Poking A Hole In The Myth

Is a katana nothing more than a saber from Japan?  Let us examine the evidence.

Katanas!  And some other kinda katana-ey swords.  And it looks like a replica of a movie prop at the 12 o’clock position.

katanas in a pile

Sabers!  And a cutlass.  And three backswords at the top.

sabers in a row

Looks like it may be so, but this is hardly definitive proof.

I’ve heard that sabers are the most common swords on Earth.  Considering all of the extremely cheap samurai swords I’ve seen littering the landscape over the decades, I’d say that this is true only if one considers katanas to be a form of saber.  If you should insist that Japanese style swords are a breed apart, then I would say to say that all those cheap, crappy samurai swords I practically trip over every time I visit a comic book store win the top spot.

cheap swords on display for sale

6 Responses to “Poking A Hole In The Myth”

  1. knirirr says:

    One thing that sabres and katanas have in common is that due to being curved swords they fall under the control of this unfortunate law:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7331099.stm

    However, all the nutters, criminals and so on seem to prefer the Japanese swords for their assaults and murders rather than sabres, backswords and the like.

  2. A saber is a one-handed weapon. The grip on it is too small for routine two-handed use.

    A katana is a two-handed weapon, usually. There was a style of fighting used by some where the katana was used with one hand and the wakizashi was used with the other hand, but it was very uncommon. (The wakizashi was the smaller blade of the two-blade “daishou” which identified samurai during most of the Edo period.)

    The blades of a katana and a saber may superficially resemble one another, if you ignore the grip, but the way they were used in fighting was completely different.

    “The Bushido Blade”, an otherwise forgettable film, features a duel between a samurai using a katana and an American naval officer using a saber and it shows very clearly how different the fighting styles were.

  3. Akatsukami says:

    A katana is indeed just a two-handed saber; look at a kyū guntō to see.

    Japanese and Western styles of swordsmanship of course have no common roots, although they did develop some similar techniques (there are only so many things that can be done with a piece of sharp steel). Interestingly, use of the katana has more in common with longsword technique than with saber technique, possibly because of the two-handed grip.

  4. Sam L. says:

    I don’t see any short enough to be a cutlass.

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