The Second Version

18/12/08

Building a Mythology

I have just seen the umpteenth documentary about the making of katanas, and I'm becoming a little tired of this.

The documentary was good and interesting: it showed with rigor and detail all the (many) manufacturing phases for the swords, but still...

It seems - in particular if you follow certain currents of popular culture - that katanas are the only swords worth anything. Granted, a lot of that is japanese animation, so their nippocentric perspective is understandable.

The truth is, there have been quite a few more great manufacturers of swords and other bladed weapons around the world. All over Europe, especially in Spain; then in the Middle East (Damascus steel, anyone?); India... and these are only a few names straight from my memory.

The other point is that, as good as they are, katans have limits: in particular they are designed to be used against relatively lightly armoured enemies. A sharp edge is of little use against a heavy steel armor (even if, in theory, the blade could cut trough it); a heavy, pointy sword used in a thrusting action is more effective. Even better are lances, pikes, hammers, maces and the like.

Here is an expert discussion of the real differences between European and Japanese fighting implements and techniques.

If I were to buy a sword, personally, I'd get a Roman gladium or a Viking sword.

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