Samurai swords: Uniqueness and distinguishing features

by Brock Tebbutt
Samurai Sword

If you’re an avid fan of Japanese movies, you must have seen one or two scenes where the samurai sword is wielded to significant effect. In ancient times, only the elites could use these powerful swords; however, modernization has made access to Samurai swords non-exclusive. The Samurai sword is an ancient heritage of the Japanese people, and a curved blade often characterizes it with a long grip designed to accommodate both hands.

The Japanese sword has undergone various modifications over the years, but the capability has never been in doubt. Unknown to many, there are five different types of a samurai sword, and each class has its unique qualities. Samurai sword experts can effectively wield different kinds of swords. This article pinpoints each of these classes as well as their distinguishing features.

Tanto Swords

This class of samurai swords could easily pass as the modern-day dagger as it has all of a dagger’s qualities. The sword possesses both single and double edges depending on the needs; its sharp edge makes it suitable for slicing and cutting operations. This sword type was quite handy to the ancient Japanese warriors during clashes; however, its use has become limited to ornamental purposes in recent years.

Katana Swords

This class of sword is probably the most iconic and popular of the lots. Katana swords are typically composed of a long blade and firm handle designed to accommodate both hands. Although the sword possesses a curved and slender blade, it’s more than capable of striking from long distance. The typical Katana sword can be differentiated from other Samurai swords via its total length. The sword measures up to 1m to 1.2m in full length; the hilt takes a chunk of this length.

Wakizashi Swords

You’d be forgiven if you have issues with the pronunciation of this class of samurai swords. Wakizashi swords are quite similar to Katana swords in so many ways; the fundamental difference is in the height of both swords. Usually used as a complementary weapon to the Katana sword by the ancient Samurai warriors, the Wakizashi sword effectively serves its purpose. The average Wakizashi sword measures up to 0.5m in length, and this is precisely why the warriors wore it on the side.


Japanese soldiers had various categories on fighters; a specific group rode on horseback while charging at the enemy line. The Tachi was quite handy for this purpose due to the massive curve and length. The average height of 0.75m puts the Tachi amongst the long categories of Samurai swords.


The effectiveness of this class of swords is best enjoyed in open field battles. The Nadashi sword is typically longer and more extensive than katana swords; this makes these types of swords unsuitable for close range combats. Nadashi translates to ‘field sword,’ and it’s not especially difficult to see why it’s given that name.

Final Thoughts

Ancient Japanese warriors are known for their conquests and skill in wielding swords. Many of those swords have been passed down through various generations, and they can be easily acquired today.

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