017

Now that we’re at the start of 2018, it’s a good time to reflect:  What were the top/best selling Katana Swords for sale in the UK for 2017?

Here are the top katana swords, as seen on BladesPro:

Aaiwa Katana Samurai Sword

A sleek, beautiful katana samurai sword with a black saya, black tsuku and blade made with high carbon steel, this swords was very popular in 2017. Some feedback:
Looks so much better in real life than in the picture. I want one for myself now (I bought it as a present).

I ordered a katana for my husband for Christmas. The ordering process was easy, very good and quick response to my questions and the katana arrived in time. My husband was thrilled with it especially the quality. Excellent service and product. Will definitely use the company again.

 

See Aaiwa Katana Samurai Sword on BladesPro > 

Dara Folded Clay Tempered Steel Katana Samurai Sword

Stunning blue-themed clay tempered samurai katana sword. 

This sword its a stunning piece of art that i will love for years to come.

See Dara Folded Clay Tempered Steel Katana Samurai Sword on BladesPro >


Chariya Folded Clay Tempered Steel Katana Samurai Sword

T103cm in length and with a classic black and white theme, this sword was very popular in 2017 and continues to be in 2018. 

“Excellent sword for the money paid”

See Chariya Folded Clay Tempered Steel Katana Samurai Sword on BladesPro >


Iato Clay Tempered Carbon Steel Wakizashi

This beautiful red-themed wakizashi samurai sword was a hit in 2017, owing to its unique size (78cm in lengh) and stunning design.

See Iato Clay Tempered Carbon Steel Wakizashi on BladesPro >

Chintana Folded Clay Tempered Steel Katana Samurai Sword

Classic and sleek in black, this sword was also a best-selling samurai katana samurai sword in 2017. 

See Chintana Folded Clay Tempered Steel Katana Samurai Sword on BladesPro >


Ready to chose your sword?

Source: https://www.bladespro.co.uk/blogs/news/top-katana-swords-in-the-uk-for-2017