The katana, a historic representation of the samurai class, and the gunto, a contemporary military sword created for practical usage, have different styles and functions.
The sword is the oldest and the most iconic weapon in history. It was the symbol of the warrior in the older times. Usually, a sword is made of metal with a sharp blade at the edge. They are of different types and vary in size.
Sword has had cultural importance all across the globe for thousands of years. The weapon which is also known as the Queen of weapons is used for self-defense and protection.
Swords were popular not only in ancient times but in present days too. It is the primary and effective weapon to defeat your opponent.
History and Evolution of the Sword
When the sword was not invented, people used knives, spears, and clubs in wars and for individual self-defense. Most of the western people such as Australians and North Americans did not use swords, but other weapons to defend themselves and for hunting.
In the 1400s, when Europeans arrived, they introduced swords in most of the areas. The first sword was invented at the time of the Egyptian era, named the khopesh the most popular sword of that time used in the military. Khopesh was the advanced form of the battle axe with a curved edged blade.
The Chinese era was also famous for sword invention in ancient times. The oldest sword of this era is the sword of Goujian.
Chinese era has many variations in sword making. In Qin Dynasty new techniques were recognized and chromium dioxide-plated swords were invented to preserve them from rust.
The Han Dynasty was the best time for sword development. The ulfbehrt sword from the early medieval period was the most popular sword at that time. The ulfbehrt sword was used in the 10th century. It is a simple weapon with a blunt tip, and the guard of the sword was also small which was easy to hold in one hand.
As time passes, the swords gained popularity all over the world with more developed and adapted fighting styles.
Types of Sword’s Blade
The blade is the most noticeable part of any sword, there are commonly two types of sword’s blade. However, in close-quarter combat, a small sword with a shorter blade is needed because of its lighter weight.
On the other hand, horsemen usually use a long sword with a sharp tip to reach down easily.
The curved blade has two edges an arcing stroke and the slashing draw cut, these two cuts are the most effective edges to strike the opponent.
Besides this, the Western sword makers copied the Eastern curved blade and developed a basic curved style blade for effective use.
The Western blade has many variations in the curved blade, but the key feature of this blade is it is a sharp, single-sided blade with a short sword. The famous sword weapon of the 13th century was the falchion having a sharp, pointed tip, and convex back edge highly effectual for thrusting.
After the falchion’s popularity, some more types of swords were invented with curved blades till the 17th century.
The Bread Sword
A long, two-sided blade was introduced at the time of Celts about 3,000 years ago. The bread sword was adopted in many variations later in the middle ages.
This sword was prominent in wars and battlefields. As time passes, the sword got its final shape with 55 inches, 10 inches hilt, and 16 inches cross guard for complete balance.
Now, after short information about swords, let’s gather some notable knowledge about katana and gunto weapons.
A type of sword with a curved, sharp single edge blade used in Samurai warriors. It is the status symbol of Japanese arts and is popular for its special craftsmanship and metallurgy.
It is well known for thousands of years in the Japanese Samurai’s legacy. A person who makes a katana sword is known as Tosho or Katana kaji.
Importance of Katana Sword
The sword is commonly paired with other swords like shoto and wakizashi, unlike these swords katana is shorter in length. When the katana is merged with the tanto blade, it is known as daisho, which represents the social stability of the samurai.
Katana sword is usually used for cutting and worn edge up. It is made up of tamahagane and Tatara, they both are well-known carbon steel and smelted from iron sands.
The handle of the katana is longer than other swords, but among the swords having double-handed cleft, this sword is lighter. Katana sword has a sharp blade that is over 60 cm in length and hilts 20- 25 cm long.
The hilt of the katana can be held with one or with both hands. The hilt is covered with the skin of sharks or rays for a strong, balanced grip.
The collar of the sword is known as fuchi and the pommel is kashira, while tsuba is the sword guard. The disk-shaped sword guard helps the swordsman to grip tightly.
The tsuba is usually made of gold or silver, and decorated with precious stones. The sword katana is usually kept in the scabbard, a wooden cover known as saya.
Katana has a brief and long history of Samurai times. The word katana is first introduced at the time of the Kamakura period.
However, the use of swords in Japanese history was quite primeval. At first, the swords were simple and straight in their shape. But in the Heian period, the katana began to appear with different variations.
During the Meiji dynasty, Japan was at the peak of versatility and industrialization. At that time, swords also gained a specific place in warfare and firearm.
But the casual use of swords came to an end according to the Haitorai law (not to carry swords except military and police).
As katana, gunto is also well known in the Japanese military. A gunto sword was invented after the katana sword.
Japan is always rich in sword making and its uses in wars from the early years. Japanese sword smiths were also well-trained.
However, military swords were manufactured commercially depending on the basic needs of a perfect weapon. When it comes to gunto swords, in the 20th-century military guards used swords as supplementary weapons in wars and sword training was also compulsory for the military and police.
In World War II, the gunto and other samurai swords were used to carry by the warriors. In the beginning, the gunto sword was the fabricated and assembled sword of that time.
Gunto typically resembles the Western saber with a balanced grip. The unique characteristic is that the gunto is easy to hold because of its lighter weight and medium size.
Until 1934, the sword was popular; thereafter, it was adapted into shin gunto (another kind of military sword).
As we read above, at the time of the Meiji restoration the common use of swords had been banned, only the lords, military men, and police were allowed to use. The swordsmiths changed their work to make other steel items for the household.
So far, before World War II the use of swords gained popularity again. In fact, the Showa period was the revival of swords in Japanese history. At that time, military men and officers were obligated to wear a sword.
Types of Gunto Sword
Gunto swords are painted brown metal swords with leather covers and antique designs. On the basis of design, blade type, and size of gunto swords are classified into different types which are described briefly below:
- Kyu gunto: The standard sword of the Japanese military was first made by a military man named Murata Tsuneyoshi was invented this mass-produced sword for samurai battles. Kyo gunto swords were used in Sin Japanese War and Russo Japanese War respectively. The specific name for this sword is Murato-to used during 1875-1895. Kyo gunto swords are made of a chrome-plated scabbard and much resemble Western swords of that time.
- Shin gunto: Shin gunto also known as the new military sword is more popular because of its use in the imperial Japanese army. Between the years 1935-1945, new military swords were designed to use for the Japanese military. The blades of the swords were made from machines and were different from old swords.
- Type 94: After the replacement of Kyu gunto swords, Type 94 swords were introduced made of metal lining and the hilt was made of ray skin. Brown painted the handle and decorated it with a cherry blossom design.
- Type 95: Type 95 shin gunto was designed in 1935, especially for NCOs. The sword was simple, cheaper, and consists of a machine-made blade. Having a good grip because of its iron-made fitting.
- Type 98: Type 98 was simply the new version of type 94. But changes occur at the end of the war and later the swords were made with copper with the slight decoration of brass or black iron fittings.
- Kaigunto: A less common type of sword also called a naval sword, made of stainless steel blades. Some of these swords have a single hanger, with machine-made blades.
Difference Between Katana and Gunto
|Definition||An old sword of the Japanese military consists of a single edge blade.||A sword was called a tachi. It is also a Japanese military sword from the 2nd world War.|
|Size||Approximately 60-80 cm||Approximately 100 cm|
|Weight||1.1-1.5 kg||Lighter than Katana|
|Blade type||A curved, sharp blade with a single edge||Some have handmade katana blades and sharp single-edged blades.|
|Worn style||Wear with the edge up, on the tang side facing the viewer.||Wear horizontally, at the back of the warrior.|
|Price||About 10,000 to 25,000$||Different depending upon the type of the sword; a maximum of 50,000$, as it is also popular as an art piece.|
|Hilt type||Two-handed grip hilt, circular or squared||Wooden hilt covered with leather or fish skin|
Process of Making Japanese Swords
The process is usually based on not breaking, not bending but sharply cutting. This line shows that a good sword is based on the technique of not breaking while fighting or defending, not bending and it can cut sharply with its razor-sharp blade.
Now, here are a few main points of making a sword:
- Pre-setting: The first step in which raw materials such as charcoal, other metals, and equipment like furnaces, and heating tools should be set.
- Tanren: A step includes molding raw steel into the shaped workable structure.
- Tsukurikomi & Sunobe: Mixing of steel both in hard and soft form, to form sword blank.
- Hizukuri: An easy step in which the final shape of the sword is formed.
- Arashiage: Include sharpening and fining the blade.
- Tsuchioki: An important procedure in which clay is applied on the blade to reach the process of making a hamon.
- Yaki-ire: The step is based on heating to create the hamon.
- Shiage: A process in which the final touching of the blade takes place.
- Hi & Horimono: A step includes decoration and carving of grooves.
- Nakago & Maikiri: The final sword finishing either the decoration or labeling takes place.
- Katana and gunto swords are popular not only for their purposes but as art pieces.
- Both swords differ from each other in some aspects, used in samurai, and other restorations of Japan.
- Swords play an important role as a weapon and soul of warriors in the Japanese era. These are the signs of power and discipline.
- In the Japanese military, the gunto is just as well-known as the katana. The katana sword inspired the development of the gunto sword.
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