The nihonto or Japanese sword finds its maximum and most popular expression in the katana. This was considered a symbol of class and was synonymous with power.
If we pay attention to the more esoteric and cultural aspects that surround it, it is imbued with a superstition and its own personality, according to which it could be the receptacle of entities with its own significance, as well as the souls of past warriors, giving it an identity and its own meaning beyond its use as a tool of war.
Furthermore, this consideration earned it to be considered an object of covetousness and prestige among the feudal lords of Japan for centuries. Its subtle silhouette and very careful craftsmanship gave it undoubted attractiveness, as well as highly polished efficiency in trained hands.
Aside from the mythology that accompanies it, the katana is technically and surely the most perfect sword that has been forged in history, including as part of its identity, a conscientious study of its handling, which is one of the most complete records that are recorded and that are still being studied today. Not in vain, his domain occupies an honorary place in the consideration of the warrior arts and in particular in the Traditional Martial Arts of the East and Japan.
The influence of the sword as an element linked to Japanese culture can be traced back to the discovery of stone swords in the Jomon period, when the first settlers of the islands lived.
There is a story according to which there was a sword that would grant the warrior Yamato Takeru the ability to unify Japan. This was first obtained by the god Susano’o by killing the Eight-Tailed Serpent Yamata-no-Orochi, a dragon from which he extracted Murakumo-No-Tsurugi (“sword of the rain of the cluster clouds”). ), which was actually part of its central tail. Later, after being handed over to Yamato Takeru and as a result of his exploits, he himself would rename her Kusanagi (“grass cutter”). The description of this sword embodies the original form of the Japanese sword and is related to records from both the Asian continent and the Japanese islands.
Cast in a single piece from the socket of the handle to its tip, first in bronze and then in iron, the first blades found in dolmens date back to 700 AD. C. and are characterized by being perfectly linear on their back, with a single edge.
Its presence in these megalithic constructions, with a clear religious connotation, shows the important ritual value attributed to the sword. Likewise, their dimensions are very variable and range from 33.15 cm for the shortest to 90 cm for the longest and largest swords.
However, during the Nara period (710-784) other morphologies of straight double-edged swords were developed in Japan. These are profusely decorated with ornaments and resemble other ritual swords found in Nepal, Tibet and regions of China; surely the result of the spread of Buddhism by the Soga clan throughout the 6th century.
Throughout this period, the sword adopts this morphology that includes a double edge, and also a voluminous and decorated hilt with a heart-shaped tip.
It should be noted that the models that are preserved are associated with historical-artistic ensembles typical of the upper classes with more symbolic than military value. Thus we can conclude that from the archaeological point of view the sword constituted part of the funerary trousseau of the deceased, generally noble and with an important social position, which is the result of a panimist culture (in which the deceased accessed a plane of existence where he would need his most valuable weapons and objects).
These first straight swords are called chokuto and constitute the most primitive form within the line of evolution of the weapon.
As in other aspects of Japanese culture, China projects a powerful influence. An example of this is found in the very designation of weapons, according to which numerous researchers maintain that the Chinese ideograms «chien« (double-edged sword) and «tao» (single-edged knife) are the semantic and phonetic roots of the Japanese kanjis “ken” and “to”, which designate the “sword” in a generic and abstract sense. From here the term katana arises, which includes the standard model of the Japanese sword and differs from the use of to and ken.
At the same time, single-edged swords incorporated many of the ornamental details of the models prevailing in China and Korea, which especially influenced the manufactures of the 5th and 6th centuries AD. In particular, the clashes between the Soga clan, which maintained territorial interests in Korea, against the Mononobe and Nakatomi clans, stood out. If you want to buy or want to place your katana for sale then visit trukatana.
However, it seems that there was a parenthesis in which the manufacture of the katana evolved as a straight ken, changing its single edge to a double one. It will be later, during the Heian period (794-1156), when this double edge seems to mutate in its form and evolve in the use of materials, from whose reinterpretation emanates the curved sword forged in steel and with a single edge that we know today in day under this name.