Samurai TantoHome >> Samurai Weapons
Samurai Tanto is a traditional Japanese knife or a very short sword with the blade of about 30 cm (about 1 foot) long. Tanto are normally single-edged, but there're some types that are double-edged. The "Tanto" means literally a "short sword" and was initially designed for stabbing, but as it's similar in design to katana (a Japanese long sword), it can be used for slashing as well.
Samurai Tanto first appeared in the 9th or 10th century during the Heian period, but at that time they were still crude and not very artistic. The first high-quality tanto appear in 12th century during the Kamakura period. At the same time the greatest tanto-maker Yoshimitsu started to forge his tanto.
Tanto were mostly used by samurai as commoners were not allowed to carry any weapons and sometimes women used smaller tanto carrying them in sleeves or belts. Samurai Tanto was primarily used as a companion sword with a Tachi (a Japanese sword worn in a girdle edge up) as a pair of swords called Daisho (literally meaning "big and small") until Tachi and Tanto were replaced with Katana and Wakizashi.
There was a short period of restoration before World War II when members of the Imperial Court began wearing Tachi and Tanto again. But after Japan was defeated in the war and restriction on sword forging was issued, production and use of Tanto reduced almost to not existent. Another use of Samurai Tanto was for ritual suicides (sepuki or hara-kiri), which sometimes were made with Wakizashi, but mostly with Tanto.
There are quite a few types and variations of Samurai Tanto, but they can be grouped in two categories: Suguta Tanto and Koshirae Tanto. Suguta Tanto are mainly the onces that have a prominent tsuba (guard); and Koshirae Tanto either don't have a tsuba at all or have a very small one.
Blunted or wooden/plastic Samurai Tanto are still used in many martial arts disciplines, such as Aikido, Aikijutsu, Jujutsu, and some others.
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