True Bushido Code

True Bushido Code
True Bushido Code

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Katana | Weapon of the True Bushido Warrior

"The expert uses the sword but does not kill others. He uses his sword and gives others life. When it is necessary to kill, he kills. When it is necessary to give life, he gives life. When he kills, he kills with absolute concentration. When he gives life, he gives life with absolute concentration."

Katana simply means "long sword", as opposed to the Bushi dagger known as the "Tanto".

During the early history of the Bushido, the sword was one of their most prized possessions. These swords were of exceptional quality and craftmanship. Each handmade Katana was crafted with extreme care, and carried the reputation of its swordssmith. These katanas were known "Koto" swords.

As the techniques of the ancient smiths had been lost during the previous period of war, these swords were called shinto, literally "new swords". Generally they are considered inferior to most koto, and coincide with a decline in manufacturing skills. As the Edo period progressed, blade quality declined, though ornamentation was refined. Originally, simple and tasteful engravings known as horimono were added for religious reasons. Later, in the more complex work found on many shinto, form no longer strictly follows function.

Under the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate, swordmaking and the use of firearms declined. The master swordsmith Suishinshi Masahide (c.1750–1825); published opinions that the arts and techniques of the shinto swords were inferior to the koto blades, and that research should be made by all swordsmiths to rediscover the lost techniques. Masahide traveled the land teaching what he knew to all who would listen, and swordsmiths rallied to his cause and ushered in a second renaissance in Japanese sword smithing. With the discarding of the shinto style, and the re-introduction of old and rediscovered techniques, swords made in the koto style between 1761 and 1876 are shinshinto , "new revival swords" or literally "new-new swords." These are considered superior to most shinto, but inferior to true koto.

In time, it was rediscovered that soldiers needed to be armed with swords, and over the decades at the beginning of the 20th century swordsmiths again found work. These swords, derisively called gunto, were often oil-tempered, or simply stamped out of steel and given a serial number rather than a chiseled signature. The mass-produced ones often look like Western cavalry sabers rather than nihonto, with blades slightly shorter than blades of the shinto and shinshinto periods.

Military swords hand made in the traditional way are often termed as gendaito. The craft of making swords was kept alive through the efforts of a few individuals, notably Gassan Sadakazu and Gassan Sadakatsu, who were employed as Imperial artisans. These smiths produced fine works that stand with the best of the older blades for the Emperor and other high ranking officials. The students of Sadakatsu went on to be designated Intangible Cultural Assets, "Living National Treasures," as they embodied knowledge that was considered to be fundamentally important to the Japanese identity. In 1934 the Japanese government issued a military specification for the new army sword, the first version of which was the Type 94 Katana, and many machine- and hand-crafted swords used in World War II conformed to this and later shin gunto specifications.

Today, most Katanas are mass produced. Quality varies greatly. Quality can be measured as either the Katanas value as an ornament or as a weapon. Regardless you can still find Katanas of exceptional quality. Before you go out and buy any cheap sword inform yourself and only buy a high quality Samurai sword set from a trusted vendor.

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