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Katana - For the Samurai in You Dying to Get Out

Aug 17, 2007
The katana sword is a gruesome looking weapon and its history tells the story of a weapon designed strictly for war. The reason that I have chosen the Katana to do a bit of research and writing on is because of my love for sword collecting. Any collector of swords should take a bit of time to gain more knowledge of the katana whether you own one or are tempted to add one to your collection.

The katana is a curved, single edged sword traditionally used by the samurai after the 1400s. These long blades were strictly used for combat, but ownership meant so much more to the Samurai and possessors.

The Katana was known by that samurai as Daito, which literally meant long saber. The samurai would also carry a side arm known as a Shoto meaning a short saber. This short sword is customarily a wakizachi.

The Katana was mostly made famous by the samurai who were undoubtedly masters of sword warfare. The samurai could unsheathe their katana and cut through just about anything with the precision of a surgeon in a matter of seconds.

The samurai were able to spin this weapon in an intimidating butterfly method so quickly that the blade became a blur. I suppose this was intended to intimidate the adversary with a sort of, "look what I can do" tactic. I certainly would loose my desire to enter combat with a gentleman that could do something such as this.

The samurai were actually allowed to carry these weapons freely in Japan until the 19th century when this privilege was abolished. The reason for carrying the katana was much similar to the duties of a knight. These warriors would protect and serve the elite.

The samurai were great warriors who mastered their abilities. These abilities were things such as martial arts, the sword and many other weapons such as the bow and arrow, the spear, staff and many more.

The samurai considered the katana the source of the warrior spirit. This was the favored weapon. The samurai would bestow a name upon his katana that would mean more to him than any other earthly possession. This was a great honor and even enemies had respect for the honor that the samurai felt towards his weapon.

The samurai lived by the beliefs of duty and fearlessness of death. They did this with such devotion and passion that they were unrivaled and more so, feared.

The samurai had to transcend the fear of death to gain a certain peace. This peace would allow him to serve his master faithfully without the human emotions, considered weaknesses, interfering with his service.

Death was more desirable than dishonor. Many times, suicide was chosen over a dishonorable action or would be implemented after a dishonorable action took place. The samurai lived by their codes of honor, loyalty and warrior virtues. Humiliation amongst peers was unacceptable.

The katana sword smith also lived by a very honorable code. His honor and service were devoted to a different kind of master. His master was his work, the creation of the katana.

The katana was signed by the maker on the tang. Each test given to the katana was also recorded on the tang of the blade. This would ensure the quality and remove any doubt of the perfection.

The creation of the katana was a long and laborious art in Japan. The katana was created by forging pieces of carbon steel together. They were then heated and pounded together.

The steel would be folded many times and the pounding would continue until almost all traces carbon were removed from the steel. Strips of steel were continuously added to the product and beaten hundreds of times.

The next step of the katana creation process was to temper the blade. This would be done by reheating the blade so everything but the edge would be reheated. The blade would be coated and covered by a hardened charcoal paste, clay and a powdered grinding stone. This would allow only the edge to be heated during reheating.

The edge of the katana would be heated to an extreme red hot glow. The edge only, would be dipped into cool water allowing it to cool much quicker than the rest of the blade. This would enable the blade to be very flexible preventing snapping during combat. This also enabled the blade edge to be very fine. The final step was for the edge to be honed and sharpened even more to produce the equivalent of a razor.

I can think of no other weapon, used and created with such passion and honor, as the katana. The sword was more of an idea, passion and an art than anything.
About the Author
William "Cole" Doggett is an expert in knives and owns a successful Internet based website, Knife & Supply Company, LLC at www.KnifeSupplyCompany.com. His website is devoted to all things tactical law enforcement, military, outdoors and of course, Knives.
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