Wakizashi Sword

Take a look at the wakizashi and you will notice that it is just a shorter version of the very popular katana; it was also carried by the samurai during the feudal period in Japan and it was worn as a pair with the katana. It is necessary to carry these weapons together (though sometimes they also include a tanto) to clearly show everyone that the wielder was a samurai since the swords appear as the side arm of these samurai. Usually, the wakizashi sword is worn along with the katana and the carrying of these weapons were called the daisho which literally means small and large – dai or large to describe the katana while sho is for the smaller weapon which is the wakizashi.

Features of the Wakizashi

Generally, the wakizashi’s blade measures around twelve to twenty-four inches; however, there are different sizes of these weapons where one measures close to the katana’s length and is called the o-wakizashi, while the wakizashi that has almost a similar measurement to the tanto is called the ko-wakizashi. When the wakizashi is carried together with the katana, it was an official sign that the wielder of the two swords was a samurai from Japan’s feudal period. Although some would assume that the wakizashi is just the smaller version of the katana, these weapons could be forged and made differently, with different cross-sections as well.

History of the Little Sword

Just like every other authentic Japanese sword made in the past, the wakizashi has been utilized by the samurai as far back as the fifteenth or sixteenth century; it was primarily utilized as an auxiliary or backup sword, a weapon great for close-quarter battles, as well as a sword used for beheading their defeated enemies.  Furthermore, these weapons were also were made for decapitating their defeated opponents and the wakizashi was also used by the samurai to commit a ritual suicide or Seppuku; because of this, the weapon was referred to as the Honor Blade among foreign individuals. Miyamoto Musashi, a master swordsman was famous for wielding a wakizashi and a katana in both hands, simultaneously, to fight his opponents to achieve the ultimate advantage during combat.

In the past, samurai who carried these two swords would leave their katana with the servant of the building or on a rack called the katana-kake; when set on the rack, they need to have the katana’s hilt pointing to the left so the weapon had to be removed or pulled out with the left hand. After this, the katana would be carefully passed to the right hand then placed on the wielder’s right waist, allowing him to only remove the sword with his left hand. This was necessary to make drawing the sword more difficult and would eventually decrease all suspicions and negative thoughts about the samurai. When it comes to the wakizashi, this will be worn at all times unlike the katana, hence, was known as the side-arm of every samurai. Interestingly, a samurai would have his wakizashi with him from the time he wakes to the time he sleeps.

Wakizashi in Modern-Day Fiction

Today, the wakizashi is commonly used by fictional characters that would be categorized into the archetype of stealth wherein the characters would usually be ninjas, assassins, or even spies. The reason for this was due to the usefulness and efficiency of the wakizashi especially in close quarters and its ability and ease to be concealed. A popular video game of this time called Final Fantasy X features one of the characters there, a samurai aeon called Yojimbo who makes use of a wakizashi; also, in a Japanese anime called Samurai Champloo, all of the main characters namely Fuu, Mugen, and Jin, all wield a wakizashi; in fact, Jin and Mugen actually win most of their challenging battles in the anime using the wakizashi.

Katana Sword

We all know that the katana sword is among the traditionally made weapons wielded by the samurai of feudal Japan to slash, fight, and protect against enemies. If we were to characterize the apparent features of the sword, we would start off with the katana sword having an arched single-edge blade that also has either a squared or circular-shaped guard; additionally, the katana also has an adequately long grip to easily accommodate two hands.

The Katana

Generally, the katana is a standard-sized, fairly curved Japanese sword with a blade that measures over sixty centimeters. It has a distinct appearance so it can somehow be distinguished from the tachi and aside from this, the katana sword can also be distinguished if the signature is carved right into the tang’s side and should face outward when the weapon is carried on the owner’s left. Since the cutting edge of the tachi faces down, the cutting edge of the katana is worn up and this is to have both signatures seen in opposite locations. Because of the durability, strength, and excellence of the katana, a lot of western historians claim that it is one of the finest weapons in history.

Katanas during the Edo Period

During this period, researchers claimed that there was an actual official sword-testing department put up by the government; this was to ensure that the all the blades of the katana that they were to use were of quality materials. With the Tameshigiri, a professional swordsman would have the chance to test the katana’s blade by directly slicing through the bodies of executed individuals or at times, through the bodies of live criminals that were all piled up atop of each other. There are times when inexperienced samurai used these to train; however, the official testing of the katana’s blades can only be carried out by master or professional swordsmen to make sure that the blade was made perfect for battle.

When testing the blades, there were different areas to be hit: from one’s ankle to the trunk, and a couple more spots. The test results during tests like cutting three bodies right through the trunk would be carved on the blade; and if the blades were proven to be powerful, the value of it would greatly increase. Although the swordsmith who created the katana would greatly benefit from the tamashigiri to prove the quality of their work, the testing of these swords would still be ordered by those who would purchase the katana and generally, these tests are at times, just as expensive as the swords.

Uses of the Katana Today

We can’t deny that almost everyone all over the world has an increased liking in the traditional martial arts of the Japanese, and because of this, a lot of people from other countries started gaining interest in Kenjutsu. For the modern version of Kenjutsu, most of its practice is executed in the suburi style and instead of using the real katana, practitioners make use of a bokken. Aside from practice, katanas are often used in various action films that have become a hit all over; some of these movies include Zatochi, Kill Bill, The Last Samurai, and a lot more.