The Swords of HI

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by DannyinJapan, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. DannyinJapan


    Oct 9, 2003
    I understand, Possum, but I am not talking about what you or anyone else should do today. We were talking about what the ancient Japanese did before a battle.

    If you were going to use that razor as a tool for manipulating another razor and an armored man holding it, then yes, its being dulled has made it stronger.
    You have increased the surface area of the edge which would help dissipate the force of another swords' cut and lessen the chances that a shard of the cutting edge would go flying off of your sword. (which happened all the time)
    The same thing goes for the meat cleaver. If you're going into battle against an armored, meat-cleaver wielding opponent, then the edge might need to be dulled and only the tip left sharp.

    I know, it seems strange, but that doesnt mean it wasnt wise. That doesnt mean it wasnt the best strategy for survival.

    Remember these people were poor and could not afford an array of weapons suited for each purpose.
  2. the possum

    the possum

    Jul 31, 2002
    Then I suppose at this point, the most productive thing would be to simply say "I disagree", and leave it at that. :)
  3. DannyinJapan


    Oct 9, 2003
    You're welcome to disagree. But I will say this: To ignore the wisdom of a 3,000 year old martial arts tradition is not a choice I would make. It's good top think for yourself, but, you know, people died in the process of gaining this knowledge. It's not a lighthearted thing that I just talk about mindlessly.
    It came to us at a high price.

    To each his own.
  4. arty


    Oct 18, 2003
    The sword evolved over time in Japan. Given the nature of the edge - I can't imagine why anyone would want to alter that. The entire surface is polished evenly. A properly sharpened sword would not have any sort of secondary bevel.

    I always thought that it was the purpose of a shield to catch the opponents sword - not your blade. This is western thinking. I don't know that much about Japanese fighting, other than they really like rifles.

    The steel is so hard on the edge of a Japanese sword that I would expect pretty serious fractures if one were to hit another sword with the edge. That is probably why a Samurai would carry multiple swords, with very large ones for use on horseback.

    It was my understanding that you would only reach for the sword in battle if you couldn't get to your spear....but all of this would vary for someone who needed to fight indoors. The samurai had to take off his katana and only wear a wakazashi indoors.

    Obviously, the sword is a very close range weapon for a warrior. I think of it as analagous to a boot knife or perhaps a 2" - 38.
  5. Dave Rishar

    Dave Rishar

    Oct 25, 2004
    Possum? There are numerous pictures in most of the known fighting manuals of Europe (some of which may be floating around on the internet) depicting people halfswording, holding two blades together at the binding point, grabbing the opponent's blade, and even swinging swords by the blade end. These are not edgless thrusting swords, either; we're talking honest-to-goodness cut-and-thrust weapons here. The pictures that don't picture the fighters in harness tend not to picture gloves, either.

    Can you grab your swords by their blades with bare (or even gloved) hands? I can't, either. I'm obviously doing something differently than they were and I don't think it involves the condition of my hands.

    I have personally demonstrated to my own satisfaction that an edge too dull to break my skin -- even while sawing -- can cut quite well if I do my part, leading me to believe that the technique being used is more important than the actual condition of the edge. I encourage you to try this yourself if you haven't already. Take a swing at a water-filled milk jug and see what happens and remember that that plastic is somewhat tougher than skin.

    Next -- assuming that it is a well made sword -- beat on a steel trashcan with it a bit. Not too much, but a bit. Look closely at the level of damage that the edge took. Now grind a new edge on it. Make it good and sharp. Repeat all the tests. You'll likely notice several things (at least, I did):

    1. It didn't cut that much better. A bit, but not much. The accuracy and focus of your swing most likely played a larger role in how the cuts compare to one another.
    2. The edge picked up more apparent damage, and probably some chips and cracks as well. It probably only waved a bit while dead dull. Waves are no big deal. Chips must be laboriously stoned out lest they become something worse; cracks create stress risers that lead to premature failure. Regardless, it's now dead dull wherever it made contact and it's going to take a lot of sharpening to get it back to where it was. The one that was already dull? Still dull. It's not going to get any duller. Not much maintenance required, unless I want it sharp again.

    I believe that the old swordfighters did indeed carry swords that we'd consider very dull today in at least some cases. These individuals did not speculate about sword performance on the internet nor debate whether a knight would beat a samurai or not; rather, they lived, fought, and sometimes died by these very instruments. I would expect them to have a far better understanding of just how these things worked than I do. Perhaps, then, they knew something that I don't about just how sharp "sharp enough" is?

    I won't comment on the katanas. Not my thing. It would not surprise me if things were done the same way there, though.
  6. Astrodada


    Sep 9, 2005
    I have read that when going to battle,the japanese sword edge was made less accute (less sharp) due to opponent wearing metal armors.

    Great effort had been spent to prevent chipping on their part. Another example is the Ashi....tiny short strips of soft metal running down perpendicular to the edge....theory is that if the chip occurs, it shall end at the Ashi.
  7. Jebadiah_Smith


    Jul 28, 2004
    I hope nobody minds if I poke my head in here...

    I dont know if its ever been mentioned on here, but the Sri Lankan Piha have no edge whatsoever until the last few inches or so:

    Kind of taking the dull edge idea to the extreme.

    I like em, some of them look like khukuri-bowie hybrids.
  8. Astrodada


    Sep 9, 2005
    Cool blades Jebadiah.
  9. SamuraiDave


    Apr 6, 2001
    All I know is when I got bored in college I would try to break my HI Katana by sticking it in the floorboards of my apt and bending it until it broke. After trying this 9-10 times I realized what potential such steel has.

    I need to finish up some projects, save up some cash, then buy a Tarwar to take apart and customize.
  10. Dave Rishar

    Dave Rishar

    Oct 25, 2004
    I'll bet that they didn't scream bloody murder whenever someone mentioned edge-on-edge contact, like some of us do. ;)

    You see exaggerated fortes on some weapons from other cultures as well; whether they were for parrying with the edge, choking up all the way onto the blade itself, or both, depends on who you ask. In some traditions there are examples of intentionally dulling the lower half of the edge specifically for parrying, so I'd say both. And's called a forte (fort) for a reason. :)

    Neat stuff, Jeb. Good to see you posting again.
  11. Astrodada


    Sep 9, 2005
    *cough* *cough*
  12. the possum

    the possum

    Jul 31, 2002
    Well, perhaps I was a bit hasty to bow out. Sounds like there's interesting discussion to be had here.

    But first-
    Again, I'd like to stress that my earlier post was directed squarely at Krull, because he mentioned using a blade on coons and possums. (a topic with which I'm intimately familiar. ;) ) In that case, there's no reason to intentionally dull the blade. There is a reason to sharpen it at a steeper angle or use a stout convex edge. There is a reason to explore using coarser grits to sharpen with. It all depends on how we are defining "sharp". Several folks have mentioned keeping the tip of the blade sharp, and letting the rest of the blade get less so. This is exactly what I have ended up doing after years of using my big bowie, which sounds like exactly the opposite of what Mr. Krull was proposing. (again, unless I was misunderstanding how he's defining "dull".)

    No, not in any meaningful practical way. The edge will still shatter and chip out badly if you try whacking anything substantial with it, because there's nothing to support it.

    I do not know of any 3000 year old martial tradition specifically for straight razors and meat cleavers.

    Who exactly are we talking about, here? I recall reading somewhere that even a tanto cost enough gold to feed a small family with rice for a year. Perhaps someone in Europe had a hilt with exchangeable blades, but I've never heard it being anything resembling a "common practice". This sounds especially strange when you consider that the vast majority of European swords had their hilts permanently attached, via peened pommels, leather grip wraps, etc.

    Regarding "halfswording": I am just beginning further study into WMA myself, but I've recently seen several pertinent threads over on swordforums. I can't find the one I was looking for, but there's much of the same info in this thread: Halfswording & sharpness
    Many believe that this was just a simplification on the part of the artists, since gloves are actually mentioned in the texts.
    Yes. (though I currently only have one windlass sword, as I haven't made the time to make a proper one for myself) The edge in the forte is sharpened differently than the edge near the tip. In some cases on swords specifically meant for use against harness, there was actually a blunted region for the hand. However, halfswording is still possible with a sharp sword.
    Yeah, objects and skin can still be cleaved if you make a good swing, and the target is fairly solid, or has bone directly underneath to act as a cutting board. But if the entire edge were dull, many of the smaller moves shown in those same manuals would be completely ineffective.
    I must disagree that plastic milk jugs are tougher than skin. It's possible to "cut" a jug with an edge that would completely inadequate against a coon or possum; I can only assume human skin (and clothing) would be the same or tougher. Perhaps you should repeat this test and wrap the jug with some heavy clothing or leather. I'd be interesting in hearing how it goes.
    At least with my big bowie, I can restore a horribly damaged edge (from accidental hits against steel and concrete) in a matter of minutes. The damage incurred from mildly whacking a trash can should be easy to remove in a matter of seconds. Your stance seems to be that "it will end up dull, so why not start out that way?" My stance is why not start out sharp? At least it will help you until it does become dull. What if our troops decided it would be better to carry empty rifles, since they'll run out of ammo anyway? Also, I'm not really sure what relevance the trash can bit has here; when fighting in harness it's generally accepted that the edge is useless anyway.

    I can easily agree with your general thoughts here, Dave. It just sounds like a difference in our terminology again. I'm trying to keep the ideas of edge geometry and sharpness separated here. You mention intentional dulling, when in fact it was often a greatly reinforced edge that was not sharpened. I maintain that there is a difference. If the forte were ground just like a straight razor and then "intentionally dulled" by cutting some rope, would it stand up to a botched parry? That's really all I'm trying to get at here.

    I have a feeling if we were all having this discussion face to face, we'd end up agreeing with eachother for the most part. And do some test cutting for fun afterwards. :thumbup:
  13. the possum

    the possum

    Jul 31, 2002
    dang double taps...
  14. Jebadiah_Smith


    Jul 28, 2004
    Thanks Dave. Its nice to dust off the old keyboard every so often.
  15. DannyinJapan


    Oct 9, 2003
    I will clarify my original discussion about dulling the sword before a battle.
    This was done by Japanese in the Sengoku and Early Edo periods.
    Thats when most of the armored battlefield type warfare happened.
    1467-1615 A.D. It's not my opinion, it's an historical fact.

    I make no claims concerning any other country nor time period.
  16. DannyinJapan


    Oct 9, 2003
    Dave, I just noticed that you said you were whacking on a steel drum!
    Dont do that!
    Japanese armor is made of very thin (less than 1mm) IRON, not steel.
    I dont want you to destroy your swords, they give us so much entertainment.....
  17. Yvsa


    May 18, 1999
    You guys are way over my head here but let me throw something out for your consideration about dull and just how well dull can cut at times.
    We worry too much about sharp and indeed sharp is sometimes what we need and want but not necessarily always.
    Consider the sharpeness of other things, like teeth for instance. Ever notice how a big predator's teeth are rounded and not to a razor edge?
    There has to be a reason for that besides not cutting yourself when chewing your food.
    People bit down a lot harder on food than they realize and if we had to stop and think about it while chewing we would take a whole lot longer to eat.
    A lion or tiger or a bear can take a person's throat out with hardly any effort at all.
    Bite into something reasonably hard like a really hard juicy apple and notice how clean your rather dull teeth cuts into it.
    A pretty dayumed clean edge for such a dull instrument ainnit?
    Now stop and think how much harder a man in good shape can swing a sword and especially at the end of the sword where the leverage is greater.
    Methinks it wouldn't have to be all that sharp with all things considered to do considerable damage.

    All of the TV shows say that a hog is closest to a person's body when doing forensic tests. Maybe using a large ham with bone in place would be a better test of a dull sword than anything else. you think?
    Mail Call uses watermelons in place of hogs for weapons testing but I don't know where a watermelon compares next to a human. Dave has used pumpkins IIRC for testing and I don't know how they would compare either.
    I still think a large ham or a hog would be a better testing media just because of the bone enclosed.
    I'd be more concerned about my weapon getting stuck in the bone than I would cutting mere flesh with a dull sword but that's just my opinion.
    Has anyone ever stopped to consider what I've brought up before this? :confused:

    Comments? ;) :D
  18. Astrodada


    Sep 9, 2005
    No comments Yvsa.......but I am hungry now. :)
  19. Svashtar

    Svashtar Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2003
    Well, this thread has been going for 6 weeks and I finally noticed the other day! I saw everyone else's great pictures that Danny had found and posted as well as the new additions. Great stuff! Finally had time today so pulled out my stuff that fits this category.

    Here are a couple of Uddhas.

    Top: 23" 28 oz. Uddha by Bura. Scrimmed elk antler. This is the one Danny showed on pic #9 of this thread. Yangdu's pics are way better.

    Bottom: 23" 33 oz. Uddha by Bura. Flaming red chandan handle. Just got this one and really like it.


    Katanas and Himalayan Sword.

    Top: HI Everest Kothimoda Katana by Bura, with carved horn handle and Kothimoda silver scabbard. 35" and 37 oz. Because of the full chiruwa tang this is the best balancing sword I have. Really nice work on the scabbard.

    Middle: Std. Everest Katana by Bura, satisal handle and std. tang. 36" and an even 2 pounds.

    Bottom: Carved chandan handle Himalayan Sword by Sher. 36" and 42 oz. Danny said that the one on post #11 of this thread was a one-of-a-kind, but I'm sure this is a twin to that one that was owned by Steve I believe. Got this one on a regular DOTD, so there's at least 2. Really my nicest sword.


    Top: 27.5" 36 oz. carved chandan Manjushri by Sher. About the third one made and the first with chandan.

    Middle: 27.5" 32 oz. carved horn Manjushri by Sher. Only the second one made with horn after Dave's first, which had more intricate carving IMO. Note the bigger handle ball and the change to the slimmer guard from the earlier model.

    Bottom: 31.5" 37 oz. carved horn handle Tibetan Sword by Bura.


    Here's a closeup of the Manjushri handles and guards so you can see old vs. new design changes:


    Here's what's left:

    Top: 30" 43 oz. Sirupate by Sher with neem burl handle. Sweet!

    #2: 36" 29 oz. Napoleon sword by Bura with carved horn handle.

    #3: 31" 18 oz. Napoleon sword by Bura with USA wood (Fruitwood?) handle and engraved silver metal scabbard.

    #4: 29" 39 oz. Tarwar by Bura with metal ringed satisal handle. Heavy and a real chopper.

    #5: 29.5 34 oz. Tarwar by Kumar with pretty hill walnut handle. A lighter, faster version.


    Still hope to get a Dukti and a Bob White Bolo someday. Keeping my fingers crossed...!


  20. Svashtar

    Svashtar Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2003
    Man I really love the looks of those old style Himalayans. Perfect handles. That wood one with the flat buttcap is perfect! Wish they still made those...

    Thanks for posting those pics Steve.


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