Ninja swords. History of NinjaTo. Ninja-To – sword of ninja assassin. Ninja legends and reality. History of Japanese sword.
Ninja sword – history, legends and reality
Ninjato (ninjatō, ninja-to, ninjaken, shinobigatana), is a common name for the Japanese sword that the ninja were thought to have carried. It is often depicted as being a short sword, often portrayed as having a straight blade with a square tsuba. It should be noted that there is no historical evidence of the ‘ninjato’, and modern depictions of the sword originated from portrayals that were seen in early Hollywood movies. Actual period ninjas used katanas and whatever else period weapons were available at the time.
Ninja sword design
According to Masaaki Hatsumi, ninjatos came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Often, however, they are depicted to be much shorter than the traditional daitō katana used by the samurai of feudal Japan with a straight blade and square tsuba (hand guard) (as seen in the image). There are some registers that say that the ninjatō unlike the katana and wakizashi was actually just a stabbing weapon and not a cutting one. It is not known whether the ninjatō had a kissaki(sword tip) or not.
A typical ninjatō would more likely have been a wakizashi short sword fitted with a katana-length handle and placed in a katana-length saya (scabbard); another source for such a sword would be broken blades left upon a battlefield. This may have been used to deceive one’s opponents into miscalculating how quickly it could be drawn allowing one to use a battoujutsu strike faster than expected. Another advantage to using such a short sword was the increased ease of fighting at close quarters. Some ninja also left the sword to rust, which would induce Tetanus on the enemy.
Usage of Ninja sword
Due to the fact that the ‘ninjato’ did not historically exist, there are differing schools of thought on how best to use such a sword. The nature of the straight blade would not have allowed for the same cutting capabilities as the katana, because the lack of curvature of the edge does not allow for the blade to slice through its target and instead relies on a chopping motion (much like an axe or a cleaver).
In fictional depictions, the ninjatō’s scabbard is often mounted across the back with the handle facing up; this, combined with sword’s shorter length is presumably allowing for a faster draw. Further extrapolations of this have led to depictions of the weapon being wielded underhanded; realistically speaking however, this would have resulted in a weakened grip and consequently less power and control when used in a battle situation.