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Sword Spotlight: the Kabutowari

September 14, 2017

Sword Spotlight: the Kabutowari

Originating in feudal Japan, the kabutowari is a short-bladed weapon worn and used by samurai warriors. Also known as the hachiwari, it shared many similarities to the jitte of Japan's Edo period. Both swords have a similar length, style and other design. However, the kabutowari was perhaps the most recognizable short-bladed weapon of feudal Japan.

About the Kabutowari

Measuring 350 mm to 450 mm, the kabutowari is significantly shorter than other traditional Japanese swords like the katana. Nonetheless, many samurai warriors carried it as a backup weapon. When a warrior couldn't access his main weapon, he would use the kabutowari. There was even a term used to describe the practice of carrying two weapons such as this: daisho. According to feudal Japanese law, only samurai warriors were allowed to practice daisho by carrying two weapons.

The kabutowari was more than just a typical short-bladed sword. With its sharp tip resembling that of a dirk, it could be used to parry incoming attacks as well as book the armor of an opponent. Furthermore, samurai warriors often used the kabutowari to exploit weaknesses in their opponents armor. Even if an opponent was wearing full metal body armor, a samurai warrior could pierce through the armor in weak points using the kabutowari.

Like the katana, the kabutowari was forged using high-carbon steel. This allowed for a stronger and more durable blade that could easily hold an edge.

Parts of the Kabutowari

A typical kabutowari consists of several different parts, including the following:

  • Boshin: main shaft of the sword
  • Sentan: the point at the end of the blade
  • Kagi: the hooked blade found at the base of the sword where it meets the handle
  • Tsuka: the handle, which may or may not be wrapped
  • Kan: ring found at to the pommel of the tsuka
  • Tsuba: hand guard used to protect the warrior's hands from self-injury

Can the Kabutowari Break Helmets?

There's an old legend that samurai warriors wielding the kabutowari could break the helmets of their opponents. In fact, the word "kabutowari" literally translates to "helmet breaker" or "skull breaker." According to numerous historians, however, the belief that a kabutowari could smash a steel helmet is just a myth. The amount of pressure and force required to break a steel helmet would be substantial, and it's highly unlikely that any single warrior could perform such a blow using only the kabutowari as a weapon.


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