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The Importance Of The Ninja Sword In Japanese Tradition & Culture

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Ninjas have forever been immortalized in Hollywood blockbusters and many best selling fiction novels. These dark, agile, and skilled assassins who are masters in the art of concealment, stealth, and murder are often depicted in movies as spies. However, according to Japanese history ninjas were not as glamorous or skilled as we are led to believe.

Katana
Photo by Krys Amon on Unsplash

Origin Of Ninjas In Japan

The origins of the first ninjas in early Japanese folklore can be traced back to the fall of the Tang Dynasty in China. The skills that later became ninjutsu, the art of stealth, began to form around this period and were molded into a combat style by Daisuke Togakure and Kain Doshi around the 12th century.

Many of the first ninjas were in fact dishonored or disgraced samurai that had chosen to flee rather than commit ritual suicide in the face of defeat. Ninjutsu really took off in Japan as it wasn’t a combat style of the noble and elite. In fact, this early form of guerilla warfare was commonly used by farmers and villagers with inferior knowledge, skills, and money.

The art of ninjutsu also had plenty of foreign influences, especially, from Chinese generals who had fled to Japan after the fall of the Tang Dynasty. Ninjas were born mostly out of the need for self-preservation. A ninja was trained to survive no matter the cost and spy and assassinate targets without being seen or heard using only what was around them.

Ninjas were trained to attack at night using the darkness as their cover and the element of surprise. This is why ninjas would dress up in a completely black outfit called ninja-yoroi, or ninja armor. Ninjas were also often hired by nobles and samurai elites to do their dirty work as they themselves were constrained by the bounds of bushido. Espionage, deception, information gathering, spying and in rare instances, even assassination were all within the skill sets of the more experienced ninjas or “high men” referred to in Japanese as Jonin.

Many of the first ninja swords or Ninjato were more like crude stabbing tools than actual swords and were usually made from poor quality metals. However, that didn’t mean that they weren’t effective. Ninjas were trained to be spies and assassins, masters of infiltration, and lacking the honor of samurai traditions.

Poison, darts, arrows, ninja stars, and the ninja sword were the weapons of choice for the followers of ninjutsu as all these weapons were silent, easy to conceal, and lethal. Ninjas grew to become an army of men and women that were in all essence mercenaries for hire and began to be feared by even legendary samurai warriors across Japan.

The Ninjato – Ninja Sword

All ninjas carried with them a Ninjato or ninja sword that had similar characteristics to that of the legendary Katana. The sword has a straight blade and a square guard similar to that of the Katana but much shorter in length. A standard Ninjato measured about 48 cm in length and weighed about 0.42 kg. This made them much easier to conceal and since they were usually made from cheaper metals and less skilled craftsmen, ninjas could pass unnoticed looking as mere merchants or traders.

Since the Katana was made from premium metals by skilled craftsmen with each sword taking weeks to complete the ninja sword was much easier to forge and a lot less expensive making it the perfect weapon for the less esteemed but growing ninja following.

The ninjas worked like any other organized crime syndicate. There was a hierarchy put in place and depending on your skills and reputation you could rise up the ranks from being an ordinary ninja (genin) to becoming chunin (middle man) or jonin (high man).

Rise & Fall Of The Ninjas

Ninjas were most active during the tumultuous Warring States Period that spanned between 1330 and 1600. During this period of wars on all sides, ninjas were mercenaries for hire and would work for any party with no loyalty to any one side. This made them dangerous and feared all over Japan and at their peak, they aided the samurai with many of their internal power struggles.

Nearing the end of the 1600s Oda Nobunaga emerged as the most dominant daimyo and realized that to reunite Japan under one banner the ninja army must be defeated. The ninja strongholds in Iga and Koga were threats to his complete rule over Japan. After a long battle, both strongholds were brought down and the ninjas that survived the endless assault fled into the mountains and nearby provinces.

The period of peace that followed saw an end to the practices of ninjutsu but the legends and stories survived the centuries and brought back to light in the form of movies, video games, and comics.

Ninja Sword – Present Day

If you have a fascination for ninjas and the many legendary stories deep-rooted in Japanese folklore owning one for yourself would be one of the coolest things you could ask for. But how close are the modern ninja swords being manufactured today to those centuries past?

In a way, modern ninja swords try to stay as true to their original roots as possible, especially, if you are seeking one that is a collectible piece. High-quality ninja swords are made from carbon steel and have a straight sharp blade with an elongated handle. You can even create your own custom ninja sword using a wide selection of parts and materials of your choosing.

Ninja swords can most commonly be found in two measurements; katana and Wakizashi size. The katana size has the same blade length as a standard katana sword but is straight instead of curved. The Wakizashi size is much shorter in length and intended for one-hand use in close quarters combat.

Where Can You Buy Ninja Swords

Ninja swords can be purchased online from reliable distributors. One has to be careful as there are plenty of counterfeit and low-quality imitation ninja swords that are readily available online and often on huge discounts to entice customers. If you are looking for something that is close to the real thing and truly worth the collectible value then check out Katanasforsale.com.

NB. You must be over 18-year-old to purchase a samurai sword in the UK.

 
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