SMAA Gives a Brief History of Japanese Swords

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michimich -- Do you have an interest in Japanese swordsmanship?

Is the katana the only Japanese sword you've heard of?

Sensei Paul Martin gave us a detailed history of Japanese swords in volume 20, issue 3 of the "SMAA Journal." Here's a brief overview from that article:

It is thought that the shift from straight blades to Japanese swords with curvature happened around the mid to late Heian period (794-1184). This was during the mid-10th century: about the time Taira Masakado and Fujiwara Sumitomo rebelled against the government in the Johei (931-938) and Tengyo (938-947) eras.


From the late Heian period and the early Kamakura period (1185-1333) we can see the Japanese sword as we know it today: shinogi-zukuri (ridgeline) construction, with a wide base, narrowing acutely towards the small point section (ko-kissaki). They are quite slender blades with the curvature concentrated between the handle and base. This shape is called koshi-zori. From midway towards the point there is very little curvature. These blades are usually around 2.5-6 shaku in length (75.8 cm-78.8 cm).

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Blades made from the ninth year of Meiji (1868-1912) until present day are referred to as gendaito (modern swords). As of the Hatorei decree in 1876 (banning civilians from wearing swords), the need for swords declined. However, in Meiji 39 (1906), the craft gained imperial patronage. The sword smiths Gassan Sadakazu and Miyamoto Kanenori were appointed Tei Shitsu Gi Gei In (craftsmen by imperial appointment—equivalent to National Living Treasure). Since then, the sword smith's craft has continued through the Meiji, Taisho (1912-1926), Showa (1926-1989), and Heisei (1989-) eras until today. Today's sword smiths try to recreate the workmanship of eminent smiths of every period.

Read the full article on our website:

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Shudokan Martial Arts Association

Source: Shudokan Martial Arts Association

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