Nov 27, 2011

Weapons & Warriors: The Shikomi of the Ninja

There were two forms of Shikomi used by Ninja, the Gatana and the Zue. Both were effective tools used to conceal a sword. The Ninja were well known for hauling around an extensive arsenal, but sometimes that was not always possible. For instance, while walking around in broad daylight among the public, a Ninja could not carry his swords without drawing attention. Or could he?

Once the technology to create thinner blades that wouldn’t break so easily was learned, the Ninja embraced it with a new weapon that was the most ingeniously disguised sword ever made. The Shikomi-Gatana was the more common of the two. When carried around by a Ninja who wanted to appear as a traveler or monk, it resembled a walking staff. A common tool used by many people both wealthy and poor. Once threatened or attacked, the Ninja would reveal the true nature of the staff. In reality, the staff was a scabbard that held a thin bladed sword, which could easily be drawn from one end.

This caught more than one enemy by surprise as the Ninja would often begin the fight using the staff as if it was what it appeared to be, but instead of swatting at the swordsman, he would deflect his sword, moving to the side and drawing his own sword hidden in the staff. Ninja trained well at these types of maneuvers and often cut down an opponent before they realized the Ninja ever had a sword at all.

Eventually people took to this idea and created the Shikomi-Zue which was basically the same idea except instead of a walking staff, it was hidden in a cane. The cane was small, more compact and more acceptable in a wealthy or modernistic urban environment. A walking staff itself was often regarded as a dangerous weapon in the hands of a master, but a cane somehow is rarely noticed as more than a decoration or walking assistant.

Believe it or not, the Ninja did not walk around all day in their black outfits. Those were only donned for specific stealthy tasks, and Ninja were just as often dressed as peasants and other normal looking people so they could blend into crowds easier. With the invention of the Shikomi swords, it allowed the Ninja to hide something more than shuriken and black eggs when he had to carry light.

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'm glad you are keeping up with this series. I know I can always find something fun when I pop into your blog. (Yes, as a fantasy geek, I naturally find pointy weapons fun. :D)

  2. I'm glad you enjoy these posts, I enjoy writing them too, because sometimes researching the warriors that wield them, I get to learn about their culture and as a future fantasy writer myself, that's an invaluable store of knowledge for world building later on.

  3. I think studying history is one of the greatest ways to get ideas, even for writing fantasy. Sometimes some of the things that really happened (and the weapons they really made!) are crazier than anything we'd come up with as authors. :)

  4. That is very true, and probably why I love reading history. I've found some really crazy stuff. Even the Samurai had a weapon to deal with heavily armored foes that their katanas could not injure. I can't wait to post about that bad boy.