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Thread: The Samurai Sword

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    The Samurai Sword

    Note: This thread was split off from the "I Am Woman, Listen" thread because an interesting side discussion sprung that had nothing to do with the original thread.

    I have parked this new thread under the Documentaries category because of Nothing's inclusion of the video in post #2
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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    There can only be one...[...]
    Synchronicity alert: I was just playing around with one of my katanas half an hour ago.

    To those for whom this passes over their heads, the katana is the traditional long sword of the samurai, and both Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod in the Highlander movies and series were using a katana. Connor's sword used to belong to Ramirez and was over 2000 years old. It became his after Ramirez was beheaded by the Kurgan. Duncan's sword was bequeathed to him by a daimyō whom he served under in feudal Japan.

    I own two katanas, and the one I was handling just earlier is a replica of the sword that "bad guy" Kane used in "Highlander III: The Sorcerer" — it is similar to the swords used by Connor and Duncan, but with a black handle and guard, and the dragon figure represented by the handle has wings.

    Lastly, if you're not familiar with the Highlander franchise, the line "There can be only one" is elemental to the story.


    Last edited by Aragorn, 7th May 2018 at 21:18. Reason: thread split note
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    Last edited by enjoy being, 9th June 2018 at 05:09.

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    A properly made samurai sword is to hold magic in ones hands even if it applies to the metallurgy and blacksmiths alone. My father-in-law had a wakizashi (short sword) he had gotten from a friend who fought in the Pacific and acquired it on the battlefield. It had a 'presence' when I it held in my hands and touched the blade, there was the experience of a desire for the edge to cleave flesh. It was a hungry blade and had been fed before, on the battlefield.

    I met a modern maker of swords, Angel Swords, at a Renaissance Faire and told him the above story. He told me that some swords were like that and that sword makers would put the sword into a stream and placed a leaf on the water before the sword and watched whether the sword allowed the leaf by, or cut it. They knew each blade was as sharp as the other but their spirits differed. The kind of sword a samurai preferred was always noted. The qualities of the sword were used to market them, for the natures of these swords was made known to purchasers. In other words, the angry sword(s) was pointed out as 'different'.

    Beware the angry sword choosing samurai?

    Sword Master lore?
    Last edited by modwiz, 7th May 2018 at 10:36.
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    OK, my two-pfennigs worth on The Highlander series and movies.

    I do own a highlander t-shirt and have the movies on DVD. I also have a Highlander Katana letter opener. Really like the two MacCleod actors. Christopher Lambert would be the same ordering from a menu.

    First movie was brilliant in every way. Second movie seemed lost for a theme connection. Third is back on theme showing some signs of fatigue.

    TV series was excellent in the early part, lost a great character in the middle-ish part. The last parts gradually, and then precipitously, took once noble characters, though sometimes hokey, and it devolved into drama and conflict, like rebels without a cause, for drama's sake, IMO. If the script writers ever got their act together at the end, I do not know. It had reached a point of insult for me.

    I am not a professional critic and the opinions expressed here are the product of my own febrile mind.
    "To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize" -- Voltaire

    "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."-- Eleanor Roosevelt

    "Misery loves company. Wisdom has to look for it." -- Anonymous

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    Last edited by enjoy being, 9th June 2018 at 05:09.

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    Last edited by enjoy being, 9th June 2018 at 05:10.

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    I have a katana which I bought a decade ago, but unfortunately it's not a genuine Japanese one. I only wish.

    I am no fan of killing, but I do admire beauty and elegance.


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    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    I own two katanas, and the one I was handling just earlier is a replica of the sword that "bad guy" Kane used in "Highlander III: The Sorcerer" — it is similar to the swords used by Connor and Duncan, but with a black handle and guard, and the dragon figure represented by the handle has wings.
    To offer more clarity regarding my "Highlander III" katana, here are a few pictures. These are not actually pictures of my own katana — i.e. they are pictures I found on the internet — but the sword in these pictures is identical to mine.










    They were made as a limited run, called "Sword of the Sorcerer", by Marto in Spain — nowadays known as Martespa — which also supplied the swords for the Highlander TV series. The blade is made from 440-grade stainless Toledo steel, which allows for it to be sharpened — and mine has been. Still, it is not quite the same thing as a blade made from differentially hardened carbon steel, let alone a traditionally forged katana.





    Quote Originally posted by modwiz View Post
    A properly made samurai sword is to hold magic in ones hands even if it applies to the metallurgy and blacksmiths alone. My father-in-law had a wakizashi (short sword) he had gotten from a friend who fought in the Pacific and acquired it on the battlefield. It had a 'presence' when I it held in my hands and touched the blade, there was the experience of a desire for the edge to cleave flesh. It was a hungry blade and had been fed before, on the battlefield.
    Wakizashis were not standard military issue during World War II, so any Japanese soldier/officer who carried one must have brought it with him as a personal possession. The Japanese military even allowed officers to replace the blade of their military-issue katanas with that of a traditionally made sword that had been in their families for ages and had been passed down through the generations.

    By consequence, these older swords had still been hand-forged in the traditional manner, and would probably also have seen battle within a short time after they had been created. World-War-II-era military-issue katanas on the other hand were industrially forged using pneumatic hammers, and although they were most certainly not bad in terms of production quality, they were definitely no match for their artisan-forged counterparts.

    That said, there was however a Japanese sword smith named Muramasa, who was described as being a genius on the one hand, but ill-tempered and violent on the other hand, bordering madness, and it was believed that part of his madness made its way into his swords. At one point, his swords were officially forbidden because they were believed to be demonically possessed, and there is a legend which states that a Muramasa sword, when drawn from the scabbard, must always draw blood first before it can be returned to the scabbard.

    Personally, I think that a lot depends on who it is that holds the sword in their hands. I know a man who had purchased a restored chisa-katana. It is a slightly shorter version of a regular katana — the blade sits in between a katana and a wakizashi in length, at about 55-60 cm — but it is still a two-handed sword like the katana proper. They were mainly used by the indoor guards at the Japanese courts, because the shorter blades more easily allowed for indoor fighting.

    Presumably, the chisa-katana was the inspiration for the straight-bladed (but fictional) ninja-to — wielded in typical (western-made) ninja movies — which are all shown to have a shorter blade, a square guard and black furniture. In reality, the ninja never used such swords — they had no devotion or spiritual connection to the weapons they used, as they regarded them as mere tools. They would use whatever weapon they could find and they would dispose of it again when a more suitable weapon was available for the circumstances at hand. There is also no historical evidence that there have ever been any straight-bladed katanas.

    Still, to go on with the story of the chisa-katana, this man was an aikido trainer, and he had purchased the sword from someone who restores them. Most of the swords restored by this man are from the collection of mass-produced katanas brought back by allied soldiers during World War II. The aikido trainer also stated that his sword had a desire to kill, and that he could feel it pulling in his hands. However, I have held said sword myself, and I did not experience what he described. So if that blade did indeed have a desire to kill, then perhaps I was immune to it.

    Nevertheless, the discipline known as iaijutsu also had its merits. A skilled samurai would leave his sword sheathed even when surrounded by enemies, while at the same time constantly moving about, assessing his enemies' intentions. For his enemies, this held the element of surprise, as they would never be able to tell when the samurai was going to draw his sword and strike, nor in which manner or direction. All they knew was that if and when the samurai's sword were to come out of its scabbard, then at the very least one of them was with the utmost certainty going to die. This alone was often enough to scare potential assailants away, settling the confrontation without that any blood had been spilled.

    Quote Originally posted by modwiz View Post
    I met a modern maker of swords, Angel Swords, at a Renaissance Faire and told him the above story. He told me that some swords were like that and that sword makers would put the sword into a stream and placed a leaf on the water before the sword and watched whether the sword allowed the leaf by, or cut it. They knew each blade was as sharp as the other but their spirits differed. The kind of sword a samurai preferred was always noted. The qualities of the sword were used to market them, for the natures of these swords was made known to purchasers. In other words, the angry sword(s) was pointed out as 'different'.

    Beware the angry sword choosing samurai?

    Sword Master lore?
    Well, yes and no. Neither katanas nor wakizashis were ever really marketed — nor were the tachis, the slightly longer and more curved predecessors to the katana.

    The tachi was traditionally worn hanging perfectly horizontal from a leather waist belt, and with the cutting edge downward, whereas katanas and wakizashis were worn through a belt-like sash with the cutting edge upward. The rationale was that tachis were normally worn by cavalry wearing thick armor, and they were designed to be most effective when used from the horse's back. The katana on the other hand evolved from the tachi in relatively more peaceful times, because samurai began wearing their swords while on foot, and often without that they wore any armor.

    Carrying the sword through the sash with the cutting edge upward made it easier to draw the sword and strike down an opponent all in one move — a fighting technique known as iaijutsu (or earlier, as battojutsu). The tachi was however a little too long and too curved to be able to do that comfortably, and as was discovered during the Mongol invasion of Japan, the tachi's thinner and more curved blade was more prone to damage when trying to cut through the Mongols' boiled leather body armor. This then led to an intermediary type of sword called the uchigatana, and then eventually to the katana proper.

    Either way, in those days, capitalism did not exist yet, and certainly not in Japan. By consequence, there was also no industrial weapons production and thus also no marketing. The possession of a katana or a tachi was by law restricted to the ruling class only — i.e. the samurai — and although traveling merchants were allowed to carry a wakizashi for personal protection, they were not allowed to possess a katana. Therefore, every sword forged in those days was tailor-made for its owner — literally, as the length of the blade and of the handle had to fit the future owner — and was also prohibitively expensive.





    Quote Originally posted by Nothing View Post
    Interesting anecdote in post 46 modwiz, which furthers some of the symbolism picked up in the documentary.
    The process of making the katana, outlined in the doco, piques my interest related to the topic of the thread even, the bonding of 2 for their properties, to make one bonded together which has magical properties through the acceptances of each other, brought to realisation through practice and sacrifice and deep understanding.
    The most reputed sword smith ever in Japan was Masamune, and his swords were composed of three different types of steel.

    Quote Originally posted by Nothing View Post
    I love the documentary because of the many levels of parallels running through it.
    The individual character of the product, and now, as you have added, how that reflects upon the spirit of the warrior.
    I hope the doco was complete, my copy says 53 mins.
    I had already seen this documentary twice before, and yes, it is complete. However, I have also already seen other documentaries which revolved more around the subject of the samurai themselves, and which contain the same re-enacted footage as in this documentary.

    For instance, the young samurai seen drawing his sword while sitting in the doorway of the building, and who is later shown to all on his own defeat a whole slew of enemies in the garden, is then at the end of the other documentary shown to commit seppuku — the ritual suicide by self-disembowelment — because he had failed his master.
    = DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR =

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    Last edited by enjoy being, 9th June 2018 at 05:10.

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    Quote Originally posted by modwiz View Post
    OK, my two-pfennigs worth on The Highlander series and movies.

    I do own a highlander t-shirt and have the movies on DVD. I also have a Highlander Katana letter opener. Really like the two MacCleod actors. Christopher Lambert would be the same ordering from a menu.

    First movie was brilliant in every way. Second movie seemed lost for a theme connection. Third is back on theme showing some signs of fatigue.
    The second movie was an abomination that even the director would later on distance himself from. He then released a "Director's Cut" version — I've seen both versions and I have the "Director's Cut" on VHS — but even that couldn't save the gross violation of the whole concept.

    There were however two more movies after the third one. The fourth movie was titled "Highlander IV: Endgame" and was intended as a crossover between the movie franchise and the series, whereby Duncan MacLeod would become the main character. In that movie, Connor dies, although I will not spoil it for anyone who hasn't watched it by revealing who kills him.

    In a way, Connor's death was inevitable, because unlike the character, Christopher Lambert is not immortal and had visibly aged since the first three movies. Furthermore, the battle scenes had either way always been problematic for him, because he's highly myopic and his eyes don't tolerate contact lenses, which means that he has to wear glasses, and he has almost no vision without them. As such, he nearly lost an eye during a sword fight rehearsal with Adrian Paul for the pilot episode of what would later on become the series.

    The fifth movie was called "Highlander V: The Source" and was never theatrically shown. It was released directly to DVD instead. It also brings an end to the franchise, because in said movie — which is said to take place in a near but as yet undefined future where society has broken down — a number of Immortals set out to find The Source.

    On their quest, they are repeatedly taunted and attacked by the Guardian, a creepy kind of Immortal Antichrist, who possesses superhuman agility and strength. Eventually they find the location of the Source on an island in Eastern Europe, but the island is inhabited by modern-day cannibals, and they also find that as they get closer to the Source, their immortality starts to wane. The Guardian also kills Joe Dawson, Duncan's Watcher and friend. At the end of the movie, Duncan is able to defeat the Guardian, after which he becomes mortal.

    It's not a bad movie in terms of entertainment value, but it does feel a bit "off" due to it being filmed mostly in Eastern Europe and taking place at a non-specified point in the near future.

    Quote Originally posted by modwiz View Post
    TV series was excellent in the early part, lost a great character in the middle-ish part.
    You mean Tessa Noël, Duncan's fiancée? Alexandra Vandernoot, the actress who played her, is Belgian, by the way.

    There are several other recurring characters who get killed off in the series, e.g. Hugh Fitzcairn (played by Roger Daltrey), and later also Richie Ryan.

    Quote Originally posted by modwiz View Post
    The last parts gradually, and then precipitously, took once noble characters, though sometimes hokey, and it devolved into drama and conflict, like rebels without a cause, for drama's sake, IMO. If the script writers ever got their act together at the end, I do not know. It had reached a point of insult for me.

    I am not a professional critic and the opinions expressed here are the product of my own febrile mind.
    The end of the series was indeed strange. First they started experimenting with other Immortal leads, and then Duncan would only appear in the episode as a cameo. And then they did a two-part episode in which the events were shown that would have taken place if Duncan had never been an Immortal — similar to that one episode of "Dallas" where J.R. Ewing was shown by a demon what his world and his family would have looked like if he had never been born.

    Lastly, they tried to continue the franchise with another leading character, i.e. Amanda Darieux, Duncan's former lover who used her acrobatic skills for high-profile burglary and art theft. This new series was called "Highlander: The Raven", but it was canned after only one season.





    Quote Originally posted by Nothing View Post
    Well that is sort of a shame that this got split off from the topic it was in as I felt that it was very much bringing things back on topic, as opposed to the Seth stuff and whatever other off topic posts were going on. I was enjoying how the flow was gradually bringing people to a point they were ready to talk about the topic without being nervous or triggered.
    Now it feels fractured. Sorry, just had to state this, as I feel like a garden has been trampled on. But sure if people don't recognise the garden then it is perhaps best to fence it off.
    Unlike you, I did not see this bringing things together, but instead, I saw a topic that was worthy of some standalone discussion all of its own, and which I myself was also feeling eager to discuss freely without being responsible for the pollution of any existing threads. This topic was bound to drag the original thread off-topic, and so apart from stopping everyone short in their tracks in order to get the other thread back on-topic, splitting off these posts was the only logical thing to do.

    Sadly enough, you posted the above before I had a chance to post a heads-up about it on the original thread, because I was suddenly becoming unwell right after I had split off the posts into this new thread.
    = DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR =

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    Here's one of the other documentaries on the making of the Japanese sword. It contains much of the same footage — albeit sometimes from different viewing angles — and it also elaborates more on the culture of the samurai themselves.


    = DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR =

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    I'm interested in Tessen. I want a war fan or two. But apparently they were used by female ninja. Not a sort the samurai would have found honorable.

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    Another documentary, this time with a much more detailed look at the actual forging of the blade than in the other two documentaries.


    = DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR =

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