Thursday, July 30, 2009

Katana - just a bastard sword with good PR

If you want to create a cool character, equip him with a katana, because, as we all know, katanas are miracle weapons. There is nothing you can't do with a katana. Armed with a katana, Uma Thurman can clear a room full of bad guys in the blink of an eye. In the hierarchy of cool weapons, only the lightsaber and the minigun can compete with the katana. Well, I say bullsh*t! And apparently agrees with me. Here's what they have to say about the famous "Katanas are just better" trope.

But the myth of the katana being a better weapon than equivalent European swords (namely the medieval longsword) is debatable.

Japanese swords use vastly inferior iron for katanas compared to that available for medieval European swords, necessitating costly and time-consuming efforts by Japanese master swordsmiths to remove impurities from the iron, such as the famous "folding of the blade". Folding iron is a common forging technique not unique to Japan, but Japanese blades were folded many more times than some European ones to compensate for the inherent lack of quality in material. Viking swords, on the other hand, were commonly more folded, by orders of magnitude, than most ancient Japanese swords. Contrary to popular belief, folding a sword does not aid its cutting or edge holding properties at all; it merely ensures an even distribution of carbon within the steel (while some other alloying elements will remain layered).

On the other hand however, European swords are just as good, if not better than the katana. Besides aforementioned better material quality, the longsword was double edged with a point, which was far more difficult to forge than a single edged weapon. The longsword is a much more versatile weapon, able to cut and thrust, and the cruciform hilt construction is a lot better for parrying off blows than the katana. And the second edge allows the weapon to cut in either direction; blows with the "short edge" (which faces the weilder) are a major component of many Western martial arts. Contrary to popular belief, many longswords of equivalent size were just about the same weight.


By the way, is awesome. Spend some time and check it out.


Obiri said...

Just wasted the last 2 hours there. I'll have to check it out more later.

Derobane-bane said...

It would be awesome to have some sword experts from each side of the argument do some demonstrations to give opinions some teeth. Id love to see a TV special or something regarding katanas vs longswords.

By the way, katanas can cut through tanks as long as they are early war French-made models.