Dec 12, 2011

Weapons & Warriors: The Daishō of the Samurai

The word Daishō stands for big-little in Japanese and is often referenced towards the style of dual swords that Samurai wore. It was a combination of two swords known as a katana and a wakizashi, or in some cases the even smaller tantō, with matching designs. Most of you are probably familiar with the katana. It only happens to be one of the most famous weapons on Earth and is used in many forms of martial arts around the world. The popularity of this sword is not overblown due to symbolism and legends either. It is one of the most deadly swords ever designed. Lightweight and extremely strong, this blade is capable of literally cutting a man in two. In fact, many Samurai tested their katana after it was forged by executed a criminal. If the blade did not cut the man in two, he returned the sword to the smith, sometimes with murderous intentions. The Samurai took their katana very serious, their life depended on this sword, and a poor design could cost him his life.

The Japanese were master sword-smiths and used a combination of high carbon steel and low carbon steel that wrapped around each other while forging the blade. The High carbon steel is extremely strong and is able to maintain a sharper edge for much longer than low carbon steel, but because of this hardness, it is also more likely to break in combat. With the low carbon steel blended in to the blade, the sword is now able to maintain a sharp edge and stay strong, but is somewhat flexible and less likely to snap when striking armor or another katana. This made the katana and the smaller swords some of the most dependable swords ever created.

The Samurai never traveled without his Daishō, both of which was hooked inside a sheath with the blade facing upwards. You might think that this would mean he would draw the sword upside down, but Samurai practiced a very fast draw that allowed them to draw their sword and in the same motion strike at an enemy. The Samurai followed a strict code of honor called Bushido which kept a Samurai from breaking certain rules even in combat. These rules did not allow a Samurai to kill an opponent that did not stand a chance to fight back or was not a criminal sentenced to death, so I’m not real sure if they ever used this technique other than when they are ambushed by someone like a Ninja. However, I’m sure this technique saved many Samurai when they walked into an ambush or other trap.

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. Oh, I've always wanted to try kendo to learn how to use these types of swords. Someday I'm going to settle into one place for long enough to get back into karate and maybe give kendo a try. Then I can justify having a set of swords on the wall over the fire place. :P

  2. They would look awesome over a fireplace. I need to get around to hanging up mine. They're purely decoration though because I've not yet tried my hand in Kendo yet either. Someday, when I'm writing full time...

  3. A neat thing about some tanto swords or even wakizashi were the even smaller blades some had through the hilt, which were used as eating implements.

    I also love how once the blade is tempered it has that soft wave just beyond the edge. :) Beautiful blades.

  4. They are beautiful. I never realized the hidden blades were also used as eating utensils, but that is pretty cool.

  5. Fascinating. Glad I stumbled in. -Kelly

  6. Welcome! I love when people stumble in. I'll have a new weapons weekly up a little later tonight.