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Tomas Kringen




Location: Oslo, Norway
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 11:03 am    Post subject: Japaneese steel         Reply with quote

Pretty much any discussion I have seen, people say the Katana is the best sword ever and that they can cut through steel and how European swords are heavy and clumpsy and what not. Basically your average manga/anime.

Has there been a discussion on this subject here?

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Use the search function here to find "katana" and you'll hit almost 500 entries. Most of those won't address your specific interest, but plenty of them will.
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"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject: Re: Japaneese steel         Reply with quote

Tomas Kringen wrote:
Pretty much any discussion I have seen, people say the Katana is the best sword ever and that they can cut through steel and how European swords are heavy and clumpsy and what not. Basically your average manga/anime.


Tomas-

You have to consider the source for any information you receive. You say "people" say that the Katana is the "best sword". First, who are these people? Are they scholars? Are they martial artists? Are they historians? Are they even people with knowledge of arms and armour? To know what is the "best", one has to know about all things, right? How else can one compare various things and arrive at what is the best? Do these people know of all swords from all cultures and consider all forms of sword use when making an opinion? And then there is the same question I posed to you in another topic: "best at what?"

These general-topic open-ended questions do not lead to any knowledge. The statement of what is the "best" sword without any qualifiers whatsoever is not an intelligent one. The "people" who make it are citing information found in myths and popular culture without any means to support the claim.

There is no best.

As an example: What is the best food? Best at what? Nutritionally best? Best tasting? Best to bulk up? Best to lose weight? Best to cure a specific sickness? Best to cause death? Best to restore hair growth? Best to unflatten flat feet? Best to give to an infant? Best to give to a senior citizen? Best to feed a dog, cat, horse, monkey, elephant, mosquito? "Best" doesn't mean anything by itself. The whole notion is complete folly.

Quote:
Has there been a discussion on this subject here?


As Sean pointed out, to determine if a subject has been discussed, the search function is always available to you.

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Tomas Kringen




Location: Oslo, Norway
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 11:50 am    Post subject: Re: Japaneese steel         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:


Tomas-

You have to consider the source for any information you receive. You say "people" say that the Katana is the "best sword". First, who are these people? Are they scholars? Are they martial artists? Are they historians? Are they even people with knowledge of arms and armour?



"They" are a group of people on various of forums. I don't think they are right. But they seem to be a majority.

Quote:

To know what is the "best", one has to know about all things, right? How else can one compare various things and arrive at what is the best? Do these people know of all swords from all cultures and consider all forms of sword use when making an opinion? And then there is the same question I posed to you in another topic: "best at what?"



I concur Happy


Quote:

These general-topic open-ended questions do not lead to any knowledge. The statement of what is the "best" sword without any qualifiers whatsoever is not an intelligent one. The "people" who make it are citing information found in myths and popular culture without any means to support the claim.



I know. Perhaps I should have specified in my original post; *many* people seems to belive that the katana is some type of super swords that can cut through anything, and that European steel is pretty much the oposit.


I'm sure you know the myths and rumors regarding the katana Nathan, I'm simply looking to learn what you know.

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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 12:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, in terms of "steels" comparison, katanas would be not only not better, but complete crap. Happy

This whole famous, long and very refined process of making katana comes from the fact that Japanes sand ores are very poor, (from the point of view of modern technology they're great, but that's other thing) so they were used to make nice sword out of poor material.

Learning what people know about this specific topic is surely a lot to learn.

Problem with such "katanas are superior" theories is that they're held by people who have generally no idea about anything, and they just like stereotypes.

Both Europe and Japan had very rich history of swords. They were straight swords and curved swords, masterfully made swords as well as pieces of crap. Swords were serving multiple, different purposes, they were different ways and traditions of making and using swords. And European ones differed from Japanese ones, certainly.

So it's really something like comparing Japanese and USA cars, with Jap and USA being the only adjectives used, only more complicated.
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Stephan Johansson




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 1:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At least you could tell the "Katana fans" that Europeen swords had an extremlely large diversity and that there are swords developed to handle almost any sort of opposition from splitting up pike-walls with Zweihanders, armour-piercing XIII, rapiers, smalls swords, long swords, single edge swords and so on.
The Katana would only hold its own in a specific military environment.
It would probably have small sucess fighting a maille-clad medievel soldier and be useless on plate armour.
Executions of prisoners of war seems to be what it has mostly been used for the last 100 years Sad

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Stephan
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Bram Verbeek





Joined: 27 Mar 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Armour piercing XIII?

But, I have searched you a few...

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...++european

Generally about single and double edged

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...++european
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...++european
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...++european
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...++european
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...++european
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Jonathan Atkin





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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This isn't ment to make fun of anyone just some levity to a subject thats been discussed to death : )


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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 5:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Tomas,

Nihonto (Japanese blades) have been my primary interest in arms & armour for some time now and are certainly my favorite. However, I agree with most of the comments already posted this thread. "Best" has to be qualified (or even better, quantified! :-)) in a specific context; and in the final analysis I believe there are excellent qualities to arms and armour of many cultures and time periods.

Katana are very popular for essentially mythological reasons. Modern Japanese games, cartoons, and comics are an influence, but even in WWII it was the case that GIs were impressed by the Japanese reverence for their own weapons. Imperial Japan's propaganda machine made much of this, using the sword as a potent symbol of Japanese superiority (even producing an impossible video of a sword cutting machine gun barrels). There is an article floating around out there describing some WWII Japanese officers using antique katana of superb make and being surprised and confused when they broke. Even before this, far eastern weapons were viewed as a form of inherently superior exotica by the likes of Portuguese traders, W. B. Yeats, etc... but not by renaissance or medieval armies.

Simultaneous to this was a disdain for western weapons due to myriad factors which I know less about, such as the proliferation of heavy Victorian reproductions.

So it is easy to see where this aura and discrepancy came from. The problem is that it does not bear much scrutiny, for reasons that have already been mentioned. On a related note, it does sadden me that some fora became victims of their own popularity and were overrun by "katanaphiles." The people who really know their stuff, and shared that knowledge, moved elsewhere after that.

One point I would like to make is that the pendulum swings both ways. It is currently in vogue (with apologies to Bartek Happy) to call tamahagane "complete crap" and stress the fallibility of nihonto. I don't think this is an entirely fair assessment either as the ingenuity of historical smiths created a product that is functionally excellent by reasonable standards. But it's easy to understand when the typical newbie impression of "the godly katana vs. the junk western sword" really does deserve to be ironed out. Happy

Anyway, if you are interested in a specific form of A&A, then pursue that knowledge. Don't be turned off by popular opinion that declares it to be crap, or be sucked into a cult of superiority elsewhere. I don't necessarily think you were in any real danger of that, but I hope I provided some food for thought. Happy

PS - I cut out a lot of "done-to-death" material. Tomas, just stick around and you'll get a cosmopolitan enough impression.

"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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Last edited by Gabriel Lebec on Thu 11 Sep, 2008 5:21 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 5:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Atkin wrote:
This isn't ment to make fun of anyone just some levity to a subject thats been discussed to death Happy

Hahaha... case in point, Jonathan. Probably a much more effective message to Tomas than my overly-long essay. ;-)

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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 1:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriel Lebec wrote:

One point I would like to make is that the pendulum swings both ways. It is currently in vogue (with apologies to Bartek Happy) to call tamahagane "complete crap" and stress the fallibility of nihonto. I don't think this is an entirely fair assessment either as the ingenuity of historical smiths created a product that is functionally excellent by reasonable standards. But it's easy to understand when the typical newbie impression of "the godly katana vs. the junk western sword" really does deserve to be ironed out. Happy


Hey, I haven't ever wrote that "nihonto are complete crap"

I distinctly wrote, that Japan steel was crap, beacuse from some reasone original poster was writing about "European steel was pretty much opposite".

Plus, the whole thread is titled "Japanese steel". And as far as I know, Japanese iron was really poor as material for swords and such stuff (up to 70ties of XX century, when refining good steel from ironsands became possible on larger scale)

Wink
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 5:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:

Plus, the whole thread is titled "Japanese steel". And as far as I know, Japanese iron was really poor as material for swords and such stuff (up to 70ties of XX century, when refining good steel from ironsands became possible on larger scale)
It all depends where you look into the manufacture process of the material. I mean, it starts off as ore, which we all know is a pretty poor material use for swords Wink That has go through the smelting process, after which you end up with a spongy lump of bloom, which still contains lots of slag and other impurities, and may or may not contain carbon. Carbon can be worked in later, but from what I've seen is that modern Japanese smiths select bits of bloom that already have sufficient carbon inside straight from the furnace, which does make things quite a lot easier. Then you get the folding process to beat the slag out of the iron, and homogenize the whole material. This is the same process that was being done allover the world, with the exclusion of crucible steels in some areas. As a result, Japanese steel and European steel were pretty much exactly the same. There were of course variations depending on which or was used and details in the smelting process which results in different impurities. But in the end, they all tried basically to approach the medium carbon steels that now roll out of blast furnaces by the tons. Beside the high quality steel, in Europe at least just plain, cheap iron was also forged regularly into swords (early medieval period and earlier), simply because it was cheaper and much more commonly available. But the steel fabrication process, the resulting carbon contents, the combination of different steels in different parts of the blade, differential heat treatments etc. etc. you can all find on both sides. The only thing so far I've not seen on Japanese blades is decorative patternwelding, which was a pretty big thing in the first millenium in Europe Happy
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Stephan Johansson




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When I talked about armour piercing XIII, I didnt mean piercing all armour (plate armour etc) but lighter things like maille or thick leather.
My Munich do have a reinforced point that obviously is made for harder opposition than bare flesh.
But, it is of course not an HEAT-grenade Wink

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Stephan
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To me the most remarkable thing about Japanese swords is that they were made at all. As pointed out, the Japanese started out with a very poor iron ore which they cooked into a sponge that ran from wrought iron through to cast iron with a lot a slag mixed in. They then were able to break up that sponge of metal and sort out what they needed to make blades from by eye and then mix it and pound out the slag until they had a homogenous slag free billet to make the blade from. Blade construction varied as did the quality. Some of the swords were works of art but none of them were superior to blades made of modern steels. In common with European makers, they Japanese swordsmiths knew what worked but were clueless about why it worked. Everything was learned by trial and error.

As far as those stories about the supernatural capabilities of the Katana, I find that most of them start out something like "my dad ran into this guy after the war who was a Marine on Okinawa who knew a machine gunner in his unit..." The tales of the greatness of these swords rarely stand up to testing, which is not to say that they weren't good but that they were just swords like many others.
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Gabriel Lebec wrote:
It is currently in vogue (with apologies to Bartek Happy) to call tamahagane "complete crap"

Hey, I haven't ever wrote that "nihonto are complete crap" ...I distinctly wrote, that Japan steel was crap...

Bartek, tamahagane is Japanese steel. I didn't mean for the above to sound like you called nihonto crap, because I know you didn't. Sorry for any confusion. Cry Cool

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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriel Lebec wrote:
Bartek Strojek wrote:
Gabriel Lebec wrote:
It is currently in vogue (with apologies to Bartek Happy) to call tamahagane "complete crap"

Hey, I haven't ever wrote that "nihonto are complete crap" ...I distinctly wrote, that Japan steel was crap...

Bartek, tamahagane is Japanese steel. I didn't mean for the above to sound like you called nihonto crap, because I know you didn't. Sorry for any confusion. Cry Cool


Crap, not only I don't know Japanese words, but I confused "ore" or "iron" with "steel", Worried

After all that effort with iron, their steel certainly was good.

I should apologise for confusion...

Anyway, I was trying to point that steel isn't absolutely decisive. Poor sword can still be made from exelent steel, and opossite is also (I think) true.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephan Johansson wrote:
When I talked about armour piercing XIII, I didnt mean piercing all armour (plate armour etc) but lighter things like maille or thick leather.
My Munich do have a reinforced point that obviously is made for harder opposition than bare flesh.
But, it is of course not an HEAT-grenade Wink

Best Regards
Stephan


The Munich is a Type XVIII, not a Type XIII. A Type XIII will usually have a less acute point and a more flexible cross-section. A Type XVIII will have a more acute point and will likely be less flexible on average.

XIII's are cleavers, not meant for much serious thrusting.

Happy

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James H.





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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 1:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also believe that the Japanese Sword were excellent swords FOR WHAT THEY WERE DESIGN FOR. One has to remember that the armors and fighting style are completely different then those of Europe. While I admit that I am limited in my knowledge of their construction I do enjoy very much learning of their use and how they were carried. Compared to how the Europeans carried their swords the Japanese seemed to carry theirs in more of a "Fast Draw" short of way. The saya was tightly held to the side of their waists, with Ha or blade edge up and at an angle with the tsuba centered to the body. The Technique for drawing the sword moved fluidly into an attack or perry depending on the need. I am bad at words but what I mean to say is even in the same motion as drawing the word the advance or defense had already begun. Or you are attacking as you are drawing the blade. (I'm not an instructor, sorry for bad wording) i guess you might say a one stroke one kill type mentality. However these were not the plate armor and chain mail wearing opponents of Europe; which, such technique would have been most likely very useless. I have a very high regard for both styles of swords and the skill needed to successfully use them and would sell neither short in regards to their own fields of use.
on a side note, modern entertainment has done neither swords justice in their portrayal of them. European broadswords were no where near as bulky or heavy as they are portrayed. After all, you have to imagine they were lugging these things around on marches and in battle, they did not want to be hindered by them.
Also the Japanese sword has also been cheated; by portraying it as some kind of magical super weapon they have fostered a deep misunderstanding of them and their uses.
That being said. I believe that in it's weight class, and what these sword were used for and against, and their ability to hold their edge, I believe the the Japanese Sword is the best WITH IN IT'S ELEMENTS FOR WHICH IT WAS DESIGNED.

I hope I helped.
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Stephan Johansson




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK!
Now I understand the funny twist!!!
I meant of course XVIII (18) and not XIII (13)
If there is one medievel sword that definitely is not armour piercing it would be the point of a XIII Happy

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Stephan
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Tomas Kringen




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 9:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriel Lebec wrote:
Jonathan Atkin wrote:
This isn't ment to make fun of anyone just some levity to a subject thats been discussed to death Happy

Hahaha... case in point, Jonathan. Probably a much more effective message to Tomas than my overly-long essay. ;-)


I greatly appreciate both your posts Happy


edit : I would like to add something and thats this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TFIQ-7TxMw
Does anyone know if there has been any similar atempts with western swords?

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