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Japan Weapon - Swords

Japan Weapon - Swords
The sword is a weapon of killing. Kenjutsu is the art of killing. You can embellish it, you can set high goals ... Reality is reality. m / f "Ruruoni Kenshin"

This article is dedicated to the weapons of the Land of the Rising Sun.

We will begin, perhaps, with the embodiment of the soul of a samurai - Japanese swords.

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Japanese swords are divided into three categories - by size :

  • Large swords (o-dati or daito) - blades of more than two shaku (60 cm). The most famous representatives of these swords are katana, tsurugi, tati and their varieties, as well as no-dati.
  • Small swords (shёto or k-dati) - blades with a length of one (30 cm) to two shaku. This group includes swords such as wakizashi, koshi-gatana, tiisai-gatana ...
  • Daggers are blades shorter than one shaku. First of all, these are tanto and aikuti, as well as other types of “pocket swords”.

The terminology itself is so confused that even experts are not easy to understand, and the Japanese language is extremely rich in definitions. Often the same detail is called differently for different swords (even if differences in them must be sought with a microscope).

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Essential elements:

  • Tsuba is a guard. Unlike European swords, the Japanese garda had mainly a decorative function and often became very fragile (in some cases, it was completely openwork);
  • Tsuka - hilt;
  • Mekugi - a strong pin with which the blade was attached to the handle;
  • Menuki - ornaments on the hilt of a sword;
  • Asi - the rings on the scabbard, for which they hung on the belt.

Japanese sword and its development

Ancient swords (jokoto)

Very little is known about the early historical era in Japan. The population of the country at that time was a real soup of many tribes who at different times arrived on the islands, including Altai and Austronesian immigrants. Gradually, the tribes formed clan states under the leadership of the invading Yamato clan. From that moment on, the history of the Japanese empire begins - from now on, the Jimmu clan from the Yamato clan was declared imperial - and at about the same time the first Japanese invasion of Korea took place under the leadership of the legendary Empress Jingu. It was the 4th century AD. It was during this time that the first descriptions of the equipment of Japanese warriors, compiled by Chinese historians during the Sui Dynasty, are dated. According to the records, "bows, arrows with iron and bone tips, swords, crossbows, long and short spears, patent leather armor make up their military equipment."

Ancient Japanese swords did not at all resemble the sophisticated blades of a later period - crude and effective, they were quite consistent with the then technical level.

Judging by the excavations, the first - around the 3rd-4th century AD - a sword, known under the general name tekuto, fell into the hands of a Japanese warrior. It is not known for certain whether he appeared in Japan or was exported from neighboring Korea and China; it is believed that in Japan, blades were copied from foreign samples. At first, the swords were cast in bronze, later they began to be forged from a single piece of low-quality (there was no other then) steel using fairly primitive technology. Most of the tekutos had a relatively narrow blade with a slight internal curvature, which made them partly similar to the ancient Greek copis or mahaira. Garda, as a rule, was absent, and the top was in the form of a ring. Like the Western peers, the chokuto was intended primarily for stabbing. The oldest known tekuto is a sword such as sukanto-no-tachi.

In the 6th century, a double-edged straight sword about 60-70 cm long came to Japan along with Zen Buddhism (although there were samples about 220 cm long!), Known as ken or tsurugi. These weapons performed mainly ritual functions and practically did not participate in battles.

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This is interesting: according to myths, the sword, among other things, was presented to people by Amaterasu (the goddess of the sun, concurrently - the head of the Shinto pantheon). She sent her grandson from heaven to bring order to people, for which she provided him with magical jasper, a mirror - and a sword. The sword was obtained by her brother, the god of hurricanes Susanoo-no-Mikato, from the tail of the eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon Yamato-no-Orochi and was first called Ame-no-murakumo-no-hoken (Heavenly precious sword of gathering clouds), and later - Kusanagi no-tsurugi (Sword mowing grass). To this day, these three items remain the regalia of the imperial family of Japan.

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The history of Japan goes on. In parallel with swords, armor is developing in Japan, writing appears. The imperial court is half immersed in decadence, while the military estate, which controls the clans, is constantly fighting among themselves and gaining strength. The senseless and hopeless wars in Korea do not stop. Horses are imported from China - and hand shields disappear. The main symbol of the samurai of that time is the bow and horse, but the rise of the sword is just around the corner ... And now it happened! Somewhere between the years 697 and 708 (according to legend), the famous blacksmith Amakuni invents a prototype of a katana, dividing along a straight sword of Tsurugi ...

Old Swords (Koto)

The period of the so-called "Old Swords" lasted from 795 to 1596 AD. Some time passed after the blacksmith Amakuni completed his experiment, and the famous curved blades appeared. At first, until the production technology was worked out, the crooked sword was used along with the straight, but in the end it remained the most worthy.

In the X century, the "samurai set" of equipment was finally formed. Armor, tachi sword, kosi-gatan's companion sword, and yumi bow. Around the same time, the first "classic samurai armor" appeared - o-yoy. The poorer samurai infantry wore lightweight do-maru armor, which significantly less constrained movement. Since the tati of that time was too long for the infantry, the Uchi-gatan sword that replaced him appeared, which was worn with a blade upside down.

In the XIII century, Japan was faced with a difficult test, which introduced many changes both in tactics and equipment of soldiers. Hordes of the Mongol Khan Khubilai, who had already conquered China by that time, landed twice on the shores of the Land of the Rising Sun, despite the typhoons of the kamikaze, both times destroying most of the khan's fleet. At that time, the Mongols were one of the strongest armies in the world - the famous short Mongolian bows, the cavalry tactics worked out to the ideal, light equipment and powder "toys" obtained in China ... However, Japan, having shown miracles of heroism, survived. And she made conclusions, embodied in including swords.

During the long war between the southern and northern imperial dynasties of the Nambokutyo period (1336-1392), in connection with the growing role of the infantry units, another type of tati appears - the field sword no-dati. At the same time, samurai in civilian clothes begin to wear two uti-gatan swords, since the tati are too bulky and uncomfortable in the house or on city streets, and it is very difficult to grab it quickly.

Gradually, the o-yoru armor goes out of use, and even wealthy samurai begin to give preference to do-mara - having previously richly decorated them in accordance with their status. Then brand new haramaki armor appears. The lack of samurai led to the emergence of a new kind of troops, known as the ashigaru, and essentially a trained peasant militia. For them, inexpensive and high-tech haraate bibs that protected only their belly and zingas helmets (thin helmets, similar in shape to straw hats) were immediately invented for them.

And finally, at the end of the 15th century, the Tati finally goes out of use, and the increasingly recognized uti-gatana is divided into two different types of swords - the legendary katana (blade more than 60 cm) and the slightly less legendary wakizashi (from 30 to 60 cm). Both swords are worn just like uti-gatana: behind the belt, with the blade up.

This momentous event was followed by another, no less significant. Tired of incessant internal conflicts, the long-suffering Japan plunged into the Sengoku Jidai period, also known as the "Age of the Warring Provinces." Throughout the country, there is no place where battles between clans do not take place; martial arts schools reach their peak - students do not lack practical exercises, and weak schools quickly disappear, unable to withstand stronger ones.

The growing need for weapons has led to the division of swords into two categories - high-quality tumon-uti ("custom-made swords") and low-grade kazu-uti ("mass swords"), or taba-gatana ("swords in bundles").

In 1543, an event occurred that completely changed the nature of the war in Japan. Portuguese traders brought firearms - arquebuses, called teppos. They were very inaccurate and slow, but they pierced armor well. At the Battle of Nagashino in 1573, the daima (prince) Oda Nabunaga shot from the rifles the cavalry of the Takeda clan, considered the best in Japan! Samurai did not even have time to get to the shooters ...

Let's take a closer look at the swords

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First of all, of course, it is worth mentioning the tati - a curved sword designed for equestrian combat. At first, his blade was unusually long (up to 120 cm) and narrow, however, the Mongol invasions indicated the excessive fragility of the blade arising with such dimensions, which quickly led to damage to the sword without the possibility of repair. Tati was worn on a belt fastened with cords for two rings on a sheath. Tati's handle was adapted for one and a half grip.

It was on Tati who first tested the famous multi-layer forging technology. It consisted of the following: two pieces of metal were taken - hard steel and soft iron - and fettered together to the state of actual adhesion. The resulting double sheet was folded in half - and again fettered. Thus, it was possible to obtain a workpiece with hundreds (and some sources speak of thousands) of alternating layers, which gave the blades incredible strength and endurance for that time. Then the blade was coated with clay and sent to the furnace for hardening. The clay layer was uneven and came to naught at the very edge of the blade, due to which the blade turned out much harder than the rest of the sword. It is because of this unevenness that the blades turned out to be curved.

Yes, initially the blades were forged straight. It is likely that curved swords were invented by chance - during experiments to improve swords. Subsequently, it turned out that a curved blade is much better than a straight one - and away we go ...

This is interesting: the wave-like pattern on the blade is also a consequence of hardening using clay.

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The no-dati field sword (also known as the pseudo-Japanese nickname Daikatan) appeared as a result of the increase in infantry value. This two-handed sword (with a total length of up to two meters!) Was worn on the shoulder or behind the back and was used exclusively by infantrymen; Its main purpose was wide sweeping strikes, including at the level of the legs. The infantrymen, armed with no-dati, usually went into battle in lightweight armor (to the extent that there was only one loincloth), since this sword made rather high demands on the agility and mobility of the owner. As a rule, no-dati were armed with low-ranking warriors - poor samurai and, subsequently, asigaru.

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Kosi-gatana can be considered to some extent the ancestor of the famous Wakizashi. He was worn with his blade upside down, mostly in case of close combat with the enemy, when the long tati became not an aid, but an obstacle. Kosi-gatan had absolutely no guard, but often there were additional small knives (ko-gatana, kogai, etc.).

This is interesting: at the very beginning, the sword of Kosi-gatan was also called tanto, but then this name was transferred to the dagger.

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Uti-gatana is a sword similar to the tati, but shorter, adapted for infantry. Its length ranged from 30 to 60 or more centimeters. Like Kosi-gatana, he rushed behind his belt, blade up. Uti-gatana can be considered one of the most successful "old swords", as on the battlefield, and in a quiet time, he gradually replaced the Tati.

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Katana (daito) - the most legendary non-unique sword, no more, no less. Some people, not without reason, consider katana the best sword of all time. A razor-sharp blade was able to cut through almost anything - from a silk scarf to a heavy machine gun barrel. The American soldiers who fought with Japan during World War II even had a special instruction - in the case of close combat, do not hide yourself from the blows of the sword with rifles, because these same rifles were cut by a katana into two neat halves. In addition - the richest traditions, dozens of schools, hundreds and thousands of proven techniques and techniques ... It is quite enough so that interest in this sword does not weaken to this day.

Attention is a myth: it was the katana samurai who made the hara-kiri. Firstly, it is more correct to call the seppuku samurai ritual suicide. Harakiri is a “simple option”, and its use was a sign of uncouthness and nearness. Secondly, to make seppuku with katana is very, very inconvenient. As a rule, a special knife was used for this - or, in the field, wakizashi.

This is interesting: at the end of the “Old Swords” period, the term “tati” was used to call any katana suspended from a belt, and not plugged in it.

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Wakizashi (shёto) - a twin sword to katana, with which they formed a daiso, a mandatory set of samurai weapons. If the katana was the "guardian of life", then the wakizashi was the "guardian of honor." Samurai never parted with him, even in the presence of the highest authorities or in the bath. In all, wakizashi was like a katana - except in size. And it’s rather strange that wakizashi was used very rarely in combat. Only a few schools taught daiso combat, including the Niten Iti-ryu School (School of the One Two Heavens), founded by the famous swordsman Miyamato Musashi.

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Shinobi-gatana (ninja) . So much has been written about this sword, excuse me, delirium, that finding the truth is very difficult. A long black sword, straight, worn on the back ... And crammed with various secret equipment cleaner than all James Bond cars combined. N-yes, something betrayed a spy in Stirlitz. Either strong-willed posture, or a manly profile, or a parachute dragged behind him ...

Attention is a myth: the blade of the ninja sword was painted in accordance with the traditions of its clan. It is not otherwise then that it would be easier to enter the executing organization if the synobies are caught ...

In fact, the shinobi-gatana was no different in appearance from the most ordinary samurai sword corresponding to the rank assignment - whether it be an ashigaru or daima. The differences lay in the details - a tighter tsuba, a longer sageo cord, a shorter blade (with normal scabbard). It's all. No countersunk knives, retractable blades or the like from the “Q department”. But cunning scouts invented more than a dozen different ways to use the sword - for example, when overcoming the wall or to move in the dark.

Attention is a myth: ninjas always carried their swords behind their backs, the hilt on the right. Probably in order to make it more difficult to remove from the scabbard or hide in them. In general, yes, there was a way of carrying the sword behind the back, but it was rarely used, it did not differ in convenience, and there was nothing secret in it. And the hilt was located on the left.

New Swords (Shinto) / New New Swords (Shinto)

The bloody period of civil strife and anarchy ended, and the Og shogunate and then the Tokugawa shogun came to replace it. A period of relative peace and the intentional preservation of the "glorious traditions of the past." For the most part, wars have moved from battlefields to castles and cities, where opponents took each other's lives for friendly tea drinking.

The periods of Shinto (1596-1624) and Shinsinto (1624-1876) did not bring practically anything new to the art of creating a sword. Katana and Wakizashi firmly seized the position of ideal blades, and the convenience and speed of removing them from the scabbard saved and ruined many lives. But these periods brought swords the wide glory of true works of art - it was then that the indescribable beauty of the frame and impeccable blades were created. Some blacksmiths conducted experiments to improve the forging process, which is already turning into a full-fledged mystical ritual ...

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In this relatively peaceful period, two parallel processes take place ... First, the “freezing” of the military estate. The new government is doing its best to limit freedom of thought among warriors, rightly believing that this is dangerous to the stability of power. At the same time, various schools of sword mastery bloom in exuberant color. Moreover, judging by the notes of Miyamato Musashi, most of them are focused not on the development of art, but on obtaining quick benefits due to the external beauty and spectacular style. The path of the swordsman as a warrior fades into the background.

Sinobi are gradually dying out - some of their organizations were destroyed during the formation of the shogunate, some were bought with giblets "in the service of the state." As a result, only one family of “true Shinobi” survived until the appearance of the “black ships” - the rest long ago turned into ordinary bodyguards.

Newest Swords (Gendaito)

In 1853, the so-called "black ships" appeared off the coast of Japan. Four American warships under the command of Matthew Perry set an ultimatum, according to which Japan somehow opens up for trade - if not voluntarily, then by force. The violent “fixation” of the estates and the numerous obstacles that the shogunate posed for any innovations played a cruel joke with him - Japan, armed with the latest squeak of military thought of the seventeenth century, simply had nothing to oppose to the naval cannons and the army of the nineteenth century. A flood of foreigners poured into the country.

Under the influence of Western ideas, unrest began in the country, which the shogunate restrained for two centuries. The time began, which remained in history as the Bakumatsu period, and then, in 1868, the shogun completely renounced power in favor of the emperor, and the Meiji restoration began - a swift “Europeanization” of Japan. The feudal system was abolished, industry was born, the class division of the people disappeared ... And the army changed. Now the main role on the battlefield has been completely played by firearms. Traditional swords were replaced by European sabers ... But not entirely.

In 1883, the style of officer swords, called kyugunto, was officially approved. These swords were made in the style of European sabers and differed from them only in the type of blade. It was also allowed to carry the blades of old family swords of earlier periods into the kygunto frame. It was with such swords that Japanese officers fought in close combat during the Russo-Japanese War.

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And in the 1930s there was a rollback. A sharp jump in patriotism and nationalism led to the introduction of frames such as singingo and kaigunto. In defiance of their predecessors, these swords were created on the basis of the classic tati sword - with all its attributes.

A notable version of the Sikomi-zue sword, also known as a cane sword: a straight thin blade of poor quality, disguised as a bamboo stick or an old cane. Most of these swords were created during the Meiji era.

Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu

Since we have touched on the topic of Japanese swords, let's talk about Japanese fencing. It existed in two main formats - kenjutsu and iaijutsu.

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Attention - a myth: a samurai had the right to attack only in a rigidly defined “set” of directions, only face to face and only in specific parts of the body - otherwise the attack was considered dishonest with all the consequences. This statement is in no way true, as the written instructions that have survived to this day show that the samurai had the right to attack the enemy in any way convenient for him, including from the back. There were also painful moves, kicks, throws of shiny objects to distract attention. The myth that the samurai always exchanged names and fought one on one is slightly more realistic. Such a custom really existed - until the first Mongol invasion. Subsequently, the tradition was preserved only as part of the “dueling code."

Kenjutsu literally translates as “the art of the sword” - and, like any art, it had many schools and styles. Most of the techniques focused on the speed and accuracy of blows - a light and sharp blade contributed to this approach. The school included not only physical methods (called kata), but also spiritual preparation (primarily of the Zen Buddhist nature), as well as many additional disciplines, the list of which varied from school to school. A large role was given to controlling and concentrating the internal energy of ki, controlling emotions ... For example, according to numerous evidence, sword masters were able to foresee events to some extent or change the state of their body in a variety of ways - making it heavy or light, hard or soft ... However, a mystical approach is characteristic of almost all Japanese martial arts.

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This is interesting: it is possible that it was these images that inspired George Lucas, creating the great Jedi Order, a community of warriors and sages. There are too many ethics of light Jedi in common with the ethics of Zen Buddhism ... Yes, and Obi-Wan, according to the initial idea, the Japanese had to play.

In addition, the Japanese fencing technique avoided the “hard blocks” in every possible way - this could easily lead to breakage or damage to the fending blade ... And some schools (including the one already called Ni-teng Iti-ryu) even developed techniques for disarming the enemy through destruction the sword.

Similarly, Miyamato Musashi emerged from a difficult situation. One day he was summoned to a daim by Matsudaira, who was considered an excellent warrior. According to the laws of that time, Musashi did not even have the right to injure such a high-ranking samurai - for this he was inevitable death. Therefore, with his bokene (at a certain stage, he refused to use a combat sword in duels, preferring a wooden training one) broke the daima’s sword in half, thereby forcing him to admit defeat.

Iaijutsu is the "art of exposing the sword," more precisely, the art of striking a sword directly from its scabbard. Initially, it was part of kenjutsu, but then stood out in a separate discipline. And it also generated a lot of controversy among experts regarding the ethics of such art. On the one hand, such an attack implied surprise, that is, an attack of an enemy not ready for battle, on the other hand, the samurai had to be ready to attack at any time of the day or night. The second position personally seems to me more convincing.

At present, Japanese fencing is in decline due to its transformation into sport and spectacle - the strictest regulations and restrictions lead to the oblivion of ancient traditions. Comparing ancient kenjutsu and modern kendo is the same as comparing Moscow’s winter defense with a biathlon championship.

Japanese swords are a huge layer of traditions, culture and craftsmanship, each blade is a unique work of art ... But, like knights and pirates, they went out into circulation and turned into an "entourage sword", giving rise to hundreds of "like samurai" and legions " American Ninjas. " As well as numerous scammers, "the last heirs to the disappeared traditions." The noble weapon, the most perfect blade on Earth, has turned into an outspoken cliche and consumer goods, which pop into everywhere. What for? That was. Because it is fashionable ...

One can only hope that this will pass soon. In companies involved in games and films, there will be more people who are not interested in mocking someone else's cultural heritage and endowed with a sense of proportion ...

Material author: Tanaka Kenshin, for the magazine "Best Computer Games"