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Alex. N.




Location: Newcastle, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 10 Dec, 2007 5:33 pm    Post subject: Mu sori shobu zukuri?         Reply with quote

Has anything like a straight shobu zukuri katana length blade ever existed?
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Mon 10 Dec, 2007 8:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not as a definite "type," no. As a weird exception somewhere... perhaps. I've never seen or heard of one personally.

Other than chokuto, full-length Japanese swords with truly mu-sori (zero curve) are rare; you get some very shallow curvature in Kanbun Shinto blades, and some truly straight blades in the very late Edo / early Meiji era when there was a movement towards classical imperialism (i.e. chokuto but sometimes shinogi-zukuri instead of the old kiriha-zukuri). If you go back to the Jokoto era ("ancient sword," roughly pre-1000 AD) you can find a wide variety of odd forms, but for a variety of reasons none really match the kind of blade shape you're envisioning, besides which you could argue it's moot since the concept of shobu-zukuri isn't really developed until the 1300s.

Given the meaning of shobu-zukuri (iris-leaf form) a mu-sori shobu-zukuri blade would be kind of weird. The term shobu-zukuri represents the whole concept of the elegantly curved, tapering shape of the iris leaf; it's not just "sans yokote." Of course, given the number of swords made in Japanese history, is it possible someone ever made such a blade? Or does one still exist? Could one find a photo of one somewhere? Who knows. It would be interesting, but unusual. If you did find one, I bet it'd be a modern piece (nihonto or not) made by someone just having some fun. Wink

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Alex. N.




Location: Newcastle, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007 4:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting.
Thank you for your insight Gabriel.

I would be very interested indeed to see pictures even if they were of a modern piece made purely as a result of curiousity.
I think that a simplistically designed, straight, single edged blade can still look elegant and be functional.

Also i have read in many places that the more curvature a blade has the better it will perform in cutting applications. With that in mind, i was wondering why during the Kanbun period in some cases there was a shift to blade designs that were straighter (or had mu sori) in weapons (katanas) which were primarily designed to be cutters. This has lead me to beleive that the amount of curvature (or lack of) a blade has does not neccessarily limit its cutting ablility a great deal.
Am i insane or does this make sense?

Anyway, looking forward to your responses.

Thanks,
Alex.
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Dan P




Location: Massachusetts, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007 6:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The well-known company Kris Cutlery makes a "Korean Sword" which is apparently very much like the Japanese swords they make, except its straight. Quite a nice looking weapon.
https://www.kriscutlery.com/documents/otherweapons.html

Generally a curved blade cuts better than a straight blade. This is because the curved blade has more of a tendency to slice through the target, rather than chop through like a straight blade. Of course this depends a lot on the skill of the swordsman making the cut. But then again cutting is mostly for unarmored targets, which means that edge geometry and blade width may be more important performance factors than whether or not a blade has a curve in it or not.
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this is not going to help you, but i have seen some tengu statues (That long nosed winged guy that japanese folklore refers as great heavenly swordmen) wielding straight swords (Some times Tengu are refered as foreigners, but they are more some heavenly creatures) So, those swords someties are represented in their art.
Another deity known as Idatnen or Butzuso (If i´m not wrong) had them too, but the difference is that Tengu are ¨made in Japan¨ while Idaten was adapted from Hinduism deity.

Sorry for the off topic response



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tengu.jpg
Tengu guy with the straight sword.

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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's not completely off topic, but it's not really applicable either. Tsurugi and the more specific sub-type ken are straight double-edged Japanese swords, but are usually not full-length; what's more, ken are mounted in sankozuka hilts as Buddhist ritual objects, not as weapons of war. Being double edged, (usually) short, often of a waisted design, they really don't have anything to do with katana-length shobu-zukuri blades; they even sometimes do have yokote or at least a cosmetically different tip section polish.

Comments on the efficiency of curved or straight blades in the cut are best addressed in a separate thread. In a brief forum search I found several topics discussing this, so you're encouraged to read those if you're interested. Cheers,
-GLL

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Alex. N.




Location: Newcastle, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all very much for your opinions.

I am still eager to find out if such a blade configuration as the one i have described is actually feasible, but i think Gabriel is right and we should probably leave the curved vs straight discussion for the appropriate threads.

It would still be much appreciated if anyone could find more pics relating to this style of blade though.

Thank you for the information,
Alex.
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007 7:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex. N. wrote:
I am still eager to find out if such a blade configuration as the one i have described is actually feasible

I am sure the design itself is feasible. Making Japanese-style blades perfectly straight is perhaps a little more challenging, but not impossible obviously, and there's nothing in the shobu-zukuri tip style that physically precludes a straight blade.

Getting one custom made by a modern smith would be more a matter of finding someone willing to do something unusual and nontraditional, then of finding someone merely capable. Rick Barrett is a great smith who has made at least one wildly non-traditional Japanese-style sword before (an anime-inspired item, but I'm not going to go any further into that territory on this site Razz) so there's one possibility right there.

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Alex. N.




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Dec, 2007 7:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Gabriel that was very helpful. I have checked out Rick Barrett's site before, he definitely has produced some unusual designs.

I am also curious to know about the strengths of a shobu zukuri type of blade. Would anybody know if you have to use it in a different way to a conventional shinogi style blade, or not?

Thanks,
Alex.
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Dec, 2007 10:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex. N. wrote:
I am also curious to know about the strengths of a shobu zukuri type of blade. Would anybody know if you have to use it in a different way to a conventional shinogi style blade, or not?

Variations in length, width, thickness, weight, "shinogi height" (a poorly worded name for the slope of the shinogi-ji), curve, steel workmanship, etc. will have far more to do with the sword's performance and usage than the subtle distinctions between shinogi-zukuri and shobu-zukuri. Other tsukurikomi (construction patterns) such as kiriha-zukuri, kanmuri-otoshi, hira-zukuri, etc. might have more significant ramifications in terms of performance, but still not affect usage overmuch.

The only difference in usage between similarly-spec'd shinogi-zukuri and shobu-zukuri blades that I can imagine would be during drawing and noto (sheathing). Because the shobu-zukuri point section can be similar to a longer chu- or even o-kissaki, it is possible that either drawing or sheathing would require slightly more care. Care both to avoid damaging the saya (scabbard) -- and your hand. Wink

The reasons behind the "o-kissaki is dangerous during the draw and noto" theory, which is a debated point in JSA circles, are subtle; the way I see it, it's a function of (1) many users' unfamiliarity with such point shapes, (2) how a user tends to tell by feel how close to the point he is during either practice, which may not apply as readily to longer points, and (3) how much more dangerous it is if you make the common sloppy error of leveraging the point right near the end of the draw.

Unfortunately this becomes off-topic, debatable, and outside of my range of expertise,* so basically I'd just say that I cannot really think of any special considerations for using a shobu-zukuri blade. Happy

Cheers,
-GLL

*(note that I do not mean it is outside the range of my experience... I've made plenty of mistakes in both drawing and sheathing! Wink)

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Alex. N.




Location: Newcastle, Australia
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Posts: 15

PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 7:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Gabriel
Mate you mentioned that width and thickness are factors that will affect a blades performance, were shobu zukuri style blades any different in these respects when compared to shinogi blades?

Does anybody know of any sites with good examples of shobu zukuri type blades?[/quote]
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Wed 19 Dec, 2007 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've been waiting to see if anyone else would step up to the plate. Wink No matter, I'll continue the conversation.

There isn't exactly any rule regarding shobu-zukuri width and thickness, but since the origin of the style is in the late Kamakura (1185-1333) / early Nambokucho (1333-92) periods, you will see some in the style of the times. In the Nambokucho period that would be fairly substantial, possibly longer and wider (but thinner)? This makes for a good cutting blade against soft targets. However after that rules don't really apply since the style is really used as an artistic variant throughout history, so it would be more up to individual smith's methods and tastes than anything else. I can remember seeing very elegant shobu-zukuri as well as bolder shobu-zukuri.

Here are a couple of examples I found from a quick glance online:

Antique:
Modern:
You could probably find a lot more if you browsed through all the sites listed on the Nihonto Message Board Links Page. Hope those examples whet your appetite. Happy

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Alex. N.




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2007 7:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cool pics.

You ever used a shobu Gab?
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2007 8:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I own a shobu-zukuri tanto (modern, by Howard Clark) but have never owned a shobu-zukuri daito. In the short time I studied Nakamura-Ryu Batto-do I borrowed others' swords for tameshigiri (cutting practice); I remember using at least one shobu-zukuri sword from Darryl Guertin. Cut well, but I don't remember anything more in-depth about how it performed.

And btw, here's another gorgeous antique shobu-zukuri blade: http://www.japanszwaard.nl/z-twk1.html

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Alex. N.




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2007 10:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gab mate, that is a beautiful picture. Looks so elegant. Thank you for sharing it.

The tip is slightly finer than in other examples, have you ever heard of the tips of shobu's breaking?
Also i am curious to know why is it that in Japanese swords the handles are always slightly off set to the rest of the blade, in some cases it is quite pronounced while in others it is much more subtle.

Thanks again mate for that picture,
Alex.
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Fri 21 Dec, 2007 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex N. wrote:
The tip is slightly finer than in other examples, have you ever heard of the tips of shobu's breaking?

A finer tip would be more prone to breaking in any sword (and yes, breaks do occur in Japanese swords contrary to pop culture) although I do not specifically remember hearing anyone complain about shobu-zukuri. I did mention that shobu-zukuri often features a form of o-kissaki (long/large point); supposedly this style came about during the Mongol invasions of the late 13th century to increase blade survivability. That may sound counter-intuitive given the above comments, but it's a matter of the boshi (hamon in the point): in a long kissaki, you can have a large section of the point be hardened, so if a break occurs it may be easier to reshape the point.
Alex N. wrote:
Also i am curious to know why is it that in Japanese swords the handles are always slightly off set to the rest of the blade, in some cases it is quite pronounced while in others it is much more subtle.

The nakago/tsuka (tang/handle) will at the very least follow the curvature of the blade, and at times curve more strongly than that. This traditional shaping looks very beautiful to me, but perhaps it is a matter of long exposure to the field; anything else just looks jarringly wrong (what Keith Larman once jokingly called "katana on a stick").

We tend to describe the curvature of a Japanese sword in one of three ways: saki-zori, curve near the tip; torii-zori, curve near the center of the blade; and koshi-zori, curve near the handle. In fact to western eyes most blades described as torii-zori will still have more curvature through the handle than expected, and it is usually only in saki-zori blades that the least such "offset" occurs.

In koshi-zori blades, such as most tachi, this kind of curvature and "bend" at the handle is most obvious. Because this style is seen in many of the oldest, finest, rarest, and most famous old masterpiece blades, it has a very strong connotation of classical elegance to the collector's eye. Since tachi were cavalry swords, hung edge-down from the waist, this shape may have been easier to draw and cut with in that situation.

Saki-zori blades are often seen in the Muromachi period when infantry fighting practicality became paramount; the uchigatana (strike-sword) that later became the katana and wakizashi featured this kind of curvature. Since this sword is worn in the belt edge up, it is likely that this kind of curve was easier to draw and cut with when so worn. Those experienced in JSA (Japanese Sword Arts) tend to confirm this.

Torii-zori is more or less considered the standard katana shape; and as I mentioned, this style will usually feature a little more curvature through the handle than western eyes might expect. To someone more familiar with nihonto this doesn't look like an "offset" at all, just the natural flow of the sword; but perhaps we've all been drinking the kool-aid too long. RazzWink

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Alex. N.




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Dec, 2007 7:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah i would have to say i find the saki sori curvature most appealing rather than any other styles. That last picture you posted Gab, the sword had 2 fullers. I have never seen that before. It looks great.

Back to the topic of tip breakage, are there any historical accounts of this occurring in shobu zukuri style blades?

Hope everyone had a good xmas,
Cheers
Alex.
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Dec, 2007 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex. N. wrote:
...the sword had 2 fullers. I have never seen that before. It looks great.

Although most earlier blades with any hi (grooves) are simple bo-hi (full length single grooves), there is a wide variety of possible carvings. Some get quite complex, with combinations of wide and thread-thin grooves and changes along the blade's length - as well as differences on each side, etc. This is all before you include horimono (decorative carvings) in the mix.

Of course, not everyone really thinks such elaborate frills belong on a Japanese sword; it's often only in later-period peacetime swords that one sees such a deviation from the bare-bones martial aesthetic.

For some examples of different hi, you can check this page from the Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords or this page from the Northern California Japanese Sword Club.
Alex N. wrote:
Back to the topic of tip breakage, are there any historical accounts of this occurring in shobu zukuri style blades?

This is stretching it quite thin. There are few enough records of specific swords -- where the sword is described -- breaking as is, let alone restraining the survey to shobu-zukuri blades specifically. Besides which as I said it's far more dependent on the smith, steel, heat treatment, width/thickness, hamon, etc.

For some interesting historic records of sword breakage I encourage you to check out some of the articles on this page from D. Massey.

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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