The sword is one of the oldest weapons in human history. They have been used throughout the world in many different forms and varieties. They typically include a long blade made of metal and a hilt which is used to hold the weapon.
A sword is used for slashing and/or stabbing an enemy. Due to their destructive nature, armour was worn during medieval times in order to lessen the damage caused by a sword strike. Two opposing forces would often attack each other with swords in order to best each other. Contrary to popular belief, a sword fight would be a relatively short affair.
During medieval times the majority of peasant forces would use cheap long melee weapons such as pikes and spears. Swords were usually reserved for the knight classes. This was due to the fact that the weapons were significantly expensive.
As the nature of warfare changed so too did the shapes and sizes of swords. At the start of the Dark Ages these weapons were often double edged and used for slashing. However, with the advent of chain mail they became less effective against this modern armour. Therefore swords began to be made in a diamond shape in order to improve thrust.
The different types of swords made during this period include the broadsword and falchion. Larger ones used by knights in warfare included the longsword and the greatsword. As warfare became more naval and cannon based the sword once again changed. It was now smaller and used mostly be cavalry forces. Eventually the weapon became more ceremonial in nature.
Much like in Europe, the swords of feudal Japan were restricted to the elites of the country. The earliest versions of these weapons were influenced by those of nearby China. Eventually they became more curved, which made slicing more effective.
By the 11th century most swords in Japan were this shape. The most famous of these swords is the “katana”. This weapon was favoured by the Samurai classes. During the golden age of the Samurai the katana became an important national symbol. Great sword masters were able to create highly intricate versions.
Today these artifacts are considered national treasures to Japan. Many of them are showcased in museums throughout the world. Such was the popularity of katanas that they were used as late as the Second World War by the Japanese military forces.