There are many catch phrases floating around out there for companies selling katanas. Many of these companies get away with using terms that are not well defined in representing an inferior item for what it is not.

We want to define our use of these terms so that you can clearly understand what our words mean and not have any ambiguity about the quality of our swords before you buy.

Battle Ready - We define battle ready as a sword able to hold a fully sharpened edge in use. This implies the use of a metal whose hardness can maintain a cutting edge without chipping or curling when used to cut a target such as a rolled, soaked tatami omori. (Battle Ready is NOT the ability to withstand stage combat with edge to edge contact).

Tameshigiri - This is defined as "Test Cutting". Targets used are generally tatami omori (tatami covering) soaked. Target selected are generally what is difficult to cut correctly and will reflect mistakes when made, while minimizing damages and scratches to the blade. Beach mats and pool noodles are often used as replacement.

Fully Functional - Refers to a traditionally, fully sharpened sword whose metal integrity and construction is able to withstand the rigors of tameshigiri. This is what differentiates between a katana meant for cutting versus a katana meant for display. Display katanas may not have more than a wire (rat-tail) tang and does not need to withstand the forces of a cut.

Fully Sharpened Edge - This is when a sword is sharpened in a plane starting from the middle of the blade. This is in contrast to a pocket knife or a cheap katana where only the last mm of the edge is sharpened. (Cross section of a fully sharpened blade resembles the cross section of a wedge of cheese).

Hamon - This is the wavy pattern often found around the cutting edge of a katana. A hamon is created by claying and firing and extends into the metal. Hamons are NOT always visible nor does the presence of a visible hamon necessarily indicates differential tempering. Visibility of a hamon is as closely related to how a sword is polished as how a sword is clayed and fired.

Cosmetic Hamon - This implies that the hamon (generally visible) does not alter the hardness of the metal with its presence. This is used when a functional hamon is not necessary in a monosteel cutting blade or is used to make a non-functional blade look authentic. Decorative hamon on good cutting blades is usually created by a fabric/fiber polish so as to not damage a cutting blade. Decorative hamon on a cheap or non-functional blade is usually created by acid etching or a uniform buffing or scratching process which can damage a blade. Decorative hamon can be recognized as scratches or a uniform (sin wave) pattern.

Mekugi - This is the bamboo peg used in the middle of a grip to hold the tang in place. The used of menuki is a traditional method of assembling a katana.

Blood Groove - Contrary to popular belief, the real function of a blood groove is to lighten the weight of a blade. It is not meant to drain blood. The blood groove does take metal away from the sword and does weaken the structural integrity of a katana as a tradeoff for having a more manageable sword weight.

Balance (Center of Balance) (Center of Gravity) - A well balanced katana does not mean that the sword balances at the tsuba. Most functional katanas will balance between 5.5 inches to 7 inches above where the tsuba is. This location of the center of balance does not necessarily indicate whether the sword will feel "balanced" or light or heavy. The overall weight of the sword, length of grip, combined with center of balance determines the overall feel of a katana. A heavy feeling sword will be more difficult to maneuver but will cut easier and better in a full swing. A lighter feeling sword will be easier to handle but more difficult to cut correctly with.

Tang (Full Tang) - This is the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the katana. A traditional katana is never a complete full tang due to the kashira (end fitting) in place. The minimum length of the tang on a functional blade should be 2/3 to 3/4 length of the grip.

 

 

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