With its high-carbon steel and curved, single-edge blade, the katana is one of the most recognizable swords in the world. It originated in Japan during the region's Kamakura period (1185 to 1333). And even after all those years, the katana remains one of the most popular swords, owned by martial arts practitioners and collectors alike. However, there are several types of the katana, including the ko-katana.
Overview of the Ko-Katana
So, what is the ko-katana exactly? The ko-katana is essentially the same as a traditional Japanese katana but with one major difference: It features a smaller blade. Throughout Japan's history, bladesmiths in the region have produced the katana in a variety sizes. The standard blade length of the katana, however, measures somewhere between 60 and 73 cm. But the ko-katana is on the lower end of the spectrum, as it features a shorter blade length than most other swords.
Japanese bladesmiths use the "ko" prefix to classify any sword with a smaller-than-average blade length. The ko-wakizashi, for example, describes a wakizashi sword with a relatively short blade. This same principle applies to the katana, with ko-katanas also featuring a relatively short blade. While there's no universal standard that defines the length of a ko-katana, most have a blade length of 61 to 63 cm.
Benefits of the Ko-Katana
The ko-katana was used for the same purposes as traditional-length katanas. During feudal Japan, samurai warriors would use the sword to defend against invading forces, specifically Mongolians who were constantly attacking the region.
Because of its relatively short blade, however, the katana proved particularly effective in close-combat scenarios. Samurai warriors could easily unsheathe and draw the ko-katana with little effort, thereby giving them an advantage in enclosed or otherwise small spaces.
What About the O-Katana
Conversely, traditional Japanese swords may also have the "O" prefix. While the "Ko" prefix indicates the sword has a smaller-than-average blade length, the "O" prefix indicates the sword has a larger-than-average blade length. The o-katana, for example, often features a blade length of 70 or more cm, compared to just 61 to 63 cm with the ko-katana.
To recap, the ko-katana is simply a katana with a short blade. It originated in feudal Japan, just like the standard katana, and has become a popular choice ever since then.