Normally people can find about the history of a place or item, because it has various records that allow them to know everything related to it. Real ninja and their deadly weapons were always meant to be kept a secret. Thus, not many individuals know what’s the truth and what’s a myth, when it comes to a ninja sword.
In today’s blog, we are going to talk about what actually happened back in the day. Whether the ninja swords, we see today, are actually the ones that those covert warriors used in the past or not. Is it really all just a myth or is there some truth to the straight-blade ninjato? We will come to a conclusion of one kind or another, so keep reading till the end.
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Ninja Sword and Its History
The ninjaken (also known as ninjato or ninja sword) are supposed to be the preferred weapon of the shinobi, according to most historians and some current ninjitsu practitioners. This is why, we still get to see this straight-blade weapon quite often in movies, anime and other media portrayals.
Since its establishment in mind 1960s, replica ninja swords are up for display at the Ninja Museum of Igaryu that is located in Mie prefecture of Japan. Other than that you can observe replicas of the ninjaken on display Gifu Castle Archives Museum and the Koka Ninja Village Museum.
What we want you to know that there is no actual proof or evidence that this straight-back and short ninja sword ever actually existed. However, it is believed that the alleged replicas have somewhat similar designs to the choktu swords or the wakizashi.
So, one can only track back the history of the ninjato as early as the 20th century. It’s not much when we want to know everything about the origin and uses of real ninja sword.
However, let’s go over some major historic event related to the weapon:
It was back in 1956, when the first photographic evidence of a straight-blade ninjaken was included in a Japanese booklet-- put forward by Heishichiro Okuse with the title Ninjitsu.
Then in 1964, the Ninja Museum of Igaryu was established in Japan that now has replicas of the ninja sword on display as we mentioned before.
Industrially manufactured and imported ninjato started appearing through advertisements in an American magazine back in 1973.
By 1981, Masasaki Hatsumi, the founder of Bunjikan (international martial arts organization), published books that had references to the existence of the straight-blade ninja sword. He was assisted by his American student Stephen K. Hayes.
So, soon after in 1983-84, the ninja weapon made its appearance in the Hollywood movie Revenge of the Ninja and an American television series that was broadcasted on NBC.
Physical Appearance of the Ninjato
Basically, ninjato is a short sword and many a times shown with a straight spine and a square guard. So, it’s rather thick, heavy and straight blade that measures less than 60 cm—making it smaller than a traditional katana sword and much closer to the length of a wakizashi.
Stephen Hayes claims in his published works that real ninja had to forge their own blades with limited resources. This is why they made straight blade swords as they consumed less time, expertise and material unlike the much refined samurai swords.
A historian specializing in combat history of Japan, Stephen Turnbull wrote: “The most important ninja weapon in the arsenal was a sword, which was either a standard Japanese striking sword (uchigatana) or katana.” At another point he wrote: “Real ninja carried straighter and shorter blades only for convenience.”
Ninja Sword Uses
Again thanks to few actual evidences and documentations regarding the existence of a ninjato, the various techniques of using this weapon are rather out there. Many depictions in the mainstream media, show it being used most similar to a katana sword.
However, some have used the reverse grip technique to draw and fight with the ninja sword. Others have shown the thrust fencing technique, while some have also depicted simultaneously fast drawing and cutting techniques for both defense and attack.
Scabbard of a real ninja sword apparently had more space for hiding various objects like chemicals and other smaller weapons, which can be used in an emergency. The hand guard (or tsuba) is said to be larger than the average size and came in a square shape rather than a circular one.
Regarding the peculiar shape and larger size of the tsuba, speculations are that it helped in the shinobi stepping on them to climb walls or extend their normal reach. Once the warrior was successful in climbing the said structure, the ninjato was pulled up with help of a saya cord (or sageo).
As you may have guessed, there is not much evidence to give a conclusive end to this blog. However, we think that actual history of ninja swords might always remain a mystery. As the last known ninja grandmaster, Jin Kawakami (age 63), has said the deadly art of ninjitsu will vanish along with his death for it does not suit the current times.
If you are learning any kind of martial arts, it’s best to know about its origins or history. But doing so for ninjitsu will soon prove almost impossible. Given their secretive background and techniques, which were often passed on from father to son, will not be relayed to anyone no more.
In the end, we hope you have enjoyed this blog that discussed whether ninja swords for sale in the market are really the ones used in the olden days or not. Now, it’s up to you to reach your own decision! Will you believe our conclusion or will you dig deeper to know more?
We wish you the very best of luck with your quest to find the truth hidden within the truth!