Ninja Weapons – Ninja Sword (Shinobi Katana)

Most ninjas were not known to be good swordsmen. There were a few who could handle a sword well in combat, but for most ninja, getting into a sword duel was not desirable since they preferred the more “elusive” way to assassinate a target. If they were to use a sword in combat, you could assume that they would have a small handful of “dirty” tricks up their sleeves (or sheaths) that would give them an great advantage in a sword fight. Samurai despised ninjas for their lack of honor and because the never fought fair. Ninjas were known to have “sneaky” tactics and would often use their knowlege of chemistry to create blinding powder (hidden in their sheaths) or gun powder bombs to disable or disorient their enemies in close combat. Another little known fact is that the typical ninja would often use a flintlock gun first before drawing a sword if a choice presented itself.

Ninja Sword - Shinobi Katana
Shinobi Katana (ninja sword) – Illustration by Hirohisa Oda

There are a few distinctions about the ninja sword that should be mentioned. The edge of the ninja sword blade was not like that of the samurai sword. A samurai sword was double-bladed and designed with the strict intention that it would be used to kill an opponent in combat. Unlike the ninja sword, which was used as a tool more often than for combat, the samurai sword was not suitable for carving out wood, making holes, or scraping wood. The authentic ninja sword was similar to a scythe in that it was single-edged, instead of double-edged. Occasionally, this sword was called the Mountain sword [Yamagatana] because it was designed for multiple uses like cutting wood (which was often done by ninja when in disguise as commoners). The ninja sword’s blade was straight, unlike the curved samurai sword, which made it strong enough so the ninja could use it as a step for climbing high places such as mansion walls. They also used their sword to carve wooden devices, rope, and cloth. The knotted rope [Sageo] which connected the sheath to the sword was nine feet long, which was much longer than the rope used for other kinds of swords. The long connecting rope was thrown up over the wall until it caught securely on the top of the wall and used as an anchor to then pull themselves up. The sword guard, called the Tsuba, was much stronger and wider than the samurai sword so it too could be used as a step for climbing. When they got up to the top of the wall, the long rope attached was draw in the sheath.

Since ninja blended into the their surroundings as commoners, merchants, monks, and farmers, they concealed their weapons when traveling. Carrying a long curved samurai sword around that was made for combat would not have been easy to explain if they disguised as a monk or farmer. The shorter and straighter ninja sword was much easier to conceal in a bundle of wood or looked like a regular “tool” a tradesmen would use for work.

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