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    Why the romanticism over Japanese swords

    Okay, can someone please explain to me why everyone always goes gaga over the katana? They are 2 handed swords. They were shorter than European 2 handed swords. Despite popular belief they weighed about the same as their longer European counterparts (because of their fat wedge). And they had no point so they were poor at thrusting. Sure, they were a superior cutting sword but their lack of thrust capabilities will make them all but useless against opponents armoured in mail or plate. So why oh why does everyone love them so much?

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    #1: They look awesome.

    #2: They were actually ridiculously devastating.

    #3: The thrusting is a problem... and they sucked for closed quarters combat. But then again, thats the exact reason Ninjas were able to beat a Samurai.




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    No idea why this thread exists, but anyway...

    It's probably do do with the Japanese lore rather than the sword itself, Katana or curved blades are associated with Samurai and Ninja's and for some reason everyone loves them.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Xelis View Post
    No idea why this thread exists, but anyway...

    It's probably do do with the Japanese lore rather than the sword itself, Katana or curved blades are associated with Samurai and Ninja's and for some reason everyone loves them.
    Samurai were badass. That's just a fact. Ninja's didn't use Katana's either... they used **** more like a Tanto and other short to intermediate ranged weapons.




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    Quote Originally Posted by Tribunal View Post
    #1: They look awesome.

    #2: They were actually ridiculously devastating.
    Only because Japan was isolated. There's a reason why most European swords came with a point. I suppose they did look hella intimidating though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xelis
    No idea why this thread exists, but anyway...
    This topic was driving me up the wall and there was a thread that called for more discussion to be added to the general forum. I suppose this is just my meagre contibution

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    cause they can slice the **** out of anyone faster and sharper than a normal sword? they're badass? gee, I dunno, a couple dozen reasons why they're better!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tribunal View Post
    Samurai were badass. That's just a fact. Ninja's didn't use Katana's either... they used **** more like a Tanto and other short to intermediate ranged weapons.
    Yeah, the Tanto (didn't know it was called that) was what I was referring to, although not as curved as I remember, the look is like a baby Katana.



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    European swords were at least a hundred years in technology behind their Japanese counterparts at any given time in the Common Era until the introduction of Damascus steel, which didn't totally level the playing field because the Japanese had already learned to carbonize steel by that point in time as well.. Not to mention the amount of folding used.

    With the advent of the Shinogi the shinogi can be placed near the back of the blade for a longer, sharper, more fragile tip or a more moderate shinogi near the center of the blade. This allowed the Katana to evolve into a thrust capable weapon as well as for slashing.

    In short, a katana would break any true European blade. If Japan had expanded empirically (Which it really never did due to constant internal political feuding) the Euros would have been right screwed. In fact, Japanese metallurgy was so far ahead of Europe that early examples of Japanese gunsmithing such as Tanegashima were superior in make and reliability to their western counterparts.

    It's not really a romanticism as it is science. European swords were built to break bones and Japanese swords were built to break swords. As far as piercing heavy armor, you would have been ultra effed in Knight Armor against a Samurai because the fucntional agility you'd lose would leave you completely open to a piercing stab from a shorter blade such as a tanto... Which matched period Samurai to knights would have had in relativity to heavy armor (which in itself was not a technology in Europe until the advent of gun battle)

    We haven't even begun on the debate of who would actually survive the altercation afterward, seeing as how the Japanese were doing surgery while Europeans were setting witches on fire to make the Boogeyman go away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    In short, a katana would break any true European blade.
    A katana could break a european sword (depending on the sword) if the sword was actually held still and the person wielding the katana took a superhuman swing at it. It would happen rarely in combat though, especially against an opponent wielding a shield.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    If Japan had expanded empirically (Which it really never did due to constant internal political feuding) the Euros would have been right screwed.
    Pffft, the Japanese couldn't even beat back the mongols when they invaded, where the katana failed utterly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    It's not really a romanticism as it is science. European swords were built to break bones and Japanese swords were built to break swords.
    Common misconception, Japanese swords were built to excel at slicing flesh and bone (as are all curved swords). European swords were not built to break bones. They weren't built to bash and crash for. They were built to be adept at cutting and thrusting, the straight blade means less efficient cutting ability but the point more than makes up for it. Maces and other impact weapons were what were used to break bones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    As far as piercing heavy armor, you would have been ultra effed in Knight Armor against a Samurai because the fucntional agility you'd lose would leave you completely open to a piercing stab from a shorter blade such as a tanto...
    Medieval plate armour weighed less than the modern combat gear that our servicemen lug around. Plate armour weighed around 45-55 pounds while modern combat gear is between 25-35 kilograms. The loss of mobility and agility isn't nearly as much as you think, add to that the very slight vulnerability zones, and the fact that european swords were lighter and longer than japanese swords, + the knightly shield, and I would wager that the fight would quickly get embarassing for the Samaurai.

    Just try and get close to a fully outfitted knight, I dare you. There' a reason the people of Europe didn't try and have a go at knights wielding only a dagger you know

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    Which matched period Samurai to knights would have had in relativity to heavy armor (which in itself was not a technology in Europe until the advent of gun battle)
    Medieval plate armour was around in the 1300s, was light, completely repelled bladed attacks and was completely bad arse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    We haven't even begun on the debate of who would actually survive the altercation afterward, seeing as how the Japanese were doing surgery while Europeans were setting witches on fire to make the Boogeyman go away.
    Fight to the death, none of this pansy running away stuff

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    Okay, but again, the katana itself was a European Renaissance period Japanese weapon. So, in many ways the argument is moot. It wouldn't take an inhumanly hard swing to break a typical long sword. Pretty much the only equalizer was the introduction of Damascus Steel to Europe via trade and even then it wasn't used to ubiquity.

    As far as the plate mail is concerned? I would like to see what a 1095 carbon steel katana that has been folded several hundred times would do versus pre-powder infantry plate.. In fact, that would make a great experiment! I won't pretend to know the outcome, but I would put a small wager on the sword making it through.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    As far as the plate mail is concerned? I would like to see what a 1095 carbon steel katana that has been folded several hundred times would do versus pre-powder infantry plate.. In fact, that would make a great experiment! I won't pretend to know the outcome, [b]but I would put a small wager on the sword making it through.[b]
    I'll take your money. Do you want to know why a katana will never be able to 'slice' through anything? It's because of the wedge on it. To slice through plate armour it not only has to cut through it (which I can pretty much guarantee you it wouldn't do but hey it's moot anyway) to fit the wedge through you'd have to physically 'tear' the material apart. Did you see the mythbuster episode when they tried to use a katana to cut through an ordinary hollow metal pipe? Yeah it made a small gash, but it couldn't slice through because of the wedge on the back. It's why you'll find that while a katana can slice through metal, it can't slice through anything of substance. Not a sword, not a shield, not plate, not an ordinary hollow pipe.

    And yes, it takes an inhumanly hard swing to break a typical long sword. They also did that on mythbusters with a machine that was whirring inhumanlt fast. I highly doubt it would have happened in combat... well past the typical amount of breakage anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturne View Post
    Okay, can someone please explain to me why everyone always goes gaga over the katana? They are 2 handed swords. They were shorter than European 2 handed swords. Despite popular belief they weighed about the same as their longer European counterparts (because of their fat wedge). And they had no point so they were poor at thrusting. Sure, they were a superior cutting sword but their lack of thrust capabilities will make them all but useless against opponents armoured in mail or plate. So why oh why does everyone love them so much?
    There might be a certain appeal to it from a combat perspective, but I'd say Japanophilia is probably one of the other main reasons. Also as previously said, that the katana itself is one many icons of Japanese lore.

    Tradition and popular culture tend to attract people to many things for no greater reason than because they are commonly embraced by others.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bio
    Yep, NGP will retail at $300. We all know it's going to happen.

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    Katana's hold a sharper edge than a european claymore or equivalent, and to my knowledge they do weigh quite a bit less.

    In addition the katana lent itself to having more efficient killing strokes, another advantage was that it could be drown out of its sheath in a devastating slash like manner with greatly less effort than the longer uncurved european swords.

    It's simply a more effective sword.

    Also, you don't fairly represent the fighting style of the Katana. You say it's "A two handed sword" and yet Miyamoto Musashi (the greatest undefeated duelist of all time in Japan) used a two handed method. I have his book sitting right here on my desk lol. ("The Book of Five Rings")

    I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt Musashi would slice the best european fighter to confetti in a duel.


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    Of note, the sword wouldn't have to cleave the armor plate to make a deadly wound. It might not land a killing blow through the plate, but, going back to medical technology...

    The fact is most European soldiers died of things like shock and infection than they did to actual killing blows, anyways.

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    The katana is a useless trash sword that has built up many myths around it.

    "folding the steel a thousand times makes it incredibly strong."
    No it doesnt, it makes it incredibly weak and causes it to shatter into pieces, they folded the steel to remove impurities because they had really low quality ore.

    "Samurai were famous warriors and they used katanas!"
    Samurai were famous warriors for their skill with a bow. Katanas were pretty much only used to kill those who couldnt fight back.

    "Katanas weight less than other swords!"
    Depends entirely on the swords. Obviously a short katana weighs less than a landesknecht but in like for like comparisons katanas weigh more.

    "Katanas can cut through other swords!"
    lol no


    As far as the plate mail is concerned? I would like to see what a 1095 carbon steel katana that has been folded several hundred times would do versus pre-powder infantry plate.. In fact, that would make a great experiment! I won't pretend to know the outcome, but I would put a small wager on the sword making it through.
    I'll gladly take that bet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha View Post
    Katana's hold a sharper edge than a european claymore or equivalent, and to my knowledge they do weigh quite a bit less.
    A 15th century hand and a half sword (blade length 92.7cm) weighs about 1.5 kilos (from 'Treasures from the tower of london arms and armour). Ceremonial swords were traditionally a lot heavier but they weren't made for actual use. You'll find that katanas weigh similar while being shorter. This is probably because of the wedge on the back.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha View Post
    In addition the katana lent itself to having more efficient killing strokes, another advantage was that it could be drown out of its sheath in a devastating slash like manner with greatly less effort than the longer uncurved european swords.
    This is true, it was exceptional against flesh and bone opponents. However, it didn't do that well against armour. Japanese armour, which is fairly crappy, repelled Japanese attacks just fine, and in the mongol invasion I believe their blades kept on snapping against the Chinese armour... I think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha
    I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt Musashi would slice the best european fighter to confetti in a duel.
    Let me put a bit of doubt in your mind. If it wasn't for the weather the mongols would have eaten the Japanese up and spat them out, the best Samurais were brushed aside against the mongol might as the katanas found themselves insufficient to deal with ther armousr.

    The problem is that the katana developed in isolation. Musashi may have been the greatest undefeated duelist of all time in Japan, but all he was doing was fighting other Japanese fighters. Europe excelled in variety, the Japanese having developed in isolation only had 1 style, with an obvious weakness, and nothing much to compensate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein
    Of note, the sword wouldn't have to cleave the armor plate to make a deadly wound. It might not land a killing blow through the plate, but, going back to medical technology...
    Firstly katanas couldn't cut through their own armour let alone medieval plate.

    Secondly, the even if they did, the European knight may have died later from his wounds... I wonder what the samurai's chance of leaving the battlefield alive would have been.

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    I have a hard time believing that katanas were "snapping". Also I think you're confusing the idea that Japanese armor was wooden.

    Which isn't true, they did use metal plating.


    But this is straying away from the topic at hand. The Samurai were, individually, some of the best warriors on the planet. But simply because your soldiers are separately on a different field of level does not mean that they form a cohesive and well functioning battle unit.

    The mongols had a system down that could shake nations apart. They were simply that effective. We're comparing a dominating empire with war proven battle tactics (against many cultures) against a nation that was mostly only really concerned with the occasional chinese or korean attacks in addition to internal feuding.

    This is out of scope and a bit unfair I think.

    I also fail to see how a katana (which was considerably sharper) failing to cut through medieval armor elevates the european claymore or broadsword, since they were incapable of doing it as well.

    A two handed claymore could possibly do this (due to sheer weight) but more than likely it was be stopped by the armor and pulverize the flesh and bone underneath due to the sheer force.


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    Because its a ****ing sword, goddamnit!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha View Post
    I have a hard time believing that katanas were "snapping". Also I think you're confusing the idea that Japanese armor was wooden.

    Which isn't true, they did use metal plating.
    I believe they were trying to thrust with the katana (cause they couldn't cut through the mongol armour) and the point was snapping off. Needs verifying though I'm not positive on this.

    And they were metal plated but still vastly inferior to plate armour.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha View Post
    The mongols had a system down that could shake nations apart. They were simply that effective. We're comparing a dominating empire with war proven battle tactics (against many cultures) against a nation that was mostly only really concerned with the occasional chinese or korean attacks in addition to internal feuding.

    This is out of scope and a bit unfair I think.
    Nah, it's the whole point. Japan developed in isolation and therefore their warriors and war tactics didn't need to deal with a wide range of conditions and adversaries. When they came up against the mongols they weren't prepared for what the mongols brought to the table, and they weren't prepared for how inefficient their equipment would be, including the katana. The katana underwent a redesign after the mongols left.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha
    I also fail to see how a katana (which was considerably sharper) failing to cut through medieval armor elevates the european claymore or broadsword, since they were incapable of doing it as well.
    They have a point on them, which makes them better suited to dealing with armoured foe. There are 2 ways to deal with armoured foe... well 3 actually. One is to break bones within the armour (so this would mean using maces and other such weapons), another is to get them onto the ground and dispatch them there, and the third is to thrust at the joints. The longswords superior thrusting ability makes it better suited to dealing with armoured foe while the katana being a curved sword is generally more efficient at dealing with unarmoured opponents.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vulgotha
    A two handed claymore could possibly do this (due to sheer weight) but more than likely it was be stopped by the armor and pulverize the flesh and bone underneath due to the sheer force.
    Two handed swords didn't have all that much weight to them. You could use them to club with but it's not very efficient. Better to use a mace or something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nocturne View Post
    Firstly katanas couldn't cut through their own armour let alone medieval plate.
    Okay, two things here.. 1. the metal used to make medieval plate (which, I assume by this terminology you mean pre-Renessaince) was utter crap.

    Secondly, it was through many generations of armor design that it was able to deflect the blade of a nihonto of any flavor. The late period lacquered armor, although fairly effective at deflecting a cutting blade, was in fact designed far more for deflecting arrows and the blunt weapons farmers and rebels used since by that period there had been various bans on non-Samurai class being able to carry a sword in the first place. BTW, Samurai had shields as well, and these were used as primary protection against not only Katana blades but far heavier weapons such as the naginata.

    On an off-hand note, swords did not help much in the Mongols defeat of Japan. The Mongols had the upper hand in battle due to their use of long range weaponry as well as grenades... Weaponry not even conceived of in Europe in the 1200's I might add.

    I wonder what the samurai's chance of leaving the battlefield alive would have been.
    Leaving the battlefield is the easy part. It's surviving the dinner afterwards lol. Actually, it wasn't dishonorable to be wounded in battle so long as you were victorious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sieghardt View Post
    I'm kind of a little drunk so I can't give my opinion too well on either side but wasn't this torn to pieces and declared horribly inaccurate? something about how it bends or something, apparently it shouldn't do that and shows a severe screw up in it's creation (the sword) :S
    if I am in the PS3 or 360 section I will NOT post about the competitor just to please people, if you want to know what I think about the competitor link me to a thread in the appropriate section

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    Okay, two things here.. 1. the metal used to make medieval plate (which, I assume by this terminology you mean pre-Renessaince) was utter crap.
    It was fine. A set of mail armour is impenetrable to virtually any medieval weapon, it does the job. And don't make me explain why katanas can't slice through anything worth a damn again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    Secondly, it was through many generations of armor design that it was able to deflect the blade of a nihonto of any flavor. The late period lacquered armor, although fairly effective at deflecting a cutting blade, was in fact designed far more for deflecting arrows and the blunt weapons farmers and rebels used since by that period there had been various bans on non-Samurai class being able to carry a sword in the first place.
    Actually I'm pretty sure it's the other way around. Early form of Japanese armour consisted of large square plates as defenses against arrows while the later form, lacquered plates, was designed to offer protection against similarly equipped swordsmen later on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    BTW, Samurai had shields as well, and these were used as primary protection against not only Katana blades but far heavier weapons such as the naginata.
    The katana was a 2 handed weapon. When wielding a katana a shield was not equipped.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    On an off-hand note, swords did not help much in the Mongols defeat of Japan. The Mongols had the upper hand in battle due to their use of long range weaponry as well as grenades... Weaponry not even conceived of in Europe in the 1200's I might add.
    The mongols had superiority everywhere. The porto grenades, while sounding devastating didn't single handedly win battles. The katana was redesigned after the mongol invasion because the point kept snapping off in the mongol armour. It was the combination of long range superiority AND short range superiority which made the mongol invasion so devastating.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefein View Post
    Leaving the battlefield is the easy part. It's surviving the dinner afterwards lol. Actually, it wasn't dishonorable to be wounded in battle so long as you were victorious.
    The only way the samurai was leaving was in a pine box.

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    There are a lot more types of european sword than the claymore and broadswords. the best type of sword is the greatsword, in particular my personaly favourite the landdesknecht has a huge advantage because of its flamberge design. I'll use it for this since I love it so

    Describing katana's as "sharper" is silly and describes a fraction of what cutting entails
    when measuring cutting power you measure:
    -Velocity
    -momentum at the point of impact
    -edge geometry
    -cross section
    -sharpness

    assuming constant of the same weight, length and skill, the katana has greater velocity and finer sharpness (under ideal conditions, in reality this leads to poor durability, but we'll just discuss cutting power for now).

    A landesknecht's flamberge design give it far superior geometry and a greater cutting surface area within the same length blade, the katanas wedge shape gives it a poor cross section. The greater hilt to blade ratio gives the landesknecht superior momentum.

    There's also a bunch of other things to be considered such as quality of the metal, tempering, hardening and the grain of the blade. MOST katana's have a straight grain which makes them weaker though some had the wavey grain similar to european swords, so I guess we'll assume the optimal conditions there. I'm sure I dont need to tell you the japanese steel was of very poor quality which is why they had to fold it to remove impurities.

    Finally, armour was designed to deflect arrows which would hit at an angle. Katana's are designed to strike at an angle. to pierce armour you want to hit it straight on perpendicularly.

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    Okay guys, lets not forget every sword has a purpose. Where it be peircing, slicing, chopping, crushing etc.
    with that being said, ill mention this, to the guy who said folding Steel 1000 times makes it weak sorry buddy your wrong . To fold that many would make that sword incredibly strong, if done right, yes it is possible to gimp the process and weaken the blade however, no swordsmith is going to take the time to fold that many times and not know what he's doing, after all there is a reason why Japanese swordsmiths have varied reputations.

    The katana is curved for one reason and one reason alone. To cut through bone which in the right hands is more than capable of doing.

    A samurai versus a knight?

    Well I seem someone mention the fact plate armor "doesn't weigh that much" "35-55 kilos"
    Yeah um it may not seem like alot but yeah put a full suit of chain mail on underneath it not to the armor itself. Your a fool to think a samurai couldn't out maneuver a knight and slam him the weight of the armor if the slam was hard enough would litterally knock the knight unconscious, that's what judo was designed for.

    Even if it didnt knock the knight unconscious its pretty common knowledge in sword play if you lose your footing the fights practically over.

    Unless the knight ditched his armor he would lose from manueverability

    Second even if the knight got rid of his armor sword and shield are not an option. The knight would have to focus on again common knowledge a two handed katana vs sword and shield obviously the katana will have more power it has a second arm powering it. When it boils right down to it

    The samurai would win sorry

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    Nuff said



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