Nov 22, 2011

Weapons & Warriors: The Ninjato of the Ninja

The greatest enemy to the Ninja was the Samurai. Ninja were not weak or poor swordsmen either but they were no match when they drew a katana to fight the masters of the warrior caste of Japan. Despite the vast array of weaponry that Ninja studied, they too studied the art of swordplay. They also mastered it and varied their style to counter that of the Samurai. However many historians believe that the Ninja adopted a shorter version of the katana instead of the bulkier length of the armored warriors. Samurai’s katana were a far superior quality of designed weapons than anything a Ninja could afford, and any Samurai who fell to a Ninja would certainly lose his precious blade to his slayer. Not all Ninja acquired a katana by theft or killing a Samurai, but it wasn’t unheard of. In fact, prying a katana from the bloodied hand of a Samurai was not only a wonderful prize, but an excellent reputation builder among the Ninja. Samurai did not give up their weapons while they still breathed.

The Ninjato is a sword that has been made famous by Hollywood and some historians believe it was never actually used by the Ninja of ancient times. Others believe it is a modernized version of the shorter katana that a Ninja would be more likely to favor. Although it may not have been used by ancient Ninja, it is a weapon practiced by the modern Ninja. This lethal machete like blade is portable, sharp and strong, and a Ninja could draw the shorter blade faster than even the Samurai could draw a katana. Not an easy task as Samurai practiced the art of Nukitsuke. They had few equals at drawing the katana fast and slashing with the same motion using this art.

The version of this Ninja like katana makes perfect sense to many military historians as the shorter blade is easier to transport, and is still very effective in closed in spaces where a much longer katana would be hampered by the surroundings and effectively forcing the Samurai into pure defensive and thrusting positions. The modern Ninjato is a straight carbon steel blade sword that is about two feet long. (2/3 of a meter). If there was an ancient version, it was probably curved like the katana to increase its slashing strength. A curved blade creates a sawing motion as it slashes that will increase the depth of a cut and is less likely to get stuck in its victim. A straight blade is generally more effective for thrusting into an opponent since slashing could wedge the straight blade into a bone and become stuck.

The handle of the sword is longer than a katana to allow more versatility of the sword. It can be used in a two handed stance or the wielder may hold it from the bottom of the handle to increase the reach of the blade. This versatility allowed the Ninja to change up his grips and use the blade with different techniques that would throw off their opponents who might not recognize the new grip and therefore hesitate.

In the second half of the video you’ll notice the way the ninja wields the sword. Spinning away from attacks is an excellent way to get away from the front of an opponent and reach their more vulnerable sides. A ninja is trained to not attack head on if necessary. A side slash or roll to the side and stab behind are effective ways to catch a superior trained Samurai swordsman off guard.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. I can't watch the video because I am at work, but great post. Only 2 feet long? I would've expected it to be longer (I know, I know, "That's what she said.") but I suppose in closed in quarters it's perfect for what they need. I wouldn't want to go up against a katana with this, if it was in an open space though...I think their reach is better haha.

  2. What she said, lol.

    In open space, ninja would either escape or turn to their longer reaching weapons if they could. But as masters of stealth and subterfuge, they could close in on an opponent when they were no longer in the open.