The Japanese katana is one of the most well-known and sought-after swords in the world. Originating out of Japan's Kamakuru Period (1185 to 1333) -- when the word "katana" first appeared in written documents -- it was the preferred sword of samurai warriors. Here are five reasons why the katana is such a powerful sword.
#1) It's Made of the Highest Quality Steel
The katana is made of the highest quality steel on the planet. Traditionally, it's forged using one of two types of tamahagane steel: high carbon or low carbon. High-carbon tamahagane steel is exceptionally strong, allowing for a super sharp edge that doesn't dull easily, whereas low-carbon tamahagane is tougher and offers greater shock absorption.
Japanese swordsmiths perfected the art of making tamahagane steel, using the metal to produce some of the world's finest swords.
#2) The Metal is Folded More Than a Dozen Times
During its production, the swordsmith welds, folds and then welds the high-quality tamahagane steel more than a dozen times.
Granted, there's an age-old myth stating the katana is folded more than 1,000 times. This isn't true, but the katana is still folded up to 16 times, which is pretty impressive. Each time the swordsmith folds the steel, it removes impurities from the blade while also distributing the carbon content equally throughout.
#3) It's Forged Using Differential Heat Treatment
A third reason why the katana is such a powerful weapon is because it's made using a special technique known as "differential heat treatment." We've talked about this before on our blog. Basically, though, differential heat treatment involves heating and cooling the edge and spine of the katana at different rates. The edge is cooled more quickly than the spine, allowing for more fluid and efficient cuts while also retaining a significant amount of strength.
The general idea behind differential heat treatment is to create differences in hardness -- and this is why the katana is such a powerful sword (well, one reason at least).
#4) It's Long
With an average blade length of approximately 23 5⁄8– 28 3⁄4 inches (60 to 73 cm), the Japanese katana is a relatively long sword when compared to other swords. It was longer than the tachi and even certain uchigatana swords.
Of course, the long length of the katana gave samurai warriors a clear advantage of their opponents, allowing them to perform damaging blows at a safe distance.
#5) It Has a Curved Blade
Lastly, the katana's curved blade makes a superior sword. Some people assume that a curved blade is merely aesthetic, but this isn't the case. With a curved blade, the katana was easier to unsheathe and perform slicing attacks than straight-bladed swords.
Photo credit: Justin Ruckman