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.
Originally posted by modwiz
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.
Originally posted by modwiz
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.
Originally posted by Nothing
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.
Originally posted by Nothing
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.