Sword; sword; sword; sword . . .
I have been wondering this for a while, but I decided to post it now, in the hope that it will generate some replies, since the forum is usually dead on the weekends :rolleyes: : what are the differences, if any, between all the words for "sword" in Japanese? Are bokken and bokuto synonymous? Are ken, katana, iaito, shinken, tachi, etc. etc. all the same, or are there some subtle differences that separate them?
Thanks to anyone that feeds my curious mind. ;)
In Shinkendo, an iaito is an unsharpened katane used to practice drwaing techniques and kata without the danger of cutting something off. A shinken, I believe, means a "live blade", in other words one that is sharp. Hope this little bit of information helps.
Re: Sword; sword; sword; sword . . .
'to' (long o) and 'ken' are technically synonymous, if anything then 'to' refers more to a sword and 'ken' to a blade. With 'boku' meaning wood, then
bokken = wooden blade
bokuto = wooden sword
My impression is that Japanese usually use 'bokuto', and long-noses use 'bokken' (maybe as its easier to say?).
A katana and a tachi are particular types of sword, i.e. they are both ken, but a ken doesn't have to be a katana. Like 'rapier' or 'claymore' in English. The usual practice bokkens are based on katana. A tachi is longer, worn blade-down, mounted on hangers rather than thrust through the belt and is particularly used on horseback.
An iaito is an 'iai-sword' - a blunted, usually untempered katana used for iaido practice.
As Dave said, 'shinken' means 'live blade', to distinguish it from an iaito.
Hope that helps,
A shinken is literally a "true sword," in other words a real, genuine, sharp as a razor, sword.
An iaito is a practice sword, generally made of aluminium-zinc alloy. These were invented after World War 2 so that new iai students would have affordable practice equipment. The new rules about who could make steel blades limited production to only 2 blades a month per licensed swordsmith. And it requires 5 years as an apprentice to earn a license.
Tachi are swords mounted to be hung at your side, edge down, and the saya was well secured to the wearer so it would stay in place during riding and fighting.
A katana is a sword mounted to be worn edge up, with the saya (sheath) simply thrust through the belt. This is really a peace time mounting for use in day to day life, where you would remove the katana any time you entered a home.
Wakizashi are short swords, generally less the 2 feet in length.
Kodachi means "little tachi" and these are similar to wakizashi.
"Daito" means "big sword" and can refer to either tachi or katana.
"Shoto" means "little sword" and can mean just about anything shorter than a tachi or katana.
Tanto just means "short sword" and refers to daggers under about 1' (30 cm).
That's more than you wanted to know.
Peter "the Budo Bum" Boylan
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