A katana is a Japanese sword of intermediate length and weight. It is single-edged and slightly curved. Designed as a two-hand weapon, its relatively light weight makes it quite possible to use with one hand. The katana was the most important weapon for the samurai and it was also common among Japanese officers during World War II.

Miyamoto Musashi is touted as being the first to develop (or at least write about) a method of fighting with the katana in one hand and the shorter sword in the other. His treatise is the Go Rin No Sho, often translated as the Book of Five Rings (but Book of Five Spheres is more apt, since in Buddhist literature the Five Spheres were the four appendages of the human body, and the head).

So you've got yourself a nice-looking katana and you feel like strutting around with it. Or maybe you're doing a samurai costume for Halloween or some other reason (cosplay!). Perhaps you just want to scare some people as you walk down the street (just a note that I believe wearing a katana is illegal in most states).

Here's how the blade should be worn at the hip, so you can give off the impression that you know what you're doing. It's not very hard really, only two basic things to remember.

1. Tuck the katana into your belt on the left hand side. This was done because everything in kendo and iaido is taught starting with a right hand drawing out of the weapon, and it is easier to draw a blade from the left hand side with the right hand (think about it for a moment, it makes sense).

Interesting anecdote: In the olden days of yore back when people still wore katana as they walked around, people would always pass each other on the right. Since the swords were tucked into the left, passing on the right gave people more time to react if someone decided that this was a situation that only sharp steel could solve. Passing someone on the left back then could have been interpreted as challenging someone to a fight.

2. Make sure the edge is facing up. This allows a swordsman to go into three cuts when he draws the blade, and drawing is smoother as opposed to when the edge is facing downards.

Additional Note: Another reason the katana is tucked with the edge facing up is so that it would not be worn down. The razor-sharp edge would constantly be rubbing against the scabbard if it was facing downwards. Thanks, Neuromantic.

And there you go.

I wish I owned one of these, a REAL one, that is. See, the ones sold online like at swords.com are spendy even for the cheaply made ones (nearly $300 for a "Japanese" sword made without any folding!!!). Alright, so you probably want to know what a 'real Japanese sword' is like.

A REAL Japanese sword begins as enough metal. It is quickly shaped into a sword, then the folding begins. The metal is hammered out to twice the width the sword would be, then folded in half in that direction. Then the halves are welded together and the process is started over again. This is not your standard arc-welding either; the metal is heated hot enough so that the contacting surfaces actually fuse together. I have heard that a twisting process is sometimes used as well (whenever the metal doubles in length, most likely).

When all is done, the sword has 224 layers (or more if more folds were made) to it (the welding process does not eliminate the layering). A well-made sword can take up to a year for a master sword maker to complete. This type of sword is so sharp that a falling piece of silk is cut completely in half upon landing on the upturned edge of this sword (no sword motion necessary).

In the game Nethack, the samurai character will do "twoweapon" combat with a katana and a wakizashi (four foot sword and two foot sword respectively).

From http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/jwb/wwwjdic?1E it seems that "katana" means a swift or sudden movement in Japanese.

From http://www.highlander.org/roleplaying/appendix.html, many immortals use katanas for their main weapon. The reason for this is that the sword is the "only efficient weapon" for decapitation. One of the swords listed here, wielded by Ramirez, is said to be over 2000 years old. (I have no accurate information yet as to when the Japanese began to use the folding process for the katana of real life).

The Japanese just love naming things. It is ridiculous the amount of things and actions and concepts that they have exclusive names for. One prime example can be found in the katana (daito); every single piece has a name, so, to help my fellow sword enthusiasts, I've compiled this list. enjoy.

The anatomy of a Japanese daito.


Fittings

Tsuka: The hilt of the sword. The hilts of most katana are approximately 3-hand lengths. This as they are designed for two-handed use, though, as mentioned, they may be used one-handed such as in iaido (batto). Many prefer a tsuka of longer length as it can increase the amount of force produced in the slash. The length, in the end is a matter of opinion. One hand is placed at the bottom, near the kashira; the other is placed at the top, just under the tsuba.

Mekugi: These are the pegs running through the tsuka that attach it to the nakago. They usually number two or three.

Mekugi ana: The holes the mekugi are run through.

Tsuba: This is the piece traditionally referred to as the hand guard. I fear this is a misnomer as the tsuba is not intended to prevent an opponent's sword from severing your hand. It is, instead, designed to keep your inept self from inadvertently sliding your hand up onto the blade. The tsuba is often intricately decorated and is, itself a work of art.

Seppa: Spacer between the tsuka and the tsuba, and between the tsuba and the blade. Keeps the Tsuba in place.

Kashira: The endcap on the tsuka. Keeps the tsuka-ito bound.

Fuchi: A fitting between the tsuka and tsuba. (also fuchi gana)

Same: This is the ray skin with which the tsuka is wrapped (not the tsuka-ito).

Tsuka-ito: Cord that is wrapped around the tsuka. It increases gripping ability and is pretty. Though There are many ways it can be wrapped, the method most commonly used is called the tsuka maki . This method produces the diamond pattern seen on most katana tsuka

Menuki: A small ornament placed under the tsuka-ito. This is obviously not an integral part of the sword, and is often not found in swords meant for business.

Blade

Ha: The sharpened edge of the blade. The ha is often composed of a harder steel than the mune, and I have heard a number of different opinions on whether this is a Good Thing. Some claim that the increased hardness allows it to keep a sharper edge, while the softer jacket provides shock-absorbant qualities. Others feel that this format makes for shoddier blades.

Ha-Machi: A small notch at the base of the ha marking the end of the nakago and the beginning of the blade proper. The tsuba sits above the Ha-Machi.

Mune: The concave and unsharpened edge of the blade. When the sword is worn, the mune sits facing down, so that the ha does not bear down on the wood of the saya.

This is all I have time for right now. Expect updates.

Also it's interesting to note that the katana follows even more the philosophy of taoism and Yin Yang - harmony between hard and soft.

The blade is brittle and hard, so it's good to cut with, but the back of the sword is malleable so that it will give during fighting.

This creates a razor sharp, tough but giving blade - a very nice weapon.

"Katana" is the name of Sega's Dreamcast development kit. A complete kit includes:

  • The HKT-01 Development Box: Essentially, a Dreamcast in a mini-tower case, except that it includes VGA out and a SCSI port.
  • The HKT-04 External GD-R Writer: Writes master GD-Rs for testing and duplication.
  • A Sega-brand Dreamcast Controller
  • A Sega-brand Dreamcast Keyboard
  • A SCSI cable, to connect the GD-ROM writer to the Dev Box
  • Power cables for both the Dev Box and the GD-ROM writer.

The kit also includes 35(!) manuals, a copy of Microsoft's Windows CE Toolkit v.2.0, a copy of Sega's Katana Development Software, and a CD full of various GNU tools for SH4 processors.

Actually, making a katana is a bit more complex, but I've never heard of any sword taking over a year to make, it's just not practical. Typically a traditional katana takes a little less than a month to complete.

First, iron is harvested in the form of a fine black sand that is refined with charcoal in a huge kiln four for days with people watching it day and night, this process turns the iron into the fine Japanese steel called Tamahagane. This rough and shapeless lump of metal is then broken up and sent to various sword smiths, chief among these (last time I checked) being the famed Oda Yoshimitsu.

The sword smith then separates the Tamahagane into harder and softer steel plates, these plates are folded over several times. Then the harder steel is folded into a U shape and the soft steel in inserted into it, these are then "forge welded" together and hammered out into a straight blade. The reason for this is because, although the hard steel will hold a very strong, very sharp edge, it is also very brittle and can shatter easily, the soft steel in the spine acts as a shock absorber.

The sword is heat tempered a few times and then "differentially tempered". This is done by applying a thin coat of charcoal, clay, and water to the back of the blade and then fired, once the blade reaches a very exact temperature it is pulled from the fire and immediately quenched, the coating on the blade causes the steel to heat and cool at different rates which further hardens the edge while keeping the back soft, the steel cooling at two different rates also means that it will contract at different rates which gives the katana its characteristic curve.

The blade is sent off to yet another specialist to be sharpened, polished to its mirror shine and trimmed with all the necessities of a sword (handle, guard, etc.)

A few weeks and three people later, you have what is widely held to be the best sword made by human hands, a finished katana.

 

This information brought to you be the TendoKing who gleaned it from the katana special of Nova on the history channel, and Weapon Masters on discovery.

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