What is a Functional Japanese Sword? (Functional Katana)
A functional Japanese Sword also called the functional katana, is a forged Japanese sword that is not only decorative and collectible but is fully usable for the martial artist. Functional katana are produced by hammering a high carbon steel billet or folded steel billet into shape. After rough shaping of the sword blade occurs, the katana blade is hardened by either through tempering or traditional differential tempering. Through tempering is practiced on katana production but is more common on the functional European sword. The Japanese sword is more likely to have a differential temper so the swords cutting edge is harder while maintaining proper flex with a softer spine.
The functional Japanese sword comes in the full length katana, the mid-length wakizashi sword, as well as the short tanto. The tanto and wakizashi were the blades traditionally used for seppuka or harikiri by a dishonored samurai. Unlike the often larger European styled swords the Japanese katana is recognized by the single edged, curved blade. The Katana blade was often passed down through generations of samurai in a family. Each katana blade is outfitted with different furniture or katana fittings. If the samurai sword was on display or carried in a parade it would likely show off an ornate tsuba (guard), with matching accessories of a particular theme. When the katana was outfitted for battle it would have a simpler, more utilitarian tsuba and perhaps a battle wrapped handle (katate-maki tsuka).
The term “battle ready katana” is popularly used to describe the functional katana and we do use the term on our website as well. We do prefer to use “Functional Japanese sword” over the term “battle ready sword” because we feel it more accurately describes the katana that we offer. Not all swords are dressed for battle and some forms of katana are purposely forged without an edge for the martial art Iaito and would have never been carried by a samurai into battle.
Can I learn how to use a Katana?
Using a katana is a lot of fun but should always be done with safety in mind. The Japanese cutting katana has a finely polished, sharp edge that cuts quite easily through proper sword targets or tatami mats. While learning to cut don't be discouraged if your cuts are not as clean as you would like them to be. The samurai started training at 5 years old to perfect and master the art of the katana. When starting use of the katana you may want to start as the samurai would with a boken or training sword. If you decide to pursue sword cutting you may wish to study and practice tameshigiri through proper instruction. You may also consider the martial art form Iaito through a dojo and learn the intricate steps of practical drawing of the katana as would have been studied by a Japanese samurai. If you want to learn more advanced Japanese sword fighting technique, you may want to practice the sport of kendo. Kendo uses bamboo swords or kendo shinai, and protective samurai armour for samurai sword fighting. Whether you enjoy cutting tatami in your backyard, collect samurai swords that have been seen in hundreds of movies, or seriously practice sword martial arts, you will equally respect what it must have been like to be a samurai warrior heading into battle as you hold your own functional Japanese katana.