Sunday, July 06, 2008


The sword is an evolution of the knife. Its name literally means “hurting tool” from the Old German “Swert”. It is one of the most universally recognised ancient weapons and has taken many forms across many different countries. It is used to both slash and stab in much the same way a knife does.

During the Middle Ages, most European swords had double edged straight blades made for both slashing and stabbing. Examples of these swords include the one handed arming sword and the two handed longsword. Curved swords such as the falchion existed in Europe during the Middle Ages but were not as prominent as the straight ones.

The primary sword used in Japan is the Katana, which has a curved blade that is short in comparison to the Rapiers or Longswords of Europe. It is known for its sharpness and formed an integral component of the culture of the Samurai. The weapon remained in use even as other weapons of the time were neglected. It eventually disappeared after The Satsuma Rebellion. The weapon had a renaissance during World War II where it was used by Japanese soldiers in the Pacific theatre. Although the katana is seen as the primary sword of the Samurai, many other types of swords were used by the Samurai. These include the uchigatana, the odachi, the nodachi and the tachi

In its use by Roman forces the sword was relatively short, but effective in combination with a shield, since the soldier could block a downward slash with his shield and then thrust from below and upward into the midsection of an opponent. This technique was extremely effective when in a closed formation. Examples of the successful use of this technique include the defeat of the outnumbering forces of Queen Boudica in the Battle of Watling Street in the year 60 CE.

The sword was used differently in more modern Europe. It was a very long, cylindrical, and narrow blade with no edge and was used to stab rather than slash. It is the source of fencing as we know it today. Most middle and upper class men would be trained in fencing with the smallsword as it was the primary duelling weapon.

The Scimitar was a curved but short blade used in the Middle East. Its name is derived from the Persian shashimir. The weapon is vaguely similar to the European Sabre in that it is a curved slashing weapon.

The sword fell into disuse after Europe discovered gunpowder and related projectile weapons. Duelling and fencing for social purposes continued well after the invention of the handgun. Duelling fell into disuse even before the end of the 20th century and with it the sword ceased to be used in any practical sense.

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