When that section of society in Old Japan (peasant farmers?) had evolved into the shadow warriors known as the Ninja, they had developed a variety of useful, practical and devastating hand to hand combat weapons with which to practice the art of assassination and subversive attack. From “Black Eggs” to “Shurikens”, their tools were eclectic and unique. One of the mainstays of the Ninja armory was the Ninjato, the Ninja Sword!
This awesome blade of legend combined terrific cutting power with incredible speed in order to to deal a series of quick and deadly strikes upon an unsuspecting or slower moving enemy. The best made examples had tempered steel that could cut through armour. The Ninja Sword could probably cut through about four to six inches of flesh which would lead to massive blood loss and that meant Death not long after. The sword was straight with a pointed tip for stabbing if the need arose. You had to be fast on the draw if you jumped off the roof and into the path of a wandering samurai guardsman!
Supposedly the swords were often kept in longer scabbards to deceive opponents into thinking that a longer sword existed and would therefore take longer to draw. These fractions of a second would give the Ninja a tactical advantage. It seems unlikely though, as the Ninja philosophy would be to try and avoid open fighting as much as possible. Most likely their shorter swords were kept on their backs for quick use in sudden, unexpected encounters.
It is still an area of some debate whether these swords held pride of place in the life of a Ninja just as the samurai sword had for that warrior class. It is unlikely whether this was the case and most evidence seems to point to the blades being more quickly and less carefully made and therefore liable to break sooner; they existed as an entirely practical weapon to be used and replaced by another if needed. It seems likely that no serious sword smith of reputation was producing great quality swords for the Ninja clans. It wasn’t an extension of one’s being like a blade belonging to a samurai warrior. This would explain the relatively small number of good quality examples of this sword being found in modern times.
The Ninja Sword of legend, the ninjato included these characteristics:
- Shorter blades which enabled quicker drawing time and use in smaller spaces
- Straighter blades made for quick, lethal strikes rather than continued sword fighting.
- Sharpened and pointed tips for stabbing.
- Larger guards which enable using the swords as a climbing tool.
Japanese Sword Steel: Tamahagane
Traditionally, the steel used in Japanese sword making is ‘Tamahagane’. Tamahagane steel is produced by combining iron with carbon.
Iron + Carbon = Steel.
Carbon is essential in sword making as without it iron on its own would be too soft to keep an ‘edge’ for cutting. Steel can be manipulated, stretched and bent without snapping, to different degrees all due to the amount and ratio of carbon and iron it contains and the heat processes it is subjected to.
The more carbon in the iron, the harder the eventual steel becomes. However, there is a delicate balance needed here that needs to be observed: too much carbon will make the steel brittle and liable to break upon serious impact. The more carbon within the sword then the more likely it is to do this.
Over time, the optimum amount of carbon to iron ratio has been discovered and for Japanese swords that means a carbon content of around the 0.7% mark.
The iron content of a Japanese sword is derived from an oxygen rich, fine, black sand called ‘Satetsu’, a form of iron ore (Fe2O3 -two parts iron to three parts oxygen). The oxygen is removed during the smelting process. The raw metal is never heated high enough to actually melt or become liquid and each sword smith will adjust the process to achieve his goal of the perfect blade to represent his skill.
Ninja swords for sale
Today, obtaining a sword is easy, although the best swords still take time and dedication to make in the hands of true craftsmen. There are a number of on-line retailers and distributors of the different swords if you are looking to buy.
A good place to start is Amazon who have a collection of swords from different producers. Many of the cheaper makes and versions will break or fall apart in a very short time – you get what you pay for as with everything. Good entry level sword will start around the $70-100 mark and anything under this is only worth considering if you want a toy to play with, taking pictures or perhaps making a short movie.
The Black Ninja Sword
Black ninja swords come with black blades for even more stealthy sword fighting. It is not known whether the Ninja ever used black colored sword blades. Replicas are available to buy.
The Japanese Samurai Sword
The Japanese Samurai sword or ‘Katana’ is the traditional weapon of the Samurai warriors. Single-edged with a slight curve is the more common type. Antique Samurai swords are on sale for thousands of dollars, some are priceless. Fine, modern swords are being made using the old sword-crafting skills which have been given a resurgence in recent years in Japan. Authentic Japanese Samurai swords can still be found and bought but you have to know what you are looking for as there are many fake and sub-standard swords.
The Samurai Sword Set
A Samurai Sword Set contains a Katana, a Wakizashi and a Tanto. A Tanto is a short single or double edged knife used mainly for stabbing but also slashing. Today’s modern samurai sword sets come with a sword stand and the blades are held within elaborately decorated scabbards.
The Wakizashi Sword.
‘Wakizashi’ means ‘side arm’. The Wakizashi Sword was used by the Samurai as a secondary off-hand weapon in conjunction with the Katana. It is a short sword, anything up to 24 inches long, with a curved blade. This sword was often used in the ritual suicide act seppuku. In ‘Daisho’ (lit. long and short) the practice of using the two weapons, the Wakizashi provided balance to the Katana.
A practice sword or ‘Bokken’ in Japan is a wooden sword roughly the same size and curve as a Katana and used for training purposes. Samurai would train with a bokken to learn sword skills. One famous Japanese Samurai warrior, Myamoto Musashi, famously fought and defeated opponents with only a bokken sword. Bokkens are available today in various materials and make great practice swords.
The Kill Bill Sword
Yes, you can buy the Kill Bill Sword which is a replica of the fictional Hattori Hanzo sword from the Quentin Tarantino movie ‘Kill Bill’. Hattori Hanzo is a made up Japanese sword smith who created a special sword for the heroine of the movie. The available swords are of varying quality and design.
The Zatoichi Sword
‘Zatoichi’, a famous fictional blind swordsman uses a straight blade Katana, with a red handle. The sword is disguised as a walking stick, or ‘cane sword’. Even though these swords were inferior to proper Katanas, Zatoichi’s sword was crafted by a master sword smith. You can buy Zatoichi sword replicas today from several manufacturers.
The Masamune Sword
Masamune, a real figure from the 13th Century, is acknowledged as Japan’s master sword smith. A Masamune Sword is a work of exceptional beauty and refinement and prohibitively expensive.
Holding one, two or three swords, sword stands are an essential accessory for the sword owner. Sword stands range from beautiful with black lacquer finishes to more basic matt or gloss black plastic or wood stands. Many come with Japanese kanji characters carved in to wood.
Sword hangers are for displaying your sword on a wall or other vertical surface. There are different designs and producers to match your sword style. Hang your sword vertically or horizontally. Magnetic sword hangers are also available for use with Japanese swords.
The Full Tang Sword
For sword strength and durability you must have a full tang sword of good steel quality. Full Tang denotes that the sword is made from one piece of metal usually steel. From the tip to the base of the grip. The handle will be encased and decorated but underneath you know it is solid.
The Carbon Steel Sword
The carbon steel sword is a combination of carbon and iron steel which gives strength and flexibility. Stainless steel swords are for decoration only as they break under minimal force if you strike anything. The Japanese sword smiths perfected the blending of carbon and iron into a perfect sword steel for crafting called ‘Tamahagane’. (See above)