Ir al contenido principal

Why Japanese Swords are Different

Este es un trabajo que hice para la U, comparando la katana con la espada medieval. Happy reading!

Why Japanese Swords are Different

Have you ever wondered why Japanese swords have a distinctive curved shape that differentiates them from other types of swords? Are they different from European swords in other aspects? Well, the Japanese longsword differs in shape, use and manufacture from its European counterpart as a result of the particular history and traditions of its country of origin. Wikipedia provides useful information on both the European and Japanese swords that can help to explain the reasons behind these dissimilarities.

Usually, when we think of a sword, the image of a weapon with a straight, double-edged blade and a cross-like hilt comes to mind—this is the typical shape of a European longsword. Swords of this type feature cruciform hilts with a pommel, a cross-guard and a grip of around 15 cm. Their blade is often over 89 cm long, straight, double-edged and relatively thin, with strength provided by careful blade geometry. Later versions of the sword had slightly longer blades, thicker in cross-section, less wide, and considerably more pointed—changes widely attributed to the appearance of plate armor, which greatly reduced the cutting ability of the sword to break through. Longswords were then adapted to pierce plate armor, with a more acute point and a more rigid blade. On the other hand, Japanese people would picture a different image, that of a katana—a curved, single-edged sword. Japanese swords consist of a hilt, a handguard piece with intricate artistic designs, a blade averaging 70 cm in length, and the saya or scabbard, which is considered an important part of the sword. Katana were also adorned in their blade, often with dedications and engravings called horimono, depicting gods, dragons and other beings. Later Japanese swords had thicker backs and bigger points to cut through leather armor.

In Europe, the longsword was used during the late medieval and Renaissance periods, reaching its highest popularity during the 14th century, but remaining in common use until 1550 A.D. The first early variants of the longsword were simply longer versions of the one-handed sword, and over time they developed into greatswords—heavy swords with very long blades. In the early 15th century, the longsword’s evolution finally reached the “bastard sword”, which was neither one-handed nor to-handed and had a relatively small blade length in relation to hilt length, this gave the sword a very precise and reactive ability that served well for cutting and thrusting. Its Japanese equivalent, the katana, was developed sometime around the middle of the Heian period (8th to 11th centuries), based on a sword-making technique brought over from China during the Tang Dinasty. Katana were mostly used during the 15th-17th century by samurai—the noble caste of Japan. Old swords, or kotou, are katana forged between 987 and 1597, and are considered the pinnacle of Japanese swordcraft, while shintou (lit. “new swords”) are swords forged in times of peace during the Momoyama period, and are often considered inferior to kotou.

The manufacture process of longswords in medieval Europe was relatively quick, and it involved heating pieces of iron and pummeling them with a hammer. Techniques such as fullers and hollow-ground blades were often used to lighten the weapon and improve sharpness. Fullers consisted in grooves or channels removed from the blade, usually running along the center of it, and hollow-ground blades are concave portions of steel removed from the sides of the blade, thinning the edge geometry and keeping a thickened area in the center of the blade. In contrast, the forging of katana was a very complex process, even considered a sacred art, and typically taking several days and requiring many smiths. The first smith forged the rough shape, a second smith folded the metal, a specialist polished the blade, and several artisans decorated different parts of the sword. The Japanese sword blade is two-layered, it is composed of soft steel in the core which is resilient and good for absorbing shocks, and a harder outer jacket steel that required thousands of folds and provided rigidity and sharpness to the sword. The katana was then hammered to give it shape, covered with clay and plunged into a tank of water to cool down.

In spite of being powerful and versatile, the longsword was not considered the only required weapon for learning the arts of war in ancient Europe. Sigmund Ringeck, an influential combat manual author, wrote that young knights should learn to “wrestle well, (and) skillfully wield spear, sword, and dagger in a manly way.” Thus, it is evident that even to a master swordsman, other weapons and techniques were essential for battle. Longswords were generally used two-handed, however, in some circumstances the weapon was used with only one hand, leaving the other hand open to manipulate a large dueling shield. A third variation of its use is called “half-swording”, and it consists in wielding the sword with both hands, one on the hilt and the other on the blade, to better control the thrusts and jabs. On the other hand, the katana was a pretty independent weapon; and although it was typically paired with the wakizashi—a short sword—, it served more as a symbol or a tool than as a weapon, since it was used for rituals and to decapitate bodies. One of the reasons why Japanese sword blades are curved is that this particular shape adds considerably to the downward force of a cutting action when wielded on horseback. Furthermore, the moderate curve of the sword allows for effective thrusting, in addition to slicing, the primary use of the katana.

In conclusion, the different historical needs and techniques for swords, as well as the dissimilar conceptions of the sword and its manufacturing process in Europe and Japan, explain the differences in use and shape of the same weapon: the longsword, in two different regions and at similar periods of time.
Publicar un comentario

Entradas populares de este blog

Frases de Star Wars y sus (imprecisas) traducciones

Hay varias diferencias interesantes entre las versiones en inglés, español ibérico y español latino de la Guerra de las Galaxias. Entre ellas está el nombre de R2-D2, que pronuncian erre dos, de dos (o sólo erre dos para abreviar) enla versión española, pero arturito en la versión latina. Pero quizás más importante son las frases inmortales de la saga, cuyas traducciones pudieron ser más precisas.

CASO 1: Una cuestión de fe

La frase es de Darth Vader en Una nueva esperanza.

Original: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” (alrededor del minuto 1:30)

Versión española: "Su carencia de fe resulta molesta."

Versión latina: "Su falta de fe resulta molesta." (alrededor del minuto 7:30)
Carencia no es una palabra que, almenos en América, utilizamos a menudo con la palabra fe.

Mi versión: "Su falta de fe me resulta perturbadora."
Mi problema con las versiones anteriores es que se pierde el hecho de que a quien resulta molesta la falta de fe es a Darth Vader específic…

Pathfinder vs D&D: puntos de experiencia

Los puntos de experiencia son un engranaje importante en el motor de juego de D&D y Pathfinder. La matemática detrás de la experiencia es lo que determina la velocidad del juego. Tanto es así que Pathfinder tiene tres marchas: rápido, lento y mediano, con cifras que sobrepasan los cinco millones (!). En D&D, los números son un tanto más amables, con un máximo de 355 mil. En 3.5 los números no pasaban de 190,000.

¿Pero cómo se compara la velocidad de juego entre Pathfinder y la última edición de D&D?

En D&D, resulta muy interesante calcular cuántos encuentros de un CR igual al nivel del personaje son necesarios de derrotar para subir de nivel pues no es tan uniforme como en Pathfinder. Vemos que en D&D los primeros dos niveles se suben rápido, pero sigue luego una pendiente lenta en los niveles medios y más tarde finalmente logra cierta estabilidad. Puedo entender por qué querer que los primeros niveles sean más rápidos, pero ¿por qué decidieron que fuera más difíci…

¿Cuánto pesa realmente el martillo de Thor y qué pasaría si Hulk intentara levantarlo?

No he visto evidencia de que Hulk haya levantado a Mjolnir realmente. En las ocasiones cuando lo ha hecho, es un sueño, Mjolnir está desprovisto de sus poderes, o lo que ha sujetado es la mano de Thor sosteniendo el martillo y no el martillo en sí.

También estoy consciente de que lo ha intentado en algunas ocasiones sin éxito, por unos segundos. ¿Pero qué pasaría si en realidad lo intentara, con toda su fuerza? ¿Y cuánta fuerza requeriría?

Thor El Deities and Demigods dice que Mjolnir pesa aproximadamente 2 toneladas y que requiere de fuerza 92 para poderse levantar (digno o no). Esto es simplemente un cálculo erróneo pues un personaje con fuerza 33 ya puede levantar 2 toneladas. ¿Es entonces Mjolnir más pesado que eso? Un personaje con fuerza 92 puede en realidad levantar 7 toneladas, ¿es esto lo que pesa el martillo o, como dice Neil deGrasse Tyson, 300 mil millones de elefantes? Si fuera esta última, Thor jamás podría levantarlo. No obstante, Thor es bastante fuerte para su tamaño. Pu…