14th Century AD Swords

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Swords History - 14th Century AD

Chisa Katana - It was a version of the Japanese sword with overall length falling between the length of the Katana which is the long sword and Wakizashi which is the short sword. The Chisa Katana is lighter in weight and shorter than the regular Samurai katana sword. In 17th century, 18-inch long Chisa Katana, was the only sword that was allowed at the Shogun’s court. The sword was worn by “Daimio” – Japanese nobles and landowners.

Großes Messer Sword - Großes Messer Sword is a type of singe-edged, German sword that was used between the 14th and 16th century. The word, Großes Messer means “great knife and the sword was also called Hiebmesser, meaning “cutting knife”. The sword’s handle resembled the handle of a knife thus the sword was called Großes Messer.  The pommel of the sword was usually curved to one side. The sword was similar to falchion sword. Because the sword was less expensive to manufacture, it was popular among the common people.  The overall length of the sword varied between 40 to 46 inches. The blade of the sword was about 31 inches in length. The weight of the sword was between 2.5 to 3lbs. The Großes Messer sword is similar to Kriegsmesser sword and the main difference is that Kriegsmesser was a lot larger and it was, in shape, similar to a scimitar.

Katana - The samurai sword is very often called a katana sword or simply katana. The name katana usually refers to Japanese samurai sword that has somewhat standardized size and curvature as older predecessor of the katana sword featured longer blade length (usually length higher than 23.6 inches) and more curvature.

The samurai katana is known by its characteristic features such as a thin, single-edged and curved blade, long handle suitable for two hands and circular or square guard. The katana sword is famous for its sharpness and it has been historically associated with the Samurai warriors of feudal Japan.
The katana sword originated during the Muromachi period (1392-1573). The reason behind its origin was the need for the ability to quickly draw the sword and cut the enemy in single movement. To facilitate this, the katana was worn with the blade facing up. Previously the sword was worn with the blade facing down.

The length of the katana sword differed. At the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century the katana blade was between 27.6 and 28.7 inches. In the early 16th century the length of the katana blade was shorter and it was about 23.6 inches. At the end of 16th century the length of the blade want back to 28.7 inches.

Samurai warriors often were equipped with two swords. One was the katana sword and the other one was a wakizashi sword which was similar to katana but much shorter. Often they also had a similarly shaped dagger called tanto. When the katana sword is paired with the wakizashi, such setup is called a daisho.

The Japanese katana sword is made from special steel called tamahagne. The characteristic curved shape of the katana sword is obtained during quenching. Before the quenching the katana sword is straight. During quenching the edge of blade of the katana sword forms martensite which is a much tougher crystalline structure compared with the softer and thicker in the back of the blade. The Japanese swordmakers can achieve this by covering the back of the blade with paste made of clay mixed with ashes and rust. Only the edge of the blade is exposed and this results with the edge to become much harder. The root cause of the curvature achieved during quenching is the different in density of the steel in the back of the blade and in the edge of the blade. The iron carbide in the edge of the blade has lesser density compared with the steel in the back of the blade.

Kodachi Sword - Kodachi was a Japanese sword that was too short to be called a long sword but too long be considered a dagger. The Japanese word “Kodachi” literally translates to “short sword”. The sword was about 23 inches in length. Compared with wakizashi, kodachi featured a blade that had bigger curvature and longer handle. Also, kodachi’s blade differed in construction. Kodachi was also referred to as a “shield sword”.

Kris - Kris is one of the most famous moro weapons. The kris is indigenous to Southern Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore. In the Philippines the sword was called “Kalis”. The kris was a very effective weapon that was well balanced and was able to deliver chopping and cutting blows. The sword featured a double-edged and wavy blade. Some swords had straight blades. It was believed that Kris had talismanic properties and the more waves the blade had the stronger the properties were. The blades of the sword were on average 18 to 26 inches in length. Sometimes the blade may have had one or multiple, full-length fullers. The hilt of the sword could be either straight or slightly curved. The guard of the sword was shaped so its line flew nicely with the waves of the blade. The pommels varied but the most common version was the horse hoof or cacatua. The hilt of the sword was made of hardwood. In the less expensive version of the sword the handle was wrapped with jute fiber whereas the more expensive version had pommel made of brass or ivory and the handle wrapped with braided silver wire. The scabbard of the sword was made of hardwood bound with rattan bindings.

Ninja Sword - Ninja sword is known as ninjato or ninjaken or shinobigatana. This Japanese sword was carried by the famous Ninja warriors. The sword was much smaller than the Katana sword carried by the Samurai warriors. The sword was also more crude. Typical ninja sword might have been a wakizashi sword blade that was fitted with katana style handle and stored in a katana-length scabbard. The scabbard was longer on purpose to deceive the enemy as one would miscalculate the time needed to draw a long sword. The extra space in the scabbard might have been used to store other equipment. The short sword used by Ninja was much more effective when fighting in close quarters. The blade of the ninja sword was rather straight but it had a slight curve. Because of that, the sword was not suitable for slashing but rather it was used as a thrusting and chopping weapon. As a result, the technique to use the sword was different than that of katana sword.

Odachi Sword - Odachi sword is a type of Japanese long sword with blade length of 3 shaku (36 inches) or more. The sword was mainly used in shrines as an offering to gods. Odachi swords might have been used as weapons during large battles. Due to its large length the Odachi sword was very difficult to manufacture. The quenching and tempering process was especially difficult as the long blade usually distorted during the process. The manufacturing process required a special facility, swordmaking experience and teamwork. Odachi swords could be carried on warrior’s back but that was very impractical as drawing of the weapon was difficult; therefore, the sword, most often was simply carried in one’s hand. With time, Odachi’s importance diminished and as a result it was used as a ceremonial piece exclusively.

Shirasaya Katana - Shirasaya in Japanese means "white scabbard". Shirasaya was used as a sort of storage for blades when not in use. The handle and scabbard of shirasaya were made of plain honoki wood that was beautifully fitted and finished. Many times there were inscriptions on the scabbard about the name of the sword maker and other information about the blade.

Shirasaya Wakizashi - Shirasaya in Japanese means "white scabbard". Shirasaya was used as a sort of storage for blades when not in use. The handle and scabbard of shirasaya were made of plain honoki wood that was beautifully fitted and finished. Many times there were inscriptions on the scabbard about the name of the sword maker and other information about the blade.

Wakizashi - The word "wakizashi" means "side arm". The wakizashi sword is a traditional Japanese sword similar to the katana sword but much shorter. The wakizashi is on average about 20 inches in length. The wakizashi was usually worn together with the katana sword by the samurai warriors of feudal Japan. The wakizashi was simply a companion sword to the katana sword. The wakizashi was used in the 16th century and it originally was referred to as a side sword as it was worn on the side of the katana sword. In later years the term wakizashi referred to any shorts that where shorter than the main sword of the samurai.

The samurai warriors wore different types of side swords and daggers and the term wakizashi did not refer to any particular blade length. The first usage of wakizashi goes between the 1332 and 1369. The rulers of Japan regulated different types of swords and permitted only certain groups to carry them. This allowed to enhance reputation and display power of the samurai class as only the samurai were allowed to carry the daisho – a pair of swords consisted of the katana and wakizashi. At the end of the Momoyama period the rulers passed laws that classified swords according to their lengths.
The wakizashi was used as a backup sword to the katana. Also, it was the sword used in committing a Japanese ritual suicide called seppuku (the dagger tanto was used for this purpose as well). Wakizashi was also used to decapitate already killed enemies. A samurai warrior would not risk the katana sword to cut off an enemy head who wore protective armor. It was also more convenient to use the wakizashi for this purpose as it was shorter than the katana sword. Some samurai warriors were skilled enough to use the wakizashi and the katana sword in separate hands simultaneously to maximize combat advantage. Miyamoto Mushashi was one of them.

Wakizashi swords were always worn by the samurai. When entering buildings, often the samurai would leave the main katana sword with the servant; however, they were allowed to carry the wakizashi. Even when going to sleep, the samurai would keep the wakizashi handy by keeping it under the pillow.

Sword History | Sword Origin Timeline

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