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Thread: evolution of the western katana

  1. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kehoe View Post
    Quite right -- they were usually light enough to be easily wielded with one hand. But they still could have enormous cutting power.

    Test-cutting inscriptions are rare, but they exist, and there are swords attributed to cut three bodies in half with a single stroke. Not heavy blades, but lightweight ones meant to be carried everyday. And apparently they didn't buckle or bend under the impact.

    On a separate note, I think the popularity of the straight-tanto shape is based more on its ease of manufacture than its usability.

    tk

    The katana cutting 3 bodies in one strike is a myth popularized by Hollywood. In real life no human being has the strength necessary to perform such a feast.


    As for the tanto, yes it is definitely easier to manufacture that shape than a real tanto. That's why the Chinese abandoned the similarily shaped Tang Dao in favor of rounded points as technology advanced.

  2. #27
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    From my experience, combat swords closely follow the modern design dictum: form follows function. Features evolve because they serve a particular purpose. I say "combat" because at various times, in various cultures, swords have been worn more as a display of rank or status -- and then their primary purpose is to make the wearer look impressive.

    During the peaceful years of the Togukawa shogunate, when swords were no longer a battlefield necessity, sword makers did all sorts of non-traditional things to sell new blades, and the realities of combat were no longer a primary concern.

    You'll see all sorts of things on swords from the shinto and shinshinto periods that were designed to appeal to a samurai's vanity (ostentatious hamons, solid gold tsubas, etc), and not his martial skills.

    Mick,

    You're right of course: there was a lot of variation (and I wish there was more variation in what's available on the market today). But as a general rule, I think it's accurate to say that traditional nihonto were lighter on average than what is being produced today for the western sword market. I've handled a bunch, and the difference seems pretty clear, even with all the variation in sugata, tori and koshirae.

    To me, here's an interesting question: How many times did the average samurai (pre-Edo era) actually use his sword? And was cutting practice common during koto times? When I say "common," I mean, would the average samurai cut targets on a weekly or monthly basis? I have not been able to find anything addresses this point. Most of what I have read over the years indicates that kata was the primary practice routine.

    I would think that these factors also would affect the weight/balance of the sword -- along with the favored techniques of a particular school of martial arts. But unfortunately, I have not been able to find any written accounts that tell me heavier blades were preferred for the bamboo-splitting cuts, etc. Does anyone have a reference?

    tk

  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Dayton View Post
    The katana cutting 3 bodies in one strike is a myth popularized by Hollywood. In real life no human being has the strength necessary to perform such a feast.
    Then why are there inscriptions that state "3 bodies with one stroke" (or something similar) on nakago of antique nihonto that were tested by tameshigiri, ie. "tameshi-mei"?
    http://www.google.fi/search?hl=fi&q=...btnG=Hae&meta=
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  4. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Timo Qvintus View Post
    Then why are there inscriptions that state "3 bodies with one stroke" (or something similar) on nakago of antique nihonto that were tested by tameshigiri, ie. "tameshi-mei"?
    http://www.google.fi/search?hl=fi&q=...btnG=Hae&meta=
    Metal just as paper can hold whatever you write into it I can make a sword and write in to the tang "100 bodies with one stroke" it does not make it true fact.

    By laws of phisics it is impossible for a human being to cut 3 average sized bodies in one stroke. The friction from the blade and loss of momentum due to impact would not allow this. It does not matter how sharp the blade was.

    Also witting the body count or ability to cut on a blade is not a very precise indicator of cutting power as the cutting ability is highly defendant on the strength and skill of the swordsman performing the cut. Give the sharpest sword ever made to someone who has never handled one and I highly doubt he will be able to at least cut a 2" green bamboo.
    Last edited by C. Dayton; 02-26-2008 at 06:22 AM.

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Dayton View Post
    Metal just as paper can hold whatever you write into it

    I can make a sword and write in to the tang "100 bodies with one stroke" it does not make it true fact.

    By laws of phisics it is impossible for a human being to cut 3 average sized bodies in one stroke. The friction from the blade and loss of momentum due to impact would not allow this. It does not matter how sharp the blade was.
    So you're saying that tameshi-mei are in fact "gimei", in a way? I'd like to hear a comment from some of our resident nihonto-experts on this..
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  6. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Timo Qvintus View Post
    So you're saying that tameshi-mei are in fact "gimei", in a way? I'd like to hear a comment from some of our resident nihonto-experts on this..

    Not all swordsmith where honest trustworthy people. Just like today.

    Having a "body count" on the tang does not makes it a gimei. Gimei is a forged signature, when the name of a smith that did not made the blade is written on it.
    Last edited by C. Dayton; 02-26-2008 at 07:08 AM.

  7. #32
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    Fact check:

    I own a koto katana with a test-cutting inscription, "3 bodies across the chest with one stroke." Authenticated by NBTHK, attributed to Mihara Masachika of the Yamato den (There's another thread here with pictures of the sword). The tester was one of the Yamanos, a family whose profession was test-cutting. Such practices are well documented. Gruesome, but well-documented. Usually the swords were mounted in special handles for such tests.

    It seemingly was less a matter of strength, than of skill and the quality of the blade.

    Here's a fascinating, but unsettling, article someone on the nihonto board was kind enough to send to me on the topic:

    http://www2.una.edu/Takeuchi/DrT_Jpn...es/Tameshi.htm

    tk
    Last edited by Tom Kehoe; 02-26-2008 at 08:18 AM.

  8. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by C. Dayton View Post
    By laws of phisics it is impossible for a human being to cut 3 average sized bodies in one stroke. The friction from the blade and loss of momentum due to impact would not allow this. It does not matter how sharp the blade was.
    Mr. Dayton, your profile doesn't indicate your background, but have you ever seen a Toyama-ryu practitioner perform dotan-giri? After seeing numerous people cut straight down through 5 or more double mats and finish by burying their blade in the stand, I have no doubt that a certified sword tester could perform a similar cut through three bodies. Such a cut was - if I have heard correctly - performed through the spinal cord, between the hipbones and the ribs; not much there except soft tissue, which would part readily.

    Granted, I have no wish to see such an act verified in this day and age, but I wouldn't be as quick to make a blanket dismissal of cutting mei that were likely performed in front of official witnesses. Keep in mind that such tests were done mainly for daimyo, who paid good money for such blades; there must have been at least some accountability in place.

  9. #34
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    Likewise, the statement that "All duels involved no blade contact" is not entirely correct. You mention Hollywood myths, well it's a similar thing. Most Duels would not have been the "One cut" event. People fighting to the death generally got a bit sloppy in technique when their life was on the line I'm sure.

    Also, the blade length/shape etc was very varied. There are plenty of long and thick blades out there. Plenty with "nicks" in the blade indicating contact.

    If you practise you will know that there are several techniques which involve blade contact. Not "Blocking" but transitional moves that will entail blade on blade contact.
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  10. #35
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    Blade contact

    A lot of people are under the mis-conception that
    samurai duels were like the kyuzo duel - one cut one kill - from seven samurai , I believe The Twilight Samurai duel scene would have been more accurate .

    Even a fireside samurai like me knows of Uke nagashi ( catch and slide off )

    As Gruesome as testing blades on torso's sounds - its well documented and I certainly believe that
    specialists who performed this duty would have had no trouble cutting through three bodies across the chest. ( I wouldnt bet against somebody like big Tony Alvarez either if time travel existed )


    Mick
    " Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."



    Ephesians 6:11

  11. #36
    Wow this thread became a Katana fanboy arena and completely out of the original topic.

    I am not debating with anyone. SFI is for everyone to share his/her opinion.

  12. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Dayton View Post
    ... I am not debating with anyone. SFI is for everyone to share his/her opinion.
    No, it is not. SFI is here for education. Sword testing is well documented.

    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
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  13. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Drawdy View Post
    No, it is not. SFI is here for education. Sword testing is well documented.

    Dave
    Shouldn't education be about the thread's subject?

    And I said I am not debating with anyone, please respect my decision not to participate in this thread anymore unless it is to discuss the original Topic:
    Last edited by C. Dayton; 02-26-2008 at 05:45 PM.

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Dayton View Post
    Shouldn't education be about the thread's subject?
    C.,
    in your last few posts, you are perilously close to trolling. You may consider this a polite warning.

    Yes, we should return to the topic, if possible. Modern production kats over the last several years were heavily influenced by
    1) a design of a popular smith that was picked up by Cold Steel and used as their prototype
    2) some designs coming out of Bugei as they developed their line
    3) 'spin-offs' of both of those influences by two primary forges in China, and subsequent spin-off forges
    4) a popular and effective 'mat-cutter' design whose cross section if not overall shape and dimensions have been copied into many current models
    Two more recent influences outside of the standard 'chinatana' have been Citadel, apparently influenced by classic tachi, and MAS, which produced their line initially for their Korean stylists.
    A recent and very positive influence IMO has been some of the design work that Keith Larman, a highly respected polisher and mounter, has put into the latest Bugei designs. This list is of course not all-inclusive, lots of variations out there, many times the variation is where to compromise, steel, heat treat, mounts, etc. Some good user blades, but still caveat emptor.

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Drawdy; 02-26-2008 at 07:20 PM.
    Dave Drawdy
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  15. #40
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    Not sure what you mean by the fanboy comment...

    If the evolution of what I called the "modern western katana" is being shaped by its current usage, then it's certainly relevant to discuss the historical usage of the katana.



    tk

  16. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Drawdy View Post
    C.,
    in your last few posts, you are perilously close to trolling. You may consider this a polite warning.

    Yes, we should return to the topic, if possible. Modern production kats over the last several years were heavily influenced by
    1) a design of a popular smith that was picked up by Cold Steel and used as their prototype
    2) some designs coming out of Bugei as they developed their line
    3) 'spin-offs' of both of those influences by two primary forges in China, and subsequent spin-off forges
    4) a popular and effective 'mat-cutter' design whose cross section if not overall shape and dimensions have been copied into many current models
    Two more recent influences outside of the standard 'chinatana' have been Citadel, apparently influenced by classic tachi, and MAS, which produced their line initially for their Korean stylists.
    A recent and very positive influence IMO has been some of the design work that Keith Larman, a highly respected polisher and mounter, has put into the latest Bugei designs. This list is of course not all-inclusive, lots of variations out there, many times the variation is where to compromise, steel, heat treat, mounts, etc. Some good user blades, but still caveat emptor.

    Dave
    Dave you're always cool in my book. Cause when you tell how the cow ate the cabbage we can see on the replay just how it went down.

  17. #42
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    Quoting names of well established kendoka or indeed mentioning blades one has had experience with - production or nihonto , is not fanboyism by any stretch , its the nature of SFI and its members that from time to time an opinion is voiced that others disagree with - in these cases facts are given and experience or sources are mentioned to re-inforce the facts .

    there's no agenda here and Mr Dayton please continue to post in this thread in the spirit it was started in .


    Thanks

    Mick
    " Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."



    Ephesians 6:11

  18. #43
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    ...
    Last edited by Timo Qvintus; 02-27-2008 at 08:09 AM. Reason: nevermind.
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  19. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Timo Qvintus View Post
    Primarily, yes. However, as you posted false information, it needed to be corrected, so that upon later viewing such information would not be thought to be the truth.

    Why you acuse me of posting false information?

    Ask any physics or biology professor as I did and they will tell you my information is correct. That's what I did and I am a Materials Engineer by the way.

    Specially the statement that a sword could cut 3 bodies across the chest where it would involve 6 humerus, 3 spinal colums, 3 externums and at lest 6 sets of ribs front and back. That's a lot of bone.

    I wonder if Katana fans believe only the katana could do such feast or swords of other cultures could also do it.

    And stop quoting me. I said I am not discussing this anymore. If you want to debate instead or go to this thread that is discussing this same topic you want to debate:

    http://forums.swordforum.com/showthr...cutting+bodies

    Leave this thread for the original discussion: Evolution of the western Katana


    Geez I jsut made a simple comment and now there are like 5 people quoting me, and defending their points to dead. At the end of the day a sword is just a sword and no one uses it to cut bodies anymore. Get a life.


    PS:

    To the one that said I have not stated my background: read the first page of the thread, I did stated my background. And I did not say that sword duels "never" involved sword contact. Is said it was not common as you see in movies that duelists strike their swords for 10 minutes before the kill.
    Last edited by C. Dayton; 02-27-2008 at 06:59 AM.

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timo Qvintus View Post
    Primarily, yes. However, as you posted false information, it needed to be corrected, so that upon later viewing such information would not be thought to be the truth.
    Sometimes providing truths with references is better than questioning the statments of others and initiating confrontations that cause threads to self destruct.

    Here is one nakago count thread from the old days, unfortunately, the images are gone.
    http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=4658

    Here is another related
    http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=27856

    To be honest, there are quite a few more of the same vein. Often mentioned also are the Obata vs helmet tests. I am not quickly finding comments that the practice of falsifying testing mei did occur but those two threads are a start. I thought it was Keith that mentioned it but I could be mistaken.

    As to the evolution of the western katana, something I still see is the overall bulky thickness of many. Was it D. Opheim that (more or less) recently posted a picture of three tsuka, looking down at the thicknesses? I know I was somewhat amazed in viewing originals first hand and that really started with David R. Schlueter (of Odd Frog Forge) handing me an antique wakizashi saya at a show one year while chiding me about Hanwei baseball bats. Further, I can recall quite a few American smiths and craftsmen that did get it quite a long time ago but were not as high profile as those promoting things like the Americanized tanto. Michael Bell would certainly come to mind there, even folk like the late Bob Engnath.

    I think in some ways the production katana market is still in the discovery phase, as more and more realize building from a two dimensional view doesn't reflect history. In a very large sense, that was a hurdle overcome by quality reproductions of European sword types a decade (and more) ago. There is still a sector of that market that doesn't get it and maybe that's where some get the idea that the equation has never been resolved.

    Most of my impressions of how modern Japanese style swords could be has been formed by seeing originals and watching Samurai Saturday on IFC and Japanese films in general. From that perspective, I think there have been some good strides in progress but there still could be huge improvements made.

    An unfortunate trend seems to be the regression of elucidation caused by the swarm of inexpesive swords of the past few years coupled with a great many novice handlers praising them and figuring gluing the kashira and ito back in place is a fix worthy of effort. What can I say? That is on the increase and will continue to drive the market for katanaesque swords. That leaves more cognizant discussion to help sort things out again but noise caused by squabbles over perceived authorative information makes the pertinent information dissapear in a mist of unpleasant discourse.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; I say the knights win
    Last edited by Glen C.; 02-27-2008 at 06:51 AM.

  21. #46
    The practice was very well documented by smiths, by witnesses, by those doing the testing as well as in some cases by the government itself (depending on the context). Sure, there are blades with BS tameshi-mei. But there are other blades with solid provenance showing a large number of bodies cut in a single stroke. And anyone who has ever seen a talented, powerful swordsman doing a modern dodan cut bury the thing into the base of the stand simply will not have problems with the tameshi-mei of some swords.

    Sometimes they were alive. Sometimes they were dead. Sometimes they were "ripe" for lack of a better term. But the practice occurred. And remember the point of the test was to stress test the sword. To push it to its limits. To determine if it was sharp, if it was durable, if it could handle such a thing. The test itself was set up to maximize the ability of the swordsman to cut. Obviously these are not "real world" scenarios, but they weren't done for those reasons. they were done to test the swords themselves. And some swords would survive some pretty incredible cuts (i believe the top number anyone holds any credence to is 7). But also realize that there were multple areas where one would perform these tests in terms of targets. And if memory serves the whole body tests were done dodan with the cutting going just under the rib cage, above the pelvis.

    And those guys doing the testing were renouned for both their form and strength. They were busy fellas and they had a *lot* of practice.

    Honestly, there are professional historians of the Japanese sword and this topic is not controversial at all. Like I said, this is not only *not* debated seriously, frankly there is no shortage of documentation on the topic making any argument relatively moot. A lot has been written in Japanese, a little translated into English, but it simply is a non-issue.

    Dr. Takeuchi wrote a very nice article on the topic summarizing a lot of things.

    http://www2.una.edu/Takeuchi/DrT_Jpn...es/TAMESHI.htm
    Keith Larman
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  22. #47
    Why don't people follow Glen example and keep this thread on topic.

    And to end the argument of "3 bodies cut throught the chest" once and for all:

    Why don't someone get a dead cow from a butcher or slaughterhouse and cuts it through the chest with their Ninhonto?

    Or better yet, 3 pigs of similar thickness to human beings.

    Better to defend arguments with action than with words.

    PS: Mythbusters should do a program about this.
    Last edited by C. Dayton; 02-27-2008 at 01:32 PM.

  23. #48
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    ok, this has gotten ridiculous. There is no argument. C., you are wrong. As you seem unable to deal with this fact gracefully, I am temporarily closing this thread, to figure out how to clean up the off-topic nonsense. And as my previous warning had no effect, your account privileges are on a short hiatus, pending review from my fellow mods.

    Tom, as this is your thread, will leave it up to you if you wish it re-opened, cleaned up or not. Please PM me or any of the other mods.

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Drawdy; 02-27-2008 at 01:53 PM.
    Dave Drawdy
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  24. #49
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    Per Tom's request, this thread is once again open for business, unaltered. C. Dayton will be able to rejoin us in a few days, if anyone had been wondering. For those of you still with us, and those joining us, please keep in mind that:
    a) this board is about education, we encourage intelligent and courteous discourse. "Is too!", "Is not!", "Oh yeah?!" does not fall into that category.
    b) disagreement is not a personal attack. This one causes lots of problems. All of us are occasionally wrong, may have bad info, or may be passing on something we have read but have no personal experience of. Relax, take a deep breath, open your mind to alternate possibilities. The world is large and, oddly enough, there are people out there that may know more than we do, as a factor of life experience, research, or just being in the right place at the right time. Pick their minds, much more profitable than arguing, IMO.
    3) if you see an argument brewing, and especially if the salient points have already been made, resist the urge to pile on. If it is trolling, don't feed him/her.
    4) this is a moderated board. we have rules and standards, even if they are enforced irregularly. our preference is to let things move along and hope for the best. benefit of the doubt and all that. if you have questions, issues, requests, feel free to contact a mod. If you don't like the response, contact another one. We are here because we love swords, too. We have our favorites and our blind spots, like anyone.

    Thanks, all,
    carry on,

    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

  25. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by C. Dayton View Post
    Why don't people follow Glen example and keep this thread on topic.

    And to end the argument of "3 bodies cut throught the chest" once and for all:

    Why don't someone get a dead cow from a butcher or slaughterhouse and cuts it through the chest with their Ninhonto?

    Or better yet, 3 pigs of similar thickness to human beings.

    Better to defend arguments with action than with words.

    PS: Mythbusters should do a program about this.

    Although japanese swordsmanship is not my area of interest this test look quite interesting.

    I would love to see someone do such test with japanese or Chinese swords. This is would be more accurate test cutting than tatami or bamboo.

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