Ninja Weapons, Ninjato October 2, 2014
Today, we’re going to study the weapons we used in our adventure. Like our teacher and senior always said ‘Knowing your weapons know yourself’. You don’t want to have your weapon break or less effective when you’re in the middle of fight don’t you? So let’s start with some ‘basic’ weapon, ninjato.
The ninjato (忍者刀 ninjatō), also known as ninjaken (忍者剣) or shinobigatana (忍刀), is the most common name for sword that the ninja of feudal Japan are portrayed to have carried in movies, on television, and in numerous books written by modern ninjutsu practitioners including Masaaki Hatsumi and Stephen K. Hayes. Replicas of this weapon are also prominently on display in both the Koka Ninja Village Museum in Kōka, Shiga and the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum in Iga, Mie.
Historically, there is no physical evidence for the existence of this “katana like sword legendarily used by ninja”, though it is believed that they are based on the design of the wakizashi or chokutō type swords.
The ninjatō is typically depicted as being a short sword, often portrayed as having a straight blade (similar to that of a shikomizue) with a square guard. Usually of a length “less than 60 cm”, the rest of the sword is comparatively “thick, heavy and straight”. Hayes suggests that the typical description of the ninjatō could be due to ninja having to forge their own blades from slabs of steel or iron with the cutting edge being ground on a stone, with straight blades being easier to form than the much more refined curved traditional Japanese sword. His second possible reason for ninjatō being described as a straight-bladed, rather short sword could be that the ninja were emulating one of the patron Buddhist deities of ninja families, Fudo Myo-oh, who is depicted brandishing a straight-bladed short sword similar to a chokutō. Stephen Turnbull, a historian specializing in the military history of Japan indicates of historical ninja: “The most important ninja weapon was his sword. This was the standard Japanese fighting sword or katana … for convenience the ninja would choose a blade that was shorter and straighter than usual.”
Due to the lack of historical evidence regarding the existence of the ninjatō, techniques for usage in a martial context are largely speculative. When used in film and stage, ninjatō are depicted as being shorter than a katana with a straight blade but they are utilized in a “nearly identical” combat style as the katana. Books and other written materials have described a number of possible ways to use the sword including “fast draw techniques centered around drawing the sword and cutting as a simultaneous defensive or attacking action”, with “a thrust fencing technique”, and with a “reverse grip”.
The saya (scabbard) of the ninjatō were often said to have been used for various purposes such as a respiration pipe (snorkel) in underwater activities or for secretly overhearing conversations and as a club. The scabbard is also said to have been longer than the blade of the ninjatō in order to hide various objects such as chemicals used to blind pursuers. The tsuba (hand guard) of the ninjato is often described as being larger than average and square instead of the much more common round tsuba. One theory on the ninjatō tsuba size and shape is that it was used as a tool, the sword would be leaned against a wall and ninja would use the tsuba as a step to extend his normal reach, the sword would then be retrieved by pulling it up by the sageo (saya cord)
In Anime ninja, Hatake Kakashi used to wield a special ninjato when he’s recently become jonin and still under tutelage of Namikaze Minato. The ninjato was called white chakra blade and once belongs to Kakashi’s father, Hatake Sakumo, and It was a straight-bladed with a small, circular hand-guard. It gave off a white streak of chakra when it was swung, thus earning Sakumo his title of “Konoha’s White Fang” (木ノ葉の白い牙, Konoha no Shiroi Kiba).There are many other shinobies who wield ninjato too, like Killerbee who once wield 8 of them at the same time, or but not many of them as unique as Kakashi’s