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What better way to introduce a site dedicated to swords and weapons, than to give a brief lesson on sword history and weapon history from medieval European to ancient Asian designs.
The medieval swords of Europe from approximately 500 to 1,500 AD. evolved from bronze double-edged swords used as early as 1,500 BC. During the Middle Ages these swords tended to have blades less than a metre in length with a one handed grip so the other hand could focus on defense by way of a shield. Most medieval swords were designed to cut and slash the opponent, but because of the advent and evolution of armour, became more of a thrusting and piercing weapon. Shields were all but abandoned and with that occurance medieval swords diversified into larger two handed weapons. Throughout the Medieval age the wielders style of attack also changed and weapons were designed to accommodate these diverse styles from great longswords to fencing rapiers.
While European medieval swords evolved, ancient Asian designs remained similar with a focus more on improvement in creation. Understanding the Japanese feudal society is useful for a better comprehension and appreciation of the historical place of the katana, the fabled Japanese sword, and the Samurai sword history.
The evolution of the katana was naturally closely associated with
that of the Bushi or Samurai, the warrior class of feudal Japan. As warriors and masters of the art of war, the Bushi had themselves evolved from being employed as guards serving powerful leaders, into a dominant class of its own. Eventually it led to the establishment of a feudalistic military which encouraged austerity and the pursuits of the martial arts and disciplines.
That era established the Ways of the Bushido to dominate the Japanese feudal and social structures for the next 700 years. The Bushi's primary role as military knights was their total and absolute allegiance to their peers for whom they were pledged to fight and if need be to die defending. They adhered to strict martial codes and disciplines and were uncompromising in their observance of honorable and chivalrous behaviors. Honor was their life and they would as soon embrace death than be dishonored.
The Bushi's demand for dependable weapons of the highest quality produced katana of unrivalled perfection during that period. Today these katana still exist primarily due to the selfless dedication of scholars and artisans who had dedicated their life towards the preservation and studies of these weapons. The katana in fact has a very simple structure. But it is this very simplicity that has made it a reliable and lethal weapon to its master and has produced for it a sense of unrivalled beauty and dignity.
The tea ceremony established in Japanese culture at the end of the 16th century were all part of an ongoing social and cultural evolution of feudal Japan in which
the katana always held a place of intrinsic importance. In 1867 the Meiji Restoration banned possession of katana as arms except only to certain privileged class.
Since then, only the katana which were in superb condition and of excellent quality have been preserved as national treasures. The preservation of these weapons were attributed to a few dedicated professionals and today's working craftsmen form a new chapter in this sword history as they revive the art form and find a vital, meaningful role for the sword in modern society.
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