Katana: The ultimate guide to the ancient and modern Japanese sword

Samurai Swords for Sale

What is a katana?

The katana is the original Japanese sword. It was first created and worn by the Samurai – and also used and re-purposed by the Ninja – or Shinobi (who weren’t in fact wearing a black outfit and covered their face at all).

The katana was considered as the Samurai’s Soul. It was the center of his universe – as only the Samurai were allowed to wear it in ancient Japan. Wearing a sword in pre-moder

n Japan was a symbol of royalty – and the Samurai usually wore two swords, with one katana and another one (or perhaps, a wakizashi or tanto) in their belt.

The katana is one of the many different kinds of Japanese swords, which come in many different shapes – both in blade and in handle lengths. However, the katana is by far the most widely used and popular.

How is a katana made?

In ancient Japan, katanas were very rare and valuable. They were made with special techniques and metals – more specifically one – Tamahagane steel. This is a special type of steel issued from the traditional Japanese low furnace.

Such techniques are not extinct nowadays. However, the few smiths who are approved in Japan and are willing to sell their swords do so for a really high price – usually upward of 5000$.

Thankfully, there are smiths in other countries which create and sell their katanas for a fraction of that price. Instead of dealing in thousands, they deal in hundreds, which is much more reasonable.

There isn’t Tamahagane steel – but there is Damascus Steel, which can be molded and worked in great ways. There are also many types of guards (tsuba), scabbards (saya), and other pieces which can create truly beautiful swords

P.S. Anyone who tells you they’re selling Tamahagane steel from Asia, Europe or North America are 100% selling you fake Tamahagane. This technique is nearly extinct today – and available only from a few select smiths in Japan whose work is nearly inaccessible.

Japanese Swords Katana Ninjato Tanto Wakizashi Odachi Tachi Lengths

How long is a katana?

The katana made at Swords for Sale is usually 41” (104.1cm) in total length. Its curved blade is 27.7” (70.4cm) and its handle is 10.5” (26.7cm).

However, the length can vary slightly with different kinds of blade tips, handles, and forging processes. Moreover, each smith can create his own length and set his own standards – this is why all knives and swords are different. We have our own set of lengths, which we share here.

Let’s also have a look at all the other types of Japanese swords:

  1. The tanto knife has a short curved blade (11.8” – 30cm) and handle (7.7” – 19.6cm). It has a total length of around 20” – 50.6cm.
  2. The wakizashi sword has a medium curved blade (19.7” – 50cm) and handle (8.1” – 20.6cm). It has a total length of around 30.7” – 78cm.
  3. The ninjato sword has a long straight blade (27.7” – 70.4cm) and handle (10.5” – 26.7cm). It has a total length of around 41” – 103.9cm.
  4. The naginata sword/spear has a long curved blade the same size as a katana’s (27.7” – 70.4cm) and a very long handle (15.7″ – 39.9cm). It has a total length of around 45.3” – 114,3cm.
  5. The tachi sword has a very long curved blade (29.5” – 73.7cm) and long handle (12.6″ – 30.5cm). It has a total length of around 48.6” – 122cm.
  6. The odachi/nodachi sword has a very long curved blade (35.4” – 90cm) and a long handle (15.7″ – 39.9cm). It has a total length of around 53.5” – 136cm.
  7. Perhaps many more kinds than we can even think of. Especially for the Shinobi (ninja) who were masters of disguise and unusual weaponry.

Are katanas heavy?

Different builds have different weights. However, it shouldn’t be more than Xlbs.

They’re not that heavy, and should be manageable for most healthy adults to use.

Here is a range of weights for our other Japanese swords:

  1. The tanto, 
  2. The wakizashi, 
  3. The katana, 
  4. The ninjato, 
  5. The naginata, 
  6. The odachi, 
  7. The tachi, 

Are katanas usable and functional?

A katana’s (and any Japanese sword in general) usability depends on its build, age, and quality.

In order to be usable, a katana needs to have a full-tang blade, meaning the blade has a part of steel going into the handle through the Habaki (blade collar) with a wrap (Ito) over it.

When handled and while using it, the sword should feel solid and always within control. The handle or the blade collar (habaki) shouldn’t move, and the wrap (ito) should feel tightened to perfection in our hands. All its parts have to be tightened together and fitting properly.

This is what makes a katana usable – the main features of a sword which isn’t made to be a wall-hanger.

When you’re buying a sword online, there are different things you need to consider depending on your needs – but most importantly – you need to look at the names and titles sellers use on their products.

If you see the following titles and descriptions, your katana and other Japanese swords are definitely usable:

  • Full-tang
  • Battle-ready

If you see the words “wall-hanger”, or “partial tang”, your sword might be a wall-hanger, and it’s not recommended to cut anything with it.

At Swords for Sale, all our Japanese swords – including katanas – are full-tang and battle-ready. All our swords are fully functional and made by seasoned smiths and sword builders.

Uses in Iaido and Kendo

The katanas and Japanese swords made by Swords for Sale are all good to use as Iaito – training swords for the practice of Iaido and Kendo.

While we don’t provide any bokken (wooden practice swords), our katanas are perfect to train with. The only thing you need to do is select the “Unsharpened” option on any of our product pages.

This way, you’re getting a Iaito sword – with a blade that has never been sharpened before.

As a reminder, here are some useful Iaido and Kendo terms relating to the types of swords:

  • A Bokken is a wood sword, which is the most widely used sword in martial arts training – especially Iaido and Kendo.
  • A Iaito is a sword with a blade that has never been sharpened. In our products, you can get one by choosing the “Unsharpened” option.
  • A Shinken is a sharp sword that isn’t meant for martial arts practice – but for real-world cutting and slashing. In our product pages, you can get one by choosing the “Razor-Sharp” or the “Extra Sharp with Niku stone” options.
  • A Habikito is a sword that was a Shinken in its younger days but has been unsharpened through use and abuse.

Are katanas legal?

Katanas are legal in many countries. However, some do not accept it. It really depends on looking into the countries which do and those which do not accept its import and shipment.

For example, they’re legal in most of North America: USA, Canada, and Mexico. They’re also legal in Australia. However, they are illegal in many European and South American Countries.

We do our best to only ship our swords to countries where it’s legal to own one. Yet, it’s your country’s customs decision at 100% whether they let it get to you or not.

However, we cannot be held responsible for swords that get seized in customs. The end responsibility to verify the legality of ownership is with our customers – no exceptions.

Please look at the following section to find out if we ship to your country, along with the prices.

Can I ship a Katana to my country?

Tabs: All Continents > Most Countries

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