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A Hollywood-style straight-blade ninjatō

The Ninjato (忍者刀 ninjatō?), also known as ninjaken (忍者剣?) or shinobigatana (忍刀?), is the most common name for the Japanese sword that the ninja historically carried. It was a short sword, crafted with far less care than katana or tachi of the samurai. The ninjatō was favored by ninja due to its smaller size in comparison to the samurai katana.[citation needed]

Design

According to Masaaki Hatsumi, these swords came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Often, however, they were much shorter than the traditional daitō katana used by the samurai of feudal Japan, straight but still with a slight curve to the sword. The straight bladed, square tsuba (hand guard) (as seen in the image) may be thus just a product of the modern imaginative conception and many Hollywood movies. There are some registers that say that the ninjatō unlike the katana and wakizashi was actually just a stabbing weapon and not a cutting one. It is not known whether the ninjatō had a kissaki(sword tip) or not.

A typical ninjatō would more likely have been a wakizashi short sword fitted with a katana-length handle and placed in a katana-length saya (scabbard); another source for such a sword would be broken blades left upon a battlefield. This may have been used to deceive one's opponents into miscalculating how quickly it could be drawn allowing one to use a battoujutsu strike faster than expected. It also disguises the weapon as a common sword. The extra space in the saya may also be used to store or hide other equipment or goods, such as various blinding powders, tubes which act as snorkels, or shuriken. Another advantage to using such a short sword was the increased ease of fighting at close quarters, an irrevocable requirement of an intelligence gatherer. Some ninja also left the sword to rust, which would induce Tetanus on the enemy.

Usage

The 'ninjato' was used in a variety of ways in combat. Although ninja favored the element of surprise they were skilled swordsmen who could defend against would-be attackers if need be. Although still razor sharp if the weapon had a straight edge it would be less of a slicing weapon like its counterpart the katana and more of a chopping and thrusting weapon, thus the skill in wielding such a sword is far different than kenjutsu (the martial art utilizing a katana in combat). The art is much more fluent utilizing the back of the weapon for parries and blocking and attacking mainly the hands, ankles and neck of the opponent. The art is still taught today in most of the schools of ninpo.

In fictional depictions, the ninjatō's scabbard is often mounted across the back with the handle facing up; this, combined with sword's shorter length is presumably allowing for a faster draw. Further extrapolations of this have led to depictions of the weapon being wielded underhanded, this can be an excellent yet simple tactic to better control/manipulate a battle for a quick "hit and run" as is often said in western societies. There are other battle tactics and techniques which require a reversed grip/ underhanded grip not to mention the back of the blade being an excellent manipulation point.

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