Wednesday, 29. September 2010
A lot has been made of the famed Japanese sword - the katana. I think a lot of it is in conjunction with ninjas; hyping the weapon up from the mere improbable into the impossible. As we all know from movies the sword is unbreakable, can cut through nearly anything and periodically enable the user to fly or other oddities. This is of course pure hogwash.
Drawing – The katana itself is efficient shaped for a speedy draw. The weapons curvature enables some of the length to wrap around the body and to use the bodies natural arcs to draw. Typically carried edge up, with considerable training the draw is extremely quick and can be used to deliver an effective cut. Along with this worth noting that this cut likely won’t cleaving anyone in half, as it lacks the mechanical leverage to do so. Despite this, the weapon is still more than capable of removing the operators hand on the draw, or inflicting other serious injury on sheathing (noto) the weapon. Also worth noting is that with the proper draw most westerners can use a considerably longer weapon than the standard lengths.. training with this is obviously required due to the above mention.
Cutting ability – Katanas have a fantastic cleaving ability through tissue and most softer materials. This is again, because of the blades geometry. The natural movement of the arms combined with the blades curve provide and extremely efficient cutting method easily capable of cleaving bodies in half provided that proper leverage is used, 2 hands. The blades tip is quite sturdy and can also deliver an effective thrust. Proper training enables the usage of this to penetrate armor gaps and enter softer targets within the body.
Blade Breakage – Far from being impervious katanas in traditional literature break frequently. The result of this is usually the death of the user in question. This is due to the teardrop shaped blade geometry, it is a minimalist design that is specialized in cleaving. Striking harder materials such as plated armor and other metal objects (swords in particular) remain a significant impediment and can result in blade breakage even in the case that the object is penetrated. The blades are still quite tough in the proper hands and it is worth noting that older blades consist of a more teardrop shape resulting in less overall sharpness but considerably increased resilience over the nice flat modern blades, which are shaped to cut tissue and mats. Some of the more modern complaints about the weapon are due to this.
Overall the weapon is an effecient design that is well matched to the Kenjitsu style of swordsmanship. The blade sacrifices some integrity for weight versus european swords as well as maintains a considerably different balance.