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Sword Spotlight: the Uchigatana

January 11, 2018

Sword Spotlight: the Uchigatana

Not to be confused with the katana, the uchigatana is another world-renown sword that was invented in feudal Japan. Like its counterpart, it was a primary weapon wielded by samurai warriors. To learn more about the uchigatana and its history, keep reading.

Origins of the Uchigatana

In the early days of feudal Japan, the preferred sword of the samurai warrior was the tachi. From the Heian period to the Muromachi period, it was more use on the battlefield than any other sword of this time. With its moderately long blade and razor-sharp edge, it was a powerful and versatile weapon.

Fast forward to the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573), however, and a new weapon rose to the popularity: the uchigatana. Prior to this period, samurai warriors typically used the tachi as their primary weapon. As swordsmiths began to experiment with new swordmaking techniques, the uchigatana was invented. So, what made the uchigatana such a popular choice of weapon by samurai warriors in feudal Japan?

Overview of the Uchigatana

The uchigatana shared many similarities as its predecessor, the tachi. Both swords featured a similar length and curved, single-edged blade. The uchigatana, however, was more refined. Among other things, it featured a greater curvature, higher quality steel and stronger composition.

It's also worth mentioning that the uchigatana was worn with the cutting edge facing up in the sheath, whereas the tachi -- like all other traditional Japanese swords -- were worn with the cutting edge facing down. This was done for two specific reasons: to preserve and protect the blade from damage, and to encourage faster draws. The uchigatana's successor, the katana, also shared this characteristic feature, with samurai warriors wearing it with the cutting edge facing up as well.

The term "uchigatana" is a actually a combination of two words: "uchi," meaning "to strike," and "gatana" meaning" sword." Therefore, uchigatana means "to strike with sword."

The uchigatana is one of three swords that defined feudal Japan, with the other two being the tachi and katana. The tachi came first, followed by the uchigatana and then the katana.

Of course, the uchigatana wasn't always the preferred choice of weapon among samurai warriors. While it rose to popularity during the Muromachi period, there are reports of the uchigatana being constructed and used during the Kamakura period. Back then, however, the uchigatana was considered disposable due to its flaws and imperfections.

Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the Japanese uchigatana.

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