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Katana (?)
Katana on display at Okayama Castle.
Type Sword
Place of origin Japan
Production history
Produced Muromachi period (1392–1573) to present
Blade length approx. 60–73 cm (23.6–28.7 in)
The katana (?) is a type of Japanese sword (日本刀 nihontō?), also commonly referred to as a "samurai sword".[1] In the strictest sense, the term katana in Japanese is applied to any kind of single-edged sword, of any origin; contrary to common belief outside Japan, the Japanese word does not necessarily refer to a Japanese sword. But incorrectly or habitually, some Japanese and Western sword lovers define katana as the standard size moderately curved (as opposed to the older "tachi" style featuring more curvature) Japanese sword with a blade length of greater than 60 cm (23.6 inches).[2]
The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single edged blade, circular or squared guard, and long grip to accommodate two hands.[2] It has historically been associated with the samurai of feudal Japan, and has become renowned for its sharpness and cutting ability.



Originally used as a general term for single-edged sword having a "sori" or curvature of the blade. While the "sugata" or form can take many shapes, including double edged, the term is now used incorrectly to describe nihontō that are 2 shaku (606 mm / 24 in) and longer, also known as "dai" or "daito" among Western sword enthusiasts.
This distinguishes them from the straight-bladed chokutō, which was brought from China by way of Korea[3] The chokutō is speculated to have been the first "sugata" type the katana took on, being modeled after the imported swords. This emergence of the first nihontō took place the same time period as the beginning of Japanese feudalism and recognition of the daimyo or "great family" in the late ninth century.[4]
Pronounced kah-ta-nah, the kun'yomi (Japanese reading) of the kanji 刀, originally meaning dao (sword) or knife/saber in Chinese, the word has been adopted as a loanword by the Portuguese language.[5] In Portuguese the designation (spelled catana) means "large knife".[5] As Japanese does not have separate plural and singular forms, both "katanas" and "katana" are considered acceptable forms in English.[6]
Another term, Daikatana (usually given as the kanji 大刀), is a pseudo-Japanese term meaning "large sword", derived from the Chinese dadao.[7] The reading mistake comes from the different ways Japanese Kanji can be read, depending on their combination or not in a word. It has been used in some (English-language) fictional works to represent a kind of large katana; the video game Daikatana, for example used this pseudo-term as its title. The correct name of this type of weapon is tachi, and is different from ōtachi and nodachi.


The katana originated in the Muromachi period (1392–1573) as a result of changing battle conditions requiring faster response times.[8] The katana facilitated this by being worn with the blade facing up, which allowed the samurai to draw and cut their enemy in a single motion.[9] Previously, the curved sword of the samurai had been worn with the blade facing down.[2][10]
The length of the katana's blade varied considerably during the course of its history. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, katana blades tended to be between 70 and 73 cm (27.6 and 28.7 inches) in length. During the early 16th century, average length was much closer to 60 cm (23.6 inches), but late in the 16th century, it was again approximately 73 cm (28.7 in).
The katana was paired most often with the wakizashi or shōtō, a similarly made but shorter sword, both worn by the members of the warrior class. It could also be worn with the tantō, an even smaller similarly shaped knife. The katana and wakizashi when paired with each other were called the daishō and they represented the social power and personal honor of the samurai.[2][11][12]

Forging and construction

The authentic Japanese sword is made from a specialized Japanese steel called "Tamahagane"[13] which consist of combinations of hard, high carbon steel and tough, low carbon steel[14]. There are advantages and setbacks to both types of steel. High-carbon steel is harder and able to hold a sharper edge than low-carbon steel but it is more brittle and may break in combat. Having a small amount of carbon will allow the steel to be more malleable, making it able to absorb impacts without breaking but becoming blunt in the process. The makers of a katana take advantage of the best attributes of both kinds of steel. This is done by a number of methods, most commonly by making a U-shaped piece of high-carbon steel (the outer edge) and placing a billet of low-carbon steel (the core) inside the U, then heating and hammering them into a single piece. Some sword-makers use four different pieces (a core, an edge, and two side pieces), and some even use as many as five.[15]
The block of combined steel is heated and hammered over a period of several days, and then it is folded and hammered to squeeze the impurities out. Generally a katana is folded no more than sixteen times, then it is hammered into a basic sword shape. At this stage it is only slightly curved or may have no curve at all. The gentle curvature of a katana is attained by a process of quenching; the sword maker coats the blade with several layers of a wet clay slurry which is a special concoction unique to each sword maker, but generally it is composed of clay, water, and sometimes ash, grinding stone powder and/or rust. The edge of the blade is coated with a thinner layer than the sides and spine of the sword, then it is heated and then quenched in water (some sword makers use oil to quench the blade). The clay slurry provides heat insulation so that only the blade's edge will be hardened with quenching and it also causes the blade to curve due to reduced lattice strain along the spine. This process also creates the distinct swerving line down the center of the blade called the hamon which can only be seen after it is polished; each hamon is distinct and serves as a katana forger's signature.[16]
The hardening of steel involves altering the microstructure or crystalline structure of that material through quenching it from a heat above 800 °C (1,472 °F) (bright red glow), ideally no higher than yellow hot. If cooled slowly, the material will break back down into iron and carbon and the molecular structure will return to its previous state. However, if cooled quickly, the steel's molecular structure is permanently altered. The reason for the formation of the curve in a properly hardened Japanese blade is that iron carbide, formed during heating and retained through quenching, has a lesser density than its root materials have separately.[17]
After the blade is forged it is then sent to be polished. The polishing takes between one and three weeks. The polisher uses finer and finer grains of polishing stones until the blade has a mirror finish in a process called glazing.[18] This makes the blade extremely sharp and reduces drag making it easier with which to cut. The blade curvature also adds to the cutting power.


The katana's unique design and in particular its sharpness necessitate quite a few specialized precautions to handle it. Failure to observe these precautions can easily lead to damage to the weapon or severe injury.


Storage and maintenance

If mishandled in its storage or maintenance, the katana may become irreparably damaged. The blade should be stored in its sheath with the blade facing upward to maintain the edge. It is extremely important that the blade remain well-oiled, powdered and polished, as the natural moisture residue from the hands of the user will rapidly cause the blade to rust if not cleaned off. The traditional oil used is choji oil [99% mineral oil and 1% clove oil for fragrance]. Similarly, when stored for longer periods, it is important that the katana be inspected frequently and aired out if necessary in order to prevent rust or mold from forming (mold may feed off the salts in the oil used to polish the katana).[19]

Ownership and trade restrictions

United Kingdom

As of April 2008, the British government added swords with a curved blade of 50 cm (20 in) or over in length ("and for the purposes of this sub-paragraph, the length of the blade shall be the straight line distance from the top of the handle to the tip of the blade") to the Offensive Weapons Order.[20] This ban was a response to reports that Samurai swords were used in more than 80 attacks and 4 killings over the 4 preceding years.[21] Those who violate the ban would be jailed up to six months and charged a fine of £5,000. Martial arts practitioners, historical re-enactors and people currently possessing such swords may still own them. The sword can also be legal provided it was made in Japan before 1954, or was made using traditional sword making methods. It is also legal to buy if it can be classed as a 'martial artist's weapon' [22]. This ban currently applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As of September 2009, the Republic of Ireland introduced similar new laws restricting the ownership of swords and other weapons.

See also

Similar Japanese swords

  • Tachi/Nodachi/Ōdachi, often called by the pseudo-Japanese term daikatana and mistakenly labeled as a katana.
  • Kodachi, often called by the pseudo-Japanese term chisakatana or kogatana and mistakenly labeled as a katana.
  • Wakizashi, the short blade usually worn along with the katana.
  • Ninjato, A sword shorter than the katana that has the same size grips but is straighter with a slight curve. The so-called "Ninja Sword".

Myths and fiction

Further reading


  1. ^ Nagayama, Kokan; trans. Kenji Mishina (1997). The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International Ltd.. ISBN 4-7700-2071-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sato, Kanzan (1983). he Japanese Sword: A Comprehensive Guide(Japanese arts Library). Japan: Kodansha International. pp. 220. ISBN 978-0870115622. 
  3. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987, p. 20
  4. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  5. ^ a b Dalgado, Sebastiao Rodolfo; Anthony X. Soare (1988). Portuguese Vocables in Asiatic Languages: From the Portuguese Original of Monsignor Sebastiao Rodolfo Dalgado. South Asia Books. pp. 520. ISBN 978-8120604131. 
  6. ^ Akmajian, Adrian; Richard A. Demers, Ann K. Farmer, Robert M. Harnish (2001). Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. Massachusetts: The MIT Press. pp. 624. ISBN 978-02625112305. 
  7. ^ In Japanese, 大刀 is actually read daitō.
  8. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  9. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  10. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  11. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  12. ^ Ratti, Oscar; Adele Westbrook (1991). Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 484. ISBN 978-0804816847. 
  13. ^ 鉄と生活研究会編 『鉄の本(Book of iron)』  ISBN 9784526060120
  14. ^ NOVA | Secrets of the Samurai Sword
  15. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  16. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  17. ^ Kapp & Yoshihara 1987
  18. ^ Kapp 1987
  19. ^ Warner, Gordon; Draeger, Donn F. (2005). Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique and Practice. Boston, Massachusetts: Weatherhill. pp. 110–131. ISBN 0-8348-0236-9. 
  20. ^ The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons)(Amendment) Order 2008
  21. ^ Samurai Swords to be Banned in UK
  22. ^ [1]


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!

.Often just called a "Ninja Sword", a Katana is a slightly curved Japanese long sword with one sharp edge.^ Japanese Sword : Katana: NBTHK Tokubetsu-hozon token.
  • Japanese Sword and Katana shop Aoi-Art 11 January 2010 2:42 UTC [Source type: General]

^ Japanese Sword and Katana shop Aoi-Art Japanese sword Katana and tachi .
  • Japanese Sword and Katana shop Aoi-Art 11 January 2010 2:42 UTC [Source type: General]

^ Japanese Sword : Katana NBTHK hozon token.
  • Japanese Sword and Katana shop Aoi-Art 11 January 2010 2:42 UTC [Source type: General]

.Many, many, game characters use this as their weapon.^ This way you can choose to use the episode weapons and enjoy them, instead of going through the game with the overpowered blade only.
  • Playing lately?........ Part 2 [Archive] - Page 11 - New Doom Forums 20 September 2009 11:26 UTC [Source type: General]

Which game characters you ask? Why, let me count them.

Katana Wielding Characters

This article uses material from the "Katana" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Katana is a Japanese long sword used mainly by samurai warriors. It is the most important sword of the three swords worn by samurai: katana, wakizashi, and tanto. The katana was popular from 1400 A.D. until 1876, when the samurai disappeared as a social class.

In Japanese, "katana" means a long sword and it represents a blade, which is a little curved, with a single edge and a very sharp point.



There are several types of katanas:

  • Artwork/old katana - Nihonto
  • sharpened katana - Shinsaku, Shinken
  • Modern katana designed for the training of iaido and iaijutsu - Iaito
  • Decorative, replica katanas.

How they are made

Today katanas are mainly made of stainless steel of different quality. But there are some swords made of zinc and aluminum alloys, which are able to resist some external forces and are only used for decoration. To determine the quality of a katana it is enough to check its resistance (how much it bends when it is hit), elasticity (the ability of katana to return to its original shape), and endurance (how long it lasts) of the blade after striking.

Generally, katana is designed for cutting, but it was widely used for stabbing too. This depended mainly on the length of the hilt (the handle). The katana could be easily used for cutting if it was made for using with both hands. It was used for stabbing when the katana was made for using with one hand. As a rule, katana was worn by the belt with its blade up.[1]

Katana and the Japanese traditions

Katana was very important in Japanese society. This sword was thought to be the "soul" of its master. Only a samurai was allowed to have a katana. A simple man with a katana sword could be killed at once.

There was a tradition of wearing, taking care and taking the katana out of its scabbard (the cover of a sword or a knife). A samurai had to pay attention to the way he wore the katana when entering someone's house. A certain position in which a samurai has taken his sword out of the cover could be understood as aggression.

It was also important the way a samurai keeps his katana on a special stand for swords, called katana-kake. This stand was used for both katana and wakizashi. The blade had to have its point up, just as when wearing the sword; the handle (called hilt) had to be turned to the left. This made katana available for handling any time it was needed.

The art of handling a katana was developed in martial arts like kenjutsu and iaijutsu. Today, this art is practiced in iaido and kendo martial arts. The last one is the art of dueling with bamboo or wooden sword. Old schools of handling katana swords still exist. The most famous are: Kashima Shin-ryu, Kashima Shinto-ryu, Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu.

The most appreciated technique of handling a katana is a school called Nitto Ryu. This school taught how to use both a katana and a wakizashi during a fight. The most famous samurai who improved this art was Miyamoto Musashi.


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