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Weapons of Japan - Swords

Weapons of Japan - Swords
The sword is a murder weapon. 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 arms of the Land of the Rising Sun.

We 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 :

  • Big swords (o-dati or daito) - blades 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 (Shoto or ko-dati) - blades of length from one (30 cm) to two shaku. This group includes such swords as wakizashi, koshi-gatana, tiisai-gatana ...
  • Daggers - blades with a length of less than one shaku. First of all, it is tanto and aikuti, as well as other types of “pocket swords”.

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

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Main elements:

  • Tsuba - garda. Unlike European swords, in Japanese the guard had a mainly decorative function and was often made very fragile (in some cases it was completely laced);
  • Tsuka - the handle;
  • Makugi - durable pin that the blade was attached to the handle;
  • Manuki - ornaments on the hilt of the sword;
  • Asi - rings on the sheath, for which they hung on the belt.

Japanese sword and its development

Ancient Swords (Jokoto)

Very little is known about early history in Japan. The population of the country at that time was the real soup of the many tribes who arrived at the islands at different times, including Altai and Austronesian settlers. Gradually, the tribes formed clan states under the leadership of the invading outside Yamato clan. From this moment on, the history of the Japanese Empire begins - henceforth the Jimmu clan of the Yamato clan was declared imperial, and about the same time the first invasion of Japan into Korea led by the legendary Empress Jingu took place. It was the fourth century of our era. It is this time that the first descriptions of the equipment of the Japanese warriors dated by Chinese historians during the Sui dynasty date back. According to the records, "bows, arrows with iron and bone tips, swords, crossbows, long and short spears, and armor in patent leather are their military equipment."

The ancient Japanese swords did not at all resemble the sophisticated blades of a later period — coarse and effective, they quite corresponded to the technical level of that time.

Judging by the excavations, the first - approximately in the III-IV century of our era - a sword known under the general name of Tekuto fell into the hands of a Japanese warrior. It is not precisely known whether he appeared in Japan or was exported from neighboring Korea and China; it is believed that in Japan the blades were copied from foreign designs. At first, the swords were cast in bronze, then they began to be forged from a single piece of low-quality (there was no other then) with the help of a rather primitive technology. Most of the Tökuto had a relatively narrow blade with a slight internal curvature, which made them somewhat similar to the ancient Greek kopis or mahaira. Garda, as a rule, was absent, and the pommel was ring-shaped. Like Western peers, the Tokuto was intended primarily for punches. The most ancient of the famous tekuto is a sukanto-no-tati sword.

In the 6th century, a double-edged straight sword of about 60–70 cm in length (although specimens existed about 220 cm in length!), Known as ken or tsurugi, came to Japan along with Zen Buddhism. This weapon served mainly ritual functions and practically did not participate in battles.

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This is interesting: according to the myths, among other things, the sword was presented to the people by Amateras (the sun goddess, in combination - the head of the Shinto pantheon). She sent her grandson from heaven to bring order to the people, for which she supplied him with a magic 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-Oroti and was initially called Ame-no-murakum-no-hoken (Heavenly sword of gathering clouds), and later - Kusanagi- no-tsurugi (sword mowing the 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 develops in Japan, writing appears. The imperial court is half immersed in decadence, while the military class that controls the clans constantly fights among themselves and gains strength. The senseless and hopeless wars in Korea do not stop. Horses are imported from China - and hand shields disappear from use. The main symbol of the samurai of that time are the bow and the horse, but the rise of the sword is just around the corner ... And now it has happened! Somewhere between 697 and 708 years (if you believe the legends), the famous blacksmith Amakuni invents the prototype of the katana, dividing the curses along the straight sword ...

Old Swords (Koto)

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

In the 10th century, the samurai set of equipment was finally formed. Armor, Tati sword, Kosi-Gatana satellite sword and Yumi bow. Around the same time, the first "classic samurai armor" - o-war. The poorer samurai infantrymen wore light-weight D-Maru armor, which was significantly less constraining movement. Since the tati of the time was too long for infantry, the wichi-gatan sword that replaced him was worn in a belt with the blade up.

In the 13th century, Japan was faced with an ordeal, which introduced many changes both in tactics and in the equipment of warriors. The hordes of the Mongol Khan Kublai Khan, who had already conquered China by that time, landed twice on the shores of the Land of the Rising Sun, despite the kamikaze typhoons that both times destroyed 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 gunpowder “toys” obtained in China ... However, Japan, having shown the wonders of heroism, survived. And she made her conclusions, including in swords.

During the long war between the southern and northern imperial dynasties of the Nambokutyё period (1336-1392), due to the growing role of infantry units, another type of tati appears - field sword dat. At the same time, samurai in civilian clothes begin to wear two Uchi-gatana swords, since tati are too bulky and uncomfortable in a house or on city streets, and it is also very difficult to snatch it quickly.

Gradually, the armor of a warrior is falling out of use, and even rich samurai are beginning to give preference to mars - after having richly decorated them in accordance with their status. Then, completely new haramaki armor appears. The lack of samurai led to the emergence of a new kind of troops, known as the ashigaru and in fact being somehow trained by peasant militia. Inexpensive and high-tech haraate breastplates, which protected only the stomach, and jingas helmets (thin helmets that look like straw hats) were immediately invented for them.

Finally, at the end of the 15th century, tati finally emerged from widespread use, and the uchi-gatana receiving more and more recognition is divided into two different types of sword — the legendary katana (blade over 60 cm) and the slightly less legendary wakizashi (from 30 to 60 cm). Both swords are worn in the same way as uchi-gatana: at the waist, blade up.

This significant event was followed by another, no less significant one. Tired of ongoing internal conflicts, long-suffering Japan plunged into the Sengoku Jidai period, also known as the “Epoch of Warring Provinces”. There is no place left all over the country where battles between clans would not take place; martial arts schools are flourishing - students do not lack practical classes, and weak schools quickly disappear, unable to resist stronger ones.

The growing demand for weapons led to the division of swords into two categories — high-quality tyumon-uchi (“custom-made swords”) and low-grade kadzu-uchi (“mass swords”), or taba-gatana (“swords in bundles”).

In 1543 an event occurred that completely changed the nature of the war in Japan. Portuguese merchants brought firearms - arquebus, known as teppo. They were very inaccurate and slow, but they pierced their armor well. In the battle of Nagashino in 1573, the daimyo (prince) Oda Nabunaga shot down the cavalry of the Takeda clan, which was considered the best in Japan! Samurai did not even have time to get to the shooters ...

Consider the swords closer

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

It was at Tati that they first tried the famous multilayer forging technology. It consisted in the following: they took two pieces of metal - hard steel and soft iron - and bound them together to the state of actual adhesion. The resulting double sheet folded in half - and again fettered. In this way, it was possible to obtain a blank with hundreds (and individual 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 faded away at the very edge of the blade, which made the blade much harder than the rest of the sword. It is because of this unevenness that the blades turned out to be curved.

Yes, the blades were originally forged straight. It is likely that the curved swords were invented by chance - in the course of experiments to improve the swords. Later it turned out that the curved blade is much better than the straight one, and it started ...

This is interesting: the wave-like pattern on the blade is also a consequence of quenching with the use of clay.

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

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Kosi-gatan can be considered to some extent the ancestor of the famous wakizashi. He was worn with a blade tucked in his belt up - mainly in case of close combat with the enemy, when a long tati became not help, but hindrance. Kosi-gatan didn’t have a guard at all, but often there were additional small knives (co-gatan, kogai, etc.).

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

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Uti-gatana is a sword similar to tati, but shorter, adapted for infantry. Its length ranged from 30 to 60 centimeters and more. As kosi-gatana, worn in his belt, blade up. Uti-gatana can be considered one of the most successful "old swords", since both on the battlefield and in quiet time, he gradually ousted tati.

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Katana (daito) is the most legendary non-unique sword, no more, no less. Some people, not without reason, consider the katana the best sword of all time. A razor-sharp blade was able to cut 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 close themselves from the sword strikes with rifles, because these same katana rifles cut into two neat halves. In addition - the richest traditions, dozens of schools, hundreds and thousands of proven techniques and techniques ... It is enough for the interest in this sword to continue to this day.

Attention is a myth: it was the katana samurai who committed hara-kiri. First, it is more correct to call samurai ritual suicide seppuku. Harakiri is a “simple version”, and its use was a sign of lack of cohesion and nearness. Secondly, it is very, very uncomfortable to make seppuku with the help of a katana. As a rule, a special knife was used for this - or, in field conditions, a wakizashi.

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

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Wakidzasi (Shoto) - twin sword to the katana, with which they formed a dysho, a mandatory set of samurai weapons. If the katana was the “guardian of life,” then the wakizashi was the guardian of honor. The samurai never parted with him, even in the presence of the highest authorities or in the bath. Throughout the wakizashi was similar to katana - except for size. And it is rather strange that wakizashi was used very rarely in combat. Only a few schools taught the dysho battle, among them the Ni-Ten Ichi-ryu school (The One Two Heaven School), founded by the famous swordsman Miyamato Musashi.

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Shinobi-gatana (ninja something) . So much is written about this sword, forgive me, nonsense, that finding the truth is very difficult. A long black sword, straight, is worn on the back ... And it is crammed with various secret equipment that is cleaner than all James Bond cars combined. N-yes, something betrayed a spy in Stirlitz. Whether volitional posture, or a courageous profile, or a parachute dragged behind his back ...

Attention - the myth: the blade of the ninja sword was painted in accordance with the traditions of his clan. Not otherwise, to make it easier to go to the implementing organization, if shinobi is caught ...

In fact, the sinobi-gatan was apparently no different from the most ordinary samurai sword of the rank corresponding to the task - be it ashigaru or daimyo. The differences were in the details - a stronger tsuba, a longer sagao cord, a shorter blade (with normal sheaths). It's all. No hidden knives, retractable blades or similar things from “Q”. But cunning spies invented more than a dozen different ways to use the sword - for example, when overcoming a wall or for movement in the dark.

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

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

The bloody period of civil strife and anarchy ended, and was replaced first by the shogunate Oda, and then by the shogunate Tokugawa. A period of relative peace and the deliberate preservation of "the glorious traditions of the past." The wars for the most part moved from the battlefields to castles and cities, where opponents deprived each other of their lives for friendly tea.

The periods of Shinto (1596-1624) and Sinzinto (1624-1876) brought practically nothing new to the art of creating a sword. Katana and wakizashi firmly captured the position of perfect blades, and the convenience and speed of extracting them from the scabbard saved and destroyed many lives. But these periods brought to the swords wide fame of true works of art - it was then that the indescribable beauty of the frame and flawless 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, there are two parallel processes ... First, the “freezing” of the military class. The new government is trying in every way to limit the freedom of thought among the soldiers, rightly believing that it is dangerous for the stability of power. At the same time, various schools of sword craftsmanship flourish in bloom. And, judging by the records of Miyamato Musashi, most of them are focused not on the development of art, but on receiving quick benefits at the expense of external beauty and showiness of 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 - bought with giblets "to serve the state." As a result, until the emergence of the “black ships”, only one family of “true shinobi” survived - the rest had long ago become ordinary bodyguards.

The newest swords (gendaito)

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

Under the influence of Western ideas, unrest began in the country, which the shogunate held back for two centuries. The time that remained in history as the period of “Bakumatsu” began, and then, in 1868, the shogun renounced power altogether in favor of the emperor, and the restoration of Maydzi, the rapid Europeanization of Japan, began. 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 undoubtedly played a firearm. Traditional swords were replaced with 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 by the appearance of the blade. It was also allowed to transfer blades of older family swords of earlier periods to the rim of the kyugunto. It was with such swords that Japanese officers fought in the melee during the Russian-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 singunto and kaygunto. In spite of their predecessors, these swords were created on the basis of the classic tati sword - with all its attributes.

Noteworthy is the version of the sword Sikomi-zue, also known as the sword-cane: a straight thin blade of low quality disguised as a bamboo stick or an old cane. Most of these swords were created precisely in the era of Mayji.

Kenjutsu and iajutsu

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

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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 on specific parts of the body - otherwise the attack was considered dishonest with all the consequences. This statement is by no means true - as the written instructions that have survived to the present day show, the samurai had the right to attack the enemy in any way convenient to him, including from the back. In the course were also painful techniques, kicks, throws of shiny objects to distract attention. A little more realistic is the myth that samurai always exchanged names and fought one on one before the fight. Such a custom really existed - before the first Mongol invasion. Subsequently, the tradition was preserved only as part of the "duel code."

Literally, kenjutsu translates as "the art of the sword" - and, like all art, it had many schools and styles. Most of the techniques were focused on the speed and accuracy of the blows - a light and sharp blade contributed to this approach. The school included not only physical techniques (called kata), but also spiritual training (first of all, Zen Buddhist), 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 testimonies, the sword masters were able to somehow anticipate events or change the state of their body in various ways - to make it heavy or light, hard or soft. ... However, the mystical approach is characteristic of almost all Japanese martial arts.

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This is interesting: it is possible that George Lucas was inspired by these images, creating the great Jedi Order - the community of warriors and wise men. Too much of the ethics of light Jedi in common with the ethics of Zen Buddhism ... Yes, and Obi-Wan, according to the initial idea, was supposed to be played by the Japanese.

In addition, the Japanese fencing technique avoided “hard blocks” in every possible way - this could easily lead to breakage or damage to the parrying blade ... And individual schools (including the already called Ni-Teng Ichi-Ryu) even developed the techniques of disarming the enemy through destruction the sword.

Similarly, Miyamato Musashi emerged from a difficult situation. Once, he was summoned to a duel of daimyu Matsudaira, who was considered an excellent warrior According to the laws of that time, Musashi had no right to even injure such a high-ranking samurai - for which an inevitable death awaited him. Therefore, with his bokken (at a certain stage, he refused to use a combat sword in duels, preferring a wooden training one) he broke the Daimyu sword in half, thereby forcing him to admit defeat.

Iajutsu is the “art of sword exposure”, more precisely, the art of striking with the sword straight from the scabbard. Initially, it was part of kenjutsu, but then stood out in a separate discipline. And it also gave rise to a lot of controversy among experts regarding the ethics of such art. On the one hand, such an attack meant surprise, that is, an attack of an opponent who was not ready for battle, on the other hand, the samurai should have been ready to attack at any time of the day or night. The second position seems to me more convincing.

Currently, Japanese fencing is experiencing a decline associated with its transformation into a sport and a spectacle - the strictest regulations and restrictions lead to oblivion of ancient traditions. Comparing ancient kendzyutsu and modern kendo is like comparing the winter defenses of Moscow with the biathlon championship.

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

It is necessary to hope only that it will pass soon. In companies engaged in games and movies, there will be more people who are not interested in mocking at someone else's cultural heritage and endowed with a sense of proportion ...

Material author: Tanaka Kensin, for the magazine “Best computer games”