Why Samurais Always Carried Two Swords?

Published: 08/11/2021 Comments: 0

The types of Katanas

You might have noticed while watching samurai movies in anime, that samurais all carry two swords. Why do they always have to carry two swords, and why was one shorter and one longer?

To understand why the samurai has carried two swords, we must first understand the different types of katanas.

If we count them all, there are about 7 kinds. The major types are the three, Tachi, Uchi-katana, and Wakizashi.

Tachi appeared in the Heian Era(794-1185) and was used on horseback. they are the longest, and most curved of the three types. You hang it on your waist using a string with the blade downwards.

Uchi-katana is the most commonly known katana now. Uchi-katana appeared in the Muromachi Era(1336-1573), and was used when on foot. You slide it into your waist belt, with the blade upwards. 

The transition of mainly using Tachi to Uchi-katana, was due to the change in how the samurais fought in battle. From the time it was more common to fight one-on-one on horseback. Eventually, fighting in large groups on land became the mainstream.

Wakizashi appeared in the Muromachi Era(1336-1573). It is the shortest of the three types and was used as a spare weapon. Because it's short, it was best for close combat and indoor battles. 

By the way, A katana longer than 60cm (24 in) is classified as a Tachi or Uchi-katana. A katana from 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in) is a Wakizashi. A katana shorter than 30cm (12in) is a tanto which means "short sword".

Why do they carry two swords?

The culture of carrying two swords started from the time the samurais were fighting duels on horseback. They used the longer tachi to hit the enemies off their horses, and use the shorter one to finish them.

However, the shorter one at this time, was as long as the Uchi-katana. Basically, they were carrying two long swords. 

The tradition of carrying two swords, was brought down to the time of wars on land.

At this time, they quit using the Tachi, because they were too long. The Uchi-katana became the main sword and the wakizashi the second.

After the long civil War Era (1467-1615), the peaceful Edo Era (1603-1868) began. The 265 years of peace during the Edo Era was realized due to the strict political system. Clearly dividing the people by their classes. So it was determined by law, that the samurais must carry two swords. The Uchi-katana and the Wakizashi when they walk outside.

However, when they enter a building, they would take the long Uchi-katana off their waist. And hand it to the servant at the entrance as a sign of respect. The Wakizashi on the other hand was always with them. That includes when they are eating, or at the bathroom.

Today the katanas are trained as a martial art called laido, which has a history of over 400 years. Because of its long history, there are many different styles. Some styles use two swords, but most only use one sword to train. (I personally feel) that use two swords, place value on inheriting the samurai culture like it was in the past. The styles that only use one sword, place value on changing the culture into a martial art. that is suited for this modern world.


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