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Japanese Swords

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Common Terms

Amakuni Yasutsuna:Legendary swordsmith engaged in 700 A.D. by the Japanese Emperor to create weapons for his warriors.

Bokken/Shinai:Wooden practice blades. Bokken are made from wood and Shinai from bamboo. Shinai are typically used in Kendo.

Daisho:Name given to pairing of Katana and Wakizashi, an abbreviation of “Daito” and “Shoto.”


Gendaito:Name given to the Japanese sabre between 1876 and 1945 (aprx). Translated literally it means, “modern sabre.”

Gunto:Name give to the Japanese sabre manufactured during wars of the 20th Century. Translated literally it means, “war sabre.”

Hada:Grain of the Japanese sword blade.

Horimono:Engraving on the Japanese sword blade.


Iaido(iai-jutsu):The art of drawing the Katana.

Katana:(ka-ta-na): Japanese sabre or longsword, the symbol of the Samurai (or Bushi). Also know as the Daito, which translated literally means, “long sabre.” Technically, a sword can only be classified as a katana if it is worn blade-up through a belt-sah.

Kissaki:Point of the Japanese sword blade. 

Koto:Name given to the Japanese sabre before 1600. Translated literally it means, “ancient sabre.” 

Masamune:Famous blacksmith/forger of Japanese sabres who lived at the beginning of the 14th century. A master craftsman and honest laborer, his blades supposedly brought serenity to their owners.

Mei:Signature point on the Japanese sword blade. 

Mue-Machi:Back Notch of the Japanese sword blade. 

Mune:Back of the Japanese sword blade. 

Muramasa:Student of Masamune whose perfect forging technique was supposedly affected by his evil aura. His blades were said to wreak great destruction and harm when wielded by their owners.

Nagasa:The length of the sword blade, measure from the tip of the kissaki in a straight line to the mune-machi.

Odachi/Nodachi:Blades longer than 78 cm or three shaku typically worn across the black. 

Ronin:Translated literally means, “Man of the Wave” and indicates a Samurai who is without a master.

Samurai:Translated literally means, “the one who serves.” This indicates the Samurai’s allegiance to a vassal, shogun, or other employer.

Saya:Scabbard for the Katana.

Shaku:Standard unit for measuring Japanese swords. Sword length is what differentiates classification of sword. One shaku is equal to 12 inches (30 cm). 

Shinken:Name given to contemporary Japanese sabers. Translated literally it means, “New sword.” Shinsakuto (“newly manufactured sabre) may also be used for this term.

Shinshinto:Name given to the Japanese sabre between 1780 and 1876 (aprx). Translated literally it means, “new new sabre.”

Shinto:Name given to the Japanese sabre between 1600 and 1780 (aprx). Translated literally it means, “new sabre.” Does not relate to the Shinto religion.

Tachi:A long sabre traditionally used when riding a horse or wearing armor. It is typically longer in length and more curved than the Katana and worn suspended from the belt. 

Tsuba:Handguard piece for the Katana. 

Uchigatana:Translated literally means, “gripping sabre.” Traditionally carried at the belt with the cutting edge facing upwards, therefore making it easier to draw from the sheath. 

Wakizashi:Short sword, traditionally paired with the Katana. Also known as the Shoto, which translated literally means, “short sabre.”