Feudal Japan was a period of constant war and fighting. Out of necessity, a vast array of weaponry was developed for use both by samurai and ninja.
The sword was deemed to be “the soul of the samurai”.
Katana — Long Sword
is a curved single-edged sword traditionally used by all samurai.
The long blade (average length: 70cm) was used for open combat and was swung in a slashing movement that sliced at the enemy and severed limbs.
The long sword was made of high-carbon steel, and so sharp that it could easily cut a man in two, even through their armor.
Learn more about the katana from the author...
Wakizashi — Short Sword
(meaning 'side arm') is a Japanese sword with a blade between 10 and 30 in.
The shorter blade was more suited for stabbing, close quarters combat, decapitating defeated opponents, and seppuku
, a form of ritual suicide.
The two swords together were called the daisho
and represented the social power and personal honour of the samurai.
Bokken — Wooden Sword
A bokken is a wooden Japanese sword used for training, usually the size and shape of a normal katana
Bokken are lethal weapons in themselves, and Miyamoto Musashi was infamous for fighting fully armed foes with only one or two bokken.
Yumi and Ya — Bow and Arrow
The bow and arrow was the most effective long-range weapon available during Japanese feudal times until the introduction of guns.
was the samurai’s original weapon of choice before the sword. Samurai had to learn to fire proficiently standing, kneeling, and mounted on horseback.
(Japanese bow) is exceptionally tall standing over two meters, surpassing the height of the archer (kyudoka
), and is traditionally made of bamboo, wood, and leather. Ya
(arrow) shafts are made of bamboo, with either eagle or hawk feathers.
Tanto — Knife
is a single or double-edged knife with a blade length between 15 and 30 cm, designed mainly as a stabbing weapon.
was a favorite weapon of the ninja, because of its lightness and utility. The ninja also used the tanto
to pry open doors, dig holes or small ditches, and they throw it like a shuriken
The ninja were adept at using many of the same weapons as a samurai, but they would often use equipment specially developed for their espionage style of combat.
Ninjato — Ninja Sword
Ninja swords are shorter than the swords used by samurai. The reason for this was that a larger sword was often too big or heavy to allow the ninja to run quickly or hide in small places.
Also, the way ninja used the sword was different to a samurai. Samurai would swing their sword, slashing at their opponent. Ninja, on the other hand, would stab with their sword.
(sword scabbard), which held the ninja sword, is often longer than the sword itself. This allowed the ninja to hide secret documents or carry distraction powder. Sometimes the saya
also served as a breathing tube, for times when ninja had to swim underwater.
Shuriken — Throwing Stars
is the trademark ninja weapon. The shuriken
is simply a flat piece of metal with sharpened points, that were thrown at the enemy.
was not originally designed as a killing weapon. It was mostly used to distract or deter so the ninja could escape. However, it was easily made lethal by dipping the edges in poison.
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