The Parts of the Katana

The traditional Japanese sword, also commonly referred to as the Katana, has many beautifying but also very practical and functional parts.

The Parts of the Katana - Samurai Sword
The Japanese Sword – Katana and its parts explained.

The Samurai Sword, known as a Katana is a subject of study and investigation that can take a lifetime.. or more. The more you learn, the more you will see that there is more and more to learn – and despite the fact that I have studied it for a long time I still see myself as an novice or amateur.

In any case, for those of you who are taking their absolute first steps into the universe of Japanese swords, or katanas, and feeling justifiably overwhelmed, here you will discover all the information you will need to have in any situation to gain an essential, balanced understanding of the aspects of the sword.

What is a katana?
The Katana is a curved, single-edged Japanese sword customarily utilized by the traditional samurai. Pronounced [kah-tah-nah] in the kun’yomi (Japanese interpretation) of the kanji, the word has been embraced as a substituted word by the English language; as Japanese does not have separate plural and singular forms, both “katanas” and “katana” are viewed as acceptable plural forms in English. In essence the word ‘katana’ means sword in the Japanese language, so it would be wrongful or double to say ‘a katana sword’.

Fighting with a katana
In a fight, the katana was normally combined with the wakizashi or tanto, a correspondingly made yet shorter Japanese sword. Both were worn by individuals from the Japanese warrior class. The two weapons together were known as the daisho, and spoke of the social power and individual respect and honor of the samurai.

A katana with a long cutting edge was utilized for open battle, while the wakizashi or tanto with a shorter edge was viewed as a side arm, increasingly appropriate for stabbing motions and for fighting places where room is limited. Samurai may have utilized the shorter sword for executing and decapitating adversaries when taking heads on the front line, and in the practice of seppuku, a type of ritual traditional suicide.

The tsuba, saya and mountings of the Katana
In Japanese, the sheath, or scabbard, for a katana is referred to as a saya, and the hand-guard piece, often decorated beautifully resulting in a true masterpiece, is known as the tsuba. These tsubas can be extremely unique, and are available in a wide variety of sizes and designs, as well as, quality of steel, hardness and price.

Different parts of the mountings (koshirae, for example, the menuki (decorative grip swells), habaki (cutting edge collar and sheath wedge), fuchi and kashira (handle collar and top), kozuka (little utility blade handle), kogai (decorative stick instrument), saya enamel, and ito (professional handle wrap, also called emaki), get just as much attention when it comes to the details and creativity of the artist producing the parts of the sword.

The parts of the blade of the katana
Every sharp edge has a one of a kind unique profile, for the most part subject to the swordsmith and the strategy used for the production of the blade and its many parts themselves.

The most unmistakable is the center edge, or shinogi. The shinogi can be placed close to the back of the blade for a much longer, sharper, and increasingly fragile blade-edge – or a more normal and moderate shinogi closer to the middle point of the blade.

Katana parts – Boshi, Yokote, Hamon, Ha and Hada.

The Japanese sword also has a very precise and accurate tip shape, which is viewed as a critical trademark. The tip can be long (okissaki), medium (chukissaki), short (kokissaki), or even turned backwards (ikuri-okissaki). What’s also very essential is whether the front edge of the tip is progressively curved (fukura-tsuku) or (moderately) straight (fukura-kareru).

The kissaki (point) isn’t a “chisel like” point, and the modern assumption of the blades “tanto point” can not always be located on authentic Japanese swords. A straight, directly inclined point has the upside of being easy to grind, yet it bears just a shallow likeness to customary Japanese kissaki. This is a crucial difference.

Kissaki have a bended profile, and smooth three-dimensional curve across the surface towards the edge – however they have a boundary of a straight line called the yokote and have sharp defined edges.

The parts of a Katana – Ha-machi, Nakago,Mune-Machi, Yasuri-Me, Mekugi-Ana and Mei.

An opening is drilled into the tang (nakago), called a mekugi-ana. It is utilized to fasten the sharp blade using a mekugi peg, a little bamboo stick that is embedded into another hole in the tsuka and through the mekugi-ana, in this manner preventing the blade from slipping out. To remove the tsuka one must first remove the mekugi peg or pegs. The sword smith’s mark (mei) is imprinted or engraved on the nakago.

Beauty marks and grooves of the katana
A few of the marks on the blade are simply for beauty purposes. There are often signatures and dedications written in beautiful kanji and engravings portraying divine beings, mythical beasts, or other worthy creatures, called horimono.

Some of the specific parts are much more practical. The fact that a katana has a “blood groove” or HI (otherwise called “fuller”) does NOT really enable blood to flow more openly from cuts made with the sword. There is no real distinction in how easy it is to pull the blade from the saya, or a decrease of the sucking sound, which numerous individuals accept was the explanation behind including this component on commando knives in World War II.

Rather, the intention of the HI, or fuller, is to lighten and reinforce the sword edge. The grooves are similar in structure to an I shaft, diminishing the weight of the sword yet keeping the quality of strength structurally. The fundamental principle is that bending causes more strain or stress in material close to the edge or back of the blade than material in the center, because of the principle of leverage. Blood grooves expel material from close to this neutral axis, which is closer to the blade’s spine in the event that one edge is sharpened. This yields harder blades of a given weight, or lighter blades of a given hardness.

Besides the grooves (consistently done on the two sides of the blade) make a whistling sound when the sword is swung (the tachikaze). If the swordsman hears one whistle when swinging a grooved katana, at that point that implies that only one groove is making the whistle. Two whistles implies that both the sharp edge of the blade and a groove are making a whistle, and three whistles together (the sharp edge and the two grooves) would tell the swordsman that his edge is flawlessly angled with the course of the cut.

Check out this video where the parts of the katana are explained as well as some very interesting facts.

Read about the history of the katana
Read about forging a katana
Read about how to hold a katana
Read about training with a katana – The basics
Read about training with a katana – Advanced