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Old 14th November 2010, 06:08 AM   #1
fearn
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Default Real "ninja" sword, or modern invention?

Hi All,

Found another weird sword, and I'm wondering how real it is.

The sword I'm posting below is claimed to be a special "ninja" weapon invented by the Saito family in Medieval Japan, and possibly of supernatural origin (see link to picture and story).

I'm talking about the middle sword in the picture. It's a "backwards" katana: 2/3 handle, 1/3 blade, and the blade is double-edged. It is used differently than a katana (search for "tengu sword" on Youtube). The one shown is obviously is a modern model.

A school teaching the use of this weapon exists, but some martial artists believe that the system is modern, and that the "tengu sword" is based on the knives used to harvest cane and pineapple in Hawaii--cane knives and machetes, in other words.

My question to the board is: has anyone ever seen a genuine, historical Japanese (or other) sword that looks like this? If you think it's modern like the "ninjato" above it, what do you think it was based on? It doesn't look like a cane knife or machete to me.

Best,

F
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Old 14th November 2010, 11:56 AM   #2
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I can't speak to the tengu sword (Looks like a bad, bent naganata), but the "ninja" sword is a modern fiction. There is no credible historical evidence of such swords in Japan. They are basically a modern Hollywood invention - pure fiction. I suspect the same for the tengu sword.

Rich S

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Old 14th November 2010, 03:44 PM   #3
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Hi Rich,

That much I know, and I'm not arguing that the ninja-to is a genuine historical design, used by real ninja.

As for the tengu sword, it's weird enough that I figured I would ask. It's certainly an original design, and it hasn't been commercialized the way the ninja-to has.

Assuming it's modern leads to a fun question: why create an anachronistic weapon that's only used in a few martial arts schools in Hawaii, California, and Arizona? In California, at least, carrying that sword would be a felony.

The other thing is that Japan does have an extensive history of weird weapons, and people do collect them. If the tengu sword has any historical precedents (perhaps a military kama?), I figured someone on the list might know.

Best,

F

Last edited by fearn : 14th November 2010 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 14th November 2010, 04:57 PM   #4
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The only reverse edged Japanese weapon/tool that I'm aware of is the KUBIKIRI or BOKUWARI. These were basically bonsai or gardening tools (although lots of fancy tales about them). I've only personally seen them in tanto size although I did see a pic of one on a sales site years ago in wakizashi length.

Might want to look at my page on unusual tanto for a kubikiri pic.

Rich S
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http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm
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Old 14th November 2010, 08:07 PM   #5
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Thanks Rich. Neat site! Might be fun if you put up a kubikiri thread sometime.

One question: do you know of any two-edged, curved tantos? That's what this tengu sword has: it has a two-edged blade, but the tip is (roughly) chisel-tipped like a conventional Japanese blade, except that it's rounded for slashing. I'm not an expert on Japanese blades, and I don't know of any Japanese blades with this shape.

Ah well, I like weird swords, regardless.

Best,

F
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Old 14th November 2010, 08:13 PM   #6
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Yes, I've seen double edged curved tanto (don't recall the name of the style off hand). But I've not seen any swords with a rounded kissaki (point) like that in the picture.

Rich S
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Old 17th November 2010, 05:40 AM   #7
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No one else? Not that I don't value Dr. Stein's quality as an expert, but it would be great if some of the other collectors chimed in with a "nope, haven't seen one of them either."

Also, if it's a modern invention, what's the inspiration? Do we have a completely new sword design here, despite all the carping about how non-traditional this school is? That's pretty unusual in itself.

Best,

F
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Old 18th November 2010, 03:42 PM   #8
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Well, It's only my own experience, but... I could repeat it one thousand times and still my word wouldn't have but a thousandth of weight that Dr. Stein's regarding this subject. In short, that I haven't found any ninjato nor anything similar (and I haven't) in my research experience, isn't significant. That Dr. Stein hasn't, is.

There's no such thing as a ninjato in the long and pretty well documented japanese sword history. You may find typologies thay may resemble what is nowadays known as ninjato, but they had their own historical context and had no direct (and much less exclusive) connection with the (historical) ninja.
Yes, it's a modern invention. Media are a very powerful force, much more than we frequently account them for.
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Old 18th November 2010, 07:04 PM   #9
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Thanks Marc,

Actually, I found one aside that suggested that Stephen Hayes invented the straight-bladed ninja-to. That's an interesting suggestion to follow up on.

But no, my question isn't about the ninja-to, it's about that tengu sword in the middle. AFAIK, the tengu sword has never been to Hollywood, it would be illegal to carry it down the street near the dojos it's in, and it's taught as a weapon in a school that claims a long and colorful history leading back to Japan.

I figure that most weapons don't spring from a vacuum, and if this "tengu sword" is Japanese and anywhere near as old as the school claims, there are probably weapons like it lying about in people's collections.

So far, no one's come up with another example, which leads me to suspect that we actually have a brand new sword here, invented by the Saito family in Hawaii or possibly Japan. That's neat in itself. Most swords don't have known inventors.

Best,

F
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Old 18th November 2010, 10:08 PM   #10
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"Actually, I found one aside that suggested that Stephen Hayes invented the straight-bladed ninja-to. That's an interesting suggestion to follow up on."

Like I said, ninjato are a Hollywood invention :-)

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Old 19th November 2010, 01:22 AM   #11
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THE NINJA DID EXHIST BUT WERE A SECRET ORGANIZATION. I DON'T KNOW IF THEY HAD TO BELONG TO A CERTIAN CLASS OR CLAN TO BECOME NINJA (ONLY SAMAURI NEED APPLY )BUT IT IS LIKELY.
THEY WOULD HAVE CARRIED SWORDS AND TOOLS JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN EVERDAY LIFE. THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NOTHING CARRIED THAT WOULD IDENTIFY THEM AS NINJA. THERE MAY HAVE BEEN WEAPONS AND TOOLS THAT WERE ONLY ASSOCIATED WITH NINJA CARRIED ON CERTIAN OPERATIONS WHEN THEY WANTED EVERYONE TO KNOW NINJA DID IT. BUT I SUSPECT IN MANY INSTANCES THEY TRIED TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE SOMEONE ELSE DID IT OR IT WAS AN ACCIDENT.
PERHAPS IN SOME MUSEUM THERE ARE WEAPONS TAKEN FROM NINJA IN ACTUAL BATTLE AND SOME OF THE FORMS OF WEAPONS WE NOW SEE ATTRIBUTED TO THEM MAY HAVE BEEN BASED ON THEM. BUT I AM SURE MANY ARE LIKELY TO HAVE LITTLE RESEMBLANCE TO THE ORIGINALS OR BE ENTIRELY MADE UP BY NON NINJA IN MODERN TIMES.
ASSASINS GENERALLY LIKE TO LEAVE AS LITTLE INFORMATION OR EVIDENCE AS POSSIBLE AND SELDOM ATTACKED WITH AN ARMY, NINJA WERE NO EXCEPTION. I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON ASSASINS OR NINJA BUT HAVE DONE SOME RESEARCH AND READING OVER THE YEARS SO THESE ARE MY THOUGHTS ON IT.
I HAVE SEEN NO AUTHENTIC EXAMPLES OF THE NINJA SWORD BUT THE WEAPON WITH THE BLUNT END TO THE BLADE LOOKS LIKE A RELATIVE OF THE DHA TO ME.
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Old 19th November 2010, 02:12 AM   #12
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Hi Vandoo,

I'll direct your attention to The Iga Ninja Museum, which, so far as I can determine, is genuine. It's an old ninja safe-house, retrofitted as a museum.

The bottom line is that there are authentic ninja weapons out there. That's why I figured it was worth asking around.

Best,

F
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Old 19th November 2010, 05:01 AM   #13
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Actually, on the theme of genuine ninja swords, I believe that Masaaki Hatsumi (Togakure ryu soke) said that the sword carried by the Iga ninja was basically a wakizashi with a katana hilt, carried in a katana sheath. The shorter blade made for an unexpectedly fast draw and better fighting in close quarters.

Has anyone seen a sword of this type?

Best,

F
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Old 19th November 2010, 06:59 PM   #14
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I hate posting three in a row, but I realize this morning that I'd ignored a couple of Vandoo's points.

The important one is that yes, it looks like a Montagnard dha, except for being two-edged. The question then is, how do you get from the highlands to Japan or Hawaii. Perhaps someone fighting in Vietnam saw one and/or brought one home as a souvenir? That would make it very modern.

To answer Vandoo's other question, AFAIK, the ninja were a mix. Some samurai went ninja, and I think some outcast samurai became the Iga and Koga ninjas. The Iga and Koga were effectively untouchables, outcasts (I think) who were hired to do the dishonorable jobs no samurai would officially touch.

The Saito ryu founding story has the Saito family being rural farmers who acquired their martial arts prowess through supernatural aid (see the link at the head of the thread), who then went on to defend their village against marauders for a thousand years, give or take. They explicitly deny any connection to the Iga and Koga ninja.

Other websites have attacked the Saito ryu's story. My take on the controversy is that their story would be more believable if there was an antique tengu sword in a collection somewhere. Based on the lack of historic documentation or old weapons, it looks like Saito Ryu is a relatively modern invention, complete with the tengu sword. But I could be wrong.

Best,

F


Best,

F
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Old 19th December 2012, 01:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fearn
Actually, on the theme of genuine ninja swords, I believe that Masaaki Hatsumi (Togakure ryu soke) said that the sword carried by the Iga ninja was basically a wakizashi with a katana hilt, carried in a katana sheath. The shorter blade made for an unexpectedly fast draw and better fighting in close quarters.

Has anyone seen a sword of this type?

Best,

F

An old thread I know, and possibly superseded, but I came across this item on Usagiya and thought hmmm!
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Old 19th December 2012, 04:00 PM   #16
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Could be. Is it terrible in the sense of ugly, or terrible in the sense of unusable? If it's ugly but quite functional, that's possibly an indicator.

Thanks for pointing this out.

Best,

F
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Old 19th December 2012, 04:57 PM   #17
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What I think is intriguing is that the blade fits the saya.....I have two wakizashi in original saya and 3 spare saya and none of them are interchangeable.
I can think of other reasons for this set up, poverty, aspiration or simply making an item more saleable, but it is interesting all the same in the light of the above.
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