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Weapons of the Samurai

Updated on March 6, 2012

Samurai's Katana Blade

katana blade by greyloch
katana blade by greyloch

Weapons of the Samurai

The Samurai warrior tradition of Japan dates back hundreds and hundreds of years (actually about seven hundred years) to the 14th century, a time when the country existed as a feudal society run by lords, powerful men who were known as “liege lords.”

Samurai warriors (the word Samurai means “to serve”) based their entire existence on defending the lords who ruled over them and, as feudal warriors, were considered to be upper crust or “elite” members of society. In fact, these fierce and dedicated warriors began training for their eventual role as Samurais while very young. In many cases, the future Samurai was wielding and practicing with a “wooden sword” while he was still a child.

The Samurai Sword

The Samurai Mindset

An interesting aspect of the Samurai – of his very existence – is that battle against an enemy fulfilled his sole purpose in life.  It was believed by Samurais and those who employed them, their lords, that there was no other reason for the warrior to live. He needed to fight to justify his very existence. For that reason, and others, he was feared and respected.

The weapons used by Samurais were lethal, designed to kill an opponent quickly. When put in the trained and skillful hands of the Samurai, the result was almost always deadly. Interestingly, when one considers that the weapons were used 700 years ago, they were remarkably well-made, a fact that added to their effectiveness on the battlefield.

Katana and Wakizashi Also Called Daisho

Nomura Daisho with Saya by jpellgen
Nomura Daisho with Saya by jpellgen

Samurai Sword Technique

Weapon List

Here is a list of the best and most prominent weapons employed by Samurais …

Katana and Wakizashi … the Katana is one of the best-known of all of the Samurai weapons. It was a razor sharp sword with a very hard cutting edge. Distinctively-styled, the Katana featured a curved, slender single-edged blade that was generally about two feet long. Its handle was designed to allow the Samurai to hold it with two hands which allowed him to more effectively employ the slashing motion that destroyed his opponent. In fact, when properly employed, the Katana could slice right through an enemy’s body, killing him instantly. The Wakizashi was another sword carried into battle by a Samurai. Shorter in length than the Katana, it was used to decapitate an opponent or, when things went badly for the Samurai, to commit ritual suicide. Samurais who carried both the Katana and Wakizashi were considered to be armed with a daisho (a long and short sword).

Yumi … this early Samurai weapon (it pre-dates the Katana) was a bow and arrow “killing machine.” The bow for this weapon was made of wood and bamboo and was laminated to protect it from the elements and keep it from eroding. Arrows used with the Yumi were made of bamboo. Interestingly, the strength of the bow was measured by the number of men it took to string it.

Yari … in the days before guns and gunpowder, warriors had to resort to swords, bows and arrows and this weapon … a spear. Samurais utilized a number of techniques (yarijitsu) to make the Yari an effective and deadly weapon. While mounted on his horse, the Samurai would employ long, slashing strokes to destroy his opponent. When off his mount, this Japanese warrior would “spit” his defeated enemy, almost as if he were skewering meat.

Naginata … this “throwing” weapon is similar to the European “glaive,” and was known to slay an enemy in quick and silent fashion. The Naginata was popular with Japanese warrior monks.

Nadachi … this two-handed sword looked like a giant Katana. Made popular by a warrior named Makana Neotaka, it featured a huge five foot long blade and, when wielded properly, produced frightening and deadly results.

Kanaho … also knows as the “tetsubo,” this fearsome weapon was actually a long club that looked vaguely like a modern American baseball bat, with a significant difference … it was covered in iron and also included iron studs. Samurais used this ferocious weapon to break the swords of an opponent and also to break a horse’s legs which, when done successfully, would cause an enemy combatant to come crashing off his horse to the ground where he would become immediately vulnerable to the Samurai’s attack. This was an effective and deadly weapon with a single, but serious, drawback. It was extremely heavy and difficult to wield.

Those were the weapons of the Samurai ... each effective and all very deadly. More often than not, the Samurai prevailed. However, when he or his enemy received a battlefield wound, even one that was not immediately fatal the results were often the same. The wounded warrior would be left on the battlefield as others continued to fight and, in time, he would bleed to death.

Samurai Armor

samurai armor by Marshall Astor
samurai armor by Marshall Astor

Ancient Medical Care

Medical care was primitive, at best, ineffective almost all of the time. A wound that resulted in bleeding, even if it appeared to be superficial, was a virtual guarantee of death. In that light, it’s interesting to note that the weapons employed during that long ago feudal period were far more advanced in design and construction and performance than the medical practices that were available to assist the wounded.

In short, weaponry was at a stage where it could be said it was “cutting edge.” In terms of what was possible at that time. As for medicine and health care, these practices were in their infancy. They lagged far behind weaponry.


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      brodieninjawarrior 8 months ago

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      Liam 3 years ago

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      .......stl/f.kxc 5 years ago

      Great site helps a lot with my history assiment.

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      XimphOnni 5 years ago from Originally from the garden

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      Netflix 5 years ago

      this is so cool! (:

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      johnsams 7 years ago

      For years I've been hearing/reading magnificent things about samurai weapons and this hub provided some really interesting info on the topic.