Step 1: Types of Katana Swords

Step 1 - Types of katana swords

What Type of Katana Blade Should I Get?

For first time buyers it may not be known that there are various types of katana swords to choose from. I’m not talking about variances in their external cosmetics but instead in their composition and blade cut. The strength, weight, and cutting ability all comes down to the design, material, and forge method used to create the katana.

Before you decide to get a sword you should make yourself aware of the various types of katana swords and which may be best for the application you intend to use it for.

The Various Types of Katana Swords

Step one is determining the type of katana sword you’d like to get, which you most likely will be faced with any of the following metal types:

Folded Steel (Tamahagane)

This blade has a high carbon composition that is strengthened through its forging method. This is the traditional method used in forging katanas in Japanese culture many years ago. The term “Tamahagane” means precious steel and is created from an iron sand composition.

The process for creating these types of katana swords is very time consuming and involves creating the tamahagane in a large clay mold called a tatara. The sword-smith will repeatedly heat and hammer the sword to remove any impurities that may exist within the material. When he or she is finished they will have an exceptionally durable sword with a beautiful blade pattern giving off a nice sheen.

The age of the steel used also plays a role in the durability of the blade. Katanas made with older steel have a higher concentration of oxygen in them which means that during the forging process the oxidized portions of the blade will be easier to stretch which means that the hammering process will be more effective in removing these impurities leaving you with a sturdy and dependable katana sword.

These swords are usually the most costly due to the extensive time involved in making them. The image below is an example of what is considered one of the highest quality Tamahagane katanas made in modern time- the Taka Katana.

Types of Katana Swords - Taka Katana
Folded Steel Taka Katana

Tamahagane katanas are best for those who have been practicing martial arts for quite some time and have a large amount of disposable income they’re willing to spend on a sword. You can find folded steel blades at reasonable prices though, just do some searching around (I’ll actually recommend some sites later in this Katana Readiness Guide where you can buy a katana from a trusted dealer).

If you are looking to find a strong katana to use for cutting then this blade type would be most preferable. Tamahagane katanas are also highly sought by sword collectors as well.

Usually swords that have taken longer to forge will be of higher quality since there are multiple iterations of smelting, folding, and hammering, so look for information around the forge process. Swords of Northshire’s custom katanas usually indicate the forging times on each sword.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel blades are more aesthetically appealing than useful in dojo fighting, therefore are primarily used as show pieces instead of functional swords. These swords molecular composition isn’t as durable as the folded steel or the carbon steel. This in return means that the blade will be more brittle and can break with hard impacts.

Since the geometry of the blades isn’t as well designed there are issues with poor tang construction, this can make swinging the sword unbalanced and potentially dangerous. Additionally most stainless steel blades aren’t put through the same rigorous heat treatment process that other types of katana swords are put through which strengthens the material.

My personal preference is that if you are looking for a katana that you can actually use then you should avoid any stainless steel blades. Due to their high chromium composition (visually enhances the sword) they do make nice wall-hangers if you are decorating an apartment or your dojo though.

What these blades do have going for them aside from their visual appeal is that due to the chromium element they are resistant to rust and corrosion.

Carbon Steel

When looking for a combination of quality and price the high carbon steel katanas seem to be most preferable and common in the market. These types of katana swords are usually favored due to their strong durability as a result of their chemical makeup. High carbon steel blades lack the chronium component that you’d find in stainless steel which does allow for the carbon blades to be stronger yet on the flip side they are susceptible to corrosion because of this missing component.

Despite their name, carbon steel swords do have less carbon than typical stainless steel swords do which allows them to be more compatible with other metals. Carbon steel is much harder than stainless which creates the ability to hold a sharper and more acute edge. As a result, they are quicker to sharpen and can achieve a sharper edge than the stainless do.

Carbon Steel Katana - Types of katana swords
1095 High Carbon Black and Red Steel Clay Tempered Samurai Katana

As the percentage of carbon in the blade rises the steel has the ability to become more durable through heat treating; however, it also becomes less pliable. Additionally the higher the carbon content the lower the melting point is. So the higher the carbon content the stronger and less pliable the blade is, the lower the carbon content the softer and more pliable the blade is.

Within the carbon steel swords there are numerous types of metal grades, far more than I will take the time to mention and put you through the long, boring definition of the slight variances in each. Instead I’ll let you know the most common high carbon steel blades you’ll probably come across in the katana market.

  • 10xx Steels (where xx could be any combination of numbers signifying the carbon density). The numbers following the ’10’ signify the carbon percent in the sword. For example a 1055 carbon steel means that the sword is 0.55% carbon content, a 1095 is as you would guess…0.95% carbon content.
    • 1045 is what most cheaper swords are made from, they are softer and in my mind I wouldn’t go with anything less than a 0.45% carbon content otherwise it’ll be too soft for functional use unless you’re looking for another wall hanger. At anything below a 1045 sharpening and maintaining an edge becomes more difficult.
    • 1060 (0.60% carbon content) is probably your best bet of the 10xx carbon steels. It is hard enough to be durable yet still soft enough where it is pliable. These swords will hold up pretty well in almost all normal katana uses.
    • 1095 is also a common carbon steel yet you’re more apt to find this in knives. This is a harder more brittle carbon steel that is easy to sharpen and holds an edge better than lower carbon content swords. The disadvantage is that if it is simply 1095 steel then if you hit another hard target with it there’s a greater chance it could break.
  • 9260 Spring Steel
    • The name gives you an indication of how this metal behaves, spring like. Meaning that it has more flexibility and can recover from bends and vibrations better than other steel blades. A little fun fact about the name is that it comes from the same steel being used in the suspension coils of vehicles, hence the name ‘spring steel’. 9260 spring steel adds an additional component to it’s composition – silicon (2%). By adding silicon to the chemical make up it gives the sword added flexibility.

T10 Tool Steel

T10 is a newer steel being used in katana sword manufacturing. It is a Tungsten alloy (tungsten is also what some wedding bands are made of) with a high carbon content (0.90%-1.0%) combined with a smaller silicon content than the spring steel (0.30%-0.35%). Due to the mixture of silicon and high carbon content these swords perform better than other 1095 carbon steels and are more durable.

Remember, having a higher carbon content provides for a sharper edge, adding silicon to the composition slightly helps reduce the brittleness of the blade.

Combination Materials

One of the more popular types of katana swords is the combination of 1095 high carbon + folded steel. This combines the two powerful methods to create a sword that is hard at the core yet durable to avoid breaking on the outer layer.

These combinations usually feature the 1095 as the core component providing the internal structure that is hardened with the 0.95% carbon content. They are then layered in folded steel to protect the inner hard, yet usually otherwise more brittle core. The benefit of this method is that once you sharpen the sword past the folded steel layer you reveal the hard edge of the 1095 component which as I described earlier will hold a sharper edge longer.

So in summary a hard long lasting sharp inner element protected from breaking by the folded steel outer layer. A decent 1095/folded steel blade usually will run you $400 and up.

Types of Katana Swords
1095 + Folded Steel Gyaku-Kobuse Katana

So there you have it, the most common types of katana swords by metal composition. As I had said earlier, there are a vast array of other metals that swords are made from but these provide you with the basics to help you narrow down a path of the type of metal you would like to have in your katana. Now that we’ve reviewed the types of katana swords lets move on to the next step of the katana readiness guide – how to size a katana.

Next

Step 5: Where to Practice – Find A Dojo

Step 5 - Find a Dojo

Time to Find a Dojo

The final step in our katana readiness guide is helping you find a dojo where you can now use your newly purchased katana. If you already have a location to train then you are finished, no need to read this step!

For those of you who are new katanas, other weaponized martial arts, or just martial arts in general, this final step will help you pin down a place where you can practice under the supervision of a trained sensei (which as I said in earlier steps that I highly recommend).

I guess before I get too far ahead of myself for those who are new to this and don’t know what a dojo is let me explain. A dojo is a place or large room used for training purposes in martial arts. They can range from a gym, to a smaller studio, to an entire complex focused on teaching the various martial arts. Dojos can vary in the types of martial arts they perform there ranging from judo and karate to the more skilled iaido.

The word comes from Japan and loosely translated means “a place of pursuit” the pursuit of which is your journey to mastering a martial art. The ‘Do’ means ‘way’ or ‘pursuit’ and the ‘Jo’ means ‘a place’. Combined they represent the term that is referred to today.

Find a dojo
Source: 500.co

Why Find a Dojo?

The primary reason why everyone who is new to any martial art that involves swords, blades, or other weapons should find a local dojo is so that they learn how to use them. You don’t buy a car and try to take it out on the road before you know how to drive it…well I didn’t anyway.

By going to a dojo you can practice under the supervision of a master sensei who will instruct you on the proper usage of your sword. Having this guidance is essential in remaining safe and actually understanding what you are trying to accomplish beyond just swinging a piece of sharp steel around.

Training in a dojo will also allow you to understand the ways of the samurai, their ancient thought process, and their takes on various life situations. It’s not just a sport you are about to participate in, it’s an entire mindset.

The final benefit of practicing in a dojo is that you’ll get to meet other people that share the same interest as you. You not only will train against them in the dojo, but you will bond with them outside of it. I’ve actually learned quite a bit from my friends who I practice with; they’ve let me experiment with their swords (hence some of my offered advice around katana reviews), given my advice on sword care, and even shared a few beers with me (not before using the katana of course).

How to Find a Dojo

Well you could do a simple search for “dojo’s near me” in Google, Bing, or whatever your preferred search engine of choice is. The only thing is that occasionally dojos may not be set up with the keyword “dojo” in the title, meaning you may be missing out on some.

My preference is using a search engine specific to dojos. The site dojos.info is great resource for finding a place to practice by conducting a nationwide search for dojos near an address you select.

I’ve taken some code from their site to allow you to search for a dojo near you right from here. Just enter your zip code in the search tool below to see what’s near you.

Find a Dojo Near You

Enter Zip

Powered by dojos.info

Once you have a selection of a few dojos you’re interested in the first step is to call them to find out if they even offer the martial arts training you are interested in as well as their membership costs. This may narrow down your list a bit.

From there I’d suggest actually visiting each one and speaking with the sensei there and understanding the various katana training performed there. It is very important to work with a sensei you believe you’ll be comfortable with since at times you will become very frustrated. If you are practicing Iaido everything is extremely fluid and calculated, you can expect some struggles at first with getting the movements down.

Here is the dojo search process for your reference:

  1. Search to find dojos close by
  2. Call find out what is taught there
  3. Obtain pricing and rule out anything too expensive
  4. Visit each dojo to determine which sensei is the best fit for you
  5. Chose a dojo and start katana training!

New Dojos are opening up all the time; below is a live RSS feed I set up to let you know about any new dojo openings listed with Dojos.info, the top dojo search site. I’ve set it up to show the 5 most recent openings.

Online Training

Occasionally we may not wish to join a dojo due to various reasons (distance, time, money, experience, etc.). Whatever the reason there are alternatives to learning various martial arts via online training programs, however the quality of learning online as opposed to in-person is significantly worse. This leaves you with either messing around yourself and hoping you don’t lose a finger (or worse) or researching online training programs.

When this is the case there are online courses you can watch however these really don’t do you the justice that an in person formal training would do. The primary reason being that the instructor can’t actually see your technique, this prevents them from correcting any mistakes you may be making in the training. Without knowing if you are doing something wrong or not, it becomes pretty difficult to correct it.

Some courses that I’ve seen online but haven’t partaken in are listed below. If any of you readers do happen to enroll in them we’d love to hear your feedback on their effectiveness in our forum section or on our Facebook page.

YouTube Videos

YouTube is amazing, the things we can find on there are endless. I’ve pulled a couple videos I think you may be interested in checking out that will help you learn some basics.

A start to katana training.


More related videos from Ehowmartialarts.

A video on how to unsheathe your katana.


More training videos are available on Sensei Orlando’s YouTube channel.

Udemy Courses

Udemy is also a great place to learn various martial arts (as well as just about anything else). This site provides a range of training tutorials both for free as well as for a fee. The image below links to a training program for Taijutsu.

Conclusion

That’s it, we’ve walked you through the entire process of buying a katana. I hope you found this katana readiness guide to be extremely valuable in helping you make your journey into becoming a trained swordsman. I appreciate any shares you can give my site to help spread the word.

Additionally there are a lot of other great forums out there to help you in your search with Sword Buyers Guide being a great one. I’d suggest clicking the link below to browse katana options then once you find one either come back here to our forum section or use another forum to ask any additional questions you may have around the blade. Online communities are great for providing real life feedback to help form your decision on what to buy.

Stick around and check out my other posts if you are craving more samurai information. My next post will teach you where you can find or make a custom katana that fits your personality and stands out from the rest of the class.

I’m ready to buy a katana now!

Top 5 Ultimate Movie Katanas

Top 5 Katanas - 47 RoninHere are our top 5 picks for best movie katanas. We’re starting with every post-apocalyptic survivor’s katana of choice and working our way back through the 47 Ronin sword as well as other highly known katana blades.

1. The Walking Dead Sword

At the top of the list is Michonne’s katana from The Walking Dead. A great show accompanied by a sleek and clean looking katana, this is the perfect blade for decapitating those unruly undead. Get yours here and get ready for the apocalypse!

Michonne's katana

2. 47 Ronin Sword

Custom craftsmanship from sword maker Paul Chen that even Keanu Reeves would be jealous of. The legendary story of 47 Ronin and their battle to avenge their master’s death HAD to make it in our top 5. There are multiple makers of the 47 Ronin sword, some with cheap quality and others such as this with superior quality. Here’s the working custom replica of the 47 Ronin sword.

47 ronin sword

3. Kill Bill Sword

From the bloody Kill Bill serious, this katana has been hand forged and is battle ready. This blade comes with a stand as well as oil and cleaning cloth. Whether you want it as a wall hanger or to use in class you can find yours here.

Kill Bill sword

4. The Matrix Sword

The katana wielded by the mighty Morpheus defies all known logic. Get ready to battle the Smiths and dodge bullets (ok ok so you can’t really dodge bullets) with your Matrix sword here.

Matrix sword

5. The Last Samurai Sword

Change your view of the world through the eyes of The Last Samurai. This blade features beautiful engravings and a sleek saya. One of Tom Cruise’s best performances accompanied by a stellar blade.

the last samurai sword

If there is another movie sword that you think deserves to be on this list let us know on Facebook! Check out our other Katana reviews for functional swords here.