From traditional Japanese swords like the katana and wakizashi to Korean swords like the geom and Ssangsudo, all swords have a point of balance. Typically found a few inches up the blade (from the hilt), it plays an important role in the sword's versatility and overall performance. Unfortunately, many martial arts practitioners and sword collectors overlook point of balance when shopping for new swords. They either aren't familiar with the term, or they believe that it's insignificant. But point of balance can most certainly affect your ability to handle and use a sword, which is why it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the term.
Point of Balance: The Basics
The point of balance is the physical, precise point on a sword where its weight is equally distributed to each side. In other words, you can place the sword long-wise on the tip of your finger at its point of balance and it will essentially balance. If you attempt to balance the sword anywhere else other than its point of balance, it will fall to the side supporting the most weight. Of course, you shouldn't attempt to balance a sword on your finger, as this may lead to injury. Nonetheless, this example should give you a better understanding of the point of balance and how to locate it on a sword.
Why Point of Balance Matters
When designing a sword, it's important for bladesmiths to consider its point of balance. If there's too much weight at the hilt, meaning the sword's point of balance is low, the individual using it won't be able to make fast, fluid strikes. If there's too much weight at the upper end of the blade, the individual using it won't be able to recover from his or her strikes in a timely manner, thereby leaving them open to a counterattack. To prevent these issues from occurring, bladesmiths throughout history have designed swords with a specific point of balance.
Where the Point of Balance Is Located
Different swords have their point of balance in different locations. With most swords, however, you'll find the point of balance about 2 to 3 inches up the blade. In other words, locate the bottom of the blade where the metal meets the hilt. Now go up the blade about 2 or 3 inches. For most swords, this is where the point of balance is located. Here, the sword's weight is equally distributed to each side.