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Historical Weapons

Historical Weapons

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Published by Christopher Plant
bujinkan
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Published by: Christopher Plant on Dec 22, 2012
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06/02/2013

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Historical Weapons - Naginata
The Naginata
Originally, the naginata was used by warrior monks who would defend their shintoisttemples from invaders. This weapon fell outof favor after the 14th century, when the templeswere no longer a target. At any rate, the samuraidid sometimes use the naginata while fighting atclose quarters on horseback.The naginata was made from a short, curved blade, likethat of the wakizashi, but instead of being attached to anormal sword hilt, it was attached to a long staff. The naginatastaff could be anywhere from 38" to 4 feet long. This madethe weapon extremely useful in close quarters, where it'swielder could keep sword-carrying attackers out of range.The age in which the naginata was most commonly usedis the age in which the samurai were mostly archers, whichmeant that sword vs. naginata battles rarely took place.Some schools of martial arts still use the naginata today,however, the modern naginata more resembles the europeanHalberd, with the blade resembling a scimitar moreso thana wakizashi.
 
Historical Weapons - katana
The Katana
The Katana was developed in the early 15th century, when the feudal era was brought to it's climax in whathistorians call "The Age of States at War." This era began when the Feudal lords of ancient Japan beganfighting amongst one another for control of the land. This time in japanese history ended with the Meijirestoration, when Japan was restored to a unified country and swords were outlawed.The katana was the samurai's most important sword. It is widely agreed that the Katana, or Dai-to is thesingle most perfect sword ever developed. It's power and finesse made it a nearly indefeatable weapon.Made with a curved ken (blade) set into a long tsuka (hilt) it is the sword we most identify with feudal japantoday. The steel of the blade would be forged by master craftsmen, heated and folded over 200 times. Although the Katana was very powerful, it was also much lighter than European swords and could be handledwith confidence and grace.Most Katana are about 42" long from tip to pommel (the end of the hilt) and the blade is usually 26" to 28"long. This means that the tsuka itself can be up to 14" long, much shorter than the grips of it's predecessors,the No-Dachi and the Tachi.The katana would be carried in a saya (scabbard and tucked into the samurai's belt. Originally, they wouldcarry the sword with the blade turned down. This was a more comfortable way for the armored samurai tocarry his very long sword. The bulk of the samurai armor made it difficult to draw the sword from any other place on his body. When unarmored, samurai would carry their sword with the blade facing up. This madeit possible to draw the sword and strike in one quick motion, usually beheading the opponent. In order todraw the sword, the samurai would turn the saya downward ninety degrees and pull it out of his belt just abit with his left hand, then gripping the tsuka with his right hand he would slide it out while sliding the sayaback to it's original position.The appropriate way to hold the katana is still taught today by many schools of martial arts. First, the samuraiwould grab the tsuka with his right hand directly below the tsuba, or cut guard, which would keep his handfrom slipping onto the blade. Next, he would place the pommel, the very bottom of the tsuka, into the palmof his left hand. The left hand would then be wrapped around and turned vertical so that the sword's pommelwould be halfway into his closed hand. This left a gap of anywhere from 6" to 8" between the warrior's handswhich allowed for superior flexibility. Because of the space between the fighter's hands, the sword's master could easily cut horizontall, vertically and diagonally. Also taught even in today's martial arts schools are the various kamae, or stances, which the samurai wouldtake while training at his dojo. Here, wooden swords called bokuto or bokken were used so the studentswould not give one another lethal injuries. Later, the flexible bamboo shinai were developed, which wouldallow students to strike one another without cauing injury.The katana had great importance outside of combat as well. Throughout the Era of States at War, the Samuraiwould never be without it. It was a symbol of his status as a warrior, his obedience of the code of bushidoand his undying loyalty to his master. It was considered a great honour to receive such a sword from one'smaster or even one's ally.
 
Historical Weapons - Wakizashi
The Wakizashi
The wakizashi was always carried along with the katana, tomake a
daisho
or pair. The wakizashi was, esentially, a shorter katana that could be wielded with one hand. One of the mainuses of the wakizashi was to fight indoors, where the low ceilingsof feudal japan would make use of the long katana nearlyimpossible.The katana-bearing samurai of the Genpei war period and theWarring States Era would never leave behind their wakizashi,which was often used as a backup weapon if the katana waslost or damaged. The wakizashi came in handy when, at manytimes, the katana's length was a disadvantage.The wakizashi was also used to perform
seppuku,
the ritualsuicide of a member of the warrior class who felt he or she wasliving with great shame, from disappointing one's master or from being humiliated in a number of other ways.The following description is graphic and certainly not for thesqueamish. Please do not allow children to read it. The samurai,when asked to, or granted permission to, commit seppuku,would kneel in the traditional manner with his wakizashi at hisside. He would take the short sword from it's
saya
and thrustit deeply into his own torso, cutting himself open vertically. Hewould then continue on his ritual, in spite of the pain, by cuttingonce more horizontally across the original wound. The samurai,having disemboweled himself, will have then died an honourabledeath. It was permissible to have a close friend or trusted allyto act as a second, meaning that he or she would stand behindthe samurai and strike his head off with the
katana
after thefirst cut had been made. If a female samurai were to commitseppuku, she would only cut her own throat, a much simpler and cleaner ritual.

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