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Changes In Blade Shape Over Time

Changes In Blade Shape Over Time

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Published by samuraisword
Many people believe that the Japanese sword blade has only one specific design; however, the Japanese sword has undergone significant changes in shape over the centuries. In many cases knowledge of these changes in shape (sugata) can be an aid in identifying the period of the blade.
handmadesword.com sword wholesale house are professional at swords.
Welcome anyone who are interested in swords to communicate more about swords.
Many people believe that the Japanese sword blade has only one specific design; however, the Japanese sword has undergone significant changes in shape over the centuries. In many cases knowledge of these changes in shape (sugata) can be an aid in identifying the period of the blade.
handmadesword.com sword wholesale house are professional at swords.
Welcome anyone who are interested in swords to communicate more about swords.

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Published by: samuraisword on Sep 01, 2008
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Changes In Blade Shape Over Time
By Handmadesword.com PR Dept.www.handmadesword.comHandmadesword.com, the wholesale Japanese sword House All rights reservedMany people believe that theJapanese swordblade has only one specificdesign; however, the Japanese sword has undergone significant changes inshape over the centuries. In many cases knowledge of these changes in shape(sugata) can be an aid in identifying the period of the blade. Some of thechanges were the result of changes in battle tactics, type of armor and/or simplychanges in style dictated by the fashion of the day.The earliest blades (those prior to about 900 AD - pre-Heian period or Jokotosword period) that are commonly recognizable as Japanese are of the kiriha-zukuri type: straight flat blades with chisel type edges and kamasu kissaki(chisel shaped points) or hira-zukuri type: straight flat blades with curvedkissaki, some were double edged. The earliest of these swords had large ringshaped pommels. Blades of these styles are referred to as "chokuto" swords.These styles of swords were probably influenced by the Chinese blades of theperiod making their way to Japan via the Korean peninsula. Chokuto styleblades were made in later times, but mainly as temple offering swords.Kissaki moroha-zukuri tachi were also made about this time, circa 700-800AD. Kissaki moroha-zukuri blades have a curved shinogi-zukuri blade with asharpened kissaki extending back about one third to one half the length of themune. The most famous of this style is the Kogarasu-Maru (Little Crow) Tachimade around 900 AD and marks the beginning of the Koto sword period.Kogarasu style blades of all sizes were made throughout Japanese history.The earliest single edged shinogi-zukuri tachi (those with ridge lines) from thelate Heian period were basically cavalry sabers - long blades normally over 30inches in length with considerable koshi-sori (most of the curvature being near the bottom part of the blade). These blades had significant taper (funbari) from
 
the ha-machi to the yokote and ko-kissaki (small points). The blades were quitenarrow. Many of the blades of this general period found today have beenpolished dozens of times and may have little temperline (hamon) remaining onthe blade or kissaki. In some cases this is acceptable to collectors for blades of this extremely early vintage.By the early Kamakura period, tachi had become more robust. The bladeswere somewhat wider with less funbari, but retained the ko-kissaki. The sorialso was somewhat less tending to move out to the middle of the blade (tori-sori). During the middle Kamakura tachi had become very stout with much lesstaper and had ikubi-kissaki (short stubby points).The most common shape of the Japanese sword that is seen today firstappears during the mid-Kamakura. These blades are somewhat shorter thanthose of earlier times, with less taper, less sori and chu-kissaki (medium sizepoints).During the Nambokucho period, blades became quite flamboyant with largewide blades, little funbari or sori and o-kissaki (large points). Many hira-zukuriblades (those without shinoji) were also made in this period as were somechokuto type revivals. . No-dachi, shouldering swords, with blades in excess of 50 inches, were made during this period; however, these proved to be toounwieldy and the style was soon abandoned.A major change in blade style occured in the early Muromachi period as aresult of a shift from cavalry to infantry tactics. The katana is born. The earlykatanawere shortened tachi and have the shape of earlier Kamakura blades,but shorter. The shorter blades facilitated the draw from the edge up katanamounts by samurai on foot.The Muromachi katana is the classic style blade associated with Japaneseswords today. It is a blade between 27-30 inches in length with moderate sakisori, little funbari and chu-kissaki. Other changes occur in the late Muromachiand Momoyama eras, some blades are made wider and stouter with slightlylarger kissaki. These changes are difficult for most people to see without directside-by-side comparison of the blades.As Japan entered its 250 year long period of peace, the Edo period, thesword also undergoes changes which mark the end of the Koto sword era andthe beginning of the Shinto sword era.
 
While there were variations in shape within the Shinto period, the classic styleis that of the Kanbun era (mid 1600's). Blades are made in katana length, circa26-29 inches, but stouter and with very little curvature and chu-kissaki. Kanbunstyle blades are nearly straight and quite robust. Many swords of this era arefound in collections today.By the late Edo period, sword making was in decline due to the decreaseddemand for swords in a country at peace. Many were made more for show thancombat having wild, flamboyant hamon and intricate horimono (carvings). Somescholars consider this a period of decadence for the Japanese sword.When ever extremes appear there is usually a reverse trend to correct theextreme. This is the case in the late Edo period (circa 1780) and marks thebeginning of the Shinshinto sword period. The swordsmith Suishinshi Masahideis generally credited with leading a rival of sword making, promoting a return tothe styles and methods of the Koto period. During the Shinshinto era swords of all styles are made as copies of Koto blades, but most are copies of shortenedtachi blades of the mid to late Muromachi era. Some Kogarasu revivals weremade during the Shinshinto period.With the opening of Japan to the West by Perry in the mid NineteenthCentury and the Meiji Restoration, the traditional Japanese sword nearly ceasesto exist. The Meiji Emperor bans the wearing of swords and abolishes thesamurai class. Swords after 1876 can not properly be called samurai swords asthere were no samurai after that date. This also marks the first large exodus of Japanese swords to the West with many of the largest early English andAmerican collections being assembled during this time. Few traditional swordsare made except for special occasions or temple dedications as the Japanesestarted adopting western style cavalry sabers which were machine made. It isnot until the 1930's with the period of Japanese expansion into other parts of Asia that swords of the classic style are again made.The Showa Era sees a great variety in quality of sword production, fromtraditionally made Nihonto (gendai blades) to bar stock, machine made swords(Showato) with all variations in between. Most blades are made to a militarystandard with blades between 25-28 inches in length, having only slight sori,almost no taper (funbari)and chu-kissaki (medium points). The student of theJapanese sword must learn to distinguish between non-traditionally madeswords and true gendai blades. While non-traditional blades are of historicalinterest to militaria collectors and make perfectly fine swords for martial artsuse, they are of little interest to collectors of Nihonto. The great variation inmethods of production during the Showa Era makes this an area of muchneeded research.

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