Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Historical Background of the Wakizashi Sword

The samurai class of feudal Japan were the first of a time honored group that carried the wakizashi sword. The wakizashi has an extended history and significant presence in the world of swords. The three blades that were generally carried by samurai warriors were the larger-sized katana, smaller-sized tanto, and midsize wakizashi. In numerous occasions, the katana and wakizashi were worn or carried together in what the Japanese referred to as a daisho. This presence of both the larger katana and the smaller wakizashi sword presented visible corroboration that one was indeed a samurai Japanese swordsman. 

Most wakizashi swords hallmark a blade that measures between 1-2 ft., with an overall length that rarely exceeds 31 inches. Most traditional wakizashi swords are much like their larger counterparts, the katana, featuring decorative accents and embellishments like a guard (tsuba), habaki (blade sleeve), menkui (handle ornament) and kashira (pommel). All of these elements add a ample and elegant look and feel to the tsuka (handle) of the wakizashi that's similar to the ancient wakizashi carried by the samurai centuries ago.

However, over centuries, designs have evolved from traditional to tactical with a returned focus on functionality and application. Also included were historic design and authentic style. Wakizashi swords by tradition include a organized hardwood scabbard to house the blade, Traditional accents often include a wooden handle with a quality ray skin or fish skin overlay and heavy cord wrappings. This not only provides a slip-free samurai-strength grip, but also an attractive, aesthetically pleasing quality that matches the presence and renown of the blade. Blade materials range from stainless steel to high-carbon steel and even old-world Damascus steel, depending on the quality level and desirability of modern-day wakizashi swords. The most sought-after models generally feature a hand-forged high-carbon steel blade, often completed with a fuller groove and met by heavy brass accents (habaki, tsuba, menuki, kashira, etc.) and a genuine ray skin and cord-wrapped handle.

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